Perhaps it's due to the fact that I'm somewhat of a curmudgeon at heart, but the autumn is my very favorite time of the year. Ever since childhood, I would look forward to the leaves changing colors and flying through the air in dance-like patterns until falling into a community of their previously fallen compatriots, already stuck on the ground. Depending on how you look at it, that can be either inspiring or really depressing. In New York, a city known for its fashion-savvy residents, it is safe to say that even the trees seem to be modeling some trendy sort of seasonal wares this time of year, competing with the other trees to be the most outstanding, not unlike their human counterparts turning the sidewalks of the city into runways and catwalks of extravagant outerwear...
Recently my office moved to a neighborhood near Penn Station known as the fur district. It's a rather dingy little section of mid-Manhattan with an abundance of tired looking gray industrial buildings in need of sandblasting and lacking very many good places to eat (I am most affected by this aspect of the move). There are more fur suppliers, re-sellers and designer fur-clothing manufacturers concentrated in these few blocks than any other place on Earth. I am not surprised at how many of the fur merchants seem to be surly Russian mafia members, but I'm definitely surprised that the streets aren't overwhelmed with PETA protesters holding overburdened paint cans, ready to for action. Being neither an angry animal rights activist, nor a person of wealth, I recently purchased the most ridiculous giant faux-fur winter hat I could find. Aside from looking like a reject from the Sonny and Cher collection, it keeps me warm in the oppressive New York winds that blow through the narrow streets between the buildings. My bargain-priced fall fashion decision earns me disdainful glares from the beady-eyed shop keepers surrounded by their menagerie of animal carcasses. They can notice from a mile away that my hat is both fake AND stupid-looking, as I blithely make my way down the sidewalk in search of lunchtime burritos (ah, Chipotle barbacoa), enjoying their squirms and malignant disgust.
Coming up on "the holidays," I have taken an extra seasonal job in retail working at a clothing store on 5th Avenue at Rockefeller Center. As glamorous as that may sound, retail is retail no matter the setting. The store can best be described as a more drab and less-edgy European version of the Gap (if more drab and less edgy than Gap is even possible). Being as "fun sized" as I am, the employee discount program is not extremely beneficial considering few of their garments even come close to fitting well on my impish frame, so my favorite perk of the job is the opportunity to observe a steady trickle of confused tourists who try to avoid salespeople, like myself, at all costs.
I'm learning that I am unable to convincingly lie to strangers to get them to believe that they look "great" in faux fur-hooded parkas that would look strange on even Eskimos. I blame my mother for my inability to successfully tell mis-truths as I was never allowed to get away with it when I was younger which killed my chances to hone the skill. Instead I have to find unrelated statements that will sound better, like, "I bet you'll be the only person back in Arkansas with a giant man-bag like this one," or "I'm sure you'll really stand out in that plaid hat when you go back to Japan..." Perhaps if I really believed in what I was selling, I could more convincingly lie about it, much like a politician or televangelist. We'll see how far I go in my sales career, I'm keeping my fingers crossed and hope that I make it through the season unscathed.
Retail and unfriendly Russians aside, when all is said and done, New York is a beautiful place to be during this transitional time of the year, even when getting the stink eye from passersby, comparing outerwear. I now can vouch for all of those cheesy movies and songs based on this very phenomenon in the city. Between the beautiful leaves lining the gutters, preparations for window displays on 5th Avenue and the smell of "a little something extra" in the coffee cups of certain businessmen walking out of Penn Station, there is a magical crispness that makes one feel truly alive.