Thursday, November 27, 2014

We Gather Together

Originally posted Thanksgiving 2007.

FreedomfromWantWhen I was a kid growing up outside of Toledo, we had some relatives in the area, and we also belonged to a local tennis and social club that served as a gathering place for a group of families like ours and we often went there for holiday dinners. It relieved my mom from cooking one of the two big meals at the holidays; if we had Thanksgiving at home, then we went to the club or another relative’s place for Christmas, or vice versa. We also would have the Thanksgiving meal later in the day — usually around the normal dinner time — because we had season tickets to the Detroit Lions football team, and we would go up to Detroit to sit in the freezing cold bleachers to watch the Lions play their traditional Thanksgiving Day game, then come home to the dinner.

It’s been a while since my family has gotten together for Thanksgiving. We’ve all moved on to different places and have our own families. It’s been many years since my entire immediate family — Mom, Dad, and my three siblings and their families — were together for the occasion.

However, there was one Thanksgiving that I’ll never forget: 1967. I was a freshman at St. George’s, the boarding school in Newport, Rhode Island (and also alma mater of Howard Dean and Tucker Carlson). It was my first extended time away from home and I was miserable. My older brother and sister were also away at school; one in New Jersey, the other in Virginia. My parents made arrangements for us all to get together in New York City that weekend, and they booked rooms at the Plaza Hotel. We saw two Broadway musicals — Mame with Angela Lansbury and Henry, Sweet Henry with Don Ameche — and a little musical in Greenwich Village called Now Is The Time For All Good Men…. We went shopping in Greenwich Village, took hansom cab rides in Central Park, had lunch at Toots Shor’s (and got Cab Calloway’s autograph), dinner at Trader Vic’s and Luchow’s, and saw all the sights that a kid from Ohio on his second trip to NYC (the first being the World’s Fair in 1964) could pack into one four-day weekend. Oh, and we had the big Thanksgiving dinner in the Oak Room at the Plaza with all the trimmings. That night we went down to the nightclub below the Plaza and listened to smoky jazz played by a trio and a lovely woman on piano…could it have been Blossom Dearie?

It was a magical weekend. To this day I still remember the sights and sounds and sensations, and the deep sadness that settled back over me as I boarded the chartered bus that took me back to the dank purgatory of that endless winter at school overlooking the grey Atlantic Ocean.

I’ve had a lot of wonderful and memorable Thanksgivings since then at home and with friends, everywhere from Ohio, Michigan, Colorado, New Mexico, Florida, and even one in Jamaica, but that weekend at the Plaza will always be special.

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The best part about Thanksgiving is that it is a guilt-free holiday.  There’s no religious obligation or somber remembrance attached to it.  Just enjoy the company of friends and family and celebrate the great American tradition of eating yourself into a coma, talking politics, and watching football (go Lions!).  So whatever you do or how you do it, I hope you have a good time and safe travels.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Monday, November 24, 2014

Over The River…

It’s Thanksgiving week here in the U.S. and even though a lot of people still have to go to work (ahem), it’s pretty much taken for granted that a lot of people will be traveling or just taking the week off.  Lucky them.

We’re having our annual feast today at work which means a home-cooked turkey with all the trimmings, pretty much insuring that we’ll all be useless after it’s over.  (Have you ever tried to reconcile a spreadsheet with a turkey and stuffing hangover?)

So what are your plans for the week and the holiday?

Friday, October 31, 2014

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Monday, October 13, 2014

Happy Holiday

To some, today is Columbus Day.  In some places, school is out and it’s a holiday.  Not in Miami-Dade County, though, which means I’m at work, and to some people, celebrating the arrival of Christopher Columbus is seen as not necessarily a good thing.

In Canada, it’s Thanksgiving Day.  That means they get a six-week jump on Christmas shopping.  I am sure they are thrilled to be inundated with jingling bells and heralding angels before the leaves are off the maples.

Anyway, enjoy the holiday if you celebrate it.

Canadian Thanksgiving

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Monday, September 1, 2014

Labor Day

Charlie Chaplin, Modern Times

Having grown up in a union town that was near a large city that relied on union labor, I’ve come to the conclusion that most of the people who most hate unions are folks who think that it is unconscionable that workers should have the same rights as the managers and the owners of the company. How dare they demand a living wage and safe working conditions. Who do they think they are?

Yeah, yeah; in every large group there are bad apples and examples of bad faith and extremism. Welcome to the human race. The Republicans hold the unions up as the boogeyman of the Western world and label them as thugs… and give tax breaks to the corporations because they know that if they don’t, the corporations will kneecap them. Not literally; they’ll just stop giving them money, which, in corporate circles, is thuggery. The people who whine about “class warfare” always turn out to be the ones who are winning the war.

Perhaps one of the reasons that union membership is down is that unions have accomplished a lot of what they set out to do 100 years ago. Factories are safer, working hours are reasonable, wages are better than the minimum, and pensions provide some security. The unions have learned, however awkwardly, to accept that they have been successful, but they also know that if some people had their way in the world, they would turn back to clock to 1911, put children to work, take away the healthcare, and demand more production. After all, it works for the Chinese, and look how they’re doing.

By the way, not all union workers are Democrats; they certainly weren’t were I grew up. A lot of them are hardcore Republicans or conservatives — including police officers — who don’t care about the politics; they just want to be treated fairly. And a lot of people who are not union members are working under union contracts; in most places there is no requirement to join a union to benefit from their efforts. So while actual union membership may be down to 15%, the number of people who are part of the union is far greater. That includes public sector jobs as well as private. So the next time someone feels the urge to union-bash, be sure you’re not peeing in your own campfire.

Full disclosure: I am a dues-paying member of a union of sorts; I belong to the Dramatists Guild. It provides services for writers and lyricists and makes sure that when our works are produced, we have a fair contract and get paid our royalties. The joke among us is that we don’t go on strike; we just get writers’ block.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Short Takes

Israel: Security forces from Israel fought with Palestinian citizens after a revenge killing of a Palestinian teen.

Homeland Security raised the alert level at several airports overseas that have direct flights to the U.S.

The Federal Privacy Board said the N.S.A. program to monitor foreigners is legal.

Boston Pops moving up their 4th of July show to tonight.

Tropical Update: TS Arthur will be a hurricane by this afternoon.

The Tigers swept the A’s 9-3.  Still on top of the division.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

In Their Rooms — Photographer Ashley Gilbertson preserves the memory of the fallen soldiers of Iraq and Afghanistan by taking pictures of their bedrooms.

gilbertson-bedrooms-fallen-580

… The need to see America’s twenty-first-century war dead, and to make them seen—to give their absence presence—has consumed Ashley Gilbertson for much of the past decade. The initial impulse was purely personal. While he was working as a photojournalist in Iraq, a Marine stepped forward to protect him, and was killed; and Gilbertson was haunted by the feeling that Lance Corporal Billy Miller, in doing what he understood as his duty, had died for him.

In the appalling immediacy of his experience, Gilbertson came to recognize a general truth: that, like it or not, these wars really are ours—they implicate us—and when our military men and women die in far off lands, they do so in our name. He wanted to depict what it means that they are gone. Photographs of the fallen, or of their coffins or their graves, don’t tell us that. But the places they came from and were supposed to go back to—the places they left empty—do tell us. So, to picture death, Gilbertson decided to picture how and where the dead had lived. He set about photographing their bedrooms, many of which had been preserved by their families in much the same spirit that Gilbertson preserved them with his camera: as memorials.

Some rooms are starkly spare; some explode with personality. There is a lot of sports gear and memorabilia; there are not a lot of books. There are rooms that belonged to people blown up by IEDs, and rooms that belonged to people who were blown up by suicide bombers. The only room that is in real disarray—bedclothes scrambled, belongings spilling from bags—belonged to Private Danny Chen, who took his own life in Afghanistan. Seen all together, Gilbertson’s photographs defy any effort to seek in a room’s furnishings an echo of its former occupant’s fate. Their power lies in reminding us of the disconnect between life and death. One of the most elaborately and carefully kept rooms, nearly every inch of which is lovingly decorated, also belonged to a soldier defeated by the enemy within: Specialist Ryan Yurchison, who returned traumatized from Iraq, and took an overdose.

You can spend a great deal of time visiting each of the rooms in these photographs, studying their endless particularities. Gilbertson found these rooms all over the map: in cities, suburbs, and hinterland, scattered across the country. And since America’s story is always bigger than America, and our losses in our recent wars have been shared with NATO partners, there are rooms here from the Isle of Mull in Scotland, from Versailles, France, and from Bitetto, Italy. But one thing that all the rooms here have in common is that they belonged to young people, people just out of high school, mostly, people well on their way to adulthood but still living in their parents’ homes, sleeping in single beds, often with a teddy bear or two looking over them— like children. That is who we send to fight our wars for us, our children. Ashley Gilbertson is right: we should never lose sight of them.

Above: Marine PFC Josue Ibarra, 21, was killed by a roadside bomb on June 19, 2011, in Helmand province, Afghanistan. He was from Midland, Texas. His bedroom was photographed in December, 2012. Photograph by Ashley Gilbertson/VII.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Monday, May 5, 2014

Felice Cinco de Mayo

19 Mexico

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the the victory of the Mexican Army over the French in the Battle of Puebla in 1862. It’s a big deal in Mexico and in parts of this country with a large Mexican population, like California, Arizona, Texas, and New Mexico (where I had some of the best chile rellenos with enough green chile to take the top of your head off), although it meant more to some than others. I had a guy I worked with who was of Mexican descent who actually asked me, “Hey, when is Cinco de Mayo?” (We always suspected that he was a burrito shy of a full combo platter anyway.)

Here in South Florida, outside of Homestead with its large Mexican population (and some of the best food in the state), it’s not a big deal other than party time and a double margarita, the same way this multiethnic community deals with other national holidays like St. Patrick’s Day; we don’t really know why we celebrate it (as if defeating the French in a battle was like a huge military victory in the first place), but any excuse to eat and drink is good enough, so why fight it?

Pass the salsa.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter

Happy Easter to all of you who celebrate, and I hope it brings all you wish for.

Easter 1959

Easter 1959

I just remembered that I have the same group in a photo taken a few years later…

058

That’s from August 2011 in New Mexico. Good times.

Monday, April 14, 2014

A Little Night Music

Passover begins at 7:44 p.m. and I’m going to the best Seder in the U.S.A.

Thank you, Ira, Susan, Rebecca and David.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Sunday, March 9, 2014