On December 24th, Valerie and I set out in search of a little Christmas spirit. We didn't need to shop; we just wanted to get out in the city, mingle with fellow New Yorkers and enjoy the crisp, dry, cold weather.
So, naturally, we headed to the ground zero of holiday cheer, the mecca of the large Norway spruce -- Rockefeller Center (of course)! Although the crowds were shoulder-to-shoulder (think Times Square at New Year's eve, minus the booze and funny hats), everyone was in a cheery mood. In no time at all, we got into the spirit, so to speak. I'm in the photo on the left and on the right is Valerie at the foot of the tree, her revelry in full display! (Isn't it a shame that she's so shy and self-conscious?)
The tree looks most impressive at night when all you can see are the twinkling colored lights. By day, at the top of the granite walls surrouncing the rink, it stands guard over all of the skaters, tourists, gawkers, and buskers. Shiny gold and silver lamé flags (which, in a flurry of my fashion A-D-D, reminded me of the banners outside Norma Kamali's East 56th Street store!) adorn the tall poles surrounding the rink.
At the western end of the rink, farthest from Fifth Avenue is Paul Manship's wonderful 1933 golden statue of Prometheus, one of the most recognizable scuptures in NYC. In Greek mythology, Prometheus was a member of the earliest race of gods known as Titans. The god Zeus was going to destroy humanity by depriving the earth of fire. Prometheus, who had fashioned people from clay (becoming the first sculptor), saved mankind AND womankind by teaching us how to make and use fire. (Click on the photo to see the wonderfully carved details on the zodiac ring encircling his reclining figure and the fire he is carrying fire in his right hand.)
Intrepid tourists and locals alike took to the ice in droves, under the watchful eyes of thousands of spectators. As you can see from the photos, the audience jammed the edges of the walls and cascaded down the steps to get as close a view as possible. The ice was taking quite a pounding from all the blades of those skaters. (Anybody seen the Zamboni?) At one point, it looked as if they were skating through snow.
Although I hate their logo-filled t-shirts, I have to admit that I love the facade of Hollister's Fifth Avenue headquarters. It features a live video feed from the Pacific Ocean of waves rolling across a wall of screens covering the entire front of the building and reflecting on the water in a shallow infinity pool at the base of the wall. Small white lettering spells out "Huntington Beach" and "Surf City, USA LIVE" over my right shoulder. (Again, click on the photo for a close-up.)
Jean says: Astute readers will notice that I am carrying a small shopping bag. I did buy something - an irresistible Japanese rabbit-shaped box with five little rabbit-shaped citrus cakes inside - at Minamoto Kitchoan on the promenade leading to Fifth Avenue. (Jodi Head and I feasted on them in her living room in the glow of her faux wood-burning fireplace later that same evening.) Valerie says: We both found the bunnies irresistible. (Quite a few other things were very hard to resist, as well.) 2011 is the year of the rabbit according to the Chinese zodiac. And the Japanese rabbit in the moon pounds rice to make rice cakes, and rice cakes are a traditional new year's treat, so the rabbit design is a perfect way to celebrate the new year. In one of the photos above, you can see I added a cotton tail to my bunny. I always keep a few cotton tails on hand. You never know when you might need one.
Valerie says: I also bought this box (left and below) with the image of Otafuku on it. Her image is not only on the protective wrapper of the individual sweets, it's on the sweet itself. I've never been crazy about the flavor of Japanese sweets (most are made of azuki beans), but for presentation,
the Japanese win hands down almost every time, and flavor becomes secondary. No wonder there are three separate books on the art of traditional Japanese packaging. (A first edition of the first of these three books, How to Wrap Five Eggs, now sells for over $400!)
Valerie and I stopped in at the Armani store on Fifth Avenue at 56th Street, for a libation in its top floor cafe. On our way through the store, we checked out some pretty fabulous faux fur winter coats on sale and Giorgio's Spring 2011 women's collection. I fell in love with (from afar) a lightweight, stretchy black and white striped, fringed scarf. After drooling over it, I continued on with my partner in crime to the top floor cafe. Once the beautiful blond Italian(?) waitress informed us that the mango bellinis used puree instead of juice, we were hooked. (BUT, says Valerie, they still didn't hold a candle to the fabled frozen mango margaritas so rashly removed from Tabla's menu.) Over cocktails, we planned out this week's and next week's blog entries and fantasized about putting up a video of our own on the Oprah Winfrey Network.Coffee lovers, take note. The cafe also has great cappuccinos. Mine was delivered by a handsome waiter who said something like: "This is not just any cappuccino. This is a drink created by a handsome Columbian using the finest Italian coffee." It lived up to its reputation. The foam was thick and creamy, and the espresso was divine!
Here's Valerie atop the white undulating stairway at Armani on Fifth Avenue, her black, white and red outfit in stark relief against the walls. When we visited last year, we were prohibited from taking photos of the stairway. Obviously, with the passage of time has come relaxation of that silly rule. Valerie says: it's almost distressing that they've toned down their vigilance. We thought we were getting away with taking surreptitious photos until we saw others taking photos bold as brass. Where's the fun in that, I ask you.
Jean, coming and going, and the fabulous staircase, which seems to ache for a Fred and
Ginger - or the Nicholas Brothers - to add the finishing touch.
Check out the video below to see what the Nicholas Brothers can do with a staircase. (The still is pixilated, but the video is crisp.) The peerless Cab Calloway makes a brief appearance at the very beginning of the clip. Movies at this time had a love affair going with shadows. Some fabulous shadows in this clip.
Valerie says: All the employees at Giorgio Armani are preternaturally gorgeous, as if they just stepped out of a photo shoot. We were stopped by one such, whose name sounded like it should be pronounced Marjean (MARzhon), who said he wanted to put us on his blog but didn't have his camera with him. So we posed with him and used our own camera. We can't show you that photo, in case he contacts us for it. And we can't show you the picture of his Glamazon partner in crime, whose name I think was Vera, for the same reason. But here's a picture he took of us. Proof positive that it's now OK to take photos in the store.
On our way home, we passed by St. Peter's Lutheran Church at the Citicorp Center, where mass was under way. The modernist architecture is very interesting, with lots of clear glass, so we took this flash-free picture of worshippers holding candles provided for the service. Carolers in red and white robes, unseen at the left, were singing Gloria (no, smart alecs, not the Patti Smith version), which sounded lovely every time someone opened the nearby door.
Jean is channeling her Nightmare Before Christmas look and is wearing a Maria D. DelGreco hat with vintage Deco bakelite pin, eyeglasses from Fabulous Fanny's, Comme des Garcons jacket, Marithé et François Girbaud coat, Zara drop-crotch riding pants, black patent high-top Doc Martins, black and white dotted Indian wool reversible scarf and Marmot gloves.
Valerie is wearing a red wool hat by Parkhurst, sterling silver hat pin by Mladek, black felt coat with white circles by Tiiti Tolonen, vintage red plastic clip on earrings, red and pink wool sea anenome scarf by Katie Mawson, nubby gray wool shirt by Jill Anderson, red wood bangle from Japan, unnamed red leather gloves made in Italy (no ring, because then I couldn't have worn the gloves, and it was COLD), black pants by Jones New York, and red leather boots by Frye.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
On a momentary serious note:
Jean says: I met Steve and his little pit bull Genocyde sitting on the sidewalk outside PetCo on Union Square about a week ago. She was very sweet and well behaved had obviously recently given birth. When I asked if I could get his dog some food and Steve nodded, the three of us went into the store and headed for the dog food section. He was actually quite knowledgeable about the nutritional content of the various dry foods, examining the bags, looking for a brand with high protein. After he made his selection, we proceeded to the line for the cash registers. He was very proud of the coat he'd made for her. It was still a work in progress. His own sweatshirt had a number of patches that appeared to be from old punk rock t-shirts sewn on caveman style with big visible stitches. With his tattoos that look like little flames just above his eyebrows and his dreadlocks, he looked like a tough cookie, but was extremely polite. (I was half expecting him to call me ma'am.) While Steve signed up for a PetCo discount card, I paid for the bag of food and purchased a gift card, for Genocyde's next bag when this one ran out.
This little dog just stole my heart. When I asked how she acquired such a tough-as-nails name, Steve said she'd picked it herself. She'd been a rescue and when he got her, he ran a number of names by her and she really responded when he got to "Genocyde". In response to my not so subtle quiz, he said she had three puppies which were at the place where he and friends were squatting. The puppies weren't eating solid food yet. He was taking Genocyde to a vet for an antibiotic for her cough, so I gave him a Metrocard with a few rides left on it along with my IF card with my email address. Steve said he checks his email about once a week, so I sent him copies of the photos. I'm dying for word on Genocyde and her puppies, so Steve, if you see this or get my email, please let me know.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Hope everyone had a lovely holiday. Here are Christmas wishes from Clyde McPhatter and the Drifters, doing a fabulous doowop cartoon version of White Christmas. Cartoons by Joshua Held.
For those of you with old computers, if the above hyperlink doesn't work, paste this link into your browser:
And one last view of the tree and the promenade, seen from a passing bus on Fifth Avenue.