Sunday, December 25, 2016

273. Winter Holidays in the Big Apple

         Holidays in the Big Apple: people flock here, knowing it will be crowded and noisy, but they hope it will be joyous as well.  Between Thanksgiving and Christmas some five million visitors come, giving a year-end boost to the city’s businesses but clogging sidewalks, streets, and subways, where they rub well-bundled elbows with disgruntled locals.  The Fifth Avenue store windows are ablaze with magnificent displays, but getting through the crowds to see them isn’t easy; you’re lucky, with patience, to get the barest glimpse.  As for getting your four-year-old anywhere near Santa Claus at Macy’s requires angelic patience or devilish corruption.  Up on the eighth floor parents with kids make their way through a labyrinth of Christmas trees, stuffed reindeer, and caroling snowmen in quest of Santa, and some have been known to offer bribes of $20 to $50 to attendant elves in hopes of skipping ahead of the long lines.  The elves themselves are in evidence here and there throughout the city and in great demand; visitors want to be photographed with them in “elfies.”  They’ve even been dispatched along with traffic managers to help calm frustrated drivers in heavily congested intersections.

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Santa and his elves arriving at the Macy's Thanksgiving parade.
tweber 1

         One great attraction is the annual Christmas Spectacular at Radio City Music Hall, which draws an audience of up to a million, though not all, thank heavens, on the same day.  I saw it once, long ago.  Of course they feel they have to celebrate the birth of the Savior, so a lackluster procession of shepherds, kings, and common folk are seen trudging across the stage, with even a camel or two, though I don’t recall any elephants.  Then, once this tribute to the occasion was been dutifully performed, they go secular in a flash of joy, with Christmas trees and brightly wrapped presents and of course, sooner or later (usually sooner), the celebrated Rockettes, kicking their long, shapely legs in marvelous precision.   To my knowledge, the Rockettes don’t show up in Bethlehem.

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ralph and jenny

         Rockefeller Center, with its giant Christmas tree and sunken skating rink, is another great attraction and just as hard to access.  One woman trying to view it got trapped in a crowd on Fifth Avenue and had to give it up.  A young man from Nashville said he loves the hustle and bustle; that’s what the city is all about.  He confessed to spending more than $1500 on clothes and shoes at a number of stores, and said more money had poured out of his pocket in the past three days than in the past two months.  Now that’s the kind of visitor that New Yorkers – some New Yorkers – love.

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Michael Vadon

         Bryant Park, behind the New York Public Library on Fifth Avenue, has a Winter Village nestled among the midtown skyscrapers, with brightly lit shops offering jewelry, clothing, specialty foods, and other items suitable for gifts.  Knowing it only from mild summer days as a pleasant place with a broad green lawn and tables and chairs, I am amazed by its winter transformation.   Its free skating rink draws thousands of skaters, but in previous years they had to wait in long lines for two or three hours for their turn on the ice.  This year, thanks to a streamlined check-in process, the wait is shorter, and text messages inform them when they can skate.

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         I experienced the crowds last Wednesday, trying to get back across 14th Street to the West Village – usually a routine trip, whether by bus or subway.  I waited with many others for the 14th Street bus, but when it came it was packed, and others got on first; I then got on, too – barely -- only to be told by the driver to get off and take the next bus.  More wimp than New Yorker on this occasion, I got off, but when the next bus came, it was just as jammed, so I turned to the subway.  When I finally got down to the platform and a train arrived, it too was so jammed I couldn’t get on.  After a long wait, I saw a second train approaching, but it was also jammed; there was no way to get on.  Then a third train came, not jammed, but it sailed right on past without making a stop.  Finally a fourth train came, and I was able to get on.  This was late afternoon, and 14th Street is very commercial, so I assume that the crowds were heightened by kids getting out of school and New Yorkers throwing themselves into seasonal shopping.  The Internet is said to be stealing customers from real brick-and-mortar stores, to the point where malls all over the country are going bust and closing, but this doesn’t seem to be the case on 14th Street in Manhattan. 

          Should we New Yorkers complain about the holiday crowds in the city? Absolutely not.  We want their business and their presence.  And they themselves don't complain; they come here for the bustle and excitement.

          Source note:  For some of the information in this post I am indebted to an article by Winnie Hu in the New York Times of December 23, 2016.

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 My poems:
 For my short poem “I Crackle” and a stunning photo of me, go here. For five acceptable poems, click here and scroll down.  To avoid five terrible poems, don't click here.  For my poem "The Other," inspired by the Orlando massacre, click here.   

          My books:  No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World, my selection of posts from this blog, has received these awards: the Tenth Annual National Indie Excellence Award for Regional Non-Fiction; first place in the Travel category of the 2015-2016 Reader Views Literary Awards; and Honorable Mention in the Culture category of the Eric Hoffer Book Awards for 2016.  For the Reader Views review by Sheri Hoyte, go here.  As always, the book is available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

No Place for Normal: New York / Stories from the Most Exciting City in the World

The Pleasuring of Men (Gival Press, 2011), my historical novel about a young male prostitute in the late 1860s in New York who falls in love with his most difficult client, is likewise available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble.


         Coming soon:  Once again, no idea.

         ©   2016   Clifford Browder

1 comment:

  1. To see the stores on Fifth Avenue, one can take the M5 BEFORE it reaches the Avenue, by the Lincoln Center or at Columbus Circle for example, and then you'll have a view above the crowds. Maybe slow, but you want to enjoy the view, right?
    That's the bus I take when I go to the opera, to come back home. Of course, at that hour there are no crowds, but still a very nice time to enjoy the decorations.