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So what is a newyorksubalien...

I’m a New York subalien. Don’t get me wrong, I’m perfectly legal – it’s just my loving other half, official alien that he is, comes with a so-called “supermodel” visa that apparently denotes him as one possessing extraordinary abilities (falling asleep within 5 minutes of sitting down in front of the TV, remembering only 2 of the 3 items on a mental shopping list and not knowing where the dishwasher tablets live after 2 years in our apartment are just some of his many talents).

The same visa leaves me extraordinarily unable to possess that most American of entities - a “social” i.e. a Social Security Number. Calling it a “social” makes it sound like the password to some party-filled, fun-packed lifestyle. That’s not far wrong as without these all-important 9 numbers, you pretty much can’t have a lifestyle at all - no bank account, no credit card, not even a driver’s license.

So what does a subalien do? Well, like over sub life forms waiting for evolution to give them a leg up on the ladder of existence, I have plenty of time to observe and these, dear reader, are my observations…..

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Getting into the spirit of Big Apple's extra planetary season

It’s time to get into the holiday spirit. At least I certainly felt that way yesterday after braving the crowds in Macy’s, allegedly the world’s largest department store. At the time 'though, I have to admit the spirit I was thinking of was the liquid kind that soothes aching feet and erases all lingering memories of the 25 versions of “I saw Mummy kissing Santa Claus” I'd heard all day.

If you hadn't noticed, we've entered into the extra fifth season in Planet Big Apple, the one that runs from the last Thursday in November ie Thanksgiving until January 1. It's the holiday season, so-called to encompass all cultural festivities held over the period, be it Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. Holiday season traditionally kicks off with Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when shops hold 24 to 72 hour sales designed to kick start the holiday present-buying bonanza. Please note, this is not to be confused with Blackout Wednesday, the night before Thanksgiving, when everyone back home for the big day hits the local bars and well, you can guess the rest....

By all accounts this year, Team Retail’s kick start was a great success with record spending reported in excess of $52 billion over the holiday weekend. That should go a long way to allowing Black Friday to live up to its name (or at least one interpretation of it) as the point in the calendar when shop bank balances move out of the red and into the black.

After a day spent on one of the main shopping thoroughfares in Big Apple, I can vouch for the fact that nearly 2 weeks on, the shoppers are still there, the sales are still there but there is something still missing. To get into the holiday season, you need seasonal temperatures and if the discounts are in the double figures, so are the temperatures. November saw records broken, with temperatures at the end of the month hitting 21 degrees Celsius. That was warmer than New Orleans, Las Vegas and even New Delhi.

Things have cooled down a little since the start of December but we’re still in double digits – and summer jumpers and lightweight coats. The only gloves I’ve worn so far have been to lug home the Christmas tree, passing guys in shorts and T-shirts on the way.

But it takes more than balmy temperatures to keep me from getting into the Christmas spirit. As we said on our annual "holiday" drinks invitation, who needs the weather to turn cold to start serving the “vin chaud”? I’m also well into the Christmas list-ing (note the hyphen - as opposed to “listing” to one side or the other from too much “vin chaud”).

My lists are of course not what to get from Santa but rather what to give from “Santa”. If I really wanted to go native, apparently I’d be stocking up on gift cards which are set once again to be the most popular holiday present amongst local aliens. I suppose in the land of choice it makes sense the best present is deemed to be the one you choose yourself.

While I fully understand the concept behind such sophisticated thinking, I am evidently insufficiently evolved as a species to appreciate the concept and gift cards (unless they are of the “Choose one thing I can do for you today -  as in tidy my room” variety) are not be found under our tree. Plus there’s the whole “how much” issue – and even when I do decide on an amount, inevitably said card can be purchased in increments of $33.67 only.

Still there is some hope for the old-fashioned gift-givers amongst us. This holiday season, the U.S Senate is having its first “Secret Santa” gift exchange. More than half of the 100 members have signed up to take part although the total is unevenly split between the 2 parties, with 37 Democrats versus 21 Republicans. Presents must be wrapped and limited to $10 – so no gift cards then! Apparently likely offerings could include an Arkansas paper weight, New Mexico chili, a Nebraska coffee cup and a recycled pair of socks. Nothing like keeping to tradition.

But wonders will never cease - in the time that it's taken me to write this, the temperature outside has fallen to single figures with the longer-term forecast even showing a few minuses - a real plus for us. So here's hoping that the temperatures continue to drop so the needles on the Christmas tree don't, that the person who "doesn't want anything" sees the joke when presented with a beautifully-wrapped empty box and, most importantly, may you be filled with the holiday spirit - in every way.
Creative Commons License by Caroline Eagles is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.