Where would you be if you weren’t where you are?  

that “third place”

Jeanne Beanne, who I know IRL, asked some Ask Roger Anything questions.

Where would you be if you weren’t where you are?  

What a metaphysical query!

Several points in my life are, if not this, then that.  One was made for me, as I’ve mentioned. If my mother didn’t work outside the home at McLean’s in downtown Binghamton, NY, I would have gone to Oak Street Elementary School. So I wouldn’t have met Karen, Carol, Bill, Lois, Bernie, and others, with whom I went to Daniel Dickinson, then Binghamton Central HS, until seventh grade. It would have totally changed the dynamics of our relationships.

I wouldn’t have met Ray at Dickinson until seventh grade and likely wouldn’t have been in Cub Scouts, with Ray’s mom as our den mother. Probably, I wouldn’t have met Dave at all.

If I wasn’t watching JEOPARDY with my great-aunt Deana every day at noontime, I might not have become obsessed with the program so much that I tried out for the show in 1998, made the cut, and won a game.

If I hadn’t attended New Paltz college, I wouldn’t have met Mark, who turned me onto comic books. So we wouldn’t have gone to the Crystal Cave comic book store, where I met Raoul and Tom, who I would later work with at FantaCo in Albany. Also, Mark introduced me to the Okie.

The Wanderer

1977 was pretty chaotic. Still, I met friends Deborah in NYC and Judy in New Paltz. Judy and her friend Jendy would be pivotal in my going to library school at UAlbany in 1990.

And if Mark and MK52 had not moved to Schenectady, I wouldn’t have crashed with them there from December 1977 to  March 1978 and ended up working at the Schenectady Arts Council, whose offices were in the run-down Proctor’s Theatre.

If  I didn’t know Nancy at SAC, I wouldn’t have met Shazrak, with whom I moved to Albany, in 1979. In May 1980, I worked at FantaCo.

I’ve mentioned this before, but FantaCo was that “third place”  –  not just a retail store, mail order place, publisher, and comic book convention purveyor, but a gathering place of people interested in art, music, and popular culture. Besides Raoul and Tom, there was Mitch, Hank, Rocco, Marky, Augustus, Sinisa,  Mayor, Peter, and one other, who bears special mention.

I met artists and writers like Fred, Bill, Steve B, the Pinis, and members of the band Blotto. I’m still friends with at least one of the customers, ADD, and others still remember me from the place.

I met Debby through Mitch. She introduced me to lots of other people. Though she didn’t play, she was indirectly responsible for my playing racquetball from 1983 to 2010 at the YMCA, where I met even more folks.

Walter, a customer turned FantaCo employee, was even more of a person who interacted with many others, many of whom I know today. He was also the epicenter of the hearts game.


Being in Albany meant going to church in Albany and all the connections I made at church #1, then church #2. I wrote about the drama and trauma of leaving church #1  here.

I could write much more about other jobs and volunteer organizations and their impact.

Then there are the romantic relationships, which would take several book chapters. Suffice it to say that there were things said or left unsaid, things done or should have been done, that altered that trajectory in many ways.

Three things that manifested in your life that you did not expect.

Comic books, JEOPARDY, and being a librarian. Being a dad was a “well, maybe, if…” thing.

How have they changed your path? And purpose?

They’ve definitely changed my path. I don’t know that my purpose, which to be, for lack a better word, useful, has fundamentally changed, even when the circumstances did.

Coke or Pepsi?  Lol

Diet cherry Pepsi.

In praise of being late

Squeezing in “one more thing.”

I saw an article on the NPR website back in January. The title was In praise of being late: The upside of spurning the clock.

I have a complicated relationship with timeliness vs. tardiness. On one side, I HATE HATE HATE getting to an airport anywhere near late. I got to the airport less than 30 minutes before takeoff back in 2009; this caused considerable disruption. Back in the 1980s, my father took me to that very same airport, and I was literally running through the terminal as my name was being called over the loudspeaker. Did I mention that I HATE it?

Likewise, I like a time cushion when taking a train or even an intracity bus. Indeed, I’ve been known to lie to myself about the departure time.

I’ve attended a fair number of meetings in my time. When running them, I like to start on time, not so much for my sake as out of respect for others. Some people prefer to give some time to those who may be tardy. I’m even more impatient in ZOOM meetings; let’s finish this!


I had a job that did not involve the general public. So being five minutes late was of no real consequence. Yet one office character was quite fussy about it, ironic since she often left early. 

Generally, when I was late, I was tending to my daughter, or the bus was running late.

I understand that, after the office went remote when COVID hit, the hours became a bit more flexible.  It took a pandemic to do what I thought was common sense.

My household

The NPR article reads, “Are you, like me, chronically late? Do you squeeze in ‘one more thing’ before you leave home, only to lose track of time?” I used to say my wife was always late, and she’d insist that she was never late. The truth is somewhere in between.

When she was teaching, she was seldom tardy.  But if we were going to leave to go shopping, and she said we’re leaving at 2:30, we’d more than likely be going out the door at 2:45. Note that she set the time, not me, then fails to meet her own deadline. 

This used to irritate me, truth to tell, because she was/is one of those “one more thing” people. Now I pull out my phone and play backgammon or read a magazine until she is ready. 


I came across a 2014 NPR article entitled Running Late? Nah, Just On ‘CPT’.

“It’s hard to tell where this concept originated. But one of the earliest versions I came across was from a 1914 issue of the Chicago Defender, in a race-manners column penned by D.W. Johnson. And he clearly thought that adherents to CPT were, um, rude:

“If there is any fault among colored people that needs an immediate remedy, it is a lack of punctuality, to learn how necessary it is to be on time, to be prompt and punctual in their engagements, to meet on time at social and public gatherings. It is perfectly absurd that so many of our people, sometimes unconsciously and sometimes willfully, wholly disregard the important fact of punctuality. … We have in our method of gathering what is commonly called, in the vernacular of the street, ‘colored people’s time.’ “

But “If almost every community — Latinos and Irish folks and Indian-Americans and LGBT folks and West Indians and many, many others — have a cultural norm of not being perfectly on time — then shouldn’t arriving on time be the thing that gets its own special snowflake phrase? It seems, from people’s responses, that CPT is basically Everyone Standard Time — that early or punctual arrivers are the exceptions.”

Operating on different cultural clocks

In other words, some have argued: “punctuality is a social construct.” There are studies analyzing Cultural Norms Regarding Lateness for Meetings and Appointments. In international relations, these are important to understand. 

I can try to be more mellow about delays as long as it doesn’t involve scheduled transportation.

The birth of the hearts game

special house

My friend Walter wanted me to write about his former Albany dwelling. I won’t mention it by address to honor the current residents’ privacy. That house was the center of many people’s social life. Some out-of-town folks might come through Albany when he wasn’t home, stay there, and leave a  note. He often left the door unlocked or told people where to find the key.

That house was the birth of the hearts game I’ve been holding almost every year around my birthday. Back in 1987, and for about three years, a rotation of people played hearts in his kitchen roughly five days a week. This was regardless of whether he was present or not.

The cool thing about the house was that the bedroom upstairs was soundproof because of how it was constructed. Thus, PS, Walter’s wife, wasn’t disturbed by the noise downstairs. (PS was, and is, a saint.)

Almost no one entered the corner property’s front door, though. Most people came in via the porch in the back, where you could see the fruit trees.  The kitchen had a display case like in a retail store.  His comic book-related paraphernalia resided there.

The house was much larger than I realized, taking up three city lots. The time I recognized that fact was when Walter and PS moved. They had garage space for six vehicles.

Approximately 50 people helped them move over two days. I never even got to the new place, being too busy packing stuff into various cars and trucks. Later, Walter and PS made T-shirts for us movers with a picture of Edvard Munch’s The Scream.

And the card game went away.

The card game returneth

My wife asked me what I wanted to do for my 60th birthday. I said I wanted to have a hearts game at our house. I invited Walter, O. (who later lived in the house Walter and PS had lived in), some of the players from the day, and one or two others.

I held it every year until I was 63, when my wife suggested that weekend wasn’t good. But there was never a better weekend, so I’ve avoided postponing it. Even in 2020, I held a game on March 14.

In 2021, we did some online hearts thing plus ZOOM, which was… something. It didn’t happen in 2022, but it did in 2023. The forecast was dodgy, and some people didn’t make it, but we always had six players, with at least three people at the table.

Lydster: On being a dad

The book The Expectant Father

Lydia and Roger

I was rearranging my books, frankly, to make room for more. I came across two books on being a dad. One or both of them were given to me by a dad at my church. He doesn’t attend anymore, so I don’t see him often, even though he and his family are still in town.

One was Thinking Pregnant by Megan V. Steelman (2001). The subtitle was Conceiving Your New Life With A Baby. Chapter 10 is called Dads. One subtitle, Will I Be Any Good at This? And the next one, A Father Has Feelings Too.  It talks about jealousy, a feeling I do not recall having. Journaling was recommended, and I believe I’ve been doing that for nearly 18 years. To my knowledge, the tome has not been updated.

The other book was The Expectant Father by Armin A. Brott and Jennifer Ash. My copy from 2001 is the second edition; the fifth edition, which  I have not seen, came out in 2021. It was very entertaining as it went through the nine months and how the relationship between the couple might change. A subhead: “Oh my God, I’m going to be a father.”

A new day

The chapter most interesting to me was Fathering Today. The authors note the absence of fathers or dads portrayed negatively. It listed a series of ads that irritated me even before I was a parent. “Kid tested mother approved” (Kix cereal). “Choosy mother choose Jif.” Robitussin cold medicines “recommended by Dr. Mom.”

Armin Brott also talked about how men’s involvement is discouraged. He wrote in a New York Times Magazine piece about catching a girl who was screaming. As she fell from a playground slide, he caught her. The mother, coming on the scene, said to the child, “Didn’t I tell you not to talk to strange men in the park?” I’m sure I wrote about this on these pages.

As he notices he’s the only man in the park, he recognized that he’d become the stereotyped menacing male. Indeed, I was at a party in Albany’s suburbs a couple of decades ago. The guy who gave me the books and I went for a walk and instinctively stayed away from the kids playing close to the road. We did not want to be perceived as THOSE guys.

Being a dad is joyful, stressful, confusing, and rewarding. My daughter is pretty remarkable because of, or possibly despite, me.

Sunday Stealing: YouTube entry

sports, cilantro

YouTubeThis week’s Sunday Stealing is called YouTube.  “This came from a YouTube entry that no longer exists.”
1. Working on anything exciting lately?
Our daughter is having her birthday soon, and we’re planning a trip for her and two of her best friends.
2. What was the highlight of the day today?
Seeing my oldest college friend and maybe their significant other.
3. What is your favorite thing to do on the weekends?
Singing in the church choir.
4. What are your favorite restaurants?
I’m pretty catholic. Italian, Indian, breakfast food, a burger joint, whatever, as long as I’m not cooking it.
5. Do you follow any sports?
I used to follow them far more than I do now. For instance, this past year, I saw no regular season games during the National Football League. Yet I watched all the playoff games I recorded because I can fast forward during instant replay, challenge flags, and halftime.
I vaguely follow Major League Baseball, but nowhere near what I did from the 1960s until 2010. Once, I had hundreds of baseball cards from which I could cite various statistics.
Here’s a specific example. Eight National Basketball Association players have scored 70 or more points in a game: Wilt Chamberlain (six times between 1961 and 1963), Elgin Baylor (1960), David Thompson (1978), David Robinson (1994), Kobe Bryant (2006), Devin Booker (2017), Donovan Mitchell (2023), and Damian Lillard (2023). I know precisely who the first five are, but I have no idea about the last three.
The only current players I know are Steph Curry and  Giannis Antetokounmpo (who I saw on 60 Minutes!) Also, a handful of former Oklahoma Thunder players, James Harden and Russell Westbrook, only because my late blogger buddy Dustbury used to write about the games.
What did FDR say again?
6. What is your biggest fear?
Dementia, I suppose.
7. What is your biggest regret?
As I’ve answered before, I have experienced many regrettable things. But I’ve learned from all of them eventually, or so I believe.
8. When you were growing up, what was your dream job?
A defense attorney. That is until I took a pre-law course in college.
9. Do you say ‘sherbet’ or ‘sherbert’?
When I’m awake, sherbet. When I’m half asleep, sherbert.
What WAS that?
10. Have you ever had a paranormal experience?
Almost certainly, there are things I’ve seen and experienced that I cannot explain, from serious deja vu to specifically answered prayers to speaking in tongues once to something that broke the glasses that were on my face but did no harm to me, that defied reason.
11. What is your favorite food at a cocktail party?
In terms of taste, cheese, and crackers. In terms of controlling calories, fruit, such as grapes.
12. Who is a book character most like you?
This is a total cheat because it’s a real person, but Roger Ebert, specifically in his autobiography Life Itself Itself. He describes himself with warts and all. I relate to warts especially.
13. Do you read reviews before you go to the movies?
Enough to know if it’s generally favorably received but not enough to know anything about the plot details.
14. How do you feel about cilantro?
I have no feeling whatsoever about cilantro. My wife, on the other hand, really loves it. She thinks it enhances the flavor of chili we had recently. Since I was unaware it contained the seasoning, I have no basis for comparison.
15. Have you ever cried in public?
Sure. At work, more than once. It is reasonably often at funerals, though it may not be as apparent to an observer as it is to me.
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