K is for Keys

I tend to lose my keys. I’m convinced that it is some sort of deep psychological antipathy regarding the need for them. Surely, one would not even need keys if one did not require locks and we would not have locks but for the dishonesty of some. At least I know it’s not just me; just last week, someone giving me a ride to work couldn’t find HIS keys; they got thrown in his gym bag but, wrapped around some clothes, failed to make any noise.

When I was younger, I used to be impressed with the number of keys on the key chain of certain people, such as my elementary school custodian. Only later did I find out that the keys were not only a physical burden – a bunch of keys gets heavy over time – but an annoyance as well, having to rifle a couple dozen pieces of metal usually of similar shape, size and color to find the correct one.

My curiosity as a child required me to take off the lock from the front door of my house, as I needed to see how the key worked. Unfortunately, I was unable to put the lock together. Well, technically that’s not true; I did put it back together, but there were parts left over, and it no longer worked properly. Interestingly, I don’t recall getting in trouble for this act. Apparently, my father was more impressed with my curiosity than annoyed the the inconvenience and expense of getting a new lock.

The early automobiles did not even have keys. It wasn’t until 1932, I recently discovered, that Henry G. Key invented the first automobile key. Even then, locking the cars was a sporadic exercise at best in many locales.

I grew up in the upstate New York city of Binghamton, near the Pennsylvania border. It rained quite a bit more than the average city in those days, and cars would often leave their lights on. One particularly dreary day walking home from high school in the late 1960s, I recall going into 22 different cars, opening the door without benefit of a key and turning out the lights. Of course cars are now more sophisticated, and the issue of lights staying on is largely moot. But I couldn’t open these cars without a key, even if the need were there.

Of course, like so many other words, key takes on different meanings. Pennsylvania is known as the Keystone State since shortly after 1800. From state historic website: The word “keystone” comes from architecture and refers to the central, wedge-shaped stone in an arch, which holds all the other stones in place. The application of the term “Keystone State” to Pennsylvania cannot be traced to any single source…At a Jefferson Republican victory rally in October 1802, Pennsylvania was toasted as “the keystone in the federal union,” and in the newspaper Aurora the following year the state was referred to as “the keystone in the democratic arch.” The modern persistence of this designation is justified in view of the key position of Pennsylvania in the economic, social, and political development of the United States. Note the different meaning of the word key in the previous sentence.

Conversely, the Florida Keys are comprised of an archipelago of about 1700 islands in the southeast United States. I would never want to live there in hurricane season (June through October), because, from what is pictured on television, there appears to be but one egress from the islands.

The singer Alicia Keys took her last name from the keys on a piano, which she learned to play when she was seven.

As is often the case, I’ll end this with some music, not Alicia Keys, or “Brand New Key” by Melanie, or that song by Francis Scott Key, or even the blues standard Key to the Highway. Instead, based entirely on a Twitter post from someone who claims he isn’t religious but that Stevie Wonder’s Have A Talk With God is just about a perfect song. From the 1976 award-winning album Songs in the Key of Life:

Friend Leah, Albany bus activist, writes:
I popped into KeyBank today to take care of some personal finances when the teller I know gave me the 411. Here it is:

Through [Tuesday, 3/31], you can still purchase a 10-trip pass for $9.50 — they are definitely available at the KeyBank on State Street between Broadway and S. Pearl Street [in Albany].

Starting April 1, KeyBank will have to sell the exact same passes for $13.00!! Buy [today] and save. Pass it on.

Leah’s also cited in All Over Albany.


A Senior Moment

This is a meme I saw at Johnny B’s.

Fill this out about your SENIOR year of high school!

1. Did you date someone from your school senior year? Yes, but we broke up shortly after; her choice, not mine.

2. Did you marry someone from your high school? No.

3. Did you car pool to school? No, I walked.

4. What kind of car did you drive? Didn’t.

5. What kind of car do you have now? We have an Avalon.

6. It’s Friday night…where were you (in high school)? At a party – it as more hanging out, i suppose.

7. It is Friday night…where are you(now)? Home, unless we get a babysitter.

8. What kind of job did you have in high school? Page at the Binghamton Public Library

9. What kind of job do you do now? Librarian for the NYS Small Business Development Center

10. Were you a party animal? We had a group who hung out together.

11. Were you considered a flirt? By some

12. Were you in band, orchestra, or choir? Choir

13. Were you a nerd? Possibly

14. Did you get suspended or expelled? No, but I did get reprimanded.

15. Can you sing the fight song? I know the alma mater; did we HAVE a fight song?

16. Who was/were your favorite teacher(s)? There was a young English teacher, but for the life of me, I’ve forgotten her name.

17. Where did you sit during lunch? Cafeteria

18. What was your school’s full name? Binghamton Central HS

19. When did you graduate? 1971

20. What was your school mascot? Bulldog.

21. If you could go back and do it again, would you? Knowing what I know now, my initial reaction was that I would. But upon further reflection, instead of being a “good” kid, I probably WOULD have been suspended. Or expelled.

22. Did you have fun at Prom? It was OK. The them was “All Things Must Pass”, based on the George Harrison song. But I remember better going to see Midnight Cowboy afterwards.

23. Do you still talk to your prom date? We’re friends, but we’ve been out of touch. I did go to her wedding a few years back.

24. Who was your best friend? Karen Durkot or Carol Bakic. The reasons I went to my 35th anniversary reunion in 2006.

25. What did you want to be when you grew up? A lawyer.

26. Any regrets? Yes and no. Wish I were braver, but the way it turned out had value.

27. Biggest fashion mistake? I was oblivious to fashion – still am, actually – so if I had any, I didn’t know. Now I seriously don’t remember.

28. Favorite fashion trend? Ditto. I have no idea. Though I do recall girls wearing culottes. In my sophomore year, they were banned; by senior year, they were standard.

29. Are you going to your next reunion? Perhaps.

30. Who did you have a secret crush on? By senior year, I was happy in my relationship, which would come to a crashing halt four months later.

31. Did you go on spring break? Not that I recall.


Roger Answers Your Questions, Lynn

I have a strong idea who Lynn is, but I’m not positive.

Why do you believe in god (assuming you do)?

Yes, I do. Part of it is faith. Part of it is the sense of the wonder and beauty of the world – for me, particularly music – that God seems self-evident. And part of is that, in a much more enlightened, scientific world, is the otherwise unexplanable, which I attribute to God.

Do you believe in an afterlife?

Yes, probably, maybe, perhaps, but other than being closer to God, not clear what that means. In any case, it is not the focus of my life.

Do you think that non-believers are doomed in the afterlife?

Non-believers of what? Most religions suggest some type of life after this one. I’m a Christian; do I believe that a devout Jew, Hindu, Muslim is going to hell? Well, no, I don’t, if there is one, which I’m sure some would consider sacrilege, but there it is. In any case, it’s not my call, and again frankly where I’m concentrating.

Jesus said that we don’t know know the time the Lord will come again. Some people seem to have taken that as an excuse to sit by the door, waiting for the Resurrection. I happen to believe that kind of thinking is blasphemy. We should be busy feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, and otherwise loving one’s brothers and sisters, our primary tasks.

And what IS hell? Separation from God. I was watching the soon-to-be-canceled TV series Life on Mars, and a couple cops on a stakeout got into a conversation about life after this one. One cop decided heaven, and I’m paraphrasing here, had to do with having all the pizza and sex one could want. And hell is being on the other side looking at all those people in heaven eating pizza and having sex. Don’t know that I’d subscribe exactly to that notion, but the apartness from God would be hell.

What do you think of the theory of evolution in relation to religion?

Ah, the easy question. I find them totally compatible. Some people, and a lot of them are Christians, seem to have confused physical truth and metaphysical truth. The Bible is not a history book; it’s allegory and poetry. Is it true? Sure, the same way a good movie or poem or song can true, not factually but at its core.

Let’s take the Creation. Do I think the earth was literally built in six days, as we now understand the concept of “day”? I do not. But that there was an evolution of the world, where humans arrive fairly late in the game is pretty consistent with most science. My Jehovah’s Witness buddy said just this week that the notion of earth literally being put together in six days is “silly”.

More important is the notion of resting on the Sabbath, which is far more consistently stated in the Bible. In the 10 Commandments. In the story about manna from heaven that was supposed to be collected only six days, with a double portion on that sixth day and none on the seventh. The message of setting aside time for reflection makes sense, even in a secular world, does it not?
Neil Gaiman is not a Scientologist.


On and On Question

But first, may I express my disdain for this white-collar criminal who stole over $110,000 and got no jail time. Meanwhile, someone who recently stole $600 of returnable bottles and cans got six months in jail. As it turns out, I was unfortunate enough to know Felix; he made my life and the lives of some of my colleagues quite difficult, and there are any number of us who wanted to see him behind bars. Feh.

Did you ever want to get a particular piece of information one time, but because you have to sign up, you end up getting mailing/e-mails, etc. ad naseum? That happens to me a lot at work. I used to get stuff from some pizza manufacturing association. I still receive material from associations dealing with everything from raising alpacas to designing car washes.

I DID sign up for New York’s complete state government payroll, which was posted for 2008 recently on www.SeeThroughNY.net, the government transparency website sponsored by the Empire Center for New York State Policy.

But sometimes, I keep getting stuff with no effort on my part. I made reference to an independent film in this blog and now I keep getting their literature. I wrote about the black bicycle champion Major Taylor in this blog, and I keep getting their mailings. It doesn’t bother me; I just find it interesting.

AARP sent me information on joining six years ago, and I did, but then failed tpo renew because of their position on some issue or other; they keep trying to get me back, though.

So what vestiges of information that you may have wanted in the past but no longer desire pops up in your mailbox, electronic or snail?
Just yesterday, we received a call from 1-954-636-1087. We didn’t answer and the caller ID did not identify the company. I was curious, though, who it might be; I had faxed something to Florida earlier that day, and I did not want to blow off a legit call. I discovered 800 notes, where people can leave messages about unknown calls. For the number in question, there were a number of recent notices. One contributor discovered the number belongs to something called My Major. “I asked what kind of business it was and they said they are a college locator that provides information about people to college advisors so that they can be called back. I told him that I had already graduated and that I didn’t want them to call again. He said he was sorry and that I was not in their demographic group, then put my number on a do not call list. I would suggest telling them that you have also graduated (even if you have never gone to college) so that they are not interested in you anymore. I will post again if they call back.”
Irving R. Levine died. I wonder how many people reading this blog know who he was; I most certainly did. And Dan Seals, member of a popular singing duo and brother of a member of an even more popular duo, died at 61, which always brings me pause. I picked this obit for the local boy makes good headline.


SOLD OUT Part 2 by John Hebert:

I’d graduated from art school on a Sunday afternoon, then had a few days to goof around, swim, spin my tires and sleep in before Tom Skulan, the guru of FantaCo returned from vacation to (hopefully) officially anoint me the official funnybook arteest of this mysterious project Roger had clued me in on. On that Thursday, I strode into FantaCo to be greeted by Roger and whisked past the rack of comics, fanzines, toys and borderline porn into…THE BACKROOM of the store which was the office and nerve center of the whole operation, not to mention highly top secret and very much off limits to the general populace. It felt cool to be in that elite “club” of people who could pass through that tacky, tacked up curtain behind the shelves and step into the inner workings of a publishing Mecca. This may seem a gushing, drooling bit much but, as so many wanna be comic writers, artists, etc. can attest, when you get to go “behind the curtain” or security door, etc. ala’ “The Wizard Of Oz”, it’s as though you’ve arrived, made it into the inner circle, etc. I can’t even describe the way it felt the first time I was whisked inside the glass security door at Marvel while some hapless and possibly hopeless “shattered dreamers” were left cooling their heels on the couches in the waiting area- it’s like an exclusive club and since so many of us were never invited into the exclusive clubs of the world most likely DUE to being into comics and etc., it’s nice.

The backroom was kind of dismal and gloomy. Not only was it the office but a storeroom stacked with overstocks of various books, magazines, horror posters and borderline porn and it was definitely un-insulated (more on that later), but in the leftmost corner sat Tom Skulan and his desk from which the empire called FantaCo was run. I’d met Tom several times over the years as a customer but it felt different to be actually “peddling my wares” to him as he had a reputation for being able to draw out the best in his creative people. He stood and offered his hand as Roger re-introduced me to him and gave him an abbreviated version of my life’s story, then gestured for me to lay my portfolio out on the desk. I did as directed while proudly repeating the story of my recent completion of art school and coaching by the Zeck-man as Tom flipped through the acetate covered pages, occasionally nodding and mm-hmming approvingly in the quiet but deep Eric Boghosianesque voice that I would come to know well over the next few months (there’s a casting suggestion for Mr. S’s biopic if ever, right down to the curly black hair). Finally, after what seemed like and eternity of my babbling and Raj and Tom’s exchanging of knowing glances not unlike Joe Friday and Bill Gannon, Tom shut the ‘port, looked up at me and said, “Okay, here’s what we’re looking at…” and life was never to be the same again.

The guys broke down the basic plot of what was to become “SOLD OUT”, and I loved it from the moment I heard it, even more so than most of the pitches I’ve gotten over the years from M*rV*l or whomever, this was to be “AN EVENT”, and one helluva satirical one at that. The project was to be a 2 issue spoof/indictment/tell all of all that was bad, hypocritical, phony, and just plain screwed up in comics(I figured that would guarantee some 500 or so pages worth of work right off the top) springing from the then overblown independent, black and white(or as we came to say WAAAAYYYY too many times “poorly drawn black and white”) comic craze. The book would begin with a 3/4 issue or so retelling of the actual history of the comic book marketplace, mercilessly skewering many a comics personality and practice along the way, then spinning out into what may have come to pass if the black-n-white phenomenon was allowed to continue as it had, eventually pushing the comics market into a world of rampant speculation, greed, corruption and eventually decimation due to a lack of that old adage “Those who do not acknowledge the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Before we go any further, let me be the first to say that without reservation, APPROXIMATELY 90% OF WHAT WE EVENTUALLY HAD TO SAY IN THAT LITTLE POORLY DRAWN BLACK AND WHITE COMIC ACTUALLY DID COME TO BE AND WAS EERILY CLOSE TO THE WAY THAT COMICS TOOK A SWAN DIVE IN THE MID-90’s, ALTHOUGH WE “PREDICTED IT” IN 1986!!!!!!!!!! You heard it here, folks, go dig up a back issue and give it a read, it’s more interesting to read now, some 20 plus years later, but, I digress, we’ll come to this later so for now, back to our tale already in progress….

Over the next 45 minutes or so, the 3 or us bounced a lot of ideas off of each other as the project was already obviously writing itself as we went along a la “Casablanca” and the last half of the tale was purposely left to only a brief outline so that we might adapt to the events as they transpired. By the end of our meeting, we’d cited such diverse influences or possible influences as: “Mickey Mouse and The Air Pirates”, “Citizen Kane”, the graphic novel adaptation of “1941” and The Bible. I was sent off to begin sketches of, of all things, a hamster, a turtle, and a stunned kid in front of an empty comic book rack, and, let me tell you, of all the years I was an illustrator and of all the weird stuff I had to reference and sometimes out and out fake, fudge or swipe to tell a story, there weren’t many things tougher to draw than a simple,…… empty,…….. comic book rack…..

To be continued in part 3


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