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NYSNYS NEWS: Cuomo running mate Hochul tours Troy businesses, talks about Kurt Vonnegut using the city in his novels.
NYSNYS NEWS: Cuomo running mate Hochul tours Troy businesses, talks about Kurt Vonnegut using the city in his novels.

By Kyle Hughes

TROY, N.Y. (September 22) – Gov. Andrew Cuomo's running mate Kathy Hochul took a walking tour of downtown businesses Monday, departing from the event's focus on the upstate economy only to unexpectedly talk about Kurt Vonnegut, the novelist.

Standing across the street from the Illium Café in Monument Square, she told Troy Mayor Lou Rosamilia and others on the walking tour that the author of "Slaughterhouse Five" and other classics used Illium as the fictional stand-in for Troy.

"A long time ago I read his novels when I was in college," Hochul explained. Seeing the Illium Café's sign, "I tried to think way back, but I just started making the connection with Illium and (Vonnegut) using that as the pseudonym for Troy, I thought. I've read a lot of books."

Illium is the hometown of Billy Pilgrim, the main character in "Slaughterhouse Five" and the place name shows up with regularity in Vonnegut's writings. He set another novel "Player Piano" in the real Troy, and had his recurring alter-ego character Kilgore Trout reside in both Illium and the nearby city of Cohoes in several different novels.

Asked to elaborate, Hochul laughed and said "I'll just leave it at that." She would not say which of Vonnegut's books were her favorites, and quickly got back on message.

"It's been great to come downtown here and this really re-energizes me because there are areas that are coming back like Troy but there are other areas that have not," she said. "That's where we need to continue our focus is to go all across the state and see who needs the most help."

She continued talking about the positive changes that have come to Buffalo since Gov. Andrew Cuomo took office and began pouring state money and resources into western New York, the only region of the state he did not win in 2010. Hochul is the former Erie County clerk and a U.S. Representative from the region who was working as a Buffalo bank lobbyist before being tapped by Cuomo to run for lieutenant governor.

Hochul's Troy visit was book-ended by morning appearance at the fall meeting of the state Democratic Committee in Colonie, and a late in the day rally on abortion and other women's issues at a Saratoga Springs pizzeria.

The sightseeing tour of Troy's historic downtown took Hochul to small storefront businesses and educational offices that are re-occupying renovated grand 19th century commercial buildings that stood empty or underutilized for decades.

Foreshadowing Cuomo's actions in Buffalo, many of the buildings in Troy got new life as a result of state money being directed into the city during the tenure of Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, a Rensselaer County Republican.

Hochul did some shopping Monday, buying chocolate tea in the Whistling Kettle tea shop on Broadway and a bagel from the Psychedelicatessen, a small café opened by Laura Kerrone in July.

Asked if Hochul was the first politician to visit, Kerrone said the Troy mayor has stopped by. "There was a blond lady in here a couple of weeks ago and I'm like, she looks really familiar, but I am so out of touch (with politics) I feel bad," Kerrone said, laughing.