My friend Deborah

1977 in NYCNY

1977 was primarily annus horribilis for me. Yet it was also the year I met my friend Deborah.

I was crashing at my sister Leslie and her then-husband’s Jackson Heights, Queens, NYC apartment. My job, such as it was, involved making telephone calls to get people to buy stuff. They were to resubscribe to TV Guide at a higher price than they would spend by purchasing it off the newsstand.  And we collectively were pretty successful at it.

I also got people to buy the Annual updates for an encyclopedia, though I no longer remember which one. (Geek self-reveal: my parents bought the updates to our Encyclopedia Americana, and I read them when they arrived.) Other people sold Bulwark fitness gear.

I worked from six p.m. until midnight,  never calling after nine p.m. in the locale I was calling.  It was five days a week, so I had much free time.

I became friendly with a co-worker named Michael. Sometimes, we’d go down to Greenwich Village and hang out at the clubs or sometimes in a park.

I don’t remember where or how, but Michael met a young woman named Deborah. He was instantly smitten. They went out for half a minute before she broke up with him. Somehow, Deborah and I managed to become friends.

After I moved upstate – New Paltz, Schenectady, then Albany – we wrote or called each other. When I came to the City, I’d crash at her place.

Then she moved to Japan. I was a mediocre correspondent, and we lost touch.  But through Facebook, we reconnected.


I told the story here about how I got some found money in 2018. Deborah was visiting friends in Connecticut. She drove to Poughkeepsie, and I took a train there. We chatted for about 90 minutes, then returned from whence we came.

In the last few months, I got to plan to see her again, longer than an hour and a half. That’s for another day, as I needed to tell THIS story to tell the NEXT one.

That Black/Irish thing

Paradise Square is based on true events

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I will note that Black/Irish thing.

When I was down in NYC in June 2022, my sister Leslie and some friends arrived earlier. They got to see the Broadway production of Paradise Square. It is described thusly:

“Led by Tony winner Joaquina Kalukango (who won Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical), Paradise Square is based on true events from a part of New York history that not many Americans know about.

“The musical is set in 1863 during the Civil War, in Lower Manhattan’s Five Points neighborhood. This real-life neighborhood used to house free Black Americans and Irish immigrants, who lived together, worked together, and married each other. Kalukango’s character Nelly owns a saloon called Paradise Square, where most of the musical’s action takes place…

“The neighborhood was built over a filled-in freshwater lake. The buildings placed on top of it would sink and sag, and were notoriously damp, making it a breeding ground for diseases. Because of this bug in its design, housing in Five Points was cheap, making it a destination for new Irish immigrants and freed Black Americans.”

My sister thought it was excellent. Unfortunately, the show’s run abruptly ended shortly after controversies of “Lawsuits, Unpaid Bills, and Alleged Bullying” came to the fore.


In my extended family, there is a man named George Liggins. The 1910 Census shows that he was 49, designated as black, with his father born in Ireland and his mother born in New York. His wife Hannah, 54, noted as white had both parents born in Ireland.  Their three sons and three daughters, ranging in age from 15 to 25, were listed as mulatto.

I wonder if George Liggins’ parents met in Paradise Square. I have no way of knowing, but it’s an interesting fantasy of mine.

You should be dancing

Around the same time as the trip to Carnegie Hall, my wife and I saw Irish Dance: Steps of Freedom on PBS. “This program charts the evolution of Irish dance, from its early Celtic origins to its peasant dance roots to its mix with Caribbean and African slave cultures.” So the Black and Irish intermingling narrative continues.

I was surprised by my interest in the difficulties of the American Irish Historical Society in New York City, as reported in the New York Times in December 2022. The following month, it was reported that the Irish American Heritage Museum in Albany, which I’ve not yet visited, would be involved in revitalizing the NYC entity. “The new board was announced by state Attorney General Letitia James to deal with the group’s financial issues… Elizabeth Stack, executive director of “the Albany entity “will serve on the three-member interim board…”

I’m no closer to figuring out my direct lineage from County Cork, Ireland. Perhaps the Irish American Heritage Museum could help?

When New York Had Her Heart Broke

I was planning a flight to a conference

When my daughter was in middle school five years ago, she had a homework assignment to interview an adult about 9/11 and she got to transcribe the answers. I was the interviewee. 

1. Where were you when the attacks occurred?

In my offices in downtown Albany. [I was planning a flight to a conference in Dallas scheduled to start the next day. It was quickly canceled. One of the planes that crashed into one of the towers was in Albany air space]

2. How did you find out about the attacks?

Somebody in another office across the hallwas watching it on TV.

3. What were your first feelings/emotions when you heard about the attacks?

Well, when the first plane crashed into the building, I thought it was an accident. When the second plane hit, I knew it was a siege.

4. Did you know anyone in the Towers, Pentagon, or one of the planes? If yes, did they survive?

I knew one guy. Met him at a conference two or three times. I didn’t know him well, but a nice guy, and very helpful. He was in one of the buildings. He did not survive.

looking back

5. Do you “relive” the feelings you felt when the attacks actually happened when you see videos or read articles? Explain how it made you feel.

Right afterward, I did watch a lot of TV, over and over. {See below.] Now it seems when I see pictures of the burning towers, it still reminds me of the day. If I watch the videos, it reminds me, but I tend not to watch videos if I can help it. [What I still remember was just how beautiful the day was before the attacks.]

6. What aspects (parts) of American life do you think we changed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks?

I think, in the short term, there were a lot of people coming together. In the long term, I think people got a whole lot more paranoid, and rightly so. We lost a lot of unity when we decided unnecessarily to go to war in Iraq.

[I’ve written a lot more in the past about the so-called USA PATRIOT Act and Islamaphobia, and lots of other topics. This is enough for today, except…}

Mark Evanier recently wrote about people who may be too young to remember: “Thanks to the Internet and its hoarders, there are hundreds of places where you can download or just watch the news coverage from that day. Here’s one of many. Pick out a channel and watch its broadcast from just before the reports of the first plane hitting the North Tower until you’ve had enough. That was how most of us experienced it that morning…staring at the screen.” Including me. 

John Hiatt: When New York Had Her Heart Broke –

Museum of Natural History

day trip to NYC

Natural history MuseumMy daughter wanted to visit the Museum of Natural History before she started her summer job. So we, including my wife, did.

I’m not crazy about day trips to New York City, which is too much a compression of time. But what tipped the scales for me to go is that my daughter’s beau, Tee, had never been on a train. In fact, he’d never been to The Big Apple, only 150 miles away.

I tied ordering the tickets online. But the Amtrak site, which I’ve successfully navigated several times before was cranky. So I ordered by phone, which involved leaving my phone number until I got an automated call 90 minutes later. I was able to finish the transaction EXCEPT that they were to call me back in “15 minutes” to get my email. They needed to send me not just the tickets but information about COVID protocols, such as wearing a mask in the station and on the train.

OK. This trip meant getting up at 5 a.m. That’s five in the morning, not my natural habitat. Check my blood pressure, then feed the cats earlier than they were expecting; felines, it’d better last you for a while. Pick up Tee, go to the train station, which is not in Albany, but in Rensselaer, just across the river.

The train station is decent, WAY better than the hovel that existed on the site little over a decade ago. As for the trip between Rensselaer and NYC, this article, which I happened to get in my email after the trip. “Winding its way along the pretty Hudson Valley, you’ll appreciate why so many people choose to commute to Manhattan rather than live in the city.” It is a lovely trip, the only civilized way to go to Manhattan.

Oh, the OTHER station

We arrived at Penn Station. Apparently, the brand-new Moynihan Train Hall was across the street, but we never saw it on this trip. For sure next time.

Walking up to Times Square, some vendor guy, unsolicited, put a bracelet on my daughter’s wrist, then wanted her to give him $5 for it. This was a good lesson in negotiating the fact that she did NOT have to buy something just because a stranger foisted on her. A few minutes later, she and Tee were talking at the location where we believe the ball drops on New Year’s Eve.

We take the B train to the Museum of Natural History, west of Central Park. I’m quite good at the subway, even though I use it infrequently. My wife had made a reservation for a noon entry, and we got there at 11:30. It was already a long line when many of us were directed to an alternate entrance because that line was “full.”

We’re in line for nearly an hour, wearing masks. Those zigzag lines give one the false impression that you’re closer than you are. Here’s the really weird thing, though: even people with both a reservation and paid-for tickets STILL had to stand in this interminable line to get a physical ticket.

There were lots of cool displays, though some required an additional fee. We did see the North American mammals, dinosaur fossils, and the forests. The Teddy Roosevelt display is recontextualizing the role the 26th President played in the environment and the culture.

The large whale had a band-aid, maybe a reflection of the COVID vaccine campaign taking place while we were there.

Le deluge

The others in my party decided to return to Times Square. But I headed directly to 34th Street to get back to Penn Station. I’m only two avenue blocks away when I got caught in the pouring rain. The umbrella I had kept in my backpack was of little use. Then the lightning started.

Fortunately, at 34th and 7th, I could go into the entrance for the LIRR, Long Island Railroad. The walk is just as long, but it’s drier. Eventually, I meet up with the others, and we returned home.

The trip back took longer because Amtrak has to share tracks with Metro-North (train from Poughkeepsie to NYC, among other routes) as well as freight lines. Having finished my reading, I pulled out my laptop and checked my massive amount of email. The Wifi was occasionally spotty but generally usable.

After dropping off Tee, we went home after a very long day. I’m glad we went, but I hope not to take another day trip again for a while. And even more happy that we left when we did, for the subway system flooded later that afternoon. 

Ranked-Choice Voting for NYC

over a dozen candidates for mayor


I’m rather excited that New York City is using Ranked-Choice Voting for its Primary Election this year. “In a 2019 ballot measure, 73.5% of New York City Voters voted yes for RCV.”

Election Day is Tuesday, June 22, 2021. Polls are open from 6 am to 9 pm. The Early Voting Period is June 12, 2021 – June 20, 2021.

The offices up include MAYOR, PUBLIC ADVOCATE, COMPTROLLER, BOROUGH PRESIDENT, and CITY COUNCIL ELECTIONS. BTW, You are required to wear a mask/face covering and maintain 6 feet of distance when entering any Board of Elections facility.

For mayor, the Democratic candidates are, in order of their strength in a recent  poll:

Eric L. Adams, Brooklyn 11221 – 22%
Andrew Yang, Manhattan 10036 – 16% – the guy who ran for President last year
Kathryn A. Garcia, Brooklyn 11215 – 15% – she was commissioner for the New York City Sanitation Department and is running as a largely apolitical type who gets stuff done
Scott M. Stringer, Manhattan 10004 – 10%
Maya D. Wiley, Brooklyn 11226 – 9% – trying to be the first Black woman Mayor of New York City. Supported by AOC and some other progressives.
Dianne Morales, Brooklyn 11216 – 5%
Raymond J. McGuire, Manhattan 10023 – 4%
Shaun Donovan, Brooklyn 11217 – 3%

Aaron S. Foldenauer, Manhattan 10006
Paperboy Love Prince, Brooklyn, NY 11221
Art Chang, Brooklyn 11238
Isaac Wright Jr., Ridgewood (Queens) 11385
Joycelyn Taylor, Brooklyn 11216

The Republicans pit Fernando Mateo against Curtis Sliwa of the Guardian Angels.

How this works

A voter can “rank up to 5 candidates in order of preference: your 1st choice candidate, your 2nd choice candidate, and so on up to your 5th choice candidate… You cannot rank the same candidate more than once.” Yes, you can write in candidates.

“If a candidate receives more than 50% of 1st-choice votes, they are the winner. If no candidate earns more than 50% of 1st-choice votes, then counting will continue in rounds. At the end of each round, the candidate with the fewest votes will be eliminated.

“If your first choice is eliminated, your next choice will be counted, and so on. The process of elimination continues until there is a winner.

I’ve been advocating for some form of the instant runoff election in the US for over a decade.

The strategy is that the candidates want to make the top 5 of as many ballots as possible. So it’ll be to their advantage not to alienate someone who you could be a second or third pick. The level of trash-talking in such a large field seems relatively minor.

I have no strong rooting interest here. I might have voted for PLP because, as noted on Twitter: “Thanks for ranking me #1 make sure to rank me before ‘top’ candidates so your vote for me counts! Let’s show them how strong the movement of love really is!”

Seriously, Garcia would definitely be on my list. Beyond that, I’m not at all sure. And since I can’t vote anyway, I won’t sweat it.

WRONG! You can’t have two first picks
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