From politics to library science

carrying petitions

library scienceHe blinded me with science! From politics to library science, that is.

Armen Boyajian is a pretty good jazz violinist. He graduated from Binghamton Central High School the same year that I did, but he’s better preserved. He left a lengthy comment on this post, only part of which I will quote here.

I didn’t know you were a Political Science major, Roger. I was also, first, an undergrad at U of Rochester… Then off to SUNY Binghamton for MA in Public Policy. Thought I was going to become a policy wonk at Urban Institute or somewhere like that – but wound up in the nonprofit world as a fundraiser and a jazz musician. I really had no desire to go into politics but was interested in the process… What prompted you to switch from politics to library science?

Armen, I was always interested in politics. I used to read the op/ed pages of the local newspapers by the time I was ten. Also, my father and many other people I knew were involved with the civil rights and/or antiwar movements.

I got involved in student government (General Organization) at BCHS and was president of G.O. The first political campaign I had anything to do with involved blowing up balloons for Bill Burns’ unsuccessful attempt to become mayor in 1969 (?); he lost to Al Libous.

New Paltz

I went to SUNY New Paltz as a poli sci major and joined the New Paltz Democratic Club. In 1974, Howard Robison (R-Owego) declined to run again in the vast Congressional District that ran from Ithaca to Binghamton to Woodstock and New Paltz. Three of the four candidates came to the NPDC and pitched us. Though most members backed the lawyer from Woodstock, a few of us supported the district attorney from Ithaca named Matt McHugh.

I carried petitions for him and got over 125 signatures. While McHugh lost the portion of Ulster County in the CD, he won New Paltz. Then he ran in the general election against Al Libous and won. I made some phone bank calls for McHugh and the Assembly candidate, Maurice Hinchey. They both won.

Some poli sci friends of mine got me to run for Student Government Association. In a crooked election, which I wrote about here, I won. But I dropped out of college for reasons.

The next year, there was a vacancy in the SGA, and I was appointed to that position. Unfortunately, though I was oblivious to it, there was much chicanery with the bookkeeping, with thousands of dollars missing. (In my area that year, which was Education, including WNPC and the Oracle newspaper, my audited books were off by 79 cents.)

Grad school #1

I went to SUNY Albany to get an MA in Public Administration in 1979. That didn’t work for me for some reasons, not the least of which is that the students there were ruthless. They would hide materials or even remove pages from books.

The kicker, though, was one course in which we were given a real-world problem to try to solve. Then the actual person who took on the issue came to class to explain how they resolved it. As often as not, there WAS no suitable resolution.

At the same time, I had an internship at the Albany Housing Authority. I did have some successes – notably recommending merging the janitorial services, which had been divided into ones funded by the state and federal, which worked more efficiently. Nevertheless, it was often disheartening.

So when I took a summer job at a comic book store, I stayed for 8.5 years. After an awful year at Empire Blue Cross and a stint as a Census enumerator, I went back to grad school kicking and screaming. But truth be told, I have always had the librarian inclination since I was a page at the Binghamton Public Library when I was in high school. Or, more likely, long before that. And these were cooperative, not competitive, students. Much more my vibe.

I did carry political petitions thrice in the 21st century, one for a Common Council candidate I liked and the others for a school board candidate and a judge, both of whom I knew personally, and they all won.

There it is: how I started off as a poli sci major and ended up as a librarian. BTW, the poli sci did come in handy as I was able to ascertain which agency I should contact to get certain information.

The rainbow door: great choice


rainbow doorA dozen years or more ago, we needed to get a new front door at our abode. The old one was letting in a tremendous draft, so our feet would be freezing even inside the house. My wife decided on this particular door, which she acknowledged was a bit more expensive than some others. I grudgingly agreed to the purchase. Little did I know it was a rainbow door.

Roughly 40 minutes after sunrise, the sun pierces through the door’s glass and creates a series of rainbows. They appear on the steps and down the hallway for about an hour and a half most days. This brings me joy.

rainbow rugRecently, I was looking more carefully at the patterns. If you look at the pattern from the kitchen down the hallway, the nearer patterns appear with colors, but the designs heading towards the door appear white. However, if you look up the hallway – being sure not to be in the way of the rainbow door’s array – it shows color all the way to the kitchen.

Some are boxy, while others are long and narrow, and they change over the morning. Watching these has become an interesting, if not obsessive, phenomenon. My cellphone photography does not do these patterns justice.

Beyond that, people passing by make comments about the beauty of the door itself. It’s distinctive enough that some people identify our house from the entryway.


rainbow floorAbout three months after we got the new door, someone came to our home seeking the OLD door. They had lived in the house years ago, before the people we bought the house from. We had given it to our contractor, and I don’t know what became of it after that.

Doors fascinate me. Loved the coffin doors at the Marriott Syracuse Downtown, where I stayed back in 2017.

I wrote a story about coming through the door at my first home here. It was a fascinating writing exercise.


I was also particularly thinking about rainbows today because this would have been the 46th birthday of Matthew Shepard. You might consider contributing to the foundation started in his name.

On November 20, my church participated in the Transgender Day of Remembrance. It was the morning after the mass shooting at  Club Q in Colorado Springs was attacked.

The Weekly Sift guy wondered, Is Club Q just the beginning? A story in the Los Angeles Times indicates that “There are few, if any, gay bars or other LGBTQ-friendly hangouts in [California’s] more rural counties, where queer people say they live with a growing sense of foreboding.”

Chuck Rozanski/Bettie Pages, the President of  Mile High Comics, noted that the club was “not just any bar in my life, but one of the places where I have performed most often.” They had been served orange juice by Daniel Aston, one of the five who were killed only nine days earlier.  In his follow-up post, they wrote about what they thought should happen next, which, in brief, is to fight back.

Arthur on The Respect for Marriage Act. 


Nov. rambling: language of lying


County Cork
Since I have unknown ancestors from County Cork, it is reasonable that some of my unknown cousins are putting this out

Weekly Sift:  When can I stop writing about Trump?

Trump shied away from criticizing white supremacist Nick Fuentes, fearing he’d  alienate supporters

I received an email poll on November 24, 2022, asking me, “Who Is Your First Choice For President In 2024?” The choices I was given were Donald Trump, Ron DeSantis, Joe Biden, or Mike Pence. My answer is, “Stop sending me stupid surveys! I’m still getting through 2022.”

Citing Orwell, Judge Blocks ‘Positively Dystopian’ Censorship Law Backed by DeSantis

Unforgettable: The Kari Lake Story

SPLC releases new Community Guide to address Online Youth Radicalization

Monuments to the Unthinkable; America still can’t figure out how to memorialize the sins of our history. What can we learn from Germany?

The Ferguson Brothers Lynchings on Long Island (Book Review by Alan Singer)

U.S. prison labor programs violate fundamental human rights, a new report finds

Four States Voted to End Slavery — But Not Louisiana. Here’s Why.

Oklahoma’s “Child Abuse” Law Doesn’t Protect Children — It Criminalizes Mothers

Two pro wrestlers developed ‘The Progressive Liberal’ to be the bad guy at matches. Then the atmosphere turned far darker

The Monarchy: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

A PSA From an Exhausted Emergency Physician — Avoid sending us your patients until the dust settles

Tom Brady, charity, and business don’t mix

Homeownership by Young Households Below Pre-Great Recession Levels

Types of Water Pollution

More features

The language of lying (TED-Ed)

Preserving Black Heritage: Florida activists fight to save the historic site and their culture

‘Atlanta’ and Making Disciples of All Nations

4th grader uses Heimlich to save a fellow student from choking

Twenty hours on the Dog (Greyhound bus)

20 Best Places to Visit in Upstate New York

Inside Trevor Noah’s Decision to Leave ‘The Daily Show’

In honor of what would have been Charles M. “Sparky” Schulz’s 100th birthday on November 26, 2022, syndicated cartoonists across the country have paid tribute to the Peanuts creator in their own comic strips published on the date. 

Inside the Disney Board’s Decision to Swap Bobs

Robert Clary, Corporal LeBeau on ‘Hogan’s Heroes,’ Dies at 96

Irene Cara, Oscar-Winning Singer, and Actress, Dies at 63

Clarence Gilyard, ‘Walker, Texas Ranger,’ ‘Matlock’ and ‘Die Hard’ Actor, Dies at 66

Amahl and the Night Visitors – the Christmas special almost lost to time

Ask Arthur Anything

Ambient Noise!

I almost picked FEAST as my first Wordle word on Thanksgiving. About 1% of players DID make that correct choice. This was the day after DRIVE was the selection. Earlier this month, GLYPH was the selection. November 2022 was the centennial of the discovery of King Tut’s tomb by the expedition led by Howard Carter. The new Wordle editor is having fun.

Now I Know: Why Aluminum Foil Has a Shiny Side and a Not-Shiny Side and  The Problem With, and Solution to, Too Much Turkey and Let’s Talk Turkey! and  The $5 Million Comma and Proof That Trivia Can Save Lives? and How to Make Corporate Holiday Parties Even More Awkward?


You can still vote for Rebecca Jade as Smooth Jazz Network’s 2022 “Breakout Artist of the Year” DAILY through December 2nd!  Vote HERE. Also, she is joining Dave Koz and Friends for a very special 25th Anniversary Christmas tour through December 23. Tickets HERE.

Elton John Takes Final US Concert Bow at Dodger Stadium

Singer Roberta Flack can no longer sing after ALS diagnosis;  hear Why Don’t You Move In With Me

40 years later, Solid Rock and an autographed treasure

Midnight Train To Georgia – Gladys Knight and the Pips.

Coverville 1420: The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees 2022 and
1421: The 19th Annual All-Beatles Thanksgiving Cover Story

Rikki Tikka Tavi by Alfred Schnittke

Goodnight, My Someone  from The Music Man –  Voctave

Journey To Blofeld’s Hideaway from John Barry’s score to On Her Majesty’s Secret Service

No place like home


The AmeriNZ guy Arthur wrote about No place like home. A core paragraph: “For 24 years, my home wasn’t really a physical place—after all, Nigel and I lived in five different houses in three completely different areas in New Zealand. Instead, for me, ‘home’ was wherever Nigel and our furbabies were. That began to unravel when Nigel died.”

This got me thinking. I’ve lived in 30+ different places. How many of them were actually home? I’m leaving off a few places where I stayed anywhere from four days to two months except one.

5 Gaines Street, Binghamton, NY: the home I grew up in. Even though my room was defined by a partition, the ceiling was a painting of the solar system I commissioned my father to create. HOME.

Scudder Hall, New Paltz, NY (1971-72). A dorm is NOT HOME, though it was a pleasant enough experience. 29 Ackley Avenue, Johnson City, NY (1972). My parents moved there during my freshman year. NOT HOME.

New Paltz

The roach-infested place the Okie and I lived for two months in Kingston, NY (1972), assuredly NOT HOME. Colonial Arms, New Paltz (1972-1974). The Okie and I had people over. My neighbor Debi and I went grocery shopping together. On the other hand, the Okie, without my knowledge, let alone consent, invited people to crash with us for extended periods. HOME-ISH.

13 Maple Street, Binghamton, NY (1975). My grandma’s house, where I had no heat: NOT HOME. Three or four places in New Paltz (1975-76): NOT HOME.

The 1977 sojourn: my parents’ home in Charlotte, NC; my sister’s apartment in Queens, NY; Candid Yam’s sofa in New Paltz; my friend’s place in Schenectady. NOT HOME. The place on Eastern Parkway, Schenectady (1978-79), with two roomies. It may have been Sheila’s home, but for me, NOT HOME.

Albany, NY

First apartments in Albany (1978-80). It had a great sunken living room. But then the house was sold, and we had to move upstairs. NOT HOME.

223 Lancaster Street, Albany (1981-1983). I was working at FantaCo, a short distance away. My hangouts were Washington Park and Lark Street. My neighbors were great, including my friend Jessica and a couple of octogenarians, who gave me their 78s. At least a few times, I threw parties. HOME.

Madison Ave. I moved in because the Lancaster landlord threw everyone out to refurbish it. NOT HOME. 264 Western Ave. with the gospel writers Mark and John. HOME-ISH. The now-boarded-up 437 Second Street I wrote about; that, and the next place, HOME. The first time on Hudson Avenue and Hackett Blvd.: we could not have many guests for reasons. NOT HOME.

Home stretch

I especially liked the second time on Hudson Avenue, where I stayed for over four years. I actually carried petitions for my local city council person and worked the polls. My church and the YMCA, where I played racquetball, were within easy walking distance. Work was easy to get to. And my late friend Raoul had lived in the identical building next door until he died in 1983. HOME.

340 Manning Blvd. This is where my wife and I lived when we first got married. It had been her place before that. One of the rare, valuable things our pastor told us was that we ought to get a place that was ours. I always felt that my stuff, and therefore I, was being squeezed into that place. NOT HOME. Fortunately, I was there for only one year.

My current abode, since 2000. we took months to find a place we liked and could afford. It’s convenient. On ZOOM calls, you only see a small portion of the built-in bookcases. And, of course, our daughter was raised here. Fer sure, HOME.

S. Epatha Merkerson is 70

Isaac Hawkins Hall

Epatha MerkersonThe actor S. Epatha Merkerson played Lieutenant Anita Van Buren in 390 episodes of the long-running procedural Law and Order, from 1993 to 2010. I thought she was very credible in playing someone who had to deal with some added burdens in the workplace. She talked about the wigs she wore for the show.

I got the sense that Alex Trebek was a big fan of hers when she appeared on Celebrity JEOPARDY in 1999.

But she’s done a lot more. Epatha was nominated for two Tony Awards. She was up for Best Actress In A Play in 2008 for Come Back, Little Sheba, and Best Featured Actress In A Play in 1990 for The Piano Lesson.

I did not know that she was Reba in 16 episodes of Pee-wee’s Playhouse, primarily because I never watched the show. Currently, she plays Sharon Goodwin on Chicago Med, a program I’ve watched exactly once.


What I did see her in was the Freedom Tales episode of Finding Your Roots with Henry Louis Gates, Jr., which first aired on February 5, 2019. It reran early in 2022.

One of the most significant findings was that an ancestor of Epatha, Patrick Hawkins, was one of 272 people enslaved by the Jesuit priests of what is now Georgetown University who were sold to two planters in Louisiana in 1838. Money was tight for the educational institution. There’s a pretty good Wikipedia page on the subject.

WETA, the PBS station in DC hosted a screening and discussion of the episode. here’s a five-minute clip. Also, read Sister Melannie Svoboda’s blog.

“Despite her success, Merkerson recounted how she had ‘always wanted to know’ where her family came from. When she asked her grandmother to tell her about their ancestors, her grandmother responded, ‘It’s painful. You don’t need to hear any of this.'” This is not an unusual response.

“The ‘inventory’ compiled by the Jesuits for the sale listed the name of every slave. On the list were five of Patrick Hawkins’ relatives, his wife Letty, his son Peter, and his father Isaac. Georgetown recently renamed the Former Jesuit Residence after Isaac Hawkins following student protests over its original name that honored one of the Jesuits involved in the sale.

“Brought to tears, Merkerson responded, ‘They have names…they have names. They’re not just faceless people.'”


At the end of the episode, S. Epatha Merkerson attended a reunion of the GU272 Descendants Association. “GU272 is dedicated to preserving the memory, commemorating the lives, and restoring the honor of the GU272 enslaved people sold by the Maryland Province Jesuits in 1838 and those who were enslaved before, during, and after the sale by the Society of Jesus. As Descendants, we commit to reconciling our ancestors’ enslavement, reconnecting families, and renewing ties lost.”

Epatha said on the Finding Your Roots episode that maybe she’ll be able to take courses at Georgetown. Implicit was that she should be able to take them for free.

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