Friend Karen, 46 hours my junior


Karen (center)

If I remember correctly, my friend Karen was born c. 1 pm on March 9, and I was born c. 3 pm (actually 3:15) on March 7. So I’m SO much older than she is.

However, she was the youngest of four, and I was the eldest of three. She was often fearless.

mentioned how I ratted her out on a local TV kiddie show because she used to snap my suspenders when we were in kindergarten. Her sister told me this story at their mother’s wake in 2012; I have no recollection.

What I do recall is that her musical interests were forged before mine were. She was buying the Kinks’ latest single at Philadelphia Sales, a store less than two blocks from our elementary/junior high school, Daniel Dickinson before I knew who the Kinks were.

We had a class newsletter in sixth grade, per our teacher Mr. Peca’s suggestion. Karen wrote a fantastical story about winning tickets to attend a Beatles concert.

Our seventh grade, Mr. Stone, our history teacher, was telling the class about a new band called The Cream. Karen said to him, “It’s not The Cream, it’s Cream.” Either way, I had never heard of them at that time.

She was part of that coterie of friends – Bill, Lois, Karen, Carol, and Ray, in that geographic order, I often walked home after school.

High School

When we were in tenth grade at Binghamton Central High School, she ran for secretary of the General Organization, the student government body. For some reason, the candidates couldn’t give their own speeches. I gave a barnburner of an address from all reports, and she won.

The next year, I ran for GO president, and they changed the rules so that I had to give my own speech. I’m told my talk for Karen was MUCH better than the one I shared on my behalf.

Karen was the one who initially made friends in high school with a group of like-minded kids from other junior high schools. We created a club in school called the Contemporary Issues Forum. Outside of school, we were Holiday Unlimited, with the motto, “A splendid time is guaranteed for all.”

More Music

Karen worked at a record store in nearby Johnson City before working at the first of four record labels over a four-decade career.

When John Lennon died in 1980, she was the first person I called. Her label was promoting the album, which thrilled her tremendously.

She tells great, detailed stories about being in the music business.  When promoting Robbie Robertson’s eponymous first solo album in 1987, she had to deal with a 24-year-old program director who didn’t know who Robertson was. He also didn’t know The Last Waltz, the legendary concert film by Martin Scorsese and the album, which came out in 1978.

When she showed up at my annual hearts party in 2017, she regaled my friends with stories about singing Will The Circle Be Unbroken in an elevator with Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash.  Or looking all over Manhattan for marmite to give Paul McCartney.

At her retirement party in 2019, her co-workers shared her drive to get a radio station to play this record or a story to carry that album. “Unrelenting” was the most common description of her approach. She loved music and turned me on to more artists than any three other people.

World traveler

Friend Karen has been to so many countries I’ve lost track. She’s gone everywhere, from Cuba to Croatia, Morocco to Malaysia, Italy to India, and plenty of places in the US. She takes lots of photos and often writes remarkable narratives that she ought to put in a book. (I’ve told her this more than once.)

We often see each other in Binghamton when we both happen to be there. Lately, though, she’s occasionally visiting her friends, most recently this past October. She is fiercely loyal to her friends.

I can tell more, but that should suffice for the nonce.

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