Sunday, November 23, 2008

Thanks For Nothing

Thanksgiving is my favourite American holiday and I don't want to offend any fellow Americans. But here it comes, the big BUT ...

I recently read Richard Ford's "The Lay of the Land". It's a very funny book, all about a man in his sixties who has prostate cancer. Yes, it's hard to believe that a book whose central character has prostate cancer could ever be funny, but it really is. It was actually recommended to me by someone with prostate cancer, so I'm not worried about being politically correct in recommending the novel.

And talking about politically correct - there's a delightful scene in "The Lay of the Land" sending up those re-enactment people who come out in droves in America around major holidays, dressed up in 18th century garb and playing soldiers or Pilgrims. "Inside the (Pilgrim) village they've installed a collection of young Pilgrims - a Negro Pilgrim, a Jewish female Pilgrim, a wheelchair-bound Pilgrim, a Japanese Pilgrim with a learning disability, plus two or three ordinary white kids - all of whom spend their days doing toilsome Pilgim chores in drab, ill-fitting garments, chattering to themselves about rock videos ..."

In the novel there's a group representing the local Lenape Band - "New Jersey's own redskins" who believe they own New Jersey and are setting up to picket the Pilgrims on Thanksgiving Day and carrying placards that say "THANKS FOR NOTHING".

There are Native American events around the U.S. late November, and it is easy to see Thanksgiving as a harvest festival rather than a celebration of "Land of the pilgrim's pride" (from the lyrics of "America the Beautiful") . In New York there's been a Native American Thanksgiving Celebration for past eight years, and other Native American communities observe the last Thursday in November as a "Day of Mourning".

It's hard to believe that less than 200 years ago sentiments such as those in verse 2 (now dropped) of the Australian National Anthem were considered normal.

When gallant Cook from Albion sail'd,
To trace wide oceans o'er,
True British courage bore him on,
Till he landed on our shore.
Then here he raised Old England's flag,
The standard of the brave;
With all her faults we love her still,
"Britannia rules the wave!"

This coming Thanksgiving I'll be celebrating with other Australians at an Australian restaurant in Manhattan. For details of this see The Australians Abroad Calendar.

It is after all, a lovely holiday in spirit if not in history.

Readers of New York

It's fall and aptly named as the leaves are turning red, golden brown and yellow and falling over the steets of New York. Here are some barely hanging on to their branches, on the Upper East Side.

I like the moth-eaten look of the leaves. It goes so well with our moth-eaten city.

Only one "New York Reader" this blog - it's getting a bit to cold for reading at bus stops.

If you don't believe me about the "moth-eaten" have a look at the pavement at my second bus stop on 60th Street.
And it's not likely to get better anytime soon.

Around now home owners in New York city, used to get a $400 property tax rebate check in the mail. Not THIS year! Our Mayor Michael Bloomberg announced this month that the city will not be issuing the $400 property tax rebate, this will generate $256 million in additional revenue.

The size of the City workforce will be reduced by over 3,000 employees, approximately 600 through layoffs and the remainder through attrition.

He'll also reduce the peak headcount at the New York City Police Department by 1,000, and fire stations and the education sector will also be subject to cutbacks.

But we do have something to be thankful for - next week for many of us, there's only a three day working week, and plenty of turkey and pumpkin pie!

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