Active October, part 1

Three events on October 1st

Literary Legends 2022It’s been an active October 2022, a mix of joy and anxiety, so much so that I have to diary this, and this is just the first part.

Saturday, Oct 1: Go to my former church at 9:45 a.m. We in the pickup choir rehearsed How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place, then sang it at the Jim Kalas service. I also told the story that I noted in the blog post.

There was a reception afterward in the quite lovely parlor. It’s always a bittersweet time returning to a place I spent 17 years worshipping. Some of the parishioners there still remember me, and vice versa.

My wife and I had a 3 p.m. play to attend. Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors was written by Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen, who have penned Ebenezer’s Big Christmas Show and Crime and Punishment: A Comedy. Dracula is described as “Bram Stoker’s legendary vampire tale… put into a blender with the comedic influences of Mel Brooks, Monty Python, and the 39 Steps.” The five-member cast, playing multiple roles, was entertaining.

Still, I wouldn’t have picked that particular day to see the production but for a scheduling snag of my own making. My wife and I have a subscription for plays at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady during the 2022-2023 season. Part of the package included a couple of shows at the affiliated Capital Repertory Theatre, usually designated as Capital Rep.

Who calendars for this guy?

It was not until I looked at the online tickets that I had scheduled us to see Dracula and Aladdin ON THE SAME DAY. I’ve seen two different movies in a cinema, back-to-back. But watching two plays in two cities six hours apart? That did not work for us.

I bumped Drac to October 1, knowing the following two weekends were out because I would be away at my sister’s high school reunion and visiting my daughter’s college. It wasn’t until I started putting the plays into the calendar on my phone that I realized I had created another problem.

The Literary Legends gala, the primary fundraiser for the Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library Foundation was ALSO on October 1. And as a board member, I had been working on the event! So I missed the setup (oy) but there for the event.

Sunday, October 2: the usual. Church, ZOOM meeting with my sisters. There was another event we could have gone to, but I begged off.

Readers Theatre

Monday, October 3: My second visit to the Capital Rep building, this time to help set up for the Wizard’s Wardrobe signature fundraising event, The Readers Theatre, “an evening of powerful readings.” Addressing the theme of Hope for Changing Times, the speakers included Alice Green of the Law and Justice Center.

My wife noted that I experienced the unusual Exacta, people recognizing me from working at FantaCo (1980-1988) AND being on JEOPARDY in 1998 at the same event. More surprising was that the latter was Nell Stokes, one of the other speakers, who I’ve known for about a decade. “I didn’t know you, but I was rooting for you!”

The other speakers were Paul Grondahl of the NYS Writers’ Institute, Jean-Remy Monnay, Holly McKenna, and an eighth-grader who had memorized her impressive talk. The host was Casey Seiler of the Albany Times Union.

Among the tasks for my wife and me was welcoming people at the door. My wife felt chilly, presumably from the night air. But I’m the one who was more likely to feel cold. I found it mildly curious but didn’t think much of it.


more… something required

Recontectualized.Lobby-Murals-FB-eventSomething good happened recently, and I was partially responsible for it. But I worried that if I talked about, or worse, wrote about it, it would seem self-aggrandizing. Then I talked about it with someone, and I recontextualized it.

You may remember that I wrote about the passing of my friend from my previous church, Jim Kalas. I wrote, “Sometime this century, Jim told me that he wanted How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place sung at his funeral, which will be on October 1 at Trinity.” I called the Trinity church office to inform someone of this fact. The office administrator gave me the email of the choir director.

The choir director wrote back to me saying he’d be out of town. But he must have sent a message to his small choir because Nancy, who I used to sing with, managed to wrangle a total of 15 of us to perform it at the service, with a previous keyboardist accompanying us. And I was pleased about this outcome

Someone pointed out that I did it to honor Jim’s memory, and I know that intellectually. Moreover, I was told, and this is correct, that I should appreciate my gift of remembering this particular detail. The fact is that, deep down, I know I have skills. Also, I like to be useful. But certain parties, and I shan’t go into who, I allowed to short-circuit my confidence for a time.

Not Shecky Greene, but an unreasonable facsimile

It’s weird. I’m finding these situations where I, in small ways, can bring talents I didn’t even know I had to bear. It often surprises me. Someone asked me to introduce the raffle at an event after church. My general position is usually to say yes and then figure out what I’m supposed to do. I take it that I was pretty good at this brief gig, and I was even occasionally funny. It was an odd self-awareness at the moment.

So I can say, hey, I wrote the foreword for a book that will be published next year, written by someone in the comic book field. I gave them the first draft, having no idea what I was doing or how long the piece should be, yet they really liked it. Now I have to write a brief bio of myself, which will be interesting.

I am a patron of the podcast Coverville. Every month, I send host Brian Ibbott a list of musical artists whose birthdays are or would have been divisible by five. I suggested for September that he group together three deceased country legends, Patsy Cline, Gene Autry, and Jimmie Rodgers. And he did, namechecking me at the end.

Hang on to your ego

It was an ego boost, and I must remember that it’s not all a bad thing. Apparently, several people told Mark Evanier that Samatha Bee’s show, Full Frontal, was canceled, but I was the one to send a link; I was mentioned.

I was talking at the library with two people about different types of intelligence. But I noticed this person I did not know nodding their head knowingly, as if to say, “Yes, I think I’ve been underestimated.” And there were other situations, one involving chairs, another regarding a sartorial suggestion that worked well, plus a couple of things that have since slipped my mind.

I guess I’m saying I’m okay being okay.

Jim Kalas (John W. Kalas), RIP

Psalm 84

Jim Kalas

His given name was John, but he was always Jim Kalas. I knew him from my time at Trinity United Methodist Church from 1983 to 2000, but I would continue to see him occasionally when the FOCUS Churches would meet during the summer.

One thing many folks knew was that he was an avid swimmer. I found this article from North Central College in Naperville, IL. He was inducted into the college’s sports Hall of Fame for Men’s Swimming in 2015 based on his accomplishments in the pool back in 1955.

Speaking of a Hall of Fame, Jim had the same deep, mellifluous voice as his brother. Harry Kalas, who died in 2009, was the longtime announcer for the Philadelphia Phillies. Harry was the 2002 recipient of the Ford C. Frick Award, awarded by an arm of the Baseball Hall of Fame. Jim and his wife Mary attended the ceremonies in Cooperstown.

The college article about Jim gave some useful biographical information. “After graduation, Kalas went on to earn a Bachelor of Divinity degree from the University of Chicago in 1958 and a doctorate degree in philosophy from Columbia University in 1962 before beginning his career as an assistant professor of philosophy and religion at Lake Forest College.”


At Trinity, he was very active on various boards, as I was for a time. He was also an educator. I attended several of his sessions, reading sections of a Bible version that Jim had translated from the original Greek. He was slated to offer a monthly Bible study of Genesis, promising to look “at the present day meaning of some of those old, familiar and fascinating stories.”

His primary vocation, though, was as an administrator for the State University of New York, overseeing various areas over a quarter century, including research, economic development, and international programs. He was interim president of the College at Potsdam c. 1997

Jim retired, allegedly,  in 2000 as an associate provost, He later joined the University of Albany as a part-time professor in educational administration and policy studies.

He was always very active, serving on the board of The Capital Area Council of Churches, among other tasks.

My job
jim kalas1

Here’s a story I told two years ago, but I never gave attribution before. Shortly after he retired, Jim told me that I almost didn’t get the job as a librarian at the NY Small Business Development Center in October 1992.

“There were one or more persons on the committee who were concerned about my race. Specifically, the job required that the librarian in that position create liaisons with the state directors and other staff in the other states’ lead centers. Many of them were in the South, of course. The search committee feared that these folks wouldn’t cotton to working with a black person. So I was rejected for that reason.

“Then, someone up the State University of New York food chain told them, ‘You can’t do that!'” SUNY protocol prohibited them from excluding me because of my race. SUNY is the host institution of the NY SBDC. I ended up getting the job after all.” That someone was Jim Kalas, my boss’s boss’s boss at SUNY.


Recently, my wife thought she saw him walking in the retirement community where my MIL lives. He must have moved there relatively recently, after his wife Mary, who I liked, died last year. Jim and Mary had been married 49 years.

Sometime this century, Jim told me that he wanted How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place sung at his funeral, which will be on October 1 at Trinity. The song is part of the German Requiem by Brahms, sung in English. It’s based on Psalm 84. I’ve sung it several times. Jim, who had a nice singing voice, probably had as well.

Mormon Tabernacle Choir

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