Q is for Queen City: Charlotte, NC

Charlotte, NC also grew as a function of alcohol: “Prior to 1978, single drinks could not be served in North Carolina. People who wanted a glass of wine with dinner at a restaurant would have to bring their own bottle.”

There are a number of cities nicknamed Queen City; I knew about Cincinnati, OH, and a few others. However, I’m going to talk about Charlotte, NC, in no small part because I have been there several times.

Back in 1973 or early 1974, my father lost his job with Associated Building Contractors in Johnson City, NY, next to Binghamton. He saw this an opportunity to go wherever he could find a job anywhere in the country. He looked everywhere from Syracuse to San Francisco. Ultimately, he found a position at J.A. Jones Construction in Charlotte, as the safety coordinator. He went down first, then my “baby” sister Marcia, and finally my mother. Both of my parents were born in Binghamton, but Mom was less than enthused about moving to the South.

My father, while liking Charlotte well enough, referred to it often as a “big old country town,” where a train might stop traffic within the city limits. It was big and getting bigger, in large part because of annexation. Cities in North Carolina and other predominantly southern states were allowed to annex unincorporated territory adjacent to them as long as the municipalities met minimal criteria of “urbanness”, two people per square mile, and provided police, fire, and water services. This action was taken to require those living on the fringe of the city to be added to the tax base, a luxury most Rust Belt cities can’t do because of fairly fixed borders.

There were annexations in 1972, 1974, and 1977. I was in graduate school in Public Administration at UAlbany in 1979-80, and actually did research on the effect that the rapid growth had on the city. What I’ve noticed since, though, is that the growth has continued: “Until 1978, Charlotte – like many other mid-sized southern cities – was struggling to grow, reeling from the decline of the textile industry. But that year, Charlotte began its transformation into the second-largest banking center in the United States. The city’s population has more than doubled, from 315,474 in 1980 to an estimated 751,087 in 2011.”

It also grew as a function of alcohol: “Prior to 1978, single drinks could not be served in North Carolina. People who wanted a glass of wine with dinner at a restaurant would have to bring their own bottle. Bars simply didn’t exist.

“After state voters passed what became known as the ‘liquor by the drink’ law, Charlotte’s hospitality industry began to grow. Around the same time, the first wave of northern immigrants arrived… In 1978, IBM moved 1,000 families from upstate New York. That was the first big influx.” Before that, “You couldn’t buy pasta. You couldn’t buy a bagel in Charlotte. The IBMers really began to change the community.” True enough; the pizza was TERRIBLE when my parents moved there.

Transportation has also played a part. The airport has become a hub. Charlotte now has light rail; when the family relocated there, the bus system was, to be generous, inadequate. This is still true once one gets out of the core downtown, though: “It’s also very easy to get lost: everything looks very similar.” That’s comforting to read because it almost always happens to me. Charlotte is changing all the time.


ABC Wednesday – Round 13

Election Day (tomorrow)

Tomorrow, Albany will almost certainly elect its first woman mayor in its long history.

I was at my allergist’s office last month for my every-28-day injection, and she asked if I wanted a reminder card. “Nah, just tell me the date.” “November 5.” “Oh, that’s Election Day, easy to remember.”

This led me to mention that Election Day is the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, so it will fall on November 2 through 8, but NOT on the 1st. When asked WHY, I admitted that I didn’t know, but that it was probably tied to the fact that it was All Saints Day, and/or it’s easy to forget that a new month has started.

So what IS the real story why Congress (in 1845) select the first Tuesday in November as Election Day?

From Information Please:
“. . . For much of our history, America was a predominantly agrarian society. Law makers therefore took into account that November was perhaps the most convenient month for farmers and rural workers to be able to travel to the polls. The fall harvest was over… but in the majority of the nation the weather was still mild enough to permit travel over unimproved roads.

“Why Tuesday? Since most residents of rural America had to travel a significant distance to the county seat in order to vote, Monday was not considered reasonable since many people would need to begin travel on Sunday. This would, of course, have conflicted with Church services and Sunday worship.

“Why the first Tuesday after the first Monday?… First, November 1st is All Saints Day, a Holy Day of Obligation for Roman Catholics. Second, most merchants were in the habit of doing their books from the preceding month on the 1st. Apparently, Congress was worried that the economic success or failure of the previous month might prove an undue influence on the vote!”

From the Wikipedia:
“The actual reasons, as shown in records of Congressional debate on the bill in December 1844, were fairly prosaic. The bill initially set the day for choosing presidential electors on “the first Tuesday in November,” in years divisible by four (1848, 1852, etc.). But it was pointed out that in some years the period between the first Tuesday in November and the first Wednesday in December (when the electors are required to meet in their state capitals to vote) would be more than 34 days, in violation of the existing Electoral College law. So, the bill was reworded to move the date for choosing presidential electors to the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, a date scheme already used in New York.”

As I’ve noted, I ALWAYS vote. ALWAYS. Tomorrow, Albany will almost certainly elect its first woman mayor in its long history. I must say that I didn’t vote for Kathy Sheehan in the primary, and that one of her campaign workers inadvertently talked me into that position. I said to the volunteer that I was voting for this guy Darius Shahinfar for city treasurer in the primary, and he told me something I already knew, which was that Kathy, the current treasurer, was aligned politically with Darius, so they’d sure to get along. But given the long-time shenanigans of the Albany Democratic machine, maybe having someone NOT aligned would be better.

I was reminded that when I was growing up, in New York State, there was often a Republican governor and a Democratic comptroller, or vice versa. Since there IS no functional Republican party in the city of Albany, the primary IS the race. I voted for Corey Ellis for mayor in the primary. But Sheehan (and Shahinfar) won the primary, as expected. And the city has a bunch of economic woes, caused in no small part by 20 years of one mayor, and not long before that, 41 years of another mayor.

FantaCo: my ever present past

It was working at FantaCo that let me know about the importance of customer service, from keeping the sidewalk clear during the winter, to deciding to accept Diners Club cards when we had only a couple customers who used it.

As I may have mentioned, I went to the FantaCon comic book and horror film convention in September. If you were not in Albany from 1978-1998, or were not purchasing merchandise from FantaCo’s mail order catalog, including the books and magazine it published, you might not know the significance of that. Until going to FantaCon this year, I’m not sure *I* understood the significance of that place, and I worked at FantaCo for eight and a half years.

FantaCo, nominally a comic book store, especially in its early incarnation, was a hub of the local popular culture. When I recently went through the T-shirts that the late artist Raoul Vezina, who worked at FantaCo, had designed, they represented a certain segment of the life of the Capital District in the early 1980s: Q-104, the best radio station in the area, where FantaCo advertised; minor MTV sensation Blotto, whose records the store carried; World’s Records, the store next door; J.B. Scott’s, THE place to hear live music.

The store became relatively famous nationally from publishing the work of cartoonist Fred Hembeck and magazines about some Marvel superheroes, the Chronicles series.

At the same time, though, the store/mail order was developed its bona fides in the horror market. I remain convinced that those ads in every issue of FANGORIA magazine built the audience’s confidence that FantaCo was not some fly-by-night operation. It helped that Tom Skulan, the owner of the store, would travel to England and ship back items not easily found on this side of the pond.

I realized that people must have thought the mail order, which I ran, must have been some massive operation in some gigantic warehouse, which was hardly the case. I remember clearly, though, c 1986, some tween or young teen boy who was waiting outside the store at 10 a.m.; I got much of the shipping done before the store opened at 11. When we finally let him in, I discovered that he had come from Belfast, Northern Ireland, in the midst of The Troubles, and insisted to his family that he had to make a pilgrimage to FantaCo to get his horror book and magazine fix. He spent a LOT of money, even after we discounted some items.

It was that FantaCo experience that let me know about the importance of customer service, from keeping the sidewalk clear during the winter, to deciding to accept Diners Club cards when we had only a couple customers who used it. It has given me an appreciation of the issues entrepreneurs face daily, which I try to bring to being a small business librarian.

One of my responsibilities was to make the deposit every weekday. I’d walk the half block to the Key Bank. The worst part was getting across Washington and Lark, an intersection that is STILL treacherous. One time Tom, the owner, went to the bank to take out a loan, and the bank employee asked if it were all right with Roger, since I was the face she recognized. Tom wasn’t happy.

Ultimately, though, I left in November of 1988 because I was all “horrored out”. It was never my thing, and I needed to do something else. For years, I thought that was that, end of the chapter. Then I heard about FantaCon 2013, the first convention in nearly a quarter century.

Some guy was supposed to do a bibliography of the FantaCo publications for the program. He knew about the horror pubs, but less about the comics-related items from the early days. I knew that stuff. As it turned out, I did the listing for 1979-1988, which appears in this program (available for Kindle) with the rest scheduled for the next FantaCon program in 2014 or 2015. Physically holding all of those items, some of which I contributed to as writer or editor, made me feel like Paul McCartney when he thinks about the Beatles. He’s not part of the Fab Four anymore, but it is part of what he called his “ever present past.” He’ll ALWAYS be a Beatle; likewise, FantaCo will always have some hold on me.

Seeing old friends at FantaCon, some of whom I had not seen since 1988, such as Steve Bissette and Rolf Stark was tremendous. We all looked EXACTLY like we used to.

Blogging, state of

Writing on deadline gives me agita

I had this really great week with my Times Union blog at the end of August. Thrice, a post was one of the highlighted posts. I say I do the blog for myself, but it’s also true that I have enough ego to enjoy when my efforts are appreciated. And the matrices are quite varied: visitors, of course, but I really appreciate it when people who’d NEVER commented before are moved to write; it says I hit a particularly responsive chord. I also like it when folks repost my meanderings on Twitter and Facebook.

This also made me happy: “Just a quick thanks for the work you do on the NYSDCA blog. I had someone asking for religion data today, and I thought, hm, I remember seeing something about that Continue reading “Blogging, state of”

Bumper stickers and spittle

“I watched as he spit inside the open driver side window.”

We don’t have any bumper stickers on our cars; never have. My wife doesn’t like them, and that’s fine.

There are some out there that I like, though. The CoExist one. There’s a couple about women empowerment I’d support. One that read, “Straight, but not narrow,” with a little rainbow next to it I would have appreciated more had the not-very-big car not taken up two spaces in my physical therapist’s parking lot.

Overtly partisan political bumper stickers I’m less fond of. Particularly if your candidate loses, it’s kind of embarrassing. Those Michael Dukasis 1988 stickers seemed so sad. The Romney 2012 seem almost disingenuous Continue reading “Bumper stickers and spittle”