Back to the Parlor City

The “new” Route 17

Binghamton, NY, was called the Parlor City. From here: The name “goes back to the 19th century. Binghamton had massive mansions with huge parlors where people would gather and spend time together. There were so many fancy parlors that people started calling Binghamton the ‘Parlor City.'” There was a Parlor City Shoe Store that I recall.

Thursday, October 5: Sister Leslie drove us from Albany. The last time she was in Albany, there were toll booths on the New York State Thruway. The tolls are still applied, but electronically.

There was a lot of road construction. In both directions, one exit was straight ahead while the road continued to the left, and though it was well-marked, the brain was slow to make the translation.

I was going to stay at the spare home of my friend C, while Leslie was going to stay with her friend MJ. However, when Leslie was flying, she got a text from MJ saying she had to go to the hospital. The day we arrived, MJ had surgery. So Leslie stayed at C’s place as well. More Plan B.

Friday, October 6: Leslie drove us all over downtown Binghamton, then to a part of Binghamton I hadn’t been to in over a half-century. Above is a map of the eastern portion of the First Ward in Binghamton. In the lower part of the faded portion, you may see Route 17. This was the “new” 17, which involved tearing down many houses on the north half of Prospect Street, the minor league baseball stadium Johnson Field in nearby Johnson City, and much more.

Lost Horizon

Intellectually, I knew houses were still north of Prospect, as Mygatt Street goes under Route 17. My maternal grandmother’s brother Ed lived up there, somewhere. I’m uncertain where, though he was less than a mile away. Grandma Williams forbade us, and even her adult daughter, my mom, from having anything to do with Ed because he was “living in sin” with a woman named Edna. Also, Leslie had a friend move up there. Though only a mile away, it was like a different world.

So, I haven’t gone up Mygatt and turned right since the walkway to Ely Park entryway came down in the late 1960s.In addition to a golf course, there were some nice houses. What’s most fascinating, though, is that a good chunk feels as though you’re in an undeveloped rural area.
Turning left at the top of Mygatt Street, I had only done once ever, attending a burial at a private cemetery in 2012.


BCHS nametag 1972-2022My sister’s reunion was in two parts. The Friday evening “Ice-Breaker” was at The American Legion on Robinson St. I spent a good deal of time talking to the younger siblings of the friends of mine. Though I didn’t know any of them well, I knew them for a very long time and was some connective tissue. Incidentally, the hors-d’oeuvres were great and plentiful; we were encouraged to take food home.

Saturday, October 7

The “Main Event” was at The Relief Pitcher, on Conklin Ave., Binghamton. I had a surprisingly good time at my sister’s reunion, arguably more than my own the year before. The 1972 class badges were much better than the 1971 ones.

Sunday, October 8

Leslie and I went to our old church, Trinity A.M.E. Zion on the corner of Oak and Lydia. I recognized the keyboardist as someone I grew up with. She recognized my sister but not me, probably because of my vitiligo. My father’s cousin Ruth was there too. The in-person congregation was small, fewer than 10. But there were 13 or 14 tuning in on ZOOM, and two of them participated, reading scripture and giving a prayer.

That evening, we took C and her husband out to dinner as thanks for providing us with accommodations plus plenty of food.

Monday, October 9

Leslie and I returned to Albany, and we had the pleasure of seeing my daughter, who had been taking good care of her mother.

What’s your favorite vacation?

two Olin reunions

vacationThat Greg Burgas, the scoundrel, asked What’s your favorite vacation?

Overthinking this, as usual, I don’t recall any vacations growing up. Oh, we would go camping, which I hated, and we might see some attractions. Day trips to Eldridge Park in Elmira, NY; Catskill (NY) Game Farm et al. Maybe the trip I took with dad to Lake George, NY was a vacation, though it was only a few days.

My family visited NYC several times, but it was partly to see my mom’s cousins. Going to the Empire State Building, Coney Island, or Jones Beach was a secondary consideration. Likewise, trips with my wife’s family to Massachusetts didn’t usually feel like vacay, mostly because it was often logistically or interpersonally… complicated. However, the trip to Newport, RI, in 2012 was far less stressful far than most.

My wife and I did take a trip to Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont at some point before the daughter was born; THAT was a vacation, as was the trip to Maine in 2003. My favorite was my trip to Portland, ME, with my soon-to-be wife in March 1999, when we got snowed in for a couple of days. And even the three of us going to Yorktown in 2008.


But when I think of vacations, I think of three trips, or maybe four. There’s the one in 1998, which I wrote about while attempting to write about my 2011 vacation.

2011: the Olin international reunion in Peterborough, ON, Canada. We stopped at Niagara Falls (more ); Toronto  (moremoremore);  eating in Canada; reunion; Canton, NY

2016:the Olin international reunion in Ashtabula, OH.  Corning (NY) Museum of Glass; Seneca Nation; Lucy-Desi Museum; Pro Football Hall of Fame; First Ladies National Historic Site; Rock And Roll Hall of Fame (more); reunion; traffic; Letchworth State Park. There was more, but I didn’t write about it until the following year.

Closer to Albany, NY, than San Diego

The fourth is our honeymoon in Barbados in May 1999. Considering it’s the only time I’ve ever been anywhere besides the US, Canada, and Mexico, I’ve written relatively little about it, in part because it predated this blog.

Truth to tell, it was just grand to go to any all-inclusive resort for six nights, especially as a prize for coming in second on JEOPARDY on my second episode. But arranging for the trip was terribly complicated, and it makes sense that the show has since opted for cash prizes for second and third place.

The ocean was gorgeous. My wife went snorkeling, but I opted out. There were three different places to eat dinner, and the food was fabulous. We bought a rum cake to take home; it was extraordinarily delicious. We enjoyed having tea at 4 p.m.

Everything was interesting to us, from the way the news was far more international to the wall-to-wall coverage of cricket. I must say that the cab ride from the airport to the resort was a white-knuckle affair, and there was a fatal automobile accident that very afternoon we arrived.

When we returned to the States, we needed to pay $13 apiece for the privilege. (If we didn’t have it, would that mean we could stay forever?) Somehow, we were bumped to first class on the five-hour flight home. Customs at the JFK airport, though, was chaotic, with the queue somehow turned into a figure eight.

The reunions and the black eye

sense of humor

black eyeWe’ll get to the black eye soon enough.

Saturday through Monday, the weekend after Independence Day, my wife, my mother-in-law, and I went to see folks in the Binghamton, NY, area.

Saturday night, we first saw a cousin of my wife’s and her husband. They couldn’t make the Olin reunion. We talked about whether their property was actually… haunted? They made a good circumstantial case for it.

Sunday morning, we saw a bridesmaid at our wedding; we were in her wedding with her husband of 20 years. In November 2021, we rendezvoused with them in Oneonta, roughly halfway between Albany and Binghamton. But before that, it had been years. The guy had a new job where he finally felt appreciated; his previous workplace sucketh mightily, something I know about.

Sunday afternoon, we had the Olin reunion. These are my MIL’s people, whose genealogy goes back to the late 17th century in the US. I’ve described it briefly here. (There’s a cute pic of my kid from a decade ago; just noting.)

After the reunion, one of my oldest friends, Carol, who I’ve known since before my wife Carol was born, came to the reunion site. She met my MIL, and then MIL and my wife left while my friend Carol and I talked for about three hours about everything before she dropped me off at the hotel.

What about the black eye?

Yeah, right. The Friday morning before the reunion, my wife announced that she would go for a walk for about a half hour. Great, I’ll check my email and maybe start a blog post. Less than 20 minutes later, she was back. She had bruises on her knees, knuckles, and face.

She had been talking to a neighbor about a cat. As she walked away, she turned back to say goodbye and tripped over an uneven slab of a sidewalk two doors down from our house. Her sunglasses broke; I’m not sure if they were the cause of the black eye under her right eye, the cut on her right cheek, or both. Regardless, I got her some ice, as our daughter and I helped patch her up.

Eventually, she went to the local urgent care folks. They decided stitches were not warranted but did more cleaning up. She also got a tetanus shot since she couldn’t remember the last time she had gotten one.

The interesting thing about black eyes is that they go through colorful phases. Initially black and blue, with a hint of red, they morph into shades of green, gray, and yellow.

The one thing that really bugged me about the weekend mentioned above is that no fewer than five people “joked” about me giving my wife a black eye. “Did you give her a black eye?” or the like. The first time, I groaned. The subsequent times, I’d say, “That’s two.” “That’s three…”

Here’s the thing. I was CERTAIN – should have bet money on it – that someone would say that, even though, or probably BECAUSE they knew I had not, and would not hit my wife in the face. Person #5 tried to explain that there’s such a problem with domestic violence in this country. Yes. I. Know. That. This is why it irritated me so.


The Thursday morning after the reunions, I walked into my office and tripped over the suitcase I had not yet fully unpacked. I hit my chin, cut my right pinkie finger, banged my left wrist, and scraped my right arm. We then had matching bruises on our right knees. That afternoon, at a birthday party, time #6 of “What did you do to your wife?”

Some people GOT my irritation. Friend Carol did. The adult daughter of the birthday celebrant got it. And I appreciated that.

A person at the birthday party asked me if I’ve always had such a good sense of humor, a question I had no idea how to answer. But there are some things I just don’t find funny at all.

O for either Ontario or Ohio

neither Cleveland or Cincinnati is the largest city in Ohio

OntarioO. was not uncommon in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for either Ontario or Ohio. An assumption of intranational context was often the only disambiguating factor in that era.”

OH Ohio, a state in the Midwest US, often not abbreviated at all. Capital and largest city: Columbus. The dominance of Columbus is relatively recent, which is why there are major league baseball and football teams in Cleveland and Cincinnati. Ohio has the only state flag that is not rectangular.

I’ve been to Cleveland twice, in 1998 and 2016, both times visiting the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

During the 2016 trip, we also went to the Football Hall of Fame in Canton and the Olin International Family Reunion in Ashtabula. On our way back from Indiana in the summer of 2019, we stopped to eat in Ashtabula County.

The previous reunion

ON Ontario, a province in Canada, sometimes abbreviated Ont. Capital and largest city: Toronto, which is the largest city in the country. The capital of Canada, Ottawa, is also in Ontario.

I have been to Niagara Falls several times. The family made a loop around Lake Ontario in 2011 and visited Toronto for a few days. Our ultimate destination was the Olin International Family Reunion in Petersborough.

in 1998, my friend Sarah and I got gasoline in Windsor, right across from Detroit, MI, because it was cheaper in Canada at the time.

OK Oklahoma, a state in South Central US, historically abbreviated Okla. Capital and largest city: Oklahoma City. I wrote about the state in 2013. as I noted, I’ve only been to Oklahoma once and it was brief.

I had been to a Texas Small Business Development Center conference in Galveston in 1996. Then I took a short trip by plane from Houston, TX to Norman, OK and had a meeting with statewide representatives. It was in a non-descript hotel, which could have been ANYWHERE.

Of course, Oklahoma was the home of the late, great blogger Dustbury.

OR Oregon, a state in the Pacific Northwest of the US, traditionally abbreviated Ore. or Oreg. Capital: Salem. Largest city: Portland. I have a vague recollection of the Oregon Treaty of 1846.

O is for ABC Wednesday

Gracious she, the middle child

The excitement of her trip east to see her classmates, based on social media, is very high.

On one of our irregular-but-always-lengthy telephone conversations, the middle child asked me advice about this guy. They’d been friends, but he had become what I can only describe as toxic. (Actually, there are other other terms I could use about him, but I’m trying to keep the content here clean.)

He was that way to some other people as well, as I understand it. I once told her that he was a tool, and that became my sobriquet for him, in lieu of actually saying his name. “What’s the Tool up to now?” I’d say.

And then, after he was finally out of her life, he suddenly dropped dead. She wanted to know if she should go to the funeral. My counsel was that she should do what she felt moved to do. I have to tell you, though, that I wouldn’t have gone.

Yet she did, and appeared gracious to their mutual acquaintances in doing so. Hmm, graciousness – what a concept. In many ways, I think she’s a better person than I am, more compassionate. She does tend to wear her heart on her sleeve, whereas my feelings tend to be more internalized.

I’m fairly sure that I haven’t seen either of my sisters in person since my mother’s funeral in February 2011. But I very likely will see Leslie this fall. She is going to her high school reunion. I was perfectly happy to have blown off MY reunion last year – I THINK there was one – but crashing hers has enough emotional distance to tolerate.

Even though I was Student Government president at BCHS, Leslie was the real star in high school, both through performing and by the strength of her personality; I say this with zero jealousy, then or now. And the excitement of her trip east to see her classmates, based on social media, is very high.

The photo is from a fashion show at the Fowler’s department store in downtown Binghamton, NY some, OK, many years ago, when there WAS a Fowler’s department store.

Happy birthday, middle child.

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