Visiting Van Gogh

These pictures of course do not do this justice, but the other day we went to the Van Gogh Experience in NYC. It was one of the best things I have experienced. The best part and most unbelievable part was just as we entered, my favorite song, No Regrets by Edith Piaf started playing.

This was not planned. We entered randomly, it was not as if the show was starting, it’s an ongoing thing. The person at the entrance, parted black curtains, and four of us entered, the lights came on and Edith Piaf started singing and Vincent Van Gogh’s work was bigger than life surrounding us. An indescribable moment.

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A delightful train ride

Photo courtesy Railroad Museum of New England

I made my plans for my usual train ride from Boston to NYC in the fall. It’s been a regular thing every few years. I start out in Boston and end up in NY for Thanksgiving via train, traveling through the colorful autumn leave covered terrain of New England along the way. One of my favorite things.

A couple of years ago, I sat in front of two older ladies and enjoyed hearing their conversation through the whole ride. Rather than being annoying, it was quite enjoyable. Here’s the story, I had posted it before, but here it is again.

On Thanksgiving week, I took a four hour train trip from Boston to New York. Sitting behind me were two older ladies. They didn’t know each other and they just ended up sitting together and they talked and talked for that four hours. I know their whole stories, I know their names, I know about their kids and I loved every minute of it. I almost wish I had taped it.

One lady is 82 and one is 83. One is from Manchester, England one is from Rhode Island, they both had lived in New Jersey at one time and both were on their way back to New Jersey to be with family for Thanksgiving.

This video is 23 seconds through Connecticut, and you can hear the ladies speaking behind me. It’s low, but listen . . . It’s amazing, when I hear them it brings me right back to that moment.

The lady from Rhode Island talked like Cyndi Lauper. Exactly. The lady from Manchester had that refined English accent and you can imagine these two accents going back and forth sharing their lives with each other. Cyndi Lauper was nosy and nervy, she asked a lot of personal questions, and Manchester calmly answered them.

Manchester has two children, one in Washington DC and one in New Jersey, I think she said she lives in Boston now. Cyndi Lauper has five children and nine grandchildren, they live all over and I don’t remember where she lives now.

They spoke about their husbands who have both passed, Manchester’s husband passed 10 years ago, Cyndi Lauper’s husband passed nine years ago to the exact day we were on the train. Cyndi Lauper was very into her husband’s life, it was more about him than her, and it seemed to be a man’s world according to her questions. She asked Manchester what her husband did for a living, rather than asking Manchester what she did. Manchester’s husband did many things, including real estate, to which Cyndi Lauper said, “Oh you must have made a lot of money!” to which Manchester calmly said, “No, just enough to live on.”

Cyndi Lauper’s husband was a highly regarded college professor. It was a hectic life being a professor’s wife, according to Cyndi Lauper.

They spoke of World War II and of all of the places they have been and lived. They spoke of the Royal Family. Neither of them like Camila, Cyndi Lauper doesn’t like Charles, but Manchester says he is not a bad sort.

Manchester came to the US in the 1960s. She said that period of time was a “brain drain” where all the good minds from England moved to the states. She eventually became a citizen with her husband in Elizabeth, New Jersey, they lived in that county at the time and that was the county seat and the location for the citizenship ceremony

The conversation was fascinating. And the thought of these two older grandmas traveling alone together was nice. When they first met, Cyndi Lauper told Manchester that she was nervous about traveling alone, getting on the wrong train and all but Manchester said, “We’ll you’re on the train now and the only thing to do is get off when it’s time. That’s it.”

Cyndi Lauper had her son picking her up at the train station and Manchester had her daughter-in-law picking her up at the train station. Manchester said the first thing she wanted to do once she was settled at her son’s and daughter-in-law’s house was to have a hot cup of tea. She said, “When she asks if I want anything [meaning her daughter-in-law], I will say ‘yes,’ a hot cup of tea!”

I did not look back at them the whole time, I didn’t want to spoil the image I had in my head of them. But when my stop came, NYC, I had to get up and leave, so I looked back and there they were, sitting and staring at me. I just stared back, I didn’t want to be rude but I wanted to take them in. Neither was what I had pictured in my head and I almost wish I had not looked.

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What a difference a year makes

A recent cartoon made me laugh before I even drew it. It wasn’t the cartoon or subject matter itself. It’s the fact that as I sat down to draw, I said out loud, “Let’s get this scene done!” I guess I think I’m shooting a movie or something these days. And possibly I am. I am the writer, director, cameraman and so on. So maybe it is a scene being shot.

I like the juxtaposition of this cartoon with one I did about a year ago, around the beginning of the pandemic. This one below.

They are both confusing due to the masks. In the last case above, masks are becoming a thing of the past, but the bank robber wants to keep his on. In the earlier one below, the bank robber is sort of infringed upon by everyone wearing masks, which struck me quite funny the first time I walked into a bank and saw everyone, including myself, wearing masks.

Here’s a little secret – they were both done around the same time – a year or so ago. The top one originally was the lady banker telling the man banker, to “calm down, it’s ok to wear masks in the bank today.” And the customer didn’t have a gun. He was just a customer with a mask. But it sat for a year and eventually, I changed the wording, added a gun and there you have it.

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Birthdays, kayaks and getting back to normal

For the past week my life has been kayaks and birthday lunches.

I’ve never been one for birthdays, I don’t see any reason to celebrate getting older, and of course my mother always cries when I say that and she thinks I wish I never was born, which of course is not the case. I just don’t like to make a fuss over it.

So usually my birthday comes and goes and my family does something, usually a cake on pizza night or something, but I guess because of the pandemic coming to an end, people want to get out, so I’ve been having lunches almost daily with different people, who are asking to take me out for my birthday, which was almost a week ago – yet the lunches keep going on and I’m loving it. I have a lot of Gemini friends, so there are lots of other birthdays during this period, so we have been celebrating those, too. So it’s been one big Gemini party lately.

For years I went out to lunch almost daily with different friends, and family, on different days and it was just the norm, but over time it seemed to stop, but it’s back and I’m loving it.

One of the local restaurant owners saw me on the street and started complaining about the fate of restaurants these days and he said I look so relaxed and happy and don’t have a wrinkle on my face, which he meant as a put down, but of course, I took it as a compliment, especially on my birthday, the day he actually said that to me. I had to remind him that the pandemic affected everyone, not just him.

As for the kayak/canoe saga, my kayak friend traded in that blow-up thing for an actual canoe. He had some guy with a trailer bring it over to my house to store here so we can easily take it out on the water, but haven’t yet. The bay has been choppy, maybe due that big beautiful full moon. Did you see it?

He came over to try it out, to see if it worked in the water without any leaks. It’s an old, ugly canoe, and therein lies the rub. One of my neighbors objected to it being on the property. “I’m trying to make the place look nice and you have that piece of crap hanging on the wall?” He offered to buy a nice new wooden one for us all to use, something he called “Hamptons-style.”

So I told him to just wait it out, my friend will get bored and get rid of the canoe, although he didn’t take it well when I told him it had to go.

I normally would fight it and say that I live here too, I have rights. But the thing is ugly, it is not going to be used, and my neighbor always does things for me – like buy me a brand new canoe, which I am going to decline. It makes no sense for him to do that.

So between that and lunches with friends (he was one of them that took me out), that’s what’s been going on around here. Business has been picking up, so that’s great and I’m getting ready for summer travel, so that is great, too. Little by little things are returning to normal, let’s hope they stay that way.

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Faded pictures

I was looking through pictures of our kayaking adventure and also pictures from when my friend was in town in April. A lot happened – went to the zoo, Everglades, etc. But I don’t have many pictures. Is it possible we are finally, as a society, getting over taking pictures of everything, including our lunch every day?

There was a time where we took pictures of everything. My friend likes to post “stories” on Instagram, which disappear in 24 hours, so he doesn’t have any photos to see or save.

I used to take so many pictures of everything, sort of documenting my whole life. When I published the daily news, I literally would have 150 photos of an event I attended and then I would have to go through every one of those photos and edit them down to a handful that I would publish. I finally learned, after so many years of that to just edit as I went along. I would take maybe 12 photos and then whittle that down to 9 or 10. And this way, I literally cut out hours worth of work going through images.

But now I sort of don’t take pictures of things. When we went kayaking, my biggest fear in that rubber raft was sinking. Not so much drowning, but sinking and losing my keys and my phone. But I left them home and went out “naked” so to speak, and it was so much more relaxing not having to worry about anything.

I remember once I went out and left my phone at home and rather than panic, I was totally relaxed.

So I’m wondering now if we are letting up on the photos. For one thing it’s rude when you are with people, you know, you’re out and about and maybe at lunch and you are taking photos of everything. I don’t even answer the phone when it rings when I’m with people. I try to think of years ago when we didn’t have that option, so why is it so important now? Let people wait, you don’t need to text right back or answer right away or take pictures of your lunch all the time.

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Art and history come to life

This is freaky, but interesting. I was flipping through YouTube the other night and this caught my eye and I couldn’t stop watching. Famous people’s statues are brought to life. It’s so real and lifelike, and spooky when they blink!

And here portraits are brought to life.

There are a bunch more of these here at Mystery Scoop on YouTube.

Old friends popping up out of the blue

I’ve been cleaning the house up this week. Nothing much, it’s more messy than dirty. But I want it to look decent for a friend I haven’t seen in 40 years. Yup, 40 years! We were kids the last time we saw each other for goodness sake!

He emailed me a couple of weeks ago. My name popped in his head after all these years and he did an internet search and he found me. We talked on the phone, and he’ll be in town maybe this week. He lives in Orlando now and he’s back and forth to Miami often.

Strange when I think about it. 40 years – a lifetime. I had a whole life since I saw him last, so did he.

This isn’t the first time this happened, a friend I know since we are three years old contacted me not long ago. He found me on Facebook. We haven’t touched base in person yet, but he also lives not too far from me, maybe an hour’s drive north. The last time I saw him, I think he was maybe 7 or 8 years old. Amazing. He has a wife and four kids now.

Social media is amazing. But again – this isn’t the first time, but a bit before I was on social media, in 2008 or 2009, I found an old photo of a friend named Tom, yup, another Tom. We were very good friends but he left town after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. It was such a crazy time that people got scattered all over the place and he ended up going back to California, to San Francisco, where he was born. His family has lived there for generations. I never asked him about it, I have to – did they go there during the gold rush of 1849? How did they end up there so many years ago?

Anyway, I found a bunch of old photos and there was Tom in one. It jogged my memory, I had not seen him for almost 20 years by then. I did an internet search and I found his email address. I emailed him and we connected, he came down to visit and we have been connected since – mostly on Facebook – but we have been connected in person, too. It’s sort of my turn to visit him in California – maybe soon after the pandemic is over.

I find it so weird and interesting that even though decades have passed, we all go back to where we left off – sort of like muscle memory. It’s like no time passed at all. Even all our voices sound the same to all of us after not hearing them for so long. And the funny things we remember about each other come right back. Certain things come up or tv shows come on or whatever, and something flashed in your mind and you remember certain people at certain times doing certain things. A news story or event or a certain neighborhood or building brings certain people to mind.

My friend in Orlando asked if I remembered him. I was taken aback when he asked. Why wouldn’t I? He’s part of the fabric of my life.

Lots of walking in the city

I mentioned this walking activity graph the other day. I particularly remember this time – I did a lot of walking that summer, when I look at this chart, I remember looking at the steps I took at the end of the day and was flabbergasted that I walked so much in one day.

I remember I started our early that day, I went to the post office first. I was mailing dirty clothing home! I do that midway through a long stay away from home, it lightens the load when I’m headed home and it gives me extra room for new things that I might have purchased during my time away.

I remember that morning, as I was walking to a post office in Manhattan, I saw Stanley Tucci, the actor of all people. He was running on Second Avenue, early in the morning. There weren’t many people around since it was an early summer day – July 4th week. He stopped to wait for traffic and he said “hello” to me. He was quite buff, he looks smaller on tv. It’s funny how that one moment in time sticks with me – the early morning, walking to the post office bit, I don’t remember what I did the rest of that day, but that early morning post office/Tucci part remains in my mind.

For many years I would send a box of clothing ahead on long trips. I would have them sent to my cousins or aunt and uncles’ house and then pick them up when I had a chance. I stopped doing that, but I do mail back dirty clothing mid-trip now.

One time my uncle tied up the box I had sent ahead with cord/rope, so that it would be easy to carry – sort of making a handle with the rope. I remember taking it back to the city on the subway. I later opened the box, but never ended up using any of the clothing. At the hotel where I was staying, I had moved rooms. I don’t remember why, but they said they would move my stuff for me when I was out, not to worry, when I came back, just head to the new room.

When I got back later, there was my stuff in the room and I had to laugh because the cord that was there from the box my uncle had wrapped, was balled up on the top of the box, sort of like a cherry on the top of a cake.

Later on that week, I needed rope for something. I don’t remember why. But there was the rope, sitting like a cherry on top of the box, and I used that.

Visiting the past in old photos

I love this photo because most of these buildings are there today. This image is Union Square, NYC, 1904. It’s such a great shot. Notice the horses and at the other side of the picture is a trolley.

This other image is a couple of summers ago. If you notice the buildings to the right of the top photo, you’ll see they are the same ones that are there today.

A lot of times I’ll have an old photo, like the one above, in my phone and when I’m at a place in the city, I’ll try to compare the image to see what is still there.

I may have told you this story – One time I was at Union Square and I was holding up a photo, not too far from the are where the top photo is taken. I held the camera up and was trying to line up the shot to the similar buildings on my phone. But as I held the camera up, I was holding it right at a guy’s head. It looked as if I was taking a close-up of his face!

He looked at me and I got embarrassed and said, “Oh, I’m sorry,” and I explained to him what I was doing and I showed him the image on my phone. We both got a good laugh out of that.

Today is ‘Tom Falco Day’

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Last year – February 14, 2020, was declared “Tom Falco Day” in the City of Miami. It’s hard to believe it has only been a year. While this past year seemed to fly by, in some instances it felt like 10 years in one! It is hard to believe this was only 12 months ago.

Last Feb. 14, I received a proclamation that says this date is mine! It may be Valentine’s Day to you, but to me it’s this. It may be just that one day last year, but I am claiming it in perpetuity so every February 14 is Tom Falco Day! That’s me at left with one of our City Commissioners, Ken Russell.

For 15 years I published the news and was an activist in our little village and I decided to end the publication that month. And it was so great of Ken and the local government, including the BID, to do this for me. So many of my friends and townspeople came out, such memories. It was bittersweet. It was so nice to see so many faces.

It was sort of a surprise, so I didn’t invite family or anyone. I was just told to show up Friday afternoon at 4 pm. I knew something was up, but not what, I knew enough to throw a jacket in the back of my car, just in case.

Not publishing the news every day is a lot off my shoulders, it was a big responsibility. Ending that responsibility felt like it was the last day of school. Forever! I remember that feeling.

I’m still around, I see the same people every day, but I’m part of the community now, I blend in, I’m not in everyone’s business. I like it this way.

Anyway, Happy Valentine’s Day Tom Falco Day!

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