Monday, December 3, 2012

'Tis the Season

The scene outside the Plaza Athénée on 64th Street between Park and Madison. 6:30 PM. Photo: JH
Monday, December 3, 2012. Weekend overcast with a grey that looked like snow. Too warm; temp in the mid- to low-50s with a light rainfall Sunday.

I barely strayed from home. Except for dinner on Friday night at Antonucci Café on 81st between Lex and Third, and Swifty’s on Saturday night. Saturday afternoon it was the 79th Street crosstown to Zabar's for the bread and freshly sliced Scotch smoked salmon, the Health bread, the carrot cake; a small slice of Port Salud, green tea (bags); Carr’s Whole Wheat Crackers.

It is mainly the bread and the salmon that I go for every week. One quarter pound, each piece patiently and exquisitely sliced and gently placed on the wax paper and packed up neatly.
The Smart Car is coming into the American culture in exactly the way the Beetle did back in the late '50s, early '60s, a vehicle of commerce and enterprise. I took this picture because I love the look of and the point of the Smartcar in this car-crowded town.
The place was very crowded, but that’s the spirit of Zabar's. The sidewalks outside the place are crowded too. There are three tables of a bookseller who’s always got the Met’s Saturday opera broadcasting on his portable radio. He loves books and grand opera; you can see it. There’s another guy selling jewelry, another selling muffs and scarves and gloves, and another selling old paperbacks and magazines. It’s deep Upper West Side Saturday afternoon for this East Sider. Everybody’s out.

If you go directly to the other side of town, to 80th and Third where the third Zabar brother, Eli has his swank emporium, you’ll see a lot of people on the sidewalks too, and they’re the locals too. But it all looks different, the people too. I don’t really believe they are different, the neighborhoods west vs. east – New Yorkers are New Yorkers – all kinds, all types, sizes, ages, temperaments and all together. But it feels different, east side vs. west.
The incredible ginger bread houses at William Poll on Lexington Avenue and 75th Street, were put on display last Friday afternoon, in the Swiss winter countryside, skaters (in motion) and all. These are by far the most spectacular gingerbread chalets I have ever seen. And you could imagine taking one apart piece by piece until you're telling yourself you should have known better.
That’s one of the reasons why I always think that New York is living  proof that we can all live together. All of us. And even in the same building and on the same floor, if it so happens.

Although nowadays, we're going through a phase, a transition. No one looks around much anymore. The cell phones have taken over even the Zeitgeist. It’s become a mania and turning a lot of us into pedestrian (or vehicular – that includes you entitled bicyclist out there) – maniacs. People text while walking down a crowded street. They even read and text while driving a car.

More and more people get killed. There was an article in the Times last week reporting that injuries and deaths from cars on the street was escalating. They’re considering different ways of dealing with it, like elevating crosswalks for the beleaguered cellphoniacs. Or finding another way to blame the cabdrivers.

Few seem to recognize a basic truth to living (versus getting hit by a bus), “if you’re going to walk into the street with heavy traffic and you don’t look to see if that traffic coming, you’re risking your life!" This little truism has become obsolete with many of us. Odd as it seems, it is so. There is a widespread idea that all traffic stops for You. You, wonderful you. Whoever you are. And why not? And if you’re a bicyclist you can’t be blamed for anything or held responsible for anything cuz you’re too cool for school.

And that is exactly why people are getting killed. Or seriously hurt, including the innocent and powerless wee ones and the little ones. Their strollers get pushed right out into the road by the loving mother (or father, or nanny) with the cellphone crunched between her/his cheek and shoulder.

Now, I’ve become so New York-centric in these days of the NYSD, that I actually think that this “behavior” of not looking and not caring is symptomatic of our future, maybe even the future of the planet. We are, after all, only human.

Which reminds me. One of the great things about this time of year in New York (especially those who can get away from their cellphones and look around) are the Christmas decorations that shop owners put up to sell their goods. The great department stores turn out fantastic displays in their windows. These windows astonish and amaze year in and year out, down through the decades. Many lives that here came from across the land and the world to become New Yorkers were inspired early on in their quests by these spectacularly creative window displays.

Then you have Madison Avenue, the boulevard of silken, gold and silvery dreams; fashion, glamour, wealth, even fame. A stroll up the avenue any night (as long as it’s not raining) just to take in the wiindows, is a uniquely New York experience. It’s two miles of an imagination of riches interrupted only by something more fascinating to buy and eat. Sometimes I”ll look at a display and begin to imagine who its eventual owners will be, and where they will live (possibly right around the corner on Park Avenue or Fifth), and what they’re like. It’s a novel, then a movie. You’re in New York.
JH took in some of it with his magic camera over the weekend ...
Salumeria Rosi Parmacotto.
Bond No. 9.
CH Carolina Herrera.
Looking south on Madison Avenue from 64th Street.
Soigne K. Milly.
David Yurman.
Morgenthal Frederics.
Mrs. John L. Strong.
Post House.
A wedding in front of Daniel.
Giorgio Armani.
Manrico Cashmere.

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