For the day after New Year's, we planned to go up to Manhattan and see the sights, particularly the window displays. We like this every year. And Monday looked like the better day to go up, too, as temperatures were forecast to drop precipitously Tuesday. It was a little chilly, but none too bad, and I even wore my new non-exchanged sweater for greater comfort.
What we failed to do, as often, was to get up early for it. We keep resolving to, but we were exhausted after all the things of the past days, so we slept in until around noon or so. There was a bus going up at 1:08 pm and sure enough we got there at 1:08 pm and watched the bus departing. There was another bus supposed to go up about fifteen minutes later, but it didn't show. I wonder if we didn't get a reduced holiday schedule instead.
We arrived in Manhattan tolerably hungry, and disappointed that bunny_hugger's brother wouldn't be able to meet up with us for dinner or something after all. She'd just seen him over Christmas, but I haven't seen him in ages, and it's not like they see each other enough. But he was caught already in the schedules of things.
Remembering our experience with a restaurant near Grand Central, we wandered instead to Bryant Park where there were still a lot of little temporary shops set up, and got something hot and Turkish to eat from the first stand we saw. It was filo dough wrapped around, in my case, spinach and cheese; in bunny_hugger's, potato. Add some tea and we had not just something to eat but something hot that felt very good in our hands on a chilly day to eat outside.
The various little stands had an abundance of knicknacks, for the most part, along with a scattering of practical items like feety pajamas or metallic sculptures of owls. bunny_hugger thoughtfully examined and then bought a few tiny glass sculptures while I looked around fretting that I was going to knock over a giant glass squirrel. (I failed to knock it or anything over.)
After this labyrinth we remembered there was a tiny carousel somewhere in the park, and after systematic investigation we even found the tiny carousel. It was doing tolerably nice business, possibly from the overflow crowd of people who couldn't stand the 5000-person line for the ice skating rink. I thought briefly about ice skating there, or at Rockefeller Center, but the line stretched out to Hoboken. Also, neither bunny_hugger nor I have gone ice skating since we were kids, and I was only good at the part of ice skating where you stand as still as your shakiness allows while clinging with a death grip to the wall.
We wandered from there up to Rockefeller Center, to take in the tree --- maybe not the tallest or even taller than Michigan's state tree, but at least in appearance wider, and quite lovely --- and see what interesting things might be at the NBC Studio Store. They seem to have given up on selling the miniature NBC Chimes Xylophone set, so if you've been hoarding yours it's time to let them out on eBay. They're also being surprisingly stingy about NBC Peacock merchandise, considering they're the only network with a mascot that could be made into hand puppets and plush dolls and stuff. They did have some Community merchandise and I put my money behind the doomed yet wonderful show. I did go in a practical method, however, picking up a Greendale Community College travel mug --- which is both usable and understated, so when the show is cancelled this year and forgotten by next it won't stand out as unreasonable --- and a lanyard on which I can hang my Actual Community College staff ID.
After more wandering around and a pause for some coffee and tea (respectively) bunny_hugger and I set out for Fifth Avenue to walk up and take in store displays. We'd started in previous years from Macy's, but the more interesting ones had been north of there anyway.
Where they got good was at Bergdorf Goodman's, which had done nicely enough last year with scenes of world travel and adventure. This year the theme was the Carnival of the Animals, with each of the displays showing animal-headed people doing different things. Each of the setting depicted creatures flying, some of them ones which could ordinarily fly, and some more fanciful, such as polar bears with wings, which does seem dangerous for all concerned. Each of the displays was set in a different material, too, for extra diversity and general imagination. Several of the displays also featured antique photographic equipment; in one of those lovely extra touches photographs matching the settings were on display at the end of this row.
We figured to turn around at FAO Schwarz, but they were closed and chased us away from the door. Well, they pointed vigorously at us anyway. We walked back the other way and noticed that Bergdorf Goodman's Men's had a similar set of animal-headed people on display. This was to display various traits of, I guess, manliness, such as industriousness. One of the unsettling pieces of this would be a cat's head clearly repurposed from a Cheshire Cat display. It's always supposed to be creepy, but without the Alice context it was that extra bit off-putting. Another unsettling bit in several displays was the use of squirrels; not that we're not fond of squirrels, but that they used taxidermied animals. It may add to the authenticity of a squirrel naturalist sitting in his reading room (and lined with pages from a zoological guide which took pains to point out how despicable mice and rats were because of their horrible personal habits), but it's uncomfortable to think of animals getting killed for this frivolous a purpose (which, probably, wasn't the original one).
None of the other store displays lived up to Bergdorf Goodman's, sad to say; we peaked early. There was a good one which depicted children's drawings of What Christmas Is Made From, with the centerpiece being an advertisement from 1941 showing a commercial artist's view of the subject. One of the other displays, I forget which, attempted to tell a story about Where Bubbles Come From, the sort of amusing tale of industrialized whimsy that was perfectly done around the turn of the previous century. This one didn't quite come together for me, somehow, although the animated bits, including a bicycle ride along a satisfyingly long and complicated path, were attractive. They also featured animals included in the background for not much obvious reason. Grant there to be a subterranean lair where bubbles are made for worldwide distribution; why do they need a trio of meerkats to watch?
Tiffany's had a set of tiny window displays, but they had a connecting theme we realized only after looking at a few: they were all cityscapes, yes, but also all cityscapes with carousels, tiny rides within them. Each had horses in motion, and several had full imitation carousels rotating. We didn't realize they all that rotating ones initially either, so bunny_hugger kept finding new chances to take her camera out and take brief movies while declaring this the best window display ever. One was even a nicely recursive display, showing in forced perspective the store window we were in front of, as part of the cityscape, with the Central Park Carousel (lacking the protective building and a lot of obscuring details) in the far background.
Macy's we discovered had a different set of window displays. The last few years they'd done a Miracle on 34th Street display and we'd expected them to trot that out again. But, no, here they were showing scenes from the new I guess animated special Yes, Virginia, based frightfully loosely on that children's letter to The New York Sun. I had seen the special and was largely irritated by it because of pretty much everything about it, including some changes perfectly within the bounds of dramatic license. (Among other things the special moves the writing of Virginia O'Hanlon's letter to just before Christmas; actually, the ``Yes, Virginia'' editorial was published in September 1897.)
Through all this we had walked around a grand loop of midtown and had got pretty near the end of any reasonable day. We decided to eat in New Jersey, rather than up here, and expected we'd be able to go to a diner near the park-and-ride. The diner proved to be closed, so we improvised and drove a little out of the way to one of the diners we'd eaten at bunny_hugger's first visit but not, as best I remember, since then.
If I haven't got the nights mixed up, and I may have, we closed the night by watching Daleks: Invasion 2150 AD, one of the Doctor Who movies made in the 1960s with Peter Cushing as an alternate First Doctor. This had just aired on Turner Classic Movies, and bunny_hugger was impressed that the station had expanded its definition of ``classic'' to cover this and also prefaced it with a couple minutes of Robert Osborne explaining the background of the movie. He did explain The Doctor as a time-travelling alien, although for some deeply bizarre reason the Peter Cushing movies had this Doctor as a human who just whipped up a time machine. I can't fathom why someone would bother making a Doctor Who movie to show off the Daleks everyone is so impressed by and then changing the Doctor's backstory or even bother bringing it up. But then I also can't fathom how they were able to create for the movie a Tardis interior more ramshackle than the TV show's production values allowed, or cast a Doctor who acted less Time Lord-y than Gene Wilder's Willy Wonka did. The world is full of pop cultural oddities.
Trivia: The Lane Bryant department store was intended to be named for its founder, Lena Bryant, but she transposed the letters in her first name while making out a deposit slip at the bank for $300 loaned (by her brother) to expand the business. At first timidity kept her from correcting the mistake; ultimately she found she liked the other name better. Source: The Grand Emporiums: The Illustrated History Of America's Great Department Stores, Robert Hendrickson. (I do not know by what authority Hendrickson peers into the mind of Lena Bryant, but can accept the name change resulting from a nervous mistake.)
Currently Reading: The Early Fears, Robert Bloch.