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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In the Heights

In the Heights

I saw “In the Heights” the other night. Loved it.

I think it is probably the movie of the summer – it’s got everything – singing, dancing, a big presence and it’s fun.

I’ve been all over NYC, but never to Washington Heights, I always plan to go to see one thing – the Little Red Lighthouse at the foot of the George Washington Bridge, but I never seem to make it. You just take the A train or the #1 and you are there.

I’ve seen it from the Hudson River many times, from the Circle Line (the lighthouse and Washington Heights).

The Little Red Lighthouse



I’ve been to Spanish Harlem many times – by accident the first time. There’s a museum up that way, the Museum of the City of New York. Every time I’m in the city, I go to the museum. I take the #6 train and get off at 103rd Street and walk through the Spanish Harlem neighborhood and end up at Central Park, where the museum is, across from the park on 5th Avenue. But along the way, you are immersed in a great culture – the food, the murals, the bodegas, the schools and hospitals, there are many hospitals up that way.

The first time I went to the Museum of the City of New York, it was to see the Roz Chast exhibit. I figured out how to get to the area and I’ve gone back dozens of times since.

I’ll be in NYC soon and of course I’ll visit the Museum of the City of New York, Spanish Harlem, and Washington Heights. New York is back, as is most of the country, and I’ll be enjoying so much of it, having not been there for such a long time. The last time I was there I had to leave a little early because a nor’easter was coming!

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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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Kayaking (beaching and boarding)

One of my friends bought a new kayak. It’s a blow up one. I never saw one like that before. Seems like a rubber raft to me.

He is coming over this week and we are going kayaking. I live on the bay, so we’ll launch from out back.

I told him that we have a few kayaks in the backyard that belong to neighbors, and anyone can use them, but he insisted on buying his own. He didn’t actually buy it, he won a gift certificate from a sporting goods store and decided to get the kayak with the certificate.

I haven’t been kayaking in years. For so many years I was in the ocean or bay almost daily. I kayaked, paddle boarded, swam and just hung out at the beach. Even when I was younger and was supposed to be working, I would get home and my mother would say, “Why do you have a tan? I thought you were at work all day!”

Some days I would just go out to the beach, have lunch, and then get back to work, other days I would spend all day out there. But it was almost a daily thing for most of my life. I need to get back to that.

I took this picture today, it’s a still shot from a video I took of a guy paddling by early this morning.

I’m working on getting back in shape for the summer. Actually for the rest of my life. Hopefully this and all pandemics will be a thing of the past. This kayaking and eventually paddle boarding and swimming should get me back in shape. Time to lose the pandemic weight I gained.

Stay tuned!

This is one of my favorite comics I did in February.

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Naked and Afraid

I based the title of today’s cartoon on one of my favorite shows, “Naked and Afraid.” I actually like “Naked and Afraid XL,” better, but didn’t at first.

“Naked and Afraid” is about a man and a woman who are stranded in some god forsaken place with nothing and they have to survive for 21 days. There have been variations where there are three people, or shorter periods where fans take part, etc. Each week, it’s a different couple or set of people.

Then came “Naked and Afraid XL,” which I didn’t like at first, but then grew to love. XL is a continuation- it’s the same people in each episode for the season. It’s usually 12 people in groups of three and they eventually find each other and craziness ensues. Usually it’s people who are fan favorites or those who have been on the show before. Some times as many as five other times. They are sort of regulars.

I guess this all started with “Survivor,” which I still love, but “Naked and Afraid” is more raw, although I still can’t not picture the guy behind the camera eating a burger while the naked folks suffer from not having food or a drop of water for a week. Survivor has been on hiatus due to the pandemic, but Naked and Afraid seems to have found many strange and dangerous places in the United States, where this year’s episodes have been taking place. They are usually out somewhere strange in the world, but it’s been domestic this year and the regions have been just as dangerous.

I interviewed Ryan Holt one time – one of the regulars, because I thought he was the super hero of one XL season and then the day the interview ran he disappeared on the show, supposedly eaten by a lion in Africa. At least that’s how the cliffhanger was left. But of course he ended up being ok, since he’s been on future episodes.

But you always learn something different – like that Ryan didn’t get eaten, and you learn how to skin a snake and eat it and how to avoid wild animals, but it’s all about the interaction between people. One favorite Jeff, turned out to be a schmuck in one episode – he turned out to be a selfish jerk who would catch food and eat it in front of starving people without sharing – “Let them get their own.” I never liked him since then.

I recently learned that the canvas bags they carry around are not to hide their named bits, it turns out the microphones are in there! Besides, they are naked but you really don’t see anything, it’s mostly blurred out.

It really is about human interaction and survival.

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A good exhaustion

So my friend who visited from NY is on a plane on his way home as we speak. I miss him. But I’ll see him in a couple of months when I go to NY so that will be fun.

But let me tell you something. If you haven’t gotten back to your after-pandemic routine, you know – back to normal, you may be in for a rude awakening.

I like to think I am in good shape, but after not doing much for the past year and not going to the gym, let me tell you – I am beat after everything we’ve done. It’s almost as if I need a day off in between our outings.

He said to me yesterday that I seemed very low-key, not down, but very quiet, “low energy” are the words he used. He said I wasn’t like my usual lively self. He was right. I was exhausted from all the walking and site seeing and other things we did. We had a cool/cold winter here and now the heat and humidity is starting to kick in so that takes a lot out of you. And not having done much exercise or walking in the past year makes a difference when you walk nine miles a day in the heat and humidity!

But it feels good. It’s a good exhaustion, like when you do a hard day’s work and you feel you’ve accomplished something. That’s how I feel.

A visit to the zoo

I finally got the workout I have been looking for all year – I went to the zoo with a friend the other day.

We walked around in the sun and heat for five hours – that will give anyone a nice workout. We ended up walking miles! It felt good. According to an app on my phone, we walked 9 miles! Slowly and stopping a lot, of course, but still, 9 miles!

I could not move the next day. I hadn’t worked out so much in a year due to the pandemic. When I’m in NY, I have been known to walk 12 miles in a day, so I better work myself up for that for when I go this summer, otherwise I’ll be nursing sore muscles after one day out and about the city.

I have a friend in town from NY so we’ve been doing things, I’m not sure what possessed us to do Zoo Miami, but on that same day, one of my cousins announced that was her first day working at the Bronx Zoo, a lifelong dream of hers.

I got excited because I started watching all those behind the scenes zoo shows at the beginning of the pandemic. That was my Saturday nights and the Bronx Zoo episodes are my favorites of all of them. It’s very comforting, especially at the time of being locked inside for all those months.

There are zoos featured from all over – Tampa, England, Australia, Columbus, Ohio; North Carolina, etc. It’s amazing to see all the love and respect the animals are given by the caretakers. But my favorite is how they do it in the Boogie Down Bronx.

I have plans to visit the Bronx Zoo this summer – to not see the animals – but to see the human characters I see on the zoo tv shows!

Traveling in the time of covid vaccines

My aunt passed away in New York the other day and I am unable to attend her wake and funeral, and ironically it’s because of her! She is a second mother to me and my cousins are brothers and sisters to me, so it really hurts not to go.

But I got my second vaccine shot yesterday and the nurse suggested I don’t travel in case of side effects. My aunt insisted, she called it nagging, that I get the shots. I said I was not old enough yet, but she insisted and I managed to go. She kept checking up on me – “Did you go yet?” “Which shot did you get?” When is your follow-up shot?” She was so instant.

She just couldn’t deal with being cooped up in the house for a year, so she was so looking forward to normalcy.

So when I mentioned at the vaccine site that I was trying to get a flight to NY, the nurse suggested I don’t. She said, “There may be side effects with the second shot and I don’t think you want to be up in the air or away from home if this should happen.”

I normally would ignore this, but a few years back I had kidney problems, which ended up being kidney failure, only I didn’t know a the time. And the night before I was to leave New York and head home, I really got sick. The next morning, I don’t know how I made it to the airport and onto that plane. I remember waking up and not knowing how I was going to get out of bed, I still don’t remember getting to the airport, but I remember feeling like death on the plane, wishing we were home already. So that thought creeped into my head when the nurse mentioned the issue and I decided I don’t want a repeat, even though they would only be side effects.

I ended up in the hospital for eight days with kidney failure, but that was a few years back and I’m perfect now – that’s another story.

But back to that trip. When I got to the airport, I ran into a friend Jerry, who was on my flight. So we sat together at the terminal waiting for the plane and as he was talking, it was going right through me. Everything bothered me – voices, the light, etc. There were two or three nuns sitting nearby who were talking and their voices were driving me crazy, too. I always remember that – and they were nuns – how loud could they be chatting?

A couple of years later, I told Jerry about it. I don’t think he knew I was sick at the time. I said, “Jerry, remember that time we were at the airport together?” And I went on to tell him how everything he did and said went right through me.

He laughed and said, “Well, I thought you were in trouble. You looked so bad and you smelled awful! I could barely be around you.” He went on, “I thought you had gone to NY for a week or two to do drugs or something! That’s how bad you looked and smelled!”

I said, “That’s funny, because why would I leave Miami, the drug capital, to go to NY to do drugs?”

Then when I read up on it, I saw that if you have kidney failure or problems, your urine and other toxins excrete from your pores. So I really must have smelled awful at the time! I was too out of it to notice others on the plane, but they must have been shunning me. Which reminds me of another story.

Years ago, when you could actually move around the plane, I was sitting next to a guy who smelled so awful, I couldn’t stay next to him. I got up and moved my seat back some rows. I left my carry-on bag under the seat but I just picked myself up and moved. He kept looking back, wondering where I had gotten off to, but I just couldn’t stay near him. I was young and nervy then and had the gumption to move, I don’t think I would do that now, or even be allowed to do that now.

But anyway, I won’t be going to NY for the funeral. I am sure my aunt would understand. I did send a big thing of flowers and I sent sympathy cards to everyone separately, rather than just one for the family and I’ve been in touch with my cousins and uncle via phone, text and email. It is going to be a tough thing when I visit in the summer, though.

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What if closing time is 2 am?

There is talk of changing the last call in South Beach. They want it to be 2 am. That is when liquor will stop being served in their 170 locations, that serve liquor. 170 locations! Now to be clear, this is only during a few weeks during Spring Break each year, but I suspect that the residents will love it so much, they may make it a full time, all year thing.

But I was thinking about it. I don’t know how I would survive with that. I don’t go out to bars and clubs these days, but in my time (again, sounding like an old man), we didn’t even go out until midnight! I remember my first time in Boston, I was flabbergasted to see that the bars closed at 2 am! In Miami, we don’t get going until that time!

Miami Beach/South Beach is one small area in all of Miami-Dade County. The whole county consists of 34 municipalities (cities, towns, villages), the whole county is larger than Rhode Island and Delaware combined; so there is plenty more to do than South Beach. South Beach is sort of the Times Square of the area. Some other cities you may know are Miami (yes, Miami is a separate city from Miami Beach and South Beach is one area of Miami Beach); Coral Gables, Key Biscayne, Pinecrest, Cutler Bay, which used to be Cutler Ridge; and so on. . . . Each has its own closing time, but the tourists, and most locals, hang out in South Beach to party.

In South Beach the mayor wants to turn the Art Deco district and all of South Beach into something else (during Spring Break only?), rather than party central – maybe more arts and culture, I think. I don’t know how that will go over, but of course it will change the whole complexion of the place.

But how many times did I come crawling in at 6 or 7 am, take a shower, change and head out to work. How many times did my friends and I head out at midnight? Well, actually, every night.

It’s just something to think about, the changing times, literally and figuratively.

The menace of the ocean

Today’s cartoon is more editorial or commentary than funny. It’s about the scourge of our oceans – the jet ski.

Since the pandemic started, I have seen more and more activity on the water, including jet skis. The calm, pretty kayaks and paddle boarders are sometimes menaced by jet ski riders.

I know, I know, I sound like an old man, “Get off my lawn!” “Get out of my water!”

But seriously, I have always been against them. They tear up the ocean bottom in shallow areas and are not good for the sea life. The noise, interruption and chaos is not healthy for them.

I can hear them coming from a mile away. And usually they are racing across the sea, in pairs or more.

I remember years ago, I used to go to a quite beach, where there were hardly any people and one guy would always pull up in his jet ski. I didn’t like it then, I don’t like it now.

Today with all those Spring Break fools, spreading covid and disaster all over the city, jet skis only add to this mess. And it’s never the locals, I guess locals have a respect for the environment. It’s always visitors, tourists. You can sometimes see them pulling the jet skis behind their cars, looking for a dock to accost so they can then attack the water, the fish and the whole environment.

Ok, there’s my rant for the day. I’ll go back to being a happy cartoonist tomorrow.