Monday, December 12, 2011

Holiday Traditions

We got together with our friends Rosie and Frank, this past weekend to make our annual pilgrimage to Rockefeller Center to see the BIG tree.

It’s important to see the BIG tree…every year…because each tree is unique and looks nothing like the tree before.

For example, here’s the tree from 3 years ago.

The year after that….

And last year….

As you can see, they're nothing alike.
The first has a red bulb in the top left corner…the second in the bottom right...and the third, while the red bulb is also located in the bottom right, it's a very different shade of red; almost a magenta.

So they’re all different and we have to go and see that…every year.

Not that I mind, because we get to spend the evening with Frank and Rosie, which is always a great time.  I’ve written about them in the past when I talked about my trouble with squirrels, and when Rosie was leaving on her trip to Italy this past summer, with that guy on her left.

Don't ask.....
They’re both a lot of fun to hang out with, mostly because Rosie, the partier, can always find something to berate Frank about, like how his left nostril makes this weird kind of whistling sound when he inhales, especially outside on cold nights. 

Frank, to his credit, takes these criticisms with a grain of salt, and an Amstel, which helps.  He’s also turned the nostril whistling into a positive by learning how to perform the up tempo Andy Williams’s version of Jingle Bells with it, which is immensely entertaining. 

He never fails to draw a huge crowd as we stand by the “eccentric” lady with the pretzel cart and enjoy the show.

Rosie is very big on traditions; especially holiday traditions. And this trip to see the tree is now one of them, which is kind of cool. It’s nice to be a part of nice people’s traditions.

One of Rosie’s other Christmas traditions involves drinking egg nog from a slipper once worn by her great, great grandmother back in Italy, every Christmas Eve.

Apparently, one year, as legend has it, towards the end of her days, the old woman became confused and poured egg nog into her slipper and drank from it. To avoid an awkward situation and potential embarrassment, the rest of the family took the slipper and passed it around for each member to take a sip...which annoyed great, great grandma immensely since she was enjoying the egg nog and didn’t want to share. 

So this slipper has been passed down through the generations, and is now in Rosie’s hands, but not on her foot, because Rosie has feet the size of Malibu Barbie.
Once, Frank “mistakenly” left the revered slipper out all night and their little Pug, Porcini, got a hold of it. Luckily, the years of egg nog residue didn’t agree with the little fella, so he vomited into its heel and kicked it off to the side.  But, apparently, that only added to its charm, not to mention the legend.

Another tradition seems to be that no one ever goes back to Rosie’s for Christmas Eve, but that’s mostly coincidental as parking can be difficult on their narrow street.

Our tradition consists of catching the 4:15-ish train into the city, which gets us into Grand Central just after 5 PM-ish.  From there, we head into the Main Concourse to await the start of the annual holiday laser show, which is projected onto the station’s sweeping ceiling of stars.

The show is supposed to start on the half hour but seems to have a mind of its own; so it mainly begins whenever it feels like it. There we stand with necks craned towards the faux heavens and wait and wait and wait.  Often we get tired of waiting and just leave with stiff necks, knowing we’re performing a public service for everyone else by doing so, because we know the presentation will commence as soon as we leave the area.

Eventually, we hit the busy city sidewalks, selling holiday fare and knock off Rolex’s, and make our way down town to Lord and Taylors to spy the specially decorated windows, along with about four thousand fellow window gawkers. 
Reversing course, we wind our way back up and over to Bryant Park to enjoy their tree, holiday market and ice skaters, but mostly to stop at the little outdoor cafĂ© they have set up and have a little Christmas cheer. There we stand, a good bit away from the fire, but we do conspire as to how we can get the people sitting right next to the fire pit to leave so we can take their spots. 

Sometimes this involves Frank’s whistling nostril skills, which suddenly isn’t such an issue for Rosie any more.

Then…it’s time for the BIG reveal. 

We’ve work our way methodically up 5th Avenue, snaking through the throngs of tourists, locals, and semi-locals, like ourselves and enter into the fray.

It’s kind of nice, because from this point forward, nothing is required of you as you’re pretty much on auto pilot. Elbow to elbow and other body parts to body parts, you’re swept, as if by an ocean wave, and delivered, past the trumpeting angels and the Louis Vuitton store, to your destination…the BIG TREE.  The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree…just like on TV…minus Al Roker.

And despite the disappointment of a “Roker-less” tree, you can’t help but try and catch your breath, mostly because the little kid in front of you kept poking you in the solar plexus all the way down. 

We gasp in awe, fight off the pick pockets and take a thousand pictures from a thousand angles to document the beauty of the magical sight before us.

And it is different this year…decidedly so. This year the magenta light is more towards the left of center, something none of us can ever recall seeing before, over all the years.

Finally, after 3 or 4 hours of gazing at the tree and the throng of skaters slipping and sliding below, we head off to my favorite part of the tradition…dinner.

But this year, life has thrown our tradition a bit of curve. Our traditional west side eatery has shuttered its doors—hopefully, not by order of the health department—after a thousand years, and we’re forced to try a new place in mid-town.

Yeah…I know.

So we we’re all a little apprehensive about it.

I mean tradition is tradition

But the food was good and plenty of it; plus the big upside is that no one at the new place was familiar with Frank’s whistling nostril Jingle Bells rendition, so we got to see the wonder and joy that that brings to people all over again.

So everything always works out for the best.

Especially when it comes to Holiday traditions…and Franks deviated septum.

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