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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Because It's Not


With luggage in hand, I always walk by or through Washington Square Park on Thanksgiving day as I journey to New England to visit my family. On a bleak, gray morning, I find it particularly saddening, as invariably I see people alone in a deserted space, knowing that for many, this will be how they spend their day.

When I was much younger, many of us espoused how a holiday or birthday was "just another day" and really meant nothing. Foolish to me now - on the occasions I did have to spend a holiday away from family, I worked hard to dismiss my sadness - who can really swim against a tide of a major national holiday that is defined by the family meal and is so emotionally charged with signs and reminders at every turn? Not I.

I have featured the classic New York City celebratory events on this website in the past - you can see them here: Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, the inflation ritual before the night of the parade (here and here), natural ornamentation found around the city and displays of abundant foods. Retail promotions are everywhere to be seen, here in the city as elsewhere. Today, Macy's opened at 4AM for what is now being called Black Thursday. The tree at Rockefeller Center has been installed, ready for the annual lighting ceremony. This is the New York City we see in the media and the one that visitors expect.

But not everyone is enjoying the Norman Rockwell Thanksgiving family dinner.
I left my home this morning at 6:50 AM with camera in hand to see and show a different side.
A food vendor was already set up with his cart readied for the day. There were partially eaten containers of food and discarded clothing scattered about. Typical early morning sights before the park cleanup staff completes their rounds. I met Yusef, who was resting his feet, sitting alone on a park bench. He asked me about the time of the parade.

I gave him my card. He noticed and identified the red-tailed hawk. I told him the story of how I came to get that photo. He was familiar with the famed hawks on Fifth Avenue overlooking Central Park. He asked what I was doing today and I told him of my family and that I would be visiting in Connecticut.

When I asked about his family, he told me he has only met his father twice and his mother was shot by her boyfriend some years ago. I did not ask what he was doing for Thanksgiving, and I was not going to insult him by telling him not to worry, it was just another day. Because it's not...

Note: Today, along with the good fortune I have had in my life, I would also like to thank all readers of this blog for your patronage and uplifting comments. Happy Thanksgiving to all.

14 comments:

Anonymous said...

I feel blessed a lot that I always have a family, and I feel moved reading your story today...

Jarart said...

A very poignant and touching post today, Brian. Yusef, and those like him will be in my thoughts today. Thank you for the reminder.

Luis Gomez said...

Thanks to you Brian. Have a lovely Thanksgiving Day.

Valerie said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you Brian and all your US readers, from a VERY snowey Manitoba reader of yours!

NYfan said...

Happy Thanksgiving to you Brian and to everyone in the US!!

Keidi said...

Happy turkey day Brian. Now that was a really touching post! Makes me realize how well things are on my side.

Sally Darling said...

Wow, there you go again! Another incredible blog about your amazing city. The people and the stories that keep drawing us back to your blog, each and every day.
Have a wonderful Holiday with your family this weekend! Gobble Gobble!

Southshoreandbeyond said...

Great story and a great reminder that for some, spending the holidays alone is not a choice.

jbworks said...

A thoughtful very real commentary Brian .. and so true. Christmas, also, despite the hype is a very lonely and stressful time for many. In NZ we are in sombre mood reflecting on the loss of 29 miners in the Pike River Coal Mine. Christmas this year for many families and friends is going to be different in more ways than they could ever have imagined. kind regards jeremy, Wellington Daily Photo

Damian branica said...

Happy Holidays. I was born in Inwood LI/ QNS. I'm 36 and as I feel my 20s on St. Marks slip further away I can truly appreciate your documentation. I moved to Portland. OR 7 & 1/2 yrs ago but I had to come back. Enjoy and thanks you.
Cheers

Leslie said...

I cannot thank you enough for bringing such humanity to your site. This snippet of a life story brings tears to my eyes. Life is so sad and so glorious all at the same time.

I am grateful that you are my dear friend.

liffe 7 said...

Dropping by, cool post here...thanks a lot for sharing

Rose from Oz said...

Even though this is quite an old post now, and will very likely not be seen or read - I feel compelled Brian to leave a few words. Your written post and photo left me choked with sadness for the man on the bench and the many thousands of others in his position. How bloody sad.

Brian Dubé said...

Rose - thank you. That is what I was hoping. I am choked also whenever I review this story, see the photo or reflect on this on Thanksgiving day.