This holiday season I arrived back in Brooklyn just in time for the annual building lobby party. Landing in NY always reminds me of why I love my home city. It is surrounded by water and the buildings and street grid display the organized chaos that makes living in the city exciting and frustrating at once–the constant and ongoing contradictions that feeds an urban denizen’s soul. The song Native New Yorker by Odyssey embodies this feeling for me.
I have been living in my rent stabilized apartment since 2002. For some of us having a rent stabilized apartment is like having real estate in NY, you don’t give it up so easily. While there has been much turnover in the building over the decades, there has been a core of people who have been long-time residents (10 years or more).
It is a pre-war brick building with about 97 units, this means A LOT of neighbors. There are some neighbors I see on a regular basis and others who have been in the building for more than a couple of decades and I never see unless they show up at the Lobby Party.
The Lobby Party is our holiday festival. While the lobby is decorated for the holiday season (usually from a little after US Thanksgiving until around Three Kings Day), the hallmark event of the season is this party. And over the years, this party has contributed to many of my fond memories of friends and neighbors in the building. For example, one year a neighbor wore his “Santa Pimp costume” (and I my red dress and hooker heels) to give out gifts to the kids and another year my cat Mitza, who was a street rescue at the time, gave birth to four kittens–one about every thirty minutes–under my desk while this party was going on (each time I came in to check on her there was another kitten).
This year’s party did not disappoint with the new holiday tree, great spread of food (with four different versions of Haitian black rice) and, of course, music and dancing. Lots of music and dancing. The music spanned the continent and included American traditional holiday music, pop music (including hip hop, trip hop etc.), house music, soca, salsa, reggae, and bachata. All generations danced–a great thing about our building is that it is diverse across multiple spectrums of age, race/ethnicity, socioeconomics, education, gender-identity, etc. And while we do not always exist in perfect harmony, basically neighbors look out for neighbors. For example, there was a fire in the building just that morning that left three families homeless. The Lobby Party provided a perfect space for us to first discuss the safety implications of the fire (the fact that no fire alarms went off) and to collect funds to support the families that were directly affected by the fire. The Lobby Party continued with the collection and the music, food and community that brings neighbors together to herald the 2017 solstice-Hannukah-Christmas-Kwanzaa-New Years holiday season.
Ginger bread house making, a tradition that has been done my my dear friend Captain Kat, my niece Ariel and my self for a number of years (lost count). I think she (niece) was in middle school when she started joining us and now she is out of college. We used to make themed houses based on a trip we took during the year (Thai temples one year after a sailing trip in Thailand for examples) but in recent years have kept it simple with more traditionally shaped houses. However our decorations are far from traditional–while has traditional elements–are more avant garde and inspired by available sprinkles, candies and food coloring. Here are this year’s products (my niece’s friend Jazz joined us this year and made the awesome green and yellow brick house. My niece added a wine cork chimney.
During the Romjul week the temperatures dipped. Romjul, an concept I found posted on a friends Facebook wall, click for the definition. It is a perfect aspiration. My poor chihuahua ain’t about the windchill life and despite having a Canadian purchased winter coat She chose to stay in a down comforter bunker
Even the pigeons sought refuge in the sun
Temperatures did not rise for New Years Eve, one of the coldest on record. I had to abandon my plans to join the Polar Bear Club swim. I will revisit the option next year.
I ended my holiday season with a morning loop in Prospect Park. It was cold and I had a cold, but I wanted to start my 2018 active. Now I am actively doing laundry and preparing for my return to YYC and embarking on my 2018 adventures which also includes a significant birthday!!! Here are last year’s fireworks that I missed this year…