Friend Karen is 60

Karen I’ve known since kindergarten, and we went from K through 12th grade together in Binghamton, NY. Back in seventh grade or so, she really got into astrology. I don’t mean just looking at the daily newspaper column, but doing a serious investigation. While I wasn’t a true believer, I found it eerie how accurate they could be. She was born only 46 hours after I was, so there was some overlap between hers and mine.

When we were in high school, there was this silly rule that, when you were running for student government, you could not give your own nominating speech. I gave Karen’s when she ran for secretary, a speech that everyone said was one of the best ever. She won. The following year, they changed the rules so that the candidate gave the speech; my address for myself, running for president, was not nearly as good, by my own reckoning (I won anyway).

In 1977, when I was adrift, she gave me a real (verbal) kick in the butt. In the early 1980s, she stopped drinking; while, initially, she asked why I hadn’t stopped her, she came to the (correct) conclusion that only SHE could have.

She was there in Boston when I won $17,600 on JEOPARDY! in 1998.

Karen told me that she was relieved that I had had a daughter in 2004. I think she believed, probably rightly, that I had an easier time dealing with girls than boys, going back to when we were kids.

She is a world traveler, having visited Burma, Costa Rica, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Turkey, and probably locations I’m forgetting; from the e-mails she sends each winter, I think she ought to blog about it, but she’s disinclined.

Karen had wanted to be in the music business as long as I could remember, nagging her older siblings to buy her the new single by the Kinks or the Rolling Stones, or, of course, the Beatles. In sixth grade, we had a class newspaper, and she wrote a (fictional, alas!) story about meeting the Fab Four.

She did, in fact, go into the music industry. From working in a record store on Main Street in neighboring Johnson City, NY, to getting involved in promoting musicians and their albums, trying to get them on radio, sometimes going to their gigs. Early on, she turned me on to The Band. Later, she introduced me a whole range of artists too numerous to mention, but including the 1990s iteration of Johnny Cash.

She told great stories, which I cannot do justice to. I remember when she was trying to promote Robbie Robertson’s first solo album in the mid-1980s and had to deal with some 24-year-old station manager. He didn’t know who Robbie was, didn’t know who The Band was or that they had backed Bob Dylan, and had never heard of The Last Waltz, the award-winning movie about their final concerts.

Of course, the music business hasn’t gotten any easier of late, but she’s still at it, trying to develop and promote new artists.

I’ve been fortunate that I’ve been able to see her at least once a year for the past few years; unfortunately, the last time was at her mom’s funeral, but it was still a joy to see her.

Happy birthday, Sara Lee! (Inside joke.)

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