Sunday, January 31, 2010

Church of the Week

I'm not sure of the name of this church, but it always strikes a picturesque silhouette against the Harlem sky, down on Malcolm X Boulevard, just down from 125th Street.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Shadow and Light

New York City is hot and cold right now, both literally and figuratively. Yesterday it was 60 degrees, and tomorrow its only going to be 30. My radiator continues to pump out obscene quantities of steam-hot air, and at work I shiver because getting dressed in such a hot house causes me to forget to wear socks in January. I still love the city, but more and more I've found myself wanting to be somewhere else, far away. And yet, the winter of my discontent? No. Lately I feel like I'm walking around with springtime inside of me, I'm so happy.

And, like a snowball rolling down a hill in a cartoon, the feeling just grows and grows. Everything I do and see makes me happy, whether it is the children playing dominoes on a card table in the lobby of my building or my coworkers complaining about the most meaningless things. Some things add to my happiness, others emphasize it by contrast. The world is gorgeous to me and, like the most beautiful art, it's beauty comes from a mixture of deep shadow and penetrating light. And rather than running from the snowball, I'm standing in its path, willing it to roll me over and carry me along.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Ark of Salvation

Here's this week's Harlem church. I'm interested in the subtitle of it: "Ark of Salvation for the New Millennium Inc." I'm interested in how they came up with that, but since I'm just a documenter and not an investigator, I'm sure I will never know.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Miscellaneous

The package I received from my mom today included:

-The lotion I accidentally left behind at Christmas
-The makeup I accidentally left behind at Christmas
-A pattern for a "pioneer" dress
-A pattern for a retro-style apron
-My high school graduation tassel
-A book of Edna St. Millay poetry
-An old bejeweled hairclip I thought I'd lost
-An old mesh T-shirt that E used to own

Treasures, all.

Friday, January 22, 2010

In Defense of Crisco

I've shared my award-winning chocolate chip cookie recipe with a few people, including my home teacher, Jeff, who called me the other night from the grocery store. "What is shortening?" he asked. "You know, Crisco," I replied, and tried to explain what the container looked like and what aisle it could be found on. My cookies call for 1/3 cup of Crisco shortening and 1/3 cup of margarine or butter, but I explained to Jeff that you can make variations with all butter, all Crisco, or any combination. Shortening makes the cookies fluffier, while butter turns them crispy.

So the next day at church, I was explaining this to Peter, who, it turns out, is anti-Crisco. He won't even allow margarine in his house. He claims health reasons, as well as the fact that hydrogenated vegetable oil products are "unnatural," but this health kick of his doesn't seem to stop him from consuming gargantuan amounts of soda, so go figure. Anyway, we were arguing about it in church when Jeff came along and I asked him how the cookies turned out. "I don't know..." he said. "I just can't seem to get them to turn out like yours." I pressed him for more information, and it turned out that his wife is anti-shortening too! She won't let him have Crisco in the house, or use it in the cookies!

Having grown up in a home where an industrial sized can of Crisco is a staple, an item not to be without, this came as quite a shock to me. Who doesn't use Crisco in baking? I mean, people have been using it forever--at least since the 20s, right? And how could Crisco be bad for you--it's made out of vegetables! So, at E's suggestion, I thought I'd write a defense of Crisco shortening. But then I realized that I knew nothing about Crisco, and so I looked on Wikipedia to learn about it. There I discovered that Crisco was first invented in 1911, in a search for an alternative to animal fat candles. But then, because the stuff looked like lard, they decided to sell it as food. Hmmm. Well, worse things have happened. And, it turns out it's made less from vegetables and more from cottonseed and soybeans. But soy is good, right?

I also went to the Crisco website where I read, "Crisco brings to mind homemade, down-home, and traditional meals. It is recognized, comfortable, and trusted across generations, yet it is simple and unadorned. It brings about a certain pride in meal creation and attainable excellence in cooking." It's true in my case. Crisco reminds me of cooking with my grandma and mom, making easy pie crusts and greasing muffin tins, learning how to make simple but delicious food. Crisco makes baking easier because it's more stable than butter or lard, and with no odd flavor. It's reliable and convenient, and never spoils on the shelf.

I don't necessarily subscribe to the belief that Crisco is bad for you. I mean, sure, nobody should sit down and eat spoonfuls of it, but I don't think anyone has ever or will ever do that (have you tasted Crisco?). Okay, it's not good for you if you eat a ton of pie and cookies, but that's just common sense, and I would argue that the sugar in those things is far more harmful than the Crisco. Instead, I think we should give Crisco a break. We ought to embrace it as a modern convenience, an invention that brought us perfectly flaky pie crusts, and fluffy delicious cookies, not to mention biscuits. So it doesn't fit in with current ideas of organic pure food, but sometimes people need to just accept a good thing for what it is when they've got it. And if you're still resistant, well... I guess you just won't be winning any cookie contests.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Synesthesia

From Wikipedia: Synesthesia (from the Ancient Greek syn, meaning "with," and aisth─ôsis, meaning "sensation") is a neurologically-based phenomenon in which stimulation of one sensory or cognitive pathway leads to automatic, involuntary experiences in a second sensory or cognitive pathway. In one common form of synesthesia, known as grapheme → color synesthesia, letters or numbers are perceived as inherently colored, while in ordinal linguistic personification, numbers, days of the week and months of the year evoke personalities.

Although it lessens as I grow older, I have always retained characteristics of synesthesia. Letters and numbers have specific colors in my mind, and it can often be upsetting (well, annoying is perhaps a better word) if I see a word or number and it is the "wrong" color. Even worse, I hate it when things are organized by color and the color order makes no sense to my mind. Take these ordinary dividers for example. Whoever chose the color sequence for the colored tabs must have been completely crazy. How can one possibly be organized with a sequence of red, white, blue, orange, yellow, green, pink, and orange? It makes no sense at all. For one thing, two oranges?

To me, if something is organized by color, the order should make some sense. For example, gradually darkening shades of blue would be nice, or if different colors are desired, they should follow the spectrum: red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet. Call me OCD, but I used to organize my markers and crayons using the spectrum as a guideline, and this came in handy when I worked at Sears and I had to organize the handbags based on color. My displays were always the best. Years later, when I would proclaim that "aesthetics were of the highest priority" my coworkers at the art gallery would tease me, but I didn't care because it was an art gallery after all, and where else should aesthetics reign if not at an art gallery?

So now I am here trying to organize a binder of information at work, but it hurts my eyes to look at the way these dividers are arranged, and I'm frustrated that I can't do anything about it, making it hard for me to get any work done. Next time I'm just going to order dividers with all clear tabs!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

L-O-V-E

I'm learning how to spell, and it's great.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Baptist Church of Broadway

It's a rainy day in Harlem, which makes this particular church apt for today's pick. I think the name of it translates into Baptist Church of Broadway. My friend Garrett always used to refer to rainy days as baptisms of a sort, so there you go. Also, it was really close to my house so I didn't have far to walk on such a nasty day. This is a Dominican/Mexican neighborhood, so of course the sign is in Spanish. The church is on the second story of a particularly beautiful old building. Peter says that someday when he is rich he's going to buy that building and turn it into his home, where he will keep a wife and raise ten kids. "That is, if I ever get the chance to spawn at all," he says. And the very fact that he calls it "spawning" might be one reason why he's single. I'm just saying. (Sorry, readers... where am I going with this?) At any rate, I can't complain because Peter is coming over tonight and making highbrow crepes for my roommates and I. He's such a good neighbor.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Two Thoughts to Begin a New Year

New Year's Day was 14 days ago, but I still have new beginnings on my mind. I'm standing at a crossroads in my life, looking back at what I've accomplished, enjoying where I am right now, and also looking into the future, seeing what-is-to-be getting clearer and clearer. These are heady times for me. These are moments that make me want to be a better person. I want to eat healthier food, exercise, and take my vitamins. I want to be good and kind and charitable. I want to perform efficiently and excel at my job. I want to be an example of faith and righteousness to the ones I love the most. This year is going to be a life-changing one for me, and I want to be ready for it.

I have New Year's resolutions of course. None have been written down, just rolled around and mulled over in my mind. Some are more like wishes or aspirations, too personal to share now, but things that I am yearning for, that I want to have happen this year. Some are mundane things, like daily flossing and the aforementioned vitamin-taking. Some are goals leftover from a year or two years ago (I need to make that Hawaiian quilt for N & L!) None are impossible. Each one fills me with enthusiasm because I know I'm capable of becoming the better person that I want to be.

------------------

Yesterday as I was taking the subway home, I was sitting at the end of the seats by the door just minding my own business, listening to my ipod, daydreaming about this and that, when all of a sudden the guy standing next to me tapped me on the shoulder and bent down to ask me a question. At least, I think he was asking a question. I couldn't understand a single thing he was saying. He was an older man, of vague ethnicity, and talking too close to my face. "I'm sorry," I said, shaking my head. "I don't understand." Then I put the earphones back in my ears and tried to recapture my reverie. Tap, tap, tap, on the shoulder interrupted me again, and the man was still trying to ask or say something to me. I kept telling him I just didn't understand. This happened three or four times. I wondered if maybe he was drunk, or crazy, so I just stayed polite. Finally, he tapped my shoulder and said, "Peru." Oh! He's from Peru. Well, that explains one thing, I thought. I told him that I was from America, and I was sorry I couldn't understand Spanish. He motioned that it was okay. And then (I think) he told me that it was okay, and I'm pretty, and have a good evening. Then it was my stop, but I realized it was his stop too, so I pretended not to get off the train and then jumped off at the last moment and made sure to walk really really slowly so he wouldn't see me.

Anyway, that random experience illustrates the point I want to make, which is that I'm so thankful for good communication. Sometimes it doesn't matter how much you talk, write, email, text, or telephone someone--they just can't understand what you're saying, and you can't understand them a bit and no amount of wanting to can change it. Then you find someone that you can just lock eyes with and they understand everything you're thinking about. You talk and it's as if you are answering yourself because they understand perfectly. You write and don't have to worry about them taking things the wrong way because they know exactly what you mean. You think about and wish for something, only to discover that they are thinking and wishing for the same thing.

I'm so thankful to have experienced both, because the first has taught me to appreciate the second, and the second has made me so happy.

Happy New Year.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Not Crazy... Yet

I don't think it's fair that I have to work an eight hour day plus another hour for lunchbreak and an hour of commuting time. That's ten hours of my life every day! Okay, that's enough complaining for now. You already know that I'm sick of my job. I'm always so eager to get out the door and on my way home when it's time to go. In fact, when I left work tonight, briskly walking down the street toward my subway stop, I was so eager to get home that when I suddenly heard the familiar strains of Rossini's William Tell Overture strike up and begin to play, I just knew I had finally lost my mind. Thinking I was imagining the sounds, I nevertheless decided to just embrace craziness, and I began to walk faster, picturing myself galloping home like the Lone Ranger on his white steed. Then I realized that there was a car parked on the side of the street with all the windows down, and a lone guy just sitting there blasting the song from his stereo. Now, living in Harlem, I'm familiar with guys lounging around with all their car windows open blasting some sort of hip-hop music or a baseball game, but I never knew that the classical music fans of midtown did the same thing. Now I know it really is a small world, and also that I'm not crazy.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

The Morning

My most and least favorite time of the day is the morning. I almost always wake up at 7:30 a.m. to the sound of my cell phone alarm. I don't even know how to set the alarm on my clock. Sometimes I wake up a little beforehand to the sound of my radiator clunking as it warms up. There is usually soft light coming in through the window, and I roll out of my bed into a towel and into the shower. But before I get that far, for some reason I always stop and scrutinize my face in the mirror. It sort of fascinates me to see the slightly puffy eyes, dark with lingering sleepiness, and my hair all flat and perfectly chunky from being slept on. I can never get it to look as good as it looks fresh from the pillow. Anyway, enough about me.

I like the quietness of the morning, even though I almost always turn on the radio and listen to a bit of NPR as I eat my breakfast. I figure out what to wear to work, grab all my things at the last possible moment, and head out the door. Winter mornings are so gorgeous here, along the river's side. I catch glimpses of the water, ice blue down below a powdery sky with pale pink clouds. The sun catches the branches of the bare trees and turns them a golden white, and across the water the houses of New Jersey turn all sorts of pastel colors, like on a Greek island. I always take a deep refreshing breath of cold winter air and let the wind push me along down the street.

There is always a street-sweeper at the first corner who gives me a whistle and a good morning, for which I toss him a smile and a nod. Then its up the hill to the subway, past the pigeons eating a bread crumb breakfast tossed out a window somewhere up above. The AM-NY guy hands me a free paper, and then I pop down into the tunnel that takes me under the city, until I emerge somewhere downtown and high-tail it to work.

And why is it my least favorite time of day? Because I have to say goodbye to the pastel blues, the golden sunbeams, the pink frothy clouds, the awakening bustle, and spend the lovely day inside, when I would so much rather be breakfasting on a balcony, rowing across the river, taking a leisurely run, or trying to spell the earth's beauty in a painting. Every day is the same old tragedy, except Saturdays of course, but those are more than likely rainy.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Church

Here's another Harlem church. I can't remember the name of it. I had to work today (semi-annual mandatory inventory day, boo) so I wasn't able to go to church myself, but I was there in my heart.

P.S. For those of you who think I might be nearing the end of all the churches in Harlem, think again! Just this week I noticed two new churches that have opened, plus a few old ones that I'd never seen before. There's no end in sight to the churches of Harlem.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Sherlock Holmes

While I was home over the Christmas holidays, I saw Sherlock Holmes. Having been a Holmes fan since high-school, when I discovered the stories by Arthur Conan Doyle and devoured them one by one, I am always interested in reinterpretations and pastiches of the Sherlock Holmes character. In my opinion, the stories have never been better put to life than in the versions made by the BBC, starring Jeremy Brett as the famed detective. The Brett versions are almost to-the-letter recreations of the stories, beautifully made, with excellent acting and casting. On the other end of the spectrum are the movies starring Basil Rathbone, who is to some the iconic Holmes, but which bear no truth from the Doyle stories except the characters' names and professions. Sleuthing in the 1930s and 40s instead of Victorian England, Rathbone's Holmes wears a deerstalker and carries a magnifying glass (Hollywood props), and his friend Watson is a bumbling old man, something entirely opposite of the Watson of Doyle's stories: a young Cassanova of a doctor.

Somewhere in between the literal re-enactment of the BBC versions and old Hollywood's false attempts, lies the new movie Sherlock Holmes, directed by Guy Ritchie. And, just as it lies in a middling position on my scale of authentically portraying Holmes, it kind of lies on middle ground for me as a movie in general. I'm not torn between loving and hating it--I'm torn between liking it and liking it a bit less. So, I'll talk about the things that I liked and the things that I didn't like. How about the dislikes first?

My first complaint may seem ridiculous to some, but the costumes and makeup were completely wrong for Victorian England. Okay, maybe not completely wrong, but wrong. Watson's girlfriend practically has Utah bangs, and the real Irene Adler would never have been seen in public wearing such dark lipstick. Then there were a few hats that seemed too contemporary, and while I'm sure the average viewer would never even notice such things, these things distracted me.

Secondly, the plot. Why does every adventure movie made these days have to revolve around a supernatural secret society bent on taking over the world? Ever since The Da Vinci Code came along, I feel like movies have been borrowing on its success. The plot here borders on unoriginal, and to make it worse, the bad guy is pretty much Hitler with his (spoiler alert!) slicked back hair and attempts to turn Parliament into a giant gas chamber, not to mention his WWII-esque leather jacket (see previous paragraph.) I can see why the screenwriters wouldn't want to go with one of Doyle's original stories, but did it have to be so grandiose a scheme? In most of the original stories, Holmes is helping out regular people with cases involving missing relatives, lost jewels, friends acting strangely, or the odd murder. He is very seldom saving England from egomaniacal dictators. Keep it real!

The flimsy plot is salted with characters that mean nothing to the average viewer and which only infuriate the Sherlock Holmes purist. Irene Adler was an opera singer who go the better of Holmes in one small story, but ever since then she has been portrayed as everything from an evil villain to Holmes secret lover in movies. Here, portrayed by Rachel McAdams, Adler is a sort of double agent spy, alternately helping and hindering Holmes in his efforts to save the country, but I kept getting bored of her character. Despite scenes that should call for it, there was no chemistry between her and Downey, Jr. which was disappointing.

Lastly, I was disappointed that the movie was so action oriented. I understand that action sells movies these days and, Holmes purist that I am, I admit that the character was supposed to have been a martial arts expert, an amateur boxer and a trained fencer. That said, Doyle's Sherlock Holmes never ran around fist-fighting and getting chased by thugs and causing general wreckage and havoc among the streets of London. Holmes was lazy, and preferred to do all the mental work while letting his Baker Street Irregulars and Watson do all the physical stuff. But maybe I could have stomached the action scenes if only it weren't for the CGI animation effects that stuck out like sore thumbs, and the boredom caused by having Holmes pre-plan each of his fight moves in slow motion and then act it out in slow motion again. Sigh... Whatever happened to just a good old fashioned acted-out fight?

So anyway, those were my biggest gripes with the movie. But I did like some things. For one thing, I liked the music a lot. The score by Hans Zimmer was clever and well-done and helped make the whole movie very upbeat and interesting. I especially liked the blend of animation on the credits with the staccato music that seemed to say, "the game's afoot!"

Also, I liked the casting of Downey, Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson. As I mentioned previously, Watson was supposed to have been quite the ladies man, and here for perhaps the first time he is totally believable as such. While I think they ought to have cut or combed Downey, Jr.'s hair differently for this role, I still think he played a brilliant Holmes, with the help of witty dialogue that showcases his character's eccentricities and brilliance. And while much has and will always be speculated about the supposed homosexual relationship between Holmes and Watson, the movie did a really good job of neither proving nor disproving the rumors, without resorting to stereotypical sexual innuendos, which I applaud.

Lastly, I must admit that the whole movie was fun to watch. Though the costumes were wrong, the plot was thin, and the action sequences annoyed me--somehow I still enjoyed the movie from start to finish. I hope there is a sequel, as the end of the movie hinted, and I hope it is just as much fun. It might possibly even be an improvement!

Friday, January 8, 2010

Contains No Fruit Juice

Okay, so (if you couldn't tell from my last post) I'm just blogging about random things today because I've been home sick with a cold and the isolation is apparently making me go crazy. Oh well. As Don Quixote, I gladly "lay down the melancholy burden of sanity," and embrace eccentricity. As an eccentric, there is nothing wrong with eating ice cream and a pop tart for lunch, salt and vinegar potato chips for dinner, and napping the day away. I probably won't be out fighting any windmills, but I did venture out to the grocery store, which was a mistake because I wasn't in my right mind and so ended up with "orange flavored breakfast beverage" instead of juice. Nope, it says right on the carton: "Contains no fruit juice." Then again, it's such a pretty carton.

I'm pretty sure I set out to blog about something in particular, but I've completely forgotten now, and I see no reason to continue this ridiculous post.

I Speak with a Street Cat

Cats are rare in Harlem. You'd think they'd have a field day here with all the rats and mice, but they tend to get a lot of abuse from the 2-legged animals, and cars. Still, every now and then I catch glimpse of a skinny cat weaving its way through a forest of garbage cans or scampering low against the ground to hide under the nearest car. Once I saw a big orange cat actually napping in the open, on a low wall. As I approached it, hand outstretched to pet it, it opened its eyes, hissed, jumped into the air and practically disappeared into an alley. But I've learned how to befriend the street cats, and did it yesterday as I walked home from the subway. Down the street a little ways I spied a gray cat loping along, skulking from shadow to shadow. It saw me too, and started to flee. But suddenly, in my most high-pitched voice, I loudly said "kitten!" and the cat stopped in its tracks, turned to look at me, and meowed. It stayed put as I caught up with it and bent down to scratch its fuzzy ear. It meowed and meowed at me, probably out of hunger and loneliness, and I would have probably taken it home with me if I weren't deathly allergic. Then again, maybe it was trying to tell me in its language that it was scared of me and hated me, but my grasp of cat language isn't extensive enough to know. Nevertheless, it let me pet it, and that never happens with alley cats. I think I've made a breakthrough.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

The Coat

New York is very very cold, but I haven't even noticed because I've been walking around in a raccoon fur coat. That might sound disgusting to some people, but it's actually pretty cute. I found the coat last Saturday as I visited one of my favorite stores for perhaps the last time. Beggars and Choosers has been a Pittsboro, North Carolina, institution for over 30 years. I used to drive out there all the time to find all of my most unique vintage clothes and jewelry, and the owner, Pam Smith, is a doll. She lights up a room with her energy and enthusiasm for anything glitzy and glamorous. But back in October her store was robbed badly, and Pam has been shaken by the experience. She's getting older and not sure if she has the wherewithal to carry on after such a setback, so she is closing for the time being (nobody will say its forever, and I certainly do hope its not) and happened to have her final blowout sale on the last Saturday that I was in North Carolina.

So my mom and E and I bundled up (it was a frigid and windy morning) and made the trek out to Pittsboro early Saturday morning to be among the first to enter the store for the sale, because we knew there would be large crowds. Pam let us in early because she couldn't stand to see us waiting out in the cold wind, but we weren't allowed to start shopping until the stroke of 10:30 because that was the official opening time. So we chatted with fellow earlybirds, among with was a tall woman dressed as a 1950s nurse, and a very flamboyant man in a woman's fur coat. Then, at the proper moment, we each scattered to the place we considered most important for treasure-hunting, whether it was upstairs to the clothes and jewelry, downstairs to the bargain basement of odds and ends, to the side room where linens and lace are kept, or to the main room of incredible antiques of all sorts. I went first to the clothing, of course, with E on my heels urging me to just grab whatever I saw. So I saw the fur coat, grabbed it, and went along grabbing many other things until my arms were so full I had to take a break and try things on.

My budget, the space in my suitcase, and practicality in general caused me to narrow my selections down considerably, and I still think maybe I should have bought the navy blue dotted swiss dress with the ruffle collar, but my only goal was to find one thing I loved, and there I succeeded.

The fur coat was the first thing I grabbed--the first thing I noticed. It was displayed gorgeously on a mannequin, its raccoon tail sashes tied jauntily around the neck. When I tried it on it fit perfectly, and it wasn't too long at the waist or too short at the arms. The gray-brown color looked excellent on me. And the price was ridiculously affordable, even before the 50% off! As I modeled it for my mom, the aforementioned flamboyant man came up to me and expressed much jealousy over the fact that I'd grabbed the coat first. He demonstrated the different ways I could tie the neck sashes, and clucked at how well the color suited me. "You'll be so hot in New York!" he said, and I knew it wasn't just warmth he was talking about.

I wore it to church the next morning, and I wore it to the airport that afternoon with a wide-brimmed felt hat and tall boots and felt kind of like a movie star. Then I wore it in the door of my apartment and found Peter and Ryan watching South Park in my living room. "You've come home from the South in a coonskin coat!" said Peter, dousing my attempts at glamour, but I just twirled the raccoon tails in his face and pranced away. So it's not mink--it has so much more personality. It's not the most rich looking thing, but it's darling, quirky, and SO warm.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Time to Go Back

Harlem and its snowy streets are calling me home today. I'm packing, getting ready to end my wonderful holiday vacation and go back to my little life in New York. I'm torn by emotions I never dreamed I'd have, but willing to move forward and see what the new year holds for me.

The best things about being home this week have been spending wonderful amounts of time with my family, visiting with dear friends, and forgetting the world via the flicker of a cozy hearth fire on a cold bitter winter night.

The arrow has flown, I've got to go onward, but I will treasure these times within my heart, and hope the warm and joyful memories see me and my loved ones safely through the rest of the frozen season ahead.

Friday, January 1, 2010

It Was Picklicious

It was Abby's idea to go to Mt. Olive and witness the annual Pickle Drop. I couldn't think of a better way to ring in the new year, so I tagged along, and we found ourselves driving out into the open countryside on a dark foggy night, to see what we could see. It was supposed to have been a full moon, a blue moon at that, but it was so misty and foggy that we could see nothing but a few well-lit farmhouses here and there. Mt. Olive is a tiny Southern town, about an hour southeast of Raleigh, that you could altogether miss if you weren't paying attention, but the pickle company, well known nationwide, is it's claim to fame. We arrived in Mt. Olive around 6 pm, and found the pickle factory easily, located at the corner of Cucumber and Vine. A small crowd was in the process of becoming medium-sized, and families milled around enjoying the festivities. There was live music by a band of old-timers, a gift shop overflowing with amazing merchandise like pickle earrings, T-shirts, and scratch-n-sniff stickers, and best of all there were free pickles, chocolate chip cookies, and hot chocolate. Then there was Mr. Crisp, a guy in a huge pickle costume, walking around, giving people thumbs up and posing for pictures. Meanwhile, a large bright green glowing pickle lingered up above us, at the top of the flagpole, and an electronic sign counted down the seconds.

The pickle drops at 7 pm, Greenwich Mean Time midnight, because in a small town folks like to get to bed at a decent hour, so at about 6:45 the spokesman for the pickle company got up on raised platform with a loudspeaker and began announcing a few door prizes, and people excitedly claimed their pickle-paks and green umbrellas. Then he read a history of the pickle-dropping celebration, with its ties to World War II bomber pilots who claimed their aim was so good they could drop a bomb into a pickle barrel down below. Suddenly, with 20 seconds to "midnight," the pickle began its descent, and the audience went from hushed to fervently counting down the seconds in unison. At the bottom of the flagpole, the pickle disappeared into a giant bucket, eliciting a compulsory splash of water, and a cheer rose up. Everyone shouted Happy New Year and blew their whistles and waved little party pom poms, and then a local doctor played Auld Lang Syne on his bagpipe while we all sang along. Then, in place of the pickle, the American flag was raised against the black misty sky, and everyone sang God Bless America.

I can't imagine a better New Year's celebration, and it was capped by my friends and I with a delicious barbecue dinner on the way home, at Smithfield's. Back on the road again, the rain that had been threatening all night finally came down, and as we drove home we felt lucky, blessed, and completely picklicious. Happy New Year!!!!!!