Les Green: a very important person

Binghamton’s finest

Les Green.city leadersOne of my sisters sent me this newspaper clipping from 1970. There’s Les Green, a very important person, in Binghamton, NY with city and county leaders, state legislative representatives, and others.

If I’m reading my Les Green history correctly, this took place largely over a 15-year period. It was roughly from 1959, when he first started singing and playing his guitar publicly, until 1974, when he, my mother, and my baby sister moved to Charlotte, NC.

And it wasn’t because he was a civil rights leader or a singer of folk songs. It was that he was those things AND a tremendous arranger of flowers AND a painter of signs AND a set designer for the Civic Theater. He was very active in his church, from running the mimeograph machine that produced the weekly bulletin to singing in the choir to leading the MAZET singers, the youth choir which included my sister Leslie and me. Also, he was an advocate for those with mental illness at Binghamton State Hospital; I do wonder what was his special affinity for that place was.

Moreover, he and his wife bought their first house in 1972, after living in a property owned by his mother-in-law for all of his married life. After I wrote about my dad a few years back, an acquaintance seriously suggested that there should have been a statue of Les Green in Binghamton.

CLT

So, on the anniversary of his death in 2000, I’ve been musing about how he felt about the move to Charlotte. Surely, he took time to find his bearings. When he first came down there, he referred to it as a “big country town.” And he wasn’t wrong, though it become more civilized over time, with a real mass transit system, not the abomination it used when I lived down there at the beginning of 1977.

The family had a rental house and they took time before discovering the right church for them. He did important work there. His job, where he became a Vice-President of J.A. Jones probably generated more income than any other job he had. He was very involved in his church, with music but also a breakfast program.

But he was always out looking for the financial rainbow, starting so many little businesses that neither my mother nor their accountant knew how many. He regularly came to me in the latter stages of his life wondering how he could get rich on this new World Wide Web thing. (The brutal truth is that he couldn’t because he was lousy at recordkeeping or even giving his wife or the accountant his receipts. Being online wouldn’t have helped.)

When he moved the Charlotte, he was sure that he couldn’t find a market for his music in the South. I was not convinced he was correct. He did start writing poetry; I have a massive manuscript in this very room.

Thinking about you, dear old Dad, as you liked to be called.

17 years a blogger

why do I note three score and ten?

If you told me I’d still be blogging 17 years later, and daily at that, I would have thought you were daft. I’m not much for daily rituals. Yet here we are.

Let me tell you a reason I DON’T do this. I have no sense that I know all the answers. Sure, I might know a few things. And thanks to the collective wisdom of you all, I know more about topics I didn’t think about than I could have imagined.

Let’s talk about the blog itself. When I started blogging on Blogger/Blogspot, I didn’t use any pictures/graphics. It simply hadn’t occurred to me to do so. Then, when I tried, it just didn’t work. They recommended a product called Picasa which I NEVER got to work, ever. Finally, I trial and error-ed my way to posting pictures.

Then I moved my blog over to WordPress. I had my fits and starts, more than I care to remember, frankly. But when I moved to another host, it came with ideas about plugins I should use, such as Yoast. Yoast offers all sorts of suggestions about SEO such as internal links (I do when I can), sentence length, passive voice, et al. I DO add subheadings, as recommended because I figure it makes the content easier to read. But I’m not locked into taking in all of the ideas.

The blogger fail

Oh, I should tell you a dumb thing I did with my blog this year. WordPress periodically releases updates. On March 11, it released version 5.9.2. Somehow – don’t ask me how ’cause I dunno – instead of updating, I overrode my whole blog! My home page was a Welcome To Your New Blog message. Fortunately, my provider, DreamHost was able to reinstate the backup in a couple of hours.

The best thing I’ve learned to do on the blog is to write when the inspiration hits. If I know what I want to write about for Labor Day, and it’s the middle of June, I’ll write about it before the summer solstice. It’s better than ignoring it than struggling with coming up with something at the end of August.

There are certain things I know that I’ll write about: holidays, birthdays, anniversaries. Also, I created a list of people who turned 70 in 2022. Why 70? It’s the three score and ten in the Bible, I suppose. But it’s also at a point when their accomplishments are clear. And picking a standardized birthday is easier than trying to remember if/when I wrote about them. This is why it’s Joe Cocker on May 20, 2014, and Cher on May 20, 2016.

It doesn’t mean I HAVE to write about them. In April, Steven Seagal (actor, the 10th), EJ Dionne (I watched him on the McNeil/Lehrer Report, 23rd), Bill Belichick (New England Patriot coach, the 16th), and Larry Elder (ran for governor of California, the 27th) all turned 70. I realized I didn’t have 300 words to write about them, and I try to write 300 words every day except my birthday. Or I just didn’t feel like wasting my energy on them, such as Harvey Weinstein (March 19).

The tunes

Ultimately, I blog because it’s useful for me. It’s a public forum to actually goad me to think about things that are confusing, irritating, uncomfortable. More often than not, I discover something new about a topic I thought I had mastered. If you like it, that’s a bonus.

Oh, yeah, the musical selections. Both involve a 17-y.o. male and 16 y.o female. I picked Sixteen Going On Seventeen from The Sound of Music, not for the song itself, but because, as the story progresses, the narrative becomes largely untrue. (He’s) Seventeen from the Meet The Supremes album is really corny, especially the bridge, but I enjoy early Motown.

22 years: Negotiations and love songs

taxes could have been the death of us

Roger & CarolI highly suspect that we’ve managed to stay married 22 years because of Negotiations and Love Songs. It includes a division of turf.

When we’re on ZOOM at an event, we are generally at separate devices. This is a function of having very different computer habits involving when to mute et al. It is also that we often see couples on the same screen and we sometimes have difficulty hearing one or both of them.

Conversely, when we’re watching our Sunday church service on Facebook Live, we generally sit together. This allows us the opportunity to worship together. Back in the olden days – March 2020 and before – she’d be in the congregation, but I would be in the choir loft.

She has bank accounts, as do I. Then we have joint accounts. I certainly don’t fault couples who operate otherwise, but this works for us. I pay for the mortgage, utilities, Internet. She buys groceries, pays for the vehicle, and makes the church contribution.

Some couples share email, but we never could. I may still have a lot of it to go through, but I’ve read them all. She often has stuff unread; we’re talking four digits.

This brings us to taxes. Before we were married, I usually filed a 1040A or even a 1040-RZ (as in easy). I never itemized my deductions. This was codified by a philosophy of a radical Catholic couple I know. The general theory is that you give not for the deduction but because it’s right. The fact that it was EZ was a bonus.

But my wife, who owned rental property before, and when we were first married, filled out a Schedule C. So she’s always done the long-form taxes.

Last year of the century

I remember quite vividly the spring of 2000 since we had gotten married the year before. Not only we filling out the 1040 form, me for the first time, but we had also received a decennial long-form Census and were completing that as well. I will say that the Census info was extremely accurate.

But doing the taxes was causing us… stress, every year. This was particularly true when we must have done something wrong a couple of times and ended up paying penalty and interest. So we ended up hiring someone.

One time, the accountants ALSO got something wrong, and we had to pay more, but they absorbed the penalty and interest. I figured if they’re professionals and muck it up, how should I know? I know there’s TurboTax and the like, but trust me, this is one of those expenses designed to preserve the union.

This year, she asked me which amount goes on the work form for my Social Security, the amount before or after the Medicate expenditure? I don’t know. This suggests the gross before Medicare comes out. But does the Medicare payment and other medical expenses reach the 7.5% threshold for deductibility? (I fell asleep while typing the previous sentence.)

So, as the Paul Simon compilation title goes, Negotiations and Love Songs. Happy anniversary, dear.

16 candles for the Ramblin’ blog

Daily since May 2, 2005

16 candles16 Candles. I remember that track. The song by The Crests was released at the end of 1958. It got to #2 in the pop charts for two weeks and #4 on the soul charts in early 1959.

16 Candles was kept out of the #1 pop slot by Stagger Lee by Lloyd Price, a song that also kept Donna by Richie Valens from reaching the top of the charts.

The Crests was an “interracial doo-wap group formed in Manhattan, NY.” It included Johnny Maestro, later of the Brooklyn Bridge (The Worst That Can Happen); Harold Torres; Talmadge Gough; and J.T. Carter. Patricia Van Dross, older sister of Luther Vandross, left the group in 1958.

But I’ve never seen the John Hughes movie.

I suppose those paragraphs epitomize what I try to do in the blog. Find a hook for the topic, sometimes using information gleaned from something called books. And I have a fair amount of them in the office where I almost always write.

In fact, it’s the books, or more correctly, the built-in bookcases which contain mostly my books, many of them reference materials about music, television, and movies, that kept me in here during the pandemic. Meanwhile, my wife ended up in the guest room, where she now does her email, school planning, and church meetings.

How I write a daily blog

This sounds obvious, but it does help. What makes blogging easier is knowing what I am going to blog about. There are about 30 holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. Then I’m going to write about my daughter once a month. All I need to write is about 300 more posts per year. Piece of cake!

Sometimes an event happens in the world, and I need to write about it; the death of someone significant to my understanding of the world, e.g. I might bunch a few together, as I did when Cicely Tyson, Hank Aaron, and others who died within two weeks of each other.

Often, I don’t know that I have something to say until I do. After the Atlanta-area shootings, I thought I’d just put some links in my twice-monthly linkage dump. But then they became so numerous I realized that I should probably create a blog post.

I try to write every day. If I go more than a day without writing, it becomes more difficult to restart. For me, writing begets writing. So I have to muse about SOMETHING. If I know I’m going to note the 1991 #1 hits in October 2021 – and I am, BTW – and I don’t have anything else in mind, I could write about that. I haven’t, yet; maybe tomorrow.

For the birds

My late blogger buddy Dustbury “noted that he and I have something in common: we are both magpies. As he put it: ‘The Eurasian magpie… is wicked smart, especially for a bird… I am not quite sure how ‘magpie’ became a descriptor for humans who flit from topic to topic unless it has to do with the bird’s tendency to be attracted to Shiny Things, but I’m pretty sure I fit that description, and I have several readers who seem to do likewise.”

He was not wrong. In early 2021, I watched five movies in five days and wrote posts about them soon thereafter. But I didn’t post five movie posts in a row because I didn’t want to. I sense that you don’t want me to either. The strength, and weakness I suppose, of this blog, is that it ping pongs all over the place. That’s because my mind does that.

Consequently, I don’t post in the order that I write. Frequently, I have something already scheduled for a date, but something more pressing/timely pops up. I will, and in fact, do move posts around. A lot, sometimes.

This has the added benefit that, as often as not, I have no idea what I’ve decided to post on a given day until I actually see it. Surprise! And, as I’ve often mentioned, it’s not until then that I see the damn typo or wrong word choice (site instead of cite, e.g.).

Long-form

Just recently, my wife asked me if I might want to “publish” sometimes, to which I said, “I DO publish, every day.” But I knew what she meant, write a book or something. The problem is that I don’t know what it would be about.

Now Jaquandor, HE writes books. I’ve read a couple of them and I liked them. Go read HIS books.

I never tried to get a doctorate because I couldn’t imagine spending the time necessary on one topic. And, as I get older, I realize that I keep learning “stuff” about myself, the world. It’s not that I have no preconceived notions, for surely I do. It’s just that they often tend to get dashed on the rocks. Reason enough to keep blogging, I suppose.

Pinochle with my mom and dad

a hundred aces

PinochlePinochle is “a card game for two or more players using a 48-card deck consisting of two of each card from nine to ace, the object being to score points for various combinations and to win tricks.” Within the game, it was also specifically “the combination of the queen of spades and jack of diamonds.” It’s pronounced PEA-knuckle.

I’ve participated in lots of card games in IRL: canasta, bid whist, hearts, spades, casino, gin rummy, 500 rummy. Yet the only game I have on my phone is pinochle. I’ll play it just before going to bed, or maybe as a diversion from the frustration of the day.

As I figured out, it’s because it is a thing that I played with just my mom and dad. This went on from when I was about 10 until I departed I went to college. And the double-deck version, which is my preferred iteration to play, is a game I’ve only ever played with my parents. It didn’t involve my sisters, just the three of us.

Cut-throat double-deck pinochle involved holding 26 cards in your hand. The nines are removed from the deck, and the person winning the first trick got the two-card kitty.

Jack of diamonds, queen of spades

So I think it is the case that pinochle is a reflection of my parents. One can have a lot of points (meld) to bid. For instance, a pinochle is worth four points, but a double pinochle is worth 30. A triple pinochle is 60, and a quadruples is 90. A double set of jacks are worth 40, a double set of queens 60, and a double set of kings 80.

But then you have to take enough points via tricks to actually save the meld, or you forfeit it. A hand with multiple pinochle or two sets of face cards don’t have a lot of power. For that, you want several aces and/or length in a trump suit, preferably both. My dad was the flashy high-meld hand, while mom was the one who always tried to make sure that high-bid hands weren’t for naught.

This is, I recognize, an imperfect analogy. One can have hands with lots of points and power (double sets of aces are 100 points, double runs of JQK10A are 150). But my parents seldom had an easy time of it. So when I fritter away my time on pinochle, I’ll think of mom and dad, who had gotten married 71 years ago today.

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