It’s been one of those weeks where the New Yorkiness of New York is bashing you over the head. Repeatedly.
* On a packed Monday morning subway ride, two men nearly come to blows. As they exit (at the same station), we see that both are carrying yoga mats. Yoga, you are doing it wrong.
* Number of subway rides this week with an air cast on my right foot: 10. Number of times someone offered me a seat: 0. Way to live up to your reputation, New Yorkers.
* Yesterday, I passed Michael J. Fox on the corner near my office while a film crew was working on equipment set up nearby. Okay, I may have varied my intended direction after a co-worker had mentioned he was standing there, but anything you heard about me yelling, “Hey, McFly” as I walked by is entirely unfounded.
The Spy family successfully celebrated our national holiday at Spy Headquarters. It’s the first time since before Mr. Spy and I were married that we’ve celebrated without Mr. Spy’s family, and I have to say that it was more successful than expected. While I’m not sure I have enough for a full Thanksgiving Index this year, I am pleased to report that we maintained a healthy pie to people ration of 1:1, so it was a fairly successful event. It also marks the first time that I am personally acquainted with nearly all of the people who grew or raised the food I cooked with, which was surprisingly nice, even though I found picking up my turkey from the back of a truck full of dead birds a little disconcerting. I was a vegetarian for 20 years after all. It dies hard (but probably not as hard as the turkeys).
After I played morning Mass, the rest of the day was pretty much standard issue. I stopped by Cranky and J’s house to say happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah and to pick up my roasting pan, a small detail I’d inadvertently forgotten about since last Thanksgiving when Cranky was cooking and I was not. And then I spent the rest of the day puttering around the kitchen and watching the boys watch football and playing board games and stomping around in the cold and mostly empty park, which was especially lovely.
But today, I would be remiss to remind you about a little known holiday that we should all be celebrating. Here, from the way back machine is a description of the history of The Day of Onerous Tasks, in the words of Mr. Spy, who has written a children’s book on the First Thanksgiving and is therefore an Expert.
The Day of Onerous Tasks
by Mr. Spy
Each year on the Friday after Thanksgiving, families spend a special day together. This day is called the Day of Onerous Tasks. (Tasks are jobs or chores. Onerous means not fun and not pleasant.)
The Day of Onerous Tasks was first celebrated by the Pilgrims of the Plymouth Colony in Massachusetts in 1621. After eating their first Thanksgiving feast, the Pilgrims found they were left with many dishes and pots to wash. There were also many empty bottles and shattered casks scattered around the colony. (Casks are barrels filled with alcoholic drinks for grownups.) Someone had to clean this mess up.
The Pilgrim grownups noticed that the Pilgrim children seemed to have a lot of energy. This was because the Pilgrim children had spent the First Thanksgiving eating many sweet, sugary pies and cakes and turkeys covered in maple syrup. The grownups, on the other hand, were very tired from all their hard work and heavy drinking. The grownups decided that the children should clean up all the dishes and bottles and shattered casks.
So on the day after the first Thanksgiving feast, the children of the Plymouth colony were instructed to stay home from school and clean up the colony’s mess. There was much complaining. Many time-outs were ordered. But eventually the colony was made clean again. This was the first Day of Onerous Tasks.
Today, families all around the country still celebrate the Day of Onerous Tasks. Children still complain about their chores and parents still order time-outs. But the Day of Onerous Tasks is an important part of the Thanksgiving celebration. How does your family observe the Day of Onerous Tasks?
Happy Day of Onerous Tasks, everyone! Or, to those for whom it is not a happy day, get back to work!
Yesterday was one of those days where just about everything that could possibly have gone wrong did. It started with an overcrowded subway with rude people on it (Why yes, I do enjoy getting yelled at by a stranger for, er, standing? Breathing? I’m not entirely sure. The nerve of me!). And it evolved into, well, let’s just say a lot of grumpy people doing a lot of grumpy things. All of my co-workers seemed to be in the same boat. It was just one of those days. The ones that drive you to drink.
Today was much better, mainly by comparison. But also because it’s starting to feel like the holidays. People were stashing suitcases by their desks and discussing cooking around the coffeemaker. I took a walk at lunchtime to clear my head and ended up near a shop on Park Avenue that had lights in the window. I wandered inside and a few minutes later, I’d started my Christmas shopping. I know better than to feel virtuous. I will not be done until the bitter end.
There are times when walking out into the rain at the end of a long workday with headphones in your ears is liberating. Today was one of those times. The subway was stuffed again, but this time it was full of people offering each other their seats. It was better. And even though my phone went rogue and downloaded every single song I own, playing havoc with my workout-oriented playlist, Webern’s Variations for Orchestra is strangely good subway music. And the segue into the Replacements was extremely entertaining.
A couple of pies and a play through my new issue of Acoustic Guitar later and I feel like a new person. Or I would if there weren’t a snarling almost teen in the next room. But maybe a dose of reality is a good thing.
My first day back at my morning run in the park since the car accident and all the traveling, and I found I’d missed the people I always see but never speak to. My favorites are a group of people I’ve always assumed were around my parents’ age. There are six of them and they are always walking together and talking animatedly. They look like they’ve known each other for many years. This morning, only four of them made it. As I approached, I could hear them talking first about school drills.
“My granddaughter’s school had a lockdown drill.”
One of them scoffed. “When we were kids we had bomb drills. What’s a lockdown. They all nodded.
I passed them and did my loop and came up behind them again and switched to a walk. They’d moved on to the Kennedy assassination, each remember when and where and how old he or she was when it happened.
“What’s 13, 7th grade? I was in 7th grade. My teacher was out in the hall and came back crying.”
“I was in my junior year in college. I remember they came on over the loudspeaker and told us the President had been shot.”
The rest all began talking at once. I passed them again and missed the end of the conversation, if indeed there was an end.
* * * * *
On the train, sat next to a woman who pulled, from her capacious handbag, the tiniest dog dressed in teeny-tiny camouflage hunting vest. I tried to take a picture. It was the most ridiculous and strangely adorable thing I’ve ever seen. And I don’t like small dogs as a rule.
* * * * *
On the way to the subway after work, I passed a giant duck walking down 5th Avenue. He waved. I waved back.
* * * * *
I took AJ to his first guitar lesson in some time today. His new teacher lives just a couple of blocks away. AJ was a little nervous — he doesn’t like playing for others. But the teacher put him at his ease. He started asking questions and asking AJ to play a few things, quickly adjusting his vocabulary and his questions as he saw what AJ already knows and can do. AJ seemed to take to him. And vice versa too, I think. AJ and I also both agreed that his apartment was fantastically decorated. We are a little jealous.
There is much going on at the Toy Factory this week:
* I’m working on an insane number of toys at once. This makes me nervous. And also tired.
* One of the toymakers is behaving badly. Very badly. He has very nearly derailed the project and he is making a lot of work for us. I am surviving by taking the high road in real life and the low road in my head. “It is almost over” is my new mantra. If I had a voodoo doll, it would look like a porcupine.
*One of my toys was written about in two papers of record on the same day. You know what happens when two papers of record cover your toy on the same day? You get a thank you note from the president of the Toy Factory. I have been here more than two years now and I am still amazed to work at a place where when people think you’re doing a good job, they tell you so.
In other news, we are making holiday plans. I haven’t had a day off in nearly three weeks, so a holiday is sounding pretty good right now. And while I’m a little sad that it will just be the three of us, I’m grateful that I don’t have to get on yet another plane next week. Thanksgiving groceries are accumulating in odd corners of the apartment. There are cans of pumpkin on the pantry shelf and bag of flour stands on top of the refrigerator a little too close to the door. It is an Abbott and Costello gag waiting to happen. It adds that crucial element of danger to everyday living.
And speaking of danger, a friend of mine has shared this list of 27 things only New Yorkers are afraid of and even though I am seriously irritated by headlines declaring random numbers of things in a list, I am, in fact, afraid of all of these things and thus found it very funny. Also, the cellar doors are no joke. Ditto for the upside-down subway dudes.
Mr. Spy and I are apparently running a relay race with AJ as the baton. I arrived home last night, back from nearly two weeks of traveling and narrowly escaping some dramatic weather in Indianapolis. We landed in the thickest fog I’ve ever seen from the air, so thick that by the time I saw the runway, we were already on the ground. So think that the pilots must have needed air traffic control to get them across the runways because they couldn’t possibly have seen what was coming. So thick that the flight attendant seated opposite me leaned forward to look out my window and muttered under her breath, “Holy shit!”
A little over 12 hours later, Mr. spy was in a cab on the way to the airport. Fortunately, the weather had cleared and he made it to Chicago without incident.
AJ? He went to school.
The second conference wasn’t quite as hectic as the first, which was good, because I had a lot of other stuff to do and spent a fair amount of time in my hotel room staring at very tiny print through a magnifying glass — is it wrong that I like looking at things through the magnifying glass? Even when not spying I can feel like a spy. I did get to take time out, though, to visit with Lemming and Mr. PQV, which was lovely. I got to sit outside in their back yard and smell the fall leaves and watch Fritz the dog chase squirrels and trains. It was a good place to be.
I spent the day today sitting at my kitchen table with the magnifying glass. I will take it back to the office with me tomorrow. I am looking forward to Saturday, which will be my first day off in nearly three weeks and will also be the day that I get to take a 15 pound turkey for a mile-long walk as I escort it home from the Farmer’s Market for a brief stay in my refrigerator.
I spent the evening listening to AJ explain HyperLoops to me. This conversation was brought to you by his new subscription to Popular Science — school fundraising magazine drive for the win!
I plan on spending the night sleeping. It seems like the thing to do. I think I remember how.
“Life moves pretty fast,” said Ferris Bueller. “If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”
So this is me, stopping to look around. Unfortunately, Like much of this month, I’m mostly looking into a suitcase. Right now the suitcase is half full. Tomorrow, once I get to Indianapolis, my suitcase will be half-empty. I’m still trying to figure out if this makes me an optimist or a pessimist.
Last week’s trip to Pittsburgh was eventful. It started with a bang — literally, when my cab from the airport to the hotel got rear ended and I got a case of whiplash and a date with an insurance adjuster. Fortunately no one was seriously hurt, although my cab driver did think he was having a heart attack and I learned I can be amazingly calm in a crisis, at least until I’m back alone in my hotel room and everything is fine. Then I order wine from room service and sleep for 10 hours.
It’s lucky I got that sleep, though, because it was pretty much the last sleep I got all weekend, which was jam packed with meetings of all kinds about all things. This is part of my job I love, because even though it taxes the extroversion limits of my introverted tendencies, I get to spend several days talking to really smart people about the things they’re most passionate about. And also, I get to take people out for dinner on someone else’s dime. What’s not to like about any of that?
I also got to show off the latest toy, which was on display at the Toy Factory’s exhibit. People were posing for photos with it, hugging it, carrying it around to show people and, best of all, really looking at it.
And I got to see Jeanne and her husband, who drove three hours just to have dinner (which turned out to be my first of two that evening, but definitely the best) and also to leave notes in an unexpected box in the hotel. I have a different conference in the same hotel next fall and I will do my best to remember to check the box to see if it is still there.
The conference’s end was exciting too, in that the book for which I wrote a chapter won a prize. While the glory is primarily for my editor, I was glad to see him get some recognition, because he was wonderful. And also, my chapter’s subject was mentioned in the speech, so boo-yah!
Fortunately the trip home was uneventful, unless you count the lack of heat in our apartment. For reasons we can’t explain, the rest of the building is getting heat, but we are not. My co-worker was telling me about seeing a video about an efficient space heater made out of tea lights,a loaf pan, and a couple of flower pots. Right now I’m keeping warm by doing laundry, but I may have to consult the Macgyver survival manual if I run out of underwear.
The next conference should be a little less hectic and hopefully a little less dramatic, but will otherwise be more of the same. I’m looking forward to seeing some old friends and meeting some new people and hopefully, while in mechanize vehicles, maintaining a forward trajectory.