But first I'll mention that I had a lovely day yesterday with Puck's sister Ella and her daughter Maya, who is nearly 3 years old now. As I've mentioned before, Maya already recognizes me as a member of the family but this was the first time we've actually had any real playtime together. The three of us went out to the beach and scared seagulls, drew in the sand and made this face in the sand with seashells.
As long-time blog readers know, it's been more than a decade since I've had a child present in any part of my life. Having fun with Maya felt like reaching deep into a long-dormant part of my personality and waking it up a bit. There's so many things I've learned and forgotten over the years about raising children. I'm actually looking forward to dredging some of that up as more of my dearest have children of their own.
Anyway, now to catch up on the holidays. On Yule the winter solstice I went to see Star Wars TFA at 9:30 am by myself at the AMC Prime theater at the Empire 25 on 42nd Street. It's my first time in the premium AMC theater and it was okay, but I wasn't super-impressed. I felt the sound was a little overblown and fatiguing, but the picture was perfect. The seats were also comfy, but there wasn't enough legroom for me to fully recline (which I probably wouldn't do anyway since I might fall asleep). But I wanted to see it before Katie M came over that evening because I knew she'd want to talk about it, and we did. I explained the whole "George Lucas loves to tinker/Han shot first" controversy and showed her clips from different versions of Episode 4 to illustrate.
Christmas Eve was a quiet evening at TSMC with Puck watching Ben-Hur, the first time they've seen this classic. It's one of my top 3 all-time favorite movies, and my 50th anniversary restored Blu Ray looked fabulous on the projection screen.
Christmas Day I spent making a bourbon bread pudding and bringing it over to my friends Jennifer and Tam's place on 23rd Street for their party. I met Jennifer's other partner who is visiting from the UK and many of their friends in the Burning Man community. They have a gorgeous top-floor apartment with a view of the Empire State Building and the new United Nations building that's under construction. We went up on the roof for a bit and watched oddball movies like The Ref and Rent while other people sang karaoke in the adjoining room. I ended the night walking home at around 2 am in the brisk cold air.
On the Sunday after Christmas I had a day with Chrissy and Rob, her West coast husband (although not for long, as he is planning to move here soon). I met Rob briefly at Poly Cocktails on Chrissy's last birthday, but this is the first time we've had a chance to actually get to know each other. We met up at an Ethiopian restaurant (their first time having such food and they said they enjoyed it) and then meandered through Riverside Park for about 20 blocks up to 72nd Street. We took the subway back down to Union Square and saw Star Wars (their first time, my second) and then said goodbye as I stayed to watch The Revenant.
The next day I had lunch with Lori before heading down to Staten Island to join up with Puck's family for a trip to Glen Rock, NJ, to visit Puck's eldest sister's husband's family home for his 40th birthday. We had a splendid dinner of roasted chicken and herbed fingerling potatoes, mushrooms, green bean casserole, salads and the most extravagant French patisserie desserts, followed by a screening of The Bourne Identity. It was the first time I'd visited his family's home where he grew up.
Afterward we stopped by Ella's friend's home nearby. They have two older children so we played with them and Maya while the adults had tea. As we were leaving it started to sleet but not too badly. I was trying to get to Secaucus but we couldn't find it on GPS so I ended up dropping myself off at the ferry terminal to go back into Manhattan while everyone else continued home, since I had a lunch the next day.
Lunch was with my friend Kara at Bareburger, my first visit there. I met Kara after the Pride March this past year when she joined us for a post-march supper at Good Times Diner and met up with Storm there. This time around she brought two of her friends (one of whom said he'd met me at a bowling event some years ago) and Storm came later. It was a nice lunch, although I did have to remind the fellow about consensual hugging and it gave me an opportunity to teach group hug protocol. I'm going to keep at this until it becomes the standard.
The next evening was the day before New Year's Eve and Puck and I had a hard time getting out of Times Square to get home for their mom's 60th birthday. Fifth Avenue had been closed off for an NYPD funeral, and some bus routes were already affected by NYE traffic control. We got stuck in the Rockefeller Center area long enough to watch the Saks Fifth Avenue lightshow, which was beautiful this year.
We managed to finally catch an express bus and make it to the restaurant directly from the bus, where we had a traditional Russian banquet feast, punctuated by toasts and dancing. I even gave my own toast, which is a first for me at these family events that I've been attending for many years now.
I presented Maya and her cousin Kyra with a New Year's gift: a set of Neurosmith Music Blocks that I found at the Met Store when I bought my annual Angel Tree ornament. This was one of my favorite kid toys I'd bought years ago so I was probably more excited than the girls to play with it again. It may be a few years before they get interested in this particular toy.
Although I didn't realize it was a costume party, I happened to wear an outfit of white dots and sparkly pants that suggested a starry night, so I declared my costume to be "The Cosmos." There was the usual banquet of food, and this year it was mostly Mediterranean and Indian food with some homemade salads.
After dinner Puck called for everyone to write down something they wanted to leave behind in the old year and something they wanted to take forward into the new year. Guests were invited to burn one or the other (or both) as a symbol of destroying the negative things or releasing the positive intentions.
Once that was done, the champagne was handed out and we greeted the New Year with toasts and kisses, followed by an appearance by Grandfather Frost and his partner, who handed out presents to everyone. I got a wonderful illustrated book called "World Without Fish" by Mark Kurlansky, who wrote "Cod" and "Salt," two of my favorite non-fiction books. I gave Puck an illustrated book called "Radioactive" about Marie and Pierre Curie. We played a few rounds of charades as people started to drift away from the party, and then Puck and I prepared the couch and an air mattress for ourselves and our guests. It wasn't quite as big a crowd as we were expecting, so everyone got a good night's sleep to usher in the new year.