NYC between Christmas & New Year's
We catch the 7:30 a.m. train outside of Boston, assigned seats this time, the train picking up speed. It's traveling even faster than the vehicles outside my window, on the interstate, one hundred and fifty miles per hour, according to the train conductor.
I have buried my nose in a Donna Tartt novel, fat and thick, with the tiniest of fonts because without it, the book would be bible-sized. The small font is hurting my eyes--light blue eyes that used to be called “bedroom” and now are just aged.
After Providence, the train rumbles through thick layers of fog now enveloping the Connecticut coastline. My husband is napping quietly beside me, his snoring has fortunately been left behind for the privacy of our bedroom.
His face is lobster-red this morning. There was no available refill on his rosacea cream script before our trip, according to our pharmacy technician yesterday afternoon, unfortunate for any future photo ops. He still looks handsome, but my heart tugs for this new condition that sometimes comes with age.
I notice that the young man in the seat opposite me is fishing around in his bags and in his pockets; he is wearing a stretchy biking suit and has one Air Pod in his right ear and none in his left; but then as he stands searching, I hear something scatter along the train floor in front of me like dice against a game board. Intuiting that this is what he’s looking for, I attempt to capture his attention. When I do, I mouth “it went that away”, and point, as we are in the quiet car. He begins to scramble around on the floor on his hands and knees, likely believing that I might actually know where his missing Air Pod has gone. He’s tall and blonde and wearing funny sneakers.
He finds it and sits back in his seat with an expression of relief, inserting it into his ear while nodding to me, thanking me, then is gone into his music before I can acknowledge him. In any event, I feel helpful and happy.
I continue to read as the train races to New Haven. I google words I don’t recognize, reading about self-absorbed, mostly privileged students attending a private college in Vermont. It’s the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day and the book was a Christmas present from my husband. It’s a thriller, a why-done-it rather than a who-done-it as the killer is identified in the opening pages of the novel.
The train stops in New Haven where I once worked; I crane my neck to see downtown and it’s there in the distance. Then there’s Bridgeport and Southport and another town identified on a sign, but we are traveling too fast to see the name. Westport? I can hardly remember after all these years.
We reach the outskirts of NYC. After Larchmont, the trash begins to multiply for a while along the sides of the tracks; rubber tires litter the hillside; graffiti colors the concrete embankments in cartoon-style, fat block letters, and there is a sense of excitement. My husband awakens, straightens up, and squeezes my hand. I tell him about the lost and found Air Pod. He smiles. He’s originally from Long Island. One of our first dates forty years ago was in NYC and we are going there for a business trip, at the closing bell of the New York Stock Exchange.
Finally, we have arrived at Penn Station and the new Moynihan Train Hall. We disembark the train and see that the hall is new and bright with a rooftop of windows overhead, and there is a large food hall with sushi, alcohol, coffee, and sweets. Outside on the street, opposite the Garden, we formulate a plan. We decide to drop off our bags at our hotel and walk through Macy’s (we watched Miracle on 34th Street the other night). I raise my eyes and scan the surrounding buildings to see where the precocious young Natalie Wood might have lived. The façade of Macy’s is adorned with the expected ribbons and bows and colorful Christmas lights. I see that R.H. Macy & Co. is engraved on the stone of the exterior above a wreath-decorated doorway.
We return to our hotel for an early check in and we change into business clothes. The large, Christmas tree on Broad Street is beautiful. And there is a statue of a girl outside the Stock Exchange with a fiery attitude. She’s called “Fearless Girl.” People stroll past, all enamored with the large, colorful Christmas tree or the fearless girl, more so than the Stock Exchange. But maybe not. It’s a breathtaking building.
The bell ringing ceremony brings my husband and me to tears. It’s overwhelming to be a part of something so ingrained in the fabric of our society, our only stocks a part of our 401-K’s. Thank goodness for our 401-k’s. Stocks were up on the day of our bell ringing, something to be proud of, as was the exterior’s stoic architecture, the marble interior, the colorful trading floor, more like an exhibition center on a basketball court floor until you look upwards at the beautiful ceiling and the decorative balcony with the elaborate white balustrade where the bell ringing occurred.
Afterward, my husband and I share a delicious steak dinner at Bobby Van’s: Crème Brule, and Irish Coffee, then we meander back to our hotel near Times Square; our room is small but with a TV on the wall above the bed that takes up ¾ of the room. We watch a marathon of Grey’s Anatomy episodes on Lifetime, remarking that we used to watch this show years ago, before it got too silly for my husband (I don’t mind silly when there are characters like Meredith Gray and Derek Shepherd, a.k.a. McDreamy, yet I haven't followed it of late). We open a cheap bottle of wine, hold hands, and reminisce about our forty years together.
In the morning, we find a Seinfeld-like diner and have breakfast: thick buttered bread, over-medium eggs and a scrambled egg omelet done perfectly with red roasted potatoes. A young German couple sits nearby and occupies our waiter with multiple cell phone photos as we sit on stools at the counter. The waitress with a slight Greek accent is hospitable, despite the crowds. The young woman who is the subject of the photo has beautiful eyes, with an upsweep of eyeliner at the corners; her husband has a mop of blond hair with a haircut that screams “German!”
After breakfast, we walk through Bryant Park where there is ice-skating and huts with hot chocolate and other whimsical winter-oriented treats, then we brave the crowds at the MoMA, wishing that there was a “no cell-phone” policy as crowds of people were surrounding Claude Monet’s Water Lilies, like ants to honey, taking selfies or walking in front of us when it was our turn to “regard” the painting. An Edward Hopper was hung on a wall by the elevators and was, thankfully, without any crowds, which makes me happy. A gas station is pictured. Back home in Boston, there are other Edward Hoppers on display that are also my absolute favorite. The crowds just getting to the MoMA were thick as bees to honey.
(I admit, we escaped the MoMA feeling a bit harassed and stressed out and wishing that cell phones were never invented for a moment; but still using our phones to take photos and capture the experience to send texts of our trip to our adult sons, Ian and Connor).
After a stop into a gorgeous cathedral, and by Rockefeller Center, and lunch at the Pig and Whistle, we head back home to Boston on the Acela, with thoughts of the magic of New York City whirling in our heads and expectations of the warmth and familiarity of home to come, in time for the ball dropping (rather than bell ringing), in Times Square, on TV, on New Year’s Eve.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone! The novel I was reading by the way was The Secret Society by Donna Tartt.
Sandra Ann Heath