Concettina Died and Other Stories of the East Side

Christmas in New York, posted December 29, 2008 at 11:17 PM


It took me 16 years of living here, but I finally celebrated my favorite holiday in my favorite city. My parents arrived on the heels of our first winter storm, setting off a whirlwind 10-day-9-night Zaza Christmas Spectacular. It was a total blast--the only thing missing was Stephanie and Joe, who spent the holiday with the grandkids. We missed them, but we partied pretty hearty anyway....

We got off to a smart start, with Mom and Dad landing mid-afternoon on Saturday 12/20. I'd prepared a big spread of cheese, olives, peppers, and meats to greet them, then we took off for BAM to see Pina Bausch. Patsy needed a ticket and lucked out with an outside sale from someone who's friend got snowed in. The performance was entrancing, everything I've come to expect from Pina Bausch: poetic structure, energetic dance, and visuals and music that work cinematically. After the show we came back to my place for birthday cake and coffee--happy belated birthday, Mom!

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The next morning we headed off to the Upper West Side for brunch with Shana and Josh. I had never been to Nice Matin before, but had heard good things. The food and atmosphere were terrific, and I definitely want to head back there for dinner sometime. From brunch we walked South, wandering in the cold along upper Broadway, shopping and strolling. We hopped a cab to the St. James Theater in Times Square where we had tickets for a matinee of Gypsy. I saw the previous revival of Gypsy about five years ago and left wondering if I was missing something about this musical. I mean, what was the fuss all about? Well it turns out that casting can definitely change the very essence of a show--that previous revival starred Bernadette Peters, who's no Broadway slouch--but this production starred Patti Lupone, who inhabited the role of Rose and shaped it into something unlike anything I've ever seen. She was a force of nature, simply wonderful. She showed me why this show is so great. My parents also loved it and we left with huge smiles knowing we'd just seen something special.

We cabbed it to the Lower East Side to Alex and Jim's Christmas party. We missed most of the guests, but we still got to enjoy scrumptious mince pies! We had a cheery visit and got to play with Thea for a good chunk of time. Afterwards we met Patsy back in Brooklyn for dinner at a new pizza place by my house. I think we'll wait another three or four months before heading back to that restaurant--give them a chance to work out the kinks.

Monday and Tuesday of last week were spent mostly shopping in preparation for both Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas itself, what with stocking stuffers and last-minute presents left to buy. But we worked in our share of fun too. From Macy's in Herald Square we went straight to MoMA where we saw the Van Gogh and Miro exhibitions. The Van Gogh was simply too crowded to see much of anything, but we enjoyed it as best we could. We had a yummy lunch at MoMA's cafe, then headed back home. Tuesday we actually went to another Macy's--this time in downtown Brooklyn. It was my folks' introduction to Fulton Mall, and they reveled in the Brooklynness of it all. We ate delicious slices of pizza for lunch and then went grocery shopping for Christmas Eve.

We decided to begin the Christmas Eve cooking on Tuesday, to make life a bit simpler. Three pounds of frittes were made--filled with either cheese and egg or tomato and onion. Dad rolled 'em out, I stuffed 'em, and Mom fried 'em up. What a team!

After all that frying, we went out to a local pub for fish & chips for dinner! Yum yum.

Christmas Eve was wonderful. It was our traditional meal, but transported to the Big Apple, with loving friends joining us for the feast. Carter was with us, as well as Jim, Alex, and Thea. Poor Thea had a fever, but you'd never know it from her sweet demeanor. She was simply angelic--cute and funny and excited and gorgeous as always.

For dinner we served spaghetti with squid sauce, followed by the above-mentioned frittes, with sauteed shrimp, steamed broccoli, orange salad, and green salad. Peach melba for dessert, followed by cookies and coffee. Mom and Dad did all the heavy lifting in terms of the cooking. I assisted as best I could (I'm no cook) and I played host and bartender and godfather as needed....

Thea loved her presents--and so did Carter!

After dinner we watched YouTube by the fire. It was a joyous holiday, and it came off without a hitch. I was a little worried about the dinner being prepared and served in my less-than-state-of-the-art kitchen, but my folks said they found my place rather easy to cook in. Apparently so, as the meal was delicious!

I did a huge tree this year--9 feet tall. We sat under it late on Christmas Eve to open our presents. I got lots of great stuff--a lamp I really wanted, bicycle gear to keep me warm in the winter, and finally some proper cheese boards and kitchen knives. Patsy cried when she opened the iPod I gave her. I read today that Apple made a killing on iPods this year--must be just the right size gift to bypass the recession. Anyway, it's been fun helping Patsy fill up her new purple Nano with music.

Christmas Day was SPECTACULAR!

We went to the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. The Music Hall was decked out in crystal, and we donned our gay apparel. The Rockettes changed costumes four or five times. The show was magical--they made it snow inside the theater!--and we laughed and sang along and had a real ball.

After the show we fought our way through the jostling throng of Rockefeller Center to see the big tree all lit up. It was insanely crowded and lots of fun... From there we went to the Algonquin for a cocktail! Then on to Bryant Park to watch the ice-skaters, then back home for left-overs and some R&R....

The days following Christmas were blessedly relaxed. Having front-loaded my parents' visit with activities we were now free to explore the 'hood, watch some movies, make some phone calls to friends and family, and generally hang out like the fabulous New Yorkers we are. One day we walked around Cobble Hill and Carroll Gardens, then Fulton Landing and DUMBO. We went to the movies to see The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (thumbs up!). One day we went to the Met to see their beautiful Christmas tree and to see the show honoring Philippe de Montebello, which was a brilliant exhibition that I highly recommend....

The visit ended with a couple of dinners--Anthony and Annabel had us to a terrific dinner party on Saturday, and Mom and Dad met up with a bunch of Mom's cousins for dinner on Sunday--and then a quiet Brooklyn breakfast this morning before packing Mom and Dad off to LaGuardia for their flight home. It was a most enjoyable ten days--filled with laughter and singing, hugging and kissing, just the way Christmas should be.

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