Last Sunday closed out the Winter 2016 skating season at Rockefeller Center. Luckily I’d passed this way several weeks ago and stopped to record it for posterity.
Whose posterity? Anyone’s and everyone’s. This is because I’m the only one who was involved in the tale I’m about to tell who’s still walking this earth. but I guess it’s a factor of living long enough to tell tales. Now that I think about it now, I’d rather me talking about them, than them talking about me.
As I recall my mother and I used to board the D train for the trip to 50th Street and Rockefeller Center every Friday evening. Although it was the same train I wrote about when I recounted my Macy’s woes, and the ride but two stops shorter, if I was asking “Are we almost there (?), it was because I could hardly wait to get there. There, being the skating rink where my Aunt Ginny would meet us after she got out of work. Aunt Ginny was my mother’s youngest sister. She worked for the New York Times and she loved ice skating. She also loved her little niece. So once I turned four, she’d walk over from the original Times Building which was about 6 blocks away.
The Old New York Times Building
We’d buy our tickets, and go into the dressing room, and although I didn’t change into a cute little skirt, my skates did have pom poms on them. Aunt Ginny would change out of her work clothes and my mother would lace up my skates and layer me with sweaters, and off we’d go; Aunt Ginny and I, to the ice, and my mother, to take up her observer post by the rail.
See the little girl in red? That’s where my mother would stand, and the door just behind her, to the right, was the dressing room
We kept this up week and after week and I took to the ice naturally. By the time I was five, I was able to skate around the rink by myself without holding her hand or the rail.I still remember how I loved being part of the circular whir of skaters, and and how exciting it was to skate in the midst of all the skyscrapers, fancy stores with the lights of Manhattan blazing and sparkling overhead.
Our weekly excursions ended the winter I turned six. I’d ceased being an only child in July when my brother Jimmy was born. My father, a podiatrist, had evening office hours and my mother couldn’t very well bundle up the baby and stand there with him in the freezing cold. So Aunt Ginny went straight home to Brooklyn after work, and we stayed home in Manhattan and watched Friday night TV.
After a five year hiatus, we did try to resume our sessions, on Sunday afternoons instead of Friday night. But it was never the same. I was eleven, and after skating with my friends on Saturday afternoons at the huge Wollman Rink in Central Park which was about ten times larger than the Rockefeller Center rink, fifty times more crowded and much rougher, I’d become a flawless skater, not a figure skater, but one who never fell. Rockefeller Center seemed very tame by comparison.
Jimmy was the pupil now, and he was not only much clumsier than I had been, also much bigger. I guess Aunt Ginny got tired of being pulled down on the ice, and soon my skating was confined to Central Park, which was fine with me. I went skating a few times in college and once or twice in my twenties, but it had become mechanical, and as my friends laughed and wobbled and held on the the rail, I became bored with it.
Jimmy resumed skating as an adult, but only to take his daughter skating whenever she wanted. His stride was a kind of a sharp-elbowed hobble. If you are old enough to remember the TV show, The Real McCoy’s, you’ll understand why we called him Grandpappy Amos on Ice; his style of skating, reminiscent of Walter Brennan’s skippy type limp with elbows held at an angle.
As for me, I went on to bigger, better, and scarier things – like sliding down Vermont mountains with skinny strips of fiber glass and wood attached to my feet. I never became bored with skiing, probably because I never stopped fearing for my life! As my more skilled friends paralleled and schussed their way down the mountain, I’d follow at my own pace and style, probably equivalent to Jimmy’s Grandpappy Amos style of skating.”Please, please. I’d pray”, as I picked up speed, navigating through the turns, retreating to the prayerful deal-making of promises of my childhood years. “I’ll be good , I promise I will if you just let me get to the bottom alive.”
Then I’d arrive at the bottom and ski-step back to the lift line, thinking Wow! that was fun. Let’s do it again. No I never got bored with skiing, but I got my own apartment which meant I couldn’t afford going to Vermont every weekend. (or any weekend, for that matter.)
Now I never miss a chance to walk by the Rockefeller skating rink when I can. I make my way through the crowd to gaze down at the skaters. Am I feeling nostalgic because I’m sole survivor of those long gone days? No, I’m just waiting to see someone fall down!
I know Macy’s has great sales, not only because my friends rave about the bargains they find there, but because I used to partake of them over the years. What stopped me was a problem with my Macy’s card. The problem was not my credit, but for some reason I was unable to activate my new card over the phone. That alone tells you how long ago that glitch occurred since if it were today, I’d have activated it online. Eventually they stopped sending me their sale fliers and coupons, and we parted amicably. I never looked back because for some reason I was never crazy about shopping there. Maybe it was the waiting in line at the cash registers scattered around the various departments. Or maybe it was the necessity of having to go to the mall. I am not a fan of malls.
Well I was recently on 34th street passing THE Macy’s yes, the one from the classic movie, Miracle on Main Street; the one that hosts the annual Thanksgiving Day Parade, floats, and balloons; the original Macy’s famed for being the largest department store in the world. Needless to say it can not fit in a mall since it takes up an entire square block.
Upon seeing the entrance, I had a flashback that revealed to me the root of my Macy “problem”. This store was the bane of my early childhood existence! Back in the early days when I was still an only child, which meant younger than five, my mother would regularly drag me down to 34th Street to “go shopping.” We’d have to walk nine blocks to the subway, (but that wasn’t the part I hated) then ride 129 blocks underground. That’s eight stops if you’re counting. I wasn’t, but I was asking “Are we almost there yet.” (Nope, that’s not what I hated either.)
Finally we’d emerge into the daylight of Thirty-fourth Street and make our way into the store. It seems like it was always crowded, even though it was usually a weekday morning. (Nope the crowds didn’t bother me either). It was the fashion faux pas, my mother visited on me.
As soon as we emerged from the revolving door, she’d take my coat off, but leave my leggings on. Leggings back then referred to the heavy wool pants that were part and parcel of the matched set that also included a matching hat. That’s what I hated – I wanted to keep my coat on like all the grownups, but there I was walking around with my dress stuffed into a suspendered overall type pants. But my mother had a theory. If I kept the coat on, my body would get used to it and when we went out into the cold once again, I’d feel cold. But I noticed she didn’t mind “getting used” to her coat.
This looks like a Sunday coat, and since stores didn’t open on Sundays back then, it couldn’t have been a shopping coat, and I’m probably younger here than the days I’m talking about – but look at the leggings. Get the picture?
If walking around unfashionably clad was the beginning of my, as she liked to put it, crankiness, (a word often applied to me, especially at nap time and bedtime), it was reinforced by having to wait until she’d bought everything else before going up to the fourth floor or the fifth floor. One held the children’s shoe department and the other, the toy department. I regarded them both as sources of joy, and perhaps enjoyed buying shoes even more than a toy. (Some things never change!)
But n-o-o-o-o. I had to wait until last. Another one of my mother’s theories was I’d be less of a pest if I had to wait. Pest was another word often applied to moi. The reasoning behind this was, once I had what I came for, I’d suggest “Let’s go have lunch”. Well, maybe it was more like whine, so if she saved my shopping until last, she’d be able to shop in peace.
Once her mission was accomplished, we’d either have a hot dog and orangeade at Nedicks, an indoor stool and counter. If I recall, that’s all they sold; at any rate it was a New York icon in the Fifties and Sixties.
No more Nedicks! Today, it’s a
Sometimes we’d go across the street to the 5 & 10, as we called Woolworth’s, where we’d also have a hot dog, but a coke instead of an orange drink.
No more 5 & 10. Today, it’s a
Although lunch was fun, it remains overshadowed by the shopping. But you know how they say misery loves company ? Well, about thirty years later I discovered I was not alone. The man to whom I was once married, upon hearing my tale of woe, assured me that he was there too and he was very surprised I hadn’t seen him.”I was the one tagging after my mother,” he told me crying.” the one crying.”
I wish I’d asked him if he had to take off his coat!
People of a certain age, my age, may (or may not ) remember the fear of 27 that was prevalent among the earliest wave of baby boomers in 1970. I wonder if there’s a name for the fear of 27. I know there’s a name for the fear of 13. It’s triskaidekaphobia. If you think that’s hard to pronounce, try spelling it.
(Since I went to the trouble of googling fear of 13 to find the term, I might as well share where it stems from. Wikipedia lists several sources, The Last Supper, being one. Judas was the last one seated at the table – the Twelve apostles, and then Mr Iscariot.)
As for 27, it was an age we feared reaching because of the “trouble comes in threes” deaths of three of our most beloved rock stars:
Jimi Hendrix on September 18, 1970
Janis Joplin on October 4, 1970
Jim Morrison on July 3, 1971
Since they were all 27 when they died, we Baby Boomers were sure we’d never survive that dreaded year either. I know it sounds dramatic, viewed this many years later, but hey, it was all about us. Wasn’t everything about us? Even though it would be another three years before we started to turn 27 in 1973, and we’d lost no one else in the intervening years, we all breathed a sigh of relief when we turned 28.
The deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman last week at age 69 brought it all back. Ironically those of us who were the first to blow out 27 candles are all 69 now. Just saying.
Keep in touch!
That’s the word I heard over and over on Monday morning as the news hit me in the face. And it was my own voice uttering it. It was 7 AM, and I had woken up early enough to have made coffee and fed the cats in time to catch the Today Show from the very start. There it was, a head shot of David Bowie filled the screen. And although the photo could have been a teaser, signaling anything, it being the morning after the Golden Globe awards, a sinking feeling in my stomach told me what it was. And sure enough my awful suspicion found confirmation in Matt Lauer’s voice. “Dead at the age of 69, after an 18 month battle with cancer.”
I must have stood there, protesting no! no! no! no! for at least 2 minutes before sinking to the recliner. I am still surprised by my numbness – akin to, but of course not the same, as when I got the phone call telling me my brother had lost the same battle over twenty years ago.
Four days later, I’m still trying to figure out why I am so deeply affected. Maybe it’s because I feel that I “discovered” him. It was, I hate to admit, 44 years ago, and there I was, a romantic Yank who had fallen in love with a a Brit, and the city in which he lived. On vacation from my teaching job back in NY, I wandered London all day while he was at work.( I know a dirty job, but someone had to do it!)
On this day, I was in our neighborhood, Finsbury Park, and passing the renowned Rainbow Theater, the site of so many rock concerts.
On this afternoon, a line of people seeking to buy tickets, snaked around the corner.(Yes, this was before the age of Ticketron and Ticketmaster.) I looked up at the marquee and wondered “Who the heck is Ziggy Stardust? (it was also before the WTF era) It wouldn’t be until the next year that his song, Space Oddity, hit the New York airwaves, and I would learn that the voice singing Ground Control to Major Tom belonged to David Bowie whom I’d already “met”, as Ziggy Stardust.
The years passed and I moved into my own apartment and probably annoyed my neighbors with the Ziggy/Bowie voice. I do recall the upstairs neighbor banging on his floor(my ceiling? It’s a matter of semantics) with a broomstick but I was probably playing the Stones.
I still have the albums, and somewhere (?) a third one, Station to Station
but since I have no turntable, the neighbors are safe.
My Mile Marker
All the news reports made a point of pointing out Bowie died just four days after releasing his latest album on his birthday And this may have added to my emptiness. I was quite aware that January 8th was his birthday because I waited for it each year.
You see, I used to have a BFF, Rosalie, back in college and my early 20s. Her birthday was January 3 , four days after mine. I can’t believe that at such a tender age aging bothered me, but I would not call or see her for those four days until she “caught up” to me.
Rosalie eventually went her way and I went mine and we lost contact and somehow David Bowie took her place as my personal mile marker. He was born nine days after I was so I took solace each year when he caught up to me. If he could stay “young” and hip, so could I. I guess I’m on my own now.
Now that the cold temperatures are here and I have no garden tales to tell, I’m finally getting around to a subject I’ve been mulling around for some time. It’s a topic that’s near and dear to my heart – shopping. However it’s not my heart strings that are being tugged, it’s my brain that’s being confounded. You see, one word rings over and over in my mind, and that word is Why?
It all began when I noticed big-time ground breaking on Route 6 right next to the entrance to Cortlandt Town Center last spring. Route 6 is our major shopping strip, and Cortlandt Town Center is our major shopping center. It’s not spectacular but in addition to these establishments, it has what I need to get by.
Months went by, and several buildings began to take shape – boxy squat shapes. However there were no “coming soon” signs and since they were too small to be Trader Joe’s, the only establishment that would send me into ecstasy, I lost interest as summer brought me big and better things to look forward to.
When September rolled around, I decided to treat Mighty Mouse, my grey compact station wagon, to an oil change and maintenance service. After all, he’d been good to me all summer. The dealership is on Route 6 directly across from the mystery construction spot.
As I settled into my seat in the waiting lounge, and accessed WiFi, I looked up and across the wide street and saw that the word was out. The mystery was over.
But wait, isn’t this inside the shopping center:
You mean this one inside isn’t enough?
or this one either?
And then there was revelation #3.
Of course, just what the world needs, another Starbucks. Especially since tucked within Barnes and Nobles is a nice cozy….
Oh well, variety is the spice of life, I guess.
PS. I have since been informed that GNC and Vitamin Shoppe appeal to totally different markets: the body builders and jocks vs the health-conscious. Oh well, live and learn……. and shop!
I, for one, am enjoying what so far has been a glorious non-winter. November is already on the books as the warmest in record-keeping history, and while we still have ten more days of December, it looks like a sure shot. It was nearly seventy degrees two Sundays ago when I saw Christmas shoppers strolling around in t-shirts, and a friend of mine told me she dug out her flip-flops. It was as if I were still in San Jose! Yes, yes, I know I, when I lived there I complained that I missed having four seasons…..but I lied! Or rather I didn’t realize what I was missing were three of the four seasons.
So why should I worry? (Hey shades of Mad Magazine – if you’re old enough to remember Alfred E. Newman, wasn’t that his name? The guy with the space between his teeth. For those of you who have no idea what I’m talking about – sorry for the interruption – back to the warm weather.
I know the immediate explanation is a very strong El Nino, but I fear the looming backdrop is climate change. Still I am thankful and, were I to wake up to a blizzard in the morning, I’d still view each of the days we’ve had as a wonderful gift and one less day of cold for the 2015-16 winter. I was talking to a woman on the train over the weekend and she issued a warning. “It’s going to come sooner or later, and when it does, it’s going to arrive with a wallop. Part of me knows she’s right but the other part says no, this is normal from here on in!
This past weekend we did have a break of winter. It wasn’t bad as New York winters go – low thirties overnight and low forties all day. If this were a normal winter, it might be considered a warm day. But it’s not, so everyone was freezing.
Some of the diehards in my garden, since it takes the first snow fall to put them to sleep for the winter, are still awake and enjoying this Christmas gift from Mother Nature too
Even the azalea bush!!!!!
As of this morning, the forecast for Christmas Eve is seventy-one degrees! Merry Christmas my green friends!
And for everyone reading this, in the words of Tiny Tim – A Merry Christmas to us all. And God Bless us everyone.
The long Thanksgiving Day weekend offered me two chances to visit my version of the promised land – Manhattan, of course. Is there anyone out there who wants to promise me enough money to afford am apartment there? No? can’t blame me for asking, after all nothing ventured, nothing gained.
Anyway, as usual I had my camera at the ready, and this was good since there was a Thanksgiving cornucopia of signs that made me wonder.
How grateful do you have to be to deserve two ts?
Yep, that’s grattitude for you!
I snapped this one on Thanksgiving afternoon!
H&M. Aren’t you jumping the gun a wee bit?
Wow! 7-11 actually makes coffee every day!
Have no idea what Feed The pig is, but if someone wants to find out, let me know! All I know is I’m already many people’s eccentric relative, Two out of three ain’t bad.
but is I were the rich eccentric relative I could have my own apartment in Manhattan……..with my own terrace………and own river view……..my own doorman………….and………..and………and my own pony
Just kidding about the pony. Marcel, Marceau, & Marble would put their foot down on that one.
If they ever figure out how to untangle their feet!