Wednesday, December 23, 2015

The first official day of winter

Christmas decorations on 83rd Street. 10:30 PM. Photo: JH.
Wednesday, December 23, 2015. A grey, rainy day, the first official day of Winter, yesterday in New York. Temperatures in the high 50s and low 60s. The heat in the building is often not necessary. I’ve even got my terrace door open as I write this.  The city is quiet in my neck of the woods. I hadn’t strayed from the UES, although the day before – Monday – I was in midtown for lunch at Michael’s, and the sidewalks on Lex, Park, Madison and Fifth were very busy, even crowds. There were scores of people outside Bergdorf Goodman looking at the windows, taking pictures of them. They are richly visual, and more than a cut above (of Swarovski crystals).  In my building the lobby is jammed and chockablock with packages of all sizes (even enormous) coming via UPS, FedEx or the Post Office, although the neighborhood and even the building’s lobby is quiet.
East 73rd Street between 2nd and 3rd Avenues is a tree-lined block of lighted trees. Someone does this every year. It stays up through the winter, and there is always something magical about driving through the tunnel of lights, no matter when.
This has been the oddest end of the year weather-wise that I’ve ever experienced in the Northeast. I can’t even recall a frost that we’ve had yet here in the city. There are roses still in bloom in the park. The fenced tree borders often have plantings of (colored cabbage). They remain in place throughout the season until Springtime, unaffected by the polar temperatures that have come around in the past. They survive the snows unblemished, and remain the same -- same size, same vivid colors. Except this year I’ve seen something I’ve never seen before on this plant/vegetable. This year they are growing noticeably upward. It’s a small matter in our daily lives, but a curious one since it’s Mother Nature’s activity speaking to us. I’m not sure what is going on with this particular plant. It may be its natural growth in a temperate, often grey climate such as ours right now.
These cabbage plants this season are growing what looks like a second plant on top. I'm sure it's the mild weather because these plants are put in every late autumn and remain unchanged in form and size until the springtime when they're replaced by flowering plants. They very smart looking in their beds around the trees, and impervious to the wintriest of weather. But this year, they're doing something else, changing their shape and their ways.
The next few days are quieter ones for us here at NYSD (which would be me and JH). I’ve got a lot of new and fascinating books awaiting me. We’ve also got some interesting pieces in the pipeline for these final days of the year, including a new chapter from Kitty Kelley’s 30th anniversary re-issue of “His Way,” her biography of Frank Sinatra, and a riveting piece on Gore Vidal’s final will and testament.

We’ll also be including a review of the Holiday and Christmas cards that we’ve been running for the past fifteen years. Some of these are fascinating to these eyes because of the changes in the children ... to adults. I am reminded each time what an amazing miracle it is/we are.

When I was a kid, the Christmas tree was an important required element in the holiday. My mother and father believed (or so they said) that the tree should not be put up until Christmas Eve. In the beginning they told me that was the way Santa liked it. For whatever reason, I accepted it as truth; I had no choice. Although our neighbors across the street had a tree in their front window two weeks before. So I'd worry about it. And by Christmas Eve day, everyone on the street had their trees up with lights, while sometimes my father hadn't even bought ours. Nevertheless, as that was the way it was, that was the way it was; and in memory it was fine. After that, I've had Christmas trees most holidays until I was living alone. After that I saw no point to the effort. It's called Getting Older. Although I still love the idea. My friend Charlie Scheips and his partner Tom Graf have an extraordinary Christmas tree in the old style, with acquired-over-time decorations, lights, tinsel. It's not one of those "chic" trees, it's the real McCoy. Christmas Day I'll be over there imbibing and enjoying the sparkle and the Technicolor tree.

However, this year, thanks to a generous friend with a flair and sense about gifts, in thanks for something I'd written, I was sent this poinsettia plant.
But not just any poinsettia, but one that is four and a half feet tall. And bushy. I'd never seen one so big. And heavy (the thing probably weight about thirty-five pounds — okay, okay, twenty-five). And beautiful. So I have dubbed it my Christmas tree this year. I'm keeping it moist and I know from experience with these plants that they can keep in shape for quite some time as long as they're tended to.

That silver metal bar next to the plant's pot, if you're curious is a scooter. I bought it on a whim at least a year ago, thinking I could use it to go to Michael's in midtown, save a lot of money in cab fares and get there faster anyway, Yes. However, I haven't ridden in since I acquired it. But I will, I will ...
I was also lucky to be gifted with a box of 12 paper whites which are now in full bloom. I've never had these before but have long admired their beauty. They have a sweet fragrance that is only clear when you're close to them. The photograph on the right, for those who are curious, is of my late friend Dorothy Hirshon taken by Horst for Vogue in 1938 when she was married to William Paley. She was a great beauty and then only 30 years old. She's got a cigarette in her right hand. She smoked all her life until her sudden death in an auto accident two weeks before her 90th birthday. She was a remarkable woman in many ways, and a beauty always.

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