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Closing Up Shop on a Marriage – The New York Times

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When my father came home to New Rochelle from his job in Manhattan, he was usually tired and grouchy. But on some days, inside his beaten-up briefcase, nestled among yellow pads, would be large bags of candy, usually chocolate, for my brothers and me. He had visited a Duane Reade during his lunch hour and loaded up on candy to assuage his stress, or so I imagined. There are worse vices.

Duane Reade didn’t exist in our suburb, so as a child I knew it not as a drugstore chain but a magical candy land — and my father’s happy place.

Years later, when I moved to New York City for college, I learned firsthand the joys of perusing the aisles of Duane Reade: piles of pastel Easter candy as an early sign of spring, toothbrushes behind plexiglass as a sign of shoplifters, nail polish colors I looked at but never purchased, cheap earrings that elicited compliments to which I proudly responded, “They’re from Duane Reade!”

Later still, I learned how the store’s name came from its first location, between Duane Street and Reade Street in downtown Manhattan.

The store sells all of life’s mundane items, which in the end get trashed, recycled or flushed. Items that are nothing but also everything: lint rollers, deodorant, greeting cards, magazines, school supplies, vitamins.

That time I had a headache, or a sore throat, or that other time when my husband’s allergies flared up after we rode in a cab through Central Park when the pink double blossom cherry trees were in bloom, him with his head out the window like a golden retriever glowing with joy, but a person. My person.

My husband and I separated in 2016. We didn’t have children or own property or have much money. Our marriage was glorious until it wasn’t. In the end, we weren’t even sharing meals. But one thing that has lingered is our shared Duane Reade rewards account, the kind that gives you discounts and points. It’s one of those artifacts so minor, so inconsequential, that I never think about the fact that we still share it until seconds before I pay. Then, boom, beep, and the receipts are emailed to me.

He now shops at his Duane Reade near where he lives, not at our Duane Reade, because there is no longer any “our” (except for our shared rewards card). I see from his itemized receipts that he bought three rolls of Christmas tissue to wrap gifts (not for me), teeth whitening products (for smiling at someone else), hair taming cream (for his unruly locks), and he was charged the five-cent shopping bag fee (because evidently he forgot his).

My therapist would say I should close the account, but I stopped seeing her a few years ago. My ex-husband and I are still in touch, and when I reminded him of our shared account, he said he knows I love Duane Reade and gave me permission to use his points (and even gave me permission to write about all this).

It is the most minor transactional connection to someone, yet it is also so intimate. Maybe it’s our last thread of control or codependence or manipulation. But on an uncomplicated level, it’s a kind of generosity that lives to see another fluorescent-lit day.

Recently, I received a Duane Reade receipt of his that had women’s hair dye on it. Dark chestnut brown. My color. He is a dirty blonde. What was he doing? Was it for his new girlfriend? Or was he dyeing his own hair?

I ruminated about this for so long that it became unhealthy. Finally, I asked him.
“Oh, it was for me,” he said. A cosplay thing. The exact shade he needed for his costume to be accurate. He always was an artist at heart. Professionally, he designs and builds scenery for retail, fashion and films and is passionate about his work. I loved that about him, yet it’s also part of what ended us.

And now my local Duane Reade is coming to an end too, closing permanently. The second to last time I was there a couple of months ago, I braced myself before entering, but it wasn’t as cleared out as I expected. And none of the candy was on clearance yet. The Valentine’s cards were overflowing, like feathery, sequined, oxygenated blood still pulsing through veins.

As I waited to pay, six feet behind the person ahead of me, a man appeared with his arms filled with mops and brooms. Crouched and gray-haired, he fled outside mumbling — and without paying. He wasn’t even fast.

The people who worked there did nothing; I assume they had been told not to put themselves at risk in these situations. I also did nothing.

I idly wondered what kind of big cleaning project he might be doing until the woman who worked there said loudly, in an exhausted and resigned tone, “He’s going to sell them.”
I am sad to see the store go. An optimistic and unsentimental neighbor of mine is already hoping a Trader Joe’s will move in. Living in New York City constantly reminds us that, for better and worse, change is afoot. And this rapid turnover forces us forward — to an imaginary future that is supposedly better than our present.

Better not to look back. Better not to dwell on the millions of hearts that have thumped and broken on this very patch of pavement. Right?

As Gloria Steinem once said at a lecture I attended nearly 17 years ago in response to an audience member who was lamenting the long-gone cultural and political vitality of the 1960s: “Nostalgia can be disempowering.”

This statement stopped me in my tracks. As a certified sentimental sap, raised by parents whose only good days were the old ones, I had never thought of glorifying the past as potentially problematic. But of course it can be.

Then, in 2014, three researchers won a Nobel Prize for their discovery of “place cells” and “grid cells,” neurons in the brain’s hippocampus and entorhinal cortex that help create a spatial map of the world and generate a sense of direction. Every time a rat walked into a corner of the maze that it knew well, the same group of neurons became activated and started firing electrical signals. These act as a kind of GPS system and help organize memories about specific locations.

Humans have place cells and grid cells, too. Which makes me wonder if, when the Duane Reade is no longer on my corner, will my “place cells” for it remain, smoldering forever? Maybe my place cells will betray my inner Gloria Steinem, pulling me back to the past for a few precious milliseconds. But probably we can only credit these cells for delivering a neutral message of “You are here,” while the bittersweet “I remember when — ” comes from somewhere else entirely.

My ex-husband is unlike my father in many ways. He is a cheerful person, quick to laugh, and warm. But my father always managed to come home on time, and in this respect my ex was also different: He almost never made it home on time, and on many nights, he never came home at all.

He’d had a complicated childhood and was especially close to his brother, with whom he works. Friends suggested he was cheating. But I knew he was just trapped in an all-night flurry of anxiety about clients, medium-density fiberboard and his brother’s needs.

And anyway, I now know that it didn’t really matter why he didn’t come home, only that he didn’t.

Our daily life unraveled. And all the consumables that mark the passage of regular days were no longer shared. He didn’t know what we had in the refrigerator, nor did he know the status of our toilet paper, Q-tips or hair traps for our sinks. These daily necessities failed to anchor him to our home; it was more like he was just passing through.

When I went back to my Duane Reade for the final time, the person ringing me up told me I had five dollars’ worth of points and asked me if I wanted to use them.

“No,” I said. I paid and walked out into the snowy city with two bars of soap, some paper towels, and a lump in my throat for which there is no medicine.

I know that until I close our joint rewards account, I will continue to receive my ex-husband’s receipts, like love letters from the landfill. And maybe a specific cluster of neurons for the life we once shared will fire for the rest of my days. But now that my local Duane Reade is gone, I no longer need his points.

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POLITICS

Governor Newsom and President Biden Visit Communities Impacted

 

SANTA CRUZ COUNTY – Governor Gavin Newsom today welcomed President Joe Biden as he arrived in California to visit communities impacted by recent storms and meet with first responders leading recovery efforts.

“Over the past weeks, Californians have endured some of the deadliest and most destructive storms in recent memory, but our strength, resilience, and instinct to help in times of crisis has never faltered,” said Governor Newsom. “And President Biden and his Administration have been supporting us every step of the way – and I am grateful for the President’s commitment to helping California recover.”

President Biden’s visit began with an aerial tour led by Governor Newsom on Marine One, surveying damage across Santa Clara County and Santa Cruz County. Following the tour, they visited businesses in Capitola that were impacted by the recent winter storms and met with first responders at Seacliff State Beach.

 

 

Governor Newsom welcomes President Biden as he arrived in California to visit communities impacted by recent storms and meet with first responders leading recovery efforts.

Yesterday, the Governor announced that the White House added the counties of Monterey, San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara to the Presidential Major Disaster Declaration – with San Joaquin being added today.

FEMA and the President also announced a 100% federal cost share for Categories A (debris removal) and B (emergency protective measures). Last week, President Biden also approved the Governor’s request for a Presidential Emergency Declaration to bolster state, local and tribal government storm response efforts.

Over the past two weeks, Governor Newsom has met with evacuated residents in Merced County, assisted storm preparedness work in Santa Barbara County and surveyed storm damage in Santa Cruz County and Sacramento County with state and local officials. The Governor has proclaimed a state of emergency statewide and issued an executive order to further assist the emergency response and support impacted communities across the state.

 

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POLITICS

At Inauguration, Hochul Vows to Make New York Safer and More Affordable

ALBANY, N.Y. — Kathy Hochul became the first woman to be sworn in to a full term as governor of New York on Sunday, a landmark moment that she said she would seize to lead a state confronting fears over crime and a crisis of affordability.

In her first inaugural address, Ms. Hochul briefly acknowledged other women in New York who had made history before her, name-checking Harriet Tubman and Hillary Clinton, before turning her attention to the “worthy pursuits” and fights she said she would take on in the next four years.

“I didn’t come here to make history,” Ms. Hochul said shortly after being sworn in at a convention center in Albany. “I came here to make a difference.”

Ms. Hochul, a moderate Democrat from the Buffalo area, took the oath of office two months after emerging victorious in the closest governor’s race that New York has seen in decades. In one of the nation’s most liberal states, Ms. Hochul beat her Republican challenger, Representative Lee Zeldin, by only six percentage points, with the race largely defined by agitation from voters around spikes in crime and the rising cost of living, issues with which Mr. Zeldin hammered the governor.

On Sunday, Ms. Hochul indicated that she would focus her tenure on addressing many of the same concerns — including safety and affordability — that fueled the wave of discontent in November against Democrats, who control all three levers of power in Albany.

At the same time, Ms. Hochul, 64, used her speech to lean into social issues favored by progressives, who took credit for salvaging the governor’s flagging campaign in its closing weeks. And she emphasized the need to safeguard the right to abortion, an issue that helped galvanize many Democrats after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in June.

Such sentiments were lauded by a swarm of well-wishers and Albany power brokers who packed the Empire State Plaza Convention Center in downtown Albany, adjacent to the state’s ornate Capitol Building.

The event, the first inaugural planned in Albany since 2011, when Andrew M. Cuomo first became governor, had a festive atmosphere, with attendees snapping 360-degree photographs and selfies in front of the New York State seal and a I N.Y. poster.

Before the ceremony, an overmatched string quartet played against a babble of conversation among New York’s movers and shakers, only a smattering of whom wore masks, a sign of the state’s steady, if slow, recovery from Covid-19.

Indeed, Ms. Hochul made reference to “the lingering effects” of the pandemic, suggesting it was partly to blame for educational and economic disruptions in the state, including “mental health challenges and increases in crime.”
The governor, who is expected to unveil a plan later this year to build 800,000 units of new housing over the next decade, said that high housing and energy costs were “making life just too damn hard for New Yorkers.” She pledged to address the state’s years of population loss by creating jobs and in-state economic opportunities.

“New Yorkers are just struggling to pay rent, food and gas to get to their jobs,” she said. “They’re hurting.”
Without offering specifics, she broadly vowed to crack down on hate crimes and tackle gun violence so that “New Yorkers can walk our streets, ride our subways and our kids can go to school, free from fear.”

Ms. Hochul is expected to unveil her policy vision in greater detail during her State of the State address later this month, as well as in her proposal for the state’s budget, which typically serves as a vehicle to pass a host of nonfiscal policy priorities in Albany.

But passing her agenda will mean working in tandem with Democrats in the State Legislature who hold veto-proof supermajorities in both chambers and have influential blocs of members who are to the left of Ms. Hochul on an array of policy issues.

It is unclear, for example, if Ms. Hochul will seek additional changes to the state’s contentious bail laws this year, as Mayor Eric Adams of New York City has called for — a move that would create another clash with Democratic lawmakers. Mr. Adams attended the ceremony on Sunday, as did Senator Chuck Schumer, who administered the oath of office for the state attorney general, Letitia James, who was also sworn in, as were the state comptroller, Thomas B. DiNapoli, and Lt. Gov. Antonio Delgado. All of them are Democrats.

Ms. Hochul will begin the legislative year already at odds with left-leaning Democrats in the State Senate over her nominee for the state’s chief judge. At least a dozen state senators, including Michael Gianaris, the deputy majority leader in the upper chamber, have announced in recent days that they would vote against confirming her choice, Hector LaSalle.

The intense opposition has placed Ms. Hochul’s nominee in serious jeopardy, raising the possibility that Ms. Hochul, who has so far stood by her decision, might have to withdraw the nomination and suffer an embarrassing political defeat at the onset of her first full term.

Ms. Hochul’s first inauguration capped her whirlwind ascent to the state’s highest office: In August 2021, she unexpectedly replaced Mr. Cuomo after he resigned amid a sexual harassment scandal, thrusting Ms. Hochul, then his mostly obscure lieutenant governor, into the limelight.

A former congresswoman, Ms. Hochul made history as the first female governor in the state and first governor from western New York in over a century, and she quickly moved to build her stature in Albany.

She secured a suite of policy priorities in her 500 days in office, including the passage of a $220 billion state budget, as well as changes to the state’s bail and gun laws, and moved to develop a more cordial relationship with fellow Democrats who control the State Legislature.

Casting herself as an above-the-fray executive and a calming presence after Mr. Cuomo’s combative leadership and sudden downfall, Ms. Hochul immediately announced her bid for a full term and quickly established herself as the de facto leader of the state Democratic Party. She raised record-smashing amounts of campaign contributions and went on to win resoundingly in a three-way primary last summer.

Armed with an overwhelming fund-raising edge in a state where Democratic voters vastly outnumber Republicans, Ms. Hochul appeared poised to easily prevail in the general election. But Mr. Zeldin tapped into fears over crime and mounted a vigorous challenge, fueled by support from independent and suburban voters, and even a sizable chunk of Democrats in New York City, who appeared to be upset over public safety.

Ms. Hochul nonetheless emerged victorious and became the first woman elected governor after scrambling to turn out Democratic voters, and focusing on public safety in the final days of the campaign.

The historic nature of her victory, and her Buffalo-area background, was never far from the forefront on Sunday, with the governor joking at one point that she made “really good chicken wings.”

A brief video early in the ceremony showed girls and young women praising her for breaking a centuries-old glass ceiling. And like other speakers on Sunday, Ms. Hochul offered sympathy to the families of more than three dozen people who died in a blizzard in Buffalo last month, as well as for victims of a racist massacre there in May.

Ms. Hochul sought to use her inauguration to begin mending divides that emerged during the election, pleading for unity by appealing to a common sense of purpose among working-class New Yorkers, from nurses and police officers to teachers and hotel workers, saying “this day doesn’t belong to me.”

“As I approach the next four years with the energy and sense of purpose and optimism, I know I am not alone, for I am joined in that arena with others who will fight the good fights and the worthy pursuits that Roosevelt spoke of,” Ms. Hochul said, referring to Theodore Roosevelt, a former New York governor — and a Republican — whom she often quotes. “Let’s use these coming years to truly make a difference for each other, and make this state stronger than it’s ever been.”

 

 

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POLITICS

The MAGA Transformation of Elise Stefanik

“‘I Am Ultra-MAGA’: Invention of Elise Stefanik” (front page, Jan. 1) traces the evolution of an emerging congressional leader driven by a restless political ambition and a quest for power and influence.

Ms. Stefanik herself defends her shift from a moderate brand of Republicanism to a full-throated embrace of MAGA doctrine as simply reflecting the views among her constituents.

But surely we must demand more of our leaders than that they be mere conduits for expressing what they perceive to be the will of those they represent. True leadership does indeed involve taking into account the views of various constituents in shaping one’s words and actions, but ultimately grounding them in a set of principles that makes morality — the desire to do that which is right, fair and just — the force that most animates our exercise of leadership.

In his recent book about Abraham Lincoln, “And There Was Light,” Jon Meacham writes that “politics divorced from conscience is fatal to the American experiment in liberty under law.”

Representative Stefanik, along with anyone who aspires to a position of leadership, would do well to heed those words.

Elise Stefanik’s Gumby-like transformation from moderate Republican to ultra-MAGA Trumpster is emblematic of today’s G.O.P., which has now given us George Santos. Malleability and dissembling have replaced honesty and conviction.

Groucho Marx famously said, “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them … well, I have others.”

Re “Don’t Expand the Child Tax Credit,” by Scott Winship (Opinion guest essay, Dec. 21):

Dr. Winship writes that while a short-term bump in the child tax credit has been shown to reduce child poverty, the long-term consequences are likely to be a disincentive for parents to work. This trope has been a conservative talking point going back to the Reagan administration.

The glaring omission in Mr. Winship’s analysis is the cost and unavailability of reliable, quality day care for low-income and single parents.

The Times recently published a hand-wringing article about the cost of day care, which can reach heights beyond that of college tuition. A Nov. 17 article in Fortune magazine bemoaned the frequency with which parents miss work for lack of child care, especially during winter flu and cold seasons.

When are conservatives going to see the elephant in the room? The problem is the cost and availability of child care, not parents’ inherent unwillingness to work if they receive a benefit in the form of a child tax credit from the government.

If the money from the tax credit enables a working-class parent to quit or reduce the hours of a undervalued, low-paying job and stay home to nurture and raise their children, to avoid the stress and anxiety of dealing with unreliable child care and transportation, what’s so wrong with that? Let them enjoy the same options more financially secure parents enjoy.

As Scott Winship explains in his essay, the expanded Child Tax Credit dramatically reduced child poverty in 2021. The monthly payments also reduced food insecurity and lessened parent financial stress.

But I disagree with Mr. Winship on one key point — the expanded Child Tax Credit wouldn’t dramatically change parents’ work behavior. Findings from the 2021 University of Chicago study he mentions have been rebutted by the libertarian-leaning Niskanen Center and other researchers. Evidence from the similar tax benefits in Canada also found no negative employment effects among parents.

If anything, a permanently expanded Child Tax Credit would, in the long run, support employment outcomes for parents and children. Providing additional cash to families improves outcomes in school, health and even future earnings.

In fact, the tax credit helped some parents work more hours. The payments allow parents to afford the transportation and child care needed to work.

The expanded Child Tax Credit supports children, families and our economies — in both the short and long term.

The writer is a senior policy analyst at the Center for Law and Social Policy.

Re “Hasidic Schools Seize on Special Ed Windfall” (front page, Dec. 29):
A few months ago, The Times published an article about how the Hasidim in New York City were failing to provide basic instruction in the state’s elementary and high school curriculums.

We now learn that they are labeling so many of their children disabled in a bid to obtain state and federal special education funds to augment their inferior schools and unjustly enrich their community. This fraudulent conduct takes scarce resources from the truly needy disabled children in other schools.

As a retired special education attorney, I was appalled that the school administration in New York has apparently shirked its responsibility to students and to the taxpayers by allowing this fraud to continue. At a minimum, it should have trained staff, if not a practicing attorney, at each hearing, forcing the students and parents to prove the disability and to prove what services are necessary.

It should also be conducting annual evaluations to determine the student’s progress and if special education and related services continue to be necessary. The burden of proof in these cases lies with the student and the parent.
The flood of cases will quickly wane when the parents realize that they will be on the hook for attorneys’ fees for both sides if they pursue untenable claims of disability. This can happen only if the public school administration does its job.

Re “Chief Justice Roberts Addresses Threats to Judges’ Safety in His Year-End Report” (news article, Jan. 1):
Chief Justice John Roberts is right to address threats to judges’ safety in his year-end report. I only wish he recognized the threat to women’s safety posed by the court’s Dobbs decision and the threat to the safety of us all posed by the court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen.

 

Re “The Disappearing Act of a Magical Baby Toy” (Sunday Business, Dec. 25):
Whatever happened to picking up your crying baby so she can smell and feel the parent’s warm body and hear the parent’s soothing voice? Sure, clicking a switch on an electronic toy will stop a baby from crying, but that is not being a responsible parent.

 

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