Tonight is the 80th Annual Rockefeller Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in New York City. Perhaps you’ll watch it on your TV at home. Perhaps you’ll even fantasize about being in New York City one day for the ceremony. Don’t. I hate that tree and I hate what it stands for. Just because it stars in almost every Christmas movie that takes place in New York City does not meant that it’s deserving of your fantasies.
When I first moved here I believed that tree represented New York City. I believed that taking a Facebook profile photo in front of that tree would fully encompass my experience in New York — and prove to everyone else that I’d made it. Like Mary Tyler Moore throwing her hat in the air, I thought that photo would be my moment. It wasn’t. Because here’s what you can’t really see on TV and here’s what they don’t show you during Home Alone 2: Really? Again Kevin? That tree’s surrounded by tourists. So many tourists.
I suppose a few naive New Yorkers like myself, but mostly tourists. And here’s the thing about tourists: they either don’t move or they move in groups of forty. It’s a no-win situation, especially because the media convinced them that pickpockets, Oliver Twists and vagrants run rampant through the city trying to rob them. So every time you try to push your way through a middle-aged ladies group from the Midwest, they all scream, cluster and elbow you like you actually want to steal the walking shoes off their feet. Thanks, but no thanks.
Then by the time you actually reach the tree and gather your friends to take the photo, you realize there’s no one to take the photo. After all, everyone wants to be in it. So then you’re sitting there staring at tourists trying to guess which one won’t run off with your phone. (Because the media tells us that all tourists are pickpockets, Oliver Twists and vagrants.) And as you’re choosing just the right person, a million other people are taking their photos so you’re jumping out of family portraits every two seconds. When you finally find someone to take your photo, he takes it once, glances at it, says “looks good” and disappears into the crowd. Of course the photo doesn’t look good and of course you’re half cut out and of course the one eye that’s in the photo is blinking.
But before you can complain, people are herding you out of the area and back into the masses of people who have no idea which way to go. It’s crowded, it’s confusing and it smells like faux-fur earmuffs. I have no desire to ever relive that experience and you shouldn’t either.
It encapsulates everything I hate about New York City. And don’t get me wrong, I generally love New York City. Not in the Carrie Bradshaw “dating it way,” but in a normal human being way. But there are parts of it that are dreadful. And those are the crowded, smelly parts that involve long lines and letdowns. Seriously, people in NYC love waiting in lines. For people with no patience, we sure love the single-file. And we sure love yelling at people who step out of the single file.
There’s a constant feeling here that’s there’s someplace cooler and better and trendier to be and there’s this overwhelming need to be there. That’s the tree for me. Not that any New Yorker want to be there. But it’s no different than the big new club or the secret speakeasy or the gluten-free gourmet miniature-meat-pie-only restaurant. It’s an overhyped crowded place full of people who spin around in circles trying to figure out if this is it. And that’s the big question at the tree, “is this it?” Sure it’s big and sure it’s beautiful, but is it worth the crowds?
I say no.
But should you watch the ceremony on NBC tonight at 8 PM? Yes! Cee Lo is performing. And nothing says the holidays quite like Cee Lo.