Bell-ringer dance here: Bell ringers rock
Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus. There’s also a sketchy Elmo in Times Square with matted neon red fur who wants to be your next Instagram post for 5 bucks. Such were the lessons learned this December.
For my 45th birthday we went to the most magical city at the most magical season, New York at Christmas.
We arrived at JFK, collected luggage and John consulted his NYC-map Moleskin journal. He mapped out the subway route from airport to hotel which would save us around $250 bucks while I crammed my suit case breech birth through the jaws of life turn style.
It helped that exits are additionally entrances. That coupled with my heightened awareness of stranger’s disdain made the sweat run down my awkward back.
Ten stops West of Jamaica Station we emerge from the subway to freezing rain and wander toward the assumed direction of our hotel. After keeping my molten lava of travel frustration below sea level for a good eight hours, I finally cracked.
“I’m getting a cab. I am freezing. We cannot find our hotel. This is it.”
Ten minutes later a cab splashed over, asked our hotel name and told me to take a left. Interestingly enough, we were less than a block away.
Safely checked in, river of shame replacing that of frustration, I was suddenly in a better mood. We took our Big Apple bite: Rockefeller Center Tree, Macy’s windows, Santa Land, Elf escalator reenactment, Empire State Building and dinner.
New York at Christmas feels the exact way it looks in movies from 32nd street to Home Alone. Pure Magic. Whether standing in front of a Van Gogh at the Museum of Modern Art or glancing at the golden keepers of the Rockefeller rink, it is all amazingly surreal.
Broadway’s Wicked was an especially magical moment. This year the cast and crew of Wicked, led by wizard Tom McGowan, actually honored our daughter with a Maggie Lee for Good Project. We were floored Tuesday Night to meet Tom and receive a backstage tour.
We saw behind the magic curtain and even the huge flying house which lands on the witch. I ecstatically thrust my phone into Johns hand, laid down next to house with legs akimbo and said “take my picture!”
Tom, veteran of stage and screen said,”Wow. Never seen that before.”
Something I had never seen before: Al Roker the next day asking for security as I squeezed him in a flush of post-selfie adrenaline. He seemed to be totally joking.
Matt Lauer came by next, let me grab a pic and then motioned to Al. In my mind his gesture meant “The camera is rolling, be sure Al gets you and your fabulous sign in there! He’ll want to feature you for sure!”
In reality, Matt was trying to convey without shushing me that Al was attempting to do the weather.
John and I ate brunch at Norma’s caught the gingerbread house display then ventured to Central Park. The Plaza Hotel called to us through the guest only entrance to take a photo in front of her majestic tree.
We rounded the corner and caught sight of the iconic blue awnings. The one and only: Tiffany’s. As we approached the Christmas music became louder and I noticed bell ringers more joyful than any I had ever seen before. Their faces were radiant and their dancing so happy that there was only one appropriate response: to join in.
After the super-fun holiday donation gyration John and I toured the many levels of Tiffany’s. It was interesting to see the pages of the Christmas catalog come to life in the form of a full-length cab with trunk overflowing with little blue boxes.
More frivolity remained: securing doggie T-shirts, fabulous food and Les Miserables. One of Maggie Lee’s friends, Kristen, saw that we were at Les Miz and asked if Ramen Karimloo was performing that night which he was. This led me to a tragic mistake.
The epic show closed to a standing ovation and doorkeepers beckoned us exit through the side doors of the 1920’s theater. From there we journeyed down the stairs to a front exit. As we were leaving, I noticed a stage door opening and fans crowding around. I thought I would be a shero and get the actor’s autograph for Kristen.
The actor seemed as though he could have been Valjean. Boy wasn’t that ironic? I waited as John readied the phone and provided a pen for my Playbill. The actor acknowledged me and I gushed, “You were absolutely amazing! What a performance. I’d love your autograph!” I noticed him glancing at my Playbill as he listened.
“Now, did you see Les Miz? I’m actually in Pippen.” John unable to hear kept snapping pictures.
“Oh, yes. Yes! Pippen. Tried to get tickets tonight. Can’t believe we got to see you. Thanks so much!”
He graciously took another pic my face is in flames and I bolted to tell John what happened as we made our escape toward Times Square.
I learned this Christmas: even when you don’t get all of the details right if you have an open heart and an adventurous spirit, Christmas in New York can be magical. Yes, Virginia, it is.