Blumenthal: First, a big-city fix | AspenTimes.com

Blumenthal: First, a big-city fix

Mel Blumenthal
Second View

Mel Blumenthal

In anticipation of spending this winter in Snowmass, my wife and I decided to squeeze in a short visit to the Big Apple and most importantly to do a mileage run in order to protect our United Airlines Premier status for 2015. Likely the last time we'll qualify for elite status since the Friendly Skies of United is soon switching to a dollars spent rather than miles flown program — apparently too many of us are buying cheap tickets and accumulating big miles rather than contributing to further substantial increases in United's bottom line.

While on this topic, I have a bone to pick with our good friends at United. Notwithstanding their glitzy on-board videos, emails and advertising exclaiming all the comforts and services they offer and in spite of the thousands of miles we've accumulated over the years, we were unable to upgrade our seats on this recent trip and were relegated to seats in what they humorously call economy plus: three extremely narrow seats on either side of a center aisle with no room for our knees, which were pushed up tight against the seats in front of us. Unfortunately this is what the future looks like for us since buying first or business class seats for cash doesn't pencil out to the best use of our retirement savings.

Upon landing at JFK, I suggested to our flight attendant that rather than further reduce our comfort space in order to drive up United's soaring profits they ought to consider replacing the center aisle with an additional row of seats which, although it would create a bit of an obstacle course on the way to the single restroom or nearest exit, at least the blood flow to our legs would not be compromised. Their reaction: no sense of humor on the Friendly Skies of United.

Coming from quiet Santa Monica and spending even more time in quiet Snowmass Village, we usually go hunting for a major injection of big-time urban chaos, shopping and culture around this time of year. There's nothing more chaotic and culturally resonant than New York City and the women's departments at Bergdorf's, Saks and Barney's during the Christmas holiday season.

As to shopping, I'm an unwilling but cooperative spouse who staunchly believes in equality of the sexes, but for the life of me, I don't understand why one of the most visible signs of such equality is the almost religious fascination that some women have with the latest shoe and purse styles and the crocodiles, alligators and pythons that are hunted and crafted into these luxury items. But being a guy I'm told does not qualify me to understand. I'm just required to support the movement.

As to our cultural immersion, we were fortunate to see the recently opened retrospective, "Henri Matisse: The Cut-Outs at MOMA," a groundbreaking reassessment of this important body of work borrowed from public and private collections around the world. If you're planning a trip to New York in the next couple of months, I recommend you see it before it closes on Feb. 8.

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The eclectic variety of theater offerings on the Great White Way and surrounding areas is always a major part of our annual visit. We were fortunate to see "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," "Beautiful (the Carol King Musical)" and "Disgraced," all of which should not be missed. We also saw several modest offerings and a couple of downright losers, none of which are likely to be around very long so I won't bother to identify them and cause further angst and embarrassment to the angels who invested in these creative misfires.

We chose not to sample any of the trendy new restaurants on this trip but revisited several reliable old-timers. Best of the lot were Joe Allen's and Orso, both in the theater district, and Patsy's on the west side, where the ghost of Frank Sinatra still hovers over every table.

With all the intense urban high life now out of the way until the same time next year, we can turn our attention to family, friends, the holidays and skiing. As soon as we arrive back at the Enclave on Saturday, I anticipate being greeted by stacks of Fed-Ex gift boxes, which have been accumulating over the past few weeks awaiting the staggered arrival of my grandkids and their parents. Also awaiting our arrival will be our second-ever family Christmas tree all decked out with tiny white lights. For many of you that's not such a big deal, but for a boy from a conservative Jewish family, it's a long-awaited festive holiday treat, or so I've finally rationalized due to the mix of faiths my children have brought to the family.

To all tribal members, happy Hanukkah and to the rest of you, Merry Christmas. As you prepare for the New Year, please resolve to treat each other with respect and compassion along with a healthy dose of humor, since most of what we say and do will soon be forgotten but the way we treat each other will remain for eternity.

Your comments are welcome at secondview@earthlink.net.

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