Last night I attended a local fundraiser at The Egg. It’s called that because, well, it looks like an egg! It’s an unmistakable landmark of this area. When anyone drives up here and enters the city via the main highway there it is. Right there on our skyline. Mainly it’s a theater where they have various performing arts shows and things. Inside is a huge hall with a stage, along with many smaller theater rooms and meeting halls. It’s all part of a something called the Empire State Plaza. Which is this huge state-funded cement complex of buildings/museum/library/archive/theater built in the 1970s. I actually read a very fascinating history of it recently so check it out: http://www.lofaber.com/albany/essaymaking.html
(It was meant to be a futuristic star trek-ish complex, half-underground and half-above, a cultural, arts and business center, but turned out to be a huge anachronism.)
I can’t really remember the first time I’ve been there, the Egg – probably in the 3rd grade when I was 8 we went there for a field trip to watch some ballet/musician thing, have no idea. There’s also a little museum, the only museum around here, that we’ve been to many times on field trips or our parents just took us on random Saturdays. The plaza itself – we went to countless times as kids, to play on the wooden playground, to walk around the huge reflecting pools and fountains. I recently found a really old picture of my brother and I when I was around 5, probably when we first came to America, (my Dad in 70s beard and pants, even though it was the 80s!) sitting near one of the fountains at the plaza!
Every 4th of July there’s a huge fireworks display here and festival all day, our mother used to bring us when we were kids on the bus, we’d bring a sheet and spread it out and run around all day. For some reason I think there was also some kind of dental/medical offices down in there somewhere too? Because I vaguely remember going there for something like that. Later on I used to go with high school friends for the fourth and hang out all day eating fried dough, walking around the stalls, buying glo-in-the-dark necklaces and staking out a place for the fireworks show. There’s also countless festivals at the plaza every year, like the Festival of Nations – food and dances and stalls from every country, an Indian festival, Greek festival etc.
It’s really a quintessential Albanyian thing, the first place we bring visitors, although they don’t seem to get it.
Anyway it was kind of weird, very weird actually to have a fundraiser for a Masjid there. The main hall is huge, like really huge. Could probably fit 2000-4000 ppl. We had probably 400-500 max in there so it felt really empty. Not sure why but it felt like a lot of people were missing, perhaps they were away or because it was a new strange place for them they didn’t come. It is very expensive to rent out and there was some controversy apparently over that, ie the usual ppl saying it was too expensive, why have it there, etc. But I actually think it’s a very interesting choice. I mean why shouldn’t we rent it? Aren’t we Albanyians as well?
The place was set up really nicely with the food catered, with waiters and workers taking care of all that, with nice drinks (including bottled drinks of every kind!) and big cups and ice (trust me these things are veryyyy rare at Muslim events, ur lucky if u get a half cup of orange soda!) The sound system was beyond excellent. I mean you could have a screaming baby next to you (which I did) and still be able to hear everything. They also played a nicely put together video on a big screen about the Masjid and updates on it. A ton of kids were in a seperate meeting room with a magician, movies and stuff to do! So excellent. I know tons of parents appreciated that. The kids didn’t even want to be in the boring main room they were having so much fun over there .
The speaker that came was very funny and interactive and did the fundraising very well. Alhamdulillah we raised over a million dollars in pledges, that’s DOLLARS! An absolutely unheard of number in this area for any type of fundraiser. It was great, and hopefully inshaAllah will bring us closer to actually building a Masjid. We also tried broadcasting the whole thing via internet streaming and some ppl even donated via text!
The speaker was someone I knew years ago (I’m talking 10+ years) who was a real supporter of my website when it first started up. I was hesitant to say salam in case he didn’t remember me, but he did! Thinking about that time I feel very nostalgic about when the internet was new and Islam on the internet was even newer. What hopes and dreams we had. What hopes and dreams we had running around as teenagers on the plaza. Not saying that everything turned out terrible and that we were never to fulfill those, just that things shifted and changed and some different things were realized and new hopes begun.
Anyway this feels like a lot of sharing, which reminds me, why do I post all these personal things on my blog so you guys can read them!! Is it fair that I keep writing and strangers keep reading? I think one day I’ll limit my blog to only other ppl that have blogs, that way it’s a two way street!
OK so for now here are a few pics from the event: