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.
I’ve been in New York. Did a lot so far in a week. The worst part was the flight. From the time I left my house until I got to the door here in NY, it took 10 hours. The flight was delayed and then we didn’t have a pilot! We literally sat on the plane for an hour waiting for him to arrive!
But I’m here and all is well.
Been to The Hamptons with my family and friends, we were at an outdoor bar listening to one of my cousins perform., He’s an entertainer and he was doing his thing out at the waterfront. It was a perfect day.
Did a bunch of other things – ate at one of our favorite Italian restaurants in Brooklyn. Did Hoboken and saw Manhattanhenge.
On Wednesday, a friend and I did the Little Island. It was beautiful and a lot of fun, but the temperature was 96 degrees with a heat index of 105 degrees. Oppressive! I even passed up Mr. Softee – I was too nauseous to eat.
Thursday a friend and I did the MET Museum. It rained all day, so that was a good indoor thing to do.
Been to diners, had an egg cream. Did all my usual stuff.
I was excited to interview Dr. Chris Naunton, Egyptologist, who I see all over tv. I tend to watch a lot of shows based on ancient Egypt, I guess that’s why that subject appears in a lot of my cartoons.
TOM: Hi Chris, thank you for doing this.
I see you have a new book out, “King Tutankamun Tells All,” I noticed the great cover right away. It looks like it’s a book for children. Is this the case?
CHRIS: It is a book for children! I have an academic grounding in Egyptology and most people making a living from the subject are academics, but that kind of work is very serious and doesn’t allow much room for jokes or light-heartedness. I had, for quite a long time, been bugged by this idea that, if the ancient Egyptians’ beliefs were right, then Tutankhamun’s spirit might still be around, dying to tell his own story and to tell us how wrong we had got everything! Writing for children allowed me to give Tutankhamun a voice (that of a slightly perturbed teenager), and to imagine his life, death and afterlife from his perspective, and also to make a few jokes too (as a serious Egyptologist I’m not really supposed to make light of the fact that his underpants were found in the tomb but come on…). It’s not a very serious book in that way, but actually, I think the process has helped me to try to get inside the mind of an Egyptian pharaoh and that’s a very interesting and helpful exercise and one I’d recommend to my colleagues!
TOM: You were appointed president of Thames Valley Ancient Egypt Society recently, what is that all about?
CHRIS: We’re very lucky in the UK that there’s a rich culture of ‘local societies’ — groups around the country run by volunteers who invite people like along to give talks about heir research for local enthusiasts. It provides us with a platform and an opportunity to engage directly with audiences beyond our academic colleagues. Communicating with wider audiences is crucially important for any science, and every opportunity like this helps us to sharpen our skills, hear the very good questions that people want answered etc. I’ve been doing this for almost 20 years now and last year I was invited to become the President of one of the largest and best such groups — the Thames Valley group which serves a wide area to the west of London.
TOM: How did you begin your career as an Egyptologist?
CHRIS: Well, I went to university to study Ancient History and Archaeology — I was more interested in football and rock music than anything else at school but it was pretty obvious by then that I wasn’t going to become a professional athlete, and the bands I was in at school didn’t seem to be going anywhere. So I had no better ideas as to what to do at 18 than to get a degree and this seems like the most interesting way to do it. Once I got there I realized I loved it and my grades were good so I decided to have a go at making a career out of it — fully expecting it wouldn’t happen. After two degrees I started applying for every job and other opportunity going and to my great surprise I got a lowly admin job at the Egypt Exploration Society. I left 16 years later having been CEO for five years.
TOM: Are you just handed the keys to locked tombs and simply walk in with a cameraman?
CHRIS: Ha ha, not quite! All archaeological sites and monuments in Egypt are the responsibility of the Ministry of Antiquities and Tourism (MoTA) and they make sure all visits are closely controlled. TV work has taken me to lots of places that are not usually open to the public but months of application beforehand are required and we are then accompanied by MoTA officials and the local guardians who actually have the keys, and Egyptian facilitators who ensure we know exactly what we can and cannot do, what we can / cannot film etc, and how long we’ve got (usually not long enough!). Still, I feel incredibly lucky thatches line of work has taken me to the places it has. Be there at the moment the burial chamber of the pyramid is opened for the first time in 4,000 years? YES PLEASE.
TOM: Do you not fear the curse of Tut’s tomb when you enter?
CHRIS: I don’t know how many times I’ve been into the tomb now, behind the barriers, in the closed rooms, gurning for the cameras while standing next to the king’s mummy, and it’s all been OK… And having had a chance to imagine how the king himself feels about all this, I reckon I’ll be OK — he quite likes the publicity!
TOM: What song is the theme of your life?
Oh my goodness… It depends one my mood, what’s going on in life… Generally speaking I respond to music more than lyrics I think and a lot of my favorite songs have lyrics that don’t really fit. The lyricists that have — in the 25 years I’ve been listening to music quite intensely — given expression to what I’m thinking and feeling the best are probably Morrissey, who seemed like a disgruntled teenager as I was when I fist started listening to The Smiths, and more recently Matt Berninger of The National, who seems more like a disgruntled 40-something like I am now! (‘I wish that I believed in fate, I wish I didn’t sleep so late’ … ‘Goodbyes always take us half an hour, can’t we just go home’)
CHRIS: I’m not easily bored. I found out a few years, a little to my surprise, that I’m very much an introvert and part of that is that I don’t need a lot of external stimulation to occupy me, and internal thoughts come easily. Pointless meetings are boring and I’ve been in plenty of those!
TOM: Who is your favorite superhero?
CHRIS: This is not something I often think about. Maybe Bananaman? This was a cartoon on British TV in the 80s, which began: This is 29 Acacia Road, and this is Eric, an ordinary little boy. But when Eric eats a banana, an extraordinary transformation occurs: Eric… is, BANANAMAN! Ever alert to the call to action!”
TOM: Winter, spring, summer or fall?
CHRIS: Spring and Fall — the light is beautiful — gentle and raking — at these times of year. Winter in England is far too dar and gloomy, and summer is too hot. If I had to choose one, I’d perhaps choose Spring as it’s the time when all the time when nature reawakens and everywhere explodes with green. Autumn (Fall!) is tinged with melancholy, as we all know the gloom is coming…
TOM: Who would you like to hang out with for the day — Akhenaten, Tutankhamun or Cleopatra? And why?
CHRIS: Wow, great question! I think Akhenaten. Although we don’t know to what extent it was his project, his reign was one of the most interesting times in Egyptian history, when so much of Egyptian culture was reinvented. I’d love to know if he really was this great, driven intellectual with the imagination to envision an entirely new Egypt, or if he just had revolutionary advisors. And I’d love to know what he really looked like. I’d meet any of them though, especially if I could bunk off for an hour or so and just take a look round!
TOM: Thanks, Chris! Hoping to take one of your tours soon. Until then, I’ll look for you on tv!
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!
I was thinking that I need to get new photos for press stories and things like that. In the past, the publications would send out a staff photographer or someone to take the pictures. I don’t ever remember sending in my own photos. Even news channels would send out a reporter or someone with a camera and they would film you somewhere. Now it’s all zoomed in. In the past a tv station would call me up about a local issue and ask if they could send a reporter or guy with a camera over – and more times than not, they wanted me in the center of town to do the interview. This is when I published the daily news and was considered some sort of know-it-all. I wan’t, but the media thought that.
So many old ways may be gone now that the pandemic has set new rules. And even before the pandemic things were disappearing. I think kids these days only know what a phone booth is thanks to old Superman tv shows and movies.
Newspapers and magazines don’t send out photographers for a quick photo anymore due to the pandemic, but – I think in the future we’ll just send in photos like we’re doing now, which saves them time and money. And of course printed newspapers and books are going the way of online and kindle. So many offices won’t return to normal. Why pay thousands of dollars in rent for an office when people can easily work from home? Like this cartoon shows, maybe only zoom calls will be the office norms from now on.
I was reading that shared touch screens may disappear – you know, like ATM’s and things like that. People will maybe use their smart phones to navigate through things like that. Many people order food online or on their phones and then pick up the stuff, I do that. I do it with Starbucks and Panera Bread and Au Bon Pain and Sweet Green and for many years, I would order food myself at the location, on a touch screen at Panera, which of course, may just end up being my cell phone since touch screens may be a thing of the past.
Recently when I went to the zoo with my friend, I purchased the tickets online. It was more about being sure we got the tickets since they are controlling the visitor count these days.
And handshakes, will they ever come back? I never was a big hand shaker or a hugger and maybe we won’t do that in the future. Maybe we’ll bow like they do in Japan. It seems more respectful to bow, doesn’t it?
I have not physically paid a parking meter for years. I pay for parking, but I use a phone to pay for it. And maybe there will be no parking meters in the future, since the phone knows when the meter is up and no one has to drive by to check on that.
Some years ago, a friend who worked at a bank, told me that bank tellers would be a thing of the past – and so they are. I take a picture of a check and send it to the bank that way, without ever stepping inside the bank. I transfer money, pay bills (and don’t use checks either, I do that online) and things like that.
That reminds me of when I was in high school, I worked at a newspaper and at that time we had to typeset and put everything together separately – the headlines, the main galleys/type, the photos, it was a jigsaw puzzle. Our boss told us of the future, where there would be something called “pagination” where the whole page would come out as one piece, we could not fathom that, we listened in awe.
My brother Chris used to be in the computer business, when home PC’s were all sort of new. I asked him one time if it was possible to have different fonts put in the system, so that when I was doing my graphics and newspaper business, I could use different fonts for ads, text, headlines, etc. He said it might be possible, but it would take some super programming to do! Ancient history now.
I walked into one bank that is a coffee shop, I was there yesterday, in fact. The first time I walked in a year or so ago, I asked where the bank was and someone pointed to one or two teller machines in the back of the coffee shop. So now banks are coffee shops, where you of course, can order your coffee on your phone.
I joke at my local Starbucks that the app is great – “I don’t have to talk to any of you this way! I just order and go!”
At Whole Foods in some locations now, you swipe your hand and you pay that way. I use Apple Pay and swipe that and I also use their QR code on my phone for discounts. Even the NYC subway now uses a QR code rather than a card to get on the subway. The card of course, replaced tokens.
At one hotel I stayed at, I used my cell phone to unlock my room door. The room key, became a key card which now became an app. I have ordered and bought plane tickets for years online or on my phone and at the airport I check in myself and don’t even use a paper boarding pass – it’s a QR code on my phone. The first time I converse with someone during this whole process is to say hello to the attendant at the gate as they check my boarding pass on my phone.
Real estate is selling online these days in a hot market. People buy from digital showings and don’t even show up at the properties. And cars! My next car will be bought online. And I’ll have it delivered to the house and have my old car picked up. Sort of like you buy mattresses now!
We order rides, we order food, we order groceries online and even read books (and comics) on our phones now. It’s all in our pocket – including zoom calls – you don’t even need a computer to zoom.
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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.
My cousin had me in tears the other day. Why? Because she booked us tickets for the Immerse Van Gogh experience in New York for July! I was going to get some tickets for Miami when it’s here in April, but this is better. I had written about it in November, when they were planning the event for Indianapolis. I really had considered going there to see it.
I was in tears because I can’t believe that things are starting to get back to normal. When she texted me that she got the tickets and told me the date and time, I was filled with happiness, something I really hadn’t felt in a long time, the pandemic was starting to weight on me. But it’s real. It’s happening. I’m going to immerse myself into my favorite artist with some of my favorite people.
I’ve missed them so much. My cousins are like brothers and sisters to me. I spend so much time with them during the year, but the last time I saw them in person was November 2019. We talk and chat all the time, but of course it’s not the same.
What was even better is that I didn’t realize that there were more than two of us on the text when she said she got the tix, so when others chimed in and said they were excited, too. I really lost it.
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.
I didn’t know there were new pieces. I don’t remember when I played Monopoly last, but when I did play, these were still the pieces. Are there new pieces now?
Whenever I played in the past, I was the thimble. Why? I don’t know. There must be some psychology of why people choose certain pieces. I suppose the car is the most common, if I had to guess.
I don’t sew. I am not domestic, so I don’t know why I always choose the thimble.
My first memories of Monopoly was when I was quite young. My friends used to play with their father outside in the summer. They never invited me to play, I just watched. I do remember a D-cell battery that they used as one of the pieces. I guess they lost pieces and they used that. So in my mind, the regular size D-cell battery is a game piece.
But as I look at the image here, I can sort of feel each piece in my hand. I guess I touched all of them, so it’s so clear in my mind what they feel like.
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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