December 24th, 2006

Christmas in New York City

Yesterday I drove down to New York to spend Christmas at my brother’s. This involves no hardship whatsoever, except perhaps for the tedious drive itself. There’s a bunch of parties, a great deal of fabulous food (each day spent there is good for a net gain of approximately two pounds), and much conversation. Oh, and probably a couple of presents as well, but that’s exceedingly secondary.

I’ve written before about the fact that I’m “in transition”–thinkng about moving–and that I don’t really have a single city that I consider home. You’d think that New York, the place I grew up, would fit the bill. But it doesn’t. Oh, it’s familiar, all right. But even when I was a child and teenager here (I left at seventeen, never to return except for visits), it didn’t feel all that “homey” to me. Too overwhelming, too uncaring, so huge that to traverse it took hours. No. I always knew I’d leave as soon as I got the chance. And I did.

But still, but still…when I drive in on a clear night, as I did yesterday, and see that skyline suddenly loom in the distance to the right of me (I come in over the Bronx-Whitestone bridge and then onto the Brookly Queens Expressway), it’s not only an impressive sight, it’s an iconic one, as well.

Somehow New York has become the American city. That feeling has only been accentuated, post-9/11. It’s the biggest, the best, the everythingest, “if I can make it there I’ll make it anywhere.” LA may be a great big freeway (I’ve lived there, too, and I can attest to that), but New York is just great and big.

And beautiful. In recent decades New York has lit itself far more colorfully than it ever did in my youth, the tops of the skyscrapers (particularly the Empire State building) sporting seasonal red and green lights, makng the skyline look from far away (as I saw it last night) like a string of sparkling jewels, diamonds and emeralds and rubies. New York at Christmastime was always a very special place, anyway, with the tree at Rockefeller Center, and the skaters, and the elaborate store windows, and the tempting smell of roasting chestnuts.

The temperature was in the mid-50s yesterday and the same today, however; not so very Christmasy. In fact, we’ve only had one or two days of cold so far this winter. So I feel a bit as though I’ve been transported to the Carolinas or thereabouts rather than New York City. That’s better, though, than the Christmases I spent in Los Angeles, where the holiday decorations always looked oddly out of place no matter how elaborate they might be.

In contrast, where I live it usually looks like a Currier and Ives print around this time. Although the lack of snow this year makes it a little less perfect, visually, it’s still the qunitessential Christmas scene (wish I’d had the prescience to have taken some photos to post here, but I didn’t, and a search didn’t reveal any of the sort I’m seeking). In New England the most popular type of house decoration is minimalist: a single candle (electric, for safety’s sake) in each window–classic and simple, and lovely in an old colonial home or antique cape.

And now I’m going to be out enjoying this beautiful day–and the first party. I hope you do the same, wherever you are, whatever the weather and whatever the scene.

14 Responses to “Christmas in New York City”

  1. Zeno Says:

    Merry Christmas, neo-neocon.

  2. Mark H. Says:

    Yes Merry Christmas Neo-NeoCon!

    I’ve enjoyed your essays over 2006 and look forward to more reading in 2007 and beyond.

  3. Cranky Greg Says:

    Merry Christmas from California, Neo-neocon! NYC is now America’s city after 9/11. Visited there in April and NYC looks better than ever. I bet it’s great at Christmas.

    Merry Christmas!

  4. Danny Lemieux Says:

    Merry Christmas, Neo-con, from Fly-Over country (that’s the space between LA and NY). :-).

  5. Al Fin Says:

    San Francisco
    Seattle
    Boston
    Portland OR
    NYC

    Those are my top 5 US cities for Christmas or otherwise. LA doesn’t even make the top 50.

  6. John Ruberry Says:

    Merry Christmas, Neo. Not very Christmas-like weather here in Chicago, either. Mid ’50s too.

  7. Harry Says:

    Merry Christmas, Neo. Thanks for the good wishes.

  8. Ariel Says:

    Merry Christmas to you and all.

  9. Robert Schwartz Says:

    A therapist in mid-career, moving? What gives?

  10. Danny Lemieux Says:

    The New Yorkers I know love sleek, sophisticated Minneapolis/St. Paul, especially when St. Paul holds its winter festival. Believe me, the clear, sunny, cool winters there are far preferable to the grey damp-cold of NYC. Also highly recommend Chicago, Denver, Albuquerque for Christmas.

  11. harry Says:

    Mery X-mas to you neo, and to all the little brown people all over the world living under the opressive jack-boot of America’s imperialist domination.

  12. Bert Says:

    Denver – son’s home; daughter and husband here, too – 4 grandkids –2.5 feet of snow everywhere — a BEAUTIFUL Christmas

  13. Jen in NY Says:

    Personally, I find the smell of roasting chestnuts really cloying, and since they are ubiquitous in NY this time of year, it starts to get to me.

    Other than that though, I adore NYC all dressed up and sparkly for Christmas! I love the spirit of it all, even if it is primarily commercial. It just feels even more exciting than usual.

  14. Galley Slave Says:

    I lived for a while, part-time, in rural NH. I needed to be far away from the lefties in MA (the Mass-holes) and the lefties of Vermont (the Ben and Jerry clones).

    Being a Jew, I was a stranger in a strange land, but found the living to my liking. After a while, though, I yearned for things more Jewish—culturally and religiously. In NH I felt as if I was a welcome outsider in a friendly, beautiful place—but still an outsider.

    In spite of its issues, I feel more at home in the suburbs of Philadelphia, PA. I need the Jewish connection of people, places, things. I need the synagogues—those to join and participate in—and those to criticize. Choice is grand. I think it was Jackie Mason who said that when the town has two Jews, they need two synagogues—including one that you would NEVER join.

    Anyway, I see Christmas as a wonderful time—in many ways similar to Thanksgiving—in which (if you look hard enough) you can find a message buried beneath the presents and sales. A message that good has its place, and that we as Americans (including Jewish Americans) have created an imperfect but wonderful land. While this land is constantly under attack by evil forces—from without and within—we have a present and a future.

    I enjoy the tacky and the precise vanilla Christmas decorations, and am pleased that I, the Jewish child, have no duty to fully jump in —head first–to the craziness.

    I spent my Christmas Day, with my Jewish sweetheart, at the Atlantic City casinos—not gambling, but resting, dining, hugging/kissing, watching the crowds, and having a pleasant day —among the Jewish, Asian and Hindu gamblers; the lost souls; the degenerate gamblers; and those who had to work on Christmas Day.

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About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.
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