Thursday, December 01, 2005

The New York Experience Checklist

There are certain events that are part of the New York experience. The common threads among them are crowds, lines, lots of standing and waiting and a building energy that culminates into a sort of anticlimactic climax. But in the end, you can check it off your list and boast to all of your friends that you have been there and done that.

Watching the lighting of the tree in Rockefeller is on that list along with walking across the Brooklyn Bridge and getting pizza at Grimaldi's and watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. Two years ago, some friends and I attempted to see the lighting of the tree, but it was like 10 degrees outside and we had to stand there for about 4 hours before anything actually happened. We couldn't see the stage or Harry Connick Jr., my toes were numb and my face completely frozen, so we called it a day and ended up watching it on television, which is actually a much better way to see it.

This year, the weather happened to be unseasonably warm and pleasant, so I decided to make a second attempt. It's a nuisance trying to get there because there are a million people walking about, which isn't unusual for New York, but when you throw in a lot of baricades and police officers blocking off walkways and streets it gets increasingly more annoying and frustrating. We had some friends who went to Rockefeller Center around 5 to stake out a spot for us, but by the time Liz and I showed up, it seemed like there was no way we were going to make it to them. They had a pretty good spot right near Rockefeller Center between 50th and 51st with a grand view of the tree and somewhat close to the stage, which you couldn't really see anyway. With the assistance of our cell phones, we were able to find Caroline who was standing about 50 yards in front of us... the only thing separating us was a sea of about 1000 people who were not going to be so nice about letting us through.

Well, Liz and I weaved our way through the crowd, through the dirty looks and threatening glances, and the nasty comments. Luckily I will never see most of these people again, so I didn't mind. I finally joined Caroline and our other friends at the front of the pen, but Liz got trapped behind a man and his mother who refused to move or let her through. So she remained a few feet behind us. A nice gentleman and his wife tried desperately to bring her forward, but the man and his mother were relentless. Finally, after about thirty minutes as people left and the crowds shifted, Liz was able to move up... but where is everyone's Christmas spirit and sense of charity? Is that not what this season is all about? Apparently, that does not apply in large crowds. The ironic part is that this man and his mother thought that their view was obscured because of their position and that by inching closer they would improve it, but it just so happens that there wasn't anywhere in our area where we could have seen the stage, so they should have just been satisfied with seeing the tree, which is what they came for anyway.

As people depart and the crowds shift to take up the empty space, there is a lot of pushing and shoving going on, and you almost feel like your insides are going to be squeezed out of your ears. I had this experience a couple years ago when I was here on New Year's Eve. These are not the types of events to attend if you have severe or even minor claustrophobia. You are about 2 milimeters from the person next to you and when the shoving starts... you might as well forget about ever having personal space. Every once in a while the police officers will open the barricades and let people through to the next pen... this is a great idea in theory, but much like birth, trying to squeeze thousands of people through a very small opening causes a lot of pressure and has good potential for disaster and discomfort. We were reborn into the next pen, which had more breathing room, but still no real view of the stage... mental note to self... next time need to be on the east side of the street in order to see the jumbotron television. Hmmm, I don't think there will be a next time. This is one of those experiences you do once and then enjoy from here on out from the comfort of your own home. We did however get to see Harry Connick Jr. who stood about five feet away from us crossing the street with some little kids.

So I can mark that one off my list. It was fun, and I'm glad I went. It was a great way to kick off the holiday season as a reminder that this is the time to be thoughtful and not crazy and selfish as this time of year so often makes us in our frenzy of shopping, decorating and entertaining. Now that that is out of the way... bring on the yuletide cheer!


Michele White said...

Hey, how was Prauge? At least you took a nice picture of the tree or did you get it from the net? Give me a call when you get a chance!

petey said...

yo list comments are so on point. sometimes i feel like my entire life just a list...

Stephen said...

yo yo yo:

let me give you a new york list.

1. hang out with steve
2. hang out at steve's apartment
3. go to washington heights (and hang out with steve).
4. make out with steve

have you checked any of these off your list? i expect you to have accomplished them all within the week (do you have my phone number?).