Christmas this year

So I may spend Christmas alone this year – first time ever – just like Thanksgiving – first time I ever was alone for Thanksgiving was this year, too.

I’m going to deliver gifts today to friends and family, just so I am not pressured on Christmas day, then I can play it by ear that day and go or not go anywhere and not be pressured because there are gifts to be delivered.

I was finishing wrapping up presents this morning and I turned around and saw this. Isn’t this cute? This little guy wants to escape. It’s a metaphor for the year, I think. Don’t we all want to escape this year? One of my friends who say this photo said he is trying to get out because he wants to stay with me. But not to worry, he is going to a good home – to a one month old boy, in fact! He’s probably bigger than the boy at this point.

Anyway, it’s not that I don’t have a place or two or three to go, but in the interest of safety, I think it’s best not to mix and mingle, especially due to the fact that I have family members who think it’s nothing to go out and party in bars and clubs all the time. Why they are still open can only be explained by our inept government.

I noticed that all of 2020 I did not have hospitalization as part of my coverage! I renew my health insurance myself every year and apparently last year that slipped by – the year of covid!

It’s a confusing process every November and December because it always changes. Things are dropped or moved around and you have to look through dozens of plans to make sure everything is on there that you want and while I was looking for something here, the hospitalization there just slipped away without me noticing. I only noticed when I compared plans for 2021.

So that’s another reason I choose to stay home this holiday season. Why tempt fate when 2021 is only a few days away and I’ll be fully covered, health insurance-wise.

To tell you the truth, I was telling someone that I welcome the change. Just to get out of the rut. It’s the same thing every year – go here for Christmas Eve, go to midnight mass, go here for breakfast the next day, then go here for lunch/dinner, then do this to open gifts and so on – it’s all sort of scripted.

So to have a change this year feels refreshing. To be honest, I don’t even know what day of the week it is anymore. If someone didn’t tell me it was Christmas, I would probably sleep right through it. Maybe next year we can change things up for the holidays – maybe France for Christmas day; maybe Thanksgiving in the mountains. Who knows?

It’s nice to be missed and I wasn’t angry

Near the bike shop.

I live in a small village in Miami. It’s a place where everybody knows your name. It is changing though, lots of development – over-development. Politicians sold the place out and our little village is turning into something else.

I only mention it because we have “Andy Griffith” spots in town. We call them that because they are gathering places where people hang out. If you’re looking for someone or some gossip, they can be found at the Andy Griffith spot, sort of like they did on the Andy Griffith show outside the courthouse or Floyd’s barber shop, etc.

In the past it was at a sunglasses kiosk that a friend ran. We all hung out there, put our feet up on the table and shot the breeze. We also hung out at art galleries and the book store, which was part cafe.

Now it’s the bike shop, which is in danger of being taken over by developers like all the other locations.

Anyway, after I had gotten towed, I wasn’t around. not for any reason other than I was busy and the few times I tried to stop by, I couldn’t find parking and wasn’t about to tempt fate again with the towing company.

But the funny thing is when I returned to the hang out and center of town on Friday, I had so many people call out to me and ask how my car was and asked if I got it back! Small village life.

Many thought I was still upset and didn’t want to return for that reason. Even close friends thought that. And I asked them, well, if you cared, you would have called or texted. And they said the same to me, that I would have reached out to them, too.

But it was just funny to have people asking about the car and the fact that they missed me; I had already forgotten about it and was dealing with other things. I guess it’s nice to be missed.

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.

Being creative

I may have a collaborator on a few future comics. Maybe more than a few!

My nephew sent me a bunch of comic ideas yesterday and most are excellent! He called me to tell me he was thinking or dreaming or something like that and he thought of so funny cartoon ideas, he told me a few on the phone and they seemed funny, but when he sent me the long list in writing later, they were really funny.

He’s an engineer, he owns a very successful factory and doesn’t seem like the type to even bother with comics, but it’s so nice knowing that he does think about comics.

So many friends and relatives read my work and it comes out in conversation or they may comment on a comic or blog post online or in person and it’s nice to know that I am entertaining friends and family, along with thousands of other people out there.

I saw a video or read something not to long ago where a cartoonist said, “Don’t write for the fans, write for yourself.” And that did make sense. All those years when I was publishing the daily news, I don’t think I ever thought of a person or people when I was writing, especially columns, where are personal. I just wrote and people read what they wanted when it was published.

I think if I had certain people in mind every time I wrote something that would have driven me mad. That’s not to say that at times I wondered if I was making certain people proud or whatever, but I never wrote or phrased things in order to please any one person. It just came out, sort of like this, which I’m writing now.

Same with the comics, once I started writing for myself, I felt less pressure. I know there have been a few lately that maybe everyone doesn’t get. But that’s alright. For those that get the gag, it’s an inside joke.

They are hitting the road

rv

So I went downstairs yesterday morning and there was a big RV sitting right outside and one of my neighbors got out. He told me that he and his parents are driving up to New York and will make stops along the way. How exciting! They are living one of my dreams!

I got this picture of him backing into the street and heading out to pick up his parents. He has his bulldog sitting next to him in the passenger seat and they’re off! They are driving to avoid the quarantine but I see that now NYC is setting up check-points at bridges and tunnels to check people entering the city, so I’m wondering how that will work out. New York state has had 0 deaths from covid19 in the past few days. They are terrified of outsiders coming in at this point.

They are sort of driving along the Hurricane route, but I guess they’ll be behind it so as long as it doesn’t do any damage, they are ok driving up I-95 I suppose.

I went inside and it’s just like you see on tv and in the movies. I said it was his little bit of Breaking Bad, although this RV was shiny and new. It wasn’t huge  but had plenty of room. There were two sleeping areas and a kitchen and table and places to sit. So great.

I still have it in my mind to drive up to the Carolinas at the end of the summer. I won’t do it in an RV, I’ll do it in a car, but RV travel across the country has always been a dream of mine. I think everyone thinks about that one time or other.

I wanted to take a picture of me inside, but felt silly with my neighbor standing there, but it looks like the one above. I wished them luck on their travels. They may be gone a month or so. So cool. I’m envious.

I love when people persevere

josh

My friend Josh

My friend Josh, a tv producer, is now the Key Lime Pie King around here. So from behind the camera to in front of it – he was featured on GMA yesterday. I remember one day he told me he wanted to get a cart to sell his pies around town. I didn’t know what he was talking about, but a week later he sent me a picture of his pink and green monster – he already had the cart and was selling pies from it around town.

Josh is a tv producer (you probably know so many of his shows) – who loves making and selling the best key lime pies! The grass is always greener, how many would rather be a tv producer (and cameraman), he filmed this whole thing himself since GMA was unable to send a crew out!

What I love about this story is the success of it. So many people are out of work due to the pandemic and this is the time to realize our dreams. It’s a time of change. And rather than sit around and mope, Josh started doing something he loves – baking!

Whenever I see one of these success stories on tv, I literally get up and touch the person on the tv. Seriously! If it’s a mom who started a million dollar business from her kitchen table, or a guy who saved the family farm or whatever, I am very interested in that. I thrive on that. I touch them so I can get a piece of them – a piece of their energy. I do that for people who also have come back from a bad illness or accident, too. And to know someone like Josh, who I would touch through the tv, is even better – especially since I can touch him in person!

josh-tom

Josh (right) and me selling pies last Sunday.

The grass is always greener

tom-maskI received a text from a friend in New York. I hadn’t heard from him since April. He saw one of my full moon photos on Instagram and said he was jealous and wished he was here in Miami.

But of course, I wish I was in New York right now. I would be there now normally if we were in normal times. I’m wearing my New York cap (and a mask) in their honor, as you can see here.

Oddly enough, New York and the whole tri-state and maybe most of the New England area are the safest places to be these days. But of course there is that pesky quarantine for visitors. Which I guess is a good thing. They rid themselves of the monster, why open the door and allow it to re-enter. But he tells me the “liveliness” is missing in the city these days. He used that word.

There was a time when I was content to just be, you know, not to get up and travel. But now I’m feeling restless. I still feel that I need to visit the Carolinas this summer. Being cooped up in the house for months would make anyone want to escape.

I’ve been out and about of course, but just to run here and there and get back home.

It’s weird but at the beginning of the shelter in place order back in March, I think, I said I was fine with it. I’m not now. I’m over it as I am sure you are, too.

We made it to July 4th!

coconuthunt

So it’s July 4th weekend. Hard to believe we all made it to this date. I remember starting to shelter in place in March. I thought it would all be over by now. But I guess I was just fooling myself. This year July 4th will be different for so many of us.

Normally I would be in New York at this time – probably at my cousin’s house in the Hamptons for the actual July 4th holiday with the family. Many times I would be there for the weekend, but on the actual day, July 4th, I would be in the City watching fireworks over the river.

But for many years I did stay home and was part of big celebrations in our town. We did so much here from hot dog eating contests to fireworks with so much in between.

For a few years we had a coconut hunt! What we did was have painting parties for a month or two before. Usually on a Friday night at one of the local galleries, we had painting parties with wine and pizza. Anyone could come by and paint – and people did. By July 4th we ended up with hundreds of coconuts.

At a given time, we would have the contest. We would hand out clues to people and they would run out into the village trying to find coconuts. Certain coconuts were winners – for instance, the golden coconut was the grand prize coconut, then there were others. We had numbers on all the coconuts and they were called randomly at the end and people would win all sorts of prizes.

We even had Lucie and Desi Arnaz Jr. one year for July 4th. They recreated a famous Lucy and Desi Sr. photo at City Hall here in the village. Fun times.

How did we arrange to meet before cell phones?

bethesda-fountain

Bethesda Fountain, Central Park, NYC (photo by me)

I’m gonna miss New York this summer. But I think I needed a kick in the pants to get out of my rut, or maybe not a rut, let’s call it a habit. I do things twice and that’s it – it’s my habit. I go to the same restaurants all the time. I watch the same tv shows. I told you about my cousin who does a concert on Facebook every few Saturday nights, now that’s a thing for me and I have to text him and ask him if this is the week for the show. The world isn’t right (in my head) until the show goes on.

My habit was going to NYC for a large part of the summer for most of my adult life, or maybe even starting in high school. I would go most summers, but many years I didn’t, but it was a habit. I put off doing other things and going other places for this. But now I am open to do anything. I feel very free this summer by “being released” of my NY summer obligation, which is an obligation only in my own head.

I was thinking of all the times I would arrange to meet Miami friends who were visiting the city at the same time.

What I was finding interesting that years ago, before cell phones and email and all the communication we have now, I would meet friends and I am wondering how we did it and how they even knew I was going to be there. I mean, we didn’t announce things on Facebook back then, so I must have told people separately – “I’m going to NY next week or next month or whatever.” And the amazing thing is that we met up if they were going to be there at the same time.

I remember meeting my friend Albert a few times in the summer when he was up there visiting and my friend Vincent during Thanksgiving week and so on. But how did we know to meet? Did I tell them on November 1st “Let’s meet in front of the Empire State Building on November 23 at noon,” or “Let’s meet at the Bethesda Foundation at 1 pm on July 5,” and that’s how it happened?

They were always there at the place and time. But how did we communicate? We were all out of town, did we call each other at our cousin’s houses or hotels we were at?

I would always show up at such and such time on such and such date and there was the person I was supposed to meet. Talk about reliability. Now with all the communication abilities we have it is worse. “Text me when you are near,” “text me when you are there,” “text me tomorrow.” And still they don’t show up.

A friendly reminder

hal-and-high-waterIt’s amazing how my whole life has been enveloped by comics, yet a few years back I was sort of out of it and didn’t think I would draw again. Not for any special reason other than I was underwhelmed with so many comics in the newspapers and felt the heyday was over and I ran a very successful marketing business, so I felt that was my future.

About 12 years ago or so, my friend Victor bought me a bunch of stuff as a gift. I was reminded of it as I was cleaning out the closets recently. He bought me pads and pens or markers, something like that – for a birthday or Christmas gift and he said he hoped it would get me back into drawing and cartooning. It was the sweetest thought.

The funny thing is that it was all items I wouldn’t use and never have. And I’m sure anyone would feel that way because you use your own materials when creating art. If I was a painter, but then again no, isn’t that a song? Anyway, if I was a painter, I would have my own canvases that I preferred and my own paints and brushes.

But Victor’s thought meant so much more than the items themselves. And I am back on the road to cartooning history after all this time with a friendly reminder from those pads and pens.

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