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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Waiting for a Star to Fall

This video is so great. It’s one of my favorite songs from the ’80s, “Waiting for a Start to Fall” and it’s four and a half minutes of 1980s scenes. It brings you right back to that decade.

Here is the original video, “Waiting for a Star to Fall” by Boy Meets Girl. I have this video saved and I watch it often on YouTube.

Appreciating a strange year

I’m trying to appreciate everything before life gets back to normal. Does that sound strange?

Now that there is a vaccine, hopefully things will get back to normal fast. But it makes me think of this past year. We’re sort of in a rut now, but at the beginning, I really appreciated the whole concept of the world stopping. I wrote about it often.

I was looking out the window the other day – basically the same old scene for the past eight months

I think we’ll look back on 2020 one day and realize that it was an interesting time. A time to stop and reflect. A time to reset our lives. The Earth seemed to be resetting itself.

We may start to see the water and air getting a little bit more polluted. We’ll see more traffic and people on the streets; and more noise out there as industry and travel picks up. It will be life as normal. And we may miss the quietness and the time off that we had during 2020.

There was a lot of sickness and death; and loss of jobs and other things. But there were other things, too. Things that we’ll remember and appreciate once we are out of this strange time. Things we did that we may not ever do again. Walks we took, things we noticed, time we spent alone.

I remember walking around the neighborhood and noticing things I had never noticed before. I remember how quiet the neighborhood was. So desolate.

I had planned to get an RV of some sort, remember the Boho van and head up to the Carolinas, but in the interest of safety, I stayed put.

My living room faces a hotel that was torn town across the way. I remember watching that being taken down slowly over a couple of weeks. Every time I look out at the vacant land now, I remember that time period.

The other side of my place faces a new townhouse going up across the street. They started last January and worked on it through the pandemic. There were times when the only movement in the neighborhood were the construction workers and I looked forward to hearing them.

I remember seeing more people than normal out on the water – rowing, kayaking, paddle boarding. They don’t do that too often, now, but it was a daily thing back in April and May. I remember seeing how clean the water had gotten; and the air.

I remember ordering food from the supermarkets because I was afraid to shop with other people around. I remember only eating at home and then slowly venturing out into the neighborhood. Things are different now. I am out and about – social distancing and wearing a mask, but it took time to get out there.

It’s one of those watershed things where we’ll remember what we did before 2020 and after 2020. It’s a marker in our lives.

I didn’t want to ‘Say Cheese!’

I was talking about film and developing recently. It reminded me of a couple of stories regarding film and cameras.

I had a friend, Vincent, who would take pictures throughout the year and he would put a couple of the prints in the Christmas card he would send you. You would open the card and out would pop a photo of you and friends from July 4th or a birthday party or whatever, from earlier in the year.

When I was in high school I worked at a department store. At one point I worked in the camera department where we sent photos out to be developed. We had a couple of friends, ladies maybe in their 20s, who used to have racy pictures developed every week. It was a regular thing.

People who worked in all different departments of the store used to come by asking if any of their photos were in, returned by the developer. So many people would see the photos, it’s a wonder the ladies never complained about the envelope that the photos came in, it was surely bent and wrinkled and not in the pristine shape the pictures came in. But then again, they probably knew and got a kick out of the whole store seeing their x-rated life.

I remember reading when I was a kid, that there were just a few pictures of Jesee James and Abraham Lincoln and I used to think that was so cool, even though I know why there were only just a few photos. So I decided for most of the 1980s, that I would not be in any photos so when I died, there would only be a few shots of me, like Lincoln.

I don’t think I said anything, I would just slip out of the frame. To this day, I think this is the first time I am telling anyone. It wasn’t a secret, it was just something I did without mentioning it. In many cases, I would offer to take the picture, you know, “Oh Joe! Get in the picture, I’ll take it!”

And so all these years later, I don’t have many, if any images of me from the 1980s, the favorite decade!

Recently one of my cousins put a picture on Facebook, I think from 1989. It was an image of about 25 family members lined up in the backyard. We were all in town for a wedding. And I was missing in the picture! We were all wondering where I was. I couldn’t think of a reason why I wasn’t there either. And then I realized, I probably took the photo after slipping out of the frame. One of my lamebrained ideas. I don’t think I told anyone why, even recently on Facebook, what I did as a joke was Photoshop a current picture of myself into the photo.

I do regret not being in many pictures now. Seeing them would have brought back so many wonderful memories that I forgot about.

Snoopy and The Dakota

I took this picture in 2012 at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in NYC. I’m usually downtown more for the parade, but that year, I was at 72nd and Central Park West, right in front of The Dakota apartment building, which you can see here in the background.

This is one of my favorite photos. I love everything about it and there’s an interesting story about it that happened a day or two later.

After Thanksgiving, I was shopping around the Christmas Market down at Union Square and I stopped in my tracks. One guy was selling drawings of New York scenes and he had this exact scene you see above. He had the Snoopy balloon floating by the Dakota. Exactly! But it wasn’t the photo – it was a black and white drawing!

I don’t know why I didn’t buy it, but that was one of those instances where you are in the right place at the right time or something like that. I showed the photo on my phone to the guy at the booth selling the art and he was flabbergasted, too.

What I loved about that particular day when I was at the parade was that I was in the park. I had crossed over from the east side to the west side, but it was too crowded to get out onto the street, so I watched from inside the park. As I walked down to get to the train station to take the train to queens for my cousin to pick me up, I did it inside the park, and it was a strange experience. I was experiencing the parade almost from backstage. All the action was outside the park, but the leave-less trees allowed me to watch it through the branches from a distance, from inside the park; almost as if backstage, as if I was not actually at the event, but watching from afar. Hard to explain but very memorable.

Weird Thanksgiving this year

Central Park, Nov. 2016

So I was alone for Thanksgiving! First time ever. It was weird, sort of like the first time I ever spent New Year’s Eve alone. That I have grown to like, I don’t think I’ll ever grow to like being alone on Thanksgiving. But this year I did it.

I’m usually in New York for Thanksgiving. This year I was going to do my Boston thing and take the train down to NY, but it was not to be. My family was at my nephew’s house. He and his wife moved in to a big new house recently and they sort of took over family holidays I think, so I should have been there, but I kept hearing on tv that we should be mindful of others and not go to family gatherings unless we physically live with the people.

I had been to their house earlier in the year and to my other nephew’s house earlier this year, too, when we should not have been. They both had birthday parties for their young daughters who I don’t think will ever remember the parties, they are too young, and these parties had upwards of 50 people each! And each time I went, I regretted it later.

So regarding Thanksgiving, I felt that even if there were only going to be a few of us, maybe 15 people or less, it wasn’t a good idea to go. I get premonitions and I got one that told me not to go. My gut was telling me not to tempt fate. Thankfully I made it through those two birthday parties unscathed,and it’s not a good idea to play with mother nature or question your gut feelings.

I spoke with my cousins and aunt and uncle in New York earlier in the day. I really miss our yearly tradition. It’s been a thing since I have been in high school – almost every year in New York. My mother always would complain that I was the only person who left their family for the holidays, meaning I would leave them here to go up north. And I would say, “Mom, I am here for every other holiday!”

I would go to the Macy’s parade; a few years ago it was 17 degrees! I was proud of that one, reminds me of when my cousins and I would go as kids – we would get cocoa at McDonald’s to warm up those days. Anyway, now I have the same routine – I would go to the parade, leave that a bit early, maybe 11:30 or so, get on the train at Grand Central and one of my cousins would pick me up at the next stop in Queens – Vernon-Jackson – in Long Island City.

We would go to her house and have bagels, pastries and coffee, then we would watch the dog show which comes on after the parade. I find the dog show boring, but I would get into it and watch with them. At 2 pm, we would head over to my other cousin’s house for Thanksgiving dinner and everyone else would be there, there would be maybe 20 of us in total. I miss that. All of it, even the boring dog show.

But this year I was at neither place for Thanksgiving. And I didn’t mind. I am counting the days until next year. But for now I’m content.

Last year at the end of November, I had to leave NY early – a nor’easter was coming and I had to get out three days earlier than I had planned. The airline contacted me and had me reschedule. Seems like yesterday, and that sort of consoles me thinking that next year will be here before you know it. Although I’m sure I don’t want to the year to rush by, but I do wish 2020 would end already.

It’s funny because last year, a friend of mine in New York missed Thanksgiving. He said his family left for their relatives without him because he overslept. I don’t understand that, but I said to him, “How did you miss Thanksgiving? Who does that?” And here we are a year later, and I did it!

I did have McDonald’s this year – but it wasn’t cocoa – it was burgers. That was my Thanksgiving dinner, instead of turkey. Life is strange.