The Current Version of the Yearly Tradition

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Saks 5th Avenue holiday light show

I love New York. Of course by that I mean NYC, and mostly Manhattan. I’m not sure how fond I am of Staten Island. The Bronx, Queens and Brooklyn all have stellar qualities but it’s Manhattan that makes my pulse race, my breath quicken. And not from fear, oh you nay sayers you. I love the excitement, the thrill, the sights, the energy. I love it best at holiday time because of the extra dollop of excitement. I have been there in the blazing hot, humid days of summer when the garbage wasn’t being collected and while there is still some energy then, holiday time is better. Even if it’s bitter cold.

My family has a tradition of heading into the city sometime between Thanksgiving and New Years. I think it started even before my son went off to college, but it certainly solidified in those years. We’d head in to the city, see a show, check out the tree and plaza at Rockefeller Center, watch the Saks holiday light show, and have a great steak dinner. Yes, it is always dinner at a great steak house. This year we needed to head in during the Thanksgiving weekend because that is when my son was home. To my great disappointment it turned out that Rockefeller tree would not be lit until AFTER he returned. We went in last T-day weekend as well and the tree was definitely already lit. I have the photos to prove it. Ah well, at least the Saks light show would be running.

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James Bond’s Aston Martin DB5

I couldn’t find any matinee that appealed to me. I wanted to do something different this year, still tradition but with a little twist. The gentlemen agreed that a museum would be okay so I set my husband to the task of finding an interesting exhibit. He knocked this one out of the park. We went to Spyscape – an espionage experiential exhibit. It was GREAT! I had no idea what to expect. I will say that you should buy tickets online because there is a surcharge for buying them at the desk. 🙂 You are given a gold bracelet with your own identifying disk. You use your disk to sign in to the various experiences. At the end you get a report on how well you did in all the various skills tests and a ‘placement’ of the role you might play in the spy world. I was sure I’d end up being told I’d be in the home office filing papers, but I did well enough to be an Intelligence Operative: The heart of an intelligence service, involved in an array of operations, from servicing dead drops to setting up safe houses. Who’d have thought it, right? I guess Operatives like to plan and make lists. 🙂 Many of the questions are of a “what would you do?” and “what do you believe?” nature. They assess you on those questions by the answers that scored furthest from the average. This is a bit circular, I think, because their assessment of me is my assessment of me: Team Player, Determined, Empathetic. *smile* I have to say that taking the pattern recognition and logistics questions stressed me out A LOT. I was great at encryption and deception. More risky than I expected. And TERRIBLE at brain power. The test that I thought would be the worst and most stressful was the Special Ops test. That is the one where you are in a room full of laser beams and buttons. You must hit as many buttons as possible without breaking the beams. It helps to be both tall and limber for that exercise. I could not reach the top row of buttons at all but I squatted down and made it under almost every beam, slamming buttons as I went. It was incredibly exhilarating. I understood why so many of the younger visitors were doing that test again and again. 🙂 Overall I still think I’d be a terrible spy and should be home filing papers.

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Blueprints

We also did the special James Bond exhibit – about the making of the latest Daniel Craig James Bond film, Skyfall. My husband insists that the “best” James Bond was George Lazenby’s Bond. He is incredibly disdainful of all other Bonds, although he admits that Sean Connery’s Bond was adequate. *rolls eyes* The Skyfall exhibit was very interesting. I LOVED seeing the car, and all the detailed plans for how they actually built the car so that all of Q’s special gimmicks worked. There are 3 short videos where they explain how they filmed the final climactic scene – from finding the location to building the necessary items to merging 1:3 scale models with the live action. You mean it didn’t all happen live once?

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Champagne bucket was in the later models

Skyscape is definitely worth a visit, although I’m not sure it’s a good match for very young children. The ability to read is a must. Many of the exhibits are texts with photos, telling spy stories. I can also recommend Mastro’s for dinner. My son and I have been dining at Mastro’s in Phoenix my last two visits and have loved it there. When we saw there was one in NYC we decided that would be this year’s steak dinner location. It was wonderful. The food and service are fantastic and we had great leftovers to bring home. Our waiter was a history buff and we had great discussions when he was at the table. 🙂 Our complaints were about the lighting and noise. I’m not sure why restaurants have decided that people want to eat in darkness. Maybe this is an east coast ‘thing’ because I don’t recall this issue in Phoenix. We needed flashlights to view the menus. We weren’t the only ones doing that as I noticed people at nearby tables doing the same. The noise level was also higher than is pleasant. I understand the allure of live music, and piping music all over, but most people are dining out to DINE and CHAT, not listen to music. My opinion is that the background music is always too loud, causing people to talk loudly, and by the end of the meal you are exhausted because you have been yelling to have a simple conversation. (It’s not just Mastro’s – we encounter this at so many restaurants.) I soothed my throat with a yummy profiterole. 🙂

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Saks 5th Avenue before the show

Rockefeller Center is not as grand when the tree is dark, but the Saks light show is still a wonder, no matter how many times you see it. I include a video for those of you who may not make it into the city this year.

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