life in and around NYC is insane

Tuesday, November 29, 2016


So I was looking at old blog posts, and came across this one.

A funny story about R.  Yes, the lady whose funeral was earlier this week.

Here's the story:

Santa, is that you? Oh no!
I don't usually tell other people's stories, but this one was too funny to pass up. Two weeks after hearing it, I am still laughing.

The story involves a friend of a friend. Let's call her R. She is an older woman, never married, socially conservative. You might say straight-laced. Very old school. R lives alone. Her brother J and his family live in the house next door. J is retired from a position in law enforcement. Over the years R has come to depend on her brother J for many things.

So when it came time to decorate for Christmas, of course J did R's front yard as well as his own. R notices that one of the inflatables, a Santa figure, is facing the house. She doesn't know why Santa is facing the wrong direction, but she figures J will fix it eventually, and she doesn't give it any more thought.

But she starts to notice that all the cars in the neighborhood stop in front of her house to gawk at her decorations. Not admire, gawk. So one day she's outside, and someone stops to look at the lawn decor. So she asks him, "why is everyone staring at my decorations?"

 And he says "It's because of Santa."

 "Santa? what about Santa?"

And he points out to her that Santa has his back to the street.

He has his back to the street for a reason.

The reason is, he's mooning.

Yes, mooning.

contemplative mood

So yesterday was R's funeral.  I wasn't a close friend, I didn't go to the funeral -- showing up at the wake and buying a Mass card will suffice. 

But I can't help thinking that R was far too young to die.  She was just two weeks shy of her 66th birthday.

She had a massive heart attack.  Everyone was sad, but no one was shocked.  They said she hadn't looked healthy for months.  She was a diabetic who didn't follow the regimen, didn't eat right, didn't take her medications as directed. 

On the heels of R's wake comes the news that L is back in the hospital.

L is the friend I've  mentioned before, she has  serious health issues and has spent the better part of the last 9 months in treatment for diabetes-related conditions. 

L is also 66 years old.

66.  A mere 10 years older than I am. 

And so I find myself feeling sorry for R's family on their loss, and feeling terrible about the situation L finds herself in.

But there's also a part of me learning a life lesson from all of this.  Because yes, as much as we care about others as they deal with illness and death, in the end we are all self-centered, all concerned about ourselves. 

My health has taken a beating these last 12 years:  cancer,  gallbladder, anemia, high blood pressure.

Where will I be in 10 years?

I'm optimistic.  I've lost a considerable amount of weight, I'm no longer taking blood pressure medication.  I go to the gym and to yoga.  I feel better, more energetic than I have in years. 

My doctor is happy.  I am happy.

I hope I can keep this going. 

Monday, November 28, 2016

Two turkey dinners and Chinese food

So...Thanksgiving with my family Thursday, and with Drew's family Friday.    Food, family, friendship.  Love, laughter, memories.

And yet, looking around the table, and seeing who is no longer among us...a profound sense of sadness at the passing of time.

And then, more sadness.  Saturday afternoon at the wake.  I didn't know R well, but I thought she was a warm and caring friend.  I've since learned how active she was in her church, how well loved she was in her parish.   Normally I'd make a donation to a secular charity, but for R, it has to be a Mass card.  Good thing  our friend K was able to show the Jewish contingent how to fill those out, we were all a bit lost...We sat very respectfully when they recited the Rosary -- at least that is said in English, I can't imagine what gentiles think when we recite Kaddish. 

And then, out of the darkness, light.

Drew and his sister Shelley have reconciled.

R was Shelley's best friend, they became friends in high school.  And she is suffering the loss so deeply. 

The rift was not of our choosing.  When we saw her at the funeral home, we went over to say hello. 

And emotions took over.  And she was hugging her brother and telling him how much she missed him. 

There were 8 of us who went out for Chinese food after the wake.  Like old times.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Dr. Strange (spoiler alert)

Yet another entry  into the Marvel universe.

I never read the Dr. Strange comics, so I had no preconceived notions.

Brilliant but arrogant surgeon crashes his expensive car, winds up with life-altering injuries.  When Western medicine cannot cure him, he goes to Nepal seeking ancient wisdom.  He goes through an accelerated metaphysical program and becomes a super hero, saves the world.

Action, adventure, humor, and the usual cameo by Stan Lee. 

And yes, there are two "Easter Eggs" during the credits.  A funny moment from another Marvel superhero.  And a moment that sets us up for the Dr. Strange sequel.

Yeah, another fun movie. 

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Weeki Wachi

Weeki Wachi, home of the mermaids.  There's a theater on site, you can watch costumed performers swim in a tank.  When we visited, the theater was presenting  its version of the Little Mermaid fairytale.


A reptile show:

(Of course there was a gator).

And this park also features a boat ride, with views of the wildlife.  This guy likes to fish, but then he has to sit in a tree and dry off.

Yes, it was a fun afternoon.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them (spoiler alert)

Yes, we are Harry Potter fans.  How did you guess?

So of course we had to see Fantastic Beasts And Where To Find Them.

There are two sources for the material in the movie.

Back in 2001, J.K. Rowling wrote a short book which purported to be a textbook used at Hogwarts, a book by magizoologist Newt Scamander about the magical creatures he observed throughout the world. Rowling also included a short bio of Scamander.

In Harry Potter And The Deathly Hallows, Rowling explored considerable backstory involving Albus Dumbledore and a Dark Wizard, Gellert Grindelwald.  Grindelwald possessed the Elder Wand before Dumbledore won it from him.  Most of Grindelwald's story was left out of the Deathly Hallows movies.

So Fantastic Beasts begins with newspaper articles about Grindelwald and his escape from Europe, then quickly shifts attention to Newt Scamander's arrival in Prohibition-era NYC. Grindelwald does not make another appearance until the very end of the movie.  Instead, we follow Newt's misadventures as his magical creatures escape from his suitcase and wreak havoc on the city.

Some of my favorite moments include: that the Magical Congress is headquartered in the Woolworth Building; Newt's "mating dance"; what a cute couple Jacob and Queenie are; and Newt hunting for his creatures in Macy's.

The tie-in to Grindelwald is revealed in a Johnny Depp cameo at the end of the movie.

A fun movie, definitely worth seeing.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

So about that vacation

So our friends who live outside Tampa took us to several local areas of interest. 

As I mentioned earlier, we spent an afternoon in Tarpon Springs, a lovely town that was built up around the sponge industry.    It's a nice town to meander though, interesting collection of stores.  We had lunch at Hellas, one of the best Greek restaurants I've enjoyed in awhile, and we bought fudge, salt water taffy and ice cream...

We also spent time in two of Florida's State parks, Homosassa Springs and Weeki Wachi.  Both parks started as privately-owned tourist attractions, but are now state-run wildlife sanctuaries.

In Homosassa Springs, you park your car at the visitor's center, then take a tram or a boat ride to the main part of the park.  We opted for the boat ride, which led to a tragedy of sorts -- Drew's very expensive camera and very expensive lens wound up in the water.  Too expensive to repair, he's going to have to replace both.  He's hoping his memory card, which contained all of the photos he took on our vacation (much better than my poor offerings, I'm sure), will be readable.

The boat ride was interesting, we saw a lot of native waterfowl and other creatures.


They have three manatees in the park, all of whom were injured and cannot be returned to the wild.

You can even see the manatees under water.

Yeah, I was a bit preoccupied with manatees, wasn't I?

What's Florida without a few gators?

And turtles.





The eagle has landed.

Flamingos, of course:


And then there's Lu.  The only hippopotamus to be made an official resident of the State of Florida.  All of the animals in the park must be native to Florida, you see, and poor Lu was part of the attraction when it was privately-owned. Lu is about 56 years old, it wouldn't have been fair to move him.  So the governor allowed him to stay.

This gator was not part of the official exhibit, he was just hanging out near the park:

I'll save Weeki Wachi for another day...


Wednesday, November 23, 2016

Gotta love free samples

This showed up in my mailbox about a week ago. Totally unsolicited.

Well, this being "dry skin season", of course I had to try it.

There are two types of "in shower" body lotion being marketed this year.  Some, like Olay and Nivea, are meant to be used in the shower and rinsed off.  Others, like Jerkins and Curel, are meant to be used immediately after showering, before you dry off. 

I liked the Curel version better than the Jerkins version, which I bought a few months ago.  The Curel product was creamy and absorbed fairly quickly.  It left my skin soft, not sticky.

Would I use this product again? Yes, it left my skin feeling soft, smooth and hydrated.  Would I choose this product over another?  Probably not, I'm really liking the Nivea in-shower body lotion.

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

the rituals of mourning

When I got to Drew's house last night, he mentioned that our friend B had called and left a message on Drew's answering machine,  and that he planned to call her back after our dinner date.

The phone rang again just before we left the house.  It was our friend F. We could hear her speaking into the answering machine.  The message was serious, almost ominous.

First B, and then F?  I told Drew "Something bad has happened."

We called F from the car.

And so we found out that R passed away, two weeks shy of her 66th birthday.

Drew has known R forever, she went to high school with Drew's sister Shelley. R was single, retired, and living alone in the house that had been her parents',  Apparently she had a massive heart attack.

I feel for the family.  It's difficult to arrange for the funeral of a loved one.  How much more so when that person has died just before a huge family holiday?

They've decided to wait until after Thanksgiving for the wake and the funeral.  Most of the friends in our group will likely go to the wake Saturday afternoon.

Interesting, isn't it?  Jews hold the funeral as quickly as possible, then sit shiva: we bury our dead, and then we mourn.  Catholics do their mourning at the wake, and the funeral brings the formal grieving process to a close. And yet the rituals have the same purpose, to honor the deceased, and to bring comfort and closure to the survivors.

So much death, so much dying...

Monday, November 21, 2016

One Day at Universal Studios

So, as I said, we spent the second half of our vacation visiting friends who live outside Tampa.  Our friends have annual passes to Universal Studios/Islands of Adventure, and suggested we all spend a day there.  So Drew and I invested in the one-day two-park pass.

The parks are not crowded midweek in early November.  Universal was still decorated for Halloween Horror Nights, but Islands of Adventure was already getting ready for Christmas.

Our priority was the "Harry Potter" areas of the parks.  When Drew and I had been here a few years ago, we'd seen "Hogsmeade" at Islands of Adventure, but "Diagon Alley" had not yet been built at Universal.  So that's where we started.

You walk through the park until you come to a London street scene.

And then you notice:

You go through an arch, and you're in Diagon Alley:

Of course we rode  Escape From Gringotts -- great ride, an indoor roller coaster with incredible visual effects.

And yes, we ventured into Knockturn Alley as well.

We took time out from our Harry Potter odyssey to ride Men In Black, and then we headed over to King's Cross Station.

You take the train to "Hogsmeade" -- really to the other park, Islands of Adventure.

There are three rides here, a roller coaster ( I won't ride the coaster, our friends don't do coasters, so Drew rode alone), a kiddie coaster, and Harry Potter and the Forbidden Journey -- one of the best rides in Central Florida.  You really feel as though you're riding on a broom with Harry and the gang.

We enjoyed shopping in Hogsmeade, then decided to move on and see the rest of the park.  We grabbed some lunch at one of the counter service restaurants in the cartoon area, and then we rode some old favorites -- Jurrassic Park, Dudley Do-Right, Spiderman -- and of course we needed to see the new King Kong ride.  Yeah, the new movie won't open until next summer, but the ride is up and running.  Very cool ride, too, great visual effects.

We walked back to Universal via Citiwalk so that Drew could ride Rip It, a very, very scary coaster. Next up, the Minions ride and the Simpsons ride, two simulators with humorous visuals.

Ir was almost time for the park to close, so we decided to call it a day.

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