Christmas Progressives

Yesterday I ventured into Chicago with my daughter and two grandchildren for our annual “breakfast under the tree.” Before Macy’s was Macy’s it was Marshall Field’s. For years Field’s sponsored a special Christmas breakfast in their famed Walnut Room. The atrium is several stories high, and at Christmas they dress a three-story high Christmas tree. This year the theme was Believe.

We arrived at nine-thirty expecting to walk in and take the elevator directly to the hostess desk on the seventh floor.  Wrong! The store was still closed. I found a sign with the hours and learned that they opened at 10 a.m. this week. Oh well, not to spoil a good adventure, I suggested we  walk a few blocks to see the city of Chicago Christmas tree. It is always very beautiful. The walk was blustery and windy, but what the heck it is December. Surprise, when we arrived at the Daley Plaza the tree was not there in its usual place. It was gone, not a needle on the sidewalk anywhere in sight. The Chris Kindle market was being disassembled. The Jewish Minora and the Christian creche were still there, as were the pigeons warming themselves around the Eternal Flame memorial. All I kept thinking was these dirty Progressive bastards. They must have begun removing the tree at one minute after midnight. For as long as I remember, the tree, and the plaza were left up through the week between Christmas and New Year. Obviously these symbols, and cultures are offensive to others. It doesn’t matter that they have offended all Jews and Christians by these actions.

We walked back to Macy’s and waited another five minutes for the door to open. Another surprise awaited us at the Walnut Room. The original Macy hours for the breakfast changed. They no longer open for breakfast the week after Christmas. Thankfully the tree was still up and we got to admire the tree adorned in blue lights and silver sparkles. We waited another hour for the room to open for lunch. Thankfully, the service was fast but the food was ordinary. We slopped it down and left for home.

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It is obvious to me that Macy’s does not like Chicago or the traditions they inherited when they bought Field’s. Quite frankly, I don’t believe Macy’s will survive in Chicago for as many years as Marshall Field’s did.

 

One Day in a Life

My day started out great yesterday. The opportunity clock rang early, and I dragged my sorry butt out of bed to get ready for the Lions food distribution. This was a special day for me because Grand Elf Three was assisting me with the delivery. The temperature when I got up was fifteen degrees,but it would get warmer later in the day. Yeah, right.

The sun shone brightly with a few scattered white clouds. I arrived at my Grand Elves house to be greeted by Grand Elf Five.  I hugged her. She looked up at me sheepishly with a marvelous grin. I said, “What?”  Her little hands came out from behind her and presented me with a couple of genuine hand painted Christmas pictures.

She disappeared for a moment and returned to shove a certificate under my nose. I said “what is this?”

“I won,” she answered.

She won second place in an art contest for kids her age. Proud Grumpa hugged her again.

Grand Elf Three was slow getting ready, but finally managed to wear clothes appropriate for fifteen degrees. Thankfully, his mother stopped him dead at the idea of wearing shorts, a tee-shirt with a hooded sweat shirt, and his brand new basketball shoes.

We were off. The conversation in the car was somewhat difficult. The banter between two men with a sixty year age difference takes a bit to warm up.

I tried my best to answer questions like: Why are we distributing food? How come  Lions are always old men? Who started the Lions?  Why are we delivering food? What kind of food is it? Thank God we arrived at the distribution center.

Lion Al signalled me to back up to the garage door, and asked if I would mind delivering early. Grand Elf Three and I went into Lion Al’s house to meet several other “old men” Lions who were having coffee and kibitzing. Grand Elf Three spied the coffee cake and looked around to see if anyone was watching before he took a piece and swallowed it whole. I introduced him to several Lions and then we left. By the time we got to the garage, the trunk of my car was loaded with groceries destined for two families. Grand Elf Three’s eyes lit up. He finally realized what we were going to do.

The delivery went quickly, and the families we visited couldn’t express their thankfulness enough.

The conversation was easier now, and Grand Elf Three was more communicative. He mentioned to me at least three times, “that coffee cake was really good.”

I dropped him off in front of his house and waited for him to get into the house.

Same Day, Part Two.

At noon a van pulled up with Grand Elves One, Two, and Four with parents. A few seconds later another car pulled up with Grand Elf Three and his mother. Grandma Peggy and I bundled up and we departed in two cars. This was our annual Christmas under the Tree event at the Walnut Room. Grand Elves Five, Six, and Seven were sick and had to miss.

I led the caravan into the downtown flawlessly, then screwed up on Michigan Avenue. I spotted the entrance to the Grant Park underground garage and went right for it. As I passed the point of no return, I realized it was the South Garage. That was a full four blocks away from Macy’s. Grandma Peggy was not a happy camper, but she managed a painful smile and braved the bitter cold walk. By the time we swung through the revolving door of Macy’s she was limping, and there was an icicle hanging from her nose. Like I mentioned above, she was not a happy camper.

All this talk of recession is a myth, if all you do is observe the crowd at Macy’s. It was the most crowded of any year we have been making this pilgrimage. Our troupe got  tired waiting for an elevator and decided to hit the escalators instead. Seven escalators later we arrived at the Walnut Room. Fantastic, there was no line. Instead there was a desk handing out pagers. We waited a few minutes to get a pager only to hear that  the first opening they  have a table seating nine is 6:30 p.m. It was one thirty. My son and daughter looked at me and said, “are you gonna wait?”

“NOPE, lets just truck on upstairs to get a good look at the tree, take some pictures, and then head for the golden arches across the street on Wabash.

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The scene that unfolded in Mac Donald’s was amazing. All nine of us lined up at the order counter and clicked off the orders in about nine seconds flat. It looked rehearsed, and was. How many times have these Grand Elves been at a Mac Donalds and have been hustled by their parents to move it along?  Each elf knew his order by number, and rattled off anything special like it was their everyday meal. This occasion also marked the first time I used a charge card at a fast food place.

The meal was a fun event as it always is with the kids. We relaxed and took our time. When we finished, the group split. One family went back to Macy’s to shop, while the other hiked along Michigan Avenue to the Art Institute to where the car was.

This was certainly the most expensive Big Mac I’ve eaten when I add the parking fee of $24.00 to the experience. Not to be beaten, I drove around the loop until I got a good look at the City of Chicago Christmas tree. A beauty it was, even though we saw it through the car windows. I wasn’t going to waste the gas and parking and not see that tree.

Oh Christmas Tree

     Which is my favorite tree this year? Once you see what I am talking about you will understand why I selected the one I did. Every year for the past ten years I have taken my grandchildren to see the big trees in Chicago. The first one is always the Marshall Field’s (Macy’s) tree in the Walnut Room. We ooh and ahh about the beauty of the thing, have breakfast, take pictures, tour the store, and then view the windows on State Street.

     I thought the last two Macy’s trees were outstanding, one done by Martha Stewart, and the other by Tommy Hilfigger. This year, the Macy’s designers did the tree themselves. In my opinion, Martha and Tommy should hang it up. Macy’s outdid themselves with a stunning design that makes previous year’s pale in comparison.

Macy’s theme ornamented the tree with four words, “Dream, Imagine, Believe, Wish.” 

     A short walk west, and we arrived at the Daley Plaza to visit the Kris Kindle Market and the Chicago Christmas tree.

     It drizzled the whole time, but our Christmas spirit was not dampened. Usually, the Chicago tree is a huge live-artificial tree. It is constructed on site by inserting dozens of cut trees into steel tubes on the steel stem. When it is completed it is outstanding. This year, the Mayor insisted on a cut tree. It is a fifty five foot tall spruce, cut from a yard within the city. Are you missing a tree? If so, you can view it in the Daley Plaza. It is adorned with red, white, and green LED lights.  The Santa House is still there, but the G-scale train layout gave way to more market space.

     The market which is a German tradition and filled with vendors from Germany has given way to new vendors from South America. Somehow, the market just wasn’t the same. 

     My grand daughters love to chase the pigeons from the eternal flame, but this year, they were mysteriously missing. What? No pigeons in downtown Chicago? Whose idea was that?

      Our next journey was a short walk to Michigan Avenue to pay respect to the “Bean.” It’s real title is Cloud Scape, but no one calls it that. Because of the clouds, and the drizzle the reflections were surreal.

     We parked under the Bean, and retrieved the car with a mere twenty-six dollar parking fee. I think the Mayor taught the president everything he knows about how to steal from tax payers. I digress.

    The slushy ride home brought me to the next cheery Christmas tree, the one decorated by Peggy. Next to Macy’s I like it best, but it is still not the winner of my “Best Christmas Tree” contest.

The winner is the one created by my beautiful little grandaughter Jenna Rose. She crafted a card with love and addressed it directly to me. She knows me all too well; here it is. . .

MERRY CHRISTMAS

Grumpa Joe

Mary From Human Resources Saved the Day

Tree in Walnut Room

Tree in Walnut Room

About ten years ago, Barbara and I started a tradition in our family. Every year at Christmas, we take a trip downtown to have breakfast in the Walnut Room under the big tree. When we started, the Walnut Room belonged to Marshall Field’s Department Store. Their tradition began many years prior. On one of our trips down, we stood in line behind a lady in her thirties with her children. I asked her how long she had been coming to the breakfast. “Since I was five,” she proclaimed. Her tradition began with her mother and aunt bringing her and her cousins.

I was introduced to the tree by Barbara.  She and I made the trip, only to say we did it. Little did we know it would begin a new world for us.

Barb and I began with our granddaughters when the kids were five and three. Barb has been gone for five years, so Peggy and  I have continued the trip with the kids. We are up to a party of twelve when we go.

A week ago, we left the house at seven a.m  to drive downtown. I like to get an early start, because the line to get into the Walnut Room is sometimes very long. We have waited for as long as an hour to get to the elevator then another hour to be seated. The temperature was eleven degrees. The wind was heavy, but it was sunny.  We parked in the Grant Park underground near Randolph Street. I expected to use the Pedway to walk underground to keep out of the cold. It was closed. Why? Probably to keep the homeless from squating and making the Pedway their home.

A few years ago, Macy’s Department Store bought Marshall Field’s . Luckily, Macy’s decided to keep the Walnut Room tradition alive, but they made changes.  Nevertheless it was our tradition, so we felt good that they kept the breakfast going.

On Saturday, we called Macy’s to check the hours. They told us the doors open at eight a.m. and they begin serving at nine. It was not unusual to have to stand in line on State Street just to get into the store at the opening hour.

We arrived at seven forty-five in a severe wind chill which had all of us shivering and wanting to get out of the cold. The Randolph Street  door was still closed, so we ventured around the building to the State Street side to find another entrance.  State Street doors were closed so we wrapped around the corner to the Washington side.  Also closed.  Several more people joined us. The line began to form.  None of the doors were open. The crowd began to mumble. We were early, so I thought nothing of it. We walked back to the Randolph Street entrance. It was now eight o’clock and it was still closed. The kids were really cold, as was I. We spotted several people entering the employees entrance. My son Mike asked if they would open the door and let us in. The Associate said they would check with Security. Nothing happened. Mike kept asking each Associate passing through to see if they could have some Christmas Spirit and to get the doors opened. Nothing happened. In fact, no one knew what the heck we were talking about. Nor did they care. 

Finaly, a nice blond haired lady came through. Mike pleaded with her in his finest sympathetic tone. She also said she would check with Security. It was about eight thirty when she came back and asked us to enter into the Associates lobby. By now there was a crowd waiting. We crammed the room. She asked us to move into the store. We were met by a Security person who made sure we didn’t advance any further. Our blond haired lady stayed with us until security allowed us to move toward the elevators.

Mike thanked the blond haired lady and learned her name was Mary.  She worked in Human Resources. Macy’s has one associate with a heart and some Christmas Spirit. She saved our day. I failed to say, that before she arrived I was ready too walk without ever entering another macy’s store again.    

We were seated immediatley, and an associate took our orders. The big tree is outstanding this year. Decorated with toys, red lights, and ornaments by FAO Schwartz . I gave it a ten on the scale of beautiful. Last year the tree ranked  a three on my scale. 

The meal was cold, even though we were there early and the room was not very crowded. The kids didn’t seem to mind, and the tradition lives on. Grumpa Joe, on the other hand is seriously thinking of beginning a new tradition next year. The new one will exclude the big store from New York. I really don’t think Macy’s is excited about taking this Chicago tradition seriously. Their people were not in sync with the operation, the kitchen served mediocre food that was cold, and the fairy princess was late getting there.  I forgot to explain that the fairy princess is one of the best parts of the morning for the kids. She comes around and talks to them and tells them to make a wish as she sprinkles fairy dust on their heads. Even the old man makes a wish.

Chicago Christmas Tree-2008

Chicago Christmas Tree-2008

After breakfast, the group trudges down to Daley Plaza to see the City of Chicago Christmas Tree. It is also a marvelous tree this year. One of the best.  It was still too cold to lolly gag around the plaza waiting for the Kris Kindle market to open, so we headed back to the car. We arrived home by twelve thirty.

I deliberately took a week to write about this day. I wanted time to cool my anger and warm my body. It would have been an angrier rant had I written it when we arrived home.

It was still a warm and fuzzy moment, and the tradition lives on, for now.

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