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Both Sides of the Fence

A Tosa resident since 1991, Christine walks the dog, cooks but avoids housework, writes and reads, and enjoys the company of friends and strangers. Her job takes her around the state, learning about people's health. A Quaker (no, they don't wear blue hats or sell oatmeal or motor oil), she has been known to stand on both sides of the political and philosophic fence at the same time, which is very uncomfortable when you think about it. She writes about pretty much whatever stops in to visit her busy mind at the moment. One reader described her as "incredibly opinionated but not judgmental." That sounds like a good thing to strive for!

For auld lang syne

New Year's Eve, Balistreri's Italian Ristorante

This restaurant where I pick up the pizza for our New Year’s Eve gathering, Balistreri's on 68th Street: more than 30 years of memories.

Before the outer door closes, friends greet me.

The couple, two gentle men, have the most tender marriage I know. It’s their tradition to share cheese pizza at each year’s end, talk about what has passed, what hopes they hold going forward, and then walk home together. I imagine them hand in hand, always.

I don’t know the woman at the table next to them, but she tells me she loves my hat. Someone I’ve never met in real life, a Facebook friend who lives in Germany, made it, I say and I show her the clever elastic threads inside that make it fit so perfectly.

Then into the colder than usual night, one Special, one Veggie in hand, to meet the women I will share food, company, a few surprising tears and much laughter with. And very bad television coverage of the celebration in New York. Who knew Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin could make you nostalgic for Dick Clark?

The past year has too much sadness to dwell there. Instead I think about decades of pizza and the people who shared it. I started going to Balistreri's when I was first married and came to know my in-laws there. I think we might have gone there the day we got divorced. There were lunches with nuns and other teachers I taught with: the owner, Jim, and his mother, Ida, were friends of the Sisters of Charity of St. Joan Antida.

The oldest ones and the youngest ones among us ate eggplant strips and Kathy’s torte, even occasional salads, along with the pizzas and, on Fridays, fish. We plotted business plans, celebrated track and field triumphs, grew and ended relationships there. All disputes about where to eat were resolved amicably with Balistreri's.

I think of the old Girl Scout song: make new friends but keep the old. So much has changed. With all the shifting ground, it's nice to have places where only the prices and the color of the walls are different.

May your new year be filled with change you want and can handle, surprises that keep you fresh, and the comfort of places and people you already love.


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