Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Fairytale of New York (or, so THIS is Christmas!)

Christmas in New York started with ice skating, and ended with cake.

The Rockefeller Tree, outlandish decorations, snow, people in puffy North Face jackets and ugg boots (okay, EVERY New Yorker has North Face jackets and ugg boots - what's up with that?), Christmas with the Rockettes, sales, throngs of people everywhere, magical window displays, and a Christmas miracle or two (preferably a lottery win). This was one of the defining moments of my trip - insofar as that I had planned most of my trip around being here over Christmas and New Years, which basically restricted my travel to a similar extent as my lack of paid US employment had.

There are many types of Christmas trees in New York. This is Rockefeller's:

This is mine:

The day started off with ice skating at Bryant Park, something I've wanted to do since they opened a couple of months ago. It's free to skate there (though you have to hire skates if you don't have your own), and so I had arranged to meet up with my friends Tai and Nicky (kiwis), and their two year old daughter Evie for a couple of laps before we gorge ourselves on ridiculous amounts of food. I got there a couple of hours early (or they were a couple of hours late - depends on your perspective, I suppose), and donned my $12 pair of ice skates (solid blue plastic), gambled with leaving my shoes etc in an unlocked locker, and entered the rink.

I was awesome.

Well, I didn't fall over. Ice skating is just like roller blading. But since no straight guy has roller bladed since 1997, I was concerned that my first foray onto the ice would result in an ungainly double twist/splits combo. Fortunately New York was spared the wonder of my gymnastic dexterity, and so I managed to skate a couple of laps around the ice, along with the 250 others who had decided that opening Christmas with skating, and not gifts, was the way to spend the holiday. And yeah, I'd have to agree with them. At first I was a little unsteady on my feet - the ice was a tad bumpy and hadn't been cleaned for several hours (they use a zamboni to 'clean' it... a giant ice tractor which I would certainly not wish to be trampled by), but I soon found my ice-legs and was away.

My friends arrived a while later and we enjoyed a few laps, but by then it was difficult to do anything more complicated than follow a group in a slow rotation around the rink, much like primary school swimming pools when you used to try and make a whirlpool. I always did that, and then would just let the water drift me towards the middle - that was rather cool. Difficult to do that with ice though, so after a couple of laps we retired back to my friends' house for presents and lunch.

There was still some snow around the place from the weekend before, but it was by now rather grey and dirty and gross. So not a White Christmas, but a cold and 'might-as-well-be-a-White Christmas-anyway' Christmas, so that was nice.

We took a cab back to the apartment, where we started getting things ready for the lunch. My friends were having other kiwi friends over for lunch, so it would be a little taste of home during the holidays. I helped by setting up a toy train set, complete with death traps and dead-ends. Some of my best work, I think.

The friends arrived, and so began the feast. Eight hours worth. It was wonderful - much fun, much food, and much wine.

And so ended my Christmas.

On the way home, I saw Isabella Rossellini.

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