Trinity A.M.E. Zion Church, Binghamton

telethons

cropped-Roger.singing.TrinityAMEZ.BNG_.jpg
O Come, All Ye Faithful. December 1959

For my request to  Ask Roger Anything, Carla, my friend from the high school choir asks:

Write more about your early memories of your church and school and your family!! I love those stories.

My, that’s tough. There are SO many tales. OK. I was baptized at my church, Trinity A.M.E. Zion Church in downtown Binghamton, NY in August 1953. No, I don’t remember this.

But my church moved when I was a kid to the corner of Oak and Lydia Streets. I took a search on Newspapers.com. “Bishop Walls…senior bishop of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, will rededicate the former Plymouth Methodist Church as the new church edifice of Trinity.” This was in a story in the 8 June 1957 edition of the Binghamton Press. I vaguely remember him. 

It’s fascinating the detail given not just in this story, but all of the religious goings-on in the area. “The present Trinity Church at 35 Sherman Place recently was purchased by St. Mary’s Assumption Church as part of a site as a planned recreational center.”

Ultimately, Columbus Park was built on that site, right across the street from the Interracial Center at 45 Carroll St, where my father Les would often volunteer. Not incidentally, the park has been informally renamed for Assata Shakur.

One-tenth of a mile

The new church location was two really short blocks from our house at 5 Gaines Street. And we’d cut through the parking lot at Gaines and Oak, making the trip even faster. So we really were at church all of the time. I participated in the children’s choir, directed by Fred Goodall, who seemed to be there forever.

WNBF-TV, Channel 12 (now WBNG) used to have telethons. It was either the Jerry Lewis Muscular Dystrophy Telethon on Labor Day weekend or the March of Dimes or maybe both. In any case, our choir appeared on the station more than once. In fact, between those appearances and being on the kids’ shows, I was on local TV at least a half dozen times.

My paternal grandmother Agatha – emphasis on the second syllable, not the first – was my Sunday school teacher. She and her husband McKinley also lived upstairs from us at 5 Gaines Street. So I saw her a lot, often playing canasta at her kitchen table, until she died in May 1964. She was the first person I knew and loved who passed away.

My father Les would run off the bulletin on that mimeograph machine. I can still recollect in my mind’s nostrils that specific smell. Besides singing in the senior choir, dad also began directing the youth choir he dubbed the MAZET singers, based on the initials of the church, It included the organist’s younger daughter Lauren, my cousin Debra, my sister Leslie, and me. I recollect that we were pretty good.

OK, Carla, maybe I’ll try this again sometime.

Questions about God, and coincidence

Does God DO that?

My new friend Carla, who I’ve only known for a half-century starts off this round of  Ask Roger Anything:

God
The star in the center, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope, is known as V1331 Cyg and is located in the dark cloud LDN 981.

If you had the chance to ask three different people (living or dead, famous or not) ONE question… who and what would you ask?

The one requirement for this exercise, I suppose, is that they would have to answer honestly. What would I ask? What is your sense of how God manifests God’s self if, in fact, God does that? Or maybe Does knowing God just take practice?

I’d ask Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1967. I’m thinking of his disappointing experiences in his previous couple of years might have changed his world view of God’s plan.

I’d ask Thomas Jefferson c. 1820, long after he had left the presidency. As this article explains, his “relationship with Christianity was complicated.” So where was it near the end of his life?

I’d ask Donald Trump in 2020. But I’d wonder if he’d understand what I was trying to get at. Maybe I’d need some clarifying questions. Does he think God favors the rich? Does he believe that God supported him in herding demonstrators so he could hold up a Bible in front of a church? And if so, what was God saying to him?

Does he believe God wanted him to be reelected? Does he actually read the Bible? And if so, what parts resonate with him?

He was asked this last question around 2017, and he gave the non-answer “Oh, all of it.” Anyone who has ACTUALLY read the Bible will admit that there are some parts of Scripture with which they are uncomfortable.

What a coincidence

Uthaclena, being their usual mystical self, asks:

Isn’t “coincidence” an ALTERNATIVE Fact??

So, what do we know here? “A coincidence is a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances that have no apparent causal connection with one another.” So a coincidence is a fact.

“The perception of remarkable coincidences may lead to supernatural, occult, or paranormal claims.” So the perceptions of coincidences may be alternative facts.

Singing parts; cream of tartar

the Pips

lemon merengue pieCarla, who I’ve known since high school choir – was she an alto? – decided she needed to know stuff:

Ok… when you sing alone… do you mostly sing the melody, or do you sing your “part?”

Almost always, in four-part music that I’m familiar with, it’s the bass line. In pop music, it’s usually the Pips response, not the Gladys Knight lead. On Lola (Kinks) or The Boxer (S&G), it’d be the high harmony, not the melody. I just hear them better.

To that end, I can sing a higher pitch in harmony than in melody. This makes no physical sense, so it must be mental. We had a church play in March, Once On This Island. I hated singing the high parts in my solo; it made me anxious. But the harmony, I absolutely LOVED doing. Harmony almost always I find relaxing.

No lemon merengue pie?

She also wants to know – those people from Binghamton, NY always inquisitive, especially when the extended family runs the Little Venice restaurant:
OK here is another question…. why are you unfamiliar with cream of tartar? You never make lemon merengue pie? Or soufflés?

I think I’ve made lemon merengue pie exactly once in my life. To the best of my recollection, I’ve NEVER made a soufflé. Or snickerdoodle cookies, which also can use cream of tartar.

But that’s about it. WHY have cream of tartar when it has such limited use? It’s not like cinnamon or nutmeg or any number of other spices I’ve used regularly. AND there are reasonable substitutes.

Now, there was a period in the 1980s, I was into making pumpkin pies, and even baking cookies. And it wasn’t always in the autumn. But it wasn’t for my own consumption. It was either for a food pantry or some benefit auction. I don’t even like eating pumpkin pie as much as I like apple. Or lemon merengue. But they were easier to make; no top crust.

Since I got married, I almost never make pies or cookies. My wife is WAY better at it. I’m not all that interested in doing things only so-so. And frankly, if I were to make them, I’d want to eat them, and I don’t need to do that.

COVID fix, professors, writing fiction

DNA/RNA

Diamonds and RustDan, the albanyweblog man, decided to confound me:

A Pharma Corporation called Inovid is trying to speed up production of COVID-19 vaccine. They take virus DNA, convert it to RNA, pick out the right bits of the RNA according to a computer program, then inject it into bacteria, which makes lots of virus DNA that can be used to stimulate antibodies in the human, thus making an effective vaccine. What I want to know is how do they convert the virus DNA to RNA on cue? They talk about this like it’s NBD.

As I understand it – and I REALLY DON’T –

So what’s COVID-19’s story? Is a hint in what normally binds the receptor?

Perhaps sometime in the past, a virus formed, or came to include, human DNA or RNA instructions for making an integrin, which is a protein that binds to ACE2. Integrins glue our cells to surrounding connective tissue. The viral spike masquerades as the integrin, grabbing our cells.
In other words, a viral epidemic may arise as an accident, of sorts, of biochemistry and evolution.

Vaccine!

One of the things I learned as a librarian is that sometimes I don’t understand what I’m passing along. It’s just beyond my comprehension. Check out this article, which may, or may not be useful.

Fiction

Carla, an old colleague of my wife’s, wants to know:

Roger, Have you ever thought of writing fiction; or do you write fiction?

I’ve thought to do it. But a long piece seems too hard. You have to have a consistent universe. See, e.g., this post by Jaquandor. And I haven’t loved the short pieces I’ve written.

But if I live long enough, I’ll probably write a roman a clef. Or two.

Kevin, from my home county and the Wind Sun News, wants to know:

Who was your favorite Professor at New Paltz?

Of the ones I had class with, probably Glenn McNitt in the political science department. He was very smart but easy going. I remember listening to Stevie Wonder at his house more than once. I also recall specifically hearing Simple Twist of Fate by Joan Baez from her Diamonds and Rust album. She did a wicked Dylan impression and I cracked up.

Of the ones I did not have, probably Pam Tate, the head of Innovative Studies. I knew her in part because I was on the Financial Council and some of our budget went to her program. I was the Education chair so her program was in my jurisdiction.