Lovin’ the Village…looking’ back at Xmas in the City, pt deux…

December 29, 2010 § 10 Comments

It was warm that Saturday morning.  The subway had its own dank weather but the atmosphere was lightened by several Santas and a Snow Queen riding in the same car. Odd. No one stared, of course. It was after all, the City. Likely they were going to work somewhere, these costumers, or maybe a dept store or a children’s party.
I got off at Prince St. The streets were busy yet these were city dwellers. Families. Dogs getting a walk. Dads and kids buying Xmas trees and taking them home, in mesh, Dad carrying the trunk end, kids at the top. Everyone wore hats and coats, but the coats were open, unzipped. It was above freezing.

I was on a mission to find a store.
And then, there it was. Chrome.
Snarl knew of it from its online presence and talk amongst his cyclist friends. What is it about finding a place in the midst of a city, a small boutique niche place. It was an adventure, a treasure hunt. 

The staff was friendly, showed me how they make messenger bags, invited me to shoot film and pictures (all of which became a gift for Snarl on a CD). I shopped. They tried stuff on so I knew better what size to buy for Snarl. I relearned that shopping can be more than a commercial exchange.  I also gleaned what I could about bike messengers, a very particular group – you’ve seen them, zipping among the cars and trying to get a picture of them is like trying to shoot lightning. It was like being in a real life museum-reality rather than a push-and-shove shopping venture.

I traversed Mulberry and then back to Bleecker. Who can resist Bleecker St whose bohemia has moved over for whatever yuppies are called now? It’s an amazing area, has a real heartbeat.

I remember how it was in the ’60s when I was on a HS field trip and was amazed by the things I saw in the shop windows not the least of which was an expletive spelled out in Tolkien runes. Fascinated I stared and stared at it ’til I made out what it really said and was shocked (‘F you’ was NOT a part of my Yankee upbringing). But I recall that I wasn’t  embarrassed; only a little less wide-eyed suddenly, realizing the city had a brash freeness with which I was totally unfamiliar. Later, when I would live there, it never lost its constant surprise. It still doesn’t.

The NoHo  (North Houston)Market was a treat, another surprise! (note on the sign in the picture above where it says “Killer Trees!” The two guys working a tree booth had it outfitted with lights so you could see how your tree would look and were playing Xmas music.) Shopping was easy here in the narrow outdoor aisles and I realized the fun was in having no schedule, no deadline, no plan. thus I walked out of there with some jewelry and a gorgeous scarf, gifts to take home for others. Mentally marked off a few things on the “list.”

Then walking past NYU en route to Washington Square Park, two Santas were talking with a policeman. Not that it’s not allowed. It’s just not something you see every day. I knew then something was up. And approaching the Square, encountered dozens of Santas. The Park was sunny, crowded with onlookers for the show: Acrobats who included people from the crowd! (no, not me!)  We were enthralled for 20 minutes, watching. Meanwhile, groups of drunken Santas, some wearing “naughty” signs on their red coats, danced and celebrated at the edge of the park.

I became less compelled to take pictures. There’s something about the Village. So much to see, so much to remember and so much more to happen there. Cafe Wha? is still there and marking the 50th anniversary of Bob Dylan’s performance there. 50? egads. The cafe is hosting a new year’s eve party – imagine.

Coming back to the Square to “leave” the area, the crowd coming towards me was somehow wackier than ever. A man in front of me was floored by the sight of another dressed in kilt, S&M and a Mohawk. He had to say something and so remarked to a policeman saying, “Did you see that?” The policeman smiled and shook his head and said, “Yes. But that’s nothing,” to which our startled onlooker replied, “Only in America!” and we all kept walking. Little scenarios  in seconds.

And so, in a cheesey moment, I snapped a picture of One Fifth Avenue. Joni Mitchell reportedly lived here. And Candace Bushnell wrote her novel set here. I’ve no idea who the present inhabitants might be but the location is perfectly perfect.

It was on the subway returning much later to the hotel that I got the scoop on the Santa thing. It was Santacon and it was under happy discussion among the crowd in the subway car headed downtown.

HM had some stories about it later when we met for dinner in Times Square. Times Square – who would eat there? Well, our Manhattanite friend recommended Blue Fin and OMG, she was NOT wrong. Somehow, the manager arranged tables for the 8 of us who sat and supped and again did a marathon dinner. It was magic, it was seafood (and we don’t get “real” seafood in the Midwest) so this was a business dinner party that was extraordinary! (all pictures were taken on my phone and I have none to share here.)
But Times Square is yet another place that cannot be missed; not at all the Times Square of my childhood. If you want “bright lights and big city,” TS is a must. Really, where else (in USA) would you sit outdoors at a cafe table in two blocked-off city blocks) to be surrounded by the building-size ads and theatre billboards in the winter and totally enjoy yourself while hawkers hawked and singers sang and tourists toured and Santas jollied and the city spun its magic?

Finding a taxi downtown from here is not at all a difficulty.

Later, over coffee, we talked about living again in NYC. 
It was good to come home to STL. ‘Nuf said.

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§ 10 Responses to Lovin’ the Village…looking’ back at Xmas in the City, pt deux…

  • Ahh, so fun to read this. That sounds like such a cool store. So nice that they were so helpful!! Love having retail encounters like that.

    Reading this makes me want to return to NYC even more!!

  • jeanie says:

    Oh, my friend, you are so where I would love to be! It’s been a long while since NYC and never at the holidays. I’ve heard it was magic. The Santas — the best!

  • Bella Rum says:

    You’ve certainly captured the flavor of NYC. My son worked and lived there for about 8 or 9 years. They’re moving to the Midwest – an entirely new landscape. I gave my daughter-in-law a mug with the skyline of NYC in her stocking. They miss it.

    Love the photos. Great!
    Bella

  • Care says:

    You are a beautiful writer.

    🙂

  • love the photos and your prose! i’m a hop away by train and the shots you took reminded me of a recent visit with my cousin to the neighborhood. we wandered around, ate at peanut butter & co, and shopped at abracadabra. fun. wishing you a happy and healthy 2011.

  • anno says:

    love the pictures, the timely reminder that shopping can be more than the sum of various commercial exchanges…. makes me wistful, wishful, wanting to be there. Wishing you a wonderful 2011!

  • typehype says:

    It’s fun seeing “The City” through your eyes. Your excitement is infectious! I recognize all the places you photographed (also fun for me!). And such great timing to have flown back to STL — it had to be, what, a day or two? — before the mega-snowstorm and ensuing travel nightmare! Brava 🙂

  • ds says:

    Yes, I agree that shopping is not always about commercial exchange. Super piece and pics–you saw in a couple of days things that I haven’t seen in 25 years! Thank you (and I’m glad you were back safe before the blizzard).

  • litlove says:

    What lovely stories from a fun shopping trip. Makes me want to work in a store again – I liked helping customers!

  • Heather says:

    Thanks for sharing all your NYC photos…now scrapbook away!!!!

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