Artist / writer Adam Donaldson Powell asked if I would contribute to his latest project, in which he invites artists, writers, musicians, and other performing artists from around the world to contribute essays about their work and lives during the COVID-19 pandemic and aftermath. Here is my contribution:
Ok – I admit it: I am one of those people who started playing Christmas music last week. Yesterday the Christmas lights went up. I don’t normally rush this, but 2020 has been the pits and I am comfortable enough in my middle-aged fruitiness to freely quote Auntie Mame at you: We need a little Christmas. Now.
Baron von Munchausen is ready.
One of my favorite holiday CDs of recent years is Tracey Thorn’s Tinsel & Lights – a smart collection of originals and non-traditional holiday-themed songs perfectly suited to the Everything But The Girl singer’s melancholy voice.
The lead track, Joy (written by Thorn) has been on repeat in my home every December since its 2012 release. But when I dug it out of the mothballs this year, the song feels like it was tailor-made for the current climate as we navigate a pandemic holiday season while anxiously looking forward to a brighter 2021.
The opening lyric:
When someone very dear / calls you with the words “Everything’s all clear.” / That’s what you want to hear / but you know it might be different in the new year. / That’s why / That’s why / We hang the lights so high: Joy.
Here are some other Thanksgiving-themed goodies I originally posted in 2018:
When it comes to holiday music, unfortunately Thanksgiving is lost in the long shadow of Christmas. There’s a severe lack of Thanksgiving songs, aren’t there? All we’ve got is Let’s Turkey Trot by Little Eva, and even then it is not really about Thanksgiving at all. The song’s title refers to the Turkey Trot, a dance step popular back in the early 1900’s.
Let’s Turkey Trot was Eva Boyd’s third single, released in 1963 with the hopes of recapturing the #1 success of her debut platter, The Loco-Motion. Let’s Turkey Trot gave Little Eva a respectable showing on the charts, peaking at #20, although it should have been billed as Little Eva & The Cookies, as the backing group is as much a part of the success of the record as the lead. Group member Earl-Jean McCrea delivers solo lines echoing their own hits Chains & Don’t Say Nothing Bad About My Baby, which also featured Little Eva on background vocals.
Here’s an abbreviated performance by Little Eva on Shindig in 1965. Darlene Love and the Blossoms stand in for the Cookies in what must be one of the proudest moments of their career. Gobble Diddle It!
The Dollyrots also covered this track in 2014. Besides using footage of Little Eva’s Shindig performance throughout the video, they also namecheck “Little Eva back in ’63”:
Want some Mashed Potatoes with your Turkey Trot? Here’s Dee Dee Sharp with her own ode to a Thanksgiving staple / dance move:
Aaaaand some Gravy for your mashed potatoes:
On the darker side… one of the faux trailers from Quentin Tarantino’s Grindhouse is the hilariously spot-on Thanksgiving, directed by Eli Roth. It is entirely plausible that someone would have jumped on the bandwagon of grade-z holiday themed horror films that followed the success of Halloween. But this one is a fake. As of now. Who knows…. maybe Roth will film it one day.
During the Thanksgiving episode of SNL in 1997, Lilith Fair stand-up comic Cinder Calhoun (a recurring character played by Ana Gasteyer) & singer Sara McLachlan paid a visit to Norm MacDonald and the Weekend Update desk, singing the Thanksgiving classic Basted In Blood. It would not be nearly as funny if they didn’t sing it so well.
Unfortunately this segment seems to have fallen off the annual SNL Thanksgiving Eve prime time special. The whole segment can be seen at the link above – here’s the song:
In 2019, Ana Gasteyer released a holiday album: Sugar & Booze. Highly recommended!
Earlier this year, I began posting photos I snapped around New York City – just as the pandemic was taking hold and then again when it started to reopen. As we teeter on the edge of another necessary lockdown, lets pay tribute to these intrepid commuters – men who have navigated the subways sporting face coverage while still putting forth a sense of style as well as a certain…. je ne sais quois.
This post goes out to KennethInThe212 blog, which recently celebrated its 15th anniversary. Prior to the pandemic, Kenneth Walsh (who lives in Manhattan so you don’t have to) regularly featured snapshots of stylish men photographed in transit. Alas, he doesn’t need to take the subway while working from home, so I began taking photos that I imagined would have fit comfortably into his oeuvre (despite a lack of mustaches and singlets).
Then again… who knows what facial hair grows behind these masks?
Congratulations to Kenneth on 15 years! Stay safe New York.
Last month I posted my ongoing tribute to toilet papers from foreign lands that have washed up on our shores. Six months into the pandemic, the U.S. supply chain continues its struggle to catch up with the pooping demands of a terrified nation. Exotic papiers de toilette have found their way onto the shelves of our local supermarkets, bodegas and pharmacies. In honor of these quirky lifesavers of dubious quality, I posted an 8-part video series here. Today I present to you three more entries honoring Toilet Papers Of The World!
Domino – Dominican Republic
Más suave! From the Dominican Republic, here’s Domino, with an acento agudo over the “O” that I can’t get my keyboard to duplicate. Joining the parade of furry TP mascots like the shitting Charmin bears, Bulgaria’s Emeka pooping panda and Poland’s crapping Camilla Almusso cub, Domino brings you their BM bunny. Welcome!
Stratus – China
I’ll be honest – I did not buy this one. Things are not so bad that I have to resort to bamboo toilet paper, although it is a nice metaphor for 2020.
Sufy – Turkey
The word on the street in Ankara: Sufy is super ëmici with extra yumuşak! Who am I to disagree?
That’s all for now. If you come across any exotic TP’s that you would like to share, please do!
Remember when the New York Times ran “Portraits of Grief” – a series of profiles of those lost on 9/11? They didn’t cover every single person who perished, but these were published daily for months and later compiled in a book – 1,800 individual stories. It was hard to grasp the number of lives lost.
We are now losing a 9/11’s worth of lives every 2-3 days. Over 190,000 people in this country have died. If the New York Times were to profile one person each day, it would take – are you ready? – over 520 years. And that’s if COVID “magically went away” and didn’t claim another life after today.
Where are these people being honored other than @facesofcovid? At the very least, why aren’t U.S. flags flown at half-staff? Is it because they die in solitude and not on a clear day, live on television?
To those who aggressively wave their flags and yell “Never forget” as an angry cry for revenge – still calling for the blood of those responsible for the 9/11 attacks even though we got them long ago – let us never forget this:
Trump dismantled the Pandemic Response Team that was already in place.
He threw out the Pandemic Action Plan given to him by the previous administration.
He purposely downplayed the virus and lied to the American people.
He continues to put concern for the economy over the safety of the public.
He continues to put us all in danger by ridiculing those taking precautions for their own lives.
Other things to never forget:
Remember that he invited Taliban leaders to the White House while simultaneously withdrawing our troops from Iraq.
Remember that he still has not condemned Putin’s bounty on the heads of U.S. soldiers.
Remember that he refers to service people as “suckers and losers.”
These are just the highlights.
Never forget what this traitor has done – and continues to do – to us and to the country.
After nearly 5 months of working remotely from my home office in the lovely borough of Queens, I was summoned back into Manhattan on August 10th. This was the first time I had been there since March 18th, when everything was shutting down and downtown NYC was eerily quiet. I posted the photos I took in March here.
Upon my return, I quickly figured out that everyone else didn’t get the memo that we were supposed to come back – both in and out of the office. The quiet took me by surprise, but was not unwelcome. My fear of being trapped in some close quarters subway rush hour (so far) has not been the reality.
There will never be another time quite like this, so I am taking pictures once again. These were all taken at what would normally be high traffic times of day: weekday rush hour or lunch hour. And while I do notice an uptick in the amount of people over the last 3 weeks, I still find myself, at 8:50am, walking in a long stretch of the Fulton Street subway station… and I am the only person there. At rush hour. On a weekday. So, no. New York is not a total ghost town, but it’s still pretty close. Here are some photos from the past couple of weeks.
International toilet papers from faraway places have come to rescue us! As the U.S. supply chain continues its struggle to catch up with the pooping demands of a terrified nation, exotic TPs of dubious quality have found their way onto the shelves of our local supermarkets, bodegas and pharmacies. In honor of these quirky lifesavers, I bring you an 8-part video series: Toilet Papers Of The World!
Milde – Bulgaria
We begin in Eastern Europe with the strong & soft Milde, makers of Emeka (see below). Both feature “elastic fibers” that are probably causing some plumbing issues that we will have to contend with in the near future.
Suavel – Mexico
Ricooooo….. Admit it – you thought Gerardo as well. Even if you couldn’t remember his name. Why is there a baby in a baseball cap on the label? Do you want your toilet paper to smell like a tropical paradise? Is this TP orange or pink? So many questions.
Emeka – Bulgaria
Who needs the shitting Charmin bears when you have the Emeka pooping panda? I don’t know if it’s “paradise” or not, but there isn’t a single part of a coconut that I want in my toilet paper.
Vogue – Mexico
Strike a pose… Mexico is en Vogue with this chamomile-scented beauty of a bathroom tissue. And beauty’s where you find it. So let your body go with the flow – you know you can do it! (Surprisingly, most of the lyrics of Vogue easily take on a scatological context).
Camilla Almusso – Poland
Ok – so scratch the shitting Charmin bears… and the Emeka pooping panda. Who needs ’em when we have the crapping Camilla Almusso Cub! From Poland. And delicate!
Good Choice Trading – China
Good Choice: Quality. Confidence. And Wood Pulp. Primary Wood Pulp. None of that Secondary Wood Pulp for your tender tuchus.
Regio – Mexico
Regio = Royal. For when you sit on your throne. And the improved new texture yields maximum durability. Long may you reign.
Sweety – Argentina
Argentina’s Sweety features an extra blanco swan on the package. The video has a nod to the late great NYC actor & drag performer Daniel Booth, aka Sweetie. Gone but never forgotten. Also – the Pet Shop Boys. And Absolutely Fabulous. All in under 20 seconds.
Thanks to friends and family for their contributions to this collection. If any new ones pop up, I’ll be sure to add them!
“We are living in interesting times…” That is an understatement. For better or worse, I thought it should be documented here, as a continuation of my previous two posts. The following photos and videos were taken by me as well as my sister Jennifer, an ER nurse at St. Joseph’s Hospital in Bethpage, Long Island. Additional photos by my partner Chris Hovanec and my stepdad Mike Turner.
Cards and notes of gratitude on the doors of the staff lounge at St. Joseph’s:
Snacks and treats of gratitude for the staff at St. Josephs:
Every evening at 7pm, New York says thank you to first responders, health care professionals and all the essential people working to keep us safe. This is from local television:
4/17: The 7pm cheer at Parker Towers Apartment Complex in Forest Hills, with a flag bearer and saxophonist playing the Star Spangled Banner:
4/15: The 7pm cheer filmed by Jen outside St. Joseph’s Hospital:
I arrive at the Aquaduct Racetrack parking lot where the digital traffic sign announces COVID TESTING. I drive up to the first checkpoint. It’s all military here: everyone covered in fatigues and masks. Multiple signs direct me to keep my windows rolled up.
They yell at me through N95s and my closed car windows. I know they aren’t angry but it sure gives that impression. I am a possible contagion under glass. DO YOU HAVE AN APPOINTMENT? Yes. WHAT TIME? 1:30. SHOW ME YOUR ID#. PUT IT ON THE DASHBOARD WITH YOUR LICENSE AND LEAVE IT THERE. DO NOT OPEN YOUR WINDOWS.
Next check point. DO NOT OPEN YOUR WINDOWS. My dashboard info is examined and additional paperwork is placed under my windshield wiper. I am really starting to sweat now. It’s a warm day and I have turned off the air conditioning so I can hear what they are saying. I assume someone will take my temperature at some point and I’m going to say that they should really grade that on a curve. Thankfully, nobody ever takes my temperature.
Next check point. I am approaching the testing tent. The windshield wiper paperwork is now held up to the outside of the driver’s side window for me to examine and verify.
I am instructed to pull up and wait. There are two cars ahead of me. DO NOT OPEN YOUR WINDOW UNTIL YOU ARE INSTRUCTED TO. PUT YOU HEAD BACK ON THE HEADREST. A COTTON SWAB WILL BE INSERTED IN YOUR NOSE TO COLLECT A SAMPLE FROM THE BACK OF YOUR THROAT.
I know. I know. I have been waiting for this appointment for quite some time. I am a week past my 17 days of fevers and fatigue but I thought I should get tested anyway, because who the hell knows what is going on with this virus?
Now it’s my turn. Pull up. Put it in park. Roll the window down. A medical person and his assistant in scrubs and masks approach. The previous information is repeated, just not as loud. I lower my mask. Put my head back. The swab is inserted. It’s not as bad as I thought it would be.
“Are you a music teacher?” He’s asking me a question while this thing is twisting in my nose.
“Am I a… huh?” I’m trying to figure out what prompted this inquiry. And then I remember: my mask. Black with white musical notes and clefs on it.
I want to say “Oh – my mask? Well… for my birthday back in 2002, my mother used this fabric to make me a wall tapestry depicting the pre-9/11 New York City skyline and now she used the leftovers to sew masks for my partner and I. Can you believe this world we are living in?”
But instead I just say, “No.” The test swab is still grinding against the back of my throat.
“Was I close?” he asks.
I know what he’s doing. He’s being nice. He’s trying to keep me calm. But it’s like when you are in the dentist’s chair with a mouth full of gauze and suction and instruments and he asks a question that requires more response than a head shake or a nod. How in-depth can I get in the midst of this procedure?
Was he close? My resume spins like a rolodex in my head. I am overthinking this. I finally manage to say; “I was an actor.” Does that sufficiently answer his question? It is the simplest answer. And I still have a stick in my nose.
No other questions are forthcoming. I think about what I said. I was an actor. Past-tense. Before all this. Before we got here. Are we done?
He slowly slides the swab out and I am momentarily reminded of some stunt we used to pull as kids: snorting a spaghetti noodle up our noses and pulling it out of our mouths. Kids.
Once the swab has been extricated, I let out a little whoop that could be interpreted a lot of ways. Pain? Excitement? Relief? The assistant looks a little startled so I assume it is not the normal reaction.
We are done. I can go online in 2 to 3 days to get my results. I smile and thank them and wish them a good day and roll up my window. I put the car in drive and pull out of the tent, following a line of cones directing me back to Rockaway Boulevard.
The sun streams in through the closed skylight window. And I burst into tears.
Sunday: My results were posted today and I am all clear.