Monday, December 05, 2005

New York Stories, Part I

This is 26 Washington Square North in New York City. At the time this picture was taken, half of the top floor was the home of my brother-in-law and his wife. I have no idea who lives there now.

This was right after Christmas, so lights were still up everywhere. It was cold during our stay and there was still snow in places on the ground. I had been to New York a couple of times before, but I had never stayed with anyone who actually lived there. I think you have to do that to really get the feel of it. I fell deeply in love with the city of New York and--for me-- it was one of the few things whose reality --which I had built up in my head through books and movies-- totally lived up to the fantasy.

When I hear the word Christmas I get a split image in my head. The first is, of course, the family-type Christmas in the wide-open spaces of the Lone Star State. Except for a brief stint in Virginia (where I was born) that I don't remember because I was only about three months old and my eyes weren't focusing yet, I have always lived in Texas. I've never spent Christmas anyplace else. I didn't plan it that's just how it turned out. It was always a time for family and, now that we have kids, that is still true. The focus is pretty much on them...and that's fine.

But there's another Christmas. It's the New York Christmas, and that one involves the life we had before kids when we were more "free to move about the cabin", as it were. This particular trip, our post-Christmas gift from the BIL and his wife was a nighttime chamber orchestra concert aboard a barge that was strung with tiny white holiday lights and docked near the Brooklyn Bridge. Days were spent haunting the museums or the Strand Bookstore (8 Miles of Books) on Broadway and 12th. We had Chinese at Joe's Shanghai in Chinatown which now , because I'm a creature of habit, is where I have to eat EVERY TIME WE VISIT. We walked everywhere or took the subway. One night we went to visit a friend who lived in an old apartment house on Eastern Parkway and played zither for the Blue Man Group. It all seems kind of dreamy now, but it was wonderful.

We've made many trips to New York since then and, until the last one, they were always without kids and I think that has reinforced the "When Harry Met Sally" notion I have of the city. It seems like a dream because, in many ways, that time doesn't exist anymore. The couples we saw while there have all split or moved away. Everyone has kids and some are in college now. NYC has undergone changes, too. At least two buildings are gone in a sudden and violent way and the lives of several thousand people have been changed forever. We, all of us, worry more.

I'm grateful for everything and everyone (okay...not EVERYONE) I have in my life, and even though our kids' future is what occupies our thoughts almost daily, there's still enough of my life left to offer wonderful possibilities,too. When I hear the words, "Merry Christmas" I do think about the lights and the time at home with my husband and the three adolescent Santa non-believers. That's a given. But I also think about that night on the barge as it bobbed gently on the water and the sound of violins rose to meet the sounds of the traffic on the bridge. If it's possible to have two "happy places" at once, I think I have my two figured out.

What's your happy place?


Blogger jess said...

Love pictures of buildings like that. My sister just got back from 3 months in NYC where she took a gazillion pictures of buildings. Cities can be beautiful in such an odd way.

(Thanks for commenting!)

2:04 PM  
Blogger Shrinking Violet said...

Gosh, I guess I would have a place in the country. Like where The Man, The Kid and I used to go hunting. Out in the middle of NOWHERE. No city lights. No city noises. But, I think everyone should live in NYC once. I also have a GREAT LOVE of Chicago. I would live there quite happily I'm sure.

2:35 PM  
Blogger Rock said...

Although I lived in Texas I found myself traveling to NYC for work constantly in the late eighties and early nineties - and really throughout the decade - but so much that i was going to weddings (jewish) and having friends meet me there. As a former New Yorker (upstate and in Jersey) this was special. I, of course, can remember when my Dad took our family to the City (1968?) when we lived in Jersey to see "the Love Bug (yes Dean Jones) at Rockefeller Music City (?) - and then go to Macy's. And later I did march in that parade.

But much later on I was so impressed that I could take the subway to the Village and pretty much make a beeline through Washington Park past the books on the ground to McSorley's to imbibe on cream ale. I have some devine sense of direction to do this in bizsarre places (like Budapest for exabmple) but not at home.

It is the center of the world.

12:39 AM  
Blogger Rock said...

Ok - I obviously cannot spell or type this late at night and I am sure this would upset all English teachers everywhere.

Way to use the picture function - nice job.

12:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great post, you really painted a picture for me. In response to your email, I can't say that I recognize that building in particular, but I do recognize the New York look, and I especially recognize the lifestyle you wrote about. New York bookstores are the best! There's just something about that friendly, urban atmosphere that can' be beat. The one down the street even lets dogs come in. In fact, the owner likes Oreo so much I'm not allowed to go in without her. hehe.


6:41 AM  
Blogger Misfit Hausfrau said...

I have so many happy places because of the people who have been with me at the time. We have great memories of Christmases in Vermont, Indiana, Chicago, Pittsburgh and New York City. Hopefully, Ohio will someday become a happy place. Jury is still out on that.

7:54 AM  
Anonymous TB said...

This is lovely writing. It evokes my own memories of NYC during the holidays.
And you and I must be on the same wavelength because I wrote about my "happy christmas place" today also.

8:40 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Williams Lake Resort in Rosendale, NY
We had such a beautiful view of the lake. We canoed on the lake. We also jogged on the crosscountry skiing trails

Maspeth and Middle Village, NY for the family history, greenhouses and memories.

A damn good book for a different kind of place.

5:37 PM  
Blogger Ditsy Chick said...

NYC is my secret selfis happy place. I go there on business without my family and I love it there. I was there at Christmas time 2 years ago and I did the windows on 5th Ave, Macy's and Rockefeller Center. It was beautiful. Everyone I have met in NYC is helpful and polite, especially the police officers.

When I fist saw NYC in was throught he window of the airplane I was on. It looked so big, it minaturized for a moment and I could only think of it as flying over a movie set.

11:15 AM  

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