Thursday, December 22, 2005

Show Time!

So the good news is my sister-in-law Jacqui made it to NY last Friday when the transit strike was delayed. I was so proud of her for navigating the whole bus-subway thing from LaGuardia to Midtown without a hitch! She never batted an eye.

Friday afternoon we started out at the Time Warner building – one of my favorite buildings in New York. It was all done up for the holidays with beautiful 3-D stars hanging up in the four-story glass atrium overlooking Columbus Circle. After shopping, we walked up Central Park West to the Dakota (where John Lennon was shot 25 years ago on December 8), and I pointed out Yoko Ono’s apartment – the one with the white shutters. Ono has bought up 80% of the building. Then we walked through Central Park, stopping at the Conservatory gift shop where Jacqui got a free Christo “Gates” print like the one I’d bought on my last visit there.

We walked through the brisk sunny day to the skating rink where we ate foot-longs before heading over to Fifth Avenue for some real shopping. After stopping in FAO Schwartz we went to Tiffany’s. I had the goal of buying myself something at Tiffany’s before leaving New York for good. Jacqui was behind me 100%! Of course this meant shopping on the “silver” floor, not the diamond floor. Mission accomplished! I am now the extremely proud owner of a Tiffany & Co. necklace and the signature blue box and bag that comes with it. And it cost under $200. Up on the diamond floor we saw a bracelet with a $260,000 price tag on it. That's a mortgage!

Jacqui ended up buying the same pendant! But if her husband (my brother Pete) asks – be sure to tell him it’s just a knock-off from Canal Street. :) Ahem!

After that fun excursion, we walked over to Rockefeller Plaza – past the tree – stopped in at Godiva, and on to Radio City Music Hall where we saw the Christmas Spectacular. But we actually got two shows for the price of one. Before the Spectacular began, a fight broke out between the nice young woman sitting to the left of Jacqui and the old woman behind her. This woman was at least 89 years old – very small and shriveled...and mean. The nice blonde in front of her had innocently put her coat inside her chair, with the collar hanging over the back of the chair. The old lady grabbed the top of the coat and threw it back at the woman as she was sitting down. She proceeded to yell, “Get your coat off my knees!" And then in the third person, "I don’t want her coat touching my knees!” This went on for a while.

It was absurd. We were all pretty stunned at her rotten behavior. An argument ensued, and the nice couple in front of the old lady had to go fine an usher to break it up. Finally, after several minutes of hateful arguing, the crotchety old woman gave in with “Fine then! She’s right and I’m wrong! That’s just fine! I don't care!” Yeh, and Merry Christmas to you too.

Wow. I’ve seen bratty kids better behaved. Anyway, Jacqui and I enjoyed the Rockettes and the ice-skaters on stage. The little girl who danced to The Nutcracker was especially talented. I wish my niece Zoe could have seen her – Zoe loves ballet. The Rockettes danced in several different outfits, my favorite being their reindeer costumes.

I was amazed at the number of kids at the show – and crying kids, at that. After the third parent carried a crying child up the aisle and out, I whispered to Jacqui, “Feel like you’re in church?”

So we saw the Rockettes! Woo-hoo! After all the walking we did, we were too tired to cook any dinner that night. Fortunately Jacqui can fend for herself. She was happy with a bag of microwave popcorn – topped off with some M&M’s that she pulled out of her duffle bag. I had pretzels and peanuts. Then we inflated her air mattress and both went to bed. (Some hostess I am!)

The next day we took the subway to Ground Zero. It was another sunny cold day. Jacqui and I walked over to the World Financial Center where we found a Starbucks and a Godiva store. Jacqui had to get her caffeine fix and chocolates for the show later. (I think we visited every Godiva in Manhattan!) The huge marble and glass atrium and palm trees in the building were beautifully adorned with Christmas lights, and Santa was there on stage, taking requests from a long line of children.

After a stop in at Century 21, we headed back uptown on the subway and walked up Broadway to the Schubert Theatre on 44th. We had front-row mezzanine seats for Spamalot! This is the sold-out show that I’d waited over six months to see. (I’d gotten the tickets on eBay a couple months back.) And we totally lucked out – Saturday the 17th turned out to be the final appearance of David Hyde Pierce (Niles on “Frasier”) as Sir Robin and Tim Curry as King Arthur. I was so afraid they wouldn’t be performing the Broadway show any more. Talk about luck! I was ecstatic to find out - (by eavesdropping on a conversation in the row behind us) - that they were still in the show. Yay!

It was hysterical! Spamalot is a somewhat anachronistic re-make of Monty Python and the Holy Grail, complete with many of the familiar jokes – “It’s just a flesh wound,” and “But I’m your king!” followed by, “Well, I didn’t vote for ya,” etc. I laughed so hard for so long. The audience loved it. Hank Azaria played gay Sir Lancelot, and Sara Ramirez was nothing short of fantastic as the Lady of the Lake. We really enjoyed ourselves. After that, I felt like my stay in New York is complete!

And finally, to top off a great two days, after a visit to the Hershey's store, we headed over to Sardi’s on 44th for dinner. We met my friend Peggy there. I’d actually never met Peggy in person. We’ve been virtual friends since I started interviewing for my current job about 16 months ago. We email each other a lot, talk over instant messaging, and call each other. But we’d never met.

Peggy was in town with her sister Janet and long-time friend Pam – all from Florida. So the five of us shared a meal at world-famous Sardi’s. Janet, Peggy, and I all work in computers. Thank goodness for Pam and Jacqui. Pam is a school teacher, and Jacqui is a radiologist. For once the conversation wasn't all about computer software and its associated problems. Although Peggy did have me in stitches every time she did her hilariously accurate imitation of this gossipy guy at work. Beyond that, no shop talk that evening! We had a blast. And the crab cakes were yummy too!

Anyway, I was so glad my sister-in-law came to town. We had a great time together. And I can’t wait to wear my Tiffany’s necklace this weekend at Christmas. It must’ve been our lucky weekend because Jacqui managed to avoid the transit strike, both coming and going.

The strike – well, that’s another story. It’s illegal and just flat-out wrong. Especially at Christmas time. The three-day transit strike has prevented millions of people from going to work and cost the city hundreds of millions of dollars a day. Tens of thousands have been filmed trudging over the Brooklyn Bridge on foot in single-digit temperatures to get to work.

Kudos to Mayor Bloomberg for getting on TV on Day One of the strike and calling these union workers “selfish” and “thuggish.” And more power to the judge who issued the million-dollar-a-day fine to the union for as long as they stayed off the job. What really gets to me is the complete lack of remorse by the union president - (I refuse to taint my new keyboard by typing his name) - for all the pain he’s caused hard-working people and businesses and travelers in New York. I repeat, it’s CHRISTMAS! How dare the union leaders do this the week before Christmas. I think this strike should qualify as a deadly sin.

I say put them in jail. Put the union leaders in jail and fire all the striking workers. They can be replaced. Ronald Reagan did it to the air traffic controllers. And it worked.

A funny thing happened on the local news Tuesday night. A reporter was airing the news live in front of Penn Station, amid a horde of people. A woman walked up behind him carrying a sign. In plain camera view, right behind the reporter, she walked across the sidewalk with a sign reading “F--- TWU” The reporter never even saw her – he just kept right on reporting about the horrific mess at Penn Station. I gotta tell you, though, that sign really summed it up for all of us here in NY!

I’m lucky – I can work from home. But most people don’t have that option. So, say when you say your prayers tonight, don’t forget about all the stranded New Yorkers!

Merry Christmas everyone! Here's a shot of my brother Dave and my beautiful nieces:

Thursday, December 15, 2005

7 Million People Without Transportation

New York City’s transit system, known as MTA, is threatening to strike at midnight tonight. If this happens, over seven million people will be without transportation tomorrow. This means people can't go to work. It also means that my sister-in-law Jacqui, on her way to LaGuardia at 8:00AM tomorrow, might have a hard time getting from LGA to midtown. It certainly isn't walking distance.

This just pisses me off – and 6,999,999 other people. Mayor Bloomberg suggested people use their bicycles to get around. Right. It's sixteen degrees with a 4-degree wind chill and a winter storm on the way. How's that, Mr. Mayor?

I’ve got it easy. I can work from home if I have to. Most people can’t. (Not to mention, I’m on vacation tomorrow.) But who's to say this thing won't last days? And the rest of the city. . . it’s not like we can (a) fit 7 million more cars on the roads, or (b) afford to take a taxi to work. This strike is just not right. One of the porters in my apartment building was telling me that it would cost him 20 bucks to take a cab to work. Plus tip. That’s 45 bucks a day to commute. Can you imagine? He can’t afford it. Hell, I can’t afford that, and I live at the Gershwin!

It’ll be a costly strike for this city. Every single police officer will be called to duty, so overtime rates will soar. HOV rules will go into effect immediately – requiring 4 people per car. Crime will rise in the road-rage category. And think of the timing of this thing – it’s Christmas, for you-know-who's-sake! Imagine the number of displaced holiday travelers this will create. And what will it do to the local businesses who are counting on Christmas sales?

None of us want to think about it.

To add insult to injury, one other thing is heading our way tonight – freezing rain. This creates another obstacle for Jacqui to get here. It’s possible her plane will be delayed or cancelled. Man! We’ve got tickets to see not only the Rockettes, but Spamalot too! We have reservations at Sardi’s with my friend Peggy who's coming up from Florida. She’s got to make it here. She’s just got to.

So my fingers are crossed that the strike is averted.

A funny thing happened earlier this week. My girlfriend (the other Jacqui) came over to visit me (during the one 30-minute free timeslot I had all week). It'd been a while since we'd gotten together. She left our employer's office near Radio City Music Hall and was walking down the street toward my place when a Hummer stopped at an intersection and one of the passenger windows rolled down. Now Jacqui, as I've mentioned before, is a strikingly beautiful woman. So she gets a lot of attention. But this time it was unique. The guy who leaned out the window to hit on her was none other than Mike Tyson! Asking her if she needed a ride. Jacqui took one look at his ugly gap-toothed, tattooed mug and told Mr. Tyson (in no uncertain terms), "Puh-LEEZ, just GO AWAY!!"

You go girl! Hee hee.

So after an exhausting, hectic, stressful, hair-pulling week at work, I’m finally sitting down to do something relaxing - watch mindless TV and monitor the strike news. My back is killing me. My physical therapist and my doctor both told me to cut out the OT at my insane job. I wish the job would let me! I just can't get away from it. Heck, even Martin protested the overtime earlier in my workday. First he tried sitting on my computer. This caused a new email message to be composed to my co-worker Larry that went something like this:


So I had to remove Martin from the keyboard.

When that ploy didn’t work, he sat himself down between the keyboard and the monitor and sat there for 10 minutes. I had to work around him - and he pretended I wasn't even there.

Ok, ok! I quit already! As my cousin Debbie said, "Martin knows best." Silly kitty.

Happy Holidays everyone!

Saturday, December 10, 2005


The famous Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center, New York.

Today I ran around doing chores all day. It was one of those days. After spending hours on the phone with HP, setting up my second return authorization on a computer in the past month, I did laundry. One of the 2nd floor washers broke down on me (never drained after the rinse cycle), so I had to do that load twice.

I was already a tad disgruntled about forking over $20.58 for a 12-dollar bag of kitty litter (made of recycled newspaper, no less). That’s the going price in midtown. It actually went up a dollar in the past year. Unbelievable. I remember paying $11.99 for the same cat litter in Washington state – and always thinking that was too much!

I stopped at the Christmas tree stand on the sidewalk outside of Rite Aid on my way back from buying groceries this evening. It was time to get my little tiny tree for my apartment. I asked the tree guy, "How much?" He said, "Forty dollars." I said, "FORTY? Last year they were $25." [Note: last year I thought $25 was too much for a 2-foot tall tree.] His heavily accented response was, "Oh my boss slap my wrist - tell me I not make enough money." Ha. Yeh, well at those prices you'll make even less this year. No tree for me.

So, after an ikky overpriced day, I deserved a treat. I put my blinking Santa hat on and headed toward Rockefeller Center. Holy cow – you would not believe the number of people cramming the sidewalks (and even the streets – we’re talking streets still open to cars, not pedestrians - believe it or not, the pedestrians were winning the turf battle). There must have been an extra million people in midtown. I said to one cop walking alongside me, “You must love this time of year.” Without so much as cracking a smile he retorted, “Bah humbug.”

After a quick trip to the office (the AXA building) to fix a monitor connection for a friend at work, I walked the long block from there to Rockefeller Plaza, dodging tourists the whole way. When I got to the plaza it was wall-to-wall people. But it was beautiful! Lots of lights everywhere! Some workers were still stringing lights on trees near the big Swarovski star. Nearly every person there was holding up a camera, taking pictures of companions in front of the big tree. Even Santa Claus was there. (Hmmmm. . . I wonder who filled in for him at Macy's??)

I was walking back home on 50th when I stopped to take a picture of a pretty store window. There was a couple standing beneath it (in fact, you can see their heads in the lower left corner of the photo here). I recognized a name on the man's cap, so I walked up and said “Catawba? That sure sounds familiar!” He smiled really big and said, in his familiar Carolina accent, “Catawba college, North Carolina. You from there?” I told them that I'd lived in Charlotte for 10 years. (Many moons ago.)

That’s when his sweet wife pointed to her rapidly swelling left foot and told me that one of those bicycle carriage things had run over it. She couldn’t walk. They were stranded there, in the middle of a very long block. They said there were at least five people on the carriage, so we estimated she'd had up to 1,000 pounds resting on her foot. The “driver” didn’t even realize he’d stopped the thing on her foot! She had to yell at him to back up.

So I stayed to help. Which direction to go to get a taxi? I figured that heading back to 6th Avenue – away from the largest throng of people – would be the shortest route. Her husband took her right arm, I took her left, and we held her up as she limped painfully the long block toward 6th Ave. I felt so badly for her. When we got to the corner it was like all the other street corners within 20 blocks – jam-packed with people standing and waiting for the crosswalk signal. People running into each other.

One really tall guy stopped to help us. He even offered to carry the patient! He went one way to try to hail a taxi – most of which weren’t available – and I went the other way. We got lucky. Within a minute a 2-person bicycle buggy came up to the intersection. I ran up to him: “There’s a lady with a sprained foot. How much to take her to her hotel five blocks up?” Fifteen dollars he told me. Sounded reasonable to me, in light of the alternative of limping the whole way. The couple made their way to us and crawled aboard the buggy. Meanwhile, the light had turned green and cars were honking at us. I jumped out of the middle of the road just in time - before someone ran over my foot.

That poor lady. Here they were enjoying a weekend vacation to see NYC at Christmastime, and this had to happen. If her foot is broken, she’s going to have a long night. I’ve only been in the Roosevelt Hospital ER once, and let me tell you, it’s a miserable all-day affair.

So I hope they made it back to their hotel OK. I can’t imagine her having to navigate the airport tomorrow to get back home to NC.

My tip for everyone out there - if you come to NYC to see the Christmas decorations, it's probably best to come the first week of December - on or after the tree lighting. The closer we get to the 25th, the more people cram themselves into midtown.

At home afterward, Martin did a funny thing. I was sitting in my TV chair with my laptop in my lap when he jumped up on the chair arm, walked onto the laptop, and plopped him self down on the keyboard. He proceeded to stretch out and take a nap!

Um. . . you think this is his way of getting my attention? This is one spoiled cat. I didn’t have the heart to remove him. . . until my leg fell asleep under his 17 pounds + 9-pound laptop. Poor spoiled baby is right.

Don't Mind Me... Posted by Picasa

Nighty-night! Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Christmas Tree Lighting

Tonight was the 73rd annual Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center - the day that officially kicks off the Christmas season in New York. I left my apartment on 50th at 8:30pm to walk over there, knowing I probably wouldn’t be able to get close to the tree. I was right.

50th Street was closed off all the way to 5th Avenue from Broadway (where I live). I walked as far as 6th Avenue. That’s where the crowd ended! The 70-foot Norway spruce tree on the plaza near 5th Avenue was out of view.

I stopped at a street vendor’s table on my way there and bought a five-dollar Santa hat with blinking red stars lighting up the white furry brim. It even plays a tune. It was perfect for this event, so I put it on and headed down the blocked-off street toward the crowd.

I found a nice family of five from Brooklyn and a man from the Bronx to hang out with. A couple minutes before nine o’clock we heard the countdown to the lighting and looked up at the big screen TV ahead of us in the next block – a good 500 feet away, at least. Just as the tree was being lit, a big city bus drove right in front of the crowd standing this side of 6th Avenue, blocking our view! The whole crowd expressed a big“Awwwwwwwwwwe!” in unison. What are the odds? We were all like, “Get that guy’s license plate!” But most of us laughed about it.

So I was there – just not all the way there. Even though I couldn’t see the tree from where I stood and missed the lighting on the screen, it still gave me a good, warm feeling. There’s something about all the lights and the friendly people and the season that just makes you happy inside. I stopped at another vendor’s table on the way back and got two more hats for Rudy and Ben, the doormen on duty tonight at the Gershwin. They were both tickled to get them.

Rudy saw me coming while I was headed toward the building, waving a blinking hat in each hand. When I passed through the revolving door at my building, he’d taken his doorman hat off and was bowing toward me, waiting for me to put the blinking Santa hat on his head. Ben was at his usual post behind the desk and smiled really big when I tossed his hat to him. On my way back out (to get milk) Rudy gave me a big kiss. (I adore him. And Ben too. Along with Bill, they're my favorite Gerswhin doormen.) And when I came back from Food Emporium they were both wearing their Santa hats! Hee-hee. It's Christmas in New York. Wheeeeeee!

I tried to put the hat on Martin but he wasn’t having ANY of that - see below. Merry Christmas from New York, everyone!

Fountain at Time & Life Building (50th and 6th) Posted by Picasa

Nice Man from Brooklyn Posted by Picasa

Get This Thing Off of Me! Posted by Picasa

Whew! Posted by Picasa

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Black Friday

The cool thing about being done with your Christmas shopping by Thanksgiving is that you can go out shopping the day after Thanksgiving – for yourself! Guilt-free! I had a blast Friday. I had never really been to Harlem before - other than by accident on the subway - so I stepped out into the brisk, sunny, 21-degree day on Friday and headed uptown on the subway.

Harlem has the closest Marshall’s - (which is the only place I can find my gourmet coffees at an affordable price, which is 50-75% less than they charge at the outrageous Food Emporium downstairs) - so I shopped there for a bit. Then I walked up 125th Street and took the 6 train back down to 59th and Lex. That’s where the fun began! Bloomingdale’s was having a great sale. I needed some kind of souvenir for myself as a keepsake of my New York days. I was surprised at how friendly all the store clerks were. I guess I just expected them to be snooty. Not so at Bloomingdales – it’s a great place to shop!

I spent a lot of time in the perfume depart-ment, smelling all the different designer scents while being helped by a beautiful young model-type named Claudia (who was at most a double-zero in size). I definitely didn’t need any more perfume but couldn’t pass up getting myself a bottle of Burberry Brit - a souvenir that will last me a long time. I finally used my 11% off coupon that they mailed me when I moved here a year ago. With my coupon I also got a free gift (a Bloomingdale’s tote bag) for purchasing more than $100. Free is great!

At the crest of each up-elevator there’d be a model standing there in a long fur coat or some other extravagant outfit, holding a sign advertising some new product. I honestly mistook the first such woman as a mannequin – seriously! A second look proved me wrong when I turned around and saw her smiling at some guy.

I got myself some sterling silver Mallorca pearl earrings and pendant at fifty percent off (yes!), then ventured out into the beautiful day with all the other shoppers. I headed to 60th and Madison for the Barney sale. Barney’s New York had a funny window display of Prince Charles in a claw-footed tub inscribed with the following:

"Do you seriously expect me to be the first
Prince of Wales in history not to have a mistress?"

It was cute. Barney’s is just too expensive, even during a sale, so I strolled toward Central Park, fantasizing about being a mult-millionaire and living in one of those high-rise balcony apartments overlooking the Park. As I started down Fifth Avenue I saw a group of break dancers performing across from the Plaza – which is sadly being converted from hotel into multi-million dollar condominiums. If I ever win the mega-millions lottery, you can bet I'll have a penthouse apartment in Manhattan!

A block past the Plaza, I could see ahead that Fifth Avenue was wall-to-wall people – on both sides of the street. So I didn’t stay long – just long enough to observe the extravagant window displays at Bergdorf Goodman before turning right on 57th Street.

I’ve never seen anything like these holiday displays. These were the best, most detailed, most original holiday window displays I’d ever seen. They were truly art. Each was like its own little 3D world with its own theme. My favorite was adorned with flappers in a 1920’s theme. I couldn’t take many pictures because the reflection in the windows was too glaring on the Fifth Avenue side of Bergdorf's.

All I can say is, if you ever make it to New York during the Christmas season, be sure to check out the windows at Bergdorf’s. Walk down Fifth Avenue and see the huge multi-pointed star hanging high above the intersection at 57th Street by Tiffany’s. It’s definitely worth the trip!

I love New York during the holidays.

Love, love, love!

Lovin' New York!! Posted by Picasa

Train Station in Harlem Posted by Picasa

Barney's New York Window Posted by Picasa

Christmas Trees at Plaza Hotel Fountain Posted by Picasa

Tiffany's on Black Friday (5th Ave and 57th) Posted by Picasa