Meeting my wife; hometown hangouts

Spring Forest Cemetery

Amy is looking forward to hearing my replies to two questions:

Where did you meet your wife? Always wanted to ask that one!

Meeting my wife was not that interesting a story, actually. Now getting back together…

I was going to my former church, the Methodist one, and sang in the choir. I was also chair, at different times, of the Administrative Board and chair of the Council on Ministries, which essentially provided for “planning and implementing a program of nurture, outreach, witness, and resources in the local church.”

When I was COM chair, I recruited her (I think) to be chair of the Membership Committee, even though she was a fairly new member herself. So when my previous relationship went south, we went out for about a year and a half. Then we broke up, for good and understandable reasons.

But we were still friends, even though we went out with other people. I even attended an intense 34-week Bible study called Disciple at her house in 1996-97. that was the last time I read the Bible all the way through, BTW.

It was a strange time. I was in her brother’s wedding in September 1996. Eventually, around August 1998, I decided that we should get back together, though she was apparently unaware of this until October 1998, when I kissed her; I think we were at Five Rivers.

Apparently, she had sought the opinions of her family that she should get back with me. And right after my win on JEOPARDY, we did. And since we were, er, older, we got married six months later, with her late brother John, who had always been a Fan of Roger, in the wedding party.

In my hometown

Also, what were your favorite places to go to in Binghamton when you were a kid?

Spring Forest Cemetery was very close to my grandma Williams’ house and only a block from my K-9 school. Sometimes, we would go sledding there, on the roads, not near the headstones, thank you.

And cutting through the cemetery was the shortest way to Ansco field, where we played baseball. I loved baseball, but I wasn’t that good at it. I didn’t even get to be almost competent until I was in college. As I mentioned, Valley Street Park and miniature golf were very near my home.

Movies! I went mostly to the Ritz on Clinton Street, and the Strand and Riviera on Chenango Street, very close to where my mom worked, at McLean’s department store. Occasionally, the Crest on Main Street. BTW, these are all defunct.

Museum of Natural History

day trip to NYC

Natural history MuseumMy daughter wanted to visit the Museum of Natural History before she started her summer job. So we, including my wife, did.

I’m not crazy about day trips to New York City, which is too much a compression of time. But what tipped the scales for me to go is that my daughter’s beau, Tee, had never been on a train. In fact, he’d never been to The Big Apple, only 150 miles away.

I tied ordering the tickets online. But the Amtrak site, which I’ve successfully navigated several times before was cranky. So I ordered by phone, which involved leaving my phone number until I got an automated call 90 minutes later. I was able to finish the transaction EXCEPT that they were to call me back in “15 minutes” to get my email. They needed to send me not just the tickets but information about COVID protocols, such as wearing a mask in the station and on the train.

OK. This trip meant getting up at 5 a.m. That’s five in the morning, not my natural habitat. Check my blood pressure, then feed the cats earlier than they were expecting; felines, it’d better last you for a while. Pick up Tee, go to the train station, which is not in Albany, but in Rensselaer, just across the river.

The train station is decent, WAY better than the hovel that existed on the site little over a decade ago. As for the trip between Rensselaer and NYC, this article, which I happened to get in my email after the trip. “Winding its way along the pretty Hudson Valley, you’ll appreciate why so many people choose to commute to Manhattan rather than live in the city.” It is a lovely trip, the only civilized way to go to Manhattan.

Oh, the OTHER station

We arrived at Penn Station. Apparently, the brand-new Moynihan Train Hall was across the street, but we never saw it on this trip. For sure next time.

Walking up to Times Square, some vendor guy, unsolicited, put a bracelet on my daughter’s wrist, then wanted her to give him $5 for it. This was a good lesson in negotiating the fact that she did NOT have to buy something just because a stranger foisted on her. A few minutes later, she and Tee were talking at the location where we believe the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.

We take the B train to the Museum of Natural History, west of Central Park. I’m quite good at the subway, even though I use it infrequently. My wife had made a reservation for a noon entry, and we got there at 11:30. It was already a long line when many of us were directed to an alternate entrance because that line was “full.”

We’re in line for nearly an hour, wearing masks. Those zigzag lines give one the false impression that you’re closer than you are. Here’s the really weird thing, though: even people with both a reservation and paid-for tickets STILL had to stand in this interminable line to get a physical ticket.

There were lots of cool displays, though some required an additional fee. We did see the North American mammals, dinosaur fossils, and the forests. The Teddy Roosevelt display is recontextualizing the role the 26th President played in the environment and the culture.

The large whale had a band-aid, maybe a reflection of the COVID vaccine campaign taking place while we were there.

Le deluge

The others in my party decided to return to Times Square. But I headed directly to 34th Street to get back to Penn Station. I’m only two avenue blocks away when I got caught in the pouring rain. The umbrella I had kept in my backpack was of little use. Then the lightning started.

Fortunately, at 34th and 7th, I could go into the entrance for the LIRR, Long Island Railroad. The walk is just as long, but it’s drier. Eventually, I meet up with the others, and we returned home.

The trip back took longer because Amtrak has to share tracks with Metro-North (train from Poughkeepsie to NYC, among other routes) as well as freight lines. Having finished my reading, I pulled out my laptop and checked my massive amount of email. The Wifi was occasionally spotty but generally usable.

After dropping off Tee, we went home after a very long day. I’m glad we went, but I hope not to take another day trip again for a while. And even more happy that we left when we did, for the subway system flooded later that afternoon. 

Presents for my wife on her birthday…

They say, “It’s the thought that counts…”

CarolI have noted several times that buying presents for my wife is not my favorite thing. Whether it be for her birthday, Christmas, or our anniversary, it’s always been a challenge.

For our last anniversary, I think I agreed to go in on getting a bike rack for our vehicle. I’m not sure because we haven’t actually done so. In any case, it was her idea, not mine, so it’s more difficult for it to stick in the brain.

Last year, as I’ve noted, she had hinted about getting two pieces of jewelry for Christmas. So I bought them in August. In September, she proudly announced she had ordered the self-same pieces herself. I audibly groaned. She said, “You didn’t TELL you bought them…”

I recently discovered in this blog that she did pretty much the same thing circa 2012. She hinted that she really wanted a particular book from National Geographic. I bought it. Then SHE bought it. I grimaced and ended giving it to something else. I don’t know WHAT I ended up getting her that Christmas.

Sharp

A good friend of my wife has a daughter who is selling Cutco knives. The daughter wanted to make an appointment with my wife; my wife didn’t HAVE to buy anything because the friend’s daughter gets “points” just for doing the presentation.

I’m familiar with this gig. Back in the 1980s, my girlfriend’s daughter was selling Cutco knives. I let her make the pitch to me. My, those knives were expensive! But I bought one because it seemed to be the thing to do.

So my wife ends up buying several pieces of cutlery. It got to be a little pricey, which can happen easily. Hey, for her birthday this year, would I want to go halfsies on the knives? Yeah, sure, I guess. Oh, and the bill is already due.

So I gave her money for her birthday, a prosaic gift, but at least it won’t be something someone will have to return.

And, finally, I think I hit on something that she wants. I’ve ordered it. Allah willing, she won’t have purchased it for herself. Plus, we’ll go out to dinner. 

I kvetch, but she’s otherwise pretty swell. I love you, dear.

BTW, this is a pic of my wife at a restaurant a block from our house, pre-pandemic. You can tell I took it because it’s fuzzy.

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.

I love this arcane stuff

Jane Seymour turns 70

My wife had purchased a few bushels of apples over the late summer. She kept them in the basement, which tends to be cooler than the rest of the house. But by December, the last of the apples were looking wrinkled.

“They’re wisened,” I observed.  This led to a conversation about why the word has a short I rather than long I sound, though it has one S rather than two. Maybe because the long I sounds more like someone who is wise? I love arcane stuff like this, items that make me ponder.

Not a new decade

My friend David and I had a nice back-and-forth about whether the decade should start with 2021 since the century began with 2001. I favored the inconsistency. After all, September is the ninth month, not the seventh.

I think he was won over by how we define people. “An individual who has been alive for two full decades is referred to as being in their 20s for the next decade of their life, from age 20 to 29.” 

Census stuff

My Census buddy, also named David, and I exchange articles about the Census. Several of his finds I’ve used in various articles. I noted for him a Daily Kos report indicating that “the state-level population data from the 2020 census that is needed to determine how many congressional seats and Electoral College votes each state receives is not expected to be released until April 30, four months after the original deadline.”

Likewise, “the more granular population data needed for states to actually draw new districts won’t be released until at least after July 30, which is also a delay of at least four months from the original March 31 deadline. Consequently, these delays will create major disruptions for the upcoming 2020 round of congressional and legislative redistricting.

“New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice released an in-depth report in 2020 looking at which states have deadlines that are in conflict with a potentially delayed data release schedule and what the impact of a delay may be.

“The most directly affected states are New Jersey and Virginia, which are the only two states that are set to hold legislative elections statewide in 2021 and would normally redraw all of their legislative districts this year.”

I remain a Census geek.

Music and art

My friend and FantaCo colleague Rocco tipped me off about the book Will Eisner: Champion of the Graphic Novel (2015). It has a graphic that would have been on a Kitchen Sink Chronicles if FantaCo had ever published it back in the 1980s.

I had just purchased The Beatles (The White Album) [6 CD + Blu-ray]. So I gave him the three-CD set I bought a couple of years ago but didn’t need anymore.

We got into an arcane conversation about the album Graceland by Paul Simon. I had purchased the 25th Anniversary Edition (2011) CD a few years back. It also featured the Under African Skies film on DVD. I gave my old copy of the Graceland CD to a blogger buddy who had never heard it.

But Rocco had NOT purchased it, and I knew why. It was because it did NOT include the 6-minute version of Boy in the Bubble. Rocco had purchased the 12″ from the Music Shack record store back when it came out. I tried to get a copy but it never arrived. Rocco lent me his 12″ and I recorded the song on a cassette. But we BOTH were disappointed that the song failed to show up on the anniversary edition.

NOT the third wife of Henry VIII

The performer  Jane Seymour turns 70 today. I often note people who reach three score and ten in this blog. Though I’ve seen her in few guest appearances, a miniseries or two, and some infomercials I’ve come across, I really only know her from one thing. And if you know her for only one thing, it’s probably the same show: Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman. I didn’t watch it regularly, but I didn’t turn it off when I happened across it.