Photo of the day: PERSON OF THE YEAR – URSULA VON RITTERN
I have broken with tradition and rather than giving my annual title to someone who is on Facebook, I have given the title to someone who is not on FB but deserves the title this year… – my mom. The photo is of her 80th birthday celebration, six years ago.
Personally it has been one of the most horrible and disappointing years I have had in a very long time. It started with Gray Line bus tours laying off the senior tour guides (me) who spoke up trying to save their jobs and it steadily slid downhill from there. One job disappointment after another and sadly many personal and career disappointments as well. The political and national news has been a nightmare almost all year, I can hardly bear to watch the TV. With determination mom stood in the cold on the long lines to cast her vote this year, rather than mail it in. But, one can always look down. I did not get wiped out by hurricane Sandy and mom and I still have each other.
As in several of the worst tragedies we have suffered together, from deaths to illnesses to cruel twists of fate, she has always been a rock. There is always that youthful joyful voice on the other end of the phone or just around the corner. She brought me elaborate home cooked meals in the snowstorms and bad weather when I was ill, stood by me in all the awful disappointments that came literally up until even yesterday.
I am doubly blessed! I have a loving ‘family of friends’ here on Facebook and on my blog. Some of you I have never even met and I feel so close to and owe so many of you a nice long phone call. But you are “there”, showing me love and support when I need it, for that I thank you all greatly. Thank you und vielen Dank! But when we are lucky enough to always have a loving mother to turn to, we are the most lucky person in the world. Isn’t true…we always turn to mom. So for all the comfort and support and the security of knowing no matter how awful it got and gets, she would be and is there . . . mom has to be the Person of the Year.
MAKE EVERYDAY BE LIKE CHRISTMAS:
Spread joy, spread cheer,
be kind to others, volunteer.
Enjoy the sparkle of each season,
decorate no matter the reason.
Play and make music that is joyful,
let the sounds make their hearts full.
Why be a good little elf just one week a year,
Spread joy, spread cheer,
you’ll live longer year to year 🙂
A woman accused of pushing a man to his death in front of a speeding subway train Thursday night, December 27th, in Queens has been charged with murder as a hate crime, New York Police Department spokesman spokesman Paul Browne. said Saturday.Police arrested Erica Menendez on Saturday after a passerby on a Brooklyn street noticed she resembled the woman seen in a surveillance video.Ms. Menendez told authorities she hates Hindus and Muslims, a spokeswoman for Queens District Attorney Richard A. Brown said.
The victim, Sunando Sen, was from India, but it isn’t clear whether he was Muslim or Hindu, it doesn’t matter.
The arrest capped a three-day search for a heavyset, 5-foot-5 Hispanic woman who was caught on camera escaping from a subway platform in Sunnyside, Queens, after she allegedly shoved a man into the path of an oncoming No. 7 train. It was the second such attack in New York City in less than a month.
The seemingly unprovoked attack, the second time this month that a man was thrown to his death on the subway tracks, stirred some of the deepest fears of New Yorkers.
“When a murder happens in New York, it can often be dismissed as being in someone else’s backyard,” said Gene Russianoff, staff lawyer for the Straphangers Campaign, a rider advocacy group. “The subway is everyone’s backyard.”
The police identified the victim as Sen of Queens, a 46-year-old immigrant who had been raised in India and who, after years of toil, had finally saved enough money to open a small copying business this year on the Upper West Side of Manhattan.
Ar Suman, one of four roommates who shared a small first-floor apartment with Sen in Elmhurst, said he was driving a client upstate when another roommate called and told him what had happened. Hoping the information was wrong, Suman raced back to the city, only to find that there was nothing he could do — Sen was dead.
“He was a very educated person and quite nice,” Suman said. “It is unbelievable. He never had a problem with anyone.”
Suman said Sen was proud when he had saved enough money to open the business, New Amsterdam Copy.
Since the shop opened, he had rarely taken a day off, Suman said.
“I asked him why do you work seven days a week?” Suman said. “He told me, ‘I cannot hire someone because business is not good.”‘
Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said Friday that according to witnesses’ accounts, there was no contact on the platform between the attacker and the victim immediately before the fatal shove. He said Sen was looking out over the tracks when his attacker approached him.
The attack occurred so quickly, with the train already barreling into the station, that the man had little time to react and bystanders had no time to try to help, said Paul J. Browne, the Police Department’s chief spokesman.
Sen was hit by the first car and his body was pinned under the second car before the 11-car train came to a stop.
Investigators released a grainy black-and-white video overnight showing a person they identified as the attacker fleeing the station and running along Queens Boulevard. She was described by the police as Hispanic, 5 feet 5 inches tall, in her early 20s and heavyset. She was reported to be wearing a blue, white and gray ski jacket and Nike sneakers — gray on top, red on bottom.
The subway station was closed overnight as officers from the Emergency Services Unit used specialized inflatable bags to lift the train and recover the victim’s remains. The No. 7 line had resumed normal service by the morning rush.
Sen’s roommates could not understand what might have led to the fatal encounter Thursday.
Suman said that as far as he knew, Sen did little more than work and come home. Both his parents were dead, they said, and he was not married and had no children.
Sen suffered a heart attack about nine months ago, Suman said, but did not slow down. The night stand in Sen’s bedroom had many bottles of prescription medicine. Across the room on his desk was a pile of medical bills.
His roommates said he liked watching funny clips on YouTube to unwind, enjoyed a cup of tea and would relax listening to classical Indian music.
“This guy is so quiet, so gentle, so nice,” said M.D. Khan, a taxi driver who also lives in the apartment. “It’s so broken, my heart.”
STAR LIGHT, STAR BRIGHT . . . :
Star Light Star bright,
The first star I see tonight,
I wish I may, I wish I might,
Have the wish I wish tonight.
The UNICEF Snowflake has been a New York City tradition since 1984. It is a gigantic crystal ornament that resides on the intersection of 57th St & 5th Avenue. Everybody at one point in their lives has thought of stars in sort of a dream sense. However, when you are approaching the Snowflake from either direction you would swear that you are on another planet traveling right next to a star, only you are in NYC. This Snowflake is 23 feet in diameter, 28 feet high and approximately 3,300 pounds. Perfect location for such a star like image, the intersection where it hangs is right smack in the center of some of the finest shops, restaurants and theatres in the world. From Tiffany’s to Bergdorf Goodman, from Henri Bendel’s to Nobu 57 and Carnegie Hall just around the corner on 57th and 6th Avenue. People from all over the world take photos of the Snowflake. It’s not only the magnificent structure consisting of 16000 illuminated crystal prisms but a symbol for hope.
More than a symbol, the UNICEF Snowflake is the centerpiece of an ambitious campaign to raise millions of dollars in support of health, immunization, nutrition, clean water and sanitation, education and protection for children in developing nations. It’s a reminder for UNICEF’s dedication to reach a point in time when zero children die of preventable causes. The Snowflake was dedicated to UNICEF by the Stonbely Family Foundation in 2002. Last year, acclaimed lighting designer Ingo Maurer and the French-based luxury goods company Baccarat unveiled this new UNICEF Crystal Snowflake, the world’s largest outdoor crystal chandelier of its kind.
(This is my 200th post! Thank you all!)
CHESTNUTS ROASTING ON AN OPEN FIRE: Tis the season for chestnuts roasting on an open fire – but good luck finding them on a street corner in New York City. The toasty treat that Nat King Cole immortalized in “The Christmas Song” was once a year-round staple of street vendors citywide. Now the chewy nuts are relegated to the tourist-heavy corners of Manhattan, a victim of changing tastes, vendors sadly say.
Chestnuts are mainly sought out by tourists and nostalgic native New Yawkers. Less and less sell every year as prices also rise. I remember I used to collect them with my grandmother in the fall in Woodhaven Blvd’s St. John’s Cemetery where there are chestnut trees in abundance. She had taught me the old German art of chestnut carving! We would spend many fall afternoons carving the beautiful brown nuts into people, baskets and animals aided with tooth picks for limbs, tiny buttons or pins for eyes etc. Now the chestnuts you see on the streets are imported from Italy and are expensive. Sugary coated peanuts are now in vogue and to be had everywhere instead. Roasted chestnuts have become an acquired taste, romanticized by the Nat King Cole song, seems we’re buying them now only to savor our past – not the taste . . .
THE SNOWY BRIDE OF CENTRAL PARK: I was walking past Central Park in the midst of the heavy snowfall yesterday and I caught a glimpse of a Victorian like figure with her white umbrella making her way to the rocks on the lake in the park. There they were in the snowfall, just she, her groom and one of their moms. A photographer was on hand the document the “white wedding”. I later found out they are from England and were determined to have their photos taken by the lake and were enchanted by “the magic of the snowfall.” She had a white fur jacket to keep her warm, her cheeks had a red rosy glow, perhaps it was the snow, perhaps it was the joy of the moment, either way, it was a magical picture perfect Currier & Ives moment.
MY OLD FASHIONED GERMAN CHRISTMAS TREE: Yes – those are real candles. We celebrate with no flashing lights or loud music, our ‘church’ is the tree. The tree is decorated with ornaments dating back several generations, about ninety years. Modern ones are included of course, that way the tree is a living story of the family’s history. Tin foil wrapped chocolates and marzipan fill the tree as well. We usually get the biggest tree that will fit in the apartment (we once had a 14 foot tall tree) but now that mom is downsizing, we get a smaller tree and it is placed on a turn of the century old wooden steamer trunk that was used when my great aunt came to visit us in the New York and it is used as a table base to place the tree upon.
Depending on the size of the tree, anywhere from two to four dozen candles are placed in strategic spots in the tree. Each candle illuminates the special ornaments nearby. The candleholders are metal clip-ons in the shape of a pine cone. You can still buy the candles and holders at Schaller and Weber’s, a surviving German delicatessen just off 86th Street on Second Avenue in what was once an entire German neighborhood.
December 24 Christmas eve, the elder in the family lights the candles in the room and on the tree and puts the ‘Christmas record’ on the phonograph. The record is of German church bells and church choirs singing. When all is ready, a golden bell is rung and the rest of the family comes into the glow of the room. We stand quietly side by side, arm in am or holding hands and quietly listen to the beautiful music we have listened to for decades before. That is ‘church’ to us. As the first side of the record ends, we play the other side, sit down and just quietly gaze into the serene candlelight, watching the ornaments glisten. No lights are on in the room, just the glow of candlelight, just as it is in Germany, France, and all of Scandinavia. Let your imagination go back to the late 1800’s enjoying a room just simply lit by candlelight (which is the most complimentary to any face!).
The second side of the record ends with a jolly children’s song “Der Weihnachtsman ist da!/Santa Claus is here!”, signifying it is time to open presents by the amber glow. We grab some of the marzipan, gingerbread and chocolates that are on the dining table for all to enjoy as we open our treasures. At midnight a bottle of champagne is opened to ring in Christmas day. At one time it was my whole family enjoying this tradition, now it is just my mother and me left to carry on, and sadly on day it will just be me, but I will always do it, perhaps with a heavy heart. But this is Christmas, a German Christmas, my heritage. My great grandmother’s, grandparent’s, mother’s and my heritage. Fröhliche Weihnachten!
. . . And then! Oh, the noise! Oh, the noise!
Noise! Noise! Noise! There’s one thing I hate!
All the NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!
And they’ll shriek squeaks and squeals, racing ’round on their wheels.
They’ll dance with jingtinglers tied onto their heels.
They’ll blow their floofloovers. They’ll bang their tartookas.
They’ll blow their whohoopers. They’ll bang their gardookas.
They’ll spin their trumtookas. They’ll slam their slooslunkas.
They’ll beat their blumbloopas. They’ll wham their whowonkas.
And they’ll play noisy games like zoozittacarzay, A roller-skate type of lacrosse and croquet!
And then they’ll make ear-splitting noises galooks
On their great big electro whocarnio flooks!
BUT ~ then the Grinch puzzled and puzzed till his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.
Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store,
Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more ♥
PEACE: May this Christmas holiday season bring one of the most sought after and elusive gifts – the gift of peace to all my Facebook and blogisphere family and friends. Whatever and however you celebrate, may you celebrate in a peaceful and joyful place with those you love. Merry Christmas ♥
THE ULTIMATE NEW YORK TREE: If you are rushing home for the holidays and find yourself in Grand Central Terminal needing a last minute gift? Rush over to their Christmas Market and find ‘HUT STUDIOS’. You can find every beloved and some quirky New York icons available for your tree. It’s the perfect last minute gift as you rush on your way to the folks back home! Are you just visiting NYC? – they are the quintessential unique souvenirs. Artists Richard Hopper and Harold Gilstein have photoshopped images of New York (the Pan Am Building, the Flatiron Building, the Roosevelt Island Tramway) decoupaged into 3-D ornaments ($30 to $45). You can also buy an Astor Place train station business card holder, a Grand Central Terminal box, or The Ansonia, The Dakota, Chrysler, Empire, the Chelsea Hotel, in storage box form.
It is your one chance to buy a piece of real estate at affordable prices! You can now truly say “I’ll take Manhattan” . . . and not go broke – Enjoy !