Sunday, December 18, 2011

A Christmas in New York Story

As I exited the subway at 66th Street and Lincoln Center on this very cold morning, classy Christmas decor surrounded me. Strolling south and then east to Columbus Circle and the southern entrance to Central Park, I laid eyes on more than a few humongous Christmas trees in corporate giants’ lobbies—holiday eye candy for sure.

When I reached my destination, I noticed the park’s entrance was glutted with peddlers of interesting things. There were shoppers aplenty in this tented holiday village, including many tourists. They seem enamored most of all with snapping pictures across busy and crowded sidewalks, and taking a very long time in getting it right. I was meeting someone at this location and had much too much time to kill. In the meantime, I didn’t browse these temporary, make-shift shops because that would have violated two critical life rules of mine: I don’t browse when I don’t intend to buy anything, and I don’t wade through crowds under any circumstances, and especially when I don’t intend on buying anything.

I couldn’t help but notice, too, that intermingled in all of this urban festiveness was a decidedly less appealing side of Christmas in New York. Perhaps I’m painting with a broad brush here, but tourist-dependent “special rides” of any kind seem to be operated by a smarmy lot. Observing unctuous pitchmen trying to ensnare tourists to ride in their hansom cabs, bicycle carts, and tour buses was painful. Their boorishness stood in sharp contrast with the local wealthy sophisticates just passing through with their Starbucks coffees, or whatever it is that outfit calls its five-dollar cups of headache-inducing sludge.

The piece-de-rĂ©sistance of this Christmas in New York Story is the strange place I ended up in. When I finally met the individual whom I was patiently waiting for, he informed me that he needed to get something to eat in order to take a high blood pressure medication. The irony was not lost on him that we were headed to McDonald’s to fulfill this task. We patronized a McCafĂ© actually. I hadn’t been to a McDonald’s of any name in quite a while, and for a very good reason. I have long been leery of this international hamburger conglomerate, which seems incapable of serving its staple hamburgers with nothing on them. It always seemed to me that, logically, preparing plain hamburgers would be the quintessential piece of cake in the burger business...but not at McDonald’s.

Anyway, I ordered a six-piece Chicken McNugget, which was the last main course I recall sampling at a McDonald’s, with French fries and a drink—and the bill totaled $8.35! I was remiss, I guess, in not searching hard enough for a special deal. But, for starters, I found reading the menu board difficult because it was both crammed with stuff and required 20/10 vision to decipher. I didn’t have 20/10 vision in my youth, and certainly don’t have it now. In the final analysis, I think my Chicken McNuggets cost me more than .60 a piece. This is my Christmas in New York Story, 2011.

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