Holiday Homesickness


To be clear, despite nearly ten years in San Francisco, New York is home. I mean, yes, of course, home is where R is and I do feel at home in our west coast apartment, but this city by the bay with its lack of drive, diners and dead of winter is discouraging come December.

Where are all the holiday markets and the Christmas buzz? Snow, please? Pretty please?

I need some tourists crowding in front of the Saks windows on 5th Avenue and snaking out of Radio City Music Hall so that I can look native and disdainful while secretly feeding off their excitement. I would like to be caught without gloves in Central Park so I can jam my hands in my pockets and dodge into an overpriced cafe on the Upper East Side for a cocoa to go so that I won’t lose my mind while I shop for boots and gifts at Bloomingdale’s. I need some weekday time on the street in SoHo to do some strike team snatching of holiday baubles before heading to the Angelika to catch some uplifting film on otter breeding that no one outside New York even knows was released. I want to wander the West Village in the winter chill and a long coat, thinking about the exciting year ahead, feeling the pull of Right Now! and What’s Next? I miss my Christmas market in Union Square with its red stalls and garland, and its mix of happy treasures and useless trinkets.

Home. Mmmm.

This happens every year and I usually dash off eastward in mid-December to get my pre-Christmas fix so everyone doesn’t have to listen to me whinge about the seasonally inappropriate sunny days and lack of aggressive Christmas cheer here in San Francisco. But this year we’ve been on the road for what feels like the better part of the last six months, plus my holiday heart is pumping an extra four quarts of shiny red Christmas blood around for this baby of ours, so I may be bound to the snowless slow lane for the time being.

If I were going to New York, here’s a list of what I’d do. If you’re there, you should too.

  1. Hit as many holiday markets as possible. Key one: Union Square. I’m also really fond of St. Bartholomew’s on Park Ave. because I grew up going to that church. You can score a silk tie for dad, jewelry from Brooklyn for your best friend, and a ridiculous overpriced hat for yourself because your mama didn’t dress you warmly enough. Full listing of markets, here.
  2. Check out Manhattan User’s Guide (MUG) listing of blogs covering holiday doings. Especially the events on the skint and Brooklyn Based.
  3. Seriously consider schlepping up to St. John the Divine for one of their Christmas concerts (they got Sting – apparently dressed in a cowl, no less – this year). Dress warmly: that place is freeeeezing in the winter.
  4. If it snows, take the A up to the Cloisters and wander about in the park a little before or after to get some winter stillness. Have tea. Maybe duck into a concert. Come to think of it, this is a good thing to do in January too. Maybe save the stillness for post-holidays.
  5. Go see a non-Christmas show. Screw Scrooge and the Rockettes: get cozy at Joe’s Pub (Happy Endings reading series is tomorrow), catch theater divas Lynn Redgrave at MTC or Anna Deavere Smith at 2nd Stage, or any of MUG’s 5 Off-Broadway Shows to See (see bottom of page).
  6. Get a good night’s sleep and head to midtown. Mind you, I never go to midtown unless I can help it, but the Grand Central Terminal shops, including the MTA store for New York-centric stocking stuffers (see also: New York Public Library gift shop), are a good place for gifts. And cheer. As long as you’ve had your coffee and not a lot of stress before you show up. Likewise wandering up 5th Avenue to furtively glance over the tourists’ shoulders at the windows at Saks and Barney’s and the tree at Rockefeller Center. If I’m feeling deranged with festive spirit, I might even go into FAO Schwarz for a few minutes. A word of caution: only brave this outing if you can feel happy window shopping and picking up the odd inspired gift. If you’re on a buying mission, the crowds and price tags could be your downfall.
  7. Hit Wollman Skating Rink. Think ahead re: crowds and events, but yeah, skating outside in Central Park is excellent.

If you’re there, I’m jealous, so maybe don’t tell me about it. Or you can tell me about it but you have to bring/send me a gift to accompany your tales of joy. That seems fair.

In the meantime, I’m sorting through New York First to see if I can import everything I like and set up a mini Manhattan in our apartment. Wish me luck.

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Categories: NYC (there)


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One Comment on “Holiday Homesickness”

  1. carlO
    December 9, 2009 at 5:24 pm #

    wow, makes me nostalgic for NYC, and I live here! Unfortunately I’m working mongo hours way downtown, so I’ll have to wait for the January recommendations…

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