Sunday, December 14, 2008

The Twelve Days of a New York Christmas

On the first day of a New York Christmas, I took a ride on a glimmering carousel next to a skating rink full of people watching a Quebec fir become a dazzling sight in white fairy lights.

On the second day of a New York Christmas, I shivered on a cold winter's with the Engineer, as we  sipped on hot apple cider at the Columbus Circle Christmas market

On the third day of a New York Christmas, I walked past the window's at Macy's.  Full of colour and imagination, for a moment I felt like the child I used to be, staring in wonderment at all the toys in the Eaton's window on a snowy Winnipeg street.

On the fourth day of a New York Christmas, I waited in line with the Engineer to get some ice time.  Skating below the famous glittering Rockefeller tree on a mild evening  and having a 'once in a lifetime experience' was worth the $56 admission price.  Thanks Engineer.

On the fifth day of a New York Christmas, I walked the dogs on a busy Brooklyn street.  Passing under the white lights of a tree stand, smelling of fir and pine; of Christmas.  It felt like an escape into a teeny tiny forest in the middle of a city.

On the sixth day of a New York Christmas, I watched the snowflakes on Saks dance and sing 'The Carol of the Bells'.

On the seventh day of a New York Christmas, I dragged the Engineer to Central Park for a Victorian Candlelight Christmas at Belvedere Castle.  It may have been a bit silly, but worth watching the orange full moon rise over the Upper East Side from the top turret - finding some peace in a overly busy city.

On the eighth day of a New York Christmas, we walked through the Brownstones in Brooklyn to take in all the lights, glitter and kitschy (or tacky) nativity scenes that light up the neighborhood.

On the ninth day of a New York Christmas, we fought the bustling crowds at Macy's in search of a silk scarf for the Engineer's mom.  Even though I may have had a stress-related asthma attack, I still delighted in the wooden escalator.

On the tenth day of a New York Christmas, I meet an old friend at Bryant Park for a hot chocolate with homemade vanilla marshmallows and look up to see the Empire State Building lit up in red and green.

On the eleventh day of a New York Christmas, I take myself to Rolf's for a hot mulled wine amongst the glittering lights of a thousand Christmas decorations.

On the twelfth day of a New York Christmas, I get on a plane to go home to my family.  

Leaving behind the busy, bustling, sometimes (most of the time) smelly but more often enchanting, city sidewalks to the quiet of the Canadian prairie.  This apple has definitely taken a bite out of me (in a good way). 

Monday, December 8, 2008

Let's Move In!

The Engineer and I never formally decided to move in together.  There was never the 'let's take our relationship to the next step' conversation.  In fact, I believe we never discussed it at all nor consider ourselves living together.  Even though for the past two months, that is exactly what we have been doing.

Obviously it is a living situation out of convenience rather than choice.  It's not like I can get an apartment for myself in New York and it would not really make sense.  I am just visiting therefore we are not living together.  We are both oddly traditional actually.  We want to wait until we are married before we live together.  That and we both own our rainy city homes, and both are very picky livers.  Okay, that might just be me.  I really really really like things my way.  And I really really really like living by myself.  I already know that someday we need to get a home big enough for me to have my own room.

That being said, the Engineer chose a place that is fairly big when he could have gotten a studio and I have purchased furniture that is decidedly mine (ie. pretty), so we are sort of living together.

They say that when a couple moves in together they learn so much about the other person.  I personally believe that I have learned more about myself.  Thanks to things the Engineer points out.  For example, I drink lots of milk.  I never really noticed before how much I go through.  It's a lot.  I may be 29, but I still love a big glass of milk and I drink copious amounts of tea.  I also have discovered that I go through lots of garbage in the kitchen.  I don't really like to fold my clothes right away but get mad when there is clutter on the bedroom dresser.  I have learned that only I can make a mess when I have cleaned the house.  That I do laundry more often than the usual person, that I hate doing dishes, and that I really like to do a whole bunch of nothing in the mornings.

I have also learned that I like having someone to say good morning to who is not my dog.  And that it's fun to work next to the Engineer.  And that he likes to do a whole bunch of nothing in the morning too, when he can.

I am glad to know that it won't be too bad when we are married.  I like this whole compromise thing.  As long as we choose my style of furniture and decor.  And that I have my own room.  And that the Engineer has his whole room where he can put paper wherever he would like to.  Why?  WHY does he hate the idea of file folders so much?  How could it possibly be better to lay paper down on every available surface?  Okay, calm Sarah, don't get excited.  Compromise. COMPROMISE.  Stupid word

Reasons to miss my car

Did you know that the subway is a public place?

This is a fact that some people in NYC need to be reminded of.  

Here is why:

1.  The other day when K and I were coming home from our fake bag excursion, we were on a packed F train headed for Brooklyn.  Luckily we got seats, she sat next to a chubby sleeping woman and I sat next to a little Japanese lady, who was next to two Italian grandmas.  Standing around us were many other women, it was as if it were a female-only car.  At my eye line was a big bum so I had to keep my gaze elsewhere.  Unfortunately my eyes are not far from my nose.

Reminiscing over our day's affairs, K's eyes suddenly grew wide and she grabbed her nose.  I took a breath in and quickly realized the problem.  Someone, very near, had let one go.  And it was STINKY.  K asked if it was me.  I would admit to passing wind but this was definitely not my doing.  K agreed that it did not smell like me (a sign that we are too close?).  Both of us sat there with our noses in our scarves. To be polite, this was the extent of our acknowledgment of the offence.

Then the Japanese lady next to me started to make quite the scene.  In Japan it is considered polite to make much noise when in conversation.  To prove you are listening you must 'ooo', 'ahhh', and say 'honto', therefore Japanese conversations always sound much more exciting than they actually are.  This makes the Japanese person very adept at making much noise to express themselves.  The little lady next to me started with some 'mmmphs' and then moved on to 'whews' while she fanned the air in front of her.  

This made me laugh.  Which made me look like the guilty party.

I glanced down further to the two grandma's - they were also snickering and covering their noses.  The women at the further pole from me were shaking their heads in disgust.  

I began to laugh even more.  G-U-I-L-T-Y

K whispered that they thought it was me.  (She also whispered that we were breathing in some strangers feces.  Would it be better to breath in the fecal matter of a friend?)

I shook my head at them all and told them it wasn't me and pointed to the sleeping lady next to K (who we think really did let the stink bombs fly) or the big bum at my nose.  This made them all laugh with me.

If this many people react to something on the subway you just know it is bad.

2.  While riding on the train home one day, I was enjoying the freedom of a nearly empty car.  Reading my book with my groceries sitting on the seat next to me, I delighted in the lack of farts in the air.  The car was practically empty.  So WHY did the girl who got on at the Carroll Street station sit right next to me?  There were dozens of empty seats!  But she looked normal, as if she could be my friend, so I felt that it was okay.  Until my reading of chapter four in Twilight was interrupted by a 'thh thh thh' noise.  I looked over at the space invasion gal who was checking out her teeth in her compact.  The 'thhh thhh' noise was her sucking food out of her teeth.  Honestly, couldn't she do that in a bathroom?  

3.  On the A train heading to Central Park one day I found myself squished against a very large Chinese guy, about my age, who had the audacity to pick his zits and flick the heads onto the floor.  Not before inspecting them for size and colour.  I almost barfed.

4.  One evening a man thought it was perfectly acceptable to cough, snort and spit his mucus into a cup (okay, this actually happened in a cab, but still a public place!)

5.  The stench of humans in a tube underground should remind everyone and anyone to SHOWER and use a fantastic device called deodorant.  And while you are at it:  a toothbrush never hurt anyone!

It may be fast and cheap, but the subway is the pits.  I miss my VW.

Not so Serendipitous

I have been wanting to visit Serendipity in New York since I (a) saw the movie and (b) learned that the specialty was frozen hot chocolate.  Frozen hot chocolate?  Such wonderment!  Such mystery!  Such crazy wait times!

I attempted a snack on my first visit to NYC on a cold rainy/slushy December afternoon and discovered the three hour wait time.  I kid you not.  Clearly every other tourist has also seen the movie.  My apologies if you have not seen the John Cusack loveliness that was nearly ruined by the always bland Kate Beckinsale (but thank goodness for Molly Shannon and John Corbett) which was named for this restaurant (even though I can't actually remember the restaurant in it).

Anyhoo, Serendipity 3 attracts tourists from around the globe, toting bags from Bloomie's and demanding the famous frozen hot chocolate along with other edible goods.  I thought it was only desserts here, but no, they serve everything to a point where they probably shouldn't.  More on that later.

Needless to say, I have always been curious and now that K was in town I had the perfect excuse to go.  After trying to see the lighting of the tree at Rockefeller (along with 3 million other people), discovering the magic palace on Madison that felt like a secret, and checking out the retro windows at Bloomingdale's, we wandered over a few blocks and entered the pastel spectacle.

Surprisingly there was a very short wait!  I should hope so as it was nearly midnight and tourists are usually in bed by this time so they can get up and wait in the TKTS line.  We were led behind two other girls who were about to be seated at the crappiest table ever.  But they spotted the table meant for us:  by the window and under the Christmas ice cream cone.  They were led instead to that one leaving us with the crap table.  Bitches.

The crap table was crap for a few reasons:  
#1  It was not next to the window under the pink ice cream cone
#2 It was right next to the busing station and therefore loud
#3 It smelled like ketchup and garbage

Due to the fact it was late and the restaurant was clearing out, I asked our waiter (politely I must inform you) if we could switch seats to the other empty table by the other window with the magic ice cream cone.  He looked and it and said "It's meant for six to eight people".  I replied "are there six to eight people waiting for it?".  He huffed and told me we would have to talk to the host.  Seeing as the host who had led us to the crap table apologizing for its crapness was nice, I knew we would be by the cone in no time.

But the host that came was not our host.  He was asshole host.  He rudely, and I mean rudely told us that we could sit downstairs at the very front.  He repeated very front twice which told me that was the naughty table where people sat waiting for good tables (it was right by the front door and line-up that was non-existent at this time).  He really was quite the a-hole about it.  Aren't customers supposed to be right?  Aren't we supposed to get golden treatment?  

Two girls across from us were SLOWLY paying their tab.  It wasn't all their fault they were slow.  Although they couldn't do math or figure out how to use credit cards, it was also the fact that the slow, surly waiter didn't take their bill back right away because he felt more inclined to play 'tic tac toe' with the other waiter.  At this point, I was just trying to look forward to my frozen hot chocolate.  But nothing irks me more than bad service, especially in a place called Serendipity.    The fact that I could smell garbage and banging was going on behind my head didn't help.

The nice host came back upstairs and I nabbed him.  Another table had vacated while the two girls figured out they could each pay $10 using cash, quite the concept, and we asked if we could move over there.  Immediately and without question, he took us over.  Well, almost right away, our surly waiter had to slam ten dirty dishes in the tray behind my ear causing me to flinch and shoot him a dirty look before we got out of our chairs.

Seated in a much nicer area, albeit not under the pink Christmas cone, K and I proceeded to order our frozen hot chocolate and teas.  I peered around me and realized that we were definitely in tourist town.  Or in the case of our friends to the right, fat American town. Okay okay, I know that sounds horrible and bitchy.  It totally is.  But honestly, the two girls next to us were sort of popping out of their clothes as they stuffed a FC each (K and I shared one) down their throats and added the empty dishes to the pile of 10 dishes already on their table.  I kid you not.  

They also were the type to lick their fingers after eating and requested to see the menu to take stuff home for breakfast. Under my breath, I may have said 'more like for the subway ride home'.  I also couldn't help but notice the stench of the table next to us. Maybe it hadn't been the busing station after all.  Maybe the whole restaurant stank.  K agreed that although the dessert is divine, it is always mixed with the scent of bad chicken terriyaki or old burgers.  Yum.

I must say that the frozen hot chocolate was super yummy.  In fact I would love to have it again.  But if that means going back to Serendipity where the staff clearly should be working at a state penitentiary with those attitudes and the usual wait times run over an hour, I guess I will just have to look at the pictures. . . . 

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Fake Bag Brigade

My friend K is currently visiting me in the Big Apple, and our plans of museums and shows were quickly thrown out in favor of shopping.

K is pretty much a shopping professional and digger, whereas I tend to wander around aimlessly hoping something will jump out at me.  Knowing that I had K by my side I decided it was a good time to walk Canal Street in search of the perfect fake bag.

In the past, and really every other moment besides shopping, I am the boss.  When traveling with K, I am the one who tells her where we are going and what we are doing.  She happily follows along with no complaints and I think actually enjoys my stern leadership.

How the tables have turned.

I do not like (a) crowds (b) people who yell and (c) bartering therefore Canal Street is like my version of hell.  I was surprised to find that there are actual store fronts housing the fake goods, I sort of expected the bags to be on tables in the middle of the street.  I was also not prepared for the people who walk by me and whisper 'Chanel Gucci Prada' as if I was some sort of designer drug addict.  So because of all this overkill on my senses K had to lay down some ground rules.

#1 Separate your cash and only have small bills.  

#2 Don't actually show interest in anything

#3 Pick an amount you would pay for an item and do not pay a cent more than that.  If they won't do it, just walk away.

Got it.

Oh, and she said we needed a code word to tell each other we liked something.  I suggested the phrase 'I want steamed buns' because we were in Chinatown and I did, in fact, want a steamed bun.

I suggested we should also have a code word for 'let's leave' so that we knew when one of us wanted to leave.  She told me to say 'let's leave'.  Right.  Got it.  Sometimes I over-think things.

I was terrible.  Really terrible.  Firstly, when I saw something cute I exclaimed with a little scream.  The price went up $10.  So K made me leave that stall and reinforced our code word and the rules. 

Again, when I saw something cute I would yell out 'I want a steamed bun!' which made the store people look at me like I had turrets.  When K looked at me holding a bag with the woman right next to her and said 'how much do you like this bag' (once again, the less excited the less you pay), I smiled, nodded, and said very loudly:  STEAM BUNS.  The woman caught on.

K also has no problem leaving when the price she wants is not given to her.  I kept apologizing and explained that I would get in trouble.  Plus they yell at you.  I kept saying 'sorry' and K kept telling me to shut up.  As we left one store, the woman screamed at us for wasting her time and that we were ungrateful for her deals.

I have never seen K take such a leadership role.  She calmed me down when I would hyperventilate at the crowds or at the enormous selection (I also don't like too much choice).  She cooed to me to go slowly, just take it all in, then focus on the colours I like and next the shapes.  

But after an hour of this, it was time to leave.  I felt relieved not only in that I would be able to breath again, but that I would once again be the boss in the relationship.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Would You Like Fries with That? Or Grape Jelly?

I am the first to admit that I am not the best orderer at restaurants.  Not that I am like Meg Ryan's character in When Harry Met Sally but I can be a bit indecisive.

The problem comes from loving food so much, I just can't make up my mind.  I like to know what all my friends or family is ordering before I decide.  I also like to mix and match items on the menu.  For example:  that wild mushroom found in the risotto?  Could I have it on my veal?

But there comes a line to the mix and match.

I felt it was finally time to enjoy a New York classic:  the bagel.  This city is full of deli's and street carts offering up said dish and I have never ever eaten one.  So today was the day.

Firstly, I couldn't decide exactly which bagel to eat.  I felt I should be on the healthy side and at least have multi-grain, but then traditional is really the way to go when eating a traditional food.  Then again, the onion one also looked good.  I chose sesame.

Did I want it toasted?  Ummm, I think so.  Well, then again I like the chewy goodness of an untoasted bagel, but what the heck, it's 10am - toast it!  And I would like plain cream cheese please.

With strawberry jam.

They only have grape jelly.  Ugh.  Grape jelly?  It comes out of a squeeze container.  But I really like the mixing of the cream cheese with the sweetness of the jam so sure, why not, grape jelly me up.

As I stood there waiting I realized that the traditional New York bagel should really be served my favorite way:  with smoked salmon.  I absolutely love love love lox on a bagel with capers and onions.  So of course I decide that this is what I now want.

I interrupt the deli man in the midst of cutting my bagel and switch my order.  He smiles and tells me this is no problem.  He passes the foil wrapped traditional lox bagel across the deli counter to me, and I take it, smiling at the fact it is toasty warm in my hand and that I really love bagels.  What a New York moment.  I take a second to savour it before stepping outside on busy Broadway on my way up to Macy's at 34th (miracles happen there I hear).

Gently I unwrap the foil and take a bite as if it were a sandwich and quickly recoil in horror.  I look down and realize my first New York traditional bagel has gone terribly terribly wrong.  This will teach me to switch orders halfway through the guy making it.


Because he had made me a lox, cream cheese and grape jelly bagel, that's why.

This mix and match was a mix and hurl.  

The secret?  I ate it anyways . . . .