Thinking of other people’s moms

the godparent connection

Mrs BWhen I was growing up in Binghamton back in the 1960s, I often appreciated the grace of other people’s moms.

One of my favorites is the woman to the left in the picture. Of all of my classmates’ moms, Mrs. B was probably my favorite. I don’t remember the particular event, or even if I were there, although that looks like my 6th-grade teacher Mr. Peca in the window.

The thing is that she was always hosting events such as this. And her family owned a cottage on a lake and she hosted a motley crew of us down there.

When I was 19, she told me that I could call her by her first name. No way I was going to do that. She’s still around and I still wouldn’t.

Another mom I was fond of was Mrs. Lia. I wrote about her when she died in 2020. Coincidentally, she and Mrs. B. lived fairly close together on the same street.

Mrs. Hamlin, first name Marcheta, who died in 2015, I wrote about here. Besides her being the organist at my church, she and her sister Pat Jones were quite possibly the only black moms I knew from my K-9 school, Daniel Dickinson. And they lived a block or so from the school.

In fact, my parents were Pat’s son Walter’s godparents. I inherited my newspaper route and my library page job from Walter. And the Whitfields, the parents of Marcheta Hamlin and Pat Jones, were my godparents.

But I was in the Hamlin house much more often, spending a year trying, and failing, to learn piano. Incidentally, Mr. and Mrs. Hamlin are buried in Spring Forest Cemetery, about as close to their home as my grandmother Gertrude Williams is from her home to her plot in that cemetery.


Since my mom died in 2011, it’s been especially nice having a smart and good mother-in-law. We get along well much of the time and agree on most topics, especially theology. Much of the recent Saturday conversations on Zoom involve the family finally planning the funeral of her late husband Richard.

This means us writing the obituary and creating the service, although the pastor has, in Richard’s handwriting, what he had wanted to happen. Undoubtedly, he hadn’t counted on a pandemic. On the other hand, more people may be able to attend virtually, notably his elderly siblings.

And my mother-in-law may be selling her house in Oneonta and moving to the Albany area in the coming months. Which’ll mean she’ll be 15 minutes away, rather than 75. That would be nice.

Ersatz title songs of albums #3

Go ask Alice

Elvis CostelloHere are more ersatz title songs of albums. They are not the actual title songs. But because they contain the title in the lyrics, they are ersatz title songs.

There are, I’ve now discovered, LOTS of these. Expect, over the course of the year, several more of these lists.

Closing Time  – The Cardigans. Album: Life. Lyrics: “It’s closing time, and a well-known fact Is that life is very short.”
03.45: No Sleep  – The Cardigans. Album: Long Gone Before Daylight. Lyrics: “The comfort of fireflies Long gone before daylight.”
Holy Love  – The Cardigans. Album: SUPER EXTRA GRAVITY. Lyrics: “Love makes me feel the super extra gravity of God.”

Invocation, and Benediction – Carpenters. Album: Offering, their 1969 debut album which was reissued as “Ticket to Ride”. Lyrics: “Nothing can impair the perfect love I bring In a simple offering” and “Through the song we sing an offering.”
I Can Dream, Can’t I – Carpenters. Album: Horizon. Lyrics: “As we eye the blue horizon’s bend”

Chasing What’s Already Gone – Mary Chapin Carpenter. Album: Ashes and Roses. Lyrics: “It’s ashes and roses and time that burns When you’re chasing what’s already gone”

A Different Kind Of Love Song – Cher. Album: Living Proof Lyrics: “We have living proof There is some kind of light that flows through everything”
I Walk Alone – Cher. Album: Closer To The Truth. Lyrics: “And there’s an anger as I get closer to the truth.”

Vincent Furnier

Del Gato – Gene Clark and Carla Olson. Album: So Rebellious A Lover. Lyrics: “So rebellious a lover Don Juan as my cover

Washington Bullets – the Clash. Album: Sandinista! Lyrics: “With no Washington bullets what else could he do? Sandinista.” Whoever put this on a list ONLY noted the album title. No group, no song. Fortunately, I bought this LP when it was brand new.

Minotaur – Clutch. Album: Strange Cousins From The West. Lyrics: “Strange cousins from the West Overstay their welcome.”

Long Way To Go – Alice Cooper. Album: Love it to death. Lyrics: “I guess I love it. I love it to death.”
Freedom – Alice Cooper. Album: Raise Your Fist And Yell. Lyrics: “Freedom, raise your fist and yell”
Who Do You Think We Are – Alice Cooper. Album: Special Forces. Lyrics: “Who do you think we are, Special forces in an armoured car.”
I Better Be Good – Alice Cooper. Album: Zipper Catches Skin: Lyrics: “If zipper grabs skin.” [Close enough]

Talk On Corners – the Corrs. Album: Talk On Corners. Lyrics: “And her friends they talk on corners.”
Give Me A Reason – the Corrs. Album: In Blue. Lyrics: “It’s not romantic here in blue. Swimming, swimming in blue.”

Declan MacManus

The Greatest Thing – Elvis Costello and The Attractions. Album: Punch the Clock. Lyrics: “Punch the clock and in time you’ll get pulled apart.”
Crawling To The U.S.A. – Elvis Costello. album: Taking Liberties. Lyrics: “She said, ‘I catch you taking liberties and they do not impress me.'”
Brilliant Mistake – Elvis Costello. Album: King Of America. Lyrics: “He thought he was the King of America.”
Uncomplicated – Elvis Costello. Album: Blood and Chocolate. Lyrics: “Blood and chocolate. I hope you`re satisfied what you have done.”
Favourite Hour – Elvis Costello. Album: Brutal Youth. Lyrics: “Now there’s a tragic waste of brutal youth.”
I Don’t Want To Go To Chelsea – Elvis Costello and the Attractions. Album: This Year’s Model. Lyrics: ” Capital punishment, she’s last year’s model.” [Close enough]                                                                                                                  Alison – Elvis Costello. Album: My Aim Is True. Lyrics: “Oh, Alison, my aim is true.”                                                                                                                                            I own King of America and Brutal Youth on CD, and a number of early albums on vinyl.

High Life – Counting Crows. Album: This Desert Life. Lyrics: “But oh, this desert life, this high life. Here at the dying end of the day.”

Lots more!

89 more people = no lost NY House seat

27 to 26

census2020-storyimageWhen I heard that New York State was to lose a Congressional seat after the next reapportionment, it didn’t particularly upset me. The projections from months ago had suggested the possibility of the state losing one or even two seats.

UNTIL I heard that if the state had counted 89 more people, and the other numbers had stayed the same, the number in New York would have stood pat. Minnesota would have lost a House seat.

THEN it hurt. I mean almost physically pained me. I took it personally. I’d spent months trying to plug the Census. Then I WORKED the Census as an enumerator for six or seven weeks. I was SO invested.

Put in your favorite sports cliche here. US football last play of the game, down 4 points, and the running play stops three inches shy of the goal line. Two outs in the bottom of the 9th inning in baseball, down one, runner on base, and the blast from the batter is caught at the fence. The basketball three-pointer to win hits the rim and bounces away.

I Heart NY

New York was the 32nd fastest-growing state in the nation. The US gained 7.4% overall. With 20,201,249 residents, NY’s count was 4.2% higher than in 2010. But the New York delegation will fall from 27 to 26 members of the House of Representatives.

BTW, the US saw the lowest overall population growth since the Great Depression. “Experts say that paltry pace reflects the combination of an aging population, slowing immigration, and the scars of the Great Recession more than a decade ago,” reports the Associated Press, “which led many young adults to delay marriage and families.”

Incidentally, these pieces may be of interest:

A Preliminary Analysis of U.S. and State-Level Results From the 2020 Census.

How the Census Bureau Unduplicated Responses in the 2020 Census.

Movie review: The Father [Zeller]

about dementia

The FatherIn the film The Father, the storytellers found a new way to figure out how to portray losing one’s facilities. We see Anthony (Oscar-nominated Anthony Hopkins) in his apartment.

Or maybe it’s the apartment of his daughter Anne (Oscar-nominated Olivia Colman). She’s moving from London to Paris. He finds this ridiculous since “They don’t even speak English.” Or maybe she isn’t.

Anne is clearly devoted to her father, although occasionally exhausted. Anthony can be prickly with his primary caretaker, which is often the case, though he appears to love her as well.

Laura (Imogen Poots) is one of his caretakers, looking very much like someone else to him. Paul (Rufus Sewell) is Anne’s impatient partner. The portrayal of different actors in the same roles is a clever device. Mark Gatiss is The Man and Olivia Williams, The Woman.

The screenplay is by Christopher Hampton and Florian Zeller, based on Zeller’s play.  This is probably why the production feels a bit stagey.

Or maybe that’s an asset. Megan Basham of the WORLD notes, “The close-set and small cast are the ideal building blocks to illustrate the narrowing that so often comes with the end of life, when the world available to us, both physically and socially, grows so small.”

Because I was so damned confused – as we are supposed to be, I suspect – I didn’t really warm up to this film until near the end. It’s very well acted; it’s just a tough subject.

In the pantheon

The Father is a fine addition to the list of Movies About Alzheimer’s and Dementia You Shouldn’t Miss, published in January 2020. I’ve seen only the two most recent, Away From Her and Still Alice. These are more dramatic portrayals, as I recall, effective in their own ways.

The reviews for The Father were 98% positive in Rotten Tomatoes. Eli Glasner of the CBC News Network writes, “Ultimately I’m struck by Anthony Hopkins’ courage. At 83, fearlessly taking on this role with such vulnerability.”

“Things I hate that you might love”


Hollywood_And_Levine_Podcast_2020_LogoWriter Ken Levine released a recent podcast called “Things I hate that you might love.”

Ken notes hating the Beatles song, Hey Jude, and the movie It’s a Wonderful Life. He is not fond of performances by the actor Maya Rudolph, though he admits to enjoying her impersonation of Kamala Harris. He distinguishes this feeling from noting things lots of people hate (opera, e.g.), or genres he doesn’t enjoy for which he is not the target market (hip hop music).

Here’s my attempt, although HATE is a bit strong, except in the case of foods:

Interest in cars. The last two cars my wife bought I’ve regularly mistaken for other vehicles on the street. To be fair to me, she’s done the same thing once or twice.

The sister of a former girlfriend of mine could tell you the difference between a 1964 Volkwagen beetle and the 1965 model. The lights have a different shape or something. This is not me.

If I saw a robbery where the criminal drove off, I’d be a lousy witness. “It was a big, blue, four-door… something.” If I don’t see the logo, I would have no idea. On the other hand, I’m likely to remember an alphanumeric license plate hours later, if I had a need to.

Food and drink

Coffee. I’ve never acquired a taste for it. And it can be inconvenient because folks are always buying those Dunkin’ carafes of java for the group. Not liking coffee can be socially isolating.

On the other hand, it means I didn’t have to make the coffee in the office. Once, someone insisted that I do so, and I complied. I gather – and I have no way to judge because I don’t drink the stuff – it was quite awful. Guess who was removed from coffee prep?

Beer. This was even more isolating. While I’m in the bar with a group of people, they’re downing pitchers of suds, while I’m ordering a glass of white wine separately. There is plenty of booze I’ll drink – whiskey, vodka, tequila, rum – but beer creates a gag reflex.

Peanut butter. I recall eating JIF as a child. I must have OD’d on it because now, even the smell makes me nauseous.

Melons. Cantaloupe, watermelon. Hate ’em all, including candies that supposedly taste like melons.


Binge-watching TV programs. I have a short attention span for watching show after show. It makes me agitated. I might watch one segment of 60 Minutes followed by a JEOPARDY episode, both on the DVR so I can fast-forward through the commercials, then I turn the TV off.

Reality television. This is also on Ken’s list. There’s a certain sameness of the rhythm of these shows that I find exhausting. Worse, they tend to recycle their casts so that the breakout “star” shows up on a spinoff.

There was a show called Honey Boo Boo, which I saw for a full two minutes before I had to turn it off. Well, now there’s a spinoff, Mama June. heaven help us all.

These people are stars. They must be because they show up on Dancing with the Stars, a television show my wife watches. I wander into the living room and say of a participant, “Who’s THAT?” Maybe it’s someone from a recent season of The Bachelor or a program I’ve never heard of.

So news about these people is not, particularly, of interest. “Jim Bob and Michelle Duggar Speak Out After Oldest Son Josh Is Arrested on Child Porn Charges.” They’re some of the “stars” of 19 Kids and Counting, so the story is hardly noteworthy, except for their overt “Christian” beliefs.

Yet, early on, I could watch reality TV. Three seasons of The Real World, the original Queer Eye, even a few seasons of Survivor and American Idol. But it’s become all too much.