March 12, 1950: Bride Trudy between Les (left, behind her) and Gert (to the right, dark hat); Deana is to Gert’s right

My working theory about relationships among three adult is that, when there’s one person who has a relationship with the other two but that the other two don’t have a natural relationship with each other, it spells trouble.

I’ve been there, getting along with two guys at the coffeehouse we lived at c. 1975, but they inexplicably hated each other. I mean throwing chairs at one another. I was the hinge in the middle, trying to make peace, generally unsuccesfully.

A better example is when I lived with my sister Leslie and her then-husband Eric in the summer of 1977 in Jamaica, Queens, NYC. Leslie was the hinge, trying to keep peace between her spouse and her sibling.

Unfortunately, I know my mother, Trudy, spent years being the hinge in the relationship between her mother Gert and her husband Les, probably since Les and Trudy got married in 1950.

It was fairly clear that Les did not particularly like Gert. One time when we were having Sunday dinner at our house, someone asked Gert if she wanted any peas. She said, “A couple.” Les spooned exactly two peas onto her plate.

Even now, decades later, I experience a mix of mortified embarrassment, amazement at his passive aggression, and a mild amusement over his literalism.

I have to think a lot of that animosity came from Les’ male ego. He was living in a house, 5 Gaines Street in Binghamton, owned by his mother-in-law, where he was paying, as far as I know, no rent, just the utilities, since the house was paid off. His mother and stepfather lived upstairs and paid minimal amount of rent to cover the taxes.

To be fair to my father, though, Gert’s tales, some designed to scare her grandchildren into submission, could be irritating. Her sister Deana, who unfortunately died in 1966, was often my ally, and at least one one occasion said to Gert, “Leave the boy alone!”

My dad was SO thrilled when he and my mother bought a house at 29 Ackley Avenue in nearby Johnson City in 1972, when I was off at New Paltz. I even lent them some money for the down payment from the money I had been saving for college, since my Regents scholarship covered my first-year tuition.

Les and Trudy and baby sister Marcia moved to Charlotte, NC in 1974. As Gert was alone and aging in Binghamton, it was clear she could no longer live on her own. Leslie and I “kidnapped” her and took her down to Charlotte by train in January 1975, where she had a room in Trudy and LES’ house until she died on Super Bowl Sunday 1982.

When I was nine years old, while watching a Billy Graham crusade on television, I had a “born again” experience. I don’t remember whose house I was at, but it was on Oak Street, between Winding Way and Dickinson Street, across the street and half a block from my church in Binghamton, NY.

It was a specific theology that wasn’t so different, I suppose, from what I learned from Trinity AME Zion, but it resonated so much that, somehow, I got recruited by the secretary at my school, Pat, for Friday Night Bible Club. My sister Leslie soon went as well, and we attended for several years.

I’m fairly sure it was Pat who gave me a copy of Peace with God, Graham’s 1952 classic book about salvation. This codified my budding theology so that I thought, as did others, that I would grow up to be a preacher.

I could quote Scripture pretty darn well in those days. Psalm 119:11 – “Thy word have I hid in my heart that I might not sin against Thee.” Didn’t have to look it up, even after all these years.

By 9th grade, I started carrying around my Bible to school. By 10th grade, my friend Bobby and I would walk over two miles to the Primitive Methodist Church in Johnson City every Sunday afternoon for more fundamentalist training, and then usually walk back.

I really became “holier than thou.” Even when some of my friends drank and smoked pot, in my presence, I remained resolute. Until I wasn’t.

When I understood that all those people in India and China who never accepted Jesus Christ as their personal Savior, who perhaps never really even heard of him, were supposedly going to go to a literally fiery pit called Hell – which is why why we “needed” so many missionaries – I simply couldn’t accept that.

Fairly soon thereafter, I fell away from this belief system, which I had initially learned from Billy Graham, and it took a long time to find my way back to a theology that made sense to me.

I started re-examining the preacher. His close ties with Presidents, when I had been younger, I saw as a good thing in spreading the Word.

His friendship with Richard Nixon, in particular, became problematic for me, as I believed even by my freshman year in college that Graham was co-opted by the power elite, rather than speaking truth to that power.

To his credit, Graham eventually came to that same conclusion himself. He actively discouraged Jerry Falwell, a founder of the Moral Majority, from mixing religion and politics.

“Evangelicals can’t be closely identified with any particular party or person. We have to stand in the middle, to preach to all the people, right and left,” Graham said in 1981, according to Time magazine. “I haven’t been faithful to my own advice in the past. I will in the future.”

I have a soft spot in my heart for Billy Graham, despite his significant shortcomings, as accurately laid out by Arthur. Not so for his dreadful son Franklin, whose appearance in Albany in 2016, I protested.

I have seen James Taylor perform live exactly once, at the anti-nukes rally in NYC in 1982. Strange since he’s performed several times at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center at little north of here, and especially at Tanglewood in extreme western Massachusetts.

I decided that, since he would be performing in Albany for some benefit concert in January 2018, I would go see him, and John Legend, among others. The show got canceled for some reason, but Taylor made a $10K donation to the Albany Med pediatric unit instead.

Those of us of a certain age all owned the album Sweet Baby James in college, required along with Carole King’s Tapestry. I have almost all of James Taylor’s albums, the ones in the 1990s and later on CD, including his Christmas album, the earlier ones on vinyl. I need to listen to the last two, aside from the Covers album.

Some songs:

Back in the High Life Again (Steve Winwood: Back in the High Life, 1986)
Everyday (That’s Why I’m Here, 1985) – a Buddy Holly cover
Secret Of Life (JT, 1977)
Her Town Too (Dad Loves His Work, 1981) [this is a live version with with J.D. Souther]

Traffic Jam (JT) – I think it’s a hoot
That’s Why I’m Here (TWIH)
Home by Another Way (Never Die Young, 1988) – reference to the Three Wise Guys who visited thje baby Jesus
Sweet Baby James (Sweet Baby James, 1970) – the song is not about himself but about meeting his nephew James, the son of his older brother Alex, for the first time

How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You) (Gorilla, 1975) – Marvin Gaye cover
Walking Man (Walking Man, 1974)
Your Smiling Face (JT, 1977)
Copperline (New Moon Shine, 1991) – this is one of those songs that is effectively the title track of the album

Carolina in My Mind (James Taylor, 1968) – recorded back in his Apple Records days, then re-recorded for the first greatest hits album
Lo and Behold (Sweet Baby James) – interesting theology
Up on the Roof (Flag, 1979) – I gained a new appreciation of this song when James Taylor, at some program honoring Carole King, explained how her writing partner, the late Gerry Goffin, would go there to get away from the family troubles
Shed a Little Light (New Moon Shine) – namechecks ML King, Jr.

Mexico (Gorilla) – I probably heard this first on one of those Warner Brothers Loss Leaders
Mockingbird (Carly Simon: Hotcakes, 1974) – Taylor and Simon were married from 1972 to 1983
Handy Man (JT) – my appreciation soared when I heard how different this was from the Jimmy Jones original
That Lonesome Road (Dad Loves His Work) – sad songs say so much

Something in the Way She Moves (James Taylor)- Taylor seems cool with the fact that George Harrison pilfered the title as the first line for his biggest hit in the Beatles, Something; this is the WB re-cover
Fire and Rain (Sweet Baby James) – the quintessential JT
Shower the People (In the Pocket, 1976) – the bass harmony vocal is perfectly in my range, and I cannot help but to sing along with it
Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow (Carole King: Tapestry, 1971)

One of the great things about my k-9 school Daniel S. Dickinson was that it had a library. I’m pretty sure now, though I didn’t think about it then, that it was part of the Binghamton Public Library system. Not every school had such a facility.

One of the librarians was Mrs. Genevieve Taylor, who attended my church, Trinity A.M.E. Zion, less than two blocks from my house. She was a black woman, as was another church member, Beccye Fawcett, a librarian at the main branch downtown, where I worked as a page when I was in high school. I wonder if they had an effect on my future vocation.

At some point, there was this Peter Max poster at the Dickinson library, and I wondered who Die-lan was. Mrs. Taylor said, “It’s Dil-lin.” Oh yeah, I HAD heard of him, just didn’t recognize the name.

In sixth grade, Mr. Paul Peca, our favorite teacher, challenged us. I remember a class debate on whether the US should have dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. He was pro, mostly of us were con. We also had a mock Presidential election. Lyndon Baines Johnson beat Barry Goldwater, 13-3. I still remember who two of those AuH2O voters were. The following year, several of us walked up to his house, near the airport, to visit him.

We had a class newspaper. Karen wrote an epic fantasy story story about meeting the Beatles. She later got into the music business and promoted John Lennon’s Double Fantasy in 1980. Later, she worked for a label that carried Paul McCartney’s albums. In 2015, around my birthday, she came up to a hearts party I was having and regaled my friends with wonderfully detailed stories about Paul and marmite, and also Johnny and June Carter Cash.

For what we then called junior high, Dickinson was a school that got kids from other schools, such as Oak Street; see Don Wheeler’s great report of his trek to Dickinson, a semester before I moved up to 7th grade.

In junior high, which was 7th through 9th grade, there was an infusion of new kids, from other elementary schools, including Oak Street, Wilson (I think), and the parochial school, St. Cyril, which was right behind our playground. In elementary school, we called them St. Cheerios and they called us Dixie Cups.

There was this black girl named Bernadette who passed me a note so blatantly that people thought something was going on between us. But she was merely a conduit for her friend, a redhead named Dawn. But I was too holy/naive to respond to her overture.

(Dawn and her boyfriend/husband moved next door to my family on Gaines Street a few years later. There’s a Stupid Physics Tale to tell, if you’re interested.)

We had Mr. Frenchko (the assistant principal) and Miss Gertrude Kane, of the purple hair, for English. Mr. Stone was a social studies teacher; friend Karen boldly corrected him when he referred to the band Cream as The Cream.

I can’t remember the shop teacher – Mr. Williams, I’ve been told – but I recall being really bad at wood shop, and I was always blowing up ceramics in the kiln. But I was surprisingly good at metal shop.

We had a junior varsity basketball team, and I was the “manager”, which meant I schlepped equipment. Our team with David, Ray, a kid named Lonnie and others, was pretty good. We lost to East Junior High, 60-58. Afterwards, the East girls beat up some of the Dickinson girls.

Mr. Joseph was the 9th grade homeroom and biology teacher, who was married to Mrs. Joseph, the music teacher. He thought my father was “crazy” to quit the security of his boring IBM job, moving stuff on some sort of forklift, especially to take a job at Opportunities for Broome, a federal OEO program.

By the time we finished 9th grade in January 1968, there were again only 16 of us, I believe: Carol, Lois, Karen, Irene, Diane, Bill, Bernie, David and I, together since kindergarten, and Ray and Jim, but there were Walter, Joanne, Pamela, Richard, Chad, and two girls named Marlene at SOME point in junior high.

Ugh, memory fails.

More soon.
Someone in this narrative is having a birthday today! HB, Sara Lee.

IN response to a previous post: It’s four o’clock somewhere

Jodi Kantor, New York Times

Beyond being gratified that the #MeToo/Time’s Up movement has come to pass, I have been fascinated how it seems to have really come together only in the past six months.

I’ve seen Jodi Kantor, one of the New York Times reporters along with Megan Twohey, who broke the Harvey Weinstein story, several times on TV, usually on CBS This Morning but also on The Daily Show with Trevor Noah. And it was the Weinstein scandal, not only his reported illicit behavior but also the cover up, that unleashed the torrent of responses.

As Kantor has assessed the revolution: “My colleagues Emily Steel and Michael Schmidt had done the story about Bill O’Reilly, his long trail of settlements with women. That was a light bulb moment. Editors at the Times…ask[ed] the question, ‘Are there other prominent male figures in American life who have covered up serious problems with treatment of women?'”

And she sees how the momentum built. “You could make an argument that the women who came forward about [Bill] Cosby affected the women who came forward about the men at Fox News, who affected the women who came forward about President Trump, who affected the women who came forward about Silicon Valley, who affected the women who came forward about Harvey Weinstein,” who was less well known than the women who reported his actions.

A week after Oprah Winfrey’s Golden Globes speech – ““I want all the girls watching to know a new day is on the horizon” – she spoke to seven powerful Hollywood women for CBS Sunday Morning and explored how much pain some of them still have with their #MeToo experience.

Winfrey asked Reese Witherspoon, who had “spoken of being assaulted on one of her first movies, at age 16,” how speaking out has “led to a greater sense of empowerment and control over it?”

“Well, I don’t know if I’ve gotten to that place yet,” Witherspoon replied. “As you can see, I’m very emotional about it. But I keep going back to somebody sent me this Elie Wiesel quote that said, ‘Silence helps the tormentors, it doesn’t help the tormented. And neutrality helps the oppressors, not the oppressed.'”

America Ferrera had posted about an incident when she “was nine years old being assaulted by a man who I was then sort of forced to see afterwards for a long time. And what struck me about my experience was his certainty that I would be silent. And he was right. He was right for 24 years.”

TV producer Shonda Rhimes says what most of the women were saying: “At a certain point there has to be room for reconciliation in a world… But a lot of people don’t think that right now — and a lot of women have the right to not feel that right now.”

Men need to understand that when women have been aggrieved for a VERY long time – Ferrera put it well: “Speaking of this moment, as a culture we’ve gone from not listening, hearing or believing women, and how were we going to skip over the whole part where women get to be heard, and go straight to the redemption of the perpetrators? Can’t we live in that space where it’s okay for perpetrators to be a little bit uncomfortable with what the consequences will be?”

I suppose this kind of sucks for men. But the status quo for women has sucked far, far longer.

Jena Friedman on Conan O’Brien’s show

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