Thursday, December 8, 2016


I must admit I get a little obsessed with the holiday season when I'm in the city. It's my plight, my delight and my obsession to walk the miles and miles of the city soaking in every blinking light, sauced up Santa and peppermint candycane from as low as I can go on the island to has high up the avenues I could find strings of lights, wreaths and decorated trees.
My sleigh and I started at the Oculus, as far down the island as I was willing to go. 608This was the Oculus' first Christmas and like parents on their baby's first they decked the halls, here with a fantastic light show that rippled across the ceiling's webs in a sea of psychedelic snowflakes.
Then as a gift to all needing a little holiday beauty help MAC set up a free make-up station giving all of us the opportunity to look their best for those office parties.
Even the staff at the Westfield Shops looked Christmas spiffy in their holiday best cleaning up the floors with appropriate red mops
At the new Brookfield Place a tremendous new food emporium has opened up with gifts, food purveyors and a ton of restaurants just in time for the on slot of hungry holiday shoppers.
Even the office buildings pitched in with their contributions to the holiday spirit in what was here an understated but elegant way.
It seems every landmark in the city now has its own significant live fir tree wrapped with millions of lights. The New York Stock Exchange was no different perched at the south end of the Exchange the tree looms large and gives Rockefeller Center a run for its money
Although surrounded with construction the back entrance to the Stock Exchange was no less beautiful than the front. Sometimes a little dinginess adds a sense of reality and counterpoint to perfection
From lower Manhattan it was a leap up to lower Fifth Avenue and the entrance to my favorite department store, the Club Monaco at the corner of 21st Street. Their holiday take was very organic, a fairyland entrance to almost anything I'd covet.
From there it's up Fifth to 40th and Lord & Taylor. I miss their animated windows with their historic renditions of Christmas pasts at the city's most memorable landmarks like Luchow's and the Rainbow Room but technology has intervened and their new look is now more video screen and two-dimensional.
Still the family of snow owls had its appeal, the mother owl's comforting wings wrapping her warm feathers around her clutch of young.
It was a bit of a crisscross over to 42nd and Grand Central Terminal. This is a must every year for the holiday market, the food court, the Transit Museum's miniature city with its model trains and of course the central lobby.
From there it was back across 42nd to the skating rink at Bryant Park. I hit it the night they lit their tree along with a skating performance I couldn't see for all the crowds, but the smells of cinnamon and live Christmas music satisfied two other senses. I might have given up one but got two and that's not a bad trade.
The windows at Saks Fifth Avenue had their own magic this year.
Under the theme of "Land of 1000 Delights" their heroine, Clara, dreamt of her favorite nutcracker battling an army of marshmallow mice and whipping them into a sea of sweet cream
or a pair of harlequin gingerbreads dancing out from under the queen's skirt to the delight of a sea of children passing by
But the highlight is the light show that goes on every ten minutes from five until eleven pm to the track for "Carol of the Bells" by the Trans-Siberian Orchestra. Thousands gather across the street waiting for the clock of lights to run its ten-minute cycle and start the castle of lights action over again.
If this doesn't get you in the mood then turn around and walk to the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center. Hovering over the skating rink the tradition of the Rockefeller tree has been around since 1933. Along with the miles of lights on the tree there's the skating rink and Prometheus to add to the excitement.
A little further up Fifth Avenue and just to the east you can pop into the St. Regis for a drink at the King Cole Bar alongside Maxfield Parrish's famous mural.
Or you can cross to the other side of Fifth and stop by the Peninsula to try out their holiday treats.
There's no way Harry Winston would even let me in the door of their famous jewelry store but peeking in through the window was a luxury I could afford
At the corner of Fifth and 57th Street is another icon of New York's gem and luxury industry, Tiffany & Company. The crystal snowflake festooned over the intersection has been a recent annual decoration.
Around the corner on 57th is another prominent name in the hotel business, The Four Seasons, whose holiday display is as subtle and elegant as you'd expect
I don't usual play favorites but Bergdorf gets my vote as best of show. They always tend to incorporate their merchandise within their holiday windows and this year was no exception but the detail that each window goes into is sheer magic.
Their windows require great scrutiny or you'll miss so much of the information behind each green leaf or spidery vine
Looking at a pair of winged carousel horses bucking up to support a bejeweled goddess was a work of mythology
And a contemporary cowgirl riding atop her jack-a-lop into a cactus filled western oasis. All of it was really the work of a genius mind whoever the designer was.
From there it was up the eastside to Bloomingdale's whose windows gave Berfdorfs a run for their money.
Inside Bloomingdale's has gone neon for the holidays with a display of white light rings in colorful plastic string bondage.
The Met was as far up as I was going to go. Stopping to see their tree and crèche was important even for those who don't believe.
The crèche a gift of Loretta Hines Howard in1964 is an assemblage of over two-hundred eighteenth century Neopolitan Baroque figures including the holy family and fifty silk gowned angels.
Whether you're looking for the spiritual or just a ho-ho-ho New York is holiday magic and a bucket list item for anyone needing a little cheer in their life. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

South Philly Xmas Window, 1972
Will Brown, photographer
Represented by Laurence Miller Gallery, NYC

Saturday, December 3, 2016


It's time for the annual New York City blog of Holiday lights. I'm breaking it up this year into two entries. Macy's is getting it's own entry this year because I kind of got carried away and did a full inside and outside during the day and at night run through. I wound up with too many images. I couldn't edit it down to a few so here goes.
It's been nine years straight of carrying out the "Believe" theme throughout the store during the holidays and this year they've carried the theme into the windows that line Broadway across from Herald Square.
The windows, as usual, are a must to see but even the visitors that come to view the windows can be as entertaining as the windows themselves
There are six windows adorning the front of the building. Santa was the first of the six windows that lined the outside of Macy's and who wouldn't want him to come first.
Santa spins around as he goes over his list of "Naughty and Nice" while his elves stack gifts and log in letters to Santa in a technological way representative of our current  computerized era.
Celebrate was the second window in this sextet of windows.
Here Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade balloons float over a pinball machine that kids could actually operate from a joystick and buttons outside the window.
Together was the last of the three windows to the left of Macy's main entrance.
It was a rabbit's warren of silhouetted animated people coming together in a diverse set of situations. It was probably the most significant concept given the mood of the day
Giving was the first of the three remaining windows heading uptown toward 35th Street. A huge gilded reindeer's head supported an army of gift-givers spinning around their hands laden with presents.
Love was next in line featuring Santa and Mrs. Claus.
It was a love letter from the Jolly man himself to his wife reminding each of us how important it is to let those in our lives know each moment of each day how much we love them
Magic was the last of the six windows on the Broadway side of Macy's Herald Square.
It carried a "Harry Potter" theme where patronuses appeared from the forest beyond the pond and fluttered or pranced in and then disappeared.
Once inside and on the main floor I was swallowed up and did a disappearing act of my own in a sea of shoppers. Macy's is an ode to commercialism, a kind of commercialism I can get behind. You'd need to be a real Scrooge to not have a smile creep across your face when you walk down the aisles of Macy's main floor.
The floor is awash with fragrances of the holidays and the ceiling is dripping with balsam and fir, twinkling light and open revolving snow globes filled with holiday scenes and an around-the-world trotting Santa and his reindeer.
Of course shopping is Macy's business but they strip you of your money in such a cheerful way it doesn't seem to hurt so much.
Placed all throughout the store are these Believe mailboxes. Macy's has paired up with the Make-a-Wish Foundation. You're encouraged to write a note to Santa and drop it in the box. For every wish dropped in Macy's donates a dollar to the Foundation up to a million dollars. My guess is they probably hit the million-dollar mark on the first day they brought out the boxes
After the main floor I went to the back of the store and took the old escalator up to the eighth floor. Every time I get on that escalator, even in the summer, I can't help but being transported back to the original 1947 version of  "Miracle on 34th Street". I think this escalator is so iconic even though it rumbles a bit and is pretty narrow I can't imagine them replacing it with something newer.
The eighth floor is were you'll find Santa's Village and the man himself. Unfortunately it takes a bit of perseverance and patience to get a chance to see the old man and put in your holiday gift request. Elves stand outside to guide you to your destination. They've been well schooled on perky politeness. I did feel a little like Will Ferrell, the overgrown man-child in "Elf". I was a little taller than children in the line and older than most of their parents. But it's Christmas and when else are you supposed to be able to become a kid again.
To keep you amused will you waited for your big moment there were all sorts of visual experiences from the talking tree to
a mid-century city with toy trains circling and tooting their whistles
to a choir of singing snowman caroling out the songs of the season
The end of the journey, a wait that can literally take hours, is the North Pole Village, a collection of tiny houses each with a Santa. Don't tell the kids. Here's where my sensibilities kicked in and I turned down the offer to go in and sit on Santa's lap to the astonishment of the elf manning the gate.
But here's to Santa and Macy's. We took Emmy there every year until she no longer believed in the old man. I missed having her there with me this year. She probably doesn't regret knowing I would probably still have forced her to go in, sit on his lap and make a wish as another elf manning a camera would take her picture, another memento for another photo album
Miracle on 34th Street, 1947
20th Century-Fox