Posts Tagged ‘Sonya Livingston’

The World Is Full Of Words

Saturday, February 6th, 2016

Super Bowl cup-cakes at Kneads & Wants on Lake Avenue in Rochester, New York

It was good to see writing, or more accurately reading of one’s writing, take first prize at this month’s First Friday gallery night. Of course, the prize is not even tangible and entirely subjective. We only saw three shows last night but Sonya Livingston, reading from her book, “Queen of the Fall” (working title, “Land of the Lost”) was as good as it gets. She possesses the keenest of observational skills and an extraordinary ability to elevate the ordinary. She is a joy to read and a double delight to hear read. I went ape over her first book and Writer’s & Books has selected this one as its 16th year “If All of Rochester Reads the Same Book…” selection.

Poet, Sally Bittner Bonn, read a couple of pieces from her upcoming memoir about raising a child (Oscar) with a disability. Both were deeply felt and moving. Oscar is a Margaret Explosion fan, we played at a few benefits to raise money for his power chair. Oscar was there for his mom’s readings and we had a chance to say hi. Always a delight.

No Regrets

Monday, May 4th, 2015

Joeseph Avenue house with statues, Rochester NY

About seventy five of us were seated in a warm room on an eighty degree day, all chairs facing toward a big screen tv. “Called to Serve” featured Sandra Day O’Conner, John Roberts and Samuel Alito extolling the virtues of our trial by jury system. Former jurors talked about their experience. Everyone looked especially large because the video had been stretched from its 4×3 original format to 16×9. The guy sitting next to me was all decked out in Harley Davidson gear and holding onto a hardback copy of Ace Frehley’s autobiography, “No Regrets.” I spotted only a handful of African Americans in the crowd.

When the video ended we were led into the courtroom where we watched some people shuffle papers for about twenty minutes. The judge came in, apologized for the delay and briefly explained the case. Three cops, who were seated directly in front of me, were accused of using excessive force when they arrested this guy in 2007 for some sort of domestic issue. The guy, sitting alone at a big table with a box of papers, was wearing a green jump suit and currently serving a prison term on an unrelated charge. We were told that was of no concern to us.

They called sixteen names, mine included, and we were seated in the jury box. I think they were working their way toward seating only eight jurors. The judge asked each of us many questions based on the forms we had filled out. Would we be available for the next few weeks? I said I might have some conflicts but would try to move them. He asked what I did when I worked for the police department in the seventies. I told him I pulled mugshots and made flyers for about a year until the grant for my graphic arts position ran out.

A woman who said she was breaking out in hives was let go. A man who said his fourth ammendment rights were violated when he went through the metal detector downstairs was let go but I made the cut up to the break. The jury box faced a wood paneled wall with a big built-in clock. It read five to noon and I believed it until I saw smaller clock below it. It was still only ten o’clock. Despite the extensive downtime, relatively few people brought reading material and of course phones were confiscated at the door. The woman sitting next to me in the jury box was reading “Ghostbread.” I told her I loved the book and she said, “I’m reading it for the second time.”

Next came a round of personal questions from the judge. What do you do for a living, are you married, what are you hobbies? About half had no hobbies at all. One guy answered, “I enjoy not working.” That got a good laugh. Most people answered all the questions enthusiastically. I got the sense they really wanted to be on this jury for the next three or four weeks. I can’t say I was looking forward to being trapped in the Federal Building for the next month hearing this sad case.

The two defense attorneys and the prisoner approached the bench for a round of whispering and when they returned the judge told me I was excused. I rode my bike down Main Street and out Joseph Avenue, scene of the 1964 race riots and then the Urban Renewal blight. I was feeling a bit guilty about not making the good citizen grade.