Sunday Stealing: The Pen Company

The Good Book

Here’s the new Sunday Stealing, The Pen Company. But before I get to that, a couple of Independence Day announcements in Albany, NY.


First, the July 4 oration will take place at the Stephen and Harriet Myers residence, 194 Livingston Avenue in Albany, NY, sponsored by the Underground Railroad Education Center (UREC). Music by Magpie, who will be joined by Kim Harris.


Second, Sheila E. will be performing at 8 pm at the Empire State Plaza. One of her singers cannot make it, so subbing will be Rebecca Jade, who is my niece. Rebecca was backing Sheila when my wife, daughter, and I saw them at the New York State Fair in Syracuse back in September 2019.
Onto the show
1. If your house was on fire, which three items would you save?

A metal box in my office that has my birth certificate, my father’s death certificate plus other important documents. A box of photos. My laptop.


2. What is the strangest or most awkward date you’ve ever been on?

Oddly, it wasn’t my date. My ex-girlfriend was going to the Washington (NY) County Fair with her new boyfriend c 1996/97. She invited a friend of ours and me to attend as well, because we were all “mature” people. It was…weird. Interestingly, they broke up, I got back together with my gf, and we’ve been married 24 years.


3. What are your biggest fears?

The loss of freedom and justice in the United States, based on the actions of several governors and state legislatures, the rhetoric of several candidates for the 2024 Presidency, and recent Supreme Court decisions.


4. How do you spend your time when you are procrastinating?

Usually playing double deck pinochle or backgammon on my phone.


5. What has been your most memorable birthday so far, and why?

Probably my 50th because I had a big party at my church. I made a mixed CD that I gave out.


6. What is your favorite snack?

Fig Newtons with milk.


7. What was your first pet?
Peter the cat. He was very smart. When he wanted to come in, he’d jump onto a piece of furniture and rattle the door knob.
I am where I am
8. What’s your favorite city in your country?

It might be Albany, NY because that’s where I decided to live. My favorite place to visit might be Galveston, TX; I’d go out to he pier at 5 a.m., watching the tide from the Gulf of Mexico come in.


9. Do you have a garden?

We have a garden. But I have little or nothing to do with it.


10. What is your favorite thing about your home town?

My hometown was Binghamton, NY. It was small enough – and my school was tiny enough – that I can to this day name most of the kids in my 9th grade class. And I’m still friends with three of them. Oh, and went to kindergarten with them too.


11. What was the last book you read?

A Century of Pop Music bt Joel Whitburn.


12. What is the best book you have ever read?

Quite possibly, The Good Book: Discovering the Bible’s Place in Our Lives by Peter J. Gomes. Here’s a reader recommendation from Thrift Books:

“Gomes takes the Bible off its pedestal and presents it to us as a tool for Christian living. This book is a must read for any Christian struggling to read and understand the Bible in modern terms. He explores many of the controversial topics of the Bible, including race, homosexuality, women’s roles, anti-Semitism, wealth, and more. [This is definitely true.]


“He challenges the reader to accept the Bible as an interpretation of fantastic religious events with historical and sociological significance. He teaches the reader to deal with contradictions within the Bible, even within individual books of the Bible… This book challenged my beliefs in positive ways and taught me to never ‘idolize’ the Bible again.”
Roger that
13. Who is your favorite author?

It might be Roger Ebert, whose movie essays I enjoyed greatly. His autobio, Life Itself, is the book I would liked to have written, if I had the skills.


14. Is there a food that you hate?

Olives. Black olives, green olives.


15. Do you get along with your neighbors?
The neighbor to one side, Al, is great. Now, the property on the other side is owned by an absentee landlord, so the quality of the tenants has varied. I’ve written about not great ones here and elsewhere, and the best ones here. But by far, the WORST thing that happened from that house was created by the landlord himself. What a schmuck.

I wrote about terrible neighbors across the street, but thankfully, they’re gone.


16. Do you have any tattoos or piercings?
Nope. And I was never seriously interested in doing so.

Blood, music, SCOTUS

I got a big chuckle out of my daughter vigorously singing the chorus to a Phil Ochs song.

I’ve now donated blood 149 times. The only two times I’ve ever had difficulty were time #59, obviously several years ago, and time #148, in April 2012. The commonality was that I was sitting in a chair each time, rather than lying down. The April visit was brutal, with three different attendants manipulating my arm, the needle…it took well over 20 minutes when it generally takes me 6 or 7; I’m talking about the actual blood flow time, not the preliminary exam, et al. I was so exhausted and bruised afterward, that I went home and went to bed, instead of going to choir, which had been my intent.

So when I went again last week – getting “back on the horse,” as it were – I made sure I went to a place (Empire State Plaza, for you locals) that had cots.

Sure enough, 7 minutes and 6 seconds, and I’m done. The medical person helping me this time insisted that lying down is better for the blood flow, and easier for recovery, but that people prefer the chairs because they are more comfortable. She also noted that 5 to 8 minutes is optimal; some guy who bragged about being able to donate in 4 minutes would be in serious trouble if HE were ever in a serious accident.
For Father’s Day, my wife gave me a ticket to the Old Songs Festival at the Altamont Fairgrounds, about a half-hour from here. When I was younger, I went all the time, but I think the last time I attended was in 2002, the year my wife went to Ukraine. She did not go with me this time either because of church obligations; she is on the Administration Committee and is helping sort through over 100 resumes for a part-time church secretary.

But the Daughter went with me on Saturday, June 23. We spent the first hour trying to wash sunscreen out of her eye, but eventually, we could enjoy the program. Went to see a couple called Magpie, and another couple, Kim and Reggie Harris perform songs of Phil Ochs, the noted folk singer who died over 35 years ago. Sunny Ochs, Phil’s sister, was there, too, and she has long encouraged singers of Phil’s songs to change the lyrics to more contemporary references when necessary. I knew LOTS of the songs, but I got a big chuckle out of my daughter vigorously singing the chorus to Love Me, I’m a Liberal, one of those songs with changed verses. (No one knows who the late talk show host Les Crane was anymore.)

Then we went to the Songs of the African diaspora with Peace Train, a black woman and a white woman from South Africa, assisted by Kim and Reggie Harris, who had come from about as far on the fairgrounds as one can. Kim noted that the girl who was sitting in front at this show (yes, the Daughter) was dancing at the Ochs show (true) and that Kim wishes she had that kind of energy.

The last Sunday in June, the whole family attended a high school graduation party. Ever have a really good friend you lose touch with, even though they aren’t that far away? That was the case with my friend Debbie, the mother of the graduate, who was one of my very best friends in the 1980s, but who I’ve talked with only intermittently since. It was good to see her again, though she was so busy playing hostess that we didn’t talk much. Maybe next time…

So what did you think of that Supreme Court ruling last Thursday? Oh, not that health care thing, the decision that the Stolen Valor Act is unconstitutional. “The Stolen Valor Act…makes it a federal crime to lie about having received a military decoration or medal, punishable by up to a year in prison if the offense involved the military’s highest honors.” I support the ruling that the law was unconstitutional on First Amendment/freedom of speech grounds with the same biting-of-the-lip sensation that had when I agreed with the Court allowing Nazis to demonstrate in Skokie, IL. I support the principle more than I hate the action.

As for that OTHER case, I had taken a “Well, it’s better than the status quo” take on that 2010 health care bill, the Affordable Care Act. But with the meltdown by its opponents, I am enjoying its affirmation by the Supreme Court far more than I expected. Meanwhile, CNN should slink off in shame for reporting, for seven minutes, the absolute wrong outcome. (FOX News also muffed it for two minutes, but it HAS no shame.) The term “Obamacare” had been designed as a dis, but that putdown may now work in the President’s favor.

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