Saturday, November 30, 2019

Small Business Saturday and more

Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Museum Store Sunday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday - are we Americans crazy or what?

Disclosure – this year I am not participating in any of the madness, and since the turn of the 21st century have not actively and definitely not enthusiastically participated in America’s holiday spending rage. 
It begins sometime in October with TV commercials, snail mail catalogs, e-mails inundating my inbox, and escalates until the BIG DAY - Black Friday! - an occasion I like to avoid. Tussling with crowds and long lines is not my idea of a good time. And although the rest of the world does not celebrate Thanksgiving, Black Friday is making its way around the world.

I like the idea of Small Business Saturday, but do not need to devote one particular day a year to patronizing my local merchants. I am a year-round fan of shopping local. But the concept is a great promotional gimmick, introduced by the marketing gurus at American Express in 2010. The idea caught on...and the rest, as they say, is history.  

Museum Store Sunday is a newer phenomenon. 2019 is the third year for the event. Over 2,100 museum stores throughout all 50 states, Washington D.C., and several foreign countries will participate. 

The long holiday weekend ends, but the shopping spree continues. Cyber Monday began as an unofficial, convenient way to buy online. Back in the day before high speed internet was common in homes, people marched into the office Monday morning, fired up their computers and...went shopping. Professionals noted the peak in e-commerce and decided to encourage the habit. The term ‘Cyber Monday’ was first coined in a 2005 press release by the National Retail Federation. 

Giving Tuesday, subtitled ‘a global generosity movement,’ initiated in 2012, presents a simple concept: encourage folks to do good. It does not necessarily mean opening your wallet – again. You can give dough, but Giving Tuesday is all about giving in other ways - donating goods, giving your time to a favorite nonprofit, or raising your voice – metaphorically speaking – to support a cause you believe in.

It’s the holiday season. Shop if you want, but take time to do the fun stuff, whatever that may be for you, whether baking cookies or brownies or just indulging, spending time with family and friends, traveling, binge-watching Hallmark Christmas movies, eating and eating and eating...enjoy!

Saturday, November 23, 2019

Thanksgiving Trivia

Planning dishes and activities my fellow diners will enjoy Thanksgiving day, my mind drifts to thoughts of holidays past...

The first Thanksgiving repast took place in 1621, but the celebration did not become an annual event. 168 years later George Washington declared November 26, 1789, a day of thanksgiving hailing the adoption of the Constitution, also a one-time occasion. 

President Abraham Lincoln made Thanksgiving an annual happening. In a bid to unite the nation during the Civil War, he proclaimed a national holiday on the last Thursday of November, a “day of thanksgiving and praise to our beneficent Father.” 

The United States is not the only country with a thanksgiving holiday. Canada and Germany celebrate in October. The Japanese holiday began as a harvest celebration, but today Labor Thanksgiving Day honors labor, production, and thankfulness. The Netherlands observes a Thanksgiving Day in honor of the Pilgrims that lived in the country before venturing to the New World.

The Netherlands?

A bit of history...100 Pilgrims left England in 1609 seeking religious freedom and settled in Holland (the Netherlands by another name). Holland welcomed them, and the Pilgrims began integrating into Dutch society.


The group’s religious leaders believed smooth integration into Dutch society a threat to their Church. William Bradford, who became governor of the New World colony, wrote that the Pilgrims were being, “drawn away by evil examples into extravagance and dangerous courses.” Not a good thing. So the religious leaders gathered their flock and sailed to a place where church believers would not be lured by the temptations of 17th century European life. 

The New World. 

The Pilgrims arrived in the New World 400 years ago next year (2020), and celebrations are planned to commemorate the event. Check out the festivities here

Moving ahead a few centuries...

Parades are one of the most revered Thanksgiving traditions today. Philadelphia held the first parade in 1920. Originally the Gimbels Parade – Gimbels a major department store – it is now known as the 6abc Dunkin Donuts Parade, co-sponsored by a TV station and a restaurant chain. What a great combination! Gather the crowd, send one person to the local Dunkin for a large box of munchies, turn on the tube, settle in and enjoy hours of couch potato-ing before dinner!

Probably the most famous parade is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. The first parade

Balloons are an important part of the parades.
The first balloon appeared in the
Macy's parade in 1926 - Felix the Cat. 
marched down New York City streets Christmas, 1924. Over 250,000 people witnessed the spectacle. It was such a success the parade became a yearly event, rescheduled for Thanksgiving to usher in the holiday buying season (and welcome Santa Claus).

Plymouth, Massachusetts holds America’s Hometown Thanksgiving Parade, highlighted by a military flyover, floats and costumed folks representing residents from the 17th century to the present.

Other Thanksgiving Day traditions...

Many towns sponsor races – walking, running, one mile or longer, known as Turkey Trots. The first Turkey Trot occurred in Buffalo, New York, in 1896, and takes place every year. About 13,000 participate in the 4.97-mile race.

Let’s not forget Black Friday. The origin of the term? Philadelphia police officers referred to the day as Black Friday because of the heavy traffic and tendency for more accidents. The common belief is that the expression refers to the date retailers’ profits swing from the red to black.

Then there is Buy Nothing Day, originally celebrated in 1992. It is an international sort-of holiday, celebrated outside the U.S. on the Saturday after our Thanksgiving.

And let’s not forget football (much as I would like to). We can thank the first Detroit Lions owner, G. A. Richards, for Thanksgiving and football becoming synonymous. The first Thanksgiving game was broadcast in 1934. It was a hit, and the rest, as they say (unfortunately), is history. 

If not interested in watching football, there is the National Dog Show, televised following the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

Families have their own holiday traditions. Our family enjoyed experienced a tradition my sons are thrilled not to continue:

The Gathering of the Leaves 

Our house had a lot of trees. Mature trees with lots of leaves, the kind that sail to earth in the autumn. We never invested in a leaf blower. Why waste the money when we had two able-bodied boys to do the work?...There were times hub shined the car lights on the lawn so the work could get done. As the boys got older they were thrilled to go back to college – early if necessary – to avoid the dreaded chore. But fresh air, exercise, family time together – what could be better?

A lot, apparently.

We now live in a house with two trees. The largest is an evergreen that does not shed. The boys and their families, with kids old enough to join in the family tradition, do not descend on our house for the holiday. If we join them at their humble abodes, hub and I, as members of the older generation, are exempt from the tradition (says me).We are relegated – happily! – to watching the work from inside a warm house, wrapped in a blanket, rocking away, sipping a cup of hot coffee or spiked cider or eggnog...       

Happy Thanksgiving 
Enjoy your favorite holiday activities, 
especially blissful binging!

One of the best Thanksgiving TV pieces is the WKRP Turkey Drop
Many readers probably remember the show.
Here is the segment for your viewing enjoyment. 

Saturday, November 16, 2019

Thrift Shop Shopping

I didn’t realize charity thrift shops have gone upscale until I dropped off several bags of my stuff. I guess I can’t blame them. 

First, the staff is composed of all volunteers. Every item in each bag must be carefully scrutinized, and that takes time. People time. 

Second, apparently today no one wants clothes that are torn, stained, and dreadfully discolored, nor are folks eager to buy chipped, broken and/or unworkable goods. 

Third, the store has limited space. Items less than in almost-pristine condition do not sell quickly, if at all. The charity makes more money with top-notch items. And the word gets around. Folks tell others about a shop selling high-quality, or at least UNdamaged, merchandise. Store traffic rises, sales increase, and the charity makes more money.

Rewind a few years and many things not accepted in thrift shops today were gladly accepted – and eventually sold. Old clothes were purchased and reworked for quilt material, nursery school craft projects and costume boxes, and other reusables. Maybe people are not as creative nowadays. Maybe they don’t have as much time for do-it-yourself projects.

The embarrassing thing about all this is that a day or two or three before my discarded items landed in a give-away bag, they were in my house. Used. Worn. One day I toss them in a bag and drive to the thrift shop. The volunteer behind the counter says, “We have to go through the bags. Anything we don’t want you have to take back.” So I unpack the bags and one by one the volunteer examines them, then throws each piece on one of two piles – the accepted stack, or the reject pile. Luckily few items are excluded – sometimes none. I’ve learned. I now toss items I assume will be rejected into the garbage, eliminating the middleman. 

I am well acquainted with thrift shops and consignment stores. When I worked at a women’s center helping people re-enter the work force, an enjoyable activity was shopping at a consignment shop for interview outfits and staging a fashion show. 

One year my niece and I bought a variety of items at a thrift shop which we threw together for Halloween costumes.

When I pass a consignment store when visiting cities and walking neighborhoods, I cannot resist stopping in. Frequently I end up purchasing something, most often an article of clothing.  Hub and I were out of town years ago and packed an inappropriate wardrobe – spring clothes when a cold streak blasted through town. Within walking distance of our motel was a Goodwill store. We purchased sweaters.

I have bought toys and games for the grandkids at our local thrift shop and at garage sales.

And – who knew – thrift shop shopping is now IN – a trendy thing. While writing this post I came across the following article entitled Regifting Is No Longer A Sin In Red Hot Resale Market

I am being environmentally friendly by recycling possessions I no longer need and I am being green by purchasing and reusing previously owned items...thrift shops, garage sales, consignment stores rock!

Friday, November 8, 2019

Binge-watching Bliss

Daylight hours grow shorter, the dark hours of late afternoon and evening seem endless, and each day gets a bit colder and grayer. 

It is binge-watching season! 

Pop the popcorn, unroll a blanket, don the sweats, dig out the leftover Halloween candy, get comfortable in a favorite chair or couch and enjoy a program – maybe a mini-series with three or four installments, or a series with years of episodes you never got around to watching. Or never heard of until a friend suggested it.

Hub and I just finished binge-watching a show highly recommended by friends, a comedy with occasional dramatic overtones, available on Netflix, The Kominsky Method. Michael Douglas plays an actor now acting coach, and Alan Arkin is a talent agent. The two are not a couple, but friends helping each other stagger through seniorhood. They deal with issues most seniors can identify with – death of a spouse, sexual anxieties, health issues, work matters, family problems, the fear and doubts of growing old. 

Chuck Lorre, creator of The Big Bang Theory, one of my all-time favorite shows, likewise created The Kominsky Method. Throughout the 16 episodes, each about a half hour, a continuous line of oldie but goodie performers appear – Patti LaBelle, Danny DeVito, Elliott Gould, Alison Janney, to name a few. A number of mature actors have recurring roles, including Paul Reiser, Jane Seymour, and Kathleen Turner.

I realize everyone may not be able to enjoy The Kominsky Method on their TV or computer. Nowadays it is not easy figuring out whether or not a particular show is available on your screen. There is Comcast OnDemand, Netflix, Dish, Direct TV, Amazon, Hulu, and others I am unfamiliar with, plus pay channels like HBO, Showtime...we used to get Turner Classic Movies, but Comcast, eager to milk old folks who enjoy old movies for more money, decided to add the channel to an upgraded package. Which we do not and will not get. 

I am not sure what our next binge-watching experience will be. 
Any suggestions?

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Pondering the Political

My congressional district made the national news this past week. A sleepy district in the southern part of the state of New Jersey, it covers a large territory – the largest in terms of land in the state – encompassing farms, suburbs, towns and casino central - Atlantic City. Our esteemed Congressional representative, Jeff Van Drew, a Democrat elected last November who replaced a Republican who served 22 years and retired, was one of two Democrats who voted against the impeachment probe of the President.

Van Drew probably voted against impeachment because he wants to be reelected next November, and he needs Republican votes to accomplish that goal. His Republican opponent last year was so extreme that the national Republican party disavowed him. Next year Van Drew's opponent will be more mainstream in terms of Republican ideology, or at least be more careful with his rhetoric. Van Drew knows he faces an uphill battle. 

Local Democrats – or to be more accurate, a lot of local Dems but not 100% - were not excited by Van Drew’s candidacy. He was bestowed upon our district by a regional (unelected) Democratic boss, George Norcross, a man previously under investigation by the FBI and who recently wrangled with the state’s Democratic governor. Norcross has ruled Democratic politics in south Jersey for over 30 years. 

The era of the political boss is not dead. It is alive and well in south Jersey.

Our country has a history of political bosses. Examples include New York City’s Boss Tweed during the 19thcentury, Huey Long in the south in the early 20th century, mid-20th century Chicago/Cook County’s Richard Daley, and Atlantic City’s notorious Nucky Johnson of Boardwalk Empire fame. Johnson ruled Atlantic City during the Prohibition era of the 1920s and 1930s. 

But Johnson is not the last political figure involved in crime and corruption in Atlantic City. On October 3, 2019, the city’s mayor, Frank Gilliam, resigned after pleading guilty to wire fraud. He stole $87,000 from a youth basketball league he founded.

Gilliam enters a special roster of Atlantic City mayors. He is the sixth mayor since the 1970s to resign in disgrace. But the city’s corruption does not begin or end at the top. In 2007 one-third of the nine member City Council pled guilty to accepting bribes. 

Then there is the disappearing mayor. Mayor Bob Levy left Atlantic City on September 26, 2007, destination unknown at the time. He checked into a clinic specializing in psychiatric and addiction issues, and a few days later resigned. At the time he was under investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs for embellishing his military record.

Corruption runs deep in casino city and throughout the state. In the first decade of the 21st century almost 150 of New Jersey’s senators, mayors, county executives and council members got caught accepting bribes.

...I could go on...and on...but the evidence is in. The state’s culture of corruption is deeply rooted, and doubtless one reason for New Jersey’s #1 ranking as the state with the highest property tax rate in the country. 

A #1 ranking, I guess, is worth noting, however inexcusable and appalling it might be.