The last couple of months have flown by without a blog post. For this I apologize. By now, know that I hear you loyal readers. I hear you cry out, your one, maybe two voices, petitioning for another long-winded blathering from the bowels of Texas. "We're too smart and witty", you say. "Please, please spout some rubbish to dull our senses a bit."
Well, I am nothing if not a servant of the people. I promise the following will have absolutely no attempts at editing or proper compositional form that might otherwise deter from its rambling potential.
December and January flew by amazingly fast. Christmas was almost idyllic . I jetted off to Manhattan to see my sister, and had an extra day to walk around a beautifully bright and crisp urbanscape. The bitter cold, bright sun, and freedom to ramble had me in pretty good spirits.(This bit is best read to the soundtrack of "Empire State of Mind" by Jay-Z/Alicia Keys)
I spent a good deal of time walking through Central Park. I never get tired of the Park. To speak well of it is hardly a unique sentiment, but it never fails to amaze me how such a serene conglomeration of open spaces and almost whimsical structures can coexist with a City renowned for it's grit and general-lack-of-whimsy. The genius of Olmstead and Vaux's Greensvard plan, coupled with the fervor of recent rehabilitation efforts has resulted in a what I would argue is the premier urban park in the world, with Hyde park begging to differ quite vociferously, I'm sure. I know that's a bit like saying "pizza tastes good", but the sentiment remains. (on a side note, Central Park boasts an impressive number of bird species. Even in the coldest day of the year, I counted at least three species of sparrows, the usual starlings, rock doves and crows, as well as robins, several species of gull overhead, and at least two raptors (an unidentified species of hawk, probably red-tailed, and an unidentified owl (probably barred?).
Statuary, Grand Army Plaza
Ducks and Bridge, The Pond, Central Park
View from the Bow Bridge, Central Park (antiqued)
There's really something crazy special about Manhattan during Christmas. Yes, unbridled consumerism abounds, but so does a celebration, as secular as some may find it, that transcends the almost half-hearted nondescript shopping mall Christmas decor of the suburban American wasteland. Manhattan does the same overblown Christmas hyping as done anywhere else. The difference being, of course, that...
Manhattan makes this look GOOD. and does it up BIG.
I did the usual tourist haunts, being the usual upstate NY paradox...sneering at the tourists while I went to all the tourist destinations (ironically, of course...or not.)
Skating at Rockefeller
Sacred and Profane, statuary and decor at Rockefeller
Blow, baby, blow
Plaza at Radio City
Candles at St. Patrick's
The dose of touristy glitz, quality time in Central Park, and some wonderful restaurants was threatening to turn into a Autumn in NY-esque movie montage to the City. But honestly, it was idyllic.
We left before Christmas from Manhattan to drive up and see some family in the Catskills. Easily, one of my favorite places. Their farmstead straddles a fork of the Delaware River, barely more than a creek that far north. Rolling hills and small mountains, green valleys and winding country roads. Doesn't get much better than this. It felt a bit like being landed gentry, taking a leisurely ride up from a posh Manhattan stay to a cozy farmstead in the country. We even shot Skeet. Given that it was the first Christmas without Mom, being with family in such a fantastic setting (and with an aunt who is such a consummate hostess) really helped a lot. Sadness turned into fond memories and good times. Red wine helped.
Dawn and Shoham out for a walk
Shooting Skeet with the boys
Valley in Frost
Last light on corn fields, Delaware River Valley
As much as it was all escapism to some degree, with the worries of life still waiting to pick me up at the airport in Houston, it was the very best kind of escapism. Which of course, brings on that odd mix of happiness and guilt that is adulthood at its most refined. It was one of the best Christmases I'd had in years. Which immediately triggers the thought, "I wish we could have given Mom a Christmas like this when she was with us.".