Non est scriptor coegi licentia

no car memory

no drivers licenseWhen 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.

Ridin’ thumb

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.

More soonish.


Questions about God, and coincidence

Does God DO that?

My new friend Carla, who I’ve only known for a half-century starts off this round of  Ask Roger Anything:

The star in the center, as seen by the Hubble Space Telescope, is known as V1331 Cyg and is located in the dark cloud LDN 981.

If you had the chance to ask three different people (living or dead, famous or not) ONE question… who and what would you ask?

The one requirement for this exercise, I suppose, is that they would have to answer honestly. What would I ask? What is your sense of how God manifests God’s self if, in fact, God does that? Or maybe Does knowing God just take practice?

I’d ask Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1967. I’m thinking of his disappointing experiences in his previous couple of years might have changed his world view of God’s plan.

I’d ask Thomas Jefferson c. 1820, long after he had left the presidency. As this article explains, his “relationship with Christianity was complicated.” So where was it near the end of his life?

I’d ask Donald Trump in 2020. But I’d wonder if he’d understand what I was trying to get at. Maybe I’d need some clarifying questions. Does he think God favors the rich? Does he believe that God supported him in herding demonstrators so he could hold up a Bible in front of a church? And if so, what was God saying to him?

Does he believe God wanted him to be reelected? Does he actually read the Bible? And if so, what parts resonate with him?

He was asked this last question around 2017, and he gave the non-answer “Oh, all of it.” Anyone who has ACTUALLY read the Bible will admit that there are some parts of Scripture with which they are uncomfortable.

What a coincidence

Uthaclena, being their usual mystical self, asks:

Isn’t “coincidence” an ALTERNATIVE Fact??

So, what do we know here? “A coincidence is a remarkable concurrence of events or circumstances that have no apparent causal connection with one another.” So a coincidence is a fact.

“The perception of remarkable coincidences may lead to supernatural, occult, or paranormal claims.” So the perceptions of coincidences may be alternative facts.

Blows against the empire

Will I see Summer before summer?

Aside from the day-to-day activities, there have been a few events I have missed. The Blows Against the Empire tour was canceled before it got to Clifton Park, near Albany. It wasn’t that I was desperate to see that show. But I was going to go with my oldest friend from my college days. And he was going to pay!

I was planning a trip to my hometown of Binghamton, NY in March 2020 for two reasons. I’m looking for the transcript of the October 1926 trial involving my biological grandfather Raymond Cone, at which my grandmother, then Agatha Walker, testified against him. I also wanted to track her location in the city directories during the 1930s. However, both City Hall and the local library are closed until they aren’t.

Also, my friend since kindergarten Carol, not to be confused with my wife Carol, was going to fly up from Texas to visit her mom. So I’d have a chance for a visit with her and perhaps my Binghamton-area friends. Not yet.

Postponed, so far

At the Proctors Theatre in Schenectady, I have a subscription. The musical Summer, about the disco queen Donna, has moved from March to June. Will that actually come to pass? Or Dear Evan Hansen, still scheduled for June? Or Come From Away in September? What does theater look like in the era of physical distancing? Does the economic model even work?

Then there are the ersatz gatherings. The weekly church services, which get better as the folks have figured out the technology. The Bible studies. The Google Hangouts, Zoom meetings, and whatnot.

Something that I have discovered about sharing screens on these platforms. Sometimes they can be quite useful. On one Zoom call, a guy with the same surname as some of my ancestors wanted to see my family tree. I’m going to be helping my friend with some librarian skills, and her seeing what I’m working on will be great. On the other hand, one ought not to feel obliged to share JUST because one can, technologically.

We’re muddling through.

Hypnotized at the county fair

The event was so surreal that I probably DIDN’T talk about it.

hypnotismHere’s a story I didn’t tell you, about being hypnotized, because it didn’t convey enough. But suddenly, it does.

In August of 2015, The Wife, The Daughter, The Daughter’s good friend and I went to the Altamont Fair, which is the joint fair of Albany and Schenectady Counties in upstate New York. I don’t go every year – my family went without me in 2016 – but it’s enjoyable enough.

At one of the stages, a hypnotist was looking for subjects to come on stage. The Daughter nagged and pleaded with me to participate, and I ended up being the last of eight or ten people to volunteer.

He put us “under”, saying whatever he said. I’m aware that I’m on the stage, but follow his commands to:
slur my words
make my most romantic face (Head tilted, doe eyes, pursed lips, I’m told)
play an instrument (electric bass I was surprised he knew I was playing the bass rather than a guitar)
drive fast around curves

Later, The Wife said that he dismissed a couple of people that he was unable to hypnotize. She thought I was just acting, faking, but I was not.

About my story Baptized Again, about me speaking in tongues, Uthaclena asked, and Arthur agreed:

How do YOU interpret your experience of glossolalia?

That is the thing: I didn’t interpret it. No one slipped something in my drink. The event was so surreal that I probably DIDN’T talk about it, not out of embarrassment, but because I guess I wanted it to have more of an impact. But no, a week or two later, I was busy leading my debauched life.

Maybe it was God’s sense of humor; if there’s an afterlife, that’ll be one of the things I’ll have to ask Her. “What the heck WAS that?” And “How did one of my glasses lens shatter when I was a kid, while I was wearing them?” Hey, THAT’S what I should ask youse guys: “If there’s an afterlife, what earthly experience would you want to be explained?”

Then Chris asked:

Was it like a trance state?

I then realized that my speaking in tongues was very much like “a state of consciousness in which a person apparently loses the power of voluntary action and is highly responsive to suggestion or direction,” which is the textbook definition of being hypnotized. And I must be susceptible to it.

Craven, Dyer, Sacks

I lived in four different cities, in two states, in 1977 alone.

musicophilia-1-194x300If there is a more descriptive title than The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat, by Oliver Sacks, M.D., it’s not coming to mind. I know both The Daughter and I, on separate occasions, have mistaken a coat rack that was placed in a different part of the hallway, for The Wife.

I never read any of Oliver Sacks’ books, but I did peruse some of his articles in the New Yorker magazine, where he wrote about people “coping with and adapting to neurological conditions or injuries” this illuminating “the ways in which the normal brain deals with perception, memory and individuality.”

My distant recollection of the 1990 movie Awakenings, based on Sacks’ book, is quite positive, especially the performance of the late Robin Williams, who played a character drawn from Sacks’ life.

Oliver Sacks died on August 30 at the age of 82.
wes cravenI’ve never seen a Wes Craven film, none of the Scream films or Nightmare on Elm Street. Wait a minute- he directed Music of the Heart with Meryl Streep? I DID see that.

Back in my FantaCo days, I became aware of his popularity through all the books and magazines we sold. Moreover, there were those annoying popular Freddy Krueger masks and gloves, the latter complete with plastic “blades”, that were primarily purchased by our mail order customers in disturbingly large quantities. It was one of the reasons I eventually quit the job.

Wes Craven died on August 30 at the age of 76.
Wayne-DyerAfter I finished college in 1976, I bounced around a lot, without any focus, or particular goals. I lived in four different cities, in two states, in 1977 alone. While I was crashing with Uthaclena and his then-wife in early 1978, I read the best-selling book Your Erroneous Zones by Dr. Wayne Dyer.

If you’re plagued by guilt or worry and find yourself falling unwittingly into the same old self-destructive patterns, then you have ‘erroneous zones’ — whole facets of your approach to life that act as barriers to your success and happiness. Dr. Wayne W. Dyer can now help you break free!

If you believe that you have no control over your feeling and reactions, Dyer reveals how much you can take charge of yourself and manage how much you let difficult situations affect you. If you spend more time worrying what others think than working on what you want and need, Dyer points the way to true self-reliance. From self-image problems to over-dependence upon others, Dyer gives you the tools you need to enjoy life to the fullest

Yeah, that sounded like me, a lot. But you know how newly born-again Christians, or alcoholics who are now sober, get a tad carried away with the message? That was also me after reading the book, where I went from directionless and dysfunctional to a bit too cocky and perhaps arrogant, before I was able to regulate the emotional thermostat.

Still, reading Dyer, at that critical moment, at least turned the thermostat ON, and that was a very good thing.

Dr. Wayne Dyer died on August 29 at the age of 75.
Dean Jones died at the age of 84 on September 1. Saw him in lots of Disney fare, such as That Darn Cat! and The Love Bug, as well as a slew of TV appearances.