Community

I live in the Pine Hills section of Albany, NY. But I’m also part of a work community, the librarian community, and now, a bloggers’ community, among many others. One I’ve valued a great deal is the church community.

Carol and I got married in the largest Methodist church in Albany on May 15, 1999. Little did we know that we would be leaving that community less than two years later.

I’ll try not to get too arcane here. In January 2000, the Pastor Parish Relations Committee suspended the choir, the fact that the PPRC had no authority to do that in Methodist polity notwithstanding. At about the same time, the pastor of Spanish-speaking part of the congregation was squeezed out.

For the next couple weeks, Carol and I attended worship in the cold, inaccessible basement of the other Methodist church where the Spanish-speakers found themselves. (By “cold”, I mean that my feet got numb, even with my boots on. By “inaccessible”, I mean that I helped carry a man downstairs in his wheelchair.)

There was a meeting of the PPRC chair and the choir in March. The choir members had hoped that this would have been an opportunity to clarify the issues, and to create an atmosphere of reconciliation. Instead, it was, unfortunately, a lecture by the PPRC chair, with no real chance to respond to the mostly baseless accusations. There was a suggestion that the choir could come back if the members signed a loyalty oath to the pastor. A loyalty oath! After the meeting, the chair seemed pleased with the outcome; I told her it was b*******.

Even before this meeting, I had started singing in the choir of the church around the corner. But, ultimately, Carol & I left our old church, not just because of these events, but because the governance of church had been changed so that there was little redress. (The opposition to this change in governance, labeled as obstructionist, was the primary “crime” of many in the choir.)

We still have friends at our old church where I was member for a decade and a half, where Carol was member for nearly a decade, where we met, where we wed, but we changed our membership three years ago.

The story about the folks getting kicked out of their church for their voting patterns resonated with me, and even more if you see it on
video. (You may need to download software.)
They were forced out and we left voluntarily, but the sense of sadness, loss, abandonment, and perhaps a touch of anger still lingers. In any case, we feel grateful that we have found another community in which we can participate in the church around the corner.

Not a very romantic piece for our 6th anniversary, is it? Still, I believe the experience strengthened my bond with Carol. And with Lydia, we have a (small) community of our own.

Happy anniversary, Carol. I love you.

The culprit

Rocco Nigro, it’s YOUR fault.

Rocco was this obnoxious kid that used to come into FantaCo, the (now deceased) Albany comic book store and haggle over the prices of the back issue comics when I started working there in 1980. Eventually, though, I grew to like him, as did the others, and he started working there, staffing the front of the store occasionally, but also mostly doing mail order. Rocco, incidentally, probably knows more about the Beatles than anyone I know who was born after the group first appeared on Ed Sullivan.

When Mitch was fired in 1983 (for reasons now lost on me), Rocco was outraged, and he quit. But when I was buried in mail order sometime in 1987, Rocco came in with me one Sunday afternoon, and we all but obliterated the backlog. He did that out of loyalty to me, in spite of his (then) continued enmity towards the store owner. I always appreciated that.

I worked with him again occasionally at Mitch’s Midnight Comics in 1991 and 1992. I visited him in HIS store, Crypt O’ Comics, in the mid-1990s. I’d see him occasionally in a couple book stores he worked at.

But it had been well over a year since I had last seen him when I went into The Book House an independent book store in Stuyvesant Plaza in Albany in October 2004 looking for my friend Norman, who wasn’t there. Rocco, however, was. We talked at length about many things, but most intriguing was his high praise of this website by one Fred Hembeck, an artist who had done work published by FantaCo with whom I had lost touch at least a decade earlier. I checked out Fred’s site, liked it, got intrigued by this blogiverse, and the rest is electronic history, and, as I said, Rocco’s fault. You can find out more about Rocco here (May 14) or here (May 14) and, as I understand it, here (May 14).

Happy birthday, Rocco. BTW, you’re turning 41, in case you’ve forgotten.

Not so little Stevie

Before I got a CD burner a year or so ago, I used to make mixed cassette tapes from my albums and CDs. I made one of Stevie Wonder songs that did not appear on a Stevie album for my friend Donna George (who unfortunately died of cancer a couple years ago.) Think I’ll make a mixed Stevie CD soon. After all, he is 55 today. “Gee, 55, gee, double nickel,” as the bingo caller in Charlotte, NC used to say when I lived down there in 1977.

Stevie’s new album, A Time to Love, which has been on my Amazon wish list for over a year, was finally released on May 3. Since his 1995 album Conversation Peace, he’s put out a 2-CD live set, a 2-CD greatest hits, a 4-CD box set, a couple songs on the Bamboozled soundtrack, and a single-CD greatest hits. He also produced a tribute album to himself called Conception. So this is his first CD filled with new material in a decade.

According to Yahoo, Stevie “also appears on” 463 albums, as producer, or performer on vocals, keyboard or harmonica. He worked with Quincy Jones, Paul McCartney, Jermaine Jackson, Whitney Houston, and many others. He also appears on the Rent cast album. Some of the selections I’ll put together will be from a series of tribute and/or benefit albums, such as Tribute to Curtis Mayfield, Inner City Blues (Marvin Gaye), Gershwin’s World, Nobody’s Child (Romanian Relief), and America: A Tribute to Heroes, which shows his sense of musical history as well as his heart.

*****
Speaking of heart, my brother-in-law John Powell would have been 45 tomorrow. He died three years ago of colon cancer. He was one of the greatest boosters of my relationship with Carol with our various ups and downs before we got married. I’m only sorry he never got to meet his niece Lydia.

Citizen Zhang

swearing in

Jinshui Zhang, one of my co-workers, became a U.S. citizen last month. He was one of 63 people from 36 countries to become naturalized. He was from the People’s Republic of China.

The event was held in the Federal Building, a former post office right across the street from our office. While I went to the building often in its previous incarnation, I’ve rarely been there recently. One goes through a metal detector, not unlike the ones at the airport. The security personnel are not as humorless as the airport workers, and they accepted my work ID, which the airport almost never does.

The ceremony was scheduled for 8:30 a.m., but at that hour, there was a long line of people waiting in line to get their paperwork checked. This process took over a half an hour. I was told that they used to have fewer people naturalized at more frequent intervals, but now have more people but less frequently as a result of 9/11/2001 concerns. How this helps security screening, I don’t know.

Photos allowed

There was a big sign at the entrance to the building prohibiting cameras, but apparently the ban doesn’t apply to this particular event. So folks were able to run across the street and retrieve their photographic equipment without missing anything.

An officer from Homeland Security was cheerfully goofy in explaining what was going to happen. I got the sense that he had other duties in his job that weren’t nearly so pleasant.

The ceremony itself started at 9:30, with the judge giving his well wishes, etc. He introduced the representatives from the League of Women Voters, who were, by that point, actually out in the hall waiting to give out materials to encourage the new citizens to vote (something native-born citizens could do well to do better at). He also introduced four ladies from the Daughters of the American Revolution (more on them some other time), who gave out flags, pins and other paraphernalia.

A lawyer sang a couple of patriotic songs, the latter, God Bless America, with the assembled crowd. He wasn’t bad, for a lawyer.

Then the swearing-in took place. The folks running the show, the judge, the court clerk, and especially the Homeland Security officer, were very effusive in their care of the new Americans.

Everyone in the office knew that Jinshui studied hard to take the written test. I noted to one of my co-workers that I doubted that most native-born Americans could pass it. Try it yourself.

Congratulations, Jinshui!

Add Some Music to Your Day

my father’s repertoire

One of the (faux) reasons I started a blog was because there were folks in the blogiverse that were doing a CD exchange. The list below, which represent an album I gave out at my 50th birthday a couple of years ago, wouldn’t have made the cut as it was then constituted, had I been participating in the exchange, for reasons explained below. Still, it is, as I wrote at the time, “a list of songs that, for a variety of reasons, resonate to a particular time, place, and/or emotion over the years.” So, I might well have offered it in a modified form. I had included liner notes; these are not them, except for the stuff in quotes.

Sorry (I Ran All the Way Home) – the Impalas: one of my father’s 45s. But I would have dumped it in favor of the much more obscure “45 Men in a Telephone Booth” by the Top Hatters in a heartbeat. I had ordered a Cadence Records compilation specifically for this purpose in January, but it did not show up until April, well after my birthday.

Roger Ramjet- TV cartoon theme: pretty obvious. Don’t know if it would still be included, if only because its abrasive quality doesn’t help establish a mood.

Tonight

Quintet: “My mother took us to West Side Story, the first “grown-up” movie I remember seeing. I didn’t know one could have several simultaneous melodies at the same time.”

Drive My Car – Fab Four: Lots of people have a certain antipathy for this first song on the British Rubber Soul album. I don’t know if it’s because it’s NOT “I’ve Just Seen a Face”, the first song on the American version of the record, or because it has a weird chord progression. I like it BECAUSE of its complicated chord changes. Sting butchered this song on a bootleg someone gave me.

Take Me For A Little While- Vanilla Fudge: “Carrying groceries for Mom. One afternoon, I was home listening to the album. Mom came home. I retrieved groceries and found the stereo off. The crescendo made her think the record player was broken.”

Woody

Worried Man/Ain’t Gonna Be Treated This Way: Carol & I went to see Woody Guthrie’s American Song at Capital Rep, when this brace of songs came up. Both of them were in my father’s repertoire when he sang around Binghamton when I was growing up. This was a year or two after my father died, and I just lost it.
But as for the compilation, if I were doing it now: the song is TOO LONG, and has TOO MUCH TALK. Every other song I’d lived with for a number of years. This was too much an emotional choice of the moment.

Spider-Man cartoon TV theme: my favorite comic book character.

Feel Flows -Beach Boys: freshman year in college. Probably influenced by its inclusion in the movie Almost Famous

Gone Away – Roberta Flack: “When romance went sour, I developed a quartet of songs to play: Sweet Bitter Love (QoS), this, My First Night Alone Without You (Jane Olivor), and Stay with Me (Lorraine Ellison). Sometimes added Remove This Doubt (Supremes).” QoS means Queen of Soul.

Fantasy – Earth, Wind, and Fire: Schenectady Arts Council, 1978. “The choreographer needed a partner to help teach the elementary kids some dances, and I got sucker.., volunteered to do that.”

This Must Be the Place

Naïve Melody – Talking Heads: “The ’83 show was one of the best concerts I ever saw. This song is about rediscovery on the way to Cooperstown.”

23rd Psalm -Bobby McFerrin: My then choir director Eric Strand “transcribed this song, and choir members Bob, Tim & I sang at church. Eric gave me the high part, which I did almost entirely in falsetto. Someone came up to a church member, expressing concern that a ‘gay guy’ was singing in church.”

Harvest Moon -Neil Young: “About lost love. Also, about the only Neil song my ex-office mate [the Hoffinator] could stand”.

Lullabye-Billy Joel: “The melancholy of the song (and the back story) parallels my melancholy about the state of my old hometown” [Binghamton].

Church-Lyle Lovett: “When four of us [librarians] were in tight office quarters, with very distinct likes (and especially dislikes), Lyle passed muster with all of us. The closing act of a great Newport Folk Festival at SPAC.”

JEOPARDY! – “an NBC daytime game that I used to watch with my Aunt Deana. “

Now That I Found You – Alison Krauss: “One of my wife’s two favorite artists; oddly, both of them have last names beginning with KRA. We saw AK at the Palace [Theater in Albany] in 2002.”

At Last-Etta James: “One of five great songs on the Rain Man soundtrack. Oh yeah, Carol & I danced to it at our wedding.”

So, I would have changed the first song, dumped the second and fifth cuts, but keep the rest pretty much as is. I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback, especially the Free Flow to Church run.

See what you missed out on, bloggers?