The VERY Big Day

by afatpurplefig

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On Monday, we made an early start for the consulate, so we could be the first ones there at opening. Eva and I weren’t pushy enough to get on the subway (you literally need to push your body back on people in order to fit), so we soon gave up and walked. It later turned out that someone had unsuccessfully tried to set a bomb off in there a couple of hours earlier, so I’m not sure the crowds were typical.

Paperwork submitted, Eva found herself with a difficult choice to make. We were 40 minutes from the start of the Rockettes Christmas Spectacular, leaving her to either navigate her way home alone…or join me! I couldn’t have planned it better myself.

I’m not sure what I was thinking with the Rockettes tickets. I suppose I just thought it was one of those things you are supposed to do when in New York (incidentally, I think the ‘should do’s can be a right pain – don’t imagine for a second that they are more important than the ‘would like to do’s).

There were families everywhere (much to our mortification), but I ended up quite enjoying the responses of the children. We were sitting next to a sweet little boy of about five, whose mother, poised to get a photograph of his profile when the curtains raised, was rewarded as his face lit up with delight. He later said, “can we do this every Monday?”.

Some things about the Rockettes are brilliant. Their synchronicity is so good, I may have repeated the phrase “this REALLY is incredible!”, in an incredulous tone at various intervals throughout.

It really is incredible.

They lift their legs to exactly the same height, at exactly the same time, and move in these marching band formations that are so well-timed and practiced, as to be truly remarkable. And the choreography and lighting show were equally impressive…if you’re in the market for ballerina bears, ice skaters, and precocious child performers speaking in over-enunciated, too-many-musical-theatre-classes voices.

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What I found unsettling was the sheer lack of diversity. I understand that, in order to achieve the all-moving-as-one effect, it’s important for there to be a conformity of appearance, but that didn’t stop me seeking out the only one whose skin was just that bit darker. The ability to identify her was almost comforting.

Also unsettling was the amount of time they devoted to performing the tale of the birth of the baby Jesus, in what was essentially an up-market nativity play, with the tea-towel headwear and stick-on ears replaced by gold braiding and a real, live donkey (and camel).

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The conclusion? I just don’t think this is the time to be performing an homage (and not a hoe-midge, which is apparently what the three white wise men were paying to the baby Jesus) to whiteness, sameness, consumerism and the most twee sentiments of Christianity. When my children were young, I probably would have taken them to see it. If they were young now, not a chance. Although I don’t regret seeing it with Eva for a second…her reactions were easily worth the price of admission.

A philly cheesesteak for lunch later (from my favourite Egyptian food card operator – what’s not to love about feeling like a local?), I contemplated an afternoon at home, before realising there was far too much to be done, and heading straight for Central Park.

Central Park is divine. I was instantly enamoured with its snow-covered trees and winding pathways and darting squirrels, but there was no time for distraction. I was on a genuine mission.

Over 200 years ago, back when New York was still basically farmland, an enterprising fellow (visionary?) by the name of John Randel Jr. mapped out a grid to reflect his vision for New York city. Often trespassing on private land, and raising the ire of residents, he drove stakes into the ground to mark where each of the streets and avenues would intersect. And at least one of those stakes remains, where 65th Street would have met 6th Avenue, had it not ended up parkland.

There are plenty of entries on the internet about said stake, but it is virtually impossible to find out exactly where the damn thing is. Everyone is so cagey, it’s as though they have formed some sort of secret society, and the only way in is to find the bloody stake. Look at the exchange between Kevin and the poor bugger who is prepared to be blindfolded in the comments section here. Is he serious???

Anyway, I was determined to find it. That way, I too could make comments like, “sorry, I feel I have a responsibility to protect the stake”, and “if I told you, I’d have to kill you.” Someone had posted this image on the internet, which was my first clue. I figured if I found that building, then the stake wouldn’t be too far behind it.

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I was getting close. This is the building, without a doubt.

Victory! This gave me a ridiculous amount of pleasure. And inspired me to take a very rare selfie, to prove I was there (selfies are hard to coordinate – this one took me several tries).

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Mission accomplished, I was free to see some of the attractions on my $2 map…Bethesda Fountain and the Boathouse, ponds, and the Alice in Wonderland fountain (a veritable photo-posing magnet).

Before too long, I found myself at the Met, which is impressively imposing.

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I’ll start tripping over my words if I try to describe the Met, so I think I’ll go with some observations:

Rodin’s sculptures are utterly breathtaking. I was so taken with my favourite, I forgot to take a photo, which is kind of great.

I liked their efforts to embrace the changing face of artistic communication. Pussy Power was screaming out for a photograph, but my favourite was the dog in the back seat.

Monet, Picasso, Van Gogh and Klimt walked into a bar…

De Meyer’s photographs were incredible, particularly Josephine Baker and the masked woman.

I stood for longer in front of these two paintings, than most. The haunted eyes. The light.

I first saw this woodcut of a grieving couple as part of the Red Square exhibition in Sydney, many years ago. It broke my heart then and it broke my heart now – how is it possible to communicate such sorrow in a woodcut?

This image reminded me of my dad, and one of our favourite poems, High Flight.

When I exited, the light was almost gone. Sunset is literally at 4.30pm here, and the darkness always comes as a bit of a shock. I crammed myself onto a bus (literal sardines, Sydney drivers wouldn’t let half this many on) and headed downtown. I was hoping for a bus down Fifth Avenue, as suggested by Dan, but heading to Russ & Daughters, via Mood, necessitated crossing the park instead. I doubt I would have been able to see anything anyway.

I made it to Mood (with my purse, for the record)…and saw these sights along the way: Macy’s Christmas windows, Gotham Hall, the Empire State Building.

After seeing these guys on the subway (New York subways have some SENSATIONAL buskers), I finally made it to Russ and Daughters.

 

This is a beautiful little café. Although ‘café’ is probably an understatement. It serves sandwiches on boards, to be sure, but only after being shown to your seat, and served with hipster barman cocktails. It’s cool and clean and muted and, despite the attempts to give it homestyle delicatessen touches, it feels like everyone in here has the capacity to order the caviar, if you know what I mean.

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I lost myself a bit, in awkwardness:

I had walked miles in evidently inadequate clothing, my nose was running from the cold, and I had a giant Mood bag. They sat me at the bar, but my legs were so sore, I decided I needed to be able to put my feet flat, and asked to be moved to a table. The menu was something of a mystery. I knew not to get my bagel toasted (about half his customers order their bagels toasted (“not locals”)), but there was still a lot that required explanation.

What I should have done, was say, “Hi, I’m a visitor to New York, and understand this is a must-visit cafe. Can you recommend something for me to try?” Instead, I ordered knishes, using a silent ‘k’ (it isn’t silent), and ‘The Classic”, then used up far too much energy looking natural. I hate it when I forget I’m a grown-up who can do and order whatever I please.

And I lost myself a bit, in food:

It turns out bagels aren’t just sad, stale, kind-of bread rolls. When done right, they are sen-f*cking-sational.

*Cue heavy breathing*