The Christmas and New Years of 2023-24 will go down as one of the most magical two weeks of my life. My son James and his girlfriend Charmaine opened their home to me and were gracious hosts giving me a much-needed time to be with family. Flying in on a Wednesday night, we laid low the next day, but that Friday was the end of the school semester for Charmaine, so she went to the Bronx to stay with her mom and brothers for a few days. Giving me and my son some very special time together, where we didn’t waste a minute!
That Friday, we took the train into the city and got off at 34th Street right in front of the iconic Macy’s at Herald Square. Their windows were decorated with such color and whimsy, it took a while to finally go inside. Seeing the hustle and bustle of the crowds shopping for those last-minute items was so much fun, and brought back memories of shopping there when I lived in New York in the 1980’s.
We were out for six hours and covered every floor in Macy’s, did a walk through the Hard Rock Cafe looking at the incredibly historic rock and roll memorabilia. After eating dinner at Andrew’s Deli, we spent the rest of the evening walking through Times Square. The billboards, the people, the energy and the Christmas spirit was intoxicating.
The next day we spent cleaning, wrapping gifts and decorating the Christmas tree while playing Christmas movies in the background. On Sunday, Christmas Eve day, we did as much work as we could around the house, and then we went back into the city.
Taking the train directly to 59th Street and Columbus Circle we walked around the open-air Christmas village, sipping hot chocolate. My hat wasn’t keeping me warm enough, so we went looking for something better. We came upon a very handsome older gentleman with a booth full of hats, gloves and earmuffs. I tried on $5-, $10- and $15-dollar earmuffs and decided the most expensive was the warmest. I asked if he could do $10 and he smiled and said, “For you, I will. Merry Christmas.”
Walking up to 72nd Street to stop and pay our respects in Strawberry Fields, we came upon one red rose lying in the middle of the Imagine mosaic. We also discovered that we were the only ones there. It was dark and misty, and so magical to be the only ones there on Christmas Eve. Towering across the street was the Dakota, mostly dark except for the top floor apartment owned by Yoko One. Jumping on the train back to Brooklyn, we finished off the preparations and felt like two extremely successful elves.
Christmas Day we were joined by Charmaine, her mom and one of her brothers. Exchanging gifts and ordering pizza, it was a fun, very laid-back day, which was perfect after all our running around. The next day we went back into the city to see the Christmas Tree in Rockefeller Center, which was breathtaking to see in person. So was the front of Sak’s Fifth Avenue and Radio City Music Hall.
The following weekend, I spent with my girlfriend Ronnie who lives on the Upper West Side, six blocks north of my old apartment on 96th and Amsterdam. Staying in on Saturday night, we spent New Years Eve having pizza, walking to Amsterdam for a drink at the Dive Bar and just before midnight we walked to Central Park. When the ball drops in Times Square, they also have fireworks at 67th Street in the park. Finding a perfect perch, as the ball dropped, we could hear the roar of the crowd. Enjoying some fireworks, we walked back to the Dive Bar and had one last night cap. It was one of the best New Years Eves I’ve had in years.
Over the next week, we celebrated Charmaine’s birthday with a movie and a cake, seeing The Poor Things at a funky theater in Park Slope that serves food and drinks while you enjoy the film. The day before I left, I took one last train ride into the city to explore China Town and Little Italy. One of my favorite places to go. Flying out on January 4th, my son’s 30th birthday, we were able to enjoy a birthday brunch and seeing his face on his birthday for the first time since 2018!
I would like to thank everyone, especially James and Charmaine for giving me the best Christmas I have had since James was a little boy. A special thanks to the gentleman who helped me change trains on my way to Ronnie’s at Times Square. I got turned around and couldn’t find the right entrance to catch the next train. I asked him for help, and he not only walked me to the right terminal, but paid for me to get back in. Now that’s the New York that I fell in love with decades ago and I am so proud of my son for carrying on the family tradition.