No place like home


The AmeriNZ guy Arthur wrote about No place like home. A core paragraph: “For 24 years, my home wasn’t really a physical place—after all, Nigel and I lived in five different houses in three completely different areas in New Zealand. Instead, for me, ‘home’ was wherever Nigel and our furbabies were. That began to unravel when Nigel died.”

This got me thinking. I’ve lived in 30+ different places. How many of them were actually home? I’m leaving off a few places where I stayed anywhere from four days to two months except one.

5 Gaines Street, Binghamton, NY: the home I grew up in. Even though my room was defined by a partition, the ceiling was a painting of the solar system I commissioned my father to create. HOME.

Scudder Hall, New Paltz, NY (1971-72). A dorm is NOT HOME, though it was a pleasant enough experience. 29 Ackley Avenue, Johnson City, NY (1972). My parents moved there during my freshman year. NOT HOME.

New Paltz

The roach-infested place the Okie and I lived for two months in Kingston, NY (1972), assuredly NOT HOME. Colonial Arms, New Paltz (1972-1974). The Okie and I had people over. My neighbor Debi and I went grocery shopping together. On the other hand, the Okie, without my knowledge, let alone consent, invited people to crash with us for extended periods. HOME-ISH.

13 Maple Street, Binghamton, NY (1975). My grandma’s house, where I had no heat: NOT HOME. Three or four places in New Paltz (1975-76): NOT HOME.

The 1977 sojourn: my parents’ home in Charlotte, NC; my sister’s apartment in Queens, NY; Candid Yam’s sofa in New Paltz; my friend’s place in Schenectady. NOT HOME. The place on Eastern Parkway, Schenectady (1978-79), with two roomies. It may have been Sheila’s home, but for me, NOT HOME.

Albany, NY

First apartments in Albany (1978-80). It had a great sunken living room. But then the house was sold, and we had to move upstairs. NOT HOME.

223 Lancaster Street, Albany (1981-1983). I was working at FantaCo, a short distance away. My hangouts were Washington Park and Lark Street. My neighbors were great, including my friend Jessica and a couple of octogenarians, who gave me their 78s. At least a few times, I threw parties. HOME.

Madison Ave. I moved in because the Lancaster landlord threw everyone out to refurbish it. NOT HOME. 264 Western Ave. with the gospel writers Mark and John. HOME-ISH. The now-boarded-up 437 Second Street I wrote about; that, and the next place, HOME. The first time on Hudson Avenue and Hackett Blvd.: we could not have many guests for reasons. NOT HOME.

Home stretch

I especially liked the second time on Hudson Avenue, where I stayed for over four years. I actually carried petitions for my local city council person and worked the polls. My church and the YMCA, where I played racquetball, were within easy walking distance. Work was easy to get to. And my late friend Raoul had lived in the identical building next door until he died in 1983. HOME.

340 Manning Blvd. This is where my wife and I lived when we first got married. It had been her place before that. One of the rare, valuable things our pastor told us was that we ought to get a place that was ours. I always felt that my stuff, and therefore I, was being squeezed into that place. NOT HOME. Fortunately, I was there for only one year.

My current abode, since 2000. we took months to find a place we liked and could afford. It’s convenient. On ZOOM calls, you only see a small portion of the built-in bookcases. And, of course, our daughter was raised here. Fer sure, HOME.

1972: the Okie and I

crossing the border

I never said so explicitly here, but the Okie and I were 19 and madly in love. After I got arrested, she lived in my parents’ house in Johnson City, NY, near Binghamton. Even reading about it in my journal, I still can’t figure out, “How did that happen?”

And because we were 19 and knew everything, we decided that maybe we should get married. We talked to my parents about it, as well as our family friends Betty and Jim, with whom we played cards. Of course, they all thought this was a terrible idea. Perhaps the conversation started making both of us a bit anxious.

The rules then, as we understood them, were that we couldn’t get married in New York State without the consent of a parent. Here’s an interesting tidbit. In the state of Pennsylvania, as of Tuesday, August 22, 18-year-olds can get married without parental permission.

The Okie and I traveled to Susquehanna, PA, on Tuesday, August 22. We saw a Dr. Davis, who took blood samples. He was having difficulty finding my vein, which distressed me. To Montrose, PA, the next day to get a registration form which asked questions like could I support my wife economically? We told Betty, who told us we should tell my father before the fact.

The day

Saturday, August 26: my sister Leslie wore a red and white pantsuit. The Okie wore the long dress she made last year. We put the cake that my sister Marcia had made, champagne et al. in the car. Borrowed a pair of Dad’s car, the pair I had broken buckles. I wore a Guatemalan work shirt and jeans.

We went to Montrose, which has inverted traffic lights. Got the license. MD has sent blood tests, and we don’t have syphilis.

Returned to Binghamton and went to my friend Carol’s house, where her then-beau Jon was already. Carol’s sister Annette questioned me on my reasons for getting married. Carol’s mother already knew about the plan, but her father was surprised and congratulated us.

Jon and I went to Hi-Fi Record Shop and bought a couple tapes, including Electric Hot Tuna. We went to the Justice of the Peace, one Norman O. Brummer, waited and talked about rain had stinted the corn. Finally, The Okie, Leslie, and Carol arrive. Norman’s wife was nice.

The Okie looked beautiful. She was, for lack of a better word, radiant. Jon had my ring, and Leslie had the Okie’s. We all went to the Skylark Motel on Vestal Parkway. Leslie took all the corny pictures (cutting cake, drinking not very good champagne.

The next day

After breakfast, we went to Betty and Jim’s house and hung out with their kids. When we got back to my parents, they were in a good mood, although I heard through the grapevine (my sisters? Betty?) that Dad wished he knew beforehand. We loaded the car and the next day, drove off.

You may wonder what the urgency was in getting married. From a reliable source, my arrest at IBM Poughkeepsie caused a bit of static for her father at work, IBM Kingston. Apparently, the “bad” behavior of his daughter’s boyfriend made his jerk of a boss make noise about Okie’s dad’s employment.

Moreover, if we were married, the Okie’s parents could treat me like a son-in-law. Us living together in sin would have been difficult for them to cope with. At some level, that was probably true of the Okie and me as well.

Formerly muddled 1972 IBM memories

my worst automobile accident

all muddled upThe found diary has somewhat clarified my previously muddled 1972 IBM memories.

One thing I know: I got arrested at IBM Poughkeepsie at an antiwar demonstration on May 10, and was found guilty on May 18.

One thing I gathered: According to the Okie, her father, who worked at IBM Kingston, was furious with me because of the arrest. He, or both of her parents, gave her some sort of ultimatum of either them or me.

Another thing I know, although I’m surprised how this played out: the Okie ended up living at my parent’s house in Johnson City starting on May 24. Eventually, she slept in my sister Leslie’s room when Leslie went to Mexico with our great aunt Charlotte and some of Charlotte’s siblings. But she must have slept on the sofa in the den, or somewhere before that.

I what?

The Okie and I were desperate to find jobs. When I failed to find anything else, I ended back at IBM Endicott. I was a good employee when I worked there in 1971. It might have been that I thought the war machinery was built in Poughkeepsie but not in Endicott, to my knowledge. But that was disingenuous thinking.

I started there again on Wednesday, June 6, from 5:12 pm until 4 a.m., sometimes longer. Initially, I was running a metal cutting machine, cutting copper for hours, and sometimes running an autoclave, none of which I recall. 

According to the diary, a guy named Rex had given me rides home a few times in ’71, and again early in ’72. Other folks (Pat, Pam) gave me rides home. While sometimes, the Okie or sister Leslie gave me a ride to work and occasionally picked me up, I also hitchhiked both ways sometimes. 

On June 20, going to work, “an older man picked me up, telling me how much he liked colored people, how he fought for colored people, how some of his best friends were… He insisted on shaking my hand and swerved off the road. When I suggested that he stay on the road, he got mad and said, ‘Well, if that’s the way you feel, get out!'” I did but fortunately got picked up by another driver, and I also hitchhiked home. 

The accident

Now, I did post here about my most serious car accident, except that I had gotten the week wrong. It was actually, on Wednesday, June 21.  Hitchhiking, “I got picked up by a guy named Charlie. I didn’t know him but he knew my father and recognized me in him. He drops me off at a corner [McKinley Avenue], and I open the door then…

“As I learned later, this woman who had some arthritic condition in her leg, and had high-risk insurance, as a result, plowed into the rear of Charlie’s car at 35 mph because her leg could not reach the brake. Charlie’s car was pushed forward into the car in front of his, but since the car in front was much heavier than Charlie’s, it threw us back. Charlie was of course in the driver’s seat, but I was halfway out of the car and was knocked unconscious.”

“The ambulance took us to Ideal Hospital, where I had X-rays taken. They also took my pulse, temperature, and blood pressure a half dozen times before midnight. They gave me a shot of insulin and sewed up my three stitches. “

My parents, sister Marcia, and the Okie came to see me. “I couldn’t sleep and my very sore shoulder made turning over very difficult.” There are more details, about being in the hospital, in the same room as Charlie, for a day and a half. For one day June 30,  I went back to work. But when the family picked me up EARLY, at 2 a.m. – my arm gave way, and I ended up doing physical therapy for six weeks.


As I wrote a decade ago: “It was wrong, FOR ME, to have worked at IBM that summer. I don’t want to say I was punished by God in the accident, but metaphysically/spiritually/whatever, it was just bad karma. And it only would get worse.”

A couple of unrelated sidebars. Sunday the 25th: “Mother awakened me from a sound dream-filled sleep after the Okie had given me a back massage. I had to conduct the morning service including prayer, which supposedly brought tears to the eyes of my mother and [my sister Leslie’s godmother] Mrs. McElroy.  [The sermon was given by Beverly Thomas of the Urban League.]  

Monday the 26th: The Okie, Leslie, and I saw A Clockwork Orange, which I liked more in the immediate aftermath than I recall it now. 

1972: the Easter break

Kentucky State College Concert Choir

Robert Yates.Aaron Yates.Audrey
Robert, Aaron, Audrey Yates on Easter Sunday (April 2), 1972 at 29 Ackley Avenue, Johnson City, NY, home of Les and Trudy Green

In the 1972 annals, I had totally forgotten that the Okie came home with me for Easter break, beginning March 28. She drove us from New Paltz to Johnson City, near Binghamton. She met our family friends the Pomeroys.

The next day, we went to my old high school, Binghamton Central, and talked with my friend Carla [we’re still in touch] who yelled to me from a third-story window until a teacher closed it. Also, Amy H. [recently reconnected] and others [who I’ve lost track of]. Saw one of my favorite teachers, John Kellogg [RIP].

March 31 – My good friend Carol and her then-beau drove the Okie and me up old Route 11 from Binghamton to Syracuse to see the new movie The Godfather. [Was it not yet playing locally? Possibly.] Other films I had seen in March 1972: The Importance of Being Earnest; Gimme Shelter; Billy Jack; 2001: A Space Odyssey; and Performance, which I described as “weird”.

April 1 – My cousin Robert Yates, his wife Audrey, and their two-year-old son Aaron came to visit. Robert was my mother’s first cousin. But she was born in 1927, and he in 1946, so he was actually closer to my age. Robert, Audrey, my sister Leslie, and I went bowling at two different venues, in JC and the Vestal Plaza, a total of six games.

Easter Sunday

April 2- A bunch of returning college students, including me, were acknowledged at church. Inspired sermon by Rev. A.C. Bell. After dinner, lots of card games (whist, hearts) with Robert and Audrey, who returned to NYC that day, my parents, the Pomeroys, and me. The Okie also left for her parents’ house.

[Young Aaron was murdered – shot or stabbed, I understand – when he was 18 or 19. This devasted his parents, of course, but Robert became a great father figure, not just to his nieces and nephews, but to kids in the neighborhood. He died in 2016.]

April 3 – I was “supposed to meet some people @ Bing. Pub. Library… but no one showed. Someone mistaking me for an employee I assisted w/ card catalog.” [I did work there as a page two or three years earlier.] Saw familiar faces, including Vito [RIP, 1991], Michael Butler, Don Wheeler, and others.

Later, I interviewed my father for my economics paper.

April 4 – participated in a memorial for MLK, with participation by my church’s choir. Later, my mom’s bowling team won the championship. The US recognized Bangladesh.


April 5 – Adam Clayton Powell died yesterday, and baseball DIDN’T start today.

A concert by the Kentucky State College Concert Choir (KSCCC) was held at First Presbyterian Church. Rev. Roberts, the father of my HS friend Catherine Carson, gave the invocation. The Broome County Urban League officers, which probably included my father, were introduced.

“Guys in black tuxes with white shirts. Gals with pink blouses and light purplish long skirts. They sang four very beautiful classical numbers; I liked to listen to them with my eyes closed. Then a Slavic song and a chant-like song they had done last year. Males sing semi-spirituals and a female soloist sang an operatic song and another piece…

“Mom and I noticed that dad didn’t applaud at all for Motherless Child. Perhaps it means too much for him.” Someone announced that my sister Leslie “has won a scholarship to KSC.” [No, she did not end up going there.]

“Four spirituals with African drums… After the standing ovation, they sang Ain’t A That Good News (like it’s supposed to be sung) and The Battle Hymn of the Republic with a piano intro full of discords, which dad dug.”

Afterward, some co-ed seemed to be flirting with me, which was both awkward and nice. “Leslie auditioned sans choir as the audience like I had last year. [I have no recollection of that happening in 1971.] She sang a capella I Wish I knew How It Would Feel To Be Free rather well. She went with the KSCCC to a party at the Treadway Inn.”

Note that KSC, an HBCU, became Kentucky State University in 1972.

1972 – the surprise party

New Hampshire primary


Mar 5 – After playing pool with Uthaclena, I stopped at the vending machine. I took off my boots to keep my roommate’s floor clean. One of my socks came off. I walked into my room. I saw a stranger, the Okie’s roomie, then my father near the window, and my sister Leslie near my roomie’s mirror. SURPRISE party! Shocked was more like it.

Marcia, Mom, and of course, the Okie and the roomie were there. My family brought Kentucky Fried Chicken, cake, and some beverages. The roomie made a general birthday page in the dorm, and a few people came by. Leslie took her friend Joe to the bus station, then returned. The Okie’s mother and baby sister visited.

I got from my family two rolls of Scotch tape, a bottle of Stridex, 24 8-cents stamps, underpants, a nice blue shirt with a strange VOTE button, and some albums:
Color Blind – the Glitterhouse
Stoned Soul Picnic – the Fifth Dimension
Santana III
There’s A Riot Goin’ On – Sly and the Family Stone
The Okie was worried I wouldn’t like the Leadbelly album she bought me, but I did, especially Bourgeois Blues and Gallows Pole.

The Okie’s father arrived before my family left. Apparently, he was nervous to meet them for some reason, the Okie told me later.

The Okie and I went to see the movie Last Summer, which she found very upsetting, relating to Cathy Burns’ Rhoda. (Burns, who died in 2019, was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress.)

After the party

Mar 6 Yesterday must have really thrown me because I was so disorganized. Couldn’t find my checkbook or notebooks. Forgot the meal ticket booklet, the fact that one of my classes was canceled, and that my gym stuff was in my laundry

Mar 7 My 19th birthday. Also, the day of the New Hampshire primaries. According to WNPC: Muskie 42%, McGovern 34%, Yorty 8%, Hartke 4%, with votes for supposed non-candidates Mills (5%) and Kennedy (1%). (Official numbers were slightly different.)

Did three loads of laundry. Uthaclena gave me the John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band album.

Later, I suddenly became very depressed, in part about off and on communication with the Okie.

In general

A lot about snowball fights, doing schoolwork (I really like my Basic Economics II class), Uthaclena reading comic books (e.g. Green Lantern/Green Arrow 89), the Okie’s unreliable car, writing letters, and eating ice cream sandwiches.

Feb 24 – Uthaclena received the Bangladesh album. I gave him Absolutely Live – the Doors. A couple of days later, he bought Pictures at an Exhibition – Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.
Feb 26 – Bruce Goldberg had said on WNPC (college radio) that Muhammad Ali was going to meet the kangaroo boxing champion of the world. Apparently, MSG was going to sue Bruce for defamation of character over what was a joke.

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