Monday, December 24, 2012

A Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday for one and all ...

Monday, December 24, 2012. Well, it’s here. Blizzards forecast up north, out west, but none for little ole New York ... which is fine, although they are beautiful (if you’re inside and warm).

Last Thursday, JH and I hosted our annual NYSD Holiday lunch at Swifty’s. We had twenty guests, eighteen of whom are contributors to the NYSD including Sian Ballen and Lesley Hauge, who do our weekly HOUSE series with Jeff; Jeanne Lawrence, who contributes her Shanghai Social Diary; Nina Griscom, who’s given us her African Diaries; Anita Sarko, who writes Shopping Diary, Wendy Lerman, who Tweets it; Jill Krementz, who gives us her magnificent photojournalist diaries on the arts; Jesse Kornbluth (Headbutler.com); John Foreman, who gives us his Big Old House every Tuesday, Charlie Scheips who originated our Art Set column; and Gail Karr, who sells all the beautiful ads that decorate the NYSD.
In the backroom at Swifty's on Thursday afternoon. That's Lesley Hauge on the left listening to Sian and then Jesse Kornbluth in profile talking to Barbara Preminger and at the other head of the table is JH himself.
We’re always amazed to see the number of contributors we have at the NYSD including several who were not attending. For most, it’s the only time in the year that we actually see each other. What everyone has in common, besides their contributions to the NYSD, is an intense, even passionate interest in their subjects.

I took a couple of shots at my end of the table which don’t show you everyone, unfortunately, but do show you that there were a lot of conversations going on. Never a dull word.
Far left: Jeanne Lawrence, Jesse, Charlie Scheips, Ann Watt talking to Philip Carlson. Far right, John Foreman (Big Old Houses) and to his right, Pax Quigley, who did a Havana Diary for us last year.
Twas the night before Christmas. This is a difficult, even tough time of the year for many. Much is made of the Joy, but many of us carry bittersweet memories of the times past, or disappointment, even despair about the present. Living in the city one is aware of it because our natural proximity to each other. What makes it especially difficult for some is seeing all the “festivity” and “shopping” around us when we don’t feel that way and/or can’t afford it even if we did feel that way. It is a moment of raised expectations or hope that can often meet with disappointment. Ironically, despite the buildup of the months preceding, it is still only and day and over at the strike of midnight, as as it began.

I was reminded of this on Saturday night. I’d gone to dinner at Swifty’s with friends. On my walk back home, I passed this white brick townhouse on East 73rd Street with the Santa on the lighted ladder. I was reminded of when I was a little one and believed the Santa story. Looking at this Santa, I could only think there are a lot of little ones who will see it, enchanted by the same idea.
Later in the evening, back home, about midnight I went out onto my terrace to have a look at the neighborhood at this quiet hour. There was nary a pedestrian or a car, although on the other side of the avenue, a man moving quickly on the pavement was pushing a shopping cart carrying enormous plastic bags bulging with cans that he’d gathered from trash bags set out by the various buildings. When he got to the other side of 83rd Street, he left his cart unattended in the road, and walked inside the block to check for more cans.

I stood watching, as if I was keeping an eye out for him. Less than five minutes later, a woman came along, on the same route, also with cart and bulging bags of cans, although not as bulging. She was a young Hispanic woman, possibly, probably a young mother. She inspected the trash barrel, and then crossed 83rd realizing she was in someone else’s territory at that moment.

Who was this woman, I wondered to myself, out at this late hour on the Saturday night before Christmas, foraging, respectably, but foraging for anything. Where were her children, and who was watching over them as she foraged through black bags of trash for used aluminum cans. I could only hope that the woman eked out something to make her children’s day and hers, a little less anxious.  
The first collector, crossing 83rd Street at East End Avenue.
His bounty, left on the corner while he hunted for more.
Less than five minutes later, a young woman came along also with a growing accumulation of her bounty. 12:10 PM.
This Diary is our annual Holiday Cards feature. I think we started this 8-10 years ago when JH and I launched the NYSD. Over the years we’ve had some steady friends whose families have grown from childhood into young adulthood in that time. It’s always kind of thrilling to see that growth although the subjects themselves are unaware of it.

It’s also interesting to see the style of the cards. There were more babies, earlier in the decade, and pets. This year many eschewed the family portraits for illustrations or images of places that reminded them (and us maybe) of the holiday itself or the time of year. All of it is a celebration of thanks. And wishes for a Merry Christmas and a Happy Holiday for one and all ...
 

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