Naughty or Nice?

Everyone knows that Santa’s Workshop is at the North Pole.  It’s probably not the most geographically desirable location, but, I’m sure he got a good deal on the real estate.  It just seems to me that if location, location, location is everything then the North Pole may be a little inefficient as a travel hub for him.  I’m theorizing that if Santa wanted to cut his mileage in half and save on some reindeer kibble all he would have to do is spend the Christmas season in Midtown Manhattan.  Recently, I have learned, through personal experience, that about 60% of the world’s population converges on Midtown during the holiday season.  Naughty and nice.  It’s all here.  And it all seems to revolve around one very large spruce tree in Rockefeller Center.

The tree going up in the plaza in November.

The tree going up in the plaza in November.

The holiday season is in full swing here in New York.   And, I’m sure Santa’s fine tuning his naughty and nice list.  Of course, without question, on the nice list is the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree.  The joy of the season all seems to be wrapped up in 30,000 lights, 5 miles of wiring, and one very large Swarovski crystal star.

I was lucky enough to attend this year’s lighting of the tree.  And, as is typical for New York, nothing is done modestly and the tree lighting follows suit.  There is a two hour build up to the tree lighting that is filled with various singers and bands belting out the old standard Christmas songs.  The naughty list of the performers?  Mariah Carey, Kelly Clarkson and Ariana Grande.  Why?  All of their performances were pre-recorded and they weren’t actually there the night of the tree lighting.  On the nice list of performers are Leona Lewis, Jewel (wearing only a very skimpy gold dress), Goo Goo Dolls and The Rockettes.   They were all there to help the crowds celebrate.

What’s the nice (and civil) way to see the Christmas Tree Lighting?  Marry someone whose office overlooks Rock Plaza and then insist to watch it from his office (even if a Frenchman has temporarily occupied it).  Adding to this nice list?  A little wine, some noshies and a few good friends.  My personal thanks go out to Keith and Jeff for always making sure there was wine in my glass!  How very, very nice of them!

The naughty side of the tree lighting?  Having to stand outside in the cold with a 100,000 other people waiting hours for the festivities to commence.  I’m definitely not implying the people aren’t nice because the crowds were on their best behavior. But, I can’t imagine it’s the nicest way to see the tree lighting…standing for hours in one place, no bathrooms and (gasp!) no vino.

The crowds in Rock Plaza.

The crowds in Rock Plaza.


The Christmas tree all lit for the season!

The Christmas tree all lit for the season!

The next day, I continued my occupation of Midtown.  I returned to Rockefeller Center with Keith to see the Christmas Spectacular featuring the Rockettes.  Gen and Jeff were nice enough to join us also.  The nice thing about the Christmas Spectacular?  Santa, 3D movies, and The Rockettes.  And the bonus nice part was the big nativity scene finale.  Nice to be reminded that Santa isn’t running the whole show.  Keith coined the night as “the kick-off to birthday week” for me.  And it was a perfect evening!  Oh yeah, the naughty side of The Christmas Spectacular?  I got nothing.

The next day was my birthday.  Yep, I’m not too vain to admit it was the big 50!  Right at the top of the nice list?  My hubby!!  Keith was quite nice and took the day off work.  In true KAJ form, he had planned a perfect day.  Unfortunately, the weather wasn’t nice at all. It was cold, windy and rainy.  Downright naughty.  No worries, we just got out our brollies and pulled on our wellies and headed outside.  We had lunch at Nice Matin, a quaint French bistro on the Upper West Side.  We split a split of champagne and shared a Croque Monsieur.  And, I got my really nice, I mean really, really nice birthday gift, a show stopping Kunzite ring.

By late afternoon the rain had slowed and we headed back into the chaos of Midtown.  Although, this time we took the B subway which brought us right inside Rockefeller Center.  How nice! No jostling of elbows out on 50th Street.  Our next birthday stop?  Ice skating in Rock Plaza.  Keith splurged for the VIP tickets.  That means we had access to the glassed-in warming hut, complete with hot chocolate and peppermint bark candy.  Also at the top of the nice list?  Skating at Rockefeller Plaza.  I had to take a moment and just look up into the dusky sky.  And there it all was…the buildings, the lights, the people, the tree.  It was New York at the best I’ve seen her yet.  And it was all on the nice list.  I wonder if Santa’s naughty list was washed away that day by the wind and the rain.



Canoodling on the ice. Thanks Jeff Koehler for these great pics!



This was right after our ice dancing short program. The American judge gave us a 10, but, the Russian judge gave us a 4.




I still am in awe at how beautiful the tree is!


Poseidon and me just chilling.

Inflation in Manhattan


The great thing about being a child is that everything in the world is a new experience.  Unfortunately, as adults we seem to take a laissez faire attitude of “been there, done that”. But last week, Keith and I got to experience a small sliver of childhood wonderment right in our own Manhattan neighborhood.

Last week was our first Thanksgiving in New York. It was all so brand new to me and I attacked it with the vigor of a 5 year old gobbling down an ice cream cone.  Our Thanksgiving Eve started with the New York tradition of watching the balloons be blown up for the Thanksgiving Day parade.

For weeks I had been begging Keith to take me to see the balloons being blown up.  As the date approached closer, I pretty much just told him that this was what we were going to do.  Luckily he was game, because by Wednesday afternoon, he really had no say in the matter.

So, it was the night before Thanksgiving, and with a misty rain over our heads, we walked 2 blocks east of our apartment to watch the Macy’s parade balloons be inflated. We left our little C-dog at home for the event.  We really didn’t know what kind of mayhem we might be bringing her into and we couldn’t risk the Snoopy balloon trying to take liberties with her.  Chelsea’s a little lady after all!

The mayhem was actually a highly organized sea of humanity.  The queues were so efficient it would have brought a tear to any Brit’s eye. They had little metal fences that created a zigzag maze that people weaved through until they reached the front of the museum. It was truly a very British and very easy experience.

So, I hate to admit it because I’m going to sound like a total dork. But, as we got closer to the American Museum of Natural History I could start to see some very large shapes swaying in the wind. I was as excited as a 13 year old at a Justin Beiber concert.

So what behind the scenes magic does Macy’s and NYC conjure up to get ready for the big day?  Well, all the balloons are laid out in the middle of closed streets (can’t risk a cab side swiping Spiderman) that surround the perimeter of the American Museum of Natural History on the Upper West Side.  There are stereo speakers set up along the way.  I expected Christmas tunes but instead it was a variety of pop music from Coldplay to Katy Perry.  I thought it a little odd that they weren’t playing Christmas music. Maybe, they didn’t want to turn Thanksgiving into Christmas?  I can respect that.  Now, as a spectator, you just shuffle around the entire perimeter of the museum looking for great photo ops with your favorite characters.

The first balloon I saw was SpongeBob SquarePants. There he was in all his goofiness just dancing in the breeze.  Okay, it was bigger than a breeze it was a gusty wind. And it became a city-wide worry that the high winds would ground the big balloons on Thursday.  Seriously, it was the lead story on the news that night.

Next, I saw Ronald McDonald being inflated. Well, I kind of saw him.  He looked like he’d face planted right in the middle of 77th Street. Maybe he had a little too much holiday cheer in his eggnog shake.  I make no judgments.
“Oh Yeah”, next it was the Kool-Aid man. After that, was this unknown giant purple hippo. I have no idea who this hippo is but she was just so adorable.  I immediately chose as my favorite balloon to cheer for in the parade.

Snoopy with Woodstock riding on his back was one of the new balloons for 2013.  Both looking as cute as ever!  I didn’t take a picture of the balloon after Snoopy.  It was the Macy’s star.  If I had a Red Rider BB gun I would have turned it into a “shooting” star.  After all, Macy’s did kill Marshall Field’s.  But, I don’t want to taint my holiday capitalist cheer with bad thoughts.  Santa just might read this post.


After completing the hour long shuffle, we had seen every balloon that would float down the parade route the next morning. Oh, and one last note, however big you think these balloons are, well trust me, they’re bigger.

The next day we were lucky enough to be invited to a Thanksgiving breakfast in an apartment on Central Park West.  As I watched the parade go by from the 4th floor window with a mimosa in hand, I found it all so lovely and warm and sophisticated.  But, the true magic of the holiday was what I had seen just 10 blocks north the night before.