Off the Top of My Head

On December, 3, we ponder the wonders of nature, and wonder why the people who invented central heat and the indoors they heat don't get more credit.

Why I'm from Upstate New York.


A story of sadness and depression from my weather app. I'm just getting everyone ready for the holiday season, and for winter, which doesn't start for another three weeks or so. I highlighted the really sad, depressing parts.

Three day snow totals since Saturday evening in the Albany, NY area have ranged between 18" to 28". As of 10 pm Monday night, Albany Airport had 18.3", which tied December 24th through 25th, 1966 for the sixth all-time snowstorm in the month of December. More snow has fallen since.

Here's the thing. You get that kind of snow, you want the record. You don't want to be tied for stinking sixth, for crying out loud.     Top

Seasonal Futility–Local Edition

oak leaf

Did you know that the average-sized mature oak tree has about 200,000 leaves? Leaving aside the wonders of nature in the tree producing that number of leaves each spring, that means that now in the last fall there are 400,000 oak leaves in front of my house–in the garden, the lawn, the street, and covering the steps and the sidewalk. Especially the steps and the sidewalk. The not-interesting thing is that we don't have any oak trees in our yard. They're a gift of Mother Nature and the neighbors across the street. I try to let those who give also take away. Sometimes Ma will blow some of them away, but that's more of a redistribution effort–once the space has been vacated by the old leaves, new leaves take their place, I guess the ol' nature abhors a vacuum thing.

Well, the city doesn't like vacuums, I guess. Leaves in the gutters clog the storm drains, leading to ponding and street flooding. If there's one thing Norfolk doesn't need, it's more flooding. So today, after the rain, they sent out the street sweepers to clear the gutters, in spite of the fact that a huge number of leaves are just waiting right next to the curb to jump into the empty space.

I'm sure the sweeping is making someone feel better. Me, I've hit that stage of life where I espouse the philosophy of let the leaves fall (and blow) where they may. You can do that with leaves. Not so much with snow. So good luck, Albany, Upstate, New England and anyone else that's busy cranking out those picture postcards of gentle snowdrifts, and then pushing the snowdrifts out of the way.     Top


Ms. T gets in the holiday spirit.


Fred the Flower

Just 'cuz it's organic doesn't make it healthy..

Fred the Flower

Fortnightly T-Shirts

Sometimes it's a mug, sometimes a meme, sometimes it's funny. But the price is always right.

T-shirts you just can't buy.

Poetry Corner

Observations from the front porch couch as evening comes


I have to write a poem.

I am not successful.

There are no thoughts.

I am a failure.

I pocket my pen

Recline on the couch,

Watch the world pass,

My strength overcome again.

Dog and Owner.

The man is uncomfortable

Jogging down the street–

Feet lifted too high,

Knees at odd angles.

The dog is happy. He knows

How to trot, jog, run, walk,

Not embarrassed by what is on

The other end of the leash.


Bicyclists wobble down the street.

Their lights flash and warn,

But there are no cars

For them to scare away.


I do not believe it is the new moon.

It holds the shadow of the old moon

Off center in its embrace.

If I believed in simile

I would say the moon is like my life.


In the back of the house

The radio plays

A hit from the Eighties.

I cannot recall the title

Even though constantly played then.

I’ve thankfully forgotten the singer.

I resume ignoring it.

...other people's voices


My brother-in-law Harvey's academic-politics cartoon: SNAF-U

My sister Mary Pat's occasional musings: LaBrea Rambles

Suzanne's blog: The Tabard Inn

Austin Kleon's blog

More quirky cartoons at The Oatmeal

they said it

Now in the carousel (upper right).

Earlier We Said

November 20. In spite of what marketing folk think, I'm still focused on thanksgiving and preparing the feast. So a short entry today, as I have to devote time to finding the leaf for the dining room table.

Thanksgiving Memories

We all have Christmas memories–coming downstairs on Christmas morning, visiting Santa at the big downtown department store, a white Christmas (especially before I was responsible for shoveling), going to grandma's house by horse drawn sleigh over the river and through the woods (sorry–I borrowed that memory from someone. It was actually a Chevy, no river, no woods, although the streets did have a nice urban canopy). I suspect most of the memories were from when we were younger, before we were the ones responsible for shoveling, of being caught in an airport on Christmas Day, having to put up with the contentious uncle (or becoming the contentious uncle), or not being able to find that special Christmas gift for that special someone, that is, generating those not so special, headache-inducing experiences. Memorable, but I'd rather not.

I don't know if we have the same collection of Thanksgiving memories. It's hard to distinguish between the scent of the turkey and other aromas from year to year. The years just sort of blend together, which you might expect since one of the points of Thanksgiving is to make it exactly the same as it was in other years, and to maintain family traditions (which makes all those This year, enjoy a Polynesian Thanksgiving dinner such non-starters). Also, I bet a lot of the memories were of the diversions from the norm. But I have some good memories, not all from childhood, that I'd like to share:

  • The second year I was on my own for Thanksgiving, my (now) wife came over for dinner. It was a clear crisp day, so, after the turkey was in the oven, we took a walk through the neighborhood. It was a lovely walk, with leaves changing color, perfect temperature and lots of quiet, it seemed. When we came back, the apartment was warm, and the turkey smelled delicious. Tasted good, too, but mostly I remember that smell. It always smells good, but that was the best.
  • When I was young, for a number of years, we went to my grandmother's for Thanksgiving. The children sat in the kitchen, with this fantastic oven that had been converted from coal fuel to natural gas. The firebox was next to the stove, and still worked. I was constantly amazed. Everyone was well-behaved, and there was lots of fluidity between the kitchen and dining room, where the adults were. The other nice thing about holidays was we were allowed in the parlor, a room normally off limits to children, and reserved for visits from important personages like the pastor, the pope, or Dwight Eisenhower.
  • My mother's disappointment when I announced that I was too full to have thirds of everything. I think I was in my mid-twenties at the time.
  • decor for Thanksgiving
  • Even when we didn't do Thanksgiving dinner at home, my Mom would always decorate. There would be a cornucopia-shaped basket filled with gourds that my father had shellacked, nuts and other non-perishable foods of the season, and the whole arrangement was placed on some brightly colored silk maple leaves. Also on the table were small wax/candle figurines shaped like like a little pilgrim man and woman, and turkeys. They were never lit, but I remember they were elaborately decorated. One year, the pilgrims were replaced by other pilgrims–taller, and much more crudely decorated. I never did find out what happened to the originals. I still miss them.
  • Celebrating Catholic Black Friday. Before it was shopping frenzy day, the day after Thanksgiving was a day of abstinence–Catholics were not allowed to eat meat. So no turkey, no gravy, no stuffing, and if you can't have those, there's no particular reason to have mashed potatoes, jello salad, or any other leftovers. On the plus side, because so much food work had happened in the days before, we would go out to dinner, usually at a nearby bar that on Fridays did fish fry–deep-fried fish or scallops, french fries, and coleslaw. Also, we were allowed to have pop or a Shirley Temple with dinner, a rare grown-up treat indeed.
  • Not all memories are from the distant past. Since I've lived in Norfolk, the day after Thanksgiving, my wife and myself go to the Eastern Shore for their holiday tour of artist studios. Lots of good Christmas shopping there. The weather has been good usually. It's just a really nice time.
  • When we first moved here, I found out that the in-laws had been going out to a restaurant for Thanksgiving. That just wasn't going to work. I invited the locals–my mother-in-law. Also my brother-in-law and his daughter, who in turn each invited an ex (wife and boyfriend, respectively). it was a surprisingly pleasant evening. The food was good, too.
  • Since moving here, and serving as the cook of choice for Thanksgiving dinner, I have made a new tradition by buying a can of cranberry sauce, and then forgetting to put it out. Someplace in the back of the pantry there are an unspecified number of cans of cranberry sauce. Now I just reference that we have cranberry sauce available. Nobody ever asks me to put it out.

So that's Thanksgiving. I hope it revives some memories for you. Now, to go worry about not messing up T-bird-Day dinner (a traditions i'm not going to talk about–it's one of those grown up memories passed down from year to year that I want to forget).

TomatoPlanet!! is a random collection of writing, cartoons, and things that strike my fancy. © 2003-2019, John McCarthy

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