Sunday, December 16, 2007

A Christmas Picture, or, What really happens in a city that never sleeps

As you may or may not know. We live in New York, NY, and have for a few years. Last year we decided it would be fun to go to see the Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center. Needless to say, it was not. This year we thought, wouldn't it be great to get a good picture of the tree and send it as our Christmas card? A simple premise to a not so simple task.

On a normal day, there are approximately 1,000 people in Rockefeller Center at midday. At Christmas, after the tree is lit, there are approximately 10,000 people in the same space at the same time during the prime tree viewing hours. There are many people every minute trying to take a good picture of the same tree from the same point, many of them using their camera/phone. It quickly becomes evident that getting a good shot is not going to happen, no matter how much the picture is edited in Photoshop, photoshopped if you will. So, I says to Whitney, I says, "Why don't we go at 11:30 or midnight and take some pictures when there are less people around and the ice rink is closing."

"Great idea, Blake," Whitney said enthusiastically. "You are the greatest and smartest man in the world and I am honored to call you my husband."

So, on a Friday night much like any other Friday, we set out around 12:30 to go out and picture the elusive crowdless tree. We approach the OPP, optimal photo-taking position, and then notice, the lights are off. While Whitney begins to settle into a picture taking frenzy of a darkened tree, I locate a general security officer. I inquire of this said security officer, who we will call Phil as kind of a filler for the story, as to when the lights, which I might point out are solar powered, will return to their light shining natural state. Phil replies that they will be turning back on around 4AM. At this point we have approximately 2.5 hours to light-resuming, picture-taking, Christmas-card-making, Christmas tree OPP time.

It should also be mentioned at this point that Saks 5th Ave is across the street from the OPP. The windows this year are snowmen. It looks cute, but don't let the brightly colored snowmen fool you. There is a 30 second loop that plays OVER and OVER... Just as cheery each time. I have tried to erase this part of the journey from my memory.

As I work a few blocks away, and since if we were to go home we would just be coming back in less than an hour later, we decided to go to the Apple Store, and see some of my co-workers and buy some Christmas gifts. We finish this in record timing, because it's apparently not so busy at the Apple store from 2 to 3AM when they are cleaning the floor. Since there is still some time, we grab some coffee to warm up and head back out. Did I mention that in addition to it being ridiculously late, it is also 25 with a wind-chill in the near single digits?

Just a photo taken along the way.

The Apple store...

Arriving back at the OPP at 4:06AM, we find the tree to still be turned off. Looking around, we evenually locate Ferdinand, who has replaced Phil, and again inquire as to when the tree light resumption is. He says that Phil is new, and that the tree doesn't turn on until 5 or 5:30. As we have already waited 2 hours, we could wait another 1 hour to achieve what few in their life time will see in person. Many people wait for years to experience something that no one else has. Some decide that skiing a rare slope, or mountain climbing to the top of a tall mountain or riding in a barrel over Niagara Falls, or attempting to swim to the bottom of the ocean to escape a group of angry pirates intent on stealing a priceless pearl is what they will do that few have done before. For this picture, waiting for an hour did not seem like that much of a sacrifice in comparison.

We noticed a group of people rounding the corner with lawn chairs and decided we would follow them, you never know when you might find an impromptu barbecue party, and since it was late and we had not planned on being out this long, we were both getting hungry. Instead of food though, these people were waiting in line at the Nintendo store in hopes of buying a wii. We saw someone Whitney knew, and we talked to them for a while. Finally, the tree became illuminated, and optimal results were achieved. We had it! The Great White Whale, or Titanic, or Tickle Me Elmo of the 21st Century. A unobscured picture of a giant Christmas tree.

We have passed this on to you in hope that you enjoy this Christmas season by knowing that you can now see this same tree without having actually having been in front of it in the cold at 5AM. Merry Christmas to all, and to all a much better night.

As an aside, on the way home, if you will recall, we had been out much later than expected and had grown quite hungry. We decided we would eat breakfast at a diner before going home and getting some sleep. We decided we would eat at the one nearest our home, since it was the one that was cosmetically cleanest and had a public restroom. Passing by the 3 that were on our way home, we arrived at the diner of our choice, only to find it closed. Like Jonah, having waited inside the whale, or David Blaine doing something random in plexiglass, we decided we would rather go home, rather than wait the additional 15 minutes for the diner to open. Kind of ironic if you think about it.