Pluff Mud Chronicles

By David Farrow and Charles W. Waring III

David

I lived in Manhattan for six months in 1984. It was one of the best times I ever had. It was one of the worst times I ever had. I moved to sell a novel I had written. I ended up leaving with the shirt on my back even though I landed a $35,000 a year job. Trouble was I got it in December, but wouldn’t start until April. Hello, Amtrak.

One of best times I had was going to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade and then having dinner at my friend, Pinkney Mikell’s (and he spells his first name without the c). At the time, I was in an on/again, off/again with a young lady who had decided we were on again for the moment and came up to spend Thanksgiving weekend at my luxurious five-floor walk up tenement on the corner of Avenue A and 10th. (A hint:  No matter how long you live there five floors is still five floors.)

I don’t think I’ve ever been so broke, but I had eaten Ramen noodles for two weeks for this weekend. We left my building and ate a full breakfast at a place across from Tompkins Square Park. After that, we made our way past the junkies and winos on St. Mark’s Place to the subway station at Astor Place. After a couple of changes we found ourselves on Broadway near Times Square (they changed the route in 2011) with hundreds of thousands of our closest friends.

Two things you should know about the parade. It’s magical. It’s cold. It was 17 degrees with snow flurries. Luckily, we dressed warmly and carried a pint of Courvoisier to stave off the chill of wind barreling down the canyons of buildings.

The parade itself is delightful. Television does it no justice. The squeals of delight come from children of all ages as Kermit and Bullwinkle float on by; these moments do not carry over on the small screen. My date and I were in that number. For one bright shining moment the snow, the floats, our closeness made us feel like we were living in the end of It’s a Wonderful Life.

Then it was over — the movie and the parade. Dinner was a couple of hours later, so we walked up Broadway to Columbus Circle to the G and W building where we made our way to the bar high above the city to sip strong Irish coffees.

Then it was time for dinner. My friend Pinkney, who was an off-Broadway actor and his lovely wife lived in a huge rent controlled apartment off Central Park West near the Dakota. (If I recall, they were paying $245 a month). Pinckney and I had known each other since 1967 at Christ School. I believe we are related somehow.

By the time we arrived, his home was filled with good and tantalizing dishes. We sat down to a Lowcountry feast, oyster pie, pecan-stuffed turkey, sweet potato pie. There was much laughter, wine, new friends and a sense of being home.

We bade our farewells, decided that we’d had way too much to drink, so we took a cab back down to East Village. Just for a moment, I was back at school and felt that old familiar pain and as the cab let us out on Avenue A, the snow turned into rain.    

Charles

Nothing like a little Dan Fogelberg to get us all sappy, reminding readers that some of us have more soul ties than an old jukebox in a Clarendon County juke joint. I never have been in the Big Apple for a major holiday, though I was there for Columbus Day before the Sopranos episode. You remember; this was the one with Native Americans in New Jersey protesting the holiday at the statue. I recall that many critics thought this episode was hyperbole, but it accurately forecast the statue insanity that would become reality.

Thanksgiving for me has always been an earthy experience and I say that in the notion of being in the woods and on the water. The best of the holiday is the business of giving thanks for what you have and I am known to remember experiences on or in our swamps, pine hills and bottomlands. I am bored silly by professional football, so I am pretty much miserable if I don’t get my time in the woods or on the water.

The trajectory of this holiday brings lots of friends and family into your mix of expeditions. Cousin this and uncle that or godson Jimmy or former college roommate; they show up and the bonds are renewed, glasses clink and meals are shared. Then, it is time to toss the gear in the SUV and beat a retreat. The pounds come off of the shoulders when the roads narrow and the subdivisions named for places where you used to hunt are in the rearview mirror.

No other time of the year will hurl you this quickly from a Wednesday morning business meeting to an afternoon dove hunt to a cocktail party and then family supper. Awake and get that turkey cooking way early; kiss the bride goodbye and slip out to the deer stand, a driven hunt or the duck blind; return from sport in time for a shower and quick nap and carve up a bird by mid afternoon. You might be able to ease out to a deer stand or a dove hunt, but you are going to spend time with family and talk. Unless you are on a newspaper deadline or are on call, you will hunt the next morning — perhaps quail this time — and then pop into a deer stand and zip home in good time to put on a tuxedo for a mega debutante affair that will challenge your energy.

If you are wise, you will have had a cup of coffee or tea before heading out for the eve. The next morning will offer the ducks or the driven hunt or the quail and then you will carry forth with the same sport or a new one for the afternoon until you return to sup with kin or hit another social gathering. That is a social and sport explosion from Wednesday to the Sunday trip back to school or back to home from church, getting back to reality after the “holiday high” during which the prospect of fresh sport amid dear friends and family quickens the pulse.

It often seems that some of these holidays were part of a dream, but they really did happen and each one had special nuances. Ghosts of cocktail parties and hunts of the past still visit, but these are friendly faces full of no-holds-barred manly laughter that came from knowing you survived the Second World War, Korea or Vietnam. “Bwana” Daughtridge, Elliott Hutson, “Tootsie” Lucas, VanNoy Thornhill, Sam Ross and Henry Smythe are just the start of a long list.

My Veteran’s Day wish is that veterans of the Gulf War and our ongoing engagements in Iraq and Afghanistan can find peace while enjoying Thanksgiving with family and friends. When these noble souls are home, I pray they have put the past in the best place it can be and that they can find help if any trauma remains. I give thanks for much but offer a special embrace of the fighting men and women of this nation who allow us to be free as we remember that freedom is never truly free until we are willing to die for it as so many have done.

 

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Mercury newspaper racks are located at the following locations:

The Meeting Street Inn

Clair's Service Station at 334 Folly Rd.

Harris Teeter on Houston-Northcutt Blvd.

The Square Onion in I'On

Mt. Pleasant Library on Mathis Ferry Rd.