Aside from the day-to-day activities, there have been a few events I have missed. The Blows Against the Empire tour was canceled before it got to Clifton Park, near Albany. It wasn’t that I was desperate to see that show. But I was going to go with my oldest friend from my college days. And he was going to pay!
I was planning a trip to my hometown of Binghamton, NY in March 2020 for two reasons. I’m looking for the transcript of the October 1926 trial involving my biological grandfather Raymond Cone, at which my grandmother, then Agatha Walker, testified against him. I also wanted to track her location in the city directories during the 1930s. However, both City Hall and the local library are closed until they aren’t.
Also, my friend since kindergarten Carol, not to be confused with my wife Carol, was going to fly up from Texas to visit her mom. So I’d have a chance for a visit with her and perhaps my Binghamton-area friends. Not yet.
Postponed, so far
At the Proctors Theatre in Schenectady, I have a subscription. The musical Summer, about the disco queen Donna, has moved from March to June. Will that actually come to pass? Or Dear Evan Hansen, still scheduled for June? Or Come From Away in September? What does theater look like in the era of physical distancing? Does the economic model even work?
Then there are the ersatz gatherings. The weekly church services, which get better as the folks have figured out the technology. The Bible studies. The Google Hangouts, Zoom meetings, and whatnot.
Something that I have discovered about sharing screens on these platforms. Sometimes they can be quite useful. On one Zoom call, a guy with the same surname as some of my ancestors wanted to see my family tree. I’m going to be helping my friend with some librarian skills, and her seeing what I’m working on will be great. On the other hand, one ought not to feel obliged to share JUST because one can, technologically.
Two sets of four coasters in the design of playing cards
The day before Father’s Day, my parents-in-law suggested that we might want to meet them for a strawberry festival in a small town about an hour from Albany. Since we weren’t going to see each other on the actual holiday, it seemed like a nice idea.
We got our strawberries, biscuits and whipped cream and sat on chairs in the shady part of the church lawn. I also split some Brooks barbecue chicken, a staple at church dinners around here, with my wife. And it was a good thing I bought it when I did, because when my FIL went back to get some chicken, it had sold out.
There were a number of vendors set along the main street. The Daughter wanted to go to the one just across the street, so we did. Some unnecessary knickknacks, such as bracelets. But what’s that – some Confederate flag paraphernalia? OK, we can just go.
Then I see in the corner of my eye a bunch of hats with “We don’t call 911” stitched on the brim and a gun here a logo might be. Yes, we’re in “no sale” territory. My wife wanted to know if we found anything to buy. The Daughter and I gave a curt “no.”
Eventually we came upon a yard sale, evidently run by three women. I spent a whole dollar in one seller’s column, two sets of four coasters in the design of playing cards, which I’ll use for my annual hearts game next March, if I can still remember where they are by then.
We listened to a concert in the church, a group of 14 women and 5 men, plus conductor and pianist. They sang a half dozen tunes, New York, New York; Somewhere from West Side Story, in honor of the centennial of Leonard Bernstein’s birth; a religious tune I didn’t recognize; and finished with a version of God Bless America that incorporated both a musical version of the spoken intro and a piece of America the Beautiful. The group, that has been around for 32 years, wasn’t bad.
The town is building a newly-refurbished library in the building that used to house a small performance theater. The old library, next door, will be where they sell books that are currently stored in the dingy and inaccessible basement. They plan to move the books from one building to the other via a bucket brigade early this autumn.
It was a hot day, so we went to the local Stewart’s Shops, ubiquitous in the region, for refreshment.
Right across the road was a hand-painted sign for a guy running for town supervisor. Adjacent to that was a large message, almost the size of a billboard: “Town Supervisor [name] and town board are [sic] panning to build a town building in a flood plain. DUMB ASSES.”
We drove home, and as is likely to be customary on such an oppressive day, I took a nap.
“The System”: In the main, the books on music, movies, television are on the shelf in front of me. Behind me: almanacs/trivia; church/faith/religion, including hymnals; the recently acquired unread; bio/autobio; classics (Shakespeare, Grimm, Twain); politics; Beatles. Off to the right, and also upstairs, comic book/comic strip stuff (Marvel Masterworks, Doonesbury collections, Elfquest collections, Life Is Hell). This is imperfect, and I’m much less fussy than I used to be.
Favorite female writer: Rachel Carson. She changed my life.
Favorite male writer: Nelson George.
Bought on location (where the writer lived, the book takes place, the movie adaptation was shot): I often buy a book at the museum shop: some book on FDR, e.g., though I don’t always READ them. Of course, I own some books about Albany: O Albany! by William Kennedy, Old Albany, Mayor Corning by Paul Grondahl, Ed Dague’s autobiography (he was a local newscaster).
The largest and the smallest book you own: Some Beatles coffee table thing is the largest. Perhaps, Baseball: Our Game by John Thorn is the smallest, though I used to have a tinier one that is MIA.
Complete works of one author: At one point, it was Russell Baker. All I have now are books cited as complete works, Billy Shakes, Twain, Grimm.
Favorite poetry collection: This series of periodicals called Washout, co-edited by an ex-girlfriend.
Favorite biography: I’ve read so many Beatles bios, they’ve blended together. I’ll say Gandhi, An Autobiography.
Favorite cookbook: Some Betty Crocker thing from c. 1964.
Favorite graphic novel: Maus. I used to know Art Spiegelman when he’d come up to Albany to promote his publication RAW.
A book you didn’t understand at all: Some science fiction book I gave up on, no doubt.
“One of these things is not like the others” (inconsistent editions within a series): There are features in some reference books, Top Pop Singles, Top Pop Albums, and The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows, for three, that I’ve had to hold onto earlier editions because they had info that subsequent versions did not. For instance, Top Pop Albums used to have the songs of the albums, but now, for space reasons, it does not.
Best bargain: I’ve gotten a lot of free or cheap books. Somehow, I got a review copy of Freddie & Me by Mike Dawson, and I really liked it.
Most recent purchase: The Opposite of Everything by David Kalish; I went to a reading at the Book House in Stuyvesant Plaza.
Favorite layout design: probably The Dark Knight graphic novel.
Book you bought because of the title: The Collected Stories of Lydia Davis, which I knew The Daughter would appreciate.
Book you bought because of the cover design. Probably happened, but no example comes to mind.
Multiple translations of the same work: The Bible.
Multiple copies of the same work: I have a Complete Shakespeare, and my wife does. That count?
The funniest book you own: probably some Dave Berry book about music.
The most expensive book you own: It may be that coffee-table Beatles book. It’s also the heaviest.
A recurring interest/theme. Anything about the music of the 1940s until the end of the century: musician bios, Billboard charts.
A book you read so many times that it fell apart: Some I Spy novelization I had as a kid.
A book you think everyone should read: I don’t, actually, mostly because I wouldn’t want to be likewise dictated to. One reads a book when ready, or does not.
A book that made you cry: Diary of Anne Frank. Unoriginal choice, I suppose.