Updated: Dec 23, 2021
By Bob Deakin
It used to be so Christmassy.
But used-to-bes don’t count anymore
They just lay on the floor ‘til we sweep them away
Neil Diamond knew what he was talking about. He’s from New York, so maybe he knows what I’m talking about.
Christmas in New York City used to be special. I used to work there and would make my way from Grand Central to 10th Ave. every morning and every night. It was magical. Sort of. When you’re there every day, you see things most people don’t: celebrities, film shoots, live music in the streets, professional weirdos, etc.
And of course, I was younger, and memories have a way of glossing beautifully the older you get. I wasn’t that sentimental, though. In fact, I was usually in a hurry to get across town. I would put on the headphones, play my Christmas mix this time of the year and make the brisk walk to the studios.
Rockefeller Center was a little to the north, but I’d find a way to walk past it most days. The tree seemed bigger than it is now, and I don’t believe it’s a 70-foot spruce. It might be a spruce, but it’s more like 55-feet. Is that a problem?
You used to walk right up to it and peer over the fence to look at the skaters. Now it’s barricades. Thousands of people surround you, and no one can get where they want. I get it. Everything’s commercialized. You can’t even walk in the streets near it.
There were so many people trying to get to this area I couldn’t relax and take in the sights. And this was 10 am on a Thursday, the first week of December.
Enough of the Rock and The Tree. Let’s take a walk to Radio City Music Hall the next block over.
Big mistake. There must have been 1,000 cold people waiting in line to get in. And they had tickets. I almost bought two before I came, but at $125 per, I figured I’d play it by ear and try again when I got in town. Oh well.
Off to Columbus Circle, Central Park, Time Square, Greenwich Village, SOHO (we’re still trying to figure out what SOHO is), Macy’s, Flat Iron, Wall Street, east side, west side. Thank goodness for Chinatown and Little Italy. Susie and I had some great cappuccinos, soups, lunch and felt like we were somewhere with a trace of a soul.
Let’s take a boat ride around Manhattan. Wasn’t my idea, but I was game. We arrive at Pier 36 on the east side, and what a charming chunk of concrete, a popular porta-potty, and 500 people waiting in line for seemingly nothing. No boats in sight.
Eventually a couple mini ferries arrive. After a forever wait, we board and I notice the boat capacity is 160, and the tiny crew is VERY high. No life jackets, an out-of-order bathroom, aluminum chairs on the top deck, but they've got an open bar on the middle, which seems popular with the 100 people who overloaded the room.
I would estimate we were customers 100 and 101, and we have no choice but to board the top, outdoor deck.
They keep boarding more, and more, and more. I made the wrong decision to sit on the side of the boat where we could see people boarding, and it never stopped. I estimate they boarded more than 400 people. I was starting to panic. I looked at Susie, who was in the same state.
We left the boat. The only ones. I thought we'd be the only ones not on the evening news that night from the sunken scenic cruise boat in the East River.
Not the case. Thank god. My prayers were answered.
I feel guilty for bailing, but was concerned for Susie's life. We tried to do a good thing and ended up disappointed. It happened a few times this weekend, and it was my doing, but we had fun.
Will we find Asian food that good again soon?
We did our best to ring in the Holidays with a New York groove.
Thank you Brooklyn Bridge for saving the weekend. We ventured out to walk the whole thing on Sunday morning, and what a pleasant surprise. Sunny and in the mid-40s, it was peaceful while crowded. I got the feeling most of us were tourists, but relaxed, friendly and focused on taking photos.
We took our share too, and it made our weekend. Even though there was nothing Christmassy about it.
I don’t have a warm, fuzzy Miracle on 34th Street tale to tell, but we’ll be home for the Holidays. And no place we’d rather be.