Fantasies of the Season

I wanted to traipse around the city today. For another gander at the holiday windows along Fifth Avenue. But a run and high-intensity workout followed by a session of packing suitcases (we leave for France tomorrow) has done me in. I have been daydreaming while writing this post because oh travel brings with it sweet anticipation (even though my family did make some pother about it because we head to Paris and Strasbourg), so it took some time to get about putting up these vignettes of NYC’s famed holiday windows from last season and this.

The champion of all the narratives was that of Saks Fifth Avenue. They come up with concoctions in their windows that capture the fizzy-frothy spirit of Christmas alright. I never cease to be astonished by the lengths to which they go to make your jaws drop. So what if Macy’s started the game in NYC in the 1880s when they introduced New Yorkers to a novel spectacle. Lest you are not over a century old (write to me, if you are), on a fine December in 1883, outside Macy’s, people were greeted by the sight of Santa Claus on a mechanical sleigh, chauffeured by his team of reindeer, on a circular track that moved around the windows. Santa on parade. Imagine the conversations then. Another Christmas, Macy’s had a tin facade which was labelled ‘A Fantasy of Christmas’ and it did look the part. I shall include a photo that is sourced from the Internet because I was not around to take it in 1959 as you would imagine. Unless I am 76 and passing myself off as half the age on this blog. You never know.

Today the windows have been taken a few notches up from the simple displays of yore when the message was overwhelmingly of sentimentality and nostalgia. After all nostalgia connects us to a past that we know about. It is familiar — and we all ache for the familiar. Something to give us roots. The future can wait even as it hovers around the corner. Yet how these windows continue to evoke this feeling of joy and wonder when you lay eyes on them every season. Like an affirmation of the state of mind that Christmas is. And alongside, the Christmas tree pop-up shops on the pavements of NYC selling Fraser firs and the scent of pine, the scent of Christmas.

Macy’s old-fashioned look for the Christmas of 1959 (sourced from the Internet).

Last Year This Time

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Last year, it snowed when we noshed at the Bryant Park market


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Chicken and waffles soused in maple syrup. My favourite American dish. (whispers: It is awfully good). 
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Treasures of NYC
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Carousel at Bryant Park 
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The Christmas tree of Rockefeller Center
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Street sights
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Angels of Rockefeller 
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Santa loiters in an Irish pub
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It shuts shop this year

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Cartier, tied up in a sparkly red bow

Saks Fifth Avenue, Last Year

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Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs

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And then, Once Upon a Holiday, designers put forth their takes on fairytale looks for Snow White. 
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Alberta Ferreti
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Oscar de la Renta
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Ooh, Snow White as Bent Neck Lady
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Naeem Khan

Saks Fifth Avenue, This Year

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The Theater of Dreams. The stage is a grand thing and this is the store’s paean to it.

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Bent Neck Lady is a favourite with Saks Fifth Avenue, you reckon?
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‘Put on a dazzling face’
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My fella’s dazzling face
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‘Some like it luxe’
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‘Puttin’ on the glitz’
Dreaming of shoes

And maybe because I like an anti-climax better than you, because ‘We are the hollow men/ We are the stuffed men /Leaning together/ Headpiece filled with straw’, because I love spewing nonsense, here’s concluding this holiday post on a few random notes.

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Macy’s Sunny the astronaut who travels with her friends through space to help Santa Claus fix his sleigh for Christmas. 

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What, The Last Month of The Year Already?

It astonishes me how the days turn into weeks, the weeks into months, till another year is going to come to an end. Time never ceases it seems till you are caught in a situation where you are trapped in a slow train with people around you conversing in another language, you have missed the last bus at a lonely place where the ocean batters the cliffs, or better still, you are sleeping in an unreserved train compartment with batty coppers and convicts for company. And here’s time sprouting wings, so that autumn’s been too brief a spell. Sparse brown leaves cling to the branches in the park, loathe to leave just yet, dangling in the cold wind like earrings turned to a shade of liquid russet in the soft sun. The park cleaning authorities use their leaf blowers daily to collect them in piles, so that even as they go about their job, I cannot help admiring this pretty spectacle that it makes. A whirligig of golden butterflies in the air.

This is my cheeky last paean to autumn even though the wind outside is frigid and every evening walk and morning run involves filling the lungs with icy air. We caught the last legs of the season in Central Park last month when the colours in the woods had already peaked and there were yellow, oranges and reds in dribs and drabs. When we met an introvert Great Bernese, a big beautiful girl who warned Adi off with a couple of woofs. So that now I can tease my husband in the same vein as he takes off on me. Last summer in Vermont, a golden retriever with the face of a (chubby) angel and the mien of a shrew, had flown at me when I wanted to say hello. Adi has not stopped reminding me of this dark incident since with unseemly glee, saying, ‘You are possibly the only girl who has been almost attacked by a golden retriever.’

These little pleasures have been cemented by biggish birthday pleasures of a sparkler-laden cake turning up at a French restaurant which is an institution of sorts in NYC, where the food made the senses hum with quiet joy; celebrating a new holiday for us (Thanksgiving); meeting a former colleague in the city and going on walks in the tenements of Lower Manhattan where we wondered at the eccentric workings of an artist who bought a synagogue when he had merely stepped out to buy shoes; spotting migratory birds such as a Great Black-Backed Gull by the Hudson; and having my scalp almost lifted one freezing morning by a mob of gulls who were being fed by an old man (because apparently wild creatures cannot continue their cycle of life without our nosiness). That’s all in my tangled web of recollections, and oh, some portly squirrels at work too.

North Woods, Central Park



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Lafayette, NYC
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The woman at the table next to ours and I were both startled when this sparkler tower arrived at ours, and just like that, I was a child all over again. 
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French Onion Soup with beef shank, so full of flavour that you could compose a quick ode to it
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Pasta parcels called agnolotti stuffed with black trumpet mushrooms and topped with shavings of black truffle. Give me a daily diet of it.
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Grilled trout paired with coco beans and saucisson. A time to scoff and grunt with satisfaction.
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Immigrant stories. Strange cocktails, sighted in the Lower East Side, Manhattan. 
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The synagogue of Rivington Street built in the Moorish Revival style of architecture. Once a place of prayer for Romanian Jews, it was bought by a reclusive Jewish artist, Hale Gurland, who lives on top of the synagogue where you can see the four orange windows and flees from any kind of publicity.
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Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix and Amy Winehouse at the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
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I got squirrels and sheep on me desk too.
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The foraging furry ones of Madison Square Park