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Sunday December 28, 2003, 03:29

The holidays, and this particular Holy Day, generally find me sitting in a very cold room in my parents house (generally referred to as "the house where I grew up") musing on the events of the past year. This moment would be very much like the others but for the fact that I am not in that very cold room, nor even in that very cold house (robes and slippers over the power of the thermostat were the norm through my youth and beyond). Instead I am back at my apartment, musing here at the desk where I spend most of my days.

This apartment is louder than the house. Much of that has to do with the distinct lack of carpeting here, coupled with the twenty year-old refrigerator that has been buzzing every since I moved it. It is my responsibility to replace the appliances, but given my current priorities in life it's a wonder I motivate myself to floss, let alone hire a contractor. There is also more clutter in this apartment, though I have been trying to rid my life of this particular trait, to little or no success. The life of the pack rat, quite honestly, is not one of serenity, want though I do for this to be so.

That said, what passed this year was one of the more enjoyable Christmas celebrations in recent memory, especially coming on the tail of what turned out the be a remarkably terrible December. Marred by an overall feeling of discontentment and an inability to concentrate on any of my projects, I only barely squeaked by with anything resembling a paycheck from any one of my clients. One of my clients decided to take its business elsewhere and a pair of pants that I had hemmed was returned to me with one leg approximately one inch shorter than the other. When I was being re-measured with a new pair of pants, the sales associate noted that this had been happening a lot lately, though it was often a case of mismatched arms on a newly altered sleeve. There was a lot of bad karma floating around in the winter air. But, despite all of this (and there was much, much more), December has ended on its feet and has managed to maintain its tradition of a hope and renewal for the coming year.

To that end, I decided today to relive my youth (fleeting as it was) and not buy anything at FAO Schwarz. The toy giant that has been forced into bankruptcy by its own inability to sell anything but the promise of a good time (read: It's about the toys, people! The toys!). As such, I decided that while I missed ever seeing a show at Coney Island High, never made it to Windows on the World and never tripped over a crack addict while walking around the East Village, I was not going to miss out on an opportunity to revisit the store made so popular by the gigantic keyboard in the movie Big.

It was sad.

I mean really, really sad.

First of all, there were signs everywhere proclaiming 40% off the lowest marked price on all of the toys, cheapening the experience all around. Many of the nations in this "World of Toys" were missing as well, either sold out or just liquidated to the point of non-existence. The "World of Hot Wheels" was a wall of empty shelves next to a pile of cardboard boxes and two kid-sized cars parked inconveniently in the middle of the aisle. The displays that did have stock were mostly just stacks of boxes, ready to be pulled and charged, but not experienced -- not in the store at least.

Even the marbles were screwed up.

I was determined to break from tradition and actually buy a toy, a marble, but found their selection to be less than stellar. From the bubbles in the glass to the lack of interesting patterns to the shoddily tinted glass, it was clear to me that this was no longer the store of my youth. So I headed for the biggest tourist trap north of Times Square: Rockefeller Center.

I like tourists. I don't have to deal with them on a daily basis and so when I do it is when I choose to, when I decide that I need to see people wandering down the sidewalk with fanny packs and maps, gawking at the buildings towering up over their heads. I rode my bike over to Rockefeller Center where I mingled with the crowds and got close enough to the rink to see the people watching the skaters on the ice below. It was fun, though! Seeing all those people. Seeing everyone wanting to be in my city. Knowing that I could leave it all behind and zip back downtown, through Times Square to see more crowds, made it that much more fun to just stand by, watching people swirl around me, families holding hands, the littlest of the children riding high above on Daddy's shoulders shouting and pointing at the larger-than-life nutcrackers and the larger-than-that Christmas tree.

As for me, I don't understand how people can live in this city and not feel compelled to play tourist every once in a while, if only to rediscover the wonder that everyone feels the moment they first set foot here.

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