Tag Archives: New York

Home alone for the holidays


They rolled over the central Maritimes, one after another, each a vast, white steamroller, each inevitable, inexorable, remorseless; and at some point on the day after my holiday haircut and before the last bag was packed, I knew the adventure was over before it had begun.

“We’re not going to make this happen, are we?” I quizzed my wife, already certain of her answer. She remained silent, but the look on her face said everything that needed to be said.

We had started planning the trip to New York City – a short, Christmastime sojourn in the Big Apple – last winter. It had made terrific sense. Our adult daughters would be gone with their families, enjoying the seasonal cheer this year with their husbands’ relations. We, in turn, would escape to Manhattan’s jazz clubs and Central Park and the Museum of Modern Art.

By early November we were ready: tickets bought, various admissions arranged, hotel reservations confirmed. Nothing would stop us. Nothing could go wrong. After all, we’d orchestrated a similar jaunt to London, England, only two Christmases ago, and it went off without a hitch.

Of course, December 2011 was not, as things transpired, December 2013.

The Canadian winter dominates the nation’s literary canon as Professor Moriarty did the works of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle: capricious, diabolical, confounding. And so it was in the days before our scheduled great escape. Storm upon storm upon storm descended, bringing with them all the attending power outages and, more relevantly for us, flight delays and cancellations.

We had planned for every contingency except, naturally, the one for which there is none. Now, the battle turned indoors.

How exactly does one enjoy a merry Christmas when no halls had been decked, no mistletoe had been strung, no presents had been wrapped? Hell, no tree had been raised. Is any scene more pathetic than that of two 50-somethings huddled around the fireplace channel, crackling away on the tube? The packet of American bucks rested, inert, in the living room bureau drawer, feeling very sorry for itself, indeed.

Fortunately, my wife possesses a streak of resourcefulness wide enough to inspire a planeload of stranded passengers. With cheerful fortitude, she determined that if we could no longer go to New York then New York would come to us, and began to organize our leisure time accordingly.

Back issues of the New Yorker magazine were rescued from the recycle and placed prominently on the coffee table. Annie Hall, Manhattan, Broadway Danny Rose, and Bullets Over Broadway were stacked neatly beside the CD player, waiting only for the bagels and lox to be served.

In no time, quotes from the iconic New Yorker – Woody Allen, himself – danced through our heads. . .

This: “I’m astounded by people who want to ‘know’ the universe when it’s hard enough to find your way around Chinatown.”

And this: “It’s not that I’m afraid to die, I just don’t want to be there when it happens.”

And this: “The lion and the calf shall lie down together, but the calf won’t get much sleep.”

And this: “More than any other time in history, mankind faces a crossroads. One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other, to total extinction. Let us pray we have the wisdom to choose correctly.”

When we’d had our fill of that sort of wit, we turned to another, in form of The New York Nobody Knows: Walking 6,000 miles in the City by William B. Helmreich. The book, a gift from our daughter, fairly brims with a native’s good-natured observations about his home town:

“The conclusions drawn. . .are based. . .on the more than six thousand miles I walked through the streets and parks of New York City over a four-year period,” he writes. “I hung out on street corners, attended community meetings, sat in parks, went to concerts, danced in nightclubs, and spoke with hundreds of people from every walk of life. In truth, I’ve actually been walking this city since I was a young child, having been raised here.”

Meanwhile, storms continued on their punishing course and the planes stayed grounded, as did we – but in a good way, as we gorged on the promise of spring.

“What about New York in May,” I quipped. “Winter should be over by then.”

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Musings on an approaching birthday


As the dreaded anniversary of my first appearance on this sullen orb approaches with all the inevitability of a shale gas protest, I resolve to experience that which has, so far, eluded me, lo these 52 years, 11 months and 20 days.

Given my soul’s temperament, serenity and wisdom may be too much to expect. But, at my age, nothing beats a fresh diversion or two.

For some time, it has been one of my fondest desires to coin a word and have it recognized by the Oxford English Dictionary. This month, the venerable OED has heralded ‘selfie’ as its word of the year. According to the Guardian newspaper, it refers to a “photograph that one has taken of oneself, typically one taken with a smartphone or webcam and uploaded to a social media website.”

The term debuted in an Australian online forum in 2002, to wit: “Um, drunk at a mates 21st, I tripped ofer [sic] and landed lip first (with front teeth coming a very close second) on a set of steps. I had a hole about 1cm long right through my bottom lip. And sorry about the focus, it was a selfie.”

The OED’s editors noted that the word secured its ranking after the dictionary’s language research program showed that the frequency of its usage jumped by 17,000 per cent in 12 months. Other words that made the shortlist included: bedroom tax, binge-watch, bitcoin, olinguito (a miniature racoon), schmeatn (fake meat), showrooming, and twerk.

None, I hasten to add, holds a candle to my entry for consideration in next year’s competition. What do we call a political scandal that involves prostitutes, illegal narcotics, foul language, pornography, violent outbursts, grandstanding? Why, that would be ‘Fordmageddon.’ Naturally.

On the subject of new experiences, my wife and I will be passing through the town that Rob wrecked in about a month en route to New York City. There, from our room at the Chelsea Pine Inn, we shall embark on a walking tour of lower Manhattan, taking as many nibbles out of the Big Apple as time (all of eight days) permits.

Those of us who were born and raised in Toronto have a nasty tendency to assume that those who weren’t haven’t yet graduated to indoor plumbing. That’s why the Ford fiasco troubles us so deeply: The emperor’s clothes have gone missing, and what is revealed is simply unspeakable.

But it behooves us to recognize that New York remains North America’s preeminent destination for municipal mischief of every variety. Last May, in a piece entitled, ‘Scandal and Redemption in NY Politics,’ Beth Gerbitelli barely skimmed the surface when she reported in MetroFocus.com, “a formerly disgraced pol from New York, Anthony Weiner, returned to the front pages when he discussed the possibility of running for mayor in the pages of The New York Times Magazine in April.

“After holding out for almost a month and teasing the New York tabloids with reports of hiring campaign staff and  recording an announcement video, Weiner laid suspicions to rest with a midnight campaign rollout the week before Memorial Day.

Weiner resigned from Congress two years ago after accidentally, publicly sending lewd pictures of himself through social media. Weiner first claimed the pictures were the work of a hacker before coming forward and acknowledging that they were taken and sent by him. . .‘Look, I made some big mistakes, and I know I let a lot of people down,’ Weiner stated. ‘But I’ve also learned some tough lessons. I’m running for mayor because I’ve been fighting for the middle class and those struggling to make it for my entire life and I hope I get a second chance to work for you.’”

Sound familiar? It’s the universal call of the publicly humiliated, unreconstructed campaign addict.

On the other hand, Mr. Wiener, who torpedoed his run for the mayoralty in much the same way as he did his congressional career, seems to have acquired a degree of circumspection about which Mr. Ford’s detractors can only dream.

“I’m just an empty, soulless vessel,” the disgraced New Yorker wrote about himself.

Aren’t we all, Tony? Though, some of us be more soulless than others.

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