Thursday, November 27, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good afternoon from New York on Thanksgiving Day.

Our Thanksgiving Day occurs on the fourth Thursday, after the first Monday of November, and therefore is not on a fixed date like Christmas. Sometimes this holiday occurs under rainy or snowy skies, and sometimes the chill of the air makes it a grand time to do a lot of cooking that involves having an oven's heat.

Besides being our traditional day to count our blessings, this day also provides the gateway to the Christmas season. A New York City tradition is the parade that has been sponsored by our big Macy's department store for many decades. Lots of Macy's employees participate in the parade, as do champion marching bands from all over America, and some semi-famous stars of stage and screen.

The big draw for the children attending the parade are the giant balloons in the shapes of many cartoon or storybook characters. The parade assembles on the western side of Central Park, and draws huge crowds as it makes its way downtown, ending up in front of Macy's. Often the only part of the parade that little children can actually see are the helium-filled balloons, that are steered along the route by teams of Macy folks holding on to cables, and hoping that the balloons do not escape their grip.

Keeping up the balloon theme, vendors are very much on the scene selling their own versions of balloons as souvenirs of the parade. It is hard for parents to avoid buying one of these for their child. Think of the parents who have a few children to please. The following photo also shows the entrance to the famous Dakota apartment house.

Let me show you all some of the big balloons. I will leave it to you to guess which character is which.

This one might be easier to name.

I love the colors in this picture and wonder which choice these little girls made. You might also get a glimpse of a gentleman selling cotton candy in the background. I think that he is counting his funds.
Here comes another fellow, just crossing 72 Street. Please note the blue sky.

I absolutely could not resist taking a photo of this large pup. He seemed to be very well trained.

In some years past, accidents involving balloons going out of control have occurred. The wind sock on the top of the street light pole is there to warn the parade marshals when the breezes might pose a risk. No problems like that today.

I could not resist taking a photo of this cutie. There were lots of colorful hats keeping little and big ears warm.

Since this is, after all, New York, there is much more police presence at the parade than there used to be. This copter was just a little too low to suit me, and I was glad when it hovered away.

Even when the weather is a good as it was this morning, standing in one place for a few hours can be tiring and you can suddenly feel a chill in your toes. I noticed that the vendors also noticed when folks began to drift away from the parade. (Keep in mind that the viewers were about 75 folks deep. Very few have an unobstructed view of the parade, unless on daddy's shoulders, or if daddy has thoughtfully brought along a ladder.)
And so, this photo shows the crowd beginning to thin, and the vendors perhaps beginning to run a sale on their souvenirs.
Some folks actually gathered up their families and made their retreat to bus, subway, car, or perhaps just foot, before the star of the show made his arrival. You might just be able to make out the bearded fellow in the red suit.

I wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 14, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from New York.

Last time that I wrote, it was just after our Election Day, and I was still in the free flow that my several weeks of vacation were providing. Tomorrow, I will return to the shop, and in the time since I went on vacation, much has changed.

Others might call me a workaholic, but I do not call myself one. I am a Virgo, and like to do things properly, think a lot, try to plan, etc. To step away from my demanding manager role for several weeks, was very difficult. I absorbed all the words about ... it's good for you, refresh yourself, it is part of the company's culture ... all that, and still, it was very difficult to schedule this break.

Well, oddly, my time off not only coincided with our marvelous election results, but also with the continuing descent of the financial markets, and the continuing uncertainty of what is to come. Ah, this Virgo has just tossed analysis to the sky. Let it be, etc.

During the past Monday through Wednesday, I attended a series of managers meetings held off site by my company. During those days we got much more info about how we will respond to the financial meltdown, and even had an amazing workshop by a representative of an organization called the Great Place to Work Institute. My employer has ranked highly in this Institute's surveys for the past five years.

There was a full moon on Wednesday. More input for the mix.

During my free time, I had had enough free time, without any clock, to daydream, paint, doodle, play with yarn, shop for boots, go to museums, get a hair cut, see friends that I have neglected and to let the demands of my job drift from my mind.

Yesterday was a misty, then windy and rainy day in New York. After messing about in my apartment with various creative and practical tasks, I walked down Broadway to a lovely movie theatre just across from our glorious neighbor Lincoln Center, and got a big popcorn bucket to see me through the French film I Have Loved You So Long. It is a film I would recommend to any of you.

I walked back home, still in the mood that the film had induced. Got home late afternoon, and as I waited for the slow elevator to arrive at my lobby waiting post, I saw one of my favorite neighbors come through the front door of the apartment building. She was carrying a huge tote bag. Of course I greeted her, and began to talk about the rainy day. However, she then told me that she'd just been fired. She's a graduate of one of our Ivy League colleges, very energetic and devoted to her career. Her employer for the past 15 years has been a major magazine, part of a major media force.

Suddenly, the television, newspaper, Internet news reports of the recession impact just came crashing home. This hard working person is having her long built career abruptly stopped. She has had a job that many would dream of having, and now ... she does not.

Of course, we talked a long time, and I will say that she is very angry, but much more composed than I would have been had our roles been reversed.

Knowing that the coming weeks will hold many challenges for me as manager of a retail shop, I am so glad to have had these past three weeks pretty much away from the shop. It has given me a chance to recharge my energy, remember I am at heart an artist ... not a shop manager, and re-connect with my many old friends who remind me when and how I stray from that identity.

Today, I got groceries, visited the library, returning books, and picking up others, and did a bit of boot shopping. I wanted to find some that looked good and treated my feet well simultaneously. Got one cheap pair, but still want to find some more special styles.

Returning home, walking along a neighborhood sidewalk, I stopped to gaze in a florist shop that does really creative work, the windows are filled with sculptures done with the combinations of various plants, flowers, moss, whatever. All of a sudden, I heard a deep voice say, Hello, and turned to see the face of a man who was my lover many decades ago. Surely, the full moon was still operational.

He and I do encounter each other every so often and always immediately can just reconnect. He is also an artist. Each of us turned 63 this year.

Well, this chance meeting gained more strength, when we learned that we both saw that same French movie yesterday. He and I have some family histories that are similar, though we grew up in very different parts of the world. How very odd that we each saw that film, in the same theatre, just hours apart, and took from it many thoughts.

After a while this afternoon, we did our usual kiss and hug, and promise to see each other soon.

I came home, made dinner, started this blog.

Just now, I got a call from the shop with a Problem that has suddenly come up, and that I will face tomorrow. My vacation is over, my contemplative moments, thinking of past romance, are suddenly crumpled.

I will soon be going back on duty.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

City Views, Country Dreams

Good afternoon from New York, on the day after Election Day.

Usually, my Country Dreams refer to visions of what it would be like to not live in a big city. But today, I think that I will dream a bit about how my big country may evolve under the leadership of our newly elected President.

I was up very late last night watching the election reports both on television and on various web sites. It was quite thrilling to watch state after state, including some surprising states, fall into the Obama column. One of the surprising states was Virginia, where I was born long, long ago, and raised in a culture that would never have allowed Mr. Obama's candidacy, among other participations.

I cast my own vote late yesterday morning, and was fortunate not have had to wait at all. My polling place is in the cafeteria of a neighborhood school that hosts various election districts. The voting booths for the other districts all did seem to have lengthy queues, and that was wonderful to behold. Any time that there is a large turnout, everyone wins.

Having voted, I took a bus to mid-town, and met a friend for lunch. We had not seen each other in quite a long while, though we do continue to stay in touch. Our friendship goes back about 30 years, which is quite a while. It was grand to gobble our sandwiches, and talk, talk, talk. No one choked, even though we surely did a lot of laughing.

After that lunch, she had to return to work, and I walked home through Central Park. I hope that you will enjoy some of the views of the little pedicabs, various multi-colored trees, and some views of the aftermath of Sunday's marathon race.

The above picture is for a blogging pal, who loves trees.

Please note the tiny red balloons let in the tree on the path just ahead of where the marathon finish line was painted.

It is interesting to see that the same crews who helped set up all the apparratus for the marathon's finish line have to return to that scene of Sunday's glory on Tuesday to pack it all up again.

And that allows me to return to the election results. My friends and I are thrilled. Around midday, I went out to buy a "souvenir" copy of today's New York Times. No luck. Every newsstand for a mile or so along Broadway was totally sold out. This is a momentous day, and a day for celebrations.

Tomorrow will be a day to begin to get serious about what this change to our government can mean. I so hope that Mr. Obama will be able to continue to motivate the citizens of this country to be more than dreamers, to convince them to contribute to our country's future, in many ways. United we stand, divided we fall ... this can be more than an antique motto.

I have seen many elections, worked on many campaigns, seen hopes rise and fall. Often these past hopes seems to be tied to the fate of just one person, the President elect. Right now, we do seem to have the sense that something different has occurred. Each one of us can take on some responsibility in our own lives to carry this difference to many more tomorrows' worth of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

There are also many people who are not at all pleased with the election results, and some of them have begun their vocalizing. The challenge is to keep holding the positive attitudes and not be drawn into negative imagery. I think this time, we just might manage to make more of our dreams come true.

It is lovely to hear so much support of the election from overseas. Thanks to all. We really are all in this together.

May we all work hard and wisely, and dream well, and let's have great results.