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.

Hanging coffees

I give money to people who ask for it when I’m walking around New York and I have also bought meals for people who look like they need it, and this Hanging Coffee idea from Suspended Coffees on Facebook is a great idea, especially with winter coming on.

There is a little coffee shop, where two people arrive and approached the counter.
“Five coffees ☕️ please. Two for us and three hanging.”
They paid, they took their two coffees and left.
I asked the waiter. “What’s this about hanging coffees?”
“Wait and you’ll see.”
Some more people came in.
Two girls asked for a coffee each, they paid & left.
The following order was for seven coffees and it was made by three women – ‘three for them and four hanging coffees.’
I was left wondering…what is the meaning of the hanging coffees, they leave.
Then, a man dressed in worn clothes, who looks like he might be homeless, arrives at the counter and asks sincerely…
“Do you have a coffee hanging?”
“Yes we do, sir.”
They serve him a coffee…. I got my answer.
People pay in advance for a coffee that will be served to whoever can’t afford a hot drink.
This tradition started in Naples.
Amazingly, it has spread throughout the world’s cities and towns.
It’s also possible to order not only “hanging coffees” but also a sandwich or a full low cost meal.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could all start doing this in the cities and towns where we live?

Small kindnesses like this can impact so many lives, in ways we could never imagine.

Maybe we should all try it. 😊

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A delightful train ride

Photo courtesy Railroad Museum of New England

This week I would normally be in New York for Thanksgiving but of course this year, due to the pandemic, I am not. Some years, like this year, my plan was to spend a few days in Boston and then I would take the train down to New York, which is a fantastic trip through New England in the fall.

This story ran in 2017, it ran in the Huffington Post and other places – it was a memorable train ride.

I travel a lot throughout the year, but in 2020 I did not leave town. I’m posting the train story here again, just to remember a great trip.

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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Walking through Starry Night

I’m seeing a reason to visit Indianapolis. Something I don’t think I ever thought of.

Why? For THE LUME’s debut at Newfields in Indianapolis. Starting in June 2021, Australian-based Grande Experiences is featuring a cutting-edge experience where you can walk among Vincent Van Gogh’s work.

You can immerse yourself in 30,000 square feet of Van Gogh, where 150 projectors will turn paintings into a 3D world.

Walk among Starry Night, Almond Blossoms, Irises and Van Gogh’s self portrait among so many others.

These images of The LUME Indianapolis are courtesy of Grande Experiences

Visiting the past

I was talking about visiting places back in time in a previous post. It reminds me of a couple of NY stories. This image of Union Square fascinates me since I am always in that location. There are literally hundreds of pictures in that area from the past century and beyond.

Back when I read The Alienist for the first time, I started noticing something – the places written about in the book were written in such vivid detail, even directions on how to get to and from places. So I started writing them down. This was probably 1994, when the book was first published.

It takes place in 1881-82 NYC. There are tv shows now based on The Alienist, but I highly recommend the book.

The next time I was in NYC I started a little tour of all those locations and lo and behold – they were all still standing! Author Caleb Carr used current locations that were there in the 1800s. I remember 19 Washington Square South, where the grandmother lived – still there – part of those high end row houses across from the park. And Wanamaker’s store and Grace Church and all those wonderful places!

Anyway, just recently I saved an old photo of Union Square on my phone, from the late 1800s. I took the photo to Union Square and I held it up to the buildings, trying to match the image exactly. The funny part is that I had the phone basically up to guy’s face as I was searching.

He looked at me, wondering, why are you taking my picture? I showed him the image on the phone and told him what I was doing and we both got a good laugh.

I have seen so many photos of Union Square and so many of those buildings are still there and so are the statues. I also like to visit the two Andy Warhol Factory locations that are still standing at different areas of Union Square – just wondering what life was like back then.

A trip through time

I always want to live in the past. Why? I don’t know, you’ll have to ask a psychiatrist. But I don’t only mean 50 years ago, or 100 years ago, I also mean last week or last month or last year. For some reason, I never want time to pass. Strange, huh?

I follow a lot of sites on Facebook that show vintage photos, some go way back to the 1840s – yes, actual photos. I can stare at them forever and look at the people and wonder what they were thinking in that moment in time. Here are a few I saw recently, but over the years I have seen such great ones – action shots from the 1840s and 1850s and 1900s. Places I would like to possibly visit, if not live.

It would be interesting to visit these places even for a day, or maybe just an hour. I sometimes think that after we die, that we can visit or live at various places and times. Could we possibly choose an era and live it or watch it?

1840 NYC
1840s NYC. Would be nice to visit, not sure to live.
This is 1867 on Greenwich Street in NYC. This new fangled elevated railway is on a test run. Now imagine being there, how exciting, this new invention taking shape!
1892 Union Square – a place I visit often.
Chicago 1893 – how the kids lived back then. Hanging out near a dead horse, just another day. No, I don’t think I’d like to visit this location. Probably doesn’t smell that great.
Bathers at the beach, 1897. Yes, I would like to be there for the day.
circa 1900 Madison Square – future home of the Flatiron Building. Yup, right where that Heinz sign is. That building across the way with the cupola on the roof is still standing today,  the Sohmer Building, called that because it originally housed the showroom and offices of Sohmer & Co., inventors of the modern baby grand piano, built in 1897-98, a few years before the Flatiron Building was completed in 1902.
1949 NYC. I would love to have experienced that era.
1950s. South Beach. This interest me because before South Beach was South Beach and was plain old Miami Beach, I hung out on these streets with friends – in the 1980s. We had the run of the place. The streets in the 1980s looked exactly the same, and to be honest, most of these streets appear the same today. A trip back in time.
New Orleans 1957. Also a place that looks the same today. One thing I love about NOLA is the history and the way they preserve it.

Friends in my head

Bridget and Julia on the set.

I was talking about how much I love Life Below Zero, but I would never consider living like that on the frozen Tundra. I watch these shows over and over again and enjoy them so much, I feel as if some of the people are friends in my head.

Another thing I love is cooking shows. Mostly on weekends I have taken to watching them all. And yet, I don’t even like to boil water. Yet, like Life Below Zero, I find them very relaxing.

I know what roux is and I know how to caramelize onions. I just don’t do that. I love eating it all, but I don’t care to prepare it. I know what stone fruit is and I love all of it, I just don’t bake. I know where capers come from and how to make chicken in a Moroccan tagine; and I know not to turn fish on the grill, it will release itself when ready.

Dan and friends in the kitchen

I know what Sara Moulton is up to and what recipes Jacques Pepin‘s mother used to make. I know how Bridget and Julia like to brown a turkey and how Dan Souza prepares his Indonesian-Style Fried Rice, and when Martha Bakes, watch out!

I know what size oysters should be before they are harvested and how to kill a caribou and ptarmigan in the Arctic. I don’t put any of it to use, but it’s all in my head!

Life below zero; it’s brutal

Jesse Holmes

I’ve been watching so much Life Below Zero lately, it seems to be on tv non-stop. I’ve seen so many of the episodes three or four times, but for some reason, it comforts me. I guess it’s the people, my favorites are Jesse and Sue. Season 12 started recently.

I don’t understand how they live like they do. It’s not like they are living in a city. So many of them go to Fairbanks or some other place and they get the cold sweats, they can’t take all the people and the “traffic.”

But I laugh when I think of their lifestyles. It’s like they say, “I want to be away from everyone. Far away in northern Alaska. I don’t want running water, tv, cable or electricity. I don’t want a store within 300 miles of me and I want it to be dark for 22 hours a day in winter and I like 40 degree below zero weather. And I want to have to hunt and fish daily to survive.

Sue Aikens

I just don’t get that. But that’s how they live. I often wonder why they just don’t move to the mountains in Colorado or North Carolina or some place remote but not brutal. But apparently these people, friends in my head, like it that way.

I’m not doing my 10 With Tom column these days, but I would interview them with probably more than 10 questions if I did write the column.

It’s impossible to unsubscribe

I ended my little foray into subscribing to out of town newspapers. Why? Because it’s almost impossible to unsubscribe. So I am hesitant to start subscribing to more of them.

I had wanted to get e-newspapers for various newspapers around the country, just to get some idea of what’s going on. You know, subscribe for a few for a few months and then move on to other papers. it’s a trip around the world, or at least, the country. But it’s a chore to cancel the subscriptions.

You call up, tell them you want to unsubscribe and they ask you why. With the New York Daily News I told them, “Because I am in Miami.” And then they go on, “But you should keep it because blah, blah, blah, blah, blah” And this happened with the Asheville Citizen-Times and so many others.

With the Asheville Citizen-Times, the woman went on and on and said she could get me the paper at lower cost. And I kept telling her, but I live in Miami. I had only subscribed because I had planned to go to North Carolina this summer, but never did end up going.

She told me her plans of going to Philadelphia changed because of the virus so she understands and then she went on, “But I can get your a lower rate for the Citizen-Times for only ….” Salespeople. Gotta hate them.

When I unsubscribed to the Miami Herald, I received phone calls daily asking me why. One reason was that we had an inept delivery person and when the newspaper didn’t arrive, I didn’t even miss it. What was the point of paying for the newspaper if I never read it?

I am back to subscribing to the printed Herald – they wore me down. I’m expecting calls from the Citizen-Times, NY Daily News and others now.

Snoopy license plates!

The states of California is offering Snoopy license plates. The extra money raised goes to California museums.

“This street-legal, DMV- and PEANUTS-approved license plate features Snoopy doing his signature happy dance. Plates for cars, trucks, vans, commercial vehicles, and motorcycles start at just $50 ($103 for personalized plates).”

There are over 1400 museums in California.

I want one. Only I don’t live in California. 😦