Sunday Stealing: if you like art

the new orange

Another Sunday Stealing.

1. If you like art, who is your favourite artist and why?

I love seeing art. The Clark Art Museum and MASS MoCA are just two venues not so far away. That reminds me that last week I wrote about the Nell Stokes exhibit at the Albany Institute of History and Art being cut short. It is now scheduled to end on December 31, 2024, as initially promised. This is good because I had not had a chance to see it. 

I think Rodin sculptures are sexy as all get out and much more so in person than in photos. Speaking of photos, I’d go with Dorothea Lange. As for painters, there are too many to name.

2. If you were able to learn any three skills or talents instantly and with success, what would they be?

Computer repair, typing, and square dancing. 

3. If you were to live in Ancient Times, where – in what country – would you want to live in?

Nigeria, probably because I have ancestors there.

4. What is something you’re embarrassed to admit to liking? Whether it be a guilty pleasure show, or unusual hobby, etc.

I’ve given up on guilty pleasures. I mean, I used to collect comic books. I still have comics-related books and Hess trucks.

Worst job

5. What is the worst job you’ve ever had?

I worked in a box factory, but that was only two weeks. Empire Blue Cross was pretty terrible but it was only 13 months. Possibly my last job because it was so often disappointing; it wasn’t terrible all of the time, but most of the last four years were awful, and there were periods before that. 

6. What is something that you wanted to do as a child that you would still like to do now?

Be a trial lawyer. I was a sucker for Perry Mason, Judd for the Defense, The Bold Ones: The Lawyers, et al. 

7. What do you hate being judged for more than anything else?

Appearance. It seems so shallow.

8. What is your life’s mission?

To make people’s lives suck less.

9. If everyone walked around wearing warning labels, what would yours say?

I have a very long fuse, but I will likely scream at you if I tell you I’m reaching my limit, yet you keep pushing it.

10. At what age did you first feel like you were an adult?

I think it’ll be next year. Or the year after that. 

Speak up

11. When did you not speak up, but wish you had?

I actually talked to someone about this in May 2024. In my last job, the organization was taken over for a couple of years around the turn of the millennium by a corrupt yet idiotic political hack named Felix, who eventually was indicted and went to jail for a time.

I was in charge of a committee tasked to hire someone to be a business advisor, which was all done by the book. Then one of the committee members, who I’ll call Holly, said we had to select someone else as well, a person who had not gone through the vetting process. I said I wouldn’t sign off on it, so SHE did.

I didn’t think complaining up the chain would have mattered – the chancellor’s wife worked for Felix. But maybe I should have found a mid-level bureaucrat to complain to, who might have been more isolated from the chain of command. Still, I was so taken aback by Holly’s action that I didn’t remember the name of the mystery candidate, though maybe the bureaucrats could have found the person by their work start date. But the political corruption was so bad at the time that nothing would likely have happened.

12. What is something that makes your skin crawl?

Bad liars. Orange is the new orange.

13. What was the last thing to give you butterflies in your stomach?

Doing a book review.

14. What’s your favorite type of media to work with? (Paint, clay, pens, etc.)

I’m not an artist. But I used to love Play-Doh.

15. What question do you hate answering?

I might have said talking about racism. But one of the comments to a recent post reminded me that people are at different places in their awareness of the phenomenon.

Three years of COVID

Only remotely interested in “remote”

Back in January, fillyjonk wrote about three years of COVID. The first case of COVID in the United States occurred in that month. But it didn’t really affect me until March 13.

I’ll back up to when I retired on June 30, 2019. my wife and daughter were home from school, but come fall, I had the run of the house. I’d read and write in the morning, exercise and clean in the afternoon. It was glorious. And after Christmas break, more wonderfulness.

My wife and I went to the cinema often. I saw Cheap Trick at the Palace Theater in February 2022.

The church production of Once on This Island occurred on Sunday, March 8th, with the afterparty the following evening. Choir met as usual on Thursday, March 12.

But the buzz was out that everything was going to shut down after Friday the 13th. At 4:30 pm, I rushed to the Pine Hills branch of the Albany Public Library with my daughter. I WANTED to take out ten videos for me, but she wanted to get a few, so I checked out seven Marvel Cinematic Universe films I had not seen. Sure enough, the library was closed on Saturday and for months after that.

The annual hearts game at my abode occurred as scheduled for March 14; some people came, but others begged off, which I understood intellectually, if not emotionally.

School at home

After a week of figuring out what to do, school districts made laptops available to students, and remote learning began. My wife specifically was disappointed (too weak a word) when then-Governor Andrew Cuomo mandated that the spring break be canceled. The rest of that semester was a slog.

One thing I insisted on is that my wife teach in the old guest room. Otherwise, every time I went downstairs, I was in her classroom. In hindsight, it was a great decision, as she held her church session meetings and other private conversations there.

My daughter was engaged in school for about a month, then not so much.

Starting March 22, my church began having services online on Facebook, a feature that continues to this day. Early on, it was okay; better than nothing.

I was feeling very isolated. Starting in April, I started calling, on the telephone, people who I hadn’t spoken with for a while, some of them for years, even though they live in my metropolitan area. It was a worthwhile project. I completed two calls daily until Memorial Day, then one per day until August. By this point, I was also phoning people I used to see weekly at church.

Meanwhile, my father-in-law, Richard, was dying from lymphoma and passed on April 22; his funeral was 13 months later. His death led to weekly family Zoom meetings, which ended abruptly over political differences at the end of June.

I did start having regular ZOOM meetings with my sisters, which have continued.

New job

I had expressed interest in working on the 2020 Census in mid-2019. But it wasn’t until the summer of 2020 that I learned I’d be trained to work, as I wrote about here. It was more difficult than it was 30 years earlier because it started later in the year. COVID did a number on this enumeration.

My wife, despite her trepidations, had to return to school in person and teach both online and classroom, which was way more work for her. My daughter opted to stay home to do school, which was probably a suboptimal decision.

Church was still remote, though some section leaders recorded music in an empty church on a Monday, and it was shown during the service. Specifically, some previous choir recordings were shared, especially on Christmas Eve. Watching myself sing instead of actually performing brought me to tears.

We watched a few events online. Frankly, though, way more offerings were available than I wanted to consume. I watched a few movies and plays, but most didn’t capture me.

2021: the vaccine!

When the vaccine became available, I wanted it yesterday. There were priority lists. My wife got her first shot in February 2021. I kept checking places for availability but found none that didn’t involve traveling hundreds of miles.

Finally, I logged onto the CVS website again on March 1 at 6 a.m., and Pfizer vaccines were available the next day! I got my first shot, then my second three weeks later. Minimal reactions other than a sore arm for a day.

So on April 6, my kindergarten friends Bill, Carol, Karen, and our friend Michael went to an outdoor restaurant. A sign of normalcy!

I went to a few movies in person, and maybe a half dozen people were there.

The library was quasi-open, and the FFAPL offered remote book reviews online or in the Bach branch garden. It was hard to hear outside because of the wind and, sometimes, the neighbors.

The church is back!

Finally, in June, the church began meeting again, masked, distanced, but in person! We had a coffee hour in the parking lot. Then in October, the choir started rehearsing, though we didn’t sing at service until late November. We did sing on Christmas Eve. I was so happy I probably wept.

But after the holidays, the surge put us back to red/orange, and the church went back to remote. I thought I’d be okay, knowing intellectually it wouldn’t last long, and it didn’t. But I did end up in my sad place for a time.

Since then, and possibly before that, I’ve been checking the COVID status of Albany County and nearby Rensselaer County, which have been in lockstep. I’ve also been obsessively reading related medical news, such as this: RSV Vaccine Succeeds in Phase III Trial of Older Adults.

Fortunately, we sang again in person by February 2022, though Black History Month adult education, which I was in charge of, was primarily remote.


In August 2022, my daughter, my wife, and I all got COVID, probably the Omicron variant. It wasn’t awful, but it was inconvenient.

That’s essentially it. I’m seeking to get past it all. I still refer to events as before or after COVID, and I usually have no idea what happened when after March 2020 unless I look it up. Heck, I probably forgot several things.

Still hate ZOOM, and I use the term generically, for meetings, especially events. My ability to focus in front of a screen with 13 or more rectangles is diminished.

The office suite dream (not so sweet)

My kingdom for…

open the church doorsIn October, I had a dream that was surprisingly vivid after I awoke.

I was in an office with a long and narrow hall. Entering one room, a friend of mine, who used to work in the music business, was sleeping at their desk. They had been working a second job in the evening, related to the music industry, and they were tired.

One office appeared to be unoccupied, but, going around the corner was a guy at a desk. He was annoyed that I barged in, but I just needed an empty space. Another (real-life) friend I couldn’t find. What is the meaning of this?

There appears to be two sources of this dream. One is a friend of mine who was complaining that they now have to share a space with another, both full-time workers, in order to facilitate a couple of part-time employees. The other involved my last job location at 10 North Pearl Street. I came back to work in October 2015, just after my hernia operation.

To say that I was disappointed would be a gross understatement. Everyone save for the secretary and two of the librarians had doors. The secretary at least had this fortress and was front-facing. The other librarian had a wall on one side of the cubicle. But mine was right on the corner. There was no way to sit without someone coming up from behind me. I was startled regularly.


On Day One, I requested a glassine attachment to the cubicle. It would have made the walls about six feet tall, rather than about five. And though I re-requested this at least twice more, I never got them. And because I was in this open space, visitors, repair people, and folks who got lost were always asking me for directions, which was truly distracting.

Finally, ten months later, startled one more time, I said that I needed to move. The only place I could go was this large storage area, actually only three meters from where I was sitting. And I was given this option early on, but I wanted to try to be geographically closer to the others in a team-like setting. Still, the move involved a loud discussion, during which I left the office for a time, lest I say something regrettable.

So I got my move. People in the other department on our floor didn’t understand why I’d move to a glorified closet. It’s because I could be front-facing with no one coming up behind me. I stayed there and it was tolerable. Well except that some anonymous person ratted me out for taking off my shoes while I was sitting at my desk, and it got written up. Such petty BS, and I’m pretty sure I know who it was.

A door

Finally, an office with a door became available in November 2018. I was not all that interested in moving yet again, since I knew I’d be departing soon. But I took it anyway, and l left at the end of June 2019.

For the last year and a half of work, I was seeing a therapist. They believed that it’d all be better once I retired. And I should note that I don’t think much about the place. (And there’s lots more I could note, but won’t.)

But I was talking to my good friend in France in early September. She’s a therapist. When she mentioned my former job, I displayed a flash of anger she found surprising. It’s not that I spend any actual time thinking about the place consciously. But the subconscious must still be ticked off.

New routine: they’re home at work

You are what you are, and you ain’t what you ain’t – Dear Abby, John Prine

I’m told I can’t use cat pictures on my blog. The only exception is if it’s MY cat. Here’s Stormy, seeking sustenance.
My household has established a new routine on most weekdays. There are variations but often it looks like this: The alarm goes off at 6 a.m. THE ALARM GOES OFF – ugh. At least it’s a half-hour later than it USED to go off when my wife traveled to work.

While my wife takes a shower, I check my email. I’m looking for articles to send to Jeff for his regular newsletter about COVID-19.

My wife watches CBS This Morning; increasingly, I don’t. I can’t do all COVID, all the time. But I do catch a bit when feeding the cats around 7:30 because they think it’s their right to be fed. My wife and I eat breakfast.

She goes to work in the guest bedroom. Her workload as a teacher of English as a New Language is so much greater than it was when she could actually meet with students in person. One day, she had a noon teleconference, then a 40-minute phone conversation with a parent of a student, 20 minutes to wolf down lunch, then a 2 pm teleconference. Another day, she spent about 100 minutes on the phone with two brothers.

I start writing a blog post but take a break to wake my daughter, who almost certainly has stayed up too late. Time for her to go to school too, which turns out to be on the borrowed laptop in her bedroom. Classes at 9 and 10:30, an hour for lunch, classes at 12:30 and 2. Sometimes I help her with her homework in the evening.

Old school

Time to call two people on the telephone. This has been an amazingly great exercise. Sometimes, I call people I haven’t seen in a few months, while others I haven’t been in contact with for years. (Hi, Janet!) They average about 45 minutes; some last 10 minutes, but I spoke with Bill, a grade-school friend, for about two hours. I never leave a message on answering machines because I don’t want to obligate people to have to call me back. But some see my phone ID and check back anyway.

I’ve discovered surprising simpatico with a guy whose wife also asks followup questions when he’s only reading her a news headline. A cousin of my father told me a family secret last week she had assumed I already knew. My pastors are now mailing the sermons to one of my fellow church members without a computer.

Some point, I’ll take a walk or ride my bike, take a shower, eat lunch, empty and reload the dishwasher plus washing some pots and pans, read the paper, finish the blog post, and watch the previous day’s JEOPARDY! After dinner is the daily Google hangout call of my wife’s family, ostensibly 15 minutes, but generally close to an hour. I’ll miss it because I’ll be attending church remotely on Maundy Thursday and Good Friday.

Here now the news

Watch the evening news, which is recorded, so I can zap past all those pharma medicine ads. I either help my wife and daughter, or at least stay out of their way. I’m happy to be retired.

I should note that working on the COVID newsletter has been great. I don’t have to obsess about the issue. Oh, I still think he’s doing a bad job. I was furious that Wisconsin voters had to go out and vote in the midst of a pandemic, risking the health of themselves and others.

And I was strangely mortified that an SBA program to help small business was so poorly introduced. A CBS story showed personal information showing up on the SCREENS of the next applicant in the queue. The SBDC, where I worked for nearly 27 years, is an SBA program.

And I’m terribly sad about the death of John Prine, who was not only one of America’s greatest songwriters but apparently a really nice guy. He beat cancer TWICE only to succumb to complications from COVID-19.

Hello In There – Bette Midler
Dear Abby – John Prine
Angel From Montgomery – Bonnie Raitt& John Prine

The so-called “new normal”

everyone can toil from home?

social distancing instrumentsIt may well be true, but I bristle at the term the “new normal”. It seems so defeatist. Meanwhile, I make my peculiar weekly trek to the grocery store during the “old people’s time” of 6 to 7 a.m.

What I’ve observed is this: People walking their dogs tend to head to the street when I am strolling on the sidewalk. I appreciate the effort. Perhaps they have friendly canines who want to be petted. That would mean I might get too close to the owner.

The irony in physical distancing is that little old ladies still avoid me. But it’s not because they think I’m going to mug them, but because they think I might infect and kill them. Progress, I guess?

I’ve spent so much effort doing a pas a deux with the folks stocking the produce that I manage to forget to get bananas. (“COVID-19 makes me bananas.”) Meh, still no TP. Heck, no paper products of any type. I may actually NEED some by the end of May.

And my checkout mojo’s all out of whack from social distancing, as I wait until the person in front of me is nearly done before putting my items on the conveyor belt. I almost neglected to get my discount card scanned, and I nearly forget to put the credit card in the appropriate slot.

Work all day

The ability to learn from home is great and remarkable. But because the technology is available, my wife was scheduled for THREE hour-long meetings one day this past week. One was canceled, but still. Just because you CAN schedule meetings does not mean you must.

My wife is working harder now online than she did as an in-person ENL teacher. Between the noon and 2 pm meetings, a parent returned her call. She barely ate lunch. Oh, and she also had a church meeting that night, with our pastors canceling their long-planned sabbatical.

Newsweek suggests that the coronavirus will “change how we work forever.” And not necessarily for the better. If everyone can ostensibly toil from home, then we won’t need as many snow days. It may make us more “productive”, but at what cost? Americans in general already suck at the work/life balance thing.

Mic check, please

Part of my “new normal” regimen involves press conferences, on television every single day. I do not watch them. I’ll get the gist of them from print news. This is entirely a health issue.

If I see him lying that he didn’t say what he said two weeks ago, it will just upset me. If I read that he’s prevaricating, it’s much less toxic to me. No less reprehensible, just less aggravating.

Besides, if he’s going to boast about TV ratings, as he berates the media as thousands are dying, why watch? Some of my friends want media outlets to stop covering him. I’m ambivalent. For every four bits of dissembling, he says one thing actually useful and more or less true.

And for those who worry that Dr. Anthony Fauci is being silenced or that Dr. Deborah Birx is being too conciliatory, know that they are hostages. But they have what djt wants — “credit, adulation, the appearance of scientific expertise. And their survival means our survival.” So if AF is less prickly or DB more diplomatic, they’re playing the long game of being heard.

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