Thursday, December 13, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good evening from a rainy, sleety New York with sidewalks that are slick with ice.

Now, does that sound like a winter wonderland? Well, not to me either, but it is what we have tonight. With our reasonably-well-functioning public transport, we New Yorkers are generally able to just go with the flow as the unpleasant side of winter tries to interfere with our pursuit of happiness.

But, this is getting close to Christmas, and we all do have lists to check off, parties to attend, and even the usual round of errands staring at us.

For myself, this was to be a day off with lots of required appearances, nonetheless. But the weather chased most of the requisites away. I not so quietly cheered.

I did not need to attend the previously scheduled meeting downtown at 9 this morning, and so I did not set my alarm clock and let the darker-than-usual sun up allow me to sleep a bit late. But then it was up and down to the basement laundry room (now undergoing some of the signs of renovation that the new owners of this building are bestowing upon all floors of their new property.)

The early morning was rain, then sleet, then snow, then a slow reversal of the earlier special effects. I figured that if I could wrap up in weather-proof and warm layers, I should, post laundry, set out to do lots of Christmas shopping, and other errands. And so I did.

A great achievement for this small-shoe-sized person, on this foul weather day, was that I took my dripping down-coated, damp-parcel-carrying person into a neighborhood shoe shop, and asked the staff (I was the only customer on this bad weather afternoon) what waterproof, snowproof and warm boots do you have in size 5.5? Well. They showed me a fine little style, made in Canada (Pondside, take note) and a very simple design with just a little bit of edge. Hey, that is me, very simple with just a bit of edge.

I was very glad to take those little black boots home with me and to have a chance to warm up before the next required appearance of the day.

My shop was to have its holiday dinner party tonight, but thank goodness when I got home and called the shop, those there had already decided wisely, to postpone that festivity.

Great. Because I had another festive function to attend late this afternoon, a retirement farewell reception for a dear friend whom I first met back in the early 1970's when we were both archivists at The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

There is no way that I would have missed attending this party, held in a rarefied lounge area of the Met. I definitely wanted to be there to honor my friend, but also to take another of my walks down memory lane. Sleet and snow and frozen sidewalks and a long wait for a crosstown bus, none of them were a deterrent.

Yes, it has been thirty years since I was an archivist at the Met, and in those thirty years I have been through many changes in my life. There were very few people whom I recognized at the party. Strangely, what interested me was that any regrets that I had wondered about ... whether I would be sorry to have given up the museum life, if re-entering that society this evening at a very high level would give me doubts about my decisions.... Well. None of that remotely true. The many people gathered about with glasses of wine, and tidbits to munch on, seemed sort of insular, a bit self-congratulatory. Virgo that I am, I could not help but check out various bits of body language, and wonder at the subtle messages that were being sent across the beautiful, large room. Messages that would mean little outside of that huge Museum building.

I was happy to see some other old pals, besides the honoree, and to chat a bit. Our old boss, a glamorous male, who featured in many society column photos, made a last minute appearance. It was fun to chat a bit with him. But all in all, I was glad to be able to take the elevator down to the first floor, and walk through the beautiful Museum lobby, out the front door and down the marble front stairs. I was so happy that all ice had been cleared from those marble steps! There was a very long wait for a bus to take me back westward across the park, but that time in the chilled evening air (with fur-edged hood up on my down coat at this point ... it was getting cold) gave me more time to contemplate some life decisions that I have made.

The career that I work so hard in now is very demanding, not very intellectually driven, but is very people focused. Tonight, as I look forward to another long day, mainly on my feet, tomorrow at the shop, I am glad that I have tried so many different ways to making my way in the world. Each career choice has had its reasons, and each aftermath has had its pluses and minuses. My current choice is still in the plus column, no matter how much I might whinge from time to time in this space.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

A late good afternoon from New York.

As many of you all know by now, I love reading. Most of my books now come from a great, quaint old members-only library, but the New York Public Library has a prominant spot in my heart.

I have borrowed hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books from the Public Library, and about six years ago, made much use of its free access to computers when preparing resumes and correspondence as I sought to re-enter the working world.

For many years, I have donated a little bit of money each year to the NYPL, and think of it as a small thank you for all that the Library has given me. The main branch of the Library is a splendid stone building at the corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street. It has grand exhibition spaces where wonderful exhibits regularly appear; a rare books room that one can actually visit, after going through a few security hoops; a rare map department, a magnificent reading room arrayed with fine old books, and sparkling new computers. The building is a wonder, and many fine librarians are there daily to help everyone.

On a December Sunday each year, the Library holds a very festive holiday open house, to which all the Friends of the Library are invited. It is great fun. The place is magnificently decorated with greenery. Lots of music is played and sung. Many folks parade around in storybook costumes. Children are encouraged to attend (it is not a day for silence in the halls) and there are all sorts of entertainments for the children ... face painting, juggling lessons, magic and puppet shows, storytelling, origami, and more.

Lots of cookies, chedder cheese pastry twists, punch and lots of wine is served from many buffet tables throughout the many levels of the marble halls. In one ballroom sized area, a disco band plays for dancing, and a more elaborate buffet is on offer.

The party is great fun, and a queue forms outside the building on Fifth Avenue about an hour before the starting hour. It is so funny to have bustling Christmas shoppers stop in their tracks to ask those in the queue, what's happening, what's going on ... and to tell them it is a party, and ... if they were to become a Friend they could come to next year's party.

This year's version was just a enjoyable as those of years past. I am glad that the forecast precipitation held off, so that after I left the party, I did a bit of walking up Fifth Avenue with my camera and have tried to get a few photos to share with you all. I have pictures of the special windows in shops such as Lord & Taylor, Saks seen from Rockefeller Center, and best of all, Bergdorf Goodman. BG's windows always set the standard.

By four o'clock, the air was distinctly cold, and it was time to get myself home, change clothes, and get some groceries. Now I am cosy by the laptop, and hoping to be able to properly illustrate my Sunday blog so that you all will be able to see some city views.

Pleasant dreams to all.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

City Views, Country Dreams

Good Evening from New York.

Today has been a really cold and windy day in New York. I had my little scrap of notated paper in my pocket as I headed out around 11 this morning, with the intent to get started on my Christmas list. Well. I waited a very long time on a windy corner for a bus to take me to the East Side of the park. I kept thinking, do I want to be even colder? Where is that elusive bus?

I had already done some errands on my west side of town, but needed to go eastward to go deeper into the Christmas shopping. Since I have to grab my free time when I can, every half-hour really does count.

Finally the bus arrived. My fellow twenty waiters and I boarded, and soon we wound through the Park's transverse road and emerged on to Fifth Avenue. I got off and got to stop one on my list. Done. On to stop two. But by this time the cold and the really huge crowds on the sidewalks of midtown were putting me off. (I do think that many of these folks on the sidewalks were out-of-town tourists, because they just did not walk at the pace that we New Yorkers sort of get used to.) I made one stop, and then returned home.

It was much more productive to stay cosy at home for the afternoon and continue my Christmas card painting. Great jazz music on my radio. A few phone calls with friends. Very relaxing. And warm.

This past week, our company held its annual holiday party, a few weeks earlier than usual. Don't think that we have ever before had the party in November. Anyhow, it was fun to have a chance to see folks that I usually only connect with via e-mail or phone calls. Great food and drink. Music, dancing. Venue located right on the edge of the Hudson River, with great big windows overlooking the water and the city skyline. Lovely.

We also learned this week of the year's great financial success for our company. This means a big profit sharing bonus for each of us, and hopes of more to come. I attended a meeting at which there was opportunity to share views with our company's founder, and of course I had to take advantage of that opportunity.

Perhaps not so great news is the past week's crime in the area of the shop. Last weekend as a club in the area closed up ca. 3 a.m., someone was stabbed to death. This club is a block away from our shop. Obviously the night life in the area is quite different from what normally goes on during business hours.

Ah, but wait. Also last week, there was an armed robbery in a shop at the corner of our block of Fifth Avenue at 4 p.m. Now this concerns me. Alarms me. Since learning of this incident from one of our delivery service's drivers, I have tried to find out more about what actually happened, and how we may get additional protection for the shop. I have been communicating with the robbed shop, the police and with my company. So far, I regret to say, I am not happy with the results of my communicating. Maybe I will feel differently by this time next week.

December is always a dicey time crime wise in this city. There is just so much money around, the nights are long, people are not attentive, all sorts of factors.

My concern as a manager is that I want those on my staff, and also my customers to be safe. I want to be safe myself! Making theory into reality is not always so easy. When it comes to safety, I am not of the laissez-faire school of thought. It is upsetting not to have calls to the local police precinct returned. When I go back to the shop tomorrow, I will try again to get some answers about what the police may be doing to provide the area with addtional protection during this glorious holiday season.

Meanwhile, my neighborhood's sidewalks now have the annual additions of lots of Christmas trees for sale. The trees mostly are trucked in from Canada, in all sizes from tres petit to twelve foot tall ones for the high-ceilinged grand apartments. It is great to walk past these trees just to breathe in the fragrance. Each one of these "encampments" is staffed 24/7 by heavily bundled up young entrepreneural folks who manage to make a bit of money each December. Most have boom boxes blaring forth various notions of Christmas music, usually not any of the carols that you all might recognize.

Let me end this seasonal New York report with the vision of sidewalks lined with stands of lovely green Christmas trees awaiting adoption.

Pleasant dreams to all.