In 2023, I experience my longest 4th of July. It started off with rain, not what we wanted for the Underground Railroad Education Center’s annual oration, Speaking Truth to Power. This was even more dire because the musicians Magpie, Terry Leonino and Greg Artzner, were bringing a whole bumch of their equipment (sound board, mics, et al).
When my wife got to the residence at 194 Livingston Avenue with one of two tarps, the forecast was that the rain would subside. Ultimately, it did. It’s a good thing my wife was there because she’s WAY more mechanically proficient than I.
This year, Paul and/or Mary Liz Stewart recruited me to be on the committee to work on the event for the first time. I had the fool notion of using some of the speeches from the the 1963 March on Washington, since it’s the 60th anniversary. This meant, of course, finding the addresses then whittling them down to reasonable lengths so Greg and Terry could figure out what songs to insert between them.
It wasn’t until just before the program began that I noticed that I was to introduce Magpie and their longtime collaborator Kim Harris. I also introduced about half of the speakers and gave an excerpt of Whitney Young’s speech.
Ultimately, though it ran a bit long, it was successful. (You can find the speech excerpts on this blog this coming August 28.) After having eatten 60 fewer hot dogs than Joey Chestnut, I helped Magpie break down their equipment. Now it is HOT! And humid!
I did sit in Greg and Terry’s car watching the equipment while talking to Kim Harris about her teaching theology and other topics.
By the time we got home, my wife and I were ready to take naps. It was not on the agenda.
Empire State Plaza
The plan for part two of the day was to drive down to our church, park in the church lot, then carry our lawn chairs down to the Empire State Plaza, a distance of little over two miles. My wife had purchased two new chairs and we borrowed one from the Stewarts.
We caught the swearing in ceremony of 27 new Americans from over 20 countries at 5 pm. It was pleasant, but we did worry that the participants would pass out. They were all dressed up. Our pastor, Glenn arrived just in time for that.
Did I mention that it was hot? If I didn’t, the energetic DJ let us know. As the sun started baking us, we retreated to the top of the external stairs abut the State Museum/Library.
A sibling duo named Jocelyn & Chris performed at 6pm. Our daughter arrived from work not much before we learned that my niece Rebecca Jade and the rest of Sheila E.’s entourage were leaving their hotel and heading to the plaza. Rebecca wasn’t supposed to be at the show, but one of Sheila’s singers had a family emergency.
Seeing the first niece
Soon, as Glenn watched our chairs, and Chuck Miller was setting up his cameras, my wife, my daughter, and I got to visit Rebecca backstage. We were introduced to some bandmates, the sound guy, and others. Sheila, who we had met in 2019, waved as she walked by.
Shortly afterward, there was an announcement from the stage that there was great threat of thunderstorms, and specifically lightning, coming. Everyone, including Glenn, my BIL Dan, and one of his daughters, joined the hundreds who went into the concourse beneath where we had been seated.
For a time, it was rather interesting to see people hanging out unexpectedly. Eventually, we got word that the Sheila E. show was not merely postponed but canceled and the fireworks wouldn’t take place until the next evening. Yet we weren’t supposed to leave because of the lightning threat.
Sudeenly, about a dozen teenaged girl got into a fracas. It took at least five state troopers to break it up. Rebecca had made it back to the restaurant at her hotel.
My daughter and I decided to get the chairs, believing, erroneously, that the lightning had ended. The cops were trying to quell the sudden proliferation of firecrackers going off. As my daughter ran up the stairs, one officer asked if she were going up there to set off fireworks. “No! She getting our chairs that we left up there!”
But as she was going up the stairs, someone was carrying our chairs down via another path. My daughter yelled to the person. Finally, we discovered it was pastor Glenn, carrying FOUR chairs. He’s stronger than he looks.
By this time, the state troopers decided that their priority was to get all of those people OUT of the concourse. We walked back to the church parking lot, then in our two cars, drove down to the hotel where Rebecca was staying.
By this time, the restaurant was closed. But we went upstairs to a conference area and told tales for well over an hour about everything from her musical journey to genealogy. Rebecca had a 3:45 a.m. wakeup call so she can take a 5:30 flight back to California.
We got home shortly before midnight having done over 15,000 steps, which may not be much for you but, on a hot day, it was a LOT for me.
I did my Wordle (VENOM, in 4), then fell asleep in my chair, waking up at about 2:45 a.m, before going to bed. On July 5, I took two naps.
The front page of the local Times Union showed two event photos, at the plaza, and the Underground Railroad Education Center event. My wife and I were at both. BTW, she took a nap too.