Maladies Melodies Allergies

my second COVID booster

There’s a Paul Simon song that starts Maladies Melodies Allergies. I so relate.

My allergies to pollen and the like have been quite severe this season, the worst in years. They were so awful that every time my head hit the pillow at night, within five minutes, I would start to cough uncontrollably. Even trying to sleep with my head propped up wasn’t sufficient. One night I woke up four times, after about 90 minutes each time.

Finally, I started taking the generic version of Nyquil just so I could sleep for six hours in a row. It has a cough suppressant and a nasal decongestant. Likewise, my daughter suffers from seasonal allergies which affect her sleep. She actually stayed home from school a day last week, from sheer fatigue.

I decided that we should each take a home COVID test. As I expected, they were both negative. The other motivation for mine was that I was scheduled to get a second COVID booster. I understand that getting the booster while you actually have COVID is contraindicated. Incidentally, I had no bad reaction, as usual, as long as I didn’t lean my arm on the injection site.

We now have several COVID test kits, some from that time not so long ago when they were a bit difficult to come by. Now they are practically ubiquitous, which is good since I’ve used them a total of thrice in a week. The CDC guidelines in Albany County changed this past Thursday from GREEN to YELLOW, which means masking is no longer optional in church. So before Maundy Thursday and Easter Sunday, I took a rapid test.

Expiry

I was curious about the fact that all the tests we currently own have an expiration date of June 30. This article from Health News Hub states: “The Food and Drug Administration countered Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidance by extending their expiration dates. The FDA says it’s OK to add three months to any expiration date printed on a test kit box. (The BinaxNow test kit received FDA approval for an extended shelf life after tests showed the kit components were effective for up to 15 months.)

“Beyond the extended expiration date, results are not reliable.”

Also: “Most manufacturers of at-home tests recommend storing the kits between 35 degrees and 86 degrees. The greatest threat now is delivery during the cold winter months. A test kit left for a day or more in your mailbox at frigid temperatures could freeze the liquid reagent inside a cartridge that comes with the kit, invalidating the test results.”

So, if you see me going into a coughing jag, it’s unlikely that I am spreading COVID, only hay fever. It’s because I’m going to be getting used to sticking a cotton swab up my nose for a while.

Oh, yeah, that Paul Simon song.

The follow-up post: ice, COVID, more

Half a block away

ice tireThis is a follow-up post about what I’ve written about, most recently.

Remember that our car was stuck in the ice in February? Of course, you do. After we got out, and the snow and ice subsequently melted away, we discovered that our neighbor’s sidewalk was still very wet. There was water bubbling up from the intersection of their sidewalk and the walkway to their house.

Apparently, someone from the city or from National Grid, the power company, nicked the waterline. Their water bill must have been terrible for that quarter. The owner had to contact a company to use their backhoe to dig up a couple of sidewalk panels so that the leak could be fixed.

This explains why there was SO much water around our car thawing and refreezing since our car was essentially in front of their house.

Grandma Agatha

I’ve been trying to access the records of the court case involving my grandmother, Agatha Walker (later Green), and my biological grandfather Raymond Cone from October 1926.

Alas, I got word that they can’t find the records. They may have been misfiled or destroyed. And I know, from the conversation I had with the person at Family Court, that they are very interested in this case.

The unmasking

I’ve noted that our church had been masking during worship. However, the Session, the ruling body of the congregation, had commissioned a group of folks, expert in these things, including current and former members of the state Department of Health. The infection rate in Albany County, NY is presently at Green, or low, as is all of New York State. (Green is good, as we know.)

The bottom line is that, as of March 20, masks are optional during worship. The choir, for instance, had a discussion at the beginning of the St. Patrick’s Day rehearsal. Most chose to unmask while singing. BUT no one had to. I tended to keep my mask on while NOT singing but to take it off when I was.

Moreover, congregational singing was allowed, which made them, and me, very happy. And they passed the peace by moving around, rather than just waving at each other.

I will say that my comfort level with unmasking was based on the fact that the choir members are fully vaccinated. Moreover – and I don’t know how to say this without sounding pretentious – our congregation is of a demographic, educational, and political composition that most, if not all of them have gotten the vaccines and likely wearing masks frequently.

Now I know this could change with the BA.2 variant of Omicron in Europe, Asia, and Africa. The recent BAFTA awards in England may have been a super spreader event. And there are more stringent rules in place at church if the CDC guidance for our county goes to Yellow or Orange.

Former governor

Speaking of my church, you probably WON’T remember that I wrote about New York Governor Martin Glynn nearly a decade ago. The Glynn Mansion is half a block from my church! I have walked by it a few dozen times since writing that post. But only recently did I notice the commemorative plaque.

The music of my parents

Ed Sullivan?

Slam Stewart
Slam Stewart

When I was talking with my sisters earlier in the year, I asked them about the music of my parents, our parents. Were there tunes listened to and/or sung by both Les and Trudy? I have mentioned at length what my father listened to and sang.

My mom had 78s of Nat Cole and big band artists. I associate my mother’s LPs as soundtracks of movie musicals and Broadway plays, sometimes the originals, such as the movies West Side Story and The Sound of Music. But more often it was some off-brand version, some presented by Ed Sullivan, almost certainly including Pal Joey and Kiss Me, Kate. Here’s Always True To You In My Fashion from the latter album.

Mom also used to sing around the house. She had a pleasant voice, with a slightly Betty Boop timbre. One song she particularly must have liked was A, You’re Adorable, a 1949 #1 hit for Perry Como. Though her version was more like the take by Jo Stafford and Gordon MacRae, #4 in that same year.

I understand that, before she was married to my dad, Mom sang in the choir at Oak Street Methodist Church. As far as I know, she never sang at Trinity AME Zion, though my father did for years.

One year I bought Joe’s Jackson’s Jumpin’ Jive album (title song) for my mom. Soon thereafter, she asked me why on earth I bought her THAT. A miss.

Wes? Slam?

One suggestion of music my parents listened to together was Wes Montgomery, which I had put in my dad’s category. Here’s The Incredible Jazz Guitar.

My sisters also thought of Slam Stewart. While I don’t recall my parents hearing him together, he was well known in our hometown of Binghamton. His humming bass was very affecting. Somewhere in my attic, I have an LP that was recorded as a benefit for the Binghamton Sertoma Club. Here’s  Slam Jam by Slam Stewart. I saw him perform at SPAC in the late 1970s or early 1980s.

Did they have “Our Song”? If they did, we never heard about it. I suppose I wish they had, like those folks in that Alexa commercial dancing to I Only Have Eyes For You by the Flamingoes, a song that BTW I greatly adore.

Ultimately, Les and Trudy Green would probably agree, the music they were most fond of was that of Les Green. My mother said often that someone needs to be in the audience, and she was an enthusiastic participant in that role.

My parents wed on March 12, 1950, and were married for 50 years before my father died.

Normal-ish: Proctors, ASO, choir

No buffoon bassoon

ProctorsIn the past month, I had several days that I considered normal-ish. Familiar, though with a twist.

Th, 12/9: I went to the Proctors Theatre in nearby Schenectady. I’ve been going there to see for years to see touring musicals. Often I’ve had season tickets for the Thursday matinee because it’s the least expensive option. Indeed, I made that choice way back in the spring of 2019 for the 2019-2020 run. I saw three shows. and then…

I don’t even remember when Summer: The Donna Summer Story was supposed to take place initially, but I think it was rescheduled at least twice because of COVID. FINALLY, I got to take the bus to the old vaudeville venue. First, I was asked for my vaccine card, which I had on my phone. Then I could pick up my ticket at the will call.

As for the show itself, there were actually three women playing the disco queen at various stages of her life. One also played Donna’s mother and another Donna’s daughter. Oddly enough, this was not confusing. And all of them were very good.

I wasn’t a huge disco fan. But as I wrote about her three years ago, I had a lot of respect for Donna Summer: her look and especially her voice.

On The Radio

But as this review in the Chicago Tribune noted of the tour: “It is a very rough book.” Yeah, that was it. The show “carelessly abandon[s] most of its scenes in mid-flow for self-serving monologues. The story veers “back and forth between the personal and the professional” in an uneasy manner. The reviewer thinks those “behind-the-music-with-the-guys-in-suits stuff… so rarely works in these kinds of shows.” I’ve seen some that do work – Beautiful, for one – but this was not one of them.

This I didn’t remember: “Summer, of course, upset a lot of her gay fans with a homophobic remark at a Cleveland concert, at the height of the AIDS crisis to boot.” The story monologue disowning her previous statement was astonishingly clunky.

Ragnarok

Sa 12/11: Likewise, it was the first visit to the Albany Symphony Orchestra at the Palace Theatre, under the direction of David Alan Miller, since COVID. A church friend had tickets he could not use. Yes, proof of COVID vaccinations was needed.

The first piece was Don Juan by Richard Strauss. as the show notes suggest: Strauss “makes us see from the get-go the bravado of this libertine.”

The second and third pieces, one before the intermission and one after, were written by Christopher Rouse (1949-2019). The ASO, which Rouse visited frequently, was to record the compositions the following day.

From the composer’s notes about Heimdall’s Trumpet: his “blasts on his trumpet announce the onset of Ragnarok, the Norse equivalent of Armageddon.” He rightly notes “the title… refers properly to the finale… in a very short orchestral fortissimo outburst…” And it was so!  Eric Berlin was the fine soloist.

Rouse’s bassoon concerto, with the virtuoso Peter Kolkay was a lot more fun, with Kolkay sometimes fading out, yet the orchestra’s other bassoons filling in. It was not buffoonish, though. Comedy is difficult to explain.

Finally, excerpts from The Nutcracker, not just the suite but about a third of the whole ballet.

Church

Su 12/12: Our choir has been rehearsing since October, with everyone with at least two shots. But the group, other than the section leaders, haven’t sung. That is until 11/27 when half the choir got to sing, masked. And no forte, because we’ve read that it is the volume of singing, or speaking, that has the greater chance to spread infection.

My half got to sing on 12/12. It was a little difficult because, being spread out, it was hard to hear the others in the bass section, let alone the other parts.

That said, it was GLORIOUS to be in the choir loft again. I’m not saying I got a little verklempt, but…

So normal-ish. Which is good enough for now.

Singing parts; cream of tartar

the Pips

lemon merengue pieCarla, who I’ve known since high school choir – was she an alto? – decided she needed to know stuff:

Ok… when you sing alone… do you mostly sing the melody, or do you sing your “part?”

Almost always, in four-part music that I’m familiar with, it’s the bass line. In pop music, it’s usually the Pips response, not the Gladys Knight lead. On Lola (Kinks) or The Boxer (S&G), it’d be the high harmony, not the melody. I just hear them better.

To that end, I can sing a higher pitch in harmony than in melody. This makes no physical sense, so it must be mental. We had a church play in March, Once On This Island. I hated singing the high parts in my solo; it made me anxious. But the harmony, I absolutely LOVED doing. Harmony almost always I find relaxing.

No lemon merengue pie?

She also wants to know – those people from Binghamton, NY always inquisitive, especially when the extended family runs the Little Venice restaurant:
OK here is another question…. why are you unfamiliar with cream of tartar? You never make lemon merengue pie? Or soufflés?

I think I’ve made lemon merengue pie exactly once in my life. To the best of my recollection, I’ve NEVER made a soufflé. Or snickerdoodle cookies, which also can use cream of tartar.

But that’s about it. WHY have cream of tartar when it has such limited use? It’s not like cinnamon or nutmeg or any number of other spices I’ve used regularly. AND there are reasonable substitutes.

Now, there was a period in the 1980s, I was into making pumpkin pies, and even baking cookies. And it wasn’t always in the autumn. But it wasn’t for my own consumption. It was either for a food pantry or some benefit auction. I don’t even like eating pumpkin pie as much as I like apple. Or lemon merengue. But they were easier to make; no top crust.

Since I got married, I almost never make pies or cookies. My wife is WAY better at it. I’m not all that interested in doing things only so-so. And frankly, if I were to make them, I’d want to eat them, and I don’t need to do that.

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