My favorite day in quarantine

lead the two of clubs

hearts game may 7 2020Thursday, May 7 has been my favorite day in quarantine. Seriously.

6:30 a.m. Awake.

7:00 a.m. Meeting of the Thursday Bible guys on Skype. I had been going to the Tuesday BGs, and still am. But the Thursday guys use the lectionary, so it’s different from reading the Bible as published. And I had a muffin that one of the guys named Bob had dropped off at my house the day before.

8:15 a.m. Breakfast.

9:00 a.m. I make my two daily phone calls. One’s to a guy at choir and is fairly brief. But I end up speaking for more than an hour to a woman from my church I’ve known longer than almost anyone there. We shared stories of technology challenges, among other topics.

11:00 a.m. I had arranged a Zoom meeting with one of my choir buddies, but it was unsuccessful on her side.

11:30 a.m. Empty the dishwasher and tend to miscellaneous tasks.

12:30 p.m. Eat lunch with my wife.

1 p.m. Finally work on a blog post that, annoyingly, was no writing itself.

3 p.m. HEARTS! Back in the late 1980s, a coterie of us would go over to Broome’s house and play cards. There would be a game three or four nights a week with a rotating cast of players. Sometimes Broome wasn’t even there.

When he moved to the country, the games ceased. For my 60th birthday, I decided to have a card game at my house, and that became a nearly annual tradition. But as coronavirus began its spread, there were only a handful at the game the weekend before everything got shut down in New York State.

Card party

I had started playing a free online game at PlayOK with random strangers. Sometimes, there was no one to play with at all. Why not invite my old hearts buddies? So I did. Then someone suggested we should set up a Zoom meeting simultaneously so that we could actually see each other. I made it so.

As one of us noted, “I think we enjoyed it so much because in so many ways it felt NORMAL! A hearts game with the old crew.” There were some technical glitches – if you wait too long the game ends – but it was an inspired event.

4 p.m. Watch some TV with my wife, notably a segment CBS This Morning Saturday about Kent State. My bride was too young to remember it clearly.

5 p.m. Mow the lawn for the first time. It’s a nice day. I have to do this when the sun is low in the sky so that I don’t burn too easily – the vitiligo, y’know. And before the forecasted rain/snow. It DOES snow in March. Wait, it’s May! I did the back lawn but the smoking man who lives next door was standing and puffing at his usual post, so I passed on doing the front.

6 p.m. Take a shower.

6:30 p.m. Eat a lovely dinner of zoodles, plant-based sausage, and tomato sauce.

7:15 p.m. Google Hangout with my wife and her family – her mother, her two brothers and their wives, and two of the nieces.

8:30 p.m. Watch the evening news, much to the chagrin of my daughter, who had settled into watching one of her programs.

Then the evening routine, and bed. A splendid day in quarantine.

Annual hearts game: birthday tradition

Queen of spadesWay back in late 1987, hearts, the card game, was played at the home of WBS in Albany. Somehow, through some alchemy that is difficult to explain, it would take place there four, five, even six nights a week at his home.

There were a group of about a dozen people who showed up in different permutations at his house to participate. Most knew where the spare key was.

Occasionally, it took place even when WBS wasn’t home. Specifically, on May 4, 1988, when he called to schedule a game, but work kept him away until after midnight. So three of us played without him.

His sainted wife was aware of this arrangement, but due to the design of the house, specifically the bedroom, she was not disturbed by the comings and goings of these folks.

I should note that we operated by different rules. Traditionally, a hearts hand is started with a lead of the two of clubs, and as a result, no points could be dropped on the first trick. Online games are designed in that manner.

We decided this was a stupid directive; almost every other card game involves the player to the left of the dealer starting the round, so we did that. This meant the queen of spades could be played on the first trick; it’s worth 13 points, and as in golf, points are bad.

A few years later, WBS and his sainted wife moved out to the country, and the hearts games ended. People started having kids, life got complicated, and that was that.

UNTIL six years ago, when my wife asked what I wanted for my birthday. I said, “I want to invite people over to play hearts.” And it was so. Then we did it the next year, and it became an annual tradition.

Well, except for one year, when my wife said we ought to do it another weekend, because the designated weekend was busy, which was true. As a result, it didn’t happen at all, because EVERY weekend is busy.

This year, as usual, the hearts game is scheduled for the Saturday after my birthday. OGA is always late but brings the lasagna. MPH usually brings baked goods. As some writer noted, “A splendid time is guaranteed for all.”

For ABC Wednesday

47 hours: hearts, symphony, Humans

It was great that the parents got to hear the concert.

Broome and Roger in 2016
The past six weekends have been extremely busy, with Black History Month at church. The last Sunday in February, there was a miscommunication by the guest minister.

We ended up having two different preachers for our two services, the latter showing up five minutes before the latter worship started, and she was great, but it was nerve-wracking. That’s also the day of the luncheon, which my wife is heavily involved in.

March 10 began with cleaning the house in anticipation of having folks over to play the card game hearts. Back in 1987/1988, a rotating cadre of us would go to Broome’s house to play three or four times a week. It has been reduced to once a year, the Saturday nearest my natal day.

But it’s not all card play. There’s a lot of talking among old friends, some of whom hadn’t seen each other in a year or two. There’s also eating, especially Orchid’s lasagna(TM).

At one point, there were six of us left. We could have played two games of three players each. Instead, we pretty much invented, on the spot, a double-deck game, stripping the deck of the pair of 2 of clubs. One CAN get BOTH queens of spades at the same time. It was so bizarre, in a GOOD way.

Pretty much as soon as the last guest left, my wife rushed down to the Palace Theater to attend the Albany Symphony. Early on, the mayor of Albany, Kathy Sheehan gave brief remarks about how great the ASO is. I had introduced her at my church for her talk on her equity agenda six days earlier.

The concert was conducted, as usual, by the adventurous David Alan Miller: it was the preview of what would be performed at the Kennedy Center in April 2018. The first piece in the second half was Dorothy Chang’s The Mighty Erie Canal, featuring 150 fourth-through-sixth graders from the Troy Public Elementary School All-City Choir.

Of course, their parents were there to see them, bringing along the singers’ younger siblings, who made the noises that toddlers will make, during the first half, Joan Tower’s Still/Rapids featuring pianist Joyce Yang, and Michael Daugherty’s Reflections with tuba virtuoso Benjamin Pierce.

It was great that the parents got to hear the concert. My wife overheard one parent of a small child sigh that they were not able to afford a babysitter. So it was what it was.

Still, as a snobbish symphony goer, it was easier to listen to Michael Torke’s Three Manhattan Bridges, also with the dazzling pianist Yang, after the kids, and their parents, and their sibs departed.

We got to bed about 11 p.m. EST, but woke up about 7 a.m. EDT. My position about the evils of changing the clock is on the record.

We dragged ourselves to church, then the Daughter went to the movies while we went to see the touring production of the Tony-winning play, The Humans, by Stephen Karam, at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady. It’s about a family dinner on Thanksgiving.

Instead going to the homestead in Scranton, PA, the folks celebrate at the apartment of younger daughter Brigid (Daisy Eagan), a struggling composer living with her 38-year-old, still a student, boyfriend Richard (Luis Vega) in Lower Manhattan.

The visiting Blakes are the father, Erik (Richard Thomas, yes of The Waltons), the mother, Dierdre (Pamela Reed), older daughter Aimee (Therese Plaehn), with a plethora of problems, and Erik’s dementia-stricken mother (Lauren Klein), who’s having one of her “bad days.”

If you’ve ever had a holiday meal with extended family, you will recognize these people. The play is funny, sometimes uproariously so, and sad, and a little eerie, as disappointments about life bubble up.

The Tony-winning set by David Zinn is recreated here, and it’s brilliantly designed and used. The Humans was sensitively directed by Joe Mantello. Here’s a review.

Yes, I DID have a happy birthday, thank you

I find that the most efficient venue to write is a public setting, near the guy making wheezing noises, and the guy with the peculiar laugh.

Each month, when there’s a birthday in our office at work, someone, usually the boss, will ask, “What did you do on your birthday?” I thought I’d write it down while I can still remember.

My bride and I got up and had breakfast at a sandwich shop nearby. We might have opted for a more leisurely locale except that: 1) she had to report for jury duty and 2) I had a massage scheduled, and they’ve moved to a place I wasn’t exactly sure of. But find it I did, and it was especially needed.

I walked home, read some newspapers, watched a little TV, notably CBS Sunday Morning, which I never watch actually on the Sabbath, when The Wife came home around noon. Apparently, the court impaneled enough people before they even got into the courtroom.

I went to the library for an hour to blog. For some reason, I find that the most efficient venue to write, in a public setting, near the guy making wheezing noises, and the guy with the peculiar laugh.

The three of us went out to dinner at a family-style restaurant recommended by a bus driver I know. It had been opened since 1996, and I must have passed it dozens of times, but I had never even heard of it. It was good food, though, interestingly, the chicken parm was better as leftovers.

When we got home, PRESENTS! This included Odetta singing Dylan from the 1960s, though the CD version was released around the turn of the millennium. I also received March Book 2, the last of the trilogy penned by Georgia Congressman John Lewis that I received. I got Book 3 as a review copy and Book 1 for Christmas.

Oh, Jaquandor wrote a blog post in my honor!

The following Saturday, I held my annual hearts card game. It’s useful to do this in part because it forces us to clean the house more thoroughly. We talked a lot, ate a lot, and even played cards; I even won one, and by “shooting the moon”, taking all the points, on the last hand.

To paraphrase some song, a splendid time was guaranteed for all.