|"You're such beasts!"|
The Random Animal was fortunate enough to be in New York City for a few days of the Holiday Season. Festive displays abounded in Midtown and Uptown, remote in distance and sentiment from the site of Occupy Wall Street encampment. Now it's occupy Skate Rink encampment.
Tourists, many fleeing Europe's debt crisis to enter into debt of their own, had cellphones out taking pictures of every window and New York emblem. As always, there was an inexplicable line of foreigners lined up to enter Abercrombie & Fitch, which merchandises its clothes by showing buff young people not wearing any. People gathered around the high-end stores near Central Park to see where the 1% might spend their allegedly undertaxed income. I'd heard that Bergdorf Goodman had particularly elaborate displays and moved with the crowd in that general direction.
I started out near the more plebian Herald Square Macy's, which claims to be the largest store in the world. It certainly was one of the most crowded. I made the mistake of seeing the window display out of order. I was enveloped not only by humanity but by sweeping symphonic music, the sort that would give sound to the culture of Hogwarts. White, bejeweled marionettes pretended to hit drums in the window. Maybe it was the vivid blue eyeshadow and red lipstick on white or the giraffe neck in Victorian collar of one anorexic figurine that creeped me out a bit--or that marionettes never change expression or blink. Someone called the figures angels, but they looked like Tim Burton's elongated versions of Toulouse Lautrec dancers in a Snow Queen setting. Then I saw in the first window that a rocket-riding marionette--super model as Willy Wonka--was a deliverer of ornaments to a sort of space-station earth and that the display's creation involved large donations to a children's charity. O.K., it's Christmasy then.
Up 5th Avenue, Lord & Taylor had the most conventional scenes of a 1950s type family enjoying holiday baking, decorating, and sledding. Windows also featured many holiday-inspired drawings by children (real, not marionettes), and again a charity received benefits.
The closer one got to the Trump Tower and elite hotels, the more elaborate and elegant the displays. I guess I was expecting sort of a Dickens scene (after Tiny Tim is fed and cured), but Bergdorf Goodman presented a "Carnival of Animals" theme. The animals all paid homage to a mannequin dolled up in the glamour of the 1920s or 30s. Sometimes the glamour girl was accompanied by a male figure with an animal head, so it's "Meet my date, Sir Walrus." If the animal/men misbehave, the enchantress will turn them into an adorable white capelet.
|"I think she's wearing our cousin."|
I took pictures, and achieved an ethereal effect of dissolving animal/person against the reflection of a nature that appeared real but is the heavily manicured growth of Central Park. (Actually, like everyone else I was deploying my phone camera sans polarizing filter.) You could also argue that the display proved the 1% aren't really human like the rest of us. They are the bulls and bears of Wall Street (which, along with wolves, provided the heads for mannequin in the menswear windows). Or he's a Bottom to a Titania blinded by her own hat.
|"My pony won a prize!"|
None of these figures moved, so this was not an opportunity to see human/animal interaction in play or to follow the erotics of Ovid's metamorphosis. Maybe these displays fused a childhood memory with something mythic, Freudian, and exclusively expensive. Another day, and other animals of Christmas will appear in The Random Animal--the extraordinary ordinary ones, the Nativity with pets that poet Elizabeth Bishop imagines in one of her works.
The New York Street scenes were all a highly textured fantasy, and whether at Bergdorf or Walmart, yule festivities bring out the desire for 3-dimensional (or 4, 5, 6, adding music, time, and light) textures with all their color, coziness, brilliance, comfort, and allure. With a decorated butter cookie, a twinkling balsam fir, a wrapped present with bow, it's the hope that the materiality of the season (much of it inexpensive or homemade) will warm to spirituality.