Thursday, November 27, 2008

Giving Thanks

We didn't get to see the Macy's parade floats being inflated this year, but we did see a guy on stilts scratching his ass, so it wasn't a total loss.

My sister and I went up to 79th Street on Wednesday, Thanksgiving Eve, in hopes of seeing the floats being brought to life.

It was an intimate little affair, with just us and several million other people who had the same idea.

We got close to the floats, we really did. But the crowd that circled around the Museum of Natural History was so big and so thick with humanity that the two of us, who share a deathly fear of being trampled, decided to skip this particular ritual.

I seem to recall that at one time this event wasn't so incredibly popular, that only a handful of people actually knew about it. That has definitely changed.

We tried to get in the perimeter from every possible angle and as we came down one of the avenues, we saw some of the members of Cirque Du Soleil setting up shop on the sidewalk.

This group included the aforementioned man on stilts who made a rather big production of relieving his itchy rear end, which made us think that this was part of the show. At least, we hoped it was, but we didn't stick around to catch the rest of his act.

It was fun, though, seeing all the people streaming through the streets and all the little kids getting so worked up about the parade.

During my round of holiday calls, I found out from my former sister-in-law (I still can't used to that idea)that her uncle, the infamous Uncle Duke died two weeks ago.

Uncle Duke was a character and a half, a huge man who said exactly what was on his mind, no matter how politically incorrect it might be. I'd quote some of his best lines, but I'm sure I'd offend somebody in cyberspace. It's hard to believe he's gone.

When Uncle Duke got on a roll, he was unstoppable and quite entertaining. One time, many years ago, he had my mother and I in stitches when he found his grand-nephew playing with a dishwasher magnet that looked like a small doll.

"This is for fruits," he declared as he scooped the little boy up in his arms.

Today we went out to Hicksville to have dinner with our cousin and her husband at a local restaurant, which was packed to the gills. We had a nice time, great food, and I'm happy to report that there were no terrorist attacks on the Long Island Railroad.

News reports said that terrorists involved were targeting New York "during the holiday season to create an opportunity for maximum carnage." Maximum carnage--just in time for the holidays!

As I got ready today I heard more details about the slaughter in Mumbai, where maximum carnage was clearly the objective.

Like most people hearing these reports, I was horrified, but that feeling intensified when my aunt told me that a woman who lives near her summer home in Berkshires was in Mumbai at the time of the attacks.

As of this morning her husband had not heard from her and my aunt had no message from him when she got home this evening.

I only met this woman once a few years ago, but actually knowing someone who is involved in this nightmare--even if only peripherally--increases the anxiety level by a few thousand notches. We later found out she had gotten out of Mumbai shortly before the slaughter began.

There's a part of me that keeps thinking things will change, the world will become a better place. Not overnight, of course, but slowly people will find ways of communicating with each other without bloodshed.

I felt that way when we crossed over into the 21st Century--a new century, for God's sake, surely we'll find a new way of doing things. Then 9/11 happened.

More recently, I was feeling positive about the new administration, that, despite the terrible economic picture, we were going to start over. And then this happens in Mumbai.

I found myself thinking of the old Simon & Garfunkel recording of "Silent Night-7 O'clock News," where the duo sings the beloved Christmas carol while a newscaster reads some of the worst headlines of 1966.

The list includes the escalating war in Vietnam, the death of Lenny Bruce, and the murder of nine student nurses in Chicago.

It was pretty scary when I first heard it 40 years ago, and the world has become a much more dangerous place since then, or so it seems to me.

It's nearly 1 AM on Friday, Thanksgiving is officially over, and the holiday shopping season is about to kick off.

It'll be subdued this year, most likely, given the economic meltdown that has spread out from Wall Street like the shock waves coming from the epicenter of an earthquake.

At least one retail analyst thinks the holiday shopping season is already over because it never got started in the first place.

Food banks are reporting a spike in the number of people coming in for meals and this includes people who once donated to the shelters and who are now forced by circumstance to eat there.

For the first time in ages, I don't have to work today. After all those years of working around the holidays, it's nice to kick back, sleep late, and properly digest my turkey dinner. And I'll make sure not to scratch my butt in public.

I'm thankful for the day off and the big meal, especially in a world where people are starving to death. I'm thankful for my family, which has grown smaller over the years. I'm thankful for my steady paycheck and the roof over my head.

I pray for people who don't have these things, who suffer in ways I could never imagine. It makes my own problems seem quite small indeed.

Happy Thanksgiving.


Calamity Jen said...

Looks like people are still out in droves shopping -- enough to create carnage of their own at Wal-Mart. How sad this world is. But we shouldn't lose sight of the fact that the media focus on the negative; there is still a great deal of good out there that never gets reported.

A belated Happy Thanksgiving to you.

Rob K said...

And to you as well, Jen. You make an excellent point about the "greal deal of good."

I can always count on you to brighten things up around here. (and by "here" I mean Planet Earth)