Christmas in the City

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I am just back (yes, again) from a visit east. This is my annual holiday visit and it’s become a tradition that MOTNSO (“More Often Than Not Significant Other”) comes along so my daughters, their kids and husbands and my friends will get to know him a little better should we make the quantum leap to just “SO” at some point before the end of this millennium.

We had a pleasant flight, landed in driving rain and wind, picked up the monster four-wheel drive at Hertz  (which I always get for winter visits) and headed for our hotel, which was just across from Newark Airport. The thing with this hotel is that it is on the service road of Routes 1 and 9. You can see it, almost touch the front door, but you can’t get over the concrete divider to get to the driveway. I have never checked in there that I was able to get to it on the first try. After the third time we passed the hotel and having given MOTNSO yet another tour of downtown Newark, we came to a screeching halt in front. I was back in my “NYC Driving Mode.” MOTNSO was searching for a tranquilizer.

We met one of my friends for dinner that night at a nice restaurant with a new waiter. I must say it was the first time I ever had a server hand me a spoon by holding the bowl in his fingers or place a steak knife with the point facing me. Perhaps he suffered from “dining dyslexia?”

The next morning I woke up to no electricity. I don’t think I’ve ever been in a hotel that lost power, except for the time in Italy when I blew the circuit for an entire floor when I plugged in one too many devices. It was a challenge, to say the least, to get dressed. It was also the first time I’d ever had breakfast by candlelight.

I blindfolded and drugged MOTNSO since I was doing the driving and set off in our car (“Bigfoot”) for a tour of NYC at its best. He’s only been there twice and never at Christmas and I love to show someone the city of my birth. (I’ve posted a few pictures at the end of the blog.)

I parked in my favorite parking lot on 46th Street and we somehow got a cab right away and went uptown to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I visited there often when I lived back east and I actually can do a “highlights” tour when I take someone there. MOTNSO was suitably impressed with its collection and I was happy to visit my “artist friends” once again. The “Angel Tree” was in its place of honor and we spent some time just walking around it and enjoying all its fabulous detail.

It was windy and cold, but I dragged the poor California boy down Fifth Avenue so we wouldn’t miss any of the storefront decorations, not telling him we had nearly 30 blocks to walk before we came upon the first of them. As we forged our way south along Central Park we came upon two women puzzling over a map. Having been one of those women myself on many an occasion in other cities, I stopped and asked if I could help. They were trying to get to Macy’s (We were on 70th Street and Macy’s is at 34th Street) so I suggested they hail a cab. We chatted for a bit and ironically they too were from SoCal! Small world!

Fifth Avenue was resplendent with its decorations and I played the tourist, even taking some photos for the first time in my life. I guess when I lived there I took all of that holiday beauty for granted because I saw it every year. This year I wanted to take some of it back with me.

I took MOTNSO to see St. Patrick’s Cathedral and then we crossed the street to Rockefeller Center to see “the” tree. It had just gotten dark and it was absolutely gorgeous in the crisp, cold air, surrounded by happy families. We watched the skaters for a bit (I actually used to go there to skate when I was young; I can’t imagine doing something like that now. I guess I was young and foolish. Now I am just older and foolish but smart enough not to ice-skate.)

We spent Saturday at my friend Delia’s home on Long Island. She, her husband Tom and I have been friends since we were 14 years old and freshmen in high school and she and I also went to college together. Late in the afternoon we headed back to New Jersey to catch up with a group of our college friends for a pre-Christmas celebration. Since we were going back to the hotel after the party and she was going back to LI, we decided to split up and she’d ride with me and MOTNSO would ride with Tom so we’d have more time to catch up.

I forgot how directionally challenged she is.

We were expected at our roommate’s house at 6:30. We left her home at 5:00, allowing extra time for traffic since she was just about an hour away.

We got there at 7:40.

I won’t bore you with the details of how lost we got (even while using her TomTom, nicknamed Greta. Greta thinks the only way to get somewhere is to go as the crow flies, so Greta had me cutting through mid-town Manhattan on a Saturday night during the holiday season, crossing two bridges and going through a tunnel, too. Greta apparently was not aware that I don’t have wings, although I can act like an old crow sometimes.) To give you an idea of how far afield we were, let me just say that I’m not due back to my old high school in Queens until June for a reunion, but we passed it (four times), along with where I lived in Queens in two different areas (twice) and a diner we used to frequent when we were teens (six times). It was nice, however, to see the new CitiField (only once) where Shea Stadium used to be since I am a Mets fan.

We could not have been any further from Essex County, New Jersey unless we were on the moon. I think that’s where Greta had us going next.

Monday we did something I’ve never done before in all the years I lived in the NYC area: I took a water taxi to downtown Manhattan.

I’d gotten passes to see the 9/11 Memorial, something I’ve wanted to do. Between my kids and I we’d lost over a dozen friends in the towers and I wanted to pay my respects.  I’d been to Ground Zero a month after the attack and again about a year later when they were just beginning the Memorial, but this was the first chance I had to see the tribute completed. We were able to find their names and it felt good to give them what I called a “virtual hug” and let them know that none of us had forgotten them and we never will. I wished I’d thought to bring some flowers since several of the names had a single rose bud placed in the hollowed out, engraved name. It is truly a beautiful and peaceful place and a very appropriate remembrance to these heroes.

All in all, it was a wonderful trip. I got to visit my 91 year old parents for a bit and spent a full day with each of my girls and their families, too. But as much as I miss my loved ones on the right coast,  I am glad to be back in OC again, though…and excited to wear flip-flops again instead of Uggs!

Some NYC highlight photos:

The Neopolitan “Angel Tree” at the Met.

Cartier’s ribbon has gone high tech with LED lights.

Fendi’s “leather belts” dripped electronically.

The Freedom Tower has now risen above the Empire State Building. They complete a floor a week!

The 9/11 Memorial; just behind it is the Museum which is still under construction.

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