Torschlusspanik: travel plans

one phone number at a time


The Word Of The Day for April 26 was Torschlusspanik, pronounced toɐ̯ʃlʊsˈpanɪk. It means “The fear that time to act is running out.” It is a German word from the 1960s that literally means “gate-shut panic.” A sample sentence: “I raced to the train station with the Torschlusspanik that I was going to miss the last train of the evening.”

We felt this during the last two weeks of our travel plans before our trip to France—the first big worry: communication. I called my phone carrier to learn how to use my cell phone overseas. The answer: I can’t. Their service covers only the US and Canada.

I called a friend who has traveled to more countries than any three people I know, and they suggested a carrier. During the  90-minute call, I also ordered a new phone and a watch.

The new phone was supposed to arrive on Monday, six days before our departure, which would have been great. But it was rescheduled for Tuesday, a busy day; sure enough, the attempted delivery occurred while I was away from home.

It finally arrived on Wednesday morning, but I needed to accomplish so many non-trip tasks that I could not start on the phone tasks until  Thursday, three days before departure. The first piece was setting up a remote WiFi device so my wife could use HER phone and I could access my computer. But I  couldn’t get it to work.


I had to contact my current cell carrier and get a transfer PIN to give to the new carrier so I could keep my old phone number. After I unpackaged the new phone, I had to wait. My previous phone was the first iPhone I ever owned. I learned what others already knew, that the applications from Phone 1 move to Phone 2 when they are nearby.

Then my wife called to say she was coming home, and I had to take out the garbage, run the dishwasher and pack. We have to pick up our daughter from college the next day. Because my wife had to work Saturday, she correctly decided that we should drive out the night before and stay at a hotel.

We arrived at our daughter’s dorm. My, there’s a lot of stuff. We had brought home quite a bit at spring break. But I doubted whether what she packed could fit in the vehicle, and I’m an excellent car packer.

Ultimately, she abandoned a couple of items. Still, there were things under my daughter’s feet. Her dirty laundry was in a large plastic bag between my legs, which I pressed down so that it would not block the mirror on the passenger-side door.

We unloaded the car, and my daughter and I schlepped the items inside as my wife went to work. Our living room was a disaster area.

During this process, my new carrier assigned me a new telephone number. Yikes, no! I spent another two hours returning to my old cell number and synching it to the new watch.

Wizard’s Wardrobe

One day before departure, my wife was tabling in Washington Park during the Tulipfest on Saturday. She’s promoting where she works, Wizard’s Wardrobe, an afterschool tutoring program in Albany’s South End.  I volunteered to work a three-hour shift, which was productive and fun, but it fed into the Torschlusspanik.

Ultimately, after I got home, my daughter got the SIM card into a device, scanned my wife’s and my passports into a Customs app, Mobile Passport Control, and did it all in four minutes after I was unsuccessful.

We’re packed and all set to go to France. Or I hope so.

Active October, part 1

Three events on October 1st

Literary Legends 2022It’s been an active October 2022, a mix of joy and anxiety, so much so that I have to diary this, and this is just the first part.

Saturday, Oct 1: Go to my former church at 9:45 a.m. We in the pickup choir rehearsed How Lovely Is Thy Dwelling Place, then sang it at the Jim Kalas service. I also told the story that I noted in the blog post.

There was a reception afterward in the quite lovely parlor. It’s always a bittersweet time returning to a place I spent 17 years worshipping. Some of the parishioners there still remember me, and vice versa.

My wife and I had a 3 p.m. play to attend. Dracula: A Comedy of Terrors was written by Gordon Greenberg and Steve Rosen, who have penned Ebenezer’s Big Christmas Show and Crime and Punishment: A Comedy. Dracula is described as “Bram Stoker’s legendary vampire tale… put into a blender with the comedic influences of Mel Brooks, Monty Python, and the 39 Steps.” The five-member cast, playing multiple roles, was entertaining.

Still, I wouldn’t have picked that particular day to see the production but for a scheduling snag of my own making. My wife and I have a subscription for plays at Proctors Theatre in Schenectady during the 2022-2023 season. Part of the package included a couple of shows at the affiliated Capital Repertory Theatre, usually designated as Capital Rep.

Who calendars for this guy?

It was not until I looked at the online tickets that I had scheduled us to see Dracula and Aladdin ON THE SAME DAY. I’ve seen two different movies in a cinema, back-to-back. But watching two plays in two cities six hours apart? That did not work for us.

I bumped Drac to October 1, knowing the following two weekends were out because I would be away at my sister’s high school reunion and visiting my daughter’s college. It wasn’t until I started putting the plays into the calendar on my phone that I realized I had created another problem.

The Literary Legends gala, the primary fundraiser for the Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library Foundation was ALSO on October 1. And as a board member, I had been working on the event! So I missed the setup (oy) but there for the event.

Sunday, October 2: the usual. Church, ZOOM meeting with my sisters. There was another event we could have gone to, but I begged off.

Readers Theatre

Monday, October 3: My second visit to the Capital Rep building, this time to help set up for the Wizard’s Wardrobe signature fundraising event, The Readers Theatre, “an evening of powerful readings.” Addressing the theme of Hope for Changing Times, the speakers included Alice Green of the Law and Justice Center.

My wife noted that I experienced the unusual Exacta, people recognizing me from working at FantaCo (1980-1988) AND being on JEOPARDY in 1998 at the same event. More surprising was that the latter was Nell Stokes, one of the other speakers, who I’ve known for about a decade. “I didn’t know you, but I was rooting for you!”

The other speakers were Paul Grondahl of the NYS Writers’ Institute, Jean-Remy Monnay, Holly McKenna, and an eighth-grader who had memorized her impressive talk. The host was Casey Seiler of the Albany Times Union.

Among the tasks for my wife and me was welcoming people at the door. My wife felt chilly, presumably from the night air. But I’m the one who was more likely to feel cold. I found it mildly curious but didn’t think much of it.

The fall 2022 semester


fall 2022I’m not going to school anymore. Heck, I’m not even working anymore, and neither is my wife. Yet it feels like the fall 2022 semester has begun.

Our pastors returned this week from their three-month sabbatical to the UK and France, followed by some vacation time. After the service was a picnic largely planned by my wife, which has proved to be trickier than she thought.

The choir started rehearsing this past Thursday for the first time since late May and had a gathering afterward. We sang at the service yesterday. I’m very pleased that I’m well enough to participate.

My Bible Guys are reconvening tomorrow, still on Zoom. Given the fact that I am the youngest member of the group, this is not a surprising decision. The Thursday group is going to be meeting in person.

The Literary Legends Gala, sponsored by the Friends and Foundation of the Albany Public Library, will take place on Saturday, October 1, 2022, at the Delaware branch of the library. It will honor Sylvie Kantorovitz, and Edward Schwarzschild. Bidding on the silent auction will begin on September 23. If you have a product or service that we can auction, please let me know.

The Wizard’s Wardrobe is “a free one-on-one, after-school tutoring program for elementary students in the South End of Albany.” Folks from my church started it. The Readers Theatre will be held at Capital Rep in Albany on Monday, October 3rd. The “theme for the evening is ‘Hope for Changing Times.'” Alice Green of the Law and Justice Center will be the keynote speaker.

Bitter medicine

A few words about Paxlovid, the antiviral I took after testing positive for COVID. It was a five-day regimen, ending this past Tuesday. Interestingly, it comes in three pills per dose, two nirmatrelvir tablets, and one ritonavir tablet, twice daily. There must be a medical reason for this setup, though I don’t know what it is. (My spellcheck does not like the word “nirmatrelvir” but is okay with “ritonavir.”)

About three hours later, the combination emits one of the worst aftertastes I’ve ever experienced. Water doesn’t help. I’ve been drinking lemonade, ginger ale, and even cherry diet Pepsi to mitigate the effect. They are only marginally effective.

Here’s an important message about some common Paxlovid interactions you should know about. Both my primary care doctor and my pharmacist noted that I should stop taking my statin for not only the five days of the regimen but for three days after that.

Still, I feel okay, and I’m ready to work on the projects for Tom and Delia, the project for Steve, et al. Oh, and I’m planning on getting a flu shot soon, so I can avoid being felled by a potentially nasty flu season.

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.

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