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.

When I Heard John Lennon Had Died

The Late Great Johnny Ace

John-LennonShortly before Thanksgiving 2020, I saw in the New York Post Page Six feature some ghoulish murderabilia [PDF p. 12]. “Double Fantasy’ album John Lennon signed for his killer was up for auction. The album — which in 1998 sold for $150,000 — has a starting bid of $400,000”. It even includes “police-evidence markings.” Yuck. I didn’t bother to follow the conclusion of this sale.

John Lennon died 40 years ago? I seem to remember it so well. On December 1, I had broken up with my girlfriend. So a week later, it was another Monday night. I decided this was the opportunity to watch Monday Night Football, which I would generally pass on for her sake. Since she wasn’t there…

It’s odd that I didn’t remember the game even before Howard Cosell informed me that the ex-Beatle had been killed. I do remember trying to call one of my friends repeatedly in Boston, but the line was busy for a couple of hours. Then I called my now-ex-girlfriend. What’s on the radio? WQBK was taking requests, and I may have asked for The End by the Doors.

The next day at lunchtime, I went to a local record store – Just A Song or maybe Strawberry’s – to buy Double Fantasy. It was sold out, so I purchased John’s Rock and Roll album from 1975. That Sunday, I was working at FantaCo, and the comic book store closed for ten minutes around 2 pm, per Yoko’s request for a period of silence.

Songs

(Just Like) Starting Over – John Lennon, the first single off Double Fantasy. If I recall correctly, it was selling fine. But in the wake of his death, it soared to #1  for five weeks in the US, one of those odd posthumous #1 hits. The bitter irony of the damn song made me teary; OK, occasionally, it still does. As did Merry Xmas (War Is Over) by John and Yoko, which I heard a lot that season.

Walking On Thin Ice – Yoko Ono. The guitar on this recording is the last guitar John Lennon ever played on a record, on the day he died. I bought the single and still have it. It went to #58 in the US in early 1981. The B-side was It Happened.

All Those Years Ago – George Harrison. Released in May 1981 as a single from his album Somewhere in England. Ringo on drums, Paul and Linda McCartney on backing vocals. #2 for three weeks in 1981.

Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny) – Elton John, #13 in 1982.

Here Today – Paul McCartney, from the April 1982 album Tug of War. It was written like a dialogue between Lennon and McCartney.

The Late Great Johnny Ace – Paul Simon. From the 1983 album Hearts and Bones. A haunting coda composed by Philip Glass.

And also:

Coverville 1335: The 17th Annual Beatles Thanksgiving Cover Story, featuring songs from Rubber Soul

Death, The New Normal. 20 years after dad.

Edna St. Vincent Millay

Les Green.tree sweaterWading through old email earlier this year, I found this piece that Parker J. Palmer called Death, The New Normal. It’s fairly short.

“If emotional honesty is part of living well — which surely it is — then shaking my fist at death is just as important as accepting it. If that’s unenlightened, so be it! At least I have the good company of the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay.

“I discovered her ‘Dirge Without Music’ when my father died nearly twenty years ago. I found a curious peace in the poet’s refusal to accept the inevitable, and I find it again today.”

As it turns out, it’s been twenty years since my father died. And I remember it all, astonishingly well. Hearing, in Albany, that my father was in the hospital. The news on a Thursday that my father had a stroke. My wife and I staying in his hospital room in Charlotte the following Monday night. The levity between my father and my baby sister on Tuesday morning.

The rapid decline he had undergone between Tuesday morning and Wednesday evening, when the doctor said he would die within the week. Starting to write the obituary on Thursday morning, only to get the news that he was dying. And my sisters had both vehicles. Me waking the next-door neighbor who worked nights, and who I did not know, to get him to drive my mother and me to the hospital. My wife staying back to watch niece Alex. Mom and I arriving after he had died.

The lengthy funeral negotiations on Friday. The funeral on Sunday. The burial at a military cemetery 40 miles away on Monday, and deciding that taking the limo made sense. A bunch of aftermath stuff.

Poem

Dirge Without Music
by Edna St. Vincent Millay

I am not resigned to the shutting away of loving hearts in the hard ground.
So it is, and so it will be, for so it has been, time out of mind:
Into the darkness they go, the wise and the lovely. Crowned
With lilies and with laurel they go; but I am not resigned.

(Excerpted from Collected Poems. Read the full poem here.)