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A Brooklyn Mom Saves Halloween


Is Halloween canceled? One Brooklyn mom’s answer: a resounding NO.

Amanda Sue Nichols was brainstorming ways to trick-or-treat for her three daughters when she remembered the Rainbow Map. For the unfamiliar, the Rainbow Map was a scavenger hunt in which children made drawings and paintings of rainbows and displayed them for people to see while walking — among few acceptable activities in the early days of lockdown.

“One of the best things about Halloween is that you can put in minimal effort and your kids will still have fun,” Nichols told us. “With so many parents pulling double or even triple duty right now, asking them to plan extravagant haunted houses and scavenger hunts on top of everything else seemed excessive.”

Thus the Halloween Pumpkin Hunt 2020 was born. Similar to the Rainbow Map, children are encouraged to create pumpkin artwork, hang it in a window and then submit their location to the map Nichols created. Then, on Halloween, parents can use the map to create a scavenger hunt for their children — in costume, of course.

After realizing giving out candy might draw crowds and require too much coordination, Nichols decided to focus on costumes. But, the Cobble Hill mom said, “what’s the point of dressing up if no one is going to see?! I needed something that kids could do socially distanced, but which maintained the commonality of experience and sense of community that makes Halloween so much fun.

”That being said, Nichols recommended parents having a candy prize on hand. 

The Halloween Pumpkin Hunt 2020 website launched just a few days ago. More than 50 households in several Brooklyn neighborhoods, Queens, Philadelphia and Westport, Connecticut, have signed up. It can quite literally be done anywhere. If you are interested in participating, you can learn more here.

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A Deadass Sweet Business

Anthony Virey with one of his hives. Photo: Deadass Beekeeping

So, how does a born and bred New Yorker end up beekeeping in rural Pennsylvania? Four numbers: 2020.

When New York City locked down in March, Anthony Virey joined his uncle for what he thought would be a few weeks on the family’s 200-acre plot of land in Mount Pleasant, about an hour or so southeast of Pittsburgh.

As weeks turned into months and it became clear Covid-19 was not going away anytime soon, people around the world took up a plethora of hobbies. We baked, we cut hair, we gardened, we binged (food? Netflix? wine? all of the above?). Virey, 30 years old, along with his cousin, Don Antonio Santos, 25, took up beekeeping. It’s not, Virey told us, something people typically fall into. But his uncle had a few hives, and Virey had always been fascinated with bugs, so he figured, why not?

As the two cousins watched the country struggle — politically, socially and financially — they felt a sense of helplessness many of us know well.


Anthony Virey (L) and Don Antonio Santos (R) Photo: Deadass Beekeeping

So they created a business, Deadass Beekeeping.

“I think a lot of people, a lot of brands, a lot of everybody really, is kind of recalibrating right now and trying to hone in on purpose and why we do the things that we do,” Virey said. “We have all this time to think analytically and think deeper. We want to use a product like honey, because it’s such a sustainable product in and of itself, and positively affects the communities that made us who we are.” The cousins are Filipino-American and were raised between Queens and Long Island. 

Deadass — we will save you a Google search — is a colloquial term New Yorkers use meaning “I’m serious” (like deadass serious, get it?).

A percentage of all proceeds will be donated to the environmental organization GrowNYC.

The first batch of Deadass Beekeeping honey goes on sale this Friday. Follow the company’s Instagram account for details on how to purchase.

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A love letter to Queens from the before times

Last summer, during our trip out east, we stayed with friends in Jackson Heights, Queens, a jewel of a neighborhood. We got off the subway on a Thursday night and spilled out with the rest of the crowd onto “Diversity Plaza.” Aptly named for it was packed with every type of immigrant, Latino, Asian, Middle Eastern. There were Tibetan monks in their robes casually eating momos from a food truck and a Latino man giving out brown-bagged meals to a long line of hungry folks from the back of his pick-up truck. No affiliations with an organization, just a good samaritan that saw a need and filled it. The plaza is teeming with vitality. Some stand with friends they happened to bump into, shifting from foot to foot, engaged in long exchanges. Others have the convenience of outdoor tables, slouched forward in rapt attention, sipping early evening espressos from paper cups. At Diversity Plaza, there are no doubts, no questions about belonging. There’s only comfort and awe if you’re new to it, that such a place exists. 

At one end of the plaza was a folksy old hippie, a white man with an acoustic guitar singing a “Mamas and Papas” song. With all due respect to his musicianship, the performance might be dismissed as trite in other parts of the jaded city, but here the hard-working folks eat it up. Too fatigued for cynicism, they only hear the music as it was originally intended. These are the same people who jettisoned Michael Jackson to #1 on the global charts, who adorn their shop walls with smooth chested David Hasselhoff posters. They see, they like, they savor. Simple. They haven’t read Pico Iyer. They don’t question the implications. As the man croons out “California Dreaming,” a few have gathered holding up their Android phones, earnestly capturing that which stirs their hearts. Like a condor in flight, a fiery red sunset, the old hippie captivates. His voice of crystallized honey sings a song in the language of this new land. But its as familiar to them as a children’s lullaby thanks to the ever so ubiquitous basic karaoke packages, aka gateways to the America. Back in their native lands, TOEFL certificates weren’t the only markers of achievements in the English language. There are also karaoke performances of the Mamas and Papas, Elvis, Sinatra, and for those overachievers, Whitney Houston [with honors]. 100% from the random score generator and cheers from their audience fueled their conviction of moving entire lives to an unknown land. Now, here they were in Diversity Plaza in the presence of a virtuoso. With the utmost reverence, they hold their cameras steady for the entire 2 1/2-minute duration of the song. For them, the miracle of technology is the video feature of their smartphones: FaceTiming relatives, scrolling through photos of the children, watching cinema on a 6-inch screen, documenting inspiration.

Afterwards, we walked home seven blocks in the balmy summer evening through tree lined streets of sturdy prewar buildings. A women with a large cart of other people’s laundry has trouble getting up a curb. We gave her a hand and she was grateful. We considered dinner from the variety of take out options. Indian, Chinese, Thai, Korean fried chicken, and of course pizza, all authentically delicious. That night I lay in bed, the particular sounds of an urban neighborhood lulling me to sleep: a quick drizzle, tires through puddles, a few horns, not many, and the pervasive hum of window A/C units. I drifted off thinking of the plaza. Once it emptied out, those folks headed to their homes, maybe modest apartments with makeshift bedrooms added on to the living room to accommodate extended family. On the other side of those A/C units, some lie awake unable to sleep. The stress of bills, of aging parents, of their children losing touch with their culture weighing on their minds. They might pull out their phones to scroll through photo albums, always a reliable sleep aid. They come across the video of the man singing, “California dreamin’ on such a winter’s day.” For 2 1/2 minutes they listen and are reminded of why they are here, of why they left everything behind to take a shot in America.- Ruth Chon Saiki

Ruth Chon Saiki is a New York City transplant living in San Gabriel, Calif., with her husband and two children. She’s editing “The Glades Project,” a documentary about the middle gender showgirls of 1960s and 1970s Hawai’i.

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Needs

Demand at a food pantry has doubled but donations have not

Cynthia Sangster, a church volunteer, called in a panic. The food pantry at St. Mark’s Church in Jackson Heights, Queens usually hands out 100 grocery bags to the needy on the second Saturday of every month. Last month it topped 200. To meet the rush for this upcoming weekend, she asked donations be shipped or dropped off to St. Marks; 33-50 82nd St. Jackson Heights, NY 11372. Specifically the following items:

cereal
soups
pasta
rice
fresh black beans (preferred to canned)
tea bags
coffee
baby food
soaps
paper towels