1977 versus 1978


When I noted that I could remember specific years in my past, someone wanted to know how. As it pertains to 1977 versus 1978, it was easy. The first year was terrible, and the second year was pretty great. Not that 1977 was ALL bad.

I should start with the autumn of 1976. Ostensibly, I had graduated from SUNY New Paltz. By that, I mean I had enough credits to graduate, but I still had a course I was supposed to finish.

The Financial Council, the student government entity, hired me to sell concert tickets. While it was fun, and I got to attend some concerts for free, it didn’t pay enough to live on.

So, I must have called my parents in Charlotte, NC, and asked if I could live with them for a bit. I don’t remember the conversation, but I ended up there. My father had only moved down there in the spring of 1974, and my mom and baby sister in the autumn of that year. In January 1975, my other sister and I kidnapped our maternal grandmother and brought her to Queen City as well. So, my family didn’t have a lot of history there.

I’d help my parents sell costume jewelry. For many reasons, I hated it, except for the Kansas incident.

The big hassle about the city was that it was extremely difficult to get around. Most of the buses routed through the intersection of Trade and Tryon. If you wanted to go from Miami to NYC or LA to Seattle, imagine going via St.Louis. I did go to the library and saw the movie Gaslight, which was a small highlight. My family also watched the miniseries Roots, except we missed the first half hour of the penultimate night.

Skyscrapers and everything

By May 1977, I’d made my way to the apartment of my sister Leslie and her then-husband Eric in Jackson Heights, Queens. At least I had a semblance of a job: selling renewals of TV Guide magazines and the annuals of the Encyclopedia Americana or Brittanica.

I knew how to get around the Big Apple. Five days a week, I took the #7 train to the E train to Manhattan and back.

It wasn’t all bad. I met my friend Deborah, whose wedding I attended in May 2023 in France.

But the place was a bit unsettling. It was the NYC of the Bronx Zoo and the Son of Sam. Right before I left, I voted for Mario Cuomo for mayor over Ed Koch in the Democratic primary. Of course, the incumbent Koch won.

Back to the Paltz

I left there to go to my old college town. Crashing on my friend Lynn’s sofa, I tutored freshmen taking political science courses. They didn’t understand the three parts of the federal government; their real shortcomings were that they didn’t bother to read the books.

While I  got to hang out with some old friends and met a new friend, Judy, I wasn’t getting enough hours.

The Capital District

I migrated up the Thruway to Schenectady, staying with Uthaclena and his then-wife. After Christmas,  she suggested I  apply for a job as a teller at Albany Savings Bank in downtown Albany. It seemed to be in my skill set, so I did. At the beginning of February, I got the job. However, I knew I would not love this career, even during the training process conducted by an excellent teller but a subpar instructor.

It turned out that Pam, the Innovative Studies coordinator at New Paltz, had also migrated north. Her beau, Paul, was in charge of a program operated by the Schenectady Arts Council, funded by federal grant money.  I would be the bookkeeper. Moreover, I would make $8,200 per year, far more than the six grand I would be making at ASB; I had more money in my drawer at the beginning of the day than I was making annually. It became an easy decision when I spent an hour trying (and failing) to find a nickel shortfall in my drawer.

I started working at the Schenectady Arts Council. Immediately, my primary task was to contact businesses to see if they’d like to advertise for an event designed to help renovate Proctors Theatre. This old vaudeville venue had seen better days.

I also ran a biweekly Artisans Arcade; sang with Susan, the secretary, at nursing homes; was a partner with Darlene, the choreographer, when she taught dance to school kids; and served as the acting director when Paul went on vacation. I generally loved the job.

Although the funding suddenly disappeared on January 23, 1979, and it was greatly disappointing, it got me to where I needed to be.

Needed cash

pointed the same way

It was a Sunday night. My wife needed cash for her hairdresser appointment early Monday morning. Either her bank doesn’t have an ATM, or she never bothered to get a card; I suspect the latter.

Conversely, I use the ATM of my bank, two blocks away, all of the time. As I’ve mentioned, during the pandemic, my bank figured out that its machines could be programmed to dispense not only $20s, which it did forever but also $10s and $5s. They must have decided that the investment in tweaking their money dispensers was better than having customers coming into the bank to break a $20.

My wife said, “I need two $5s, three $10s…” Wait a minute.. she’s giving it to me from the bottom up, not the top down? This confused me! To be fair to me, she said she would give me a check for $150 to deposit, and she’s already asked me for $40 back so far. No, she decided she only needed $100 in cash, so three $20s. Got it. Still, the ATM asks from the top denomination down, and my mind wants to do the same.

One useful thing

When I first moved to the Albany/Schenectady, NY, area, the first job I got was as a teller at the Albany Savings Bank in downtown Albany. I didn’t love it, and I quit in a month to take a job as a bookkeeper for the Schenectady Arts Council’s program. Not only was I making more money – $8200 instead of $6000 per year, but the latter job was far more interesting.

Still, there was one thing I learned at the bank. All the bills in the drawer should be in value order, from left to right. And the bills should all be face up and pointed the same way.

As the person who most often counted the drawer and made the bank deposits at FantaCo, the Albany comic book store I worked at from 1980 to 1988, I tried to enforce that one thing. It was easier to impose this on people who started at the store after me than those who started before, let’s just say.

Carrying cash

When I buy things at most chain stores or restaurants, I usually use my DISCOVER card for the cashback bonus. For small mom-and-pop operations, though, I prefer giving them cash because it helps with their profit margins. But the amount matters, too, because I rarely have more than $100 in cash on me.

I remember what I owe

Albany Savings Bank

Best f TrafficWhen Albany Savings Bank became a public company named Albank in the early 1990s, I was working in a temp job processing these huge checks of companies wanting to buy the stock.

Separately, as a customer of ASB since 1978, I was allowed to purchase said stock, actually in a favored position versus the raw investor. They couldn’t necessarily buy all of the $1.3 million – the ceiling – they wanted.

(If I were totally unethical, I would have reached out to some of those companies with the large wallets and say, “Hey, I have a better status as an existing ASB customer…” I’m sure the Securities and Exchange Commission would want to know how a temp worker could come up with that kind of money.)

As it was, my then-wife and I didn’t even have the $250 minimum purchase price. So I went in with two of my co-workers and bought the stock. And I would get periodic dividends until Albank got bought by Charter One, which then got purchased by Citizens Bank.

One of my fellow investors was named Mona, and I even had her address for a time. But my attempts to reach her failed. And now I don’t even remember her last name except it began with a U. I figure I must owe her, and the other person, whose name I don’t remember at all, a few hundred dollars each.

Books and music

Many years ago, obviously, I borrowed an LP called Best of Traffic from someone at a party on Washington Avenue in Albany. You know the band with Steve Winwood and Dave Mason. I’ve lost track of who I borrowed it from, although I’m pretty sure it was a female. But I still have the album, and I’d give it back if I could remember and find the person.

There are a couple of books on my shelves I borrowed. One must have been at least seven years ago. The other was from 2018 or so. I have started both but have finished neither. One is comics-related and the other one concerns the law. I will get them back to you folks next time I see you, which, given the pandemic, won’t likely be until NEXT year.

These are the things I remember at 2 a.m.

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