Christmas In Summer

I once played a wise man for our Christmas show in elementary school. The costume was light blue and a golden crown adorned my dark curls. During those days, I was classified as a ham. As, I told my parents, I went great with the holiday season.

Christmas concerts were an integral part of my upbringing. I loved singing and always attempted to be the loudest voice in the ensemble. Most of all I sang for the love of Christmas carols. Rudolph the red nose reindeer, Frosty the snowman and even Charlie Brown were my Christmas idols. When their songs stopped playing on the radio and faded like slush on a Manhattan sidewalk, I wanted to cry.

Growing into adulthood, I lived in the Christmas capital of the world, New York. Working a half block from Fifth Avenue meant, holiday madness was inevitable. When the big crystal globe hovered over 57th and Fifth it not only marked Harry Winston’s interpretation of the moon, but the beginning of the holiday season.

The holiday crowds were always maddening. My memories of Midtown during the Christmas season involved pushing my way through the gaggle of tourists, stopping to take pictures of everything from St. Patrick’s Cathedral to a mailbox. Although, I played it cool. I did walk to Rockefeller Center to admire the Christmas tree. The Waitress’s “Christmas Wrapping” played on my iPod as it twinkled in the newly frosty New York skies. It was simply magical.

“Christmas Wrapping” was the only song I listened to during the holiday season. Anywhere, I walked the Waitresses’ song followed. After moving back to California, I discovered the joys of the Pandora Christmas station. My favorite Christmas song remained a staple, but soon I was reunited with my old friends Rudolph, Frosty and Charlie.

I traded the fancy window displays of Saks Fifth Avenue, roasted chestnuts and actual snow for quiet hilly streets with track homes competing for the coolest holiday decorations. The suburbs are uncool, but there’s something endearing about seeing the artistry that neighbors put into decorating their homes for holiday cheer. It’s the only time when track homes transform from drab to fab like a drag queen leaving her manly roots behind.

The cold air pressing against my face and the Christmas carols made my modest neighborhood as enchanting as my former home, New York. Once the holiday season ended, I stopped listening to carols. However, this past summer, I needed a little holiday cheer months in advance.

I re-downloaded the Christmas songs station on Pandora and was quickly transformed from palm trees and margaritas to Christmas trees and eggnog. It was a chilly relief from the heat wave.

Christmas is candy canes, eggnog, Santa Clause, hot chocolate with marshmallows, pine trees and most of all happy tunes. The Christmas soundtrack is like a Xanax for the soul. Regardless of the time of year, it’s happy music for a splendid season. Countdown to authentic holiday camp commences now.

Don’t Eat Yellow Snow

Snow, something I daydream about during heat waves. Nothing is more cinematic than watching snow fall gently into New York’s tough sidewalks. Living in sunny California, the only snow I see is up in the mountains from a safe distance and playing with a snow globe, of course.

I miss living in New York and it’s seasons. Snow is something I always looked forward. The best feeling is walking out of my apartment and seeing the stoop buried in the white powdery stuff. The sound of my shoe crunching against the snow was the perfect accompaniment to my ipod’s groovy sounds. I never bothered with an umbrella as my hair was covered in snowflakes.

The best place to experience snow is Central Park. It melts slower than the rest of the city. It’s a vast winter wonderland, which would inspire Bing Crosby to come back from the dead and sing “White Christmas” all over again. Snow is pure. However, living in snow also has its pitfalls.

Black snow is a secret enemy of the avid walker. While walking on the Upper West Side, I excitedly bought a coffee off the truck and was meeting a friend. I’ve always walked fast and hate being stopped by a slow pedestrian. While power walking after heavy snowfall, a mom and her baby carriage blocked me. I maneuvered past her. I felt triumphant, while walking up 72nd & Broadway.

Unfortunately, black snow broke my successful maneuver. I slipped and fell in front of the busy Upper West Side intersection. The mom walked up to me and asked if I was ok. I answered sure, just a small fall. The biggest tragedy was spilling my newly purchased latte all over my winter coat. I got up, dusted myself up and bravely walked to Riverside drive.

However, dangerous it is to walk in snow. Nothing beats nights where blizzards hit the city. While most Americans hibernate during a snowstorm, New Yorkers hit the bars. I’ve had wonderful memories of having drinks with friends on the Lower East Side. The majority of the city’s twenty-somethings cram bars between 14th and Delancy Street. Walking out a bit buzzed makes the snow fall experience ever more dramatic.

The art of living in the Blizzard ends around March/early April. New Yorkers like to complain about how snow slips from pristine beauty to a slushy mess. The melted stuff comes rolled with leaves and stained in brown and yellow.

They always say don’t eat the snow in New York. I did once; it tasted like flavorless Italian ice. Obviously, I stay away from the yellow and brown stuff. Living in snow, is one of the world’s simple joys. It brings people together at apartments for hibernation dinner parties; bars and neighbors work together as a community to make the streets walk able. Remember don’t power walk during or after a blizzard, while holding coffee.

The Tourist Trap

Times Square, half of my working life in New York took place here. I’ve jaywalked the crossroads of the world in the middle of a blizzard, maneuvered my way through the people traffic and avoided the urge to eat at Bubba Gump Shrimp. Sure, it’s the center of the city, but it’s a Disney-fied collection of chain restaurants one would find in Middle America.

That said, working in Times Square had its perks. Late at night, I’d turn off all the lights and watch the bright lights and extravagant outdoor ads smiling back at me. It was always a real treat.

Not so entertaining was catching the subway back to my apartment. Tourists tend to struggle with swiping their metro cards. At 42nd street-Times Square station, you could write a whole three act play, while these bewildered people attempted to enter the subway.

Times Square is classified as a tourist trap. This is any place prominent on a guidebook that is looked down upon by locals. Unlike a mousetrap, a savory slice of cheese is not needed to allure unsuspecting tourists. The only cheeses around are the souvenirs and overpriced caricatures, which are a mainstay of the tourist trap.

Even I have fallen prey to the tourist trap. Travel guides make some places completely alluring. Paris is a sophisticated town filled with high culture and an endless amount of tourist traps. Montmartre (the hill over looking the French capital) and the Eiffel Tower are more like a shrine to postcards and snow globes than anything the cool French bobos (French upwardly mobile bohemian crowd, somehow the French make hipster look chic) would ever frequent.

My favorite French tourist trap remains (drum roll) the Louvre. I’ve been there twice, I always took a picture in front of the pyramid entrance way. The art collection is overwhelming literally. The best art is skipping the Mona Lisa. It’s so small in real life. Paris will always be my pick for the world’s most beautiful city.

In Buenos Aires, the architecture screams Paris. There are cluster of buildings in Buenos Aires, which look as though they escaped chilly French winters for the humidity of Argentina. My most morbid tourist trap experience was the Recoleta Cemetery. It’s where high society is buried and Eva Peron, remains it’s most famous resident.

Not to culture shock anyone, but I was obsessed with the Evita soundtrack as a kid. I’m a huge Madonna fan and loved the film. I would hum and sing, ” Stand back Buenos Aires.” Some guys had loud hip-hop growing up, while I pumped up my Evita soundtrack. While in Buenos Aires, I wanted to see Eva Peron’s grave. Recoleta looks more like a small colonial town than a cemetery.

I kept asking people ” where is Eva Peron’s grave?” There was group of elderly American tourists. I followed them. There in a black marble grave was Evita’s grave. It wasn’t anything to really write home about.

Buenos Aires has this eclectic cosmopolitan population. Jewish, Italian, Spanish and Chinese make up a collage of cultures. However, one rarely sees the gaggle of American tourists (the stereotypical ones in tour groups, usually elderly and armed with fierce fanny pack) on the streets of Buenos Aires. They’re always too busy trying to find Eva Peron’s marble palace at the cemetery.

A hop, skip & jump over Brazil, the Equator and way up the Atlantic is London. It’s one of my favorite cities.  The red double decker buses, the novels of Charles Dickens, Brit pop from the 90’s, pubs (obviously), the edgy fashion and even the royal family’s history inspire my love of Cool Britannia. Like Paris, London makes tourist traps into very historical sites.

St. Paul’s Cathedral, The Tower of London, Westminster Abbey are quintessential and important slices of British history. All are touristy, but incredibly interesting to visit.

I love the National Gallery and sometimes-even love hanging out on Trafalgar Square and staring at Big Ben from the distance. However, one touristy part of London, I can’t stand is noisy Leicester Square. Think Times Square meets Meatpacking District (douchey nightclub bottle service heart of trendy New York). The fast-food chains and huge discos don’t exactly inspire haikus.

Living in touristy New York, visitors were always identified by a fear of jay walking, a love of movies turned into Broadway musicals & stopping traffic to capture the city for their friends back home to enjoy. My current home in California is not a tourist trap. At times I do miss taking the subway at Times Square and the energy.

All cool places have their tourist traps. Regardless of how un-cool a typical tourist looks, I do give them props for exploring new and exotic worlds, even if they are armed with fanny packs.

My Own Private Igloo

Not long ago in the frozen tundra of New York City lived a boy who loved the cold & grey. While New Yorkers dreamed of Florida & grumpily walked to work on the ice skating rings known as sidewalks, he reveled in all that winter had to offer.

From the ice capped peaks of Central Park to the cliche but charming images of brownstones with snow covering the classic stoop, it was magical. He adored winter with swell coffee, heavy fog, lack of sun, superb soups, gorgeous fashion (especially pea coats) & the feeling of one’s face freezing over from Manhattan’s very prominent wind tunnel effect (the skyscrapers create this effect making it colder in the city than the outer boroughs).

I’ve always loved the cold. In fact, my nickname is the urban eskimo. Where did I garner such a nickname? It’s from my love of Arctic style weather. I like to think of my house as my own private igloo. It’s always chilly, perfect for the sweater loving crowd & also the ideal setting for soup consumption. The igloo effect extends to my car. After moving back to California from New York, my car a/c died. So I quickly, fixed it. Thanks to my car’s high tech a/c, I can wear nifty sweaters, drink hot java & find peace in a sea of sunshine + traffic jams.

I also find inspiration from the grey old sky. It stirs a nostalgia, which compares to watching an old black & white film, since they remind me of a long gone era. Some of my best memories take place in the grey. Therefore, it’s my most favorite time to sit down & write about these experiences. No harsh sun causing gridlock in my brain, just the soothing sounds of wind & rain dancing along the characters I develop for school & creative endeavors.

I see too many sunny days now. It makes me appreciate the June gloom, which covers the coastal areas of California. It is also an excuse to dress up in my favorite sweaters, enjoy a most delicious cappuccino & soup du jour.

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