Getting rid of the tree

Today’s cartoon is based on reality.

These last few years I’ve had an artificial tree. It’s easier to deal with. But in the past, I would throw the real Christmas tree off the balcony at the end of the season.

I started doing it to avoid all those needles getting all over the elevator.

I would have someone stand below and throw it over, minus the ornaments. Then I would go down and drag the tree to the street. It worked out well. I’m on the 5th floor – so it didn’t have long to go and of course as I said, I had someone below to be sure no one was under it when it fell.

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Italian-style Christmas?

Me with Laura (not Marsha or Jan)

We had a great Christmas despite the fact that we lost a lot of people this year – mainly my mother, my aunt (a second mother to me) and a cousin. We didn’t do Christmas last year due to the pandemic, so it was nice to get together. I have a large family and a few were missing due to illness and one niece was pregnant so she and her husband couldn’t travel – they had the baby last night btw.

Anyway, on Christmas Eve, we were at one of my brothers’ houses. One niece (let’s call her Marsha) and my nephew’s wife (let’s call her Jan) got into an argument. It got heated. I joked that it seemed like a Thanksgiving thing to do.

The next day, Christmas Day, we were all at said nephew’s wife’s house (with my nephew of course). I was the first one there. She (Jan) came up to me and said, “I’m concerned about Marsha. Do you think she’ll show up today?”

I said, of course, she traveled here for the holidays, she’ll come with her parents.

Jan then said, “That’s what I love about your family – it’s so Italian. There’s a huge blow out and it’s over in five minutes. If that was my family no one would speak to each other for months.”

I laughed and didn’t realize we were like that. I don’t really remember arguments, but we do talk loud and maybe that seems like arguments to her, who knows.

I do have a friend whose family don’t speak to each other for long periods of time over stupid things. They’re Italian, so maybe they are the exceptions who prove the rule.

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Having second thoughts

I bought a bunch of soda machines for Christmas gifts this year, you know, the Soda Stream, it’s called. I always liked them and wanted one myself, so I got them for people as gifts with all the works – extra CO2 cylinders and flavors and bottles and stuff.

I also like air fryers and thought they would be a cool thing to have, so last year I bought a bunch of those for people.

Funny thing is, I don’t have either for myself even thought I would like them.

But the other day I was watching tv and someone said that the soda maker is the stupidest gift. They said, why not just go out and buy a bottle of soda if you want one? What’s the point of going through all the trouble of making a glass of soda. And now the whole idea doesn’t seem so great.

On top of that, they are big and heavy and last year the air fryers were big and heavy and both a pain to transport around to give to people. For many years I would deliberately buy small things, you know, nice gifts, but small gifts, that I could easily carry around and hand out. I’m not sure why I got the air fryers last year and the soda machines this year, but they are freaking heavy. And hard to wrap.

But after hearing that they are a stupid gift, I can’t get that out of my head. I’m thinking of returning them. I probably won’t, but I can’t get the idea out of my head that you can easily go and buy a bottle or six pack or liter or whatever, of soda any time you want it, you don’t need to make it.

Point taken. But they did love the air fryers last year, so let’s see how this goes with the Soda Stream.

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Christmas commercials

This commercial reminds me of my father and my uncle, who both lost their wives this year. Really sad.

And this, Publix commercial, of course, is my all-time favorite Publix commercial.

The “Last Train Home” commercial was shown for many years in the 1980s and ’90s.

The music in Last Train Home is from Still Life (Talking) an album by Pat Metheny Group, released in 1987. This Publix commercial ran from 1987 to 1996.

To this day, when Pat Metheny is performing, he’ll refer to the song as, “The Publix song.”

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The Christmas card

This year has not been kind to our family. We lost three family members – my mother, my aunt and a cousin. My father lost a wife, a sister and a first cousin (none from covid).

When my aunt passed this past Spring, I asked my cousins for something personal of hers. I wanted something with her energy attached – a coffee mug, an earring, etc. They gave me this little painting she made. It was in her dining room for many years – this little snowman image.

I took it home in July, after I spent time in New York and it sits on a table in my living room.

I would look at it daily. I thought, “It looks like a Christmas card – the snowman, the snow and birdhouse evoke Christmas. And it’s the size of a Christmas card.” And from there, I got the idea of making an actual card out of it. So in late July, that is what I did.

I held onto the card all summer and fall until this week when I mailed it. I didn’t tell anyone about the card, I wanted it to be a surprise. I only had 20 made and I sent it to my immediate family and my cousins and uncle. It went over well, everyone was touched and surprised at the image when they opened the envelope.

Let’s hope for a happier and healthier 2022.

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Union Square

It’s not Christmas without a visit to the Union Square Green Market. Seeing people carrying Christmas trees through Manhattan really sets the season. I love the Green Market on Saturday mornings. It’s a ritual when I’m in town.

We went to The Hamptons for the Holiday parade on Saturday, but I stopped by the Green Market first.

There’s a holiday bazaar every years – booths set up at one end of the park. The same thing is set up in Bryant Park behind the library and in a space inside Grand Central Terminal.

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The Southampton Annual Tree Lighting and Parade of Lights

We made it back to the Southampton Christmas parade this year. We had gone a couple of years ago and last year it was canceled due to the pandemic. I love it for so many reasons, the parade is fun and the tree lighting at the end of the bar is even more fun, but the idea that all of the small villages at the east end of Long Island get together and celebrate with a parade is so quaint. Southampton along with East Hampton, Sag Harbor, Shelter Island and all the others taker part.

My cousins and I hang out for the day, we eat – on Saturday, before the parade, we at at the old standby – the Southampton Publick House.

I wasn’t sure if we would go this year. My cousins had planned to go to the lighthouse lighting event in Montauk, which is just as great, but so much longer to get there. But I put a little bug in one of my cousin’s ears at Thanksgiving and left it at that. By Saturday, we were on our way. Was there ever any question?

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The 4th of July

I spent the 4th of July in the city, NYC, we usually spend it family-style, which we did, but we did that on July 3, which was unfortunate, because it rained all day on July 3, but the 4th was perfect. It was 75 and sunny all day.

Every year, for some reason, we do the 4th on the 3rd or 2nd or something like that. So a bunch of us drove out to my cousins’ house (n the rain) in The Hamptons on Saturday, July 3rd, but about 20 of us ended up just hanging out inside the house. I usually sleep over and spend the weekend but some of us drove back to the city that night and then enjoyed the beautiful July 4th in the city.

As is the case often, a couple of us headed to Coney Island, we were late for the Hot Dog Eating Contest, but it was still very fun and enjoyable. From there we stopped at Prospect Park in Brooklyn and then Washington Square Park in Manhattan.

Everywhere was packed, there was lots of music and lots of happy people. People have been longing to get out for so long. In New York, street musicians, or I should say park musicians are a big part of life. It was so great hearing them and then hearing loud applause, which never happens, but everyone is so happy this year.

Back home in Miami, they are facing a Tropical storm, but I think it is bypassing my area. So I’m not that concerned.

July 4th ended with a hug fireworks show in the East River and New Jersey had one in the Hudson River, so the city was surrounded with it.

One things that bugs me is that people in NY say, “Have a happy holiday!” Rather than “Happy July 4th!” Since when is the country’s birthday a politically correct thing? I gave money to a guy on the street and he said, “Thank you, happy holiday.”

Anyway, it ended up being a perfect day, after a soggy time the day before.

Now – the fireworks – the best part. Not so much the fireworks themselves, although, they are fantastic, but it’s the ritual before and after that I love.

About a half hour, maybe 45 minutes before the fireworks, people start showing up at the rivers. They walk to the east and west sides as close to the water as possible – that is where the fireworks are. Soon there are tens of thousands of people, all over the place. The streets are closed, there are cops all over and it’s a big party.

I ended up at the UN area this year. Other years I’ve been in other areas. I was right across from the big red Pepsi sign on the Manhattan side from Long Island City.

And then the fireworks start. But wait. When it’s done – all these thousands of people have to leave. And therein lies the fun. Thousands of people start walking up the streets, in an orderly fashion. Thousands of people! They are walking sort of like zombies – determined, yet slowly.

As they reach the Avenues, cars are trying to drive, but they can’t. :People just keep walking. And there are bicycles, mopeds, scooter and rickshaws in the crowd. Thousands of these people moving methodically across the city. It takes a long time, maybe an hour for this to end. And it’s something to see. It’s unreal to see. It’s so calm and methodical and everyone is in a cheerful mood., It’s a great thing to partake in, if you ever get the chance.

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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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