Christmas time is a bizarre time for a Jew (for anyone?). I feel like all month I’ve been wishing everyone a “Merry Christmas!” or almost worse, a “Happy Holidays!”. I vaguely hate the “Happy Holidays” because it’s pretending that there is actually another set of important holidays at this time of year. Really it’s just Christmas. We all know it, ok? stop pretending. Chanukkah is not a big deal. if you want to get excited about a Jewish holiday, let’s get gung-ho about Passover! or Rosh Hashannah! or Yom Kippur (oh wait, there’s no big present buying rush then? oh never mind.) anyways, we’ll get some mad passover fun going on in about 4 months but until then we’re here in December with Christmas.
So, having seen my amazing family during Thanksgiving I thought, there’s no reason for me to come home for this holiday I don’t celebrate. I’ll just stay in NYC and do some awesome sewing projects or catch up on work I’m making or get some good money-paying gigs while there’s no one here to distract me. Little did I know that the HOLIDAY MALAISE would descend upon me in a most epic way, reinforced by my new york setting.
Lonely and a bit homesick for a home beyond just the cinder blocks in Florida, I knew this was prime art-making time.
My companion for this adventure was a fellow non-celebrator, Davey Davis, who I found out was also around the city for the holiday, and who had been pumped about the idea when we ran into each other on the Williamsburg Bridge the other week (photoshoot!)
December 25, we set off to really feel the full extent of Christmas Spirit inside the city that many frolic to for just that feeling at this time of year. We collected objects, patterns pictures, feelings, sandwiches to document here. I also documented the project in real-time via twitter (<– a backwards stream of all my tweets from the day).
1. Breakfast at 473 St. Johns Pl, 9:40am:
Oatmeal (rolled oats, not steel cut), frozen berries, walnuts, almonds, ginger, cinnamon, yogurt, honey. Chai tea. We talked about routines and moving to new york and our individual adventures of late.
2. Train ride uptown, 10:35am:
Botanical Garden Shuttle to Franklin Ave, Manhattan bound C to Jay Street, Manhattan bound A to 125th Street, west to 490 Riverside Drive. We talked about outsider artists and traveling with intentions to make a difference and being the life of the party.
3. Riverside Church, 490 Riverside Drive, 2nd floor balcony, 11:55am:
The Riverside Church is a historic church, the church where a friend told me that Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. went to / preached at (? facts not checked). A church which, “commits itself to welcoming all persons, celebrating the diversity found in a Congregation broadly inclusive of persons from different backgrounds of characteristics, including race, economic class, religion, culture, ethnicity, gender, age, sexual orientation, family status and physical and mental abilities. “
We got here late, but caught the end of the sermon which surprisingly mentioned #occupywallstreet, being thankful for their cause and for the way they have brought up OWS issues into the public sphere, in a non-violent way. The sermon called to support their cause and have the mission of OWS be clearly articulated to all in the coming year, and that non-violent protesting be protected and continued. I was really impressed and moved by this endorsement, re-contextualization of the OWS movement into this religious context — makes it more viable? more credible with the weight of religious conviction, without scaring me because of this collapse of the religious and secular worlds? I hope this makes sense.
We also ended up on part of a tour of the church. We went to the top balcony, and the 20th floor, which for some reason was so impressive to me. 20 floors! in a church! that seems like a lot, but then I think about NYC and 20 floors is like nothing. It was beautiful regardless, and the room reverberated with the vibrations of the bells of the building, non-stop ringing.
4. Deli Sandwiches, Broadway Ave bodega, 1pm:
Hunger sets in. Davey advocates for his favorite NYC universal eats, the Bodega Deli Sandwich. Turkey and Ham, respectively, with “all the veggies you got” - pickles, tomato, lettuce. Surprisingly delish and effectively filling lunches. Beautiful abstract-geometric-landscape setting. We talked about religion and Judaism and Atheism vs Agnosticism. We talked about families.
I picked up this interesting set of anthropological field samples on our walk through Morningside Heights.
5. 1 train south to Times Square, 1:35pm:
this train structure amazed me. It was beautiful. I also loved the tiny 1-person wide escalators.
The LED sign felt poetic, and foretelling of futures.
so many patterns. We talked about Cindy Sherman and the effectiveness of advertising on trains.
6. Bryant Park, kettle corn and not ice-skating, 2:00pm:
On our list of “maybe” was ice-skating. My mom said, “You gotta go ice skating on Christmas in NYC!” but the $35 ticket was a bit of a hesitation. But more-so than that, once we got there, it didn’t look very fun at all, and everyone just looked really silly.
7. New York Public Library steps, looking out on East 41st Street, 2:25pm:
Walking from Bryant Park, we came upon some folding chairs on the mall (promenade??) of the New York Public Library. IT was a lovely place to sit, watch people taking pictures of each other, and look out on the city. We talked about how we ended up in NYC, what we liked about it here, and what we saw as our futures here.
We saw these two kids posing for their dad, and they looked so funny in their posed faces. As soon as they finished their photo-shoot, I asked the dad to take a picture of Davey and myself posed in just the same way as the kids had posed.
8. Walking up 5th Avenue, 2:45pm:
So many people told me our tour HAD to include looking at the fabulous Christmas windows of department stores along 5th avenue. They were great! We saw Minnie Mouse! and then paid $1 for this damn photo:
The problem with this part of the tour was that between all the other Christmas Tourists, the hot dog vendors, the dudes selling Louis Votton purses, and barricades put up to control the crowds I was a part of, I kinda wanted to scream. The claustrophobia set in. I couldn’t move. everyone was so slow and leisurely and there wasn’t even that much to look at. I like that we couldn’t even take a photo in front of the windows without a million people moving into the picture too. That is more interesting to me than a picture of a fancy department store window.
Davey ended up going back another day to look at the better windows of Bergoff Goodman that we apparently missed because they were a few streets up from when we got too pooped out to continue (BUMMER).
9. Rockefeller Park/ Rockefeller Tree, 3:10pm:
“I’m gonna take a picture of you as you in front of the Rockefeller Tree — your first time seeing the tree!” Davey said to me as we neared 50th st. Some of the a million people next to us said, “Aww!” — our first Christmas!
But actually, it wasn’t so cute. It was entirely overwhelming. SO MANY PEOPLE AAACKCKKKK!!!!
All of this crazy was made better by impersonating the statues. We talked about bike races and how Davey has never met someone shorter than 5’4″ before (he says).
10. Train ride home, 3:30pm:
The crowds and ultra-tourism really wiped us out. and it was time to head home anyways for our separate evening plans. “We have to take a photo of you next to this fire-hydrant to end the project.” I don’t know why really but I guess it was a fitting end.
Downtown E to 42nd Street, Brooklyn-bound 2. We talked about potlucks and small-frame bikes.
Arrived home around 4:30pm. Parted ways. I ate all of the remaining toffee that my roommate Zoe had made for presents. Felt slightly sick from too much toffee and still a bit Christmas-lonely. But with a new friend and a great day of conversation and adventure gained.
*all photos by Davey Davis. Except some less fancy ones by me on a phone camera.