When I posted on Facebook a link to this post about trying to get from Binghamton to Albany, it generated a fair amount of conversation.
One buddy of mine asked: “Not that it’s any of my business, but curiosity is killing me: Why not drive?” I replied, “Because I have no license.” Or according to a translator: “Non est scriptor coegi licentia.”
This is true, as far as it goes. But more accurate, I suppose, is that I’ve NEVER had a driver’s license. Not ever. And while it’s just the way I am, it’d be disingenuous to think it wasn’t peculiar to most Americans. So I suppose it’s time to take a deep dive into that fact.
So I started free-associating and came up with over 1800 words. This means I’ll have to break this up into three chunks.
I don’t “get” cars
My parents both drove. My sisters both drive. It was never that important to me, except for a couple of brief times, which I’ll share with you eventually.
I have no car memory. That is, I didn’t care about cars growing up. I don’t know what model of cars my parents owned except one, I think, was a “woody,” with a faux wood exterior.
And I didn’t keep track of what kind of models each car maker made. I mean Chevrolet had the Chevette and some other “ch” lines. Ford had the Fairlane and the Mustang. But that’s about it. To this day, when I see a car model category on JEOPARDY, I respond exceedingly poorly.
Moreover, I never daydreamed about driving a car. I got around pretty well on foot, going to school and church, even walking three miles each way on Sunday afternoons to go to a second church. I had my bicycle, and occasionally, rode the bus.
In fact, my recurring nightmare was being in the back seat of a car, and the vehicle crashes through the side of the bridge, sinking rapidly into the river. (It was probably the Court Street Bridge into the Chenango River in Binghamton.)
The ex-husband of a friend of mine would ask me, “How do you not drive?” And since I never did, I had no good answer.
Even before I went to college, I started hitchhiking, from Binghamton to New Paltz, where my girlfriend at the time was attending. I took that stretch of road several times.
Speaking of which, the most serious car accident I was ever in happened when I was getting out of a car after a ride. A woman who had some physical limitation was unable to apply the brakes and plowed into that car while I was halfway out. I swore I’d never be like the driver in a situation like that.
I spent two days in the hospital, a week resting at home, then, when my right shoulder gave out, four weeks of physical therapy.
At some point, I got what was the first of seven driver’s permits, the document one needs to try to learn to drive. I think my first lesson was in the Okie’s Volvo? Saab? In any case, it had a manual transmission, and she screamed at me because I was going to burn out her clutch. And that was the end of that.
Later, she had a red car with push-button automatic transmission. Once I tried to drive it around the parking lot of the Colonial Arms apartments in New Paltz. It was uneventful until I accidentally went in reverse, knocking over a Dumpster! Surprisingly, the car appeared OK.
During this period, my good friend Uthaclena once tried to teach me to drive. I must have been quite terrible since he STILL shudders when he talks about it. I thought I was doing fine.
Do I say to him what he ought to do in order to try to save the relationship OR assume those facts to be immutable. and advise him how to survive it better?
My friend Mary wrote:
Hi Roger- Re: “Ask Roger Anything” – I’m helping [my son] plan his courses for next semester, and so these questions come to mind: What was your very favorite course taken as an undergrad? Most useful later in life (for any reason)? One you struggled to get through but was worth it? Etcetera…
Favorite course: American Government and Politics, the intro course, which has also been quite useful for me as a librarian in ascertaining which federal department might have jurisdiction over different issues. Given his proclivity for politics – I follow his Facebook page – it might be a good fit.
I also liked a music intro course where I got a little music theory, composed some little ditties, and had a lot of fun.
Most useful later: intro to psychology, and logic. Understanding how the human mind works.
Struggled with, but was worth it: intro to anthropology, which I must confess was a struggle because it was at 8 a.m. Understanding where we as a species came from.
Struggled with, worth it as an exercise: intro to calculus. I was failing, going into the final, crammed for two days, passed the final. Looked at the book two weeks later but didn’t understand a thing.
In general, I believe a broad liberal arts education can serve one well, especially with someone as bright as your son clearly is.
A whole bunch of questions about our political election year
We Americans have always been attracted to the carnival barker. We know that he’s probably giving us a bunch of hooey, but we’ll still spend the quarter to see the half-boy/half-alligator, or the bearded lady.
Drumpf is a master of self-promotion. The fact that his businesses, his brands are probably not as successful as he would have you believe is irrelevant. In a society where facts are at a premium, and celebrity is king – is Robert Downey Jr. moving to Albany? Er, no – a guy with an unconvincing combover of an unnatural color can be perceived as “genuine”, the fact that he contradicts himself regularly notwithstanding.
His birther attack on President Obama, I’ve come to see, was a trial run. Without a shred of evidence, Drumpf kept alive the notion that Obama was born in Nigeria. Or Indonesia.
Now he runs for President, and right out of the gate, he insults Mexican immigrants, and John McCain, and Muslims, and intelligent women. The punditry is SURE that his campaign will be over before it begins. But he gains support, not IN SPITE of those remarks, but BECAUSE of them. “He’s unfiltered! He’s not politically correct!”
And people watch. The ratings of the summer 2015 GOP debates were at least FOUR TIMES as large as the ones in 2011. As Les Moonves said about CBS News’ overabundant coverage of the man: “Who would’ve thought this circus would come to town?… It may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS.” On the Daily Show, Trevor Noah likened Moonves’ and the news media’s, attitude to that of a doctor who says, ‘I hate to see all these patients coming in with cancer, but I have to admit, it’s been really good for my practice.'”
Let me say a word in defense of political correctness. Saying whatever comes to mind is not the sign of maturity or bravery, but of the mindset of children, who used to say the darndest things to Art Linkletter on his daytime talk show many years ago. When grownups do the same things, they are often a$$@#^%! The fact that his speeches have been targeted to third- or fourth-graders intellect is, sadly, effective. Even when it’s crazy.
Maybe that comes from talking too much to himself. On Morning Joe (MSNBC), he said recently: “I know what I’m doing, and I listen to a lot of people, I talk to a lot of people, and at the appropriate time I’ll tell you who the people are. But my primary consultant is myself.” To that end, here he is, consulting his campaign advisers.
And something else: none of his opponents are nearly as good as being contemptible as The Donald is. Marco Rubio started a riff suggesting the inferior size of Drumpf’s…er, genitalia. But Marco, not Donald, seemed the lesser person for this, as he admitted shortly before he dropped out of the race. The late-night comics had started referring to Rubio as Little Marco, just as the tycoon does.
One cannot underestimate, though, how much Americans HAVE been ripped off by the rich and powerful, the stuff that Bernie Sanders has been talking about. That anger and frustration are real, but Drumpf as the solution is surreal.
This, naturally, leads to Buffalo-area book scribe Jaquandor
Do you think Bernie Sanders would be an effective President, in terms of furthering a liberal agenda?
I chose to believe that, on the off chance Bernie Sanders gets elected – hey, he won the overseas vote – that his win would represent such a seminal shift in the body electoral that he would have actually a chance to enact some of his reforms. This would be especially true if some of those Senate seats in marginal states go to the Democrats.
Of course, I can only see this happening if, in addition to him making a miraculous comeback on the Democratic side against Hillary Clinton, that either 1) Drumpf gets the GOP nomination or 2) he is denied the nomination by some GOP machinations and goes third party. BTW, I find it hysterical that the Republican establishment is now largely supporting Ted Cruz since they pretty much HATE Ted Cruz. Naturally, Cruz has called on US police to patrol Muslim neighborhoods in the wake of the Brussels attack.
You may have seen former GOP Presidential candidate Lindsey Graham say, less than a month ago, “If you killed Ted Cruz on the floor of the Senate, and the trial was in the Senate, nobody would convict you.” And now Graham is fundraising for Cruz.
It’s not that they’ve changed their minds about the obstructionist who is Rafael Cruz. Samantha Bee illustrates how unlikeable Ted Cruz really is—his whole life. It’s that the GOP establishment finds Drumpf the greater existential threat to the party, and perhaps the nation. Ruth Marcus, in the Washington Post back in December 2015, said that Drumpf was a better choice than Cruz because one could work with the former, but three months later, she changed her mind.
Both GOP candidates were criticized, though not by name, in this CBS Sunday Morning piece by a combat veteran this past week. “For too many Americans in 2016, war isn’t a dire act turned to once all other options have been exhausted. It’s a narcotic, a quick fix, something that happens in strange, faraway lands, where other people’s sons and daughters do violent things for country.”
Generally, I disdain term limits, because I believe philosophically the people should be able to elect who they want. But I also recognize that the state legislature gets to pick the gerrymandered boundaries of the state legislature.
I like the idea of a truly independent board that would redraw the lines every ten years, pretty much ignoring the previous boundaries, and primarily paying attention to finding the population balance, still with some consideration of neighborhoods, would be nice. I just don’t know what that looks like.
Coincidentally there will be a seminar this Friday at the Albany Law School, “Can a NYS Constitutional Convention Strengthen Government Ethics?”
“With so much talk about the erosion of integrity in government, can the problems with elected officials that so frequently dominate our headlines be fixed statutorily or are they more appropriately addressed through constitutional change? As November 2017 and a statewide referendum on whether or not to call a constitutional convention near, this and other questions will be increasingly on the minds of the voters. This forum will address these important issues.”
How is Andrew Cuomo doing, six years in?
He’s a strange egg. He’s been pushing the $15/hour minimum wage, and much of the literature shows him with his late father, the former governor Mario Cuomo. Mario, I liked; Andrew, not so much.
I remain convinced, with the fall of Senate Majority Leader Dean Skelos, and Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, both on corruption charges, that Andrew could be next. Or maybe that’s wishful thinking.
The Okie and I saw Seals and Crofts perform in NYC on November 12, 1971 – Bahá’u’lláh’s birthday!
A few months after I married my college sweetheart, the Okie, in 1972, she decided to become a Baha’i. She said that I ought not to have been surprised, since she had been thinking about it for seven years. This I did know.
In Persia, modern-day Iran, there was a guy named The Báb (1819-1850), who was a John the Baptist-like herald of the faith. “In the middle of the 19th century, He announced that He was the bearer of a message destined to transform humanity’s spiritual life.” That second messenger was Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), the “Glory of God”, “the Promised One foretold by the Báb and all of the Divine Messengers of the past. Bahá’u’lláh delivered a new Revelation from God to humanity.”
Indeed, I was intrigued with the notion of “progressive revelation,” among them Abraham, Krishna, Zoroaster, Moses, Buddha, Jesus Christ, Muhammad, the Báb, and Bahá’u’lláh, who were Manifestations of God” for different times.
“In His will, Bahá’u’lláh appointed His oldest son, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), as the authorized interpreter of His teachings and Head of the Faith. Throughout the East and West, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá became known as an ambassador of peace, an exemplary human being, and the leading exponent of a new Faith.
“Appointed Guardian of the Bahá’í Faith by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, His eldest grandson, Shoghi Effendi (1897-1957), spent 36 years systematically nurturing the development, deepening the understanding, and strengthening the unity of the Bahá’í community, as it increasingly grew to reflect the diversity of the entire human race.”
The most famous Baha’is you might have heard of was the singing duo Seals and Crofts, who the Okie and I saw perform on November 12, 1971 – Bahá’u’lláh’s birthday! – in New York City, with the then-unknown group Boz Scaggs opening for them.
Seals & Crofts put out several albums, with many of their songs – notably Year of Sunday [LISTEN] mentioning the Baha’i teachings. Interestingly, proselytizing was antithetical to Baha’i beliefs, but the duo had found a way to both make popular music and share their faith.
Ultimately, I never became a Baha’i, primarily because the Okie was proselytizing to ME. As an isolated member of the faith, she’d missed that lesson. I MIGHT have spent more time looking at this iteration of faith. Instead, I moved to an even more agnostic state of mind.
Version B is the ambitious black person who subordinates himself in order to achieve a more favorable status within the dominant society.
The Okie asks:
Some folks are saying this (picture) is racist. I think it’s perversely genius. It takes a still existing trademark with a very questionable past (Uncle Ben is now Chairman of the Board, it seems) and uses it for political satire. I went looking around the net for more information and found this article which I found interesting. Roger Green, I’d be interested in your take on it.
I read the comment on one string. Some felt it was a fine parody, appropriate about Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, someone who has said such outlandish things as that Jews having guns could have mitigated or even prevented the Holocaust. He’s not only been shown to be ignorant of history but, surprisingly for a neurosurgeon, profoundly wrongheaded about science.
Others felt the intent is irrelevant.”Stereotypes like ‘Uncle Ben’ and ‘Aunt Jemima’ are offensive to many African Americans in much the same way the pejorative ‘Uncle Tom’ is. They are used to perpetuate the myth of happy, subservient black people. that it is still being used to sell food products is as bad as a football team being called ‘Redskins’. And one added if it would have been OK if Barack and Michelle Obama had been so characterized.
This is a tricky nut to crack. I’m less concerned about evoking Uncle Ben as I am about the implicit suggestion of Uncle Tom. Though, as you’ll see, they are related.
I wrote about Uncle Tom’s Cabin, and the term Uncle Tom quite a while back, so I thought I’d take a look at the article the Okie mentioned, located on the website of the Jim Crow Museum of Racist Memorabilia. The piece made sense to me until, in its portrayal of the movie roles of Sidney Poitier, the writer declared all the roles listed to “approximate… the Tom stereotype, even though his characters were never one dimensional. Poitier did not play characters that were submissive, cheerful servants, but many of his characters were white-identified.” Notably missing was In the Heat of the Night, where Poitier returns the slap of the racist.
Next is the “Commercial Toms” section, which notes Uncle Ben’s “using the image of a smiling, elderly black man on its package.” (This begs the question what WOULD have been an appropriate black character?) “Arguably the most enduring commercial Tom is ‘Rastus,’ the Cream of Wheat Cook. While the guy on the package seems benign to me, the patois that he was stuck saying in earlier days was clearly racist: “Maybe Cream of Wheat aint got no vitamines. I dont know what them things is….” Too bad, because he always reminded me of some ancestors of my father.
The real crux of this matter is in the section “Uncle Tom as Opprobrium”:
In many African American communities “Uncle Tom” is a slur used to disparage a black person who is humiliatingly subservient or deferential to white people. Derived from Stowe’s character, the modern use is a perversion of her original portrayal. The contemporary use of the slur has two variations. Version A is the black person who is a docile, loyal, religious, contented servant who accommodates himself to a lowly status. Version B is the ambitious black person who subordinates himself in order to achieve a more favorable status within the dominant society. In both instances, the person is believed to overly identify with whites, in Version A because of fear, in Version B because of opportunism. This latter use is more common today.
“Uncle Tom,” unlike most anti-black slurs, is primarily used by blacks against blacks. Its synonyms include “oreo,” “sell-out,” “uncle,” “race-traitor,” and “white man’s negro.” It is an in-group term used as a social control mechanism.
I have discovered that some white people also feel the need to ascertain whether a black person is “black enough.” In column A, the moderate civil rights leaders of the 1960s (King, Whitney Young, et al.) had been called Toms by those more militant. But the Version B have included Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and pretty much any black Republican.
This is an extremely long way to say, no, I don’t think the picture is specifically racist; it surely did not offend me. Mentioning race, or Uncle Tom, or Uncle Ben, is not perforce inappropriate. But there is an element of what Nelson Mandela used to refer to as racialism, a conversation that has race as a core element.
At some point, we broached the subject of getting married. My parents thought it was a terrible idea.
After my arrest at IBM in May 1972, and her parents’ ultimatum about me, my girlfriend the Okie, inexplicably in retrospect, ended up living at my parents’ home. Sometime during my freshman year in college, my parents and sisters had moved from the tiny house on Gaines Street in Binghamton to the much more roomy house on Ackley Avenue in Johnson City, the next municipality over. She stayed in my sister Leslie’s room while Leslie spent six weeks with our great aunt Charlotte and some of Charlotte’s siblings. (Leslie should write about those adventures; I would post them here.)
From the money I had made working the year before, I had lent my parents some cash for the down payment on the house, the first one they ever owned. The house where I grew up was owned by my maternal grandmother, a source of tremendous ego irritation for my father, I’m sure. (My loaning my parents money became some odd big deal to my sisters when they found out only a year or two ago, and I’m still puzzled by it.)
The Okie and I were young (19) and very much in love. At some point, we broached the subject of getting married. My parents thought it was a terrible idea.
So the Okie and I went to Pennsylvania, just across the border from Binghamton, got a blood test, and got a marriage license in Susquehanna, PA. Baby sister Marcia made the cake, and with sister Leslie, and my friends Carol and Jon present, we got married by a justice of the peace.
Yes, we WERE too young, and fights over money and religion meant that, a little over two years later, the Okie moved to Philadelphia by herself. To this day, I’m still not 100% sure why.
The failure of this marriage put me into a major funk for the next three years, longer than we were together. One of the worst days, shortly after our divorce became final, was when she let me know she was getting married again.