Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Lighting THE Tree

The past few years I've watched the Rockefeller Center tree lighting ceremony on NBC's televised broadcast, sitting in front of the TV in Birmingham and wishing I could be there in person! The tree, the lights, the people, the buildings, the city, the Rockettes! It just seemed so magical.

Weelllll...I wouldn't exactly describe the experience of being there in person as magical. Better descriptors are crowded, cold, tiring, no view, frozen feet. I didn't want another viewing misfortune like arriving late to the Thanksgiving parade, so I made sure to pick a spot by 6 PM for the 9 PM lighting. Several attempts to convince people to come with me were unsuccessful - I couldn't imagine why no one wanted to get out in the crowd. :)

My vantage point of the tree was actually pretty good! But after three hours of seeing this and only this, it became a bit monotonous.

I spent the first hour entertaining myself by chatting with Ansley on the phone, trying to inch forward in the crowd as much as possible, making sure my camera was working, and getting acquainted with neighbors in the crowd. We lost a few people as they learned the actual countdown and lighting wouldn't happen for another three hours - I made myself stay strong and stay put!
The second hour started the show performance - but we couldn't see any of it. I heard Al Roker announce the fabulous Rockettes, the one and only Celine Dion, the superstar Carrie Underwood...but for all I know it was voices through a radio. Why am I out here freezing?
Then I realized it actually wasn't that cold - amazing what body heat can do! I noticed, however, that my back was decidedly colder than my front. I turned around for the first time and saw there was a break in the crowd right behind me. There was a sea of short people who didn't want to stand right behind me to block their view! The wind was whipping right through the crowd and landing on me! In a continued effort to keep myself entertained, I tried to see what it must be like for the shorter people in the world. I bent my knees to get more on the level of the general height of the crowd. As I crouched, the tree suddenly disappeared, and I felt a little suffocated by the hair and shoulders now at eye level. If I - who at my normal tall height - could see so much more than everyone else but still felt I didn't have a very good view, what in the world were all these shorties thinking about the situation?! I started making a mental list of all the good and bad points of being tall, and the only bad I could think of just then was the fact of no one wanting to stand behind you in a crowd when it's cold.
By hour three, we were all a little loopy. The couple in front of me was planning their escape from Rockefeller Center as soon as the tree lights flashed:
Girl: "We can walk to 6th Ave, hop in a cab, get to Port Authority by 9:15 and catch the 9:25 bus to New Jersey."
Boy: "Well, where am I going to use the bathroom?"
Girl: "Can't you hold it?"
Boy: "No! And I'm starving. When can we get something to eat?"
Girl: "If we stop we won't make the 9:25!"
Boy: "I hope you're happy you got your way. I've never been so miserable."
Girl: Huff!
Okay, I need to find another conversation to peep into...
A group to my left had formed a waving "committee" of 12 to 15 people who would wave and wave and wave at the people in the lower level windows near us. It was quite an effort to get the window viewers' attention and make them realize that yes the group was waving at them. When finally a window person waved back, it was a little victory for us all - everyone shouting a "yea!" of glee, and then mumbled how we wish we could be so lucky to be inside!
I also spent the last hour making little bets with myself - how much time had passed since the last time I checked the clock, how long I could make the one granola bar I brought with me last so I didn't starve to death. I thought for a second about sharing it with the hungry guy in front of me, but out there it was survival of the fittest...there was no room for being nice.
Before I knew it, Al was counting down. All that waiting and preparing my camera, and then I wasn't ready! I was looking down at my camera on "3, 2" and popped up just in time for "1!" and lights!

10,800 seconds of waiting...and only 10 really mattered!

The crowd began streaming away from the tree quickly, giving me only about four minutes to make pictures and enjoy the lights. As I walked away, I realized I hadn't moved my feet in at least an hour. Had I moved at all, I would have known everything below my knees was frozen solid! I couldn't feel anything as I stumbled through the streets feeling like I should tell the policeman I'm not drunk, just crazy with cold.
The lighting of the tree and rushed picture taking that insued made me lose track of the couple in front of me. No telling if they were able to execute their planned escape route, but I can bet you they'll be sitting in the comforts of home next year.
I, on the other hand, will be back for the magic - with thicker socks and more snacks!

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade

Ah, Thanksgiving. The casseroles, the football, the parade! Except for the few times I've overslept and competely missed the parade on TV, I've always loved to tune in at least in time to watch the Rockettes perform as they welcome the parade to Herald Square. My sisters and I would trickle in to the den and get cozy on the couch, Mama would make us hot chocolates and Daddy would avoid the area - having no interest in watching a parade. We would spend the next two hours lazily watching, occasionally flipping the channels to see what else was on, and yelling for Mama to come quick! from the kitchen to see something from the parade. (I feel so guilty right now - thinking of her cooking and cooking and cooking while we just sit and relax!)

After the balloon inflation debacle last night - should have gotten there early before the crowd! - I devised a plan to wake up at 6 AM and get to the bleachers by 7 AM, surely - surely! - I'll get a good view of the parade. I know what you're saying as you read this, "We know you Rebecca. You? Up at 6 AM? Not gonna happen."

Unfortunately, I carelessly combined my love of just a few more minutes of rest in the morning with too much sugar before bedtime, which left me snoozing long past my planned 6 AM wake up. In a related story, Cameron helped me make an Oreo balls dessert to take to the Harts for Thanksgiving. Using a recipe from Elizabeth that sounded so easy - crushing, mixing and melting (no cooking involved!) - I managed to skip a crucial refrigeration step that almost destroyed the whole effort. We ended up with more sticky Oreo filling on our fingers than actually rolled into balls, and who can resist a little taste here and there...and a little dip in the melted white chocolate...and oops! that ball crumbled, we might as well eat it. When the balls were finally properly rolled, chilled and dipped, it was nearing 1 AM, and I knew my morning plans were looking a bit too ambitious.

I awoke with just enough time to shower, grab on clothes, make sure the precious Oreos were still balled in the refrigerator and hoof it over to Broadway by 9 AM - parade start time. Sigh. The warm temperatures brought even more spectators than normal, so I was 9 people deep on the sidewalk at the thinnest area of the crowd I could find. Forget the bleachers - I knew I just needed to pick a place and hold my ground.

The parade reached my viewing spot at 9:23 AM, and just as I congratulated myself on picking a spot that didn't have pesky little kids on their parents' shoulders - pop, pop, pop, up came the kids.

Darn kids!!

As much as I was disgusted at the balloons from the struggle of the night before, thank goodness they were in the parade! I wouldn't have been able to see much else...

The classic Macy's star.

These lucky ducks have the best balconies in Manhattan!

Left: Dolly Parton at the gazebo and about to disappear behind a kid-on-the-shoulders head!! Right: The Thanksgiving turkey and pilgrims - love them!

Left: Abby Cadabby - a new balloon this year - she was HUGE! Right: Scooby!

Left: "Super Cute Hello Kitty" - another new one this year. Right: Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin's wife and daughter Bindi - second to Dolly, they were the celebrities I was most surprised to see!

Left: Ronald McDonald. Right: M&M's dressed up as characters from Broadway shows - really cute float.


Left: The girl from the Hairspray movie. Right: The big clown's arms and legs were floppy as the handlers guided him down the street.

Left: Menudo on a retro, 80's-looking Big Apple. Right: I didn't realize the Energizer Bunny was motorized on the ground and not attached to strings until he was right in front of us and spun toward us then all the way around! Got a big "Whoa!" out of the crowd!

Left: Another new balloon this year - Shrek. Right: Ashley Tisdale from High School Musical - who?

Left: Dora Explorer. Right: My favorite float of cuties - the Care Bears!

Left: Wynonna Judd. Right: Kermit - he was a long one!

All I truly cared about seeing was Santa and his reindeer. The parade stopped in front of us for about five minutes while Santa was one block away. As the parade stalled, most of the people around me didn't know Santa was within reach - I could see him by peeking over heads on my tip toes. I got my camera and cell phone camera ready and waited - making little bets in my head with Old Saint Nick that he BETTER look in my direction so I can get a good picture - or else! Well, as you can see below, the big guy must have heard me - he waved right on cue!

All the waiting for this one picture!

Immediately after Santa passes, the parade goers spill into the street and follow the parade on down Broadway.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


The night before the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade the public is invited to view the inflation of the famous balloons that will float down Broadway in all their glory. "What a fabulously fun time!" I thought as I made plans to head over to Central Park West on Wednesday night. "AND I can pick out the perfect spot to watch the parade!" Ugh.

I took my sweet time getting to the inflation site - work even let us go in the early afternoon because of the holiday, but I managed to find a million and one things to do instead of heading straight over to see the balloons.

Just one of my afternoon distractions - the leaves in Madison Square Park! I relaxed on a bench and enjoyed the leaves for awhile.

When it began getting dark and I finally headed over, I decided to walk to the parade route from my apartment so I'd know exactly how much time I need to allow in the morning. Just so you know, it's a good 15 to 18 minute brisk walk up to Columbus Circle/Central Park West area. I was excited to see barricades already piled on the street corners on Broadway, and as I walked the few blocks up to Columbus Circle, the bleachers sent me into a dreamy frenzy - "I can't believe I'm actually going to see THE Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade tomorrow! Live and in person!" I could just see myself sitting in those bleachers, watching the bands and balloons and Santa! parading proudly. As I continued along Central Park West towards the balloons, I carefully studied the bleachers lining the route, even debating on the location of trees and traffic lights that might block my prized view.

Bleachers set up on the park side of Central Park West - which seat should be mine?!

As I walked through the 60's Streets and got into the 70's, the people on the street started becoming a crowd. "I guess I'm not the only person who thought this would be fun..." As more and more people walked in my same direction, others were coming toward us who obviously had been to see the balloons. None of the been-there-done-that people I passed by looked overly joyed or in a smiley good mood; I mean, they didn't look mad or sad either, but they just didn't have the stars in their eyes I thought seeing the secret of the balloons would give you.

At 75th Street, not only was I questioning my good judgment for having walked - it's a mile from Columbus Circle, and Columbus Circle is a mile from my apartment! - but also questioning what in the heck had I gotten myself into?! A policeman instructed the crowd who had just arrived that this was the exit, to enter the balloon inflation area you must walk one block west to Columbus Avenue - cross the street- walk up to 79th Street - cross back over - and walk back down to 77th Street. Okaaayy - what's a few more blocks at this point?

As I followed the policeman's directions and neared the official viewing entrance, it was like walking onto the scene of an ant bed that had just been kicked - thousands of ants swarming the little corridors, running here and there not really knowing where they're headed. Only difference was none of these ants were moving!

I have never seen so many people packed so deep and so far on a sidewalk in my life. The man I was sandwiched to described it best, "There have to be 50,000 people in these two blocks, and none of 'em are going anywhere!" I was determined to power through - "surely the crowd is moving, we just can't tell from where we are" - but after 20 minutes to make one short block, the whole while feeling like I was slowly suffocating, I broke free from the crowd and headed in the opposite direction as fast as I could!

Although I didn't get to see Kermit or Scooby's flat, lifeless bodies growing more and more robust with each air poof, I was witness to the greatest crowd inflation ever!

I did manage to see the tops of some of the already-inflated balloons waiting on ground level for their big air show in the morning. It's so dark, but see the yellow and red of the balloon in the distance and the crowd on the sidewalk?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sick and the City

I haven't been sick in years. Years! Sure, I might have the occasional runny nose or cough, but I can't remember the last time I was go-to-the-doctor sick.

It began Tuesday morning, "Geez, my throat feels dry!" I commented to Shane as we rode the elevator up to our offices. By Wednesday evening my voice was deep and raspy, and by Thursday morning I woke up, walked five steps to the couch, and had to flop down for a rest because I couldn't see straight.

After finally contacting a doctor who would take a new patient same day, a pint of chicken noodle soup from Arthur upstairs, a cold and rainy subway ride cross town to the doctor, and a call to my personal pharmacist Ansley, I was diagnosed with a fever and virus and just needed to rest for four or five days to get better. But I've got places to go, people to see!!

So, I camped on the couch and watched all the shows we have on Tivo, several movies, read a Nicholas Sparks book I'd been meaning to read for the past year, and just generally did absolutely nothing for the next four days! It was a surprisingly fun time, but I hope I don't have to do it again anytime soon.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Beautiful day for my birthday!

"Well, one day in the City of New York - oh! what a day, I cannot describe it! I seldom refer to it, it is almost too sacred an experience to name. I can only say God revealed himself to me, and I had such an experience of His love that I had to ask Him to stay his hand."
~ Dwight L. Moody, printed in the bulletin today at Redeemer Presbyterian

Sunday, November 11 was a beautiful day in New York City! Bright blue skies, vibrant autumn leaves, and chilly fall breezes. After several gray, rainy days (and more rainy days in the forecast), I felt like the perfect weather today was a birthday gift from God to me.

The beautiful sky and trees I enjoyed in Central Park on my birthday.

Pretty shadows around Central Park and a Veteran's Day Memorial.

Top: On our balcony last day of being 27! Bottom: In Central Park I look older?!

Jane and Cameron planned a birthday party for me at our apartment Saturday night. It was a festive and special New York birthday, and it was so sweet of them to do that for me!

Rebecca, Jane, Cameron (and Roxy!) - Team 400 girls!
Jane and Cameron gave me passes for tap classes at Steps on Broadway - I'm just a tad happy! What a perfect and thoughtful gift!
My yummy strawberry birthday cake made by chef Cameron - yeah right! She lovingly cut it at least! :)
Excited about also taking some ballroom classes together - you're looking at the next Julianne and Edyta!

The beautiful bouquet of flowers from Mama and Daddy.

I commented to a friend how different this year’s birthday is from last year’s birthday. Last year I was on a retreat in Shocco Springs, AL, a serene and relaxing location where I could hear crickets chirping outside my window – I didn’t even have cell phone service! This year I’m in a bustling city with the lights of skyscrapers outside the window and the sounds of sirens and honking horns on the street mix with the laughter and chatter at the party. Celebrating 27 in the country and 28 in THE city…I can only wonder where God will take me next year for my birthday!

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

A slice at the bar

I've begun a "back to New York" tradition of going to Ultimate Pizza when I return from a trip. Over the last few months it's become a special place to me, not so much because of the pizza, but just because of the atmosphere and memories...and the window bar isn't too bad either!

The first time I ate there was in May while I was here for the job interview. We stopped in for a slice of pizza and sat at the little bar in the window, and I just thought it was so cute and New York-y. When I moved here, I realized it's just a block from the apartment, so I ate there several times during my first few weeks in New York. I would walk over, get either a pepperoni or pepperoni/mushroom (or both!), and enjoy my pizza while sitting on my favorite stool at the window bar. When the pizza was finished, I'd sit longer and return phone calls to friends at home - some nights I'd have hour-long conversations with one person, some nights I'd talk to several friends for a few minutes each. It was such a fun time of talking with friends from home while watching my new New York neighbors on the sidewalk out the window. (I'm sure all the phone calls provided the Ultimate Pizza cooks with earfulls of information about me!)

After several pizza-filled weeks, I got so sick of it, I avoided pizza of any kind for awhile! In August I was out of town for a weekend, and when I got back to New York I craved a slice of pizza. Every return to New York since then, I've had to make my little walk up the block for a relaxing slice at the bar.

My pizza place...Ultimate Pizza on 57th and 1st!

Even better than the pizza...the window bar.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Happy at home

My trip home to surprise Mama turned into a little surprise for me. Sunday afternoon the girls came to the house and surprised me with razzle dazzle birthday decorations and cake! The happy times continued on Monday with an all day tour around Birmingham seeing friends! Happy faces...happy places.

Thanks MBB and Tol!

You would think we're at a costume party, huh?!

Ansley - honorary Mummert sister - wearing an oh-so cute jacket from NYC! :)

Amy, Melissa and Owen at our favorite lunch spot Nabeel's (we missed you Leanna and Vivi!)

A nice afternoon chat at Brookwood Village!

One thing NYC doesn't have - Chick-fil-A!! MmmMmm Good!

An early morning, last-minute birthday "pull your ears" from Daddy at the airport!