Thanksgiving for the COVID vaccine

books and music

JFK Thanksgiving Day proclamation 1963
JFK Thanksgiving Day proclamation 1963

Without a doubt, it is Thanksgiving for the COVID vaccine.

Because of the vaccine, I could go out to eat with my friends, such as Carol, Karen, Bill, Michael, Cecily, John, and Mary, as well as my wife and daughters.

My church is meeting in person as of June 20, as well as on Facebook. The choir has restarted rehearsals in person as of October 10, with only fully vaccinated people, which is everyone.

The Wizard’s Wardrobe is a program, started by two members of my church. “Children spend time with a special tutor just for them — to read, write, and explore the wonderful world of books. My wife and I attended the Readers Theater benefit on October 4. The featured readers included William Kennedy, Brendan Kennedy, Joseph Bruchac, Elizabeth Brundage, Ashley Charleston, Ted Walker, and Ayah Osman.

The Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library had its Literary Legends Gala on October 16. I got to tell Bill Kennedy that I heard him and his son read from Charlie Malarkey and the Belly-Button Machine (1986), 12 days earlier. Last year’s event was online, while this one was a hybrid.

I wouldn’t have been comfortable going to my high school reunion or certainly taking the bus home without the Pfizer shots. Yes, it’s a Thanksgiving for the COVID vaccine.

In spite of

As much as I complained about ZOOM and its ilk I’m thankful for the chance to have participated in the Thursday Bible study group. I got to see my niece Rebecca Jade perform over a half dozen times, including with Dave Koz.

I streamed some movies, not the best way for me to view them. But I got to see ALL of the Oscar-nominated shorts. Usually, I get to watch only a fraction of those films because they don’t all make it to this market.

I’m still on ZOOM for the Tuesday Bible guys, the Dads group, and certain church meetings. My sisters, in two different states, and I in a third, meet at least three weeks out of four. The Olin reunions took place remotely.

Lessee, what else?

I’m fiscally solvent. This allows me to order things via mail order, such as all of those blue masks and music that I don’t REALLY need but want. I also got a bunch of baseball books from Jack’s widow and music from the collection of my late father-in-law.

I had a brief but significant moment of mutual forgiveness with an old friend.

My mother-in-law lives much closer. This makes her and her daughter mighty happy.

I’m glad that Arthur and Kelly and fillyjonk and others are still blogging. Chuck Miller is still plugging other blogs each Saturday.

I’m sure there’s more, but this will do for the nonce.

Being for the benefit of…

Yes, THAT Paul Simon

I shall have gone to three benefit events in a two-week period in October. None of them, unsurprisingly, were in person. Two of the three I HAD attended in person LAST year. But that was so long ago.

Wizard’s Wardrobe

The Wizard’s Wardrobe is a program in Albany’s South End. “Children spend time with a special tutor just for them — to read, write, and explore the wonderful world of books.” It was started by two members of my church, Deb and Eric Fagans. They were inspired by the TED talk Once Upon a School.

The program grew out of the relationship our church had developed with the Giffen Elementary School in the South End of the city of Albany. Several of our members tutored at Giffen and held an annual Book and Author event there.

The benefit on Monday, October 5 featured Katherine Paterson, Newbery Medal-winning author of The Bridge to Terabithia. She read as did local authors Margaret Miki Conn, Lorraine Garnett, and Marion Roach Smith. The Black Theatre Troupe of Upstate New York performed The eyez in the wall, written and directed by Aaron Moore. The ASL Interpretation was provided by Marian Eaton. The Master of Ceremonies was Rex Smith, Editor of the Times Union newspaper.

There was a ZOOM afterparty following the presentation. I knew about half of the participants personally. One of the attendees was Gregory Maguire, a local author who’s done well. He wrote the book Wicked, upon which the musical was based. What’s the correct protocol for departing a gathering online?

Green The Senate, Save the Planet

Paul Simon hosted an event to support seven US Senate candidates on Thursday, October 8. The singer wrote, “In a year that has been incredibly challenging, often overwhelming, and too often heartbreaking, it is easy to become discouraged. But future generations are counting on us, and I urge you to channel your energy in these final days before Election Day to help secure a pro-environment majority in the Senate.”

Simon began the program by singing American Tune. Then there were videos, including from the sponsor Give Green and from former Presidential candidate and rich guy Tom Steyer. Some of the candidates gave brief video presentations.

Then Simon interviewed three of them: Steve Bullock (MT), Jamie Harrison (SC), and Theresa Greenfield (IA). Paul was an unsure questioner, seeking to ask certain things and at the same time wanting the candidates not to be hemmed in by his queries. Still, the candidates acquitted themselves well.

After another video, Paul sang The Boxer, Homeward Bound, Sound of Silence, and Here Comes the Sun. He was accompanied by a guy named Mark Stewart. He was wearing a mask, but I think he’s this guy.

Literary Legends@Home

The Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library are having its annual Literary Legends Gala on Saturday, October 17 from 7 to 10 pm. Each year, the group “selects a new outstanding person of letters in our community, and invites the community to celebrate them with a cocktail reception in their honor.” Well, not in person THIS year.

The FFAPL is honoring the writer Elisa Albert. Past honorees have included William Kennedy, Paul Grondahl, Amy Biancolli, Gregory Maguire, Barbara Smith, Marion Roach Smith, Dr. Leonard Slade, Athena Lord, Frankie Bailey, Alice Green, Peter Golden, Lyn Lifshin, and Dan Wilcox. (The second time Gregory and Marion appear in this post.)

The gala is the primary fundraising effort of the FFAPL, which “provides critical financial support to the Albany Public Library in order to help the Library provide education, literacy, career development, cultural enrichment, and lifelong learning.” It can provide mini-grants for the library to offer programming that the APL cannot. One can buy tickets here.

BTW, on October 20 at 12:15 pm, there will be a ZOOM review of the book Outgrowing God: A Beginner’s Guide by Richard Dawkins. The reviewer will be Carl Strock, a former columnist for the Daily Gazette, Schenectady. It is free but one must preregister here.

Author-Illustrator Day at Giffen

Wizard’s Wardrobe is “providing a free, after school tutoring program for elementary school students in the South End.”

My church has been involved with Giffen Memorial Elementary School in Albany for nearly a decade, primarily with tutoring. City School District of Albany families were invited to the fifth annual Author-Illustrator Day event at Giffen on Saturday, April 29 from 9:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., organized by the school and church. “In addition to presentations by authors and a free continental breakfast, Giffen musicians performed throughout the day,” and they were very good.

The authors and illustrators included:

Sharon Flake, award-winning author of books for children and young adults, including “The Broken Bike Boy and the Queen of 33rd Street” and “You Don’t Even Know Me: Short Stories and Poems About Boys.”

Jerdine Nolen, award-winning author of a dozen books including “Big Jabe,” “Thunder Rose” (a Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book), and “Hewitt Anderson’s Great Big Life” (a Bank Street Best Book of the Year), all illustrated by Kadir Nelson.

James Preller, award-winning author of more than 80 children’s books, including the Jigsaw Jones Mystery series. His other titles include “Along Came Spider” and “Ghost Cat and Other Spooky Tales.”

Cheryl Willis Hudson, award-winning author of “AFRO-BETS ABC,” “AFRO-BETS 123,” “Hands Can,” “Good Morning” and several other books for children and young adults. She also is editorial director for Just Us Books, Inc., an independent publishing company whose books feature African-American characters.

Folks from the school and the church set up Friday evening. Then there was a reception, where I got to meet the authors. On Saturday morning, the Wife, the Daughter and I picked up the food supplies. I was supposed to help set up the books. Giffen kids got some for free, and others could buy them at a discounted rate. The Green family pile was very large.

My other specific job was as assistant to an author. I had done this in previous years with Joe Bruchac, and as one of the folks helping Lesa-Cline-Ransome and James Ransome; the Ransomes came to the Friday night reception. On Saturday morning, each author is on hand to sign his or her books, and the assistant’s job is to make sure that the the book to be signed was either purchased or given away, and then to print out the name of the persons who wants the book signed.

This year, I was assigned to James Preller, the only local creator, who had also been there three or four years earlier. He was very engaging with the children. He also kept all the names on the Post-It notes, promising to use some of them in future books.

A total of 23 Giffen and 38 First Pres people helped out. The cleanup was faster than ever before, a sign of the fact that we have done this before.

The driving forces behind this activity were Deb and Eric Fagans from my church, who had also created Wizard’s Wardrobe, “providing a free, after school tutoring program for elementary school students in the South End.” For that accomplishment, they received some award at a SUSU Women’s Club dinner that Saturday night, when I’m sure they were even more tired that we were.

Photos of the t-shirt, Sharon Flake, James Preller and Deb Fagens (center) from City School District of Albany