I’ve spent the last week in NY and NJ with the MOFTNSO (More Often Than Not Significant Other.) This is only his second trip to the Big Apple and its surrounding area. We spent a full day visiting the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, a place I’d only been to once before despite the fact that I grew up in Queens…and that first visit took place in the spring of 2001, at age 52. One of the things I learned while visiting Lady Liberty is that it is extremely empty in December and wondered if that could be because the wind chill factor that day was -4 degrees and one spends time on boats to get to and from each place.
MOFTNSO, a native Californian, was decked out with lined leather jacket, long johns, two sweaters, two hats, two pairs of socks and fleece gloves. On the other hand, my heavier coats are stored at my daughters’ homes and I wasn’t due to visit with them until after our Statue sojourn. I did the best I could with one of the dozen coats I have in my Cali home but only yesterday I started to feel my cheeks again…and was able to unbend my arms.
It was a great experience and part of that was chatting with the people who work at the monuments. Since they are not pressured by crowd control this time of year, they were very cheerful and provided additional tidbits of information we probably would not have heard had we been there over the 4th of July. I actually got a shot of The Great Hall, where every immigrant who passed through Ellis Island stopped. What made my shot so unique is that there wasn’t one person in it. Here it is:
Anyway, I had one of those epiphanies again while here where I realized just how different life is on the left coast, as compared to the right coast. First and foremost, of course, is the weather.
We journeyed upstate NY to visit my parents, who at 90, still insist on living in one of the harshest areas of the northeast, a place that gets lake effect snow on a regular basis and seldom gets above freezing during the winter…and fall…and spring. I frequently describe where they live as “…go to the end of the earth and make a left. That’s it.” Everyone else’s parents retire and go to a condo in some warm climate. I have the only parents in the world who went way north instead of south and bought the first house they ever owned. (We always rented apartments in Queens.) I have been trying without success to get them to come stay with me for at least the bad months but they are extremely resistant. They operate well in their little microcosm and Dad bowls in a league and Mom hangs with the “girls.” I try to tell them that there are far less stairs at my place and the sun shines almost all the time. (Of course, this was the week they were glued to the TV watching the mud-slides and flooding in SoCal. So much for their belief in my claims.)
There was lots of snow around and we drove through some snow showers on the way up, a novel experience for the MOFTNSO. The 4-wheel drive I rented was unrecognizable when I turned it in at Hertz since its brilliantly bright red exterior (the grandchildren referred to it as a “Santa Car”) was coated with the salt that is used all winter to keep the roads less slick. That in itself is non-existent in our neck of the woods. Why would we ever need salt? Unless it was to ring a margarita glass.
Another thing that was evident in difference was the manner of decorating for the holidays. I don’t know, but it appears that Californians are a little subtler for the most part. Driving around in NY and NJ we passed all manners of Santa and friends, Mickey and Minnie, Frosty and Rudolph all imprisoned in those snow-globe blow-ups, which are not totally unseen here, but seemed to me to be less prevalent. There was one house that had so many of these hot air fantastical embellishments on their front lawn I thought it was a shop that sold them.
Then there was some incredibly creative stringing of lights that flashed and flickered. I must say I did enjoy seeing some of the tiny white lights encased in snow; the glow coming through is quite magical and something that I had forgotten about. Also the way the snow reflects the colors when there is a coating of ice on top. It’s almost like a wintry mirror and the lights get double lumens.
Those white lights (my personal favorite) reminded me of my first Christmas here as an official resident of OC. Driving home from dinner with the MOFTNSO, we passed several tall palms decked out in white lights from base to about two-thirds of the way where they suddenly had strings of red lights. They happened to be in an upscale neighborhood of multi-million dollar homes. My comment to the MOFTNSO was “You would think with all that money, if they ran out of white lights they would just go out and buy more instead of switching to red.” After he wiped his eyes from laughing he educated me to the fact that these palms were not necessarily the victims of being decorated by Scrooge, but rather they were meant to look like candles.
DUH…and that was not the first (and no doubt will not be the last) time I would utter that word as I acclimate to life here in Paradise.
Well, I hope I am bringing sunshine back with me as I finish writing this at 37,000 feet, somewhere over New Mexico or Arizona. I have always wished that they would paint the state lines so you could really tell where you are from the sky.
I also wish you the happiest of Christmases, because as the Captain tells us to sit down and shut up because we are approaching SNA (not really, but it worked in this sentence), despite my very, very deep ties to the Metropolitan area, there IS no place like home. Even if it is a new place, so different from the old.
“God bless us everyone.”