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Exit Stage Left

Exit Stage Left

One by one, they took their places on this stage
Swallowing nerves, waiting for the curtains to rise.
Spectators shifted in their seats,
then to the stage, shifted their eyes.

The performers watched the curtains go up,
Their routines began right after.
Their music and voices echoed throughout,
along with the audience cheers and laughter.

Dancers, singers, vaudeville performers, clowns,
musicians and comedians, too;
All came out to liven the crowd,
Hoping against a hiss or a boo.

The sound of the crowd crying “Encore!”
The sight of the performers taking a bow.
All of that has echoed through the window of time,
Though they might all be gone now.

Look close, you can almost still see them.
Time really isn’t so far away.
Listen close, you might be able to hear
the cheers and round of applause to this day.

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Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

Holiday History

Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade

In 1924, R.H. Macy & Co expanded their business to cover 1 million square feet of retail space. To celebrate this, Macy’s arranged a Thanksgiving parade (which was originally called the Macy’s Christmas Parade) to get potential customers excited for Christmas shopping.
The first theme of the parade was Mother Goose and the Central Park Zoo allowed some of their animals to walk through the parade. Because the animals outside their cages terrified the spectators, they were replaced with balloons in 1927. The very first balloon was of Felix the Cat.
The parade, as it still does, ended with Santa Claus coming in on a sleigh. Back then, though, Santa would get off the sleigh, sit on a giant throne, and, after a blow of his trumpet, the Macy’s Christmas window display would be unveiled.

The parade’s first year was only summarized in two sentences by the New York Herald, but by the end of the 1920s, it became a holiday tradition that only blossomed once it became televised and the rest of the nation was able to get in on the fun. Many families across America, mine included, have a tradition of watching the parade on TV together as Thanksgiving dinner is being prepared.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! From your friendly neighborhood history geek

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The House’s Last Words

I see you, vandal, with that lighter.
I see you, vandal, with that match in your hand.
I see that look in your eyes,
and I’m defenseless where I stand.

You want me for my copper wires.
You want to burn me down.
I’m just a thrill for you,
so you can brag to your friends all over town.

You see no reason not to ruin me.
You see no reason why I still exist.
You think no one cares about this house.
So what’s the harm in doing this?

Before you light me up, vandal,
Before you burn me to the ground,
Let me tell you something
About why I’m still around.

Long ago before you were born,
A new husband built me with his hands.
He had a wife and a child on the way,
and had every intent to farm this land.

I saw her face when she saw me.
It lit up like a thousand candles.
She raced like a kid right up to the door
and squealed when she turned the handle.

I saw that couple raise their kids.
I was their place of joy.
I was also their place of sadness and pain
after they lost their little boy.

They picked up and carried on,
They saw their grandkids grow.
I was then the company for the old woman
when she was all alone.

I watched her as she gardened.
I was her comfort when she wept.
I was her warmth when she was cold.
I kept her safe while she slept.

One day, my lights quit coming on.
The voices faded away.
Smells no longer from my kitchen.
My yellow exterior was becoming gray.

Sadly we houses outlive our owners.
It’s just a sad result of time.
I’ve been out here all by myself,
listening to the church bells’ distant chime.

I have been spared by weather
and because of my isolation.
Now you have found me, vandal.
As I imagine, much to your elation.

You come to me with an open flame,
You hold it right up to my old wooden porch.
To you, it’s all the same.
Something else to torch.

I’m sorry you were so bored, vandal.
I’m sorry you won’t leave me alone.
And I’m sorriest of all that you don’t respect
That I was once someone’s home.

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The Invasion

The Invasion
~A.F. Lamonte~
Norm the Dentist hated cats. He wasn’t sure why. He’d just hated them ever since childhood. Whenever he saw a cat, he would cringe and hurry the other way. He didn’t even like it when kids were dressed as cats for Halloween. He’d only give them one box of raisins instead of the two boxes he gave to everyone else.
One Halloween, Norm left his office for the day with a smile on his face, looking forward to all the cavity calls he would receive in November. He hadn’t taken his car today. It was a nice day for a walk, and he didn’t live too far. While whistling his favorite show-tune as he strolled down the street, a sudden rustle in the bushes beside him caught his attention. He stopped and turned. Behind him was a black cat, looking up at him with its wide green eyes.
The cat cocked its head to the side and gave a little “Mew?”
“Shoo!” Norm said, waving his arms at the cat. “Scat! Go away!” He turned away from the cat and picked up his pace, but when he looked behind him again, he saw that the cat was still there, and right behind that cat was another one!
Norm began to run from the pair of cats, shouting “Get! Scat cat! Shoo! Go away!”
Breathless, he finally made it to his front gate and dared to look behind him. The two cats were gone. He breathed a sigh of relief and calmly unlocked his gate, turned the corner, and screamed!
On his porch, right in front of his front door, were the two cats that had been following him, and three more had joined them!
Norm grabbed his rake and waved it at them, making them back down the steps away from his door. “Get back! Get away!” He tiptoed around them, dropped the rake, and hurried into his house, closing the door right in the furry faces.
After the encounter with the cats, Norm felt so filthy he jumped into the shower. The relaxing heat of the water made him nearly forget the unwelcome critters, but just then, he heard a thump from something falling off of his bathroom countertop. Hesitantly, Norm pulled back his shower curtain to see that his cologne had fallen to the floor. The glass bottle had cracked and the expensive musk was leaking onto the bathroom rug. Norm picked it up to save as much of the musk as he could, and then he turned off the shower and wrapped himself in a towel. “Did one of those dratted animals get into my house?” he growled.
He peered out the bathroom door into his bedroom. There was nothing there. With a huff, Norm stomped to his closet to get dressed, turned on the light, and screamed!
Nine cats were sitting on the floor of his closet, staring at him as though they were waiting for him. He turned to run, and screamed again when he saw four more cats blocking his way out of the closet.
Norm, stuck in his bath towel, was trapped in this circle of cats. The one with the green eyes, the one he blamed for starting this whole fiasco, the leader of the pack, approached him. Closer and closer the cat came. Norm was helpless. He squeezed his eyes shut. “I’m having a nightmare,” he thought. “Wake up! Wake up Norm!”
With his eyes still closed, he felt the cat’s paws climb up into his lap. He felt the cat’s body heat as the cat drew closer to him. He felt the whiskers tickle his skin. He opened his eyes to see the cat’s face right up against his.
“No! No! Noooo!” he shrieked as the cat—
Headbutted him. And purred. And licked his face, and nuzzled his nose.
Norm sighed, defeated. Slowly he raised his hand, and for the first time in his life, he petted a cat.
With that first pet, the soft fur against his fingers, Norm was in love. Cats became his favorite animal. He found good homes for all the other cats, but he kept the one that started it all. He named it Floss, after his favorite activity. The following Halloween, Norm put away his raisins and gave the kids candy when they came to his door. His house was no longer egged, his trees no longer toilet-papered, his car no longer paintballed.
From then on, Norm loved Halloween, and the kids loved trick-or-treating at his house. Instead of the lectures he used to do, he gave them nice prizes after he fixed their cavities. After work, he’d go home to Floss who would be waiting there right by his door. They would share a meal and watch TV, and they lived happily ever after.
Happy Halloween!

Brights

Brights
~A.F. Lamonte~

Gina worked nights at the hospital as a nurse and typically spent the last hour of her shift sitting at the nurse’s desk watching the clock tick to 2 A.M., the time she could grab her things and jet out the door to her apartment, where her bed was calling her name.
This night was no different than any other. At 2:10 A.M., Gina, suppressing a yawn, shuffled through the parking lot to her waiting car, tossed her stuff into the passenger seat, and put the car in drive.

At the next intersection, she sat waiting at the red light, drumming her fingers against the steering wheel as she listened to the music on the radio. Seeing that the other light was yellow, she lifted her foot off of the brake, ready to go at green, and then jammed her foot against the brake again when a truck rolled through the last second of the yellow light. The driver made eye contact with her but looked back at the road and drove out of Gina’s view.

Gina went through the green light and continued on her way to her apartment. Suddenly, bright lights surrounded her from behind. She looked into her rearview mirror to see that pickup truck that had gone through the yellow at the last intersection. The driver, the silhouette of a man in a baseball cap, was tailing so close to her that if she hit her brakes, he’d go right into her back bumper.

The driver was flashing his brights urgently. Gripping her steering wheel tighter, Gina took a deep breath. Perhaps he had an emergency and she was driving in his way, but why didn’t he just go around her? There was no other traffic around. He had all the rest of the road to go wherever he needed.

She stuck her hand out the window and waved him around her, but the driver wouldn’t go around. Still, he flashed his brights and kept on her tail. Gina kept driving. She turned down a side street that she knew few people traveled on. If he followed her, she’d know for sure that she was the one he was after. Without signaling, she whipped her car to the right and turned down the side street. Her breath caught in her throat when she saw in the rearview mirror that he had turned as well, and was still right on her tail, still flashing his brights on and off.

Her cell phone had fallen out of her purse and rested on the floor of the passenger side, far out of her reach. She wouldn’t be able to safely retrieve it and call for help without possibly running into something, and she sure wasn’t about to pull over to grab it. The last thing she wanted to do was stop, especially out here with no one around.

“God help me,” Gina prayed to herself. The police station wasn’t far. She picked up speed, hoping to catch the attention of a cop on patrol, but none were out.

The lights of the police station came into view. Her salvation. She’d pull over and run inside for help. Surely he wouldn’t follow her to the police station and have the boldness to do something to her in front of an officer. But he was right there, right in her rearview mirror.

She pulled her car to the curb in front of the police station doors, and the truck pulled right behind her. Before she could fumble open the door, the driver had jumped out of his truck, a gun aimed right at her. “Get out of the car!” he yelled. “Get out of the car!”

Gina locked her door, hoping a cop would hear the commotion and come outside to help her. With shaking hands, she fumbled with her phone to dial 9-1-1, but stopped when she heard the driver’s voice say, “He’s in the back! He’s got a knife!”

Gina looked up from her phone. The driver was talking to an officer who had come outside, and the next thing she knew, the officer pulled out a gun, pointed it right at her car, and yelled, “Get out right now!”

The back door of Gina’s car suddenly opened, and out stepped her ex-boyfriend, who she’d recently gotten a restraining order against because he’d threatened to murder her. At the officer’s command, he raised his hands, and in one of his hands, he held a knife that then clattered to the ground when he was told to drop it.

With her ex in custody, Gina was sitting in the waiting room of the station, trying to hold her Styrofoam coffee cup with her trembling hands. Coffee sloshed out of it and spattered onto her scrubs every time she tried to take a sip.

“I didn’t mean to frighten you,” said a male voice, and Gina looked up to see the driver of the truck. “I was going through the intersection and I saw him in the back with his knife raised like he was going to stab you,” the driver explained. “I didn’t know what else to do except pull a U and follow you. My brights scared him. As soon as I flashed them, he ducked back down, probably hoping I’d go away. I’m glad you drove to the station. Smart choice.”

“He must have gotten in my car and hid there while I was on my shift. I’ve got to get that back door lock fixed.” Gina brushed away a tear and smiled at the driver who had saved her life. “Thank you.”

“You don’t have to thank me,” the driver said. “I just hope that bastard is put away for a while. Have a safe drive home.”

Hello, Jamie

Hello, Jamie
~A.F. Lamonte~

It was her sixteenth birthday, and Jamie had received her first cell phone. Excited to FINALLY be one of the cool kids with her very own phone, she sent a text message to all her friends and in the text, she included her new phone number and ended her message with, “Call anytime!”

That night, after having her first conversation with her best friend on her brand new cell phone, Jamie went to bed the happiest she’d been in a while. She fell asleep with a smile on her face, but at 3 AM on the dot, her cell phone rang.
She beamed and sprang from her bed, hurried to her cell phone on its charger, and answered with a chipper, “Hello?”

A raspy voice she didn’t recognize replied, “Hello, Jamie.” Then, with a click, the line went dead.
Jamie rolled her eyes and put down her phone. “Very funny, Doug!” she yelled to her older brother who should have been asleep in the next room. With a sigh, she climbed back into bed.

The next night, at exactly 3 AM, Jamie’s phone rang. Just like last night, there was no number on the caller ID, just the words, Unknown Caller. She answered it with a little more hesitation. “…Hello?”

“Hello, Jamie.” It was the same voice as the one from yesterday night, and, just like last night, after the greeting, the line went dead.

The following night, at 3 AM, the phone rang, and once again it was the voice. “Hello Jamie.”

On the fourth night this happened, Jamie marched to her brother’s room and knocked on the door. “Doug! Seriously! I’m trying to sleep!”

Her brother, his eyes bloodshot, opened his door a crack. “What are you talking about?” he asked, his voice hoarse as though he’d been roused out of a deep sleep.

“Don’t play dumb. Why do you keep calling my phone?”

Doug groaned. “Why would I call your phone? I barely even want to talk to you without a phone.” With that, he shut the door in her face, and she heard him shuffle back to bed.

Jamie stood in the hallway, eyebrows narrowed in confusion. “He’s messing with me,” she finally said, and went back to bed.

The following night, at exactly 3 AM, her phone rang. Knowing it was the strange voice on the other line, Jamie let it ring. It would go to voicemail after five rings, she thought. But five rings became six. Six became seven. The ringing wouldn’t stop. She had counted nineteen now. That many rings weren’t possible without the phone going to voicemail.
Throwing off her covers, Jamie stormed to her phone. “What do you want?” she shouted.
“Hello, Jamie,” the voice said, and then the mystery caller hung up.

Jamie told her parents what was happening, and they were convinced some creep from her school had gotten hold of her number and was calling her, trying to scare her. They got her a brand new number and Jamie, in her wariness over the mystery calls the past week, didn’t give it out to anyone, not even to her brother.

That night, Jamie forgot to charge her phone. The dead phone was beside her bed on her end table. She was too tired to care to plug it into the charger.
At 3 AM, she was awakened by the sound of her dead cell phone ringing. The caller ID read, “Unknown Caller.” Jamie wanted to ignore it, but she had tried that already. The phone would just keep ringing.

Taking a deep breath and swallowing hard, she picked up the phone. “H-h-hello?”

The raspy voice was unmistakable. “Hello, Jamie.”

The Town of Nowhere

The Town of Nowhere
~A.F. Lamonte~
On a road trip one evening in 1972, a young couple named Paul and Donna began to experience car trouble. They were on a deserted back road, and the nearest town listed on the map, Hillsdale, was another seven miles.
After pulling over to the side of the road, Paul stepped out of the driver’s seat and lifted the hood of his car. The engine was steaming. He wasn’t sure how to fix it, or if he could.
The night was descending, and the temperature was dropping.
“Come on,” he said to Donna. “I guess we’ll just have to walk to Hillsdale.”
They’d walked about ten yards from their car toward the direction of Hillsdale when a beat-up 1950s-era pickup truck sputtered down the road toward them. The truck eased to a stop and the window rolled down to reveal a friendly old gentleman in a straw hat. He smiled at the couple. “Car trouble?” he asked.
“Yes,” said Paul. “We’re walking to Hillsdale to get some help.”
“Hillsdale? Seems a bit far, don’t it? You’ll freeze before you get there. Fairmont’s just down the road. That’s where I live.” The old man hopped out of the driver’s seat and went around to the bed of his truck. “How about I give you a tow there? We got an inn where you can stay. My daughter, Rosie and her husband, Gabe run the garage here. Gabe will fix your car up for you and you can be on your way in the morning.”
Paul raised an eyebrow. Fairmont? That hadn’t been on the map. “I suppose that would be fine,” he said finally to the old man. “Thanks.”
The couple sat in the truck and watched as the old man chained their car to the back with ease and skill of a professional. When the car was ready, the man climbed back into the truck and pulled a U in the middle of the road, heading toward this place called Fairmont. A few minutes passed before the silence was broken by Paul.
“I hope we didn’t put you out, sir,” he said.
“Appreciate your manners,” the old man replied. “There’s no need to call me sir. Name’s Red Phelps. Reginald. Where are you kids from anyway?” Red made a left turn down a single dirt road.
“Chicago,” Paul answered, putting his arm tighter around his shivering girlfriend. “We thought we might go for a drive.” He turned to look out the window when he noticed some old storefronts and houses come into view. There weren’t many people out right now. Most were probably in their homes, getting ready to settle in for the night.
Red eased his truck in front of an old Victorian home that had a sign swinging from chains above the grand porch. Fairmont Inn, it read in elegant looping letters.
“Mary-Lee runs this place,” Red said. “Good friend of mine. I’ve known her for years. She’ll treat you right. Just go right in, tell her Red sent you, and I’ll tow this baby to the garage. It’s just right over there.” He pointed out the window toward a small white structure down the street from the Inn. “Gabe’s Auto” was painted above the garage door in a bold fire engine red.
The young couple got out of the truck and climbed the porch. Before entering, Paul turned back around. Red was still watching, and then he gave a big smile, a wave, and drove up the road toward the garage. Donna entered the home, but Paul stood on the porch, watching as Red, just the size of a pencil from this distance, got out of his truck and spoke to a younger, stocky man who had emerged from a little house beside the garage.
Paul met Donna at the counter in the elegant lobby of the inn.
“Red sent us,” he said to the friendly white-haired chubby woman at the desk.
“Yes, I saw him drive away,” the lady said. “Did he tell you my name? I’m Mary-Lee.”
“I’m Paul. This is my girlfriend, Donna. We were having car trouble and Red was kind enough to bring us here.”
Mary-Lee smiled. “Red’s a good man. Always has been. Well, we have plenty of room here. How about I put you in room two?”
“That would be fine,” Paul replied.
“Coffee or tea for you?” Mary-Lee asked. “Anything to eat? I just pulled a peach pie out of the oven.”
Donna turned to Paul. “Oh, it’s getting late. I think I’d really just like to turn in. I’m so cold.”
“Nothing for us, thank you,” Paul said. “We’ll just take the room.” He reached for his wallet. “How much will it be for the night?”
“No charge,” Mary-Lee said. “Follow me, please. Right this way.”
The couple was led to a lavender floral-printed bedroom.
“The lavatory is down the hall,” Mary-Lee said. “I’ll have breakfast on a tray outside your door at seven o’clock. Enjoy your stay.” With that, she left them, closing the door lightly behind her.
“What friendly people,” Donna said as she climbed under the thick quilt.
“Yes, they are,” Paul agreed, but he was still wondering why Fairmont hadn’t been on the map.
The couple was so tired, they fell asleep not long after their heads hit the pillow, and slept through the night until the sun streaked into the room several hours later.
Paul’s eyes fluttered open and he looked around the room. Gone was the floral wallpaper from yesterday. On the walls around him, the wallpaper had peeled and hung in ribbons. The bed on which they slept was damp and smelled musty. The room looked as though it had been abandoned for years.
“Oh!” Donna gasped, Paul turned to see her sitting straight up in bed, looking at the same scene he was. She looked at Paul, her eyes wide. “I don’t understand…”
Paul took her hand. “Come on. Let’s get out of here.”
As soon as he flung open the bedroom door, he tripped on the breakfast tray in his haste. Cold waffles, scrambled eggs, and coffee scattered onto the waterstained carpet.
He looked down the dark hallway. “Mary-Lee?” he hollered out. There was no response. This inn was completely abandoned.
Taking Donna’s hand, Paul hurried toward the front door and as soon as they opened it, they saw their car waiting for them right out in front of the inn with the keys in the ignition. After a moment’s hesitation, Paul and Donna climbed into their car. Paul started it, and it whirred to life as if it was brand new. Before driving away, Paul and Donna took one last look around. The inn, perfectly intact yesterday, was falling apart. The rich white exterior was black, as though it had burned. At the garage down the street, the ‘Gabe’s Auto’ painted sign was so faded that it was barely legible, and the garage doors looked as though they’d been melted. The homes and storefronts they had seen intact yesterday were half collapsed now.
“What in the world happened?” Donna asked, and Paul didn’t answer, as he had no idea what to say.
Slowly, Paul drove down the deserted road, looking around at the abandoned town, and he slowed when he spotted Red’s truck outside an abandoned house. The very truck he and Donna had been in yesterday was completely rusted, missing one tire, another tire flat, the windshield shattered. Paul drove on, and slowed again when a tall plaque outside the cemetery caught his eye.
“In loving memory of our Fairmont citizens, lost to the Great Fire of 1951.”
Paul and Donna got out of their car to read what the plaque had to say. According to the monument, most of the townspeople had been at the Opera House, watching the annual fall play, when one of the candles tipped. The fire started right by the doors, and there was no other way out. All ninety-four people in attendance died in that opera house, and the fire spread to all the nearby buildings before being put out by the rain. Unable to afford to fix the fire damage anad grief-stricken by the loss of their neighbors and friends, the Fairmont locals who were left packed what they could carry and left the town forever.
Also on the monument was the list of the victims in the fire. Paul recognized names among them: Reginald Phelps, aged 63. Gabe Walsh, 32, and wife Rosie Phelps-Walsh, 29. Mary-Lee Douglas, aged 59.