It’s Christmas time in the city….
Oops! Sorry. I tend to spontaneously burst into seasonal song these days. Not out on the streets or anything. Just at home when puttering about, folding items to be taken to Housing Works or trying to remember where I put those holiday cards I got such a deal on last January. The reason I tend to carol this time of year, I tend to be caught up in activities I only find myself doing at this time of year.
This is the time of year I gather up my offering for the New York Cares Annual Coat Drive. Each December I take the coats out of the closet and give each one a long hard look. I put them on, facing up to the fact that it no longer fits — or worse that it didn’t fit last year either and despite promises to self, I didn’t lose enough weight to change the truth of the matter. Or maybe it does fit but it is one of three almost identical coats. I can’t help it. I see a great price on yet another single breasted car coat and I think, “Well, it’s not exactly like the others. This one goes all the way down to my knees.”
Anyway, I got the coat cull out of the way this week. Pulled them out, sorted them into two piles (no ‘maybe next year coats this time around): keep and give. The give pile, I am happy to report, was quite substantial this year. So I folded them up, put them in my oversize grocery cart (one of the greatest possessions a New Yorker can have) and trundled off to my local police station (the nearest drop off point for the coat drive). The men in blue are always gracious and entertaining when one enters laden with coats. Last year two of them began trying the coats on – and may I say that it is not every beat cop that can get away with a deep purple swing with dolman sleeves.
Still on the “gently used” portion of the list is packing up my donation for Housing Works I meant to do it earlier – along side the coat sorting – but then it realized that I might want to add a few more things so I put it off a bit. I plan to finish going through The Back Closet (and if you’d ever seen it, you’d know why it was Title Caps) by the end of the weekend. Actually, I’ve got quite a lot of non-clothing things as well and if I can get enough of them sorted out, I may have them come pick it all up. I mean, if it’s just clothes they won’t do a pick up (and frankly I can get them there just fine). But maybe some of these other “Lord, why on earth am I keeping this silly thing” items can be used by someone else. I can’t quite recall why I felt I needed a rice cooker but once the joy of it’s arrival wore off, it went to live in the back of the furthest kitchen cabinet and I haven’t opened it (much less used it) since.
The other reason to get down to Housing Works and donate is to do a little shopping. What? Just a little shopping. It is, after all, the holidays. And they sometimes have really cute stuff. And the bookstore? One of the best! Oh and you can shop housing works online now.
Another great annual city tradition is the door staff holiday bonuses. Last year, I put together my “Tips on Holiday Tips” to address this ritual – this delicate dance of envelopes, diplomacy, and hard cold cash – that for some reason gives many New York City apartment dwellers an anxiety attack. It became a very popular landing point on the blog. It has been again this year so it occurs to me that people are still struggling with what to give, when to give and of course, how much to give. I suspect in these current economic climes, how much to give the doorman and/or your building super looms large in everyone’s worried mind.
My advice remains the same – you know what these guys have done (or haven’t done) for you all year. I know the economy sucks right now but if these guys went out of their way for you back in April when that couch you ordered almost didn’t fit through the doorjamb – they deserve more than a holiday card with a “Maybe Next Year” where the cash used to be. Did they look the other way all summer (while your wife and kids were out in the Hamptons) each time you came home accompanied by your “niece?* “Consider that your wife and kids are now home and have much more face time with these Up To Know Silent Gatekeepers.
I don’t mean to say that your building staff will turn on you or anything if you stiff them. But you might notice the dry cleaning takes a little longer to get to you or your packages might end up under something else for a day or so. Such a shame when that happens but what can you do? It’s a busy time of year.
But let’s not end on what nervous note. Let’s consider some of the best and most holiday-infused of New York’s great holiday traditions
- the Rockefeller Center Tree: all lit up and waiting for you to come and shove your way through the massive crowds to gaze upon it. Not only that but on December 13th, a mass of tuba players will be there as well
- The Annual Christmas Tree and Neapolitan Baroque Crèche at the Metropolitan Museum of Art: Sitting gorgeously in the Medieval Hall, surrounded by Gregorian chants and bathed in warm light, the tree and its surrounding wait to welcome those who thought better of going to the Rockefeller Center Tree and who have a more delicate design sensibility (besides, the gift shop at the museum has some great holiday stuff and this year the discounting has started earlier than usual).
- The Ceremony of Carols at St. John the Divine: I know this piece of music is not for everyone but there are times during the piece that it is like listening to a vocal version of renaissance tumblers. It falls on the ears in a cascade and sweeps over you. Marvelous. And in such a magnificent space, the sound is even more impressive.
- The Nostalgia Train – yes, go back in time riding in Vintage subway cars along the V line. With luck, you’ll get on one of the cars from the 1930s! Depression era subway cars. Just what the doctor ordered with recession looming. Hmmm. Maybe that’s not the way to look at it. Oh I know. Think of the show Annie. Yes, the one where she sings about ‘Tomorrow’ and the orphans are mysteriously well fed. After all, it all takes place during the Depression and right around Christmas. So go on! Deck your kids out like orphans, teach them the words to ‘Hard Knock Life.’ I’m sure your fellow riders will love it.
* what? oh, come on. you know it happens. or if you don’t you’ve never been down in the lobby when these guys come in – a hilarious combination of slinking and cock-walking. Or maybe it’s like people having affairs with the doorstaff. It may be more an East Side thing than a West Side one.