Sunday Stealing: Extraordinary Penpals

Donny Hathaway

extraordinary penpalsHere’s another Sunday Stealing from the League of Extraordinary Penpals

Have you ever written to a celebrity? Did they respond?

I don’t know that I’ve ever written to any celebrity directly except to some comic book creator types who I have gotten to know. I did write to Paul Simon’s label once to complain that the six-minute version of Boy In The Bubble should have been on the expanded version of Graceland, but there’s no reason to think that Paul himself ever read it.

Do you read letters immediately or wait until you are ready to reply?

What are “letters”? Oh yeah, I remember letters. Usually wait, although if I think I’ll let it slip through the cracks, I’ll try to push it up in my queue.

My preferences when it comes to reading

Sufficient light (a growing requirement), probably on the sofa because it’s the only place, other than my office (and I want not even to see the computer, lest I be tempted to check it out), that provides comfort and sufficient illumination. The television must not be on. Music can be, but it should not have words, which is to say mostly classical or jazz.

Invisible pain

What I’m least likely to change my mind about?

Things that are true over time. An example: my wife had some medical issues involving her left leg. She has not been to church in over a month. I recommended that she take her cane to church today. This is because when someone does not appear hurt/injured, others perceive that he or she is better physically than they might be.

I believe this to be true because my wife and I have a friend who has experienced severe pain over time. They have told us that because they don’t LOOK unwell that others believe they are faking or malingering. Having a crutch or sling or wheelchair or visible bandages – and my wife has bandages under her clothes – is a sign that “something is wrong.”

Whether my wife will take the advice, IDK.

 The topics I would get wrong during trivia

Car models, flower varieties, and actors who became famous in the 21st century.

What I’m hopeful about right now?

That my wife will continue to heal

Philosophies I’ve learned/embraced from others

A Unitarian once told me that “we create our own theology,” and I think that’s true. I may believe something uplifting from the Gospel according to Matthew, but I don’t feel obliged to explain some dreadful verses from Leviticus.

What makes home feel like home?

Music and books.

Talents and skills I like to cultivate

Getting around via mass transit, keeping up with political events

More music

What makes my heart race?

Music, for sure. There is music that will make me cry with joy or cry with melancholy. Take one example: Gone Away by Roberta Flack. It really doesn’t get going until the second verse. It’s described here: The late, great Donny Hathaway “lifted that fleeting horn melody from his own ‘I Believe to My Soul’ and used it to anchor the chorus and closing section.” In the right mood, the song can make me weep.

What power means to me

The ability to turn on my computer, my CD player, my cellphone…

One of my comfort hobbies

Playing with my Hess trucks.

Last time I was pleasantly surprised

When my wife started changing her own bandages this week

How was my October 2022?

Busy and exhausted, as noted here and here and here and especially here,  plus another post I haven’t put out yet.

Those who inspire my growth

Almost anyone who has a rational point of view. Of course, I get to define what I think is rational.

Melancholy Quintet of Songs

All you people who complain about all those sappy, romantic songs, these are for you

On Valentine’s Day, people are always playing these lovey-dovey songs. It being roughly six months from that holiday, I thought I would link to some of those songs I used to play when I broke up with someone. Haven’t done that in well over a decade, fortunately, yet the songs themselves still make me melancholy. It’s strange how music still holds its sway.

The Supremes – Remove This Doubt. You may know this from the Elvis Costello cover, but the original is from one of my favorite Motown albums of the 1960s, The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland. Funny thing that most of the time in their hit period, they WERE singing H-D-H.

Aretha Franklin – Sweet Bitter Love. From Aretha’s Columbia Records period. I also have the Roberta Flack version, but QoS’ version is better.

Jane Olivor–My first night alone without you. Also, have the Bonnie Raitt version. Got the Olivor version by accident, with someone giving me the “wrong” birthday present. But I never corrected it.

Roberta Flack – Gone Away. On my top 10 song list.

Lorraine Ellison – Stay with me. Among others, Bette Midler recorded this. The Ellison version I found on a Warner Brothers lost leader album, though memory suggests it was first recorded on Mercury Records.
Description; lyrics; recording.

So all you people who complain about all those sappy, romantic songs: these are for you. And here’s some advice on how not to get your heart broken.

Picture courtesy of The Bad Chemicals.

Me and Donna George

DONNA L. GEORGE, Staff Member Albany United Methodist Society
Born: 27 Oct 1949; Died: 20 Sep 2002

I had this friend named Donna George. I knew her from work with the socially active Albany United Methodist Society. I don’t know why, but certain people, including a particular pastor, treated her quite badly, taking advantage of her goodwill. I think that, at some level, I felt a lot of sympathy for her. Ultimately, she saw our relationship one way, and I another, yet we managed to maintain a friendship in spite of that.

In 2002, she was diagnosed with brain cancer. Knowing she would be incapable of making decisions very soon, she got three or four of her friends to come to St. Peter’s hospice to explain her wishes that we divvy up her music, books, and art and give them to various buddies before she died, lest her family, from whom she was mostly estranged, could get their hands on them.

I was one of the folks in charge of the music, giving this person some Sinatra, and that person some classical albums, et al. I held onto a Beach Boys box set, which I had given her, and I also kept the Roberta Flack album Quiet Fire, for it contained a cover of the BeeGees’ To Love Somebody, which represented in song what she wished our relationship would be. I requested it on Coverville back in February (Roberta’s 75th birthday), and Brian Ibbott played it at the 18:50 mark.

The minister who gave her such grief was at the funeral, as was another adversary. I was so miffed.

There was an article in the local newspaper about her contributions to social justice, but I haven’t been able to find it. All I could retrieve was this letter to the editor, which is, remarkably, still relevant, unfortunately.

Albany Times Union (Albany, NY). (July 28, 2000): News: pA14.

A recent letter to the editor pointedly noted that, in a Times Union photo, a customer in a food pantry line was talking on a cell phone. The writer sarcastically asserted how nice it was that this allegedly poor person could have this convenience while waiting for free food.

This strikes me as an instance where what is “fashionable” allows certain groups to be “fair game.” We look at a photo, assume the worst, and crow about it, knowing that many will buy in, based on very limited evidence.

Yes, this person might be the owner of the cell phone. But here are some other possibilities. The person could need to make an important call for a prospective job at the exact time of his/her appointment at the pantry, and someone lent the phone to solve the dilemma. I know a mom who is among the working poor (the fastest-growing pantry population) who makes other sacrifices so she can have a cell phone to be in close touch with her children while she is performing her job duties — which often require her to be on the go. A relative might provide the gift of a cell phone so that a working parent can stay in ready touch with the children.

The possibilities are nearly endless. But popular views of people in poverty tend to allow for none of these. They are poor and they should have nothing — certainly no “frills!” If they do, they are “getting one over” on the system. All of this is part of a false “them” and “us” way of thinking, and being that it is rampant today, is certainly at odds with both secular compassion and the habits of the heart of any faith community I can think of. We can all do better than this.

DONNA L. GEORGE, Staff Member Albany United Methodist Society
Born: 27 Oct 1949; Died: 20 Sep 2002

Roberta Flack is 75

More than almost any other song, this reminds me of love lost, and it still has the capacity of making me quite sad.

I’m fairly sure Roberta Flack’s turning 75; while some sources have her listed as being born in 1939, her Facebook page and Wikipedia have her born in 1937. It’s likely it was my sister Leslie who turned me on to Roberta’s music. She owned the second album, Chapter Two, which she played rather constantly. I almost felt bad that Roberta achieved a modicum of commercial success; we thought Roberta was our little secret, known by the cognoscenti.

I had the pleasure of seeing her perform at First Night in Albany about a dozen years ago. She has been living in the Dakota building in NYC for a number of years, a neighbor of Yoko Ono.

Here’s a bunch of her songs that I like. Unfortunately, I didn’t always find them on YouTube or elsewhere, so you might only hear a snippet; it will be labeled as such:

11. Why Don’t You Move In With Me – my favorite part, the introductory piano, you don’t hear in this SNIPPET from the first song on the Blue Lights in the Basement album.

10. You’ve Got a Friend – featuring the great, lamented Donny Hathaway. Her first pop hit (#29 in 1971).

9. Compared to What – from the jazzy first album, First Take.

8. Killing Me Softly with His Song – hit single (#1 for 5 weeks in 1973).

7. Where Is the Love – another hit (#5 in 1972) with Donny Hathaway

6. Business Goes On As Usual – a great song from Chapter Two about war and money; a SNIPPET.

5. First Time Ever I Saw Your Face – though released on First Take back in 1969, popularized because of its inclusion in the movie Play Misty for Me. #1 for 6 weeks in 1972.

4. Go Up Moses – a great variation on the old spiritual Go Down Moses from her third album, Quiet Fire. A SNIPPET.

3. To Love Somebody – a soulful cover of the Bee Gees’ song, from Quiet Fire. A SNIPPET; a favorite song of my late friend Donna.

2. Reverend Lee – the word about this song from Chapter Two is venerous.

1. Gone Away – more than almost any other song, this reminds me of love lost, and it still has the capacity of making me quite sad.

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