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Thursday, December 1, 2016

O. Henry's Christmas story: The Gift of the Magi - Was it written at a tavern?

"The Gift of the Magi" is a short story written by American author O. Henry (the pen name used by William Sydney Porter, 1862-1910).  O. Henry's story was originally published as "Gifts of the Magi" in the New York Sunday World on December 10, 1905.  It was subsequently published in book form in April of 1906, in the O. Henry anthology titled The Four Million.

O. Henry was a master of surprise endings and unexpected plot twists, "The Gift of the Magi" is no exception.  It's a story about a young couple, James "Jim" Dillingham, and his wife Delia.  Jim and Delia reside in a modest apartment in New York City in the early 1900s.  Their budget is very limited and they have few possessions.  Delia, however, has beautiful, long, cascading hair and Jim owns a shiny gold pocket watch that he inherited from his father and grandfather.  On Christmas Eve, desperate to buy a gift for her husband, Delia sells her hair to a local hairdresser for the sum of $20.  With the money, she purchases a platinum pocket watch fob chain for Jim.  Pleased with her purchase, she returns home and prepares pork chops for dinner.

Jim arrives home unusually late and he is stunned by the change in Delia's appearance.  She confesses to him that she sold her hair in order to buy a Christmas present for him.  Jim then reveals his gift for her - an assorted collection of fancy hair accessories (jewelled combs).  When Delia shows him the watch chain, he admits that he sold his precious gold pocket watch to buy her the hair accessories. Although they are left with gifts that neither can use, they realize the lengths they are willing to go to demonstrate their love for one another.  The narrator compares these sacrificial gifts to those of the Biblical Magi or Wise Men.


O. Henry

William Sydney Porter, better known by his pen name, O. Henry, was born on September 11, 1862 in Greensboro, North Carolina.  For most of his adult life, he lived in Texas.  However, not long after the turn of the century, he moved to New York City to be near to his publishers.  Most of O. Henry's stories take place during his own time and many are set in New York, including "The Gift of the Magi".

Local legend has it that O. Henry composed "The Gift of the Magi" at a drinking establishment in Manhattan called Healy's.  Healy's bar is now known as Pete's Tavern and it is located at 129 East 18th Street, between Irving Place and 3rd Ave.  From 1903 until 1907, O. Henry resided at 55 Irving Street and often frequented the nearby pub.  Today Pete's Tavern is filled with portraits of the author and signs proclaiming itself to be "The Tavern O. Henry Made Famous." Near the entrance, there hangs a plaque with the following inscription: "In this booth O. Henry wrote . .Gift of the Magi in the year 1905."

New York guidebooks have long maintained that O. Henry composed "The Gift of the Magi" at a booth in Healy's bar.  It is true that O. Henry lived across Irving Place from the tavern.  It is also true that he drank their often; but did he actually compose his famous short story at Healy's?  A retired science teacher from Queen's, New York, Richard McDermott, was able to unearth evidence to the contrary,  A September 10, 1996 article in The New York Times by Michael Cooper relates that McDermott discovered a book titled The Quiet Lodger of Irving Place, written by William Wash Williams in 1936.  Williams, a colleague of O. Henry, revealed that 'The Gift of the Magi" was written in the writer's room.

Pete's Tavern  PHOTO ATTRIBUTION: Dmadeo

O. Henry was a heavy drinker and by about 1908 his health had noticeably deteriorated.  On June 5, 1910, he died in New York City.  His death was attributed to cirrhosis of the liver, complications from diabetes and an enlarged heart.  He was only 47 years old at the time of his passing.  However, despite the sad circumstances of his death, he left us with a literary treasure of short stories.  Among them is "The Gift of the Magi." a beautiful and powerful Christmas tale.

- Joanne

Office Capsule Wardrobe Guide

Sometimes it's difficult to decide what to wear to work every morning. If you need some guidance, this infoqgraphic will provide you with you some ideas about how to create an ideal capsule wardrobe for the office.  I hope that you will find it informative and useful.

- Joanne

by Euroffice.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Grey Cup 2016: Toronto hosted a party and the locals didn't care

Congratulations to the Ottawa Redblacks for winning the 104th Grey Cup on Sunday.  Led by 41-year-old quarterback Henry Burris, the Redbacks won a thrilling football game by a score of 39 to 33 in overtime. They brought the championship back to Canada's capital city after a drought of 40 years and they engineered one of the biggest upsets in Grey Cup history by defeating the heavily-favoured. Calgary Stampeders,

The game was exciting.  Weather conditions were ideal and it was great to see Canadian football legend Russ Jackson in attendance.  So, why was I left with a bit of a sour taste in my mouth?  I was disappointed, but not surprised, by the attitude of my hometown, Toronto, which hosted the game. That attitude can only be summed up in one word - apathy.  For days prior to the game, one could troll the streets of Toronto and find little evidence that an important sporting event was about to take place in this city.  To put it mildly, there was very little enthusiasm among the locals.  There was no festive spirit.

For quite a few years now, Canada's largest city has displayed the same attitude toward its storied CFL franchise, he Toronto Argonauts.  Sure, the Argos didn't have a very good team this year (They finished last in the East Division and were tied for the worst record in the CFL).  Sure, there's a lot more competitions from the city's other professional sports clubs.  The Blue Jays, the Raptors and Toronto FC all have good teams.  The Maple Leafs finished 30th and last in the NHL in 2015.  However, Leaf Nation didn't care that their team wound up in the basement.  They are pleased as punch that the Blue and White seem to be headed in the right direction.  All that matters is that the Leafs are building a skilled, dynamic young team. Never mind that the team hasn't  won the Stanley Cup for almost 50 years.  Never mide the price of tickets at the Air Canada are astonomical. Toronto fans will always love the Leafs.  They will always support them.

In 2015, the Argos suffered through a lost season, which they could ill-afford.  During the Blue Jays play-off run, they were forced to play their home games out of town, rather than at the Rogers Centre.  For six successive weeks, they were on the road and they were completely overshadowed by the Blue Jays.  Things were supposed to improve for the 2016 season as the Argos moved into their new home at  BMO Field at Exhibition Place.  The Argos continued to be spurned as the city's soccer team, Toronto FC, was not exactly thrilled about having CFL football at BMO.

Nevertheless, the Argos began the 2016 season with a sense of optimism.  They hoped that their new home would reignite interest in the team.  Alas, this did not come to pass.  It didn't help that they were 2-7-0 in their new venue and attendance was ridiculously low.  Granted, the Argos have not marketed the team well.  They did not made their presence felt.  Still, they deserve better.  They deserve more support and more respect.  After all, the team was founded in 1873 and it is the oldest existing sports franchise in North America still using its original name.  The price of tickets is relatively affordable.

I have made the following observations:

* Toronto is not really a great sports town.  It is simply a great hockey town.  Except for the Leafs, Toronto fans are trendy fans. They are fair-weather fans.  The only team that they'll support rain and shine is the Maple Leafs.  Sadly, there is little support for the Argonauts, even when they put a winning team on the field.  In 2012, the 100th edition of the Grey Cup was held in T.O. and the Argos were victorious.  The lack of excitement was palpable.  There were no buttons, flags or honking of horns.

In 2012, I attended some Grey Cup festivities at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.  I sat at a table in the pavilion of the Atlantic Schooners, a Maritime CFL team that doesn't exist yet.  Their claim to fame is that they are "still undefeated."  A little background:  The Schooners were a conditional CFL expansion franchise that was to begin play in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, provided a 30,000 seat stadium were built in time for the opening of the 1984 season.  The financing for the stadium fell through and the application for the franchise was withdrawn.

Many years have passed and there is still no stadium on the East coast.  Yet, the dream of a CFL franchise in the Maritimes is still alive and kicking.  Only the Canadian Football League would have a pavilion for a team that doesn't exist.  Nevertheless, the Schooners' pavilion has some down-home East Coast entertainment and lobster rolls  When I was there in 2012, some Americans from Baltimore were sitting at my table.  Why, you may ask, were some people from Baltimore attending the Grey Cup festivities in Toronto?  Well, back in the 1990s, the CFL underwent an "American experiment," allowing several American franchises to join the league.  The experiment ultimately failed.  However, in 1995, the Baltimore Stallions became the first American-based franchise to win the Grey Cup.  The team folded, but the American fans at my table had fond memories of the Stallions and the 1995 Grey Cup.

This year I went downtown on the Friday before the Grey Cup.  I enjoyed talking to some fans from Calgary fans resplendent in red soups and cowboy hats.  I also spoke to some enthusiastic fans from Regina.  Those Saskatchewan Roughrider fans are remarkable in their devotion to their Green Riders and their loyalty to the CFL.  They travel a long way to attend a Grey Cup in Toronto, even when their team is not in the game.  That's what "Rider Pride" is all about.  They and visitors from other parts of Canada must have been disappointed by the ho-hum attitude of the host city.

The Saskatchewan fans told me all about the new home of the Riders.  The team is set to open the 2017 season at Regina's Mosaic Stadium.  The new state-of-the-art facility has a seating capacity of 33,000, which can be expanded to 40,000.  There will be no problem selling it out.  Yes, I know!  Saskatchewan doesn't have any other big league teams.  Toronto is much bigger and has several pro teams.  Remember though, that Toronto has a much larger population.  The population of the entire province of Saskatchewan was 1,150,532 on July 1, 2016.  The Greater Toronto Area has a population of over 6 million.  This season, the Argonauts attracted an average crowd of only 16,380.3 at BMO Field.  Seating capacity at BMO is 27,000.

* Many Toronto sports fans believe that Canadian leagues are second rate.  The history and the tradition of the Grey Cup doesn't matter to them.  They prefer the glitz and glamour of the Super Bowl.  They are memorized by Beyonce, Katy Perry and Bruno Marx.  The CFL is not glitzy.  It's fun and quirky.  Most of all, it's a piece of Canadiana.  It's ours and it brings Canadians together from coast to coast.

In 2017, the Grey Cup will be held in Ottawa.  It will coincide with the celebration of Canada's 150th birthday.  I'm sure there will be more enthusiasm there.

- Joanne

Tuesday, November 22, 2016

Inspirational Home Offices

This infographic provides some creative ideas for home office decor.  With more and more people working at home, it couldn't be more timely.  I hope readers will find it interesting and useful and that it will spark your imagination.

- Joanne

by Euroffice.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Is there anything wrong with going to the movies alone?

While listening to a radio talk show recently, I came upon a discussion about going to the movies alone. The show's host thought that going to the cinema by oneself was weird and gauche.  His attitude was that only losers view a film alone because they have no significant other and nary a friend or family member to accompany them.  He was challenged by a guest speaker who argued that there was nothing wrong with going to a movie theatre alone.  He said he did it himself.  His opinion was that it didn't matter anyway because the theatre is dark.  No one notices you.  Meanwhile, the host countered with the argument that if you attend a movie alone, you don't have anyone to discuss the film with afterwards.

Yours truly is a cinephile, so the conversation piqued my interest.  I was especially interested because I sometimes view films on my own.  My view is that there is nothing wrong with going to a movie alone  It doesn't mean that you are a friendless loser. There are occasions when you really feel like seeing a particular film but all your friends and family members are occupied with work or other obligations.  You are then left with the choice of staying home or watching the film by yourself.  What is so wrong about the second choice?

Perhaps you've  made plans to see a film with someone and he or she suddenly falls ill. It's quite difficult to find another person to go with you on such short notice.  What if you really want to see that film and it's only playing for a limited time?  Why should you relinquish  the opportunity to see it simply because you can't find anyone to accompany you to the cinema..

Then there are times when you can't find anyone among your companions who shares an interest in a film that appeals to you.  What do you do then?  Do you just forget about seeing that movie when you have the option of viewing it by yourself?

Why must a person need a reason or an excuse to see a movie alone? Why must there be a stigma attached to doing so?  It's not shameful and it shouldn't be embarrassing.  So what if encounter someone you know while entering or exiting a theatre by yourself!  Big deal!  It's certainly not a crime and it's not weird. There may even be times when you truly feel like going solo to the movies. What's wrong with that?  If you wish to discuss the film you can still have a conversation with someone about it later. My advice is to just sit back and enjoy the show.  Oh, and don't forget to turn off your cell phone.

- Joanne