Costume party

I thought I had outgrown Halloween by the time I was 25, but discovered that I had not.

My (not so old) friend Susan had a bunch of friends that I knew, primarily from a poetry workshop she helped organize. One of the group was going to have a Halloween costume party. I’m not sure that I had any costume ideas, but Susan did, and when she suggested, I embraced it. (Or so I remember.)

I had a beard and a mustache at the time, so I shaved them. Then Susan and a couple of her friends made me up. We found a dress in a second hand store, a wig and shoes from somewhere, and we went to the party, she as “Sid”, and me as “Shirley”.

I affected a high pitched voice, but frankly, I figured that people would know it was me. After all, I was still a six-foot black person. Much to my shock and amazement, no one recognized me! Well, not until later in the evening, when my “five o’clock shadow” starred to appear.

The Halloween of 1978 inspired me to dress up for several years thereafter, though never again in drag.

Happy Halloween to everyone, especially to “Sid”, who I’ve finally gotten in contact with again after several years, and to FGH for scanning the picture.

Or put another way, in my friend Mark’s Sanheim greeting: “This Time, the Dark Night, the New Year, the Thinned Veil; remember your ancestry, Turn to face the Dawn. It Goes, then comes again.
Blessings Be.”

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Bats in the belfry


The first time we saw a bat in the house (I’m talking the mammal variety, not the sports variety) was in June 2002. I woke up about 3 a.m. for no particular reason. It must have been a moonlit night, because, although there were no lights on in the house, I could just make out something in the corner of the room.
“Carol!” I whispered insistently. “There’s a bat in the room!” I pointed to the general direction of the critter’s location. She replied, “OK.” O.K.? “Leave it alone and it’ll leave us alone.” Carol grew up in a very small, nearly rural, area, and that was the credo: leave animals alone and it will generally reciprocate.
Well, swell, but how do I sleep now, knowing that there’s a beast only a few yards away?
About ten minutes later, the bat suddenly swooped down towards us. We put the covers over our heads, ran out of the room, and closed the door behind us.
I went onto the computer and came to the site of the Monroe County Health Department in Rochester. The site says: “If it is certain the bat did not have contact with a person or pet, the bat can be allowed to leave through an open window.”
Well, we weren’t exposed, so that’s good.
We went to sleep in the guest room, with the door closed, after thorough examination of the corners.
The next morning (oh, two hours later), I ran into our bedroom, opened the window, ran out, and closed the door. A while later, I opened the door and didn’t see the bat. But my wife wanted to be sure, so she called a bat removal guy. He came over in a few hours, checked around, and didn’t find a bat. But he was obliged to contact the Albany County Health Department and tell them about possible rabies exposure. Since we were asleep when the bat arrived, there was no way to KNOW that we were not exposed, and since the bat had escaped, the creature couldn’t be tested. Two people in Albany County died of rabies from bats in the previous 5 or 6 years. That meant one thing:
RABIES SHOTS.
Carol was planning to go to Ukraine for a week of teaching within the week. The bat guy said, “Oh, you’re not going ANYWHERE,” which was greatly disappointing to her.
The good news about rabies shots is that they no longer shoot long needles into your stomach.
The bad news about rabies shots is that they still use long needles, and they leave them in until all of the serum is out. Worse, the heavier you are, the more needles you get.
So, we go to the county health department to get these shots. I got four of them. First, two nurses gave me simultaneous shots in the front of of my thighs. Involuntarily, I started humming as the needles s-l-o-w-l-y discharged the serum. Then, two shots in the back of my thighs. Pain. Humming.
Then, we needed booster shots the 3rd, 7th, 14th, and 28th days after. These are traditional shots in the arm. The head of the Health Department wrote a letter explaining to whomever that Carol would be carrying serum halfway across the world. Would the airlines be OK with Carol carrying a needle in her carry-on luggage?
Her flights were from Albany to Toronto, then Toronto to Vienna on Air Canada, then Vienna to Dnipropetrovs’k on the Austrian line. (Yes, she had to fly west to go east.) We called Air Canada to tell them the situation, but we never got the assurances we were really seeking.
On the third day, we had arranged to have our then-neighbor, who was a doctor coming home from Albany Medical Center’s night shift, to give Carol her first booster shot. Her second dosage was in a bag filled with dry ice in her carry-on bag.
No problems in Canada or Austria.
When she gets to Ukraine, the Customs personnel want to know EVERYTHING she’s carrying in, including her wedding ring, and its value. Apparently, they don’t want a lot of wealth entering and not leaving the country, or for much wealth to leave the country. When Carol declared about her medicine, though, the guy said, “Never mind,” because it would be too much of a hassle to deal with, and he failed to write it down.
So, the tour people arranged for a Ukrainian doctor to get her shot on the 7th day, and she was home for the last two boosters. Of course, I got all of my boosters at the Health department in Albany.
I was telling this story to a friend of mine, about thinking I was not exposed when health officials would determine that I might have been, when I was interrupted. “Oh, yeah, my sister went through the Same Thing.” Boy, I wish I had known that before!

In June of 2003, I got up in the middle of the night to go to the bathroom. On the first floor of our house, the chimney is in the center, adjacent to the living room and dining room. I look down and see a bat flying round and round our chimney. I go back to bed, with the door closed. Carol is awake, and I tell her what I saw. I don’t know if either of us went back to sleep.
In the morning, we called the bat removal guy, who looked for the animal, and FOUND it in the window on the landing between the first and second floor. He took it to be tested, and it was negative for rabies.

In June of 2004, Carol was coming downstairs from the first floor to the basement with a load of laundry in her arms when a bat decided to fly up the stairs. She nearly was face to face with the creature. I don’t know that we ever found that beast.

Next month, batproofing is supposed to begin, patching very small holes under the roof where bats can squeeze in. One can’t do it TOO early, lest the bats get stuck in the house all winter, and we get to see them again next spring.

3 Halloween ?S

Three questions I wish for you to answer, if you would be so kind. My response will be in reply section.

1. What was the BEST costume you ever wore? The worst? The most embarassing? The one that got you into the most trouble?

2. Do you still have the Halloween spirit? If not, what age did you lose it? Or did it go and come back? (Having children could do that to one, e.g.)

3. Lydia’s daycare is having a “Fall Festival” this week. Is this: 1) a sensitive response to people’s various belief systems about Halloween or 2) too damn Politically Correct?

Halloween Mixed Bag

Chris Brown, a/k/a Lefty announced another Mixed Bag CD, this one in honor of the season. He actually said: “This is a Halloween themed mix, but I’m leaving it wide open to however you want to interpret that and how far you ghouls wants to take it.” But I had started thinking about it after he started hinting about it, so I decided that I’d try to do the October 31 theme.

But ya know, I’m not one of those All Hallows Eve folks. As an adult, I can remember only a few times that I dressed up, (but one of those times, I looked fabulous, just FABULOUS!) I don’t really collect, or even gravitate to, Halloween tunes, so it would be a difficult exercise. So why do it? Because it would be a difficult exercise.

I used to belong to a book club at my former church. 10 months a year, we’d get together and read a book, any book in a category agreed to by the group: nature, humor, love, whatever. Sometimes I’d find a book on my shelf that I had been planning to read that fit the category, but sometimes I had to read something that I would not otherwise have attempted. I decided that the exercise was worthwhile; it’s how I ended up reading Margaret Atwood, among others.

So, I’ve decided that this is a good thing. But I might not do it NEXT year.

Oh, and one more thing. I AGNONIZED over what it would the tunes, and especially the order. Must have recorded it FIVE times, and if I didn’t let it go, I’d STILL be fussing with it. The one thing that was on a couple versions that didn’t make the final cut is Night on the Bare Mountain, not the Rimsky-Korsikov adaptation, but the 12-minute original Mussorsky. Maybe next year. Maybe not.

Most of these songs have deep, resonating vocals. Here’s what I came up with:

1. Evil-Howlin’ Wolf: love that rumbling voice! A blues classic.

2. Title Music from A Clockwork Orange: as I think I’ve said before, you ought to see this movie ONCE. This is moody moog music from Walter/Wendy Carlos

3. Halloween-Duplex Planet: occasionally, I join record clubs. Not your traditional record clubs, but quirky record clubs. Hello Records put out a bunch of oddball artists, along with obscure stuff from people like Andy Partridge (XTC), Frank Black, and They Might Be Giants. This is one of them. Most of the albums are 15-20 minutes long. One of the few cuts specifically on target.

4. Celtic Rock-Donovan: my friend Mark and I were big fans of the Open Road album that came out in the early 1970s. Sounds Lord of the Ringian, I think.

5. Intruder-Peter Gabriel: first song from his third album, generally called “Melt”. I think someone is in the house.

6. Lovely Creature-Nick Cave: from his Murder Ballads album. One that isn’t as gruesome as some of the other tunes, and not filled with curses like a couple of the tracks, but still very moody/scary, even with the leavening of the female vocal. I have a friend who worked for a record company and sent me discs from time to time; this was one.

7. Your Long White Fingers-Gothic Archies: another Hello disc. The songs on this album are all very short; this one is 1:29.

8. Gnomus (Pictures at an Exhibition): a section from the Mussorsky classic. Change of pace.

9. Greed-Duplex Planet. Less than 30 seconds.

10. The Dead Only Quickly-Gothic Archies. Just over a minute.

11. Paint It, Black-the Rolling Stones. When I was growing up, I had (and still have) the Aftermath LP. Then in the 1980s, Tom Skulan of FantaCo brought me the Aftermath CD from England. I decided on this song, and then I realized that I DID NOT OWN Paint It, Black. I had forgotten that the American version had the song:
1. Paint It Black
2. Stupid Girl
3. Lady Jane
4. Under My Thumb
5. Doncha Bother Me
6. Think
7. Flight 505
8. High and Dry
9. It’s Not Easy
10. I Am Waiting
11. Going Home
but that the British version did NOT:
1. Mother’s Little Helper
2. Stupid Girl
3. Lady Jane
4. Under My Thumb
5. Doncha Bother Me
6. Goin’ Home
7. Flight 505
8. High And Dry
9. Out Of Time
10. It’s Not Easy
11. I Am Waiting
12. Take It Or Leave It
13. Think
14. What To Do
It’s like the Beatles’ Rubber Soul; an American album with the same name and some common tunes, but not all. And of course, the American version is always shorter. (This music butchering also explains why “Ruby Tuesday” shows up on two U.S. LPs in a row.) NOW I have all the Rolling Stones albums through Goat’s Head Soup, at least the non-live, non-Greatest Hits discs.

12. Voodoo-the Neville Brothers: New Orleans funk from the Yellow Moon album (the second time I’ve referenced that album this week, the first being when Rosa Parks died). It probably belongs on my Top 50 or so list.

13. I Put a Spell on You-Creedence Clearwater Revival: logical follow up as both talk about casting a spell.

14. Zombie Jamboree-Rockapella: this wasn’t on the first couple versions because I FORGOT. Harry Belafonte did a version of this song that I received from Zombie Tom. From the Spike & Co. a cappella album, Spike being Mr. Lee, who was in Albany this month (didn’t see him).

15. Catacombs (Pictures at an Exhibition) – starts with an abrupt octave change.

16: Thriller rap-Vincent Price and Michael Jackson: on the extended Thriller CD, you can hear the second verse of Price’s priceless pontification.

17. Black Cat-Janet Jackson. This was on, then off, then on again. I couldn’t resist putting Michael and his baby sister together.

18. Wastepaper Basket Fire-Brian Dewan: another Hello disc. Just because. Very dramatic reading of a dramatic event.

Thanks to Al, Brian, Darrin, and Mark (who will get a copy of this disc when he comes up to fix my computer!) for some sources of the tunes and/or suggestions.

Lefty has reviewed my disc on October 25.

Others have sent me their musical masterpieces and I won’t review them per se, if only because I haven’t heard them enough.

Logan did a cover version piece. Thing about cover versions is that you really appreciate them, or hate them best, when you can compare them with the originals. I liked all of the covers for which I recognized the originals. For those I didn’t, primarily the rap stuff, it was more of a mixed bag. Played twice.

Gordon picked songs that evoked the mood, many of them familiar to me. And it ticked me off. Why didn’t I think of that track from the Specials? Actually, I liked the collection quite a bit. Played once.

(Note: Roger’s Rule is that one cannot fully judge a piece of music until it has been played thrice.)

I just got discs from a guy named Gilbert (a “bad song” mix, featuring the Williams Shatner and Hung) and Greg Burgas, which I haven’t heard yet.

Lefty’s mix, described in his blog of October 27, I haven’t received yet. I assume I’ll get his wife Kelly’s at the same time. I know what I’ll be listening to on Monday.

Harriet’s Gone, and so is Scooter

I am SO sad that Harriet Miers withdrew her nomination for Supreme Court justice. Really, I am. I loved seeing her in all of those pictures with Bionic Dick Cheney and I. Lewis “Child’s Vehicle” Libby when the news broadcasters talked about the Valerie Plame/Joe Wilson situation.

Not only that, but a week’s worth of Doonesbury strips are n.g. and next week’s strips will be reruns.

And now, Libby’s been indicted, for perjury and obstruction, and has resigned. Another bummer, because:

  • It seems like the President has decided to consolidate all of his bad news in one week.
  • The indictments came down on a Friday, which means it will be in the Saturday newspapers, traditionally the one least read.
  • Turd Blossom wasn’t indicted with Libby
    Well, one takes what one can.
  • Curses foiled again


    Belated congratulations to the Chicago White Sox for winning the 2005 World Series. I picked against them, but rooted for them. Yesterday morning, Phil Bayly, the morning anchor on the local NBC affiliate in Albany, was playing the White Sox fight song. I didn’t know they even HAD one. I’m happy for you, JB.

    Who woulda thunk that the year after the BoSox defeated the Curse of the Bambino (1918-2004) that the ChiSox would end the Curse of the Black Sox that started the year before (1917-2005)? Arithmetically speaking, bet the house on the Chicago Cubs, who last won a World Series nine years earlier than the White Sox, in 1908, to oust whatever Curse is holding them, in a 4-game sweep…in 2014.

    Why murder?

    Kelly Brown often confounds me with her simple yet profound questions. Why do people murder?, she asked on August 4. Only one person answered her, I suspect, because, of course, it’s complicated.

    On one hand, I would think (having no direct knowledge) that it would be easier for someone to kill another person when one can objectify the victim as “the other”: different race (lynchings in the South, and elswehere come to mind) different religion (Iraq and Ireland), different ethnicity (Yugoslavia), different gang. On the other hand, that theory doesn’t explain why one kills those closest to a person: murder/suicide (usually the man kills the wife, then himself), infantcide (Andrea Yates). Then there’s greed and power and jealousy but they’ve been with us always (Abel, Julius Caesar).

    Incidentally, the FBI statistics suggest that the murder rate went down from 2003 to 2004 by 3.6%, after rising slighty the previous three years. What caused THAT, I wonder? I’ve read about every theory from the use of death penalty to the greater incarceration rate to a greater comradery after 9/11/01. I’m not sure that any of them is correct; perhaps it’s a statistical anomoly.

    This got me to thinking about conversations I’ve had with my mother about how to live one’s life. She said, “Just follow the Ten Commandments.” Ah yes, but how does one interpret them? What ARE graven images in this society anyway?

    Take “Thou shalt not kill.” I know reasonable people will disagree what that means when talking about suicide, “dying with dignity,” self-defense, first-trimester abortion, late-term abortion, the morning after pill, stem cell research, war, the death penalty, even vegetarianism.

    On October 5, in response to a question of mine, Kelly’s husband Lefty described his belief in the “seamless robe” concept, which is a model that states that all life is sacred. This is based on Jesus’ indivisible tunic. So one would oppose abortion, war, the death penalty, poverty that leads to death, etc., in a consistent philosophy. (Lefty, do you have a good website that explains this further?)

    I recognize that my theology on this is more cafeteria style.
    Abortion: in the words of the junior senator from New York (who I’ve never voted for, BTW), “Safe, legal and rare.” I’ve been around before Roe v. Wade, when women of means were going to Sweden or elsewhere for the procedure, and poorer women were using coat hangers.
    War: generally, I’m against it. I did not protest the war in Afghanistan, though it made me sad (are we still IN Afghanistan?), but I vigorously opposed the build-up to war in Iraq.
    Death penalty: I’m against it. Here’s an interesting fact. More non-Hispanic white people are arrrested for crimes than blacks and Hispanics, yet the prisons are dominated by people of color. Am I suggesting that the criminal justice system MAY not be just? I am. Do I think people who were innocent of capital crimes have been executed because they didn’t have decent legal representation? I do.
    My thoughts on this are also informed by a father of a young woman killed in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995 who spoke in Albany last year. He had anger, naturally, but he came to realize that killing Timothy McVeigh wouldn’t bring his daughter back, and therefore he opposed McVeigh’s execution. When McVeigh WAS executed, he saw a lot of “I thought this would make me feel better, but it didn’t” from the other victims’ families. (I opposed McVeigh’s execution, in part, because I don’t think the whole story was told: remember the search for John Doe #2?)

    Well, I could go on, but I recognize that:
    1) I’m just rambling on with no particular resolution, and
    2) I’ve probably ticked off enough of you for one day

    The Lydster Part 19: Give Me a Head with Hair

    A few months back, my wife Carol says to me, “What should we do about Lydia’s hair?” I, being a new age, sensitive guy, said, “Huh?” I mean, it’s “girl’s hair.” I was never a girl. How would I know?

    What I DID know was that my sisters used to have their hair straightened when they were little with a hot comb. Judging by their howls, this was an…uncomfortable thing to go through. And it smelled, some gag-inducing stench. Then, styles (most fortunately) changed and they each ended up with a natural ‘do.

    So, I’m thinking, I liked the modified ‘fro Lydia seems to have developed.

    I figure she’d grow it until it hit Angela Davis proportions:

    Then one day, at her new daycare, the girls were having ponytails done. Not wanting Lydia to feel left out, one of her caretakers did Lydia’s hair, so that it looked like this:

    Then, soon after, like this:


    And yes, we told her not to sit that way. Right after the picture was taken. Looks kinda Princess Leia to me.

    So the process continues, as it were. I suppose we could solve the problem this way:

    Happy 19 months, Lydia. I love you.

    2000 Dead in Iraq


    There will be vigils tomorrow (Wednesday) across the country noting the 2000th American serviceperson killed in Iraq. These demonstrations have been organized by the American Friends Service Committee and Moveon.org.

    You can check here or here for an event near you.

    Locally, there will be vigils at 5:30pm on Wolf Road and Central Ave. in Colonie, at 7pm in front of the Post Office in Saratoga Springs and other locations. At 3:30pm, there will be a demonstration in front of Congressman Sweeney’s Office in Clifton Park. For more local information, check here.