Glorious New York


Yesterday was one of those days when all of New York’s architecture worked exactly the way the architects hoped it would: the silvery winter light glittered and refracted and bounced from building to building, the steam rose from the sidewalks, the streets were packed with shoppers, and the Christmas windows on Fifth Avenue were so playful and inventive that you stared at them excitedly and called “Look! Look! Look!” to your friends–“Look! The whole thing is made of papier mâché! Can you believe that? How did they do that? Look, look! They even made a papier mâché zebra!”

2009_11_CartierXmas-786446.jpg“Look at her, she’s blowing bubbles! Wow, look at that itty-bittty carousel, look, there are diamonds in that!” “Wow, that is a very big diamond, too.” “Would you ever wear that?” “I guess you could use it as a duster if you twirled around in it.” “I don’t think I could walk in those.” “Oh, look! She’s on a bicycle!” “There’s something weird about her eyes, don’t you think?” “Yeah, they’re just a little too lifelike.”

But the zoo was even better. Now, you’d think that if you went to the zoo with mfgcbot and PJS, you’d end up talking politics, because they’re members of Ricochet. But in fact, Ricochet members are interested in other things, too. It turns out that PJS is a passionate birdwatcher–so flamingo.jpgpassionate that she goes to places like Uzbekistan and Papua New Guinea to watch birds. So there is in fact no better person with whom to go to the zoo in all of Manhattan. She knew everything about the birds at the zoo, and the birds were even better than the shop windows on Fifth Avenue. They prompted the same sense of wonderment, too: “Who thought that design up? That is so whimsical and clever.” (Go on, tell me how this bright pink flamingo is perfectly adapted to his environment. That’s some terrific camouflage you’ve got going on there, buddy.)

images3.jpgBut the best part was the snow leopard. He came out, checked us out, and gave us all a good, contemptuous glare, pretty obviously thinking, “You are pathetic, weak, hairless and ugly. I pity you.” We wondered if it was a source of puzzlement to him to wake up every day in Manhattan. I had the sense that something about that just didn’t quite make sense to him.

Unknown.jpgThe next-best part was the poisonous little frog. He was so shiny and jewel-like that you wouldn’t have been at all surprised to see him on the end of a necklace at the Saks Fifth Avenue display down the street. PJS took a photo of him; I hope it came out better than this one, which doesn’t capture how amazing he was. I stared at him until they threw us out.

images2.jpgOh, and the sea lions! We saw them at feeding time. They seem to be just as trainable as dogs, and just as willing to have a good laugh. One of them was a super frisbee-player. Oddly, we all noticed that the zookeepers seemed a little bored with playing with sea lions, as if they did it every day, which I guess they do. But I don’t know how you could get bored with that.

It made me wonder why people don’t keep sea lions as pets. They’re obviously affectionate, they aim to please, and judging from what I saw, you could probably train them to play all sorts of really great games–they pretty much already had the chops to use a Ouija board, for example. Maybe a big one to compensate for the lack of fine flipper coordination.

sea.jpgAnyway, we did get around to talking politics at the end, over some hot spiced cider, but by that point my cold medication was wearing off and the jet lag was setting in, so I don’t think I sparkled as much as Manhattan did.

Suffice to say, I’m still impressed by the difference between the way New York really looks and the way I thought it would look based on what I’ve been reading about it. I feel like a sucker, actually. I of all people should know that the media likes to make a big deal out of things that just aren’t a big deal. New York looks better than I can remember it ever looking–safe, clean, lively, bright, sparkly, festive, fabulously affluent and shopping like there’s no recession.

It’s really not on the verge of a revolution. It’s not even on the verge of unrest. It just isn’t, and one look will assure anyone of that. The journalists just made it all up.

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There are 11 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Contributor

    So beautifully felt and appreciated and seen, Claire, that you made this Californian wish he were there.

    And I’m envious. If I’ve visited it once, I’ve visited the Central Park Zoo three dozen times–and every last time I was hoping to see the seals being fed. No luck. You breeze in from Turkey for a week and there it is.

    Enchanted, Claire. That’s what you are.

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Inactive

    As I mentioned elsewhere on the site, for my wife and I, the Central Park Zoo has a special place in our hearts. We more or less fell in love in the penguin house. We probably would have liked to adopt one of those little fellows, but we had to settle for a Chihuabrador, instead.

    Do let us NY Ricocheteers know if, once you are rested, you are ready for an after-work cocktail or two.

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  3. Profile Photo Member

    I was in Gotham over the weekend too, and I had a very similar reaction. New York City is the goods, and it never fails to impress.

    Plus, we were in attendance when the Packers beat the Giants last night, which made the trip just about perfect.

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Member
    Peter Robinson:

    Enchanted, Claire. That’s what you are. · Dec 5 at 10:10am

    Edited on Dec 05 at 10:32 am

    I’ve certainly been blessed, and don’t you ever think I’m not grateful for it. Not a second goes by without my thinking, “I’m the luckiest woman in the world.”

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Member
    Bill Walsh: That’s an amazing picture of the snow leopard, but I may be biased as uncia uncia is my favorite animal… · Dec 5 at 8:12pm

    Judging from the way he looked at us, you are not his. It was so clear that he thought us completely inferior beings. With good reason, I suppose.

    • #5
  6. Profile Photo Inactive

    I don’t know New York well, but you’ve captured its magic. In London, we used to say the difference between a Londoner and a New Yorker was this: if a New Yorker stepped on a Londoner’s foot, the Londoner said, “Sorry”, while the New Yorker thumped the Londoner. But every time I go to New York, I am astounded by how warm, generous, helpful and *polite* New Yorkers are. Especially when they can’t understand a word of my Queen’s English. New York is the (second) greatest city in the world!

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Coolidge

    Sorry my wife and I didn’t make it. I didn’t ask you for the secret meeting place in time, so it was my fault. Next time there’s a NYC Ricomeet, we’ll be there (hint, hint, when’s the next one, folks?).

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  8. Profile Photo Inactive

    In the works, Mr. Arthur, in the works…

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  9. Profile Photo Member

    Very nice piece. It’s been quite a while since I’ve been in NYC, but I remember one Christmas the Macy’s window filled with slowly revolving Snoopies & girlfriends as in a great ballroom, Snoopy in a tux and girlfriend in a nice fuchsia number.

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Inactive

    Have yet to visit New York in any season. Now the warmth of the Smithsonian in the chill of a D.C. winter begs one to stay for various reasons.

    The San Diego Zoo was something in its day. A far cry from the Cleveland Zoo one visited as a child. Long rows of stone enclosures with open bars and a brass rail to stand behind for viewing very large unhappy cats. Think of the movie Cat People.

    All that aside, positive observations and insights serve us all, thanks.

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Inactive

    That’s an amazing picture of the snow leopard, but I may be biased as uncia uncia is my favorite animal…

    • #11
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