Back to the Parlor City

The “new” Route 17

Binghamton, NY, was called the Parlor City. From here: The name “goes back to the 19th century. Binghamton had massive mansions with huge parlors where people would gather and spend time together. There were so many fancy parlors that people started calling Binghamton the ‘Parlor City.'” There was a Parlor City Shoe Store that I recall.

Thursday, October 5: Sister Leslie drove us from Albany. The last time she was in Albany, there were toll booths on the New York State Thruway. The tolls are still applied, but electronically.

There was a lot of road construction. In both directions, one exit was straight ahead while the road continued to the left, and though it was well-marked, the brain was slow to make the translation.

I was going to stay at the spare home of my friend C, while Leslie was going to stay with her friend MJ. However, when Leslie was flying, she got a text from MJ saying she had to go to the hospital. The day we arrived, MJ had surgery. So Leslie stayed at C’s place as well. More Plan B.

Friday, October 6: Leslie drove us all over downtown Binghamton, then to a part of Binghamton I hadn’t been to in over a half-century. Above is a map of the eastern portion of the First Ward in Binghamton. In the lower part of the faded portion, you may see Route 17. This was the “new” 17, which involved tearing down many houses on the north half of Prospect Street, the minor league baseball stadium Johnson Field in nearby Johnson City, and much more.

Lost Horizon

Intellectually, I knew houses were still north of Prospect, as Mygatt Street goes under Route 17. My maternal grandmother’s brother Ed lived up there, somewhere. I’m uncertain where, though he was less than a mile away. Grandma Williams forbade us, and even her adult daughter, my mom, from having anything to do with Ed because he was “living in sin” with a woman named Edna. Also, Leslie had a friend move up there. Though only a mile away, it was like a different world.

So, I haven’t gone up Mygatt and turned right since the walkway to Ely Park entryway came down in the late 1960s.In addition to a golf course, there were some nice houses. What’s most fascinating, though, is that a good chunk feels as though you’re in an undeveloped rural area.
Turning left at the top of Mygatt Street, I had only done once ever, attending a burial at a private cemetery in 2012.


BCHS nametag 1972-2022My sister’s reunion was in two parts. The Friday evening “Ice-Breaker” was at The American Legion on Robinson St. I spent a good deal of time talking to the younger siblings of the friends of mine. Though I didn’t know any of them well, I knew them for a very long time and was some connective tissue. Incidentally, the hors-d’oeuvres were great and plentiful; we were encouraged to take food home.

Saturday, October 7

The “Main Event” was at The Relief Pitcher, on Conklin Ave., Binghamton. I had a surprisingly good time at my sister’s reunion, arguably more than my own the year before. The 1972 class badges were much better than the 1971 ones.

Sunday, October 8

Leslie and I went to our old church, Trinity A.M.E. Zion on the corner of Oak and Lydia. I recognized the keyboardist as someone I grew up with. She recognized my sister but not me, probably because of my vitiligo. My father’s cousin Ruth was there too. The in-person congregation was small, fewer than 10. But there were 13 or 14 tuning in on ZOOM, and two of them participated, reading scripture and giving a prayer.

That evening, we took C and her husband out to dinner as thanks for providing us with accommodations plus plenty of food.

Monday, October 9

Leslie and I returned to Albany, and we had the pleasure of seeing my daughter, who had been taking good care of her mother.

To travel, or not to travel

Coming from California

travelI’m writing this more than two weeks after the fact, which is suboptimal. This continuation: To travel, or not to travel.

Tuesday, October 4: My usual Bible guys meeting at 9 a.m. I believe I’m the youngest member of the group, which used to meet in person before COVID. But once we started on ZOOM, we stayed on ZOOM. Unlike most meetings, a Bible study with four to seven guys is manageable.

Conversely, the weekly book review at the Washington Avenue branch always wants to be in person. There were some furtive attempts at offering it online, but it’s just better face-to-face.

I went home, and my wife and I started a largely futile attempt to clean the house.

Wednesday, October 5: My wife and I drove to the Albany International Airport. It’s “international” because it services trips to and from a few Canadian cities. I went to the luggage area and met my sister Leslie, who had flown in from SoCal. She was going to go to her high school reunion that weekend. I had agreed to be her Plus One.

My wife suggested going to the Iron Gate Cafe, where we had eaten only a few weeks earlier. But her ankle was now extremely sore, and she begged off but dropped us off there. My sister loved it, as my wife knew she would.

My wife drove Leslie to the Avis/Budget car rental in Colonie Center, near the former Sears; I had no idea it was there. We all went home, with me navigating for my sister; she could have used her phone, but why when she had me?


My wife was on the phone with her doctor’s office, but from my end of the conversation, it didn’t sound as though her pain or possible infection was being taken seriously. Moreover, the redness of her ankle and above was very concerning to me.

This was because, in 1979, two days before I started my first attempt at grad school, I got a little cut on my baby toe. Increasingly, it hurt tremendously. I hobbled through registration, then limped to the infirmary. The doctor immediately put me on bed rest AT THE INFIRMARY for six days. He feared that the infection, traveling up a blood vessel in my leg, would head for my heart and kill me. I started classes late and never did catch up.

My wife and I put Leslie up in a hotel so she wouldn’t have to put up with our demented cat.

Thursday, October 5: I called my wife’s doctor’s office at 6:10 a.m. Of course, I got the service, but I gave the person great detail about the swelling and what appeared to be spreading infection. To my amazement, her doctor called back at 6:30 and promised a slot as soon as the scheduler came in. At 7:40, the office called, and my wife had a 10:30 appointment, which my sister drove her to. My wife got doses of antibiotics. After lunch, Leslie drove us so my wife could get an ultrasound. The good news: no blood clots.

The reserves

Leslie and I were going to Binghamton that afternoon in her rental vehicle. To travel, or not to travel, that was the question. I would have felt uncomfortable leaving my wife but for one thing. Unrelated to the medical issues, my daughter had decided to come home from college for the long weekend. SHE would take care of her mother! This was a bit of serendipity

And from the reporting of the patient, when Leslie and I came back on Monday, she had done a fabulous job. This is not a surprise, based on a story my daughter told my wife. Someone at college had accidentally cut themselves, and another student tried to patch them up, but they didn’t do it correctly. Clean the wound, pat it dry, and then put the ointment on the bandage, not the wound. My wife had shown this method to my daughter, and the message took. Can you hear the maternal beam of joy?

1972: the Okie and I

crossing the border

I never said so explicitly here, but the Okie and I were 19 and madly in love. After I got arrested, she lived in my parents’ house in Johnson City, NY, near Binghamton. Even reading about it in my journal, I still can’t figure out, “How did that happen?”

And because we were 19 and knew everything, we decided that maybe we should get married. We talked to my parents about it, as well as our family friends Betty and Jim, with whom we played cards. Of course, they all thought this was a terrible idea. Perhaps the conversation started making both of us a bit anxious.

The rules then, as we understood them, were that we couldn’t get married in New York State without the consent of a parent. Here’s an interesting tidbit. In the state of Pennsylvania, as of Tuesday, August 22, 18-year-olds can get married without parental permission.

The Okie and I traveled to Susquehanna, PA, on Tuesday, August 22. We saw a Dr. Davis, who took blood samples. He was having difficulty finding my vein, which distressed me. To Montrose, PA, the next day to get a registration form which asked questions like could I support my wife economically? We told Betty, who told us we should tell my father before the fact.

The day

Saturday, August 26: my sister Leslie wore a red and white pantsuit. The Okie wore the long dress she made last year. We put the cake that my sister Marcia had made, champagne et al. in the car. Borrowed a pair of Dad’s car, the pair I had broken buckles. I wore a Guatemalan work shirt and jeans.

We went to Montrose, which has inverted traffic lights. Got the license. MD has sent blood tests, and we don’t have syphilis.

Returned to Binghamton and went to my friend Carol’s house, where her then-beau Jon was already. Carol’s sister Annette questioned me on my reasons for getting married. Carol’s mother already knew about the plan, but her father was surprised and congratulated us.

Jon and I went to Hi-Fi Record Shop and bought a couple tapes, including Electric Hot Tuna. We went to the Justice of the Peace, one Norman O. Brummer, waited and talked about rain had stinted the corn. Finally, The Okie, Leslie, and Carol arrive. Norman’s wife was nice.

The Okie looked beautiful. She was, for lack of a better word, radiant. Jon had my ring, and Leslie had the Okie’s. We all went to the Skylark Motel on Vestal Parkway. Leslie took all the corny pictures (cutting cake, drinking not very good champagne.

The next day

After breakfast, we went to Betty and Jim’s house and hung out with their kids. When we got back to my parents, they were in a good mood, although I heard through the grapevine (my sisters? Betty?) that Dad wished he knew beforehand. We loaded the car and the next day, drove off.

You may wonder what the urgency was in getting married. From a reliable source, my arrest at IBM Poughkeepsie caused a bit of static for her father at work, IBM Kingston. Apparently, the “bad” behavior of his daughter’s boyfriend made his jerk of a boss make noise about Okie’s dad’s employment.

Moreover, if we were married, the Okie’s parents could treat me like a son-in-law. Us living together in sin would have been difficult for them to cope with. At some level, that was probably true of the Okie and me as well.

Sister Leslie as emcee/hostess


Rebecca Jade, Leslie Green - May 2018
Rebecca Jade, Leslie Green – May 2018

As noted, my sisters and I have been talking on ZOOM almost every week for… what, maybe a year? You would think we would run out of topics to talk about. You’d be wrong.

It’s an odd thing. We’re still hashing out the weird stuff about our parents. The fact that they died in 2000 (Dad) and 2011 (Mom) hasn’t buried the issues. If anything, their passing has given us permission to address the stuff we wouldn’t have dared discuss with them or even fully acknowledge the issues.

In some ways, the three of us had very different lanes growing up. Marcia, as the youngest, was the rebellious “don’t BS me” child who Leslie and I couldn’t imagine being. I was the bookish, somewhat insular one.

Leslie, by contrast, was the child most likely to try to please others. When visitors, friends of my parents, came over to see my parents, Marcia could bail as the youngest. I would come out of my room to say hello then go back to my books/baseball cards/music, which was more interesting to me than people who didn’t ostensibly come to see me anyway.

Leslie was wired differently. She would talk to my parents’ friends a lot more than I did. It seemed that she was like an emcee. This made adults like her more, which was not MY concern.

In some ways, it served her in good stead. She was a very personable performer. Her first job, while in high school, was to be a hostess at the Perkins Pancake House on Main Street, near Glenwood Avenue, in Binghamton. She worked in the hotel industry in a function, not unlike a concierge. And even her other jobs involve communicating well with others.


Three years ago, as I noted more than once, Leslie was in a bicycle accident and almost died. She’s a lot better, though not 100%. There are still some issues with her eyes, her mouth, and a few other aspects. But she’s mostly OK.

I noted that I had seen the movie Summer of Soul recently. It reminded me that three years ago, less than a month before the accident, she was singing duets on a cruise ship with Larry Graham, the bass player for Sly and the Family Stone. Now that’s the kind of situation that being a talented and personable type will gain you.

Happy birthday, Leslie.


Leslie Ellen, to distinguish her


My sister Leslie was born less than two years after I was. I have few specific recollections growing up, aside of being in class, in which she was not at least tangentially involved.

One of the truly odd things my parents did was to name my sister after my father. This was occasionally a pain for both of us. For me, since people knew there was someone named after Dad, they assumed it was me. I got cranky when some people, primarily men of our church, would refer to me as Little Les. Eventually, we needed something to distinguish between the two Leslies. Dad was generally Les anyway. My sister became Leslie Ellen.

I seem to recall introducing her to my classmates on the first day of school. Because I started school in February and she in September, we almost never had the same teachers in elementary school. She had one named Miss Coddington in the fifth grade. Miss Codfish, as some of the kids referred to her, really seemed to have it in for my sister. I don’t know if it was racially motivated or if the woman was just a bitter human being. Quite possibly, it was both.

She’s a saint

And while the name “Leslie Ellen” could be a bit weighty, it was convenient when she converted to Catholicism during Holy Week of 2018. While Leslie isn’t a saint name, Ellen/Helena is. Helena “was about sixty-four years of age when she received the light of the Gospel.”

Sadly, one of her oldest friends was quite bothered by Leslie’s conversation. Her reasoning, in the letter I read after Leslie’s bicycle accident, frankly baffled both of us. It was a general evangelical anti-Catholic screed that wasn’t tied to any position of the church, failings by priests, or the like.

Leslie is having another birthday, which is a good thing. After that 2018 bike wreck, every birthday is a bit of a miracle.

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