New York City
December of this year in Los Angeles reminded me of living in Seattle with its continuous grey sky and intermittent showers that were interrupted every few hours by a sudden downpour. The winter is when I actually enjoy living in Southern California the most because of the lack of bitter cold that turns your testicles and brain into a painful gruel. I don't complain about the weather during trips to NYC, mainly because I have no reason to complain because I'm fortunate enough to soak up the SoCal rays of sun for the majority of the year.
If anything, the hardest adjustment is that my body is ill-equipped to handle the frigid New York winters, which is why I usually get sick when I head home for the holidays. My lack of winter preparedness makes me paranoid, and I have to overcompensate for the lack of familiarity with excess clothing as I wander around underneath multiple layers, usually at least two more layers than I actually need. As a result, I'm too warm and break out in a sweating fit as waterfalls of sweat cascade off my forehead and nose like Patrick Ewing shooting a free throw. In short, living in SoCal has made me soft when it comes to the Northeast winters.
I packed light for this two week trip. That's how I usually travel, but the weather was of utmost concern, so I packed the warmest jacket that I had in LA with me, but that meant I had to carry even less with me than I desired in order to make said jacket fit into my small bag. Luckily, I have a wardrobe in New York including a two week supply of underwear and socks, not to mention mostly winter clothes and "non hip" items that failed to make the cut when I migrated out West. I'm fortunate that I have enough clothes on both coasts that I could technically walk onto a plane without any luggage. I only needed my laptop, but then again, I had a laptop (three actually) in New York, so there's was really no need for that particular laptop, aside from it being a safety measure and something to keep me sane at LAX if we experienced a lengthy delay.
Before I headed to the airport, I enjoyed the aroma of pines needles inside the apartment. We had gotten a tree the day after I returned from Vegas, even though I'd only get to enjoy it for a week. That was good enough considering the amazingly low price. I didn't even have to negotiate at the lot -- something that I was bummed out I didn't get to do because sometimes I like to haggle, an activity that placates the used car salesman and former broker inside me. The tree people quote me a price so low that it was almost too hard to believe, yet, and a number too low that I felt like I was really ripping them off if I went any lower.
Nicky dropped me off LAX with a small bookbag. The bulkiest item I carried with me was a heavy fleece jacket. I packed two t-shirts, a long sleeve-short and a pair of underwear. That was it for clothes. I also packed a carton of smokes and a Monet desk calendar -- both items that would be making a one-way journey because they were Christmas presents for my Mom. Aside from my laptop and plugs/chords, I also carried a single book. I wasn't going to take a book at all to save space, but Nicky gave me a book for Christmas before I left. Hardcover books are a chore when you're trying to travel light, but I made an exception for Michael Lewis' The Big Short, which was an epic tale about few people who were bold enough to bet against the entire sub-prime mortgage market. I had read a few excerpts of Lewis' story either while killing time in airports or reading articles/columns he wrote about the sub-prime bubble, but wanted to sit down and read the entire book. I had no idea but the book was so good that I'd read every single page on the flight from Los Angeles to New York City.
I flew the redeye and wasn't tired at all so I read the entire way. Good books make time fly because you can't put the book down and lose all concept of time. Flight went smooth. Even though we were delayed by 40 minutes, the pilot made it all up in the sky and landed close to the scheduled time just before 7am.
It took over 2.5 hours to make my way from JFK to the Bronx. I was too cheap to pay for a taxi to sit in morning rush hour traffic, so I opted for the Air Train to the subway. I just missed the first Air Train, which set off a chain reaction that made miss two connections down the line because I'd miss the A train by a few seconds and got stuck waiting for a bus in Inwood. The journey through four boroughs took about half the time it took to fly across the country, but it only cost me $7.25 and I saved over $60 plus tolls by sticking to public transportation.
By the time I got home, it was 9:30am and I had been up for over a day. Within moments of walking in the door, my mother picked a fight. She goaded me into it and I never saw her spring a trap. Guess I was too tired to be paying attention to the question she asked me because it was a loaded question that gave her a springboard to go off on a rant about one of my least favorite topics. When I realized that I got ambushed, I bailed from the conversation, simply too tired to argue. I skipped Thanksgiving, so my mother had a month of backed-up venom that she felt the desire to unleash upon me as soon as I walked in the door. Home for the holidays and I paid for this abuse. I'm glad I saved $60 on the fucking cab.
I was up for over 40 hours when I finally pulled the plug and went to sleep. I spent most of my time on my first day back sorting through two huge piles of mail. I tossed about three small bags worth of junk mail and a three foot high stack of poker magazines, mail order catalogs, alumni magazines, and other junk rags.
Between the time I landed in NYC and Christmas, I watched a lot of sports with my brother including tons of basketball. I had a few bucks on random games like Boise State in their bowl game, a couple of college hoops games, and the Knicks. I even bet the Knicks on Christmas, something that I thought would be bad mojo, but the spread was too juicy to ignore.
I helped my mother clean her apartment for Christmas and she wondered what "Lauren" was doing for the holidays. Of course, she calls Nicky the wrong name, even after I corrected her a dozen times.
Christmas was tepid. I got zero material items which made me content because my family has a habit of buying me clothes that I never wear. I bitched and moaned about it and they finally wised up. On the flip side, I had to pick up a bunch of stuff for them, which I did through Amazon.com (where I made for 90% of my gifts purchases). I definitely didn't spend as much money as I did last year, but I also didn't have as good of a year as a freelance writer as I did in previous years. I took off most of the year to finish Lost Vegas and didn't have a heavy freelance schedule. Plus, unless you're the chick who writes Harry Potter books, most authors barely break even after they get a book published. I wondered if my family thought I was being cheap, but hey, at least I gave them something material even though it goes against most of my principles because Christmas consumerism has gotten outta control.
The worst part of Christmas dinner was getting needled by my uncle. He's a lifelong Mets fan and detests the Yankees, which by proxy, means that he loathes me. He didn't even take his jacket off and he was already ripping into the demise of Derek Jeter. It's not that I can't take a ribbing about sports, but he didn't even bother saying hello before he went right for the jugular. My mom had to say something to him because he was too focused on giving me shit than opening up his gifts. I said something like, "Hey it's Christmas. Be polite and open up my mom's gift first, then you can give me shit all you want."
After a while my brother got sick of the unnecessary and unprovoked bullshit and told my uncle to stop the badgering.
"I don't talk shit to you. I never walk into your house and tell you how bad the Mets are. But you can't let it rest for one minute. When will you just get over it already. We know you don't like Derek Jeter. But you know what? None of that is going to change the fact that he has won championships and he will still go into the Hall of Fame, no matter how much you hate him or not. None of that is going to change."
I was surprised, because my brother actually shut him up the rest of the night. Ironically, my brother said that Turkey Day dinner (which I skipped) ran very smoothly and my uncle didn't talk smack about Jeter or the Yankees... even once. I told Derek that was the case because I wasn't there. Since I showed up at Christmas, my uncle felt as though he had a right to just act like a dick.
Here's the thing that he's yet to learn -- giving me shit about a "sports team" doesn't tilt me. I love the Yankees, but trashing them or any other team that I root for, or trying to berate a player that I respect is not going to affect me negatively. I usually laugh because the hater thinks more about what he hates with a stronger passion than something I love. Yep, that stems for a serious insecurity issue. I'm not one of those fans that gets easily insulted about their team getting picked on. Sometimes fans can be uber-sensitive, so much so that it's like you're pissing on their pancakes.
I have a well-rounded life and confident in my likes/dislikes, so a bush-league attempt at trying to tilt me makes me feel sorry for the so-called hater. But on Christmas, something in me clicked. I was irked at my uncle's disrespectful behavior because he was purposely trying to be malicious from the moment he walked in the door. e saw the holidays as an opportunity to give me guff. That's why I flew out from LA... to be a whipping boy. I made a decision to be non-confrontational with my family this holiday season so I kept my mouth shut (in that instance and at least a dozen other incidents). But by me staying quiet, my uncle saw that meek behavior as a sign of weakness and amped up his vitriol. That's when my brother stepped in and called out my uncle for being a dick.
After dinner ended, I took a nap (at least went into another room to lie down and watch Collapse and other Peak Oil videos on You Tube) until my uncle and aunt finally left. When I talked to Nicky later that night about her fantastic Christmas dinner in LA, I questioned whether or not I really wanted to return to NYC next year. Why do I constantly pay for this abuse year-after-year? I gotta be honest, Phish playing New Year's Eve in New York City was what sealed the NYC/Christmas deal for this trip, much like Turkey Day 2009 when Phish played NYC right after Thanksgiving, which is the only reason I fly to NYC on the day before Turkey Day.
So, if Phish doesn't play the northeast next Christmas time, I might consider skipping my first Christmas in the city. What good is paying jacked-up ticket prices, fighting TSA cock checks, elbowing retarded amateur travelers, only to return home if all that's gonna happen is that my mother and uncle have free opportunities to shit on me?