Dear Blog Readers:
I apologize. I have been busy editing and have not written a blog, and for that I apologize. However, because I sometimes write crap just to amuse myself, I have a bunch of old things that I can recycle here, things you probably have not yet read -- and if you have, maybe you would like to read it again.
This was written in December of 2005. I hope you enjoy it. I looked for something about St Patrick's Day or Lent or Easter, but I guess I never wrote about those...so another Christmas-themed blog it is. Christmas in March.
Shopping in New York City is a challenge on the best of days. Shopping in New York City in December is downright insane. But that's just what I found myself doing today. Why, I wonder, when I have a car and I live in Brooklyn and I can easily drive to any number mall-ettes, do I feel the need to travel, by subway of all God forsaken things, into the city? Oh, and I call them "mall-ettes" because where I come from, there are strip malls and real malls. Here in the outer boroughs of New York City, you have the "mall-ette." Not big enough to be a mall, but way bigger than a strip mall. But I digress…I'll wax poetic on the joys and pitfalls of the uniquely American shopping phenomenon at another time, in an essay entitled "I Hate Malls."
So there I was. I had been to The Container Store over the weekend. Sunday to be exact. I needed containers. They have many. But they also had tables full of cool stocking stuffers. A wind-up flashlight for all the blackouts that happen every 20 - 30 years. A "survival" kit containing gum, candy and snacks all neatly packed in a sardine can. Light up pens. A Willy Whiskers key chain. Remember Willy Whiskers? A face with bits of metal that you drag with a magnet to make whiskers. Yeah. They had that. Cool. I was going to buy it all. Willy Whiskers beats the hell out of another Chap Stick, right?
I wanted these fun items. Monday and Tuesday were nasty and rainy and cold, so I stayed home. Sure, I wanted cool stuff, but was it worth getting sick over? But Wednesday dawned clear and warm. So, on a Wednesday in December, on a matinee day when the city is filled to capacity, I took the train from Brooklyn to Manhattan. I arrived at The Container Store, debit card at the ready for some serious stuffer purchasing. And did they have these stocking stuffers, two-and-a-half days later? No, they did not. "Oh, we sold out of the good stuff really fast!" exclaimed the perky Container Store Elf. Bah humbug to her, I say.
I left The Container Store. I didn't need containers. I needed candy in a small fish tin. I met up with my friend Gary and we walked over to the Farmer's Market and Kristmas Kiosks at Union Square. They were selling everything there. Remote controlled hover crafts, patchouli scented "sex candles," and a whole booth of things made of leaves from both Central Park and Union Square. I asked the guy selling the "Green Man made from Central Park Leaves" why it was necessary to make green men out of leaves from a particular place. He didn't have an answer. I asked him if he had any dog crap that looked like Jesus or Joe DiMaggio or something. He didn't so we moved along.
Lots of people had other Jesus stuff. One booth even had a Saint Simon pin cushion. Many booths had Jesus the Action Figure (pocketful of miracles sold separately!) but what I really wanted was Jesus and the Apostles finger puppets. Sure, there are more Apostles than you have fingers, but you can always improvise for the Last Supper scene: JESUS: Take this bread, all nine of you because James, Bartholomew and Phillip are still at The Olive Garden having all you can eat soup and salad, take this bread and eat it, for this is my body…"
After Jesus browsing we headed to Times Square because I wanted to go to the music stores to get a snare drum, hi-hat cymbals, and stands for my niece for Christmas. Okay, two huge red flags right there - first, actually going to Times Square, and second, purchasing heavy drums and stuff that then have to be carried through the crowds and down into the subway. Alas. But up to 42nd Street we went anyway. We came out of the subway at 40th and Broadway. It was fine for two blocks and then we hit the tourist wall. The tourist wall is the human barrier that is formed in places like Times Square, Rockefeller Center, Big Top All-Girl Review…places like that. The tourist wall cannot be penetrated, surmounted, skirted or summit-ed. The wall moves, but it moves v-e-r-y-s-l-o-w-l-y. I think the city of New York should remember lessons learned during the Republican Convention of 2004. When the Republicans were in town, the city made what I called "The Republican Corridors." Either the center lane or the extreme side lanes of every avenue from 3rd through 9th, and of major cross streets from 14th to 57th, was blocked off with cones. New Yorkers sat in traffic as Republicans whizzed by us in their specially marked Republican Corridors. Well, I think the city should make "New Yorker Alleys" on the sidewalks near tourist attractions. The majority of the sidewalk can be used for strolling and looking at the buildings and the bright lights and the fake Prada salesmen. But there would be one lane, marked off with cones, that was just for New Yorkers. We would walk very fast there. No one would be allowed to stop. If they did, they would either be trampled or knocked down and rolled out of the way. Exits and entrances would be at corners and subways. And God help the tourist who wandered in to the New Yorker Alley by mistake. No mercy would be shown. But of course, we are all tourists at one time or another, as I was reminded when a young man, exasperated when he couldn't get by a group of digital camera-wielding women, exclaimed "tourists!" in that oh-so-disdainful New York way. One of the women turned to him and said "Hey! Stay away from my beach this summer!" We are all tourists.
After visiting the music stores and buying 98 pounds of stuff, we headed to Port Authority so Gary could catch his bus back to New Hope. He runs a B & B there. I hate B & B's. But again, that will be for another time, in an essay entitled "I Hate B & B's." Anyway, Port Authority is one of those places where even New Yorkers feel alien. Nothing but florescent lighting and the air is filled with the smell of diesel fumes. And it shakes like there is an earthquake all day long. You can always spot a transplanted Californian at Port Authority. When the building shakes they do that turtle thing where they immediately try to pull their heads in to their shells, only we people don't have shells. Visible ones, anyway. Then they run for the door. New Yorkers, thinking the bus/train/taxi/pedi-cab is leaving, begin running too. New Yorkers will run for any reason, or no reason, as long as someone ahead of them is running. It's fun to watch. But the best fun in Port Authority is Leisure Time Bowling and Cocktails. You can have a martini and then put on someone else's smelly, multi-colored shoes and hurl an orb at objects carefully arranged at the end of a runway. Just like fashion week!
So all that to say…I will never shop in the City in December again!
Copyright (c) 2005 Leslie R Becker