The tree at Rockefeller Center has been lit, wall-to-wall Banana Republic ads line the subway cars, and with alarming frequency dogs on Park Avenue sport tiny sweaters. All this can mean only one thing: December is upon us.
Now, you here at BootsnAll are normally spared my political ranting in favor of travel ranting, but given the pervasiveness of U.S. political commentary lately, I don’t see why my obscure travel column should be any exception. So in honor of the blossoming American Green Party, I bring you the first-ever (but still uncertified) Populist Guide to a Festive Yet Non-Consumption-Oriented Holiday Season in New York.
As you walk the bustling city streets, sure fresh-faced blushing poster people beckon to you from Gap windows, enticing you with microfleece accessories; from their Starbucks shelves, mochachinoes of course whisper promises of warmth and deep conversation. But I implore you to resist, and in return to experience the real joys of New York, the ones that will not be syndicated and coming soon to a country near you. For until recently, NYC has held up well against suburban sprawl (the city being conducive neither to suburban nor to sprawl), and remnants of these still remain for those who do not wish to be McTravellers.
I assure you, it is possible to enjoy your holiday of choice in New York without reveling in the American holiday hyper-consumerism that transcends religious affiliation. And there are still some authentic NYC experiences that can’t be bought and sold like so many electoral votes.
Here’s a few to get you started:
- What better place to begin than the Public Theater? Abandon your Phantom of the Opera, Inc. plans in favor of Book of the Dead, a spectacle created by Phillip Glass protege John Moran. There’s no Official Sweatshirt to commemorate your evening, but… well, exactly.
- $4 will only buy a pretentious glare at the Guggenheim (and don’t even try to use that outdated student I.D.), but alternatively the money will get you in to Hip Hop Nation at the Brooklyn Museum of Art. Not quite a great exhibit, but a great idea.
- For season-specific exhibitions, check out New York Toy Stories at the Museum of the City of New York, or Andy Warhol’s Toy Drawings at the Paul Kasmin Gallery, 293 10th Ave (at 27th St.), Tues-Sat, 10 a.m.-6 p.m.
- A larger but worthwhile contribution of $6 gives you entrance to the magical Blooming Lights exhibit at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens. A similarly enchanting but animal-themed extravaganza happens nightly at the Bronx Zoo.
- "Prowl" the Brooklyn waterfront with an urban environmentalist to see the industrial underbelly of the borough on Dec. 16 at 10:30 a.m. The tour is sponsored by the Brooklyn Center for the Urban Environment, a fantastic organization in my objective opinion, and one I happen to work for. Meet on the steps of Brooklyn Borough Hall. Call 718-788-8500 for more info. Or to talk to me.
- Pick up delicious gifts or warm yourself with hot apple cider from the Greenmarkets, the outdoor farmers’ markets found in Union Square and at Grand Army Plaza, every Saturday year-round.
- My personal 5-star choice for December is Unsilent Night, a quasi-caroling experience of sound created by Phil Kline. Meet in Washington Square Park on Dec. 16, at 6:45 p.m. If you’re in town, don’t miss this.
- Lastly, a fellow traveller introduced me to Billy Bragg, and there is no better end to a grassroots NYC exploration than his show on Dec. 30 & 31. With all you saved from avoiding needless shopping, you may even be able to afford the tickets.
Happy and safe travels to you this holiday, and throughout the new millenium (for real this time). By the new year, maybe we’ll even know who the next U.S. president will be.
Ralph Nader, anyone?