Thursday, December 14, 2006

Christmas Windows: Barney's and FAO Schwarz

One of my favorite things about Christmas in the city are the department store windows, where once a year, the standard homage to overpriced crap gets replaced with a creative holiday-themed homage to overpriced crap. They're baroque and fabulously gay, but in an innocuous way that's cool with the tourists from the flyover states, who are already getting into the Christmas spirit by complaining that Jesus is missing from the decorations. I'm always hoping for some sort of abstract, minimalist Christmas style — which I usually find inside the stores — or failing that, something that isn't ridiculous and puerile. I'm usually disappointed.

Okay, the Barney's windows are never puerile; they're designed for New York's old money, literati elite who are photographed in the Sunday Styles section of the Times and get invited to opening night for new exhibits at the MoMA. You know, people who keep up with the Joneses by shopping at Barney's. This year Barney's asks you to spend heartily and wishes you Happy Andy Warhol-idays, which doesn't even make any sense, except that Barney's is doing this commemorative soup can cross-promotion thing with Campbells.There's over a hundred dollars worth of soup in that picture — twelve bucks a can, and they're crazy popular. I'm guessing that Barney's salespeople work on commission, because it brought tears of holiday joy to my eyes to watch them snatch the last cans in the store out of each others' hands for whoever's phone customer could place the bigger order. Santa would be so proud of us.

I haven't been to F.A.O. Schwarz since they re-opened two years ago, and I'm not a fan of the changes, starting with the candy-colored kiddie-Starbucks ice cream parlor in the back, serving seven-dollar milkshakes. Please, F.A.O. Schwarz, we can't afford that! We just spent $12,000 on a life-sized stuffed woolly mammoth doll, trying to purchase our child's love! We're broke!The worst part is the woolly mammoth — none of the life-sized animals really — isn't huggable. It's felt sewn over a hard shell. I'd rather have one of the cuddly animals they sell for $29.95.

What's really going to take some getting used to with F.A.O. Schwarz is that the new store is just too neat and organized.F.A.O. Schwarz used to be the world's greatest toy box, with playthings spilling out of every conceivable corner, and now it's like Mommy made you clean your room. I'm sure she's happy that she can walk around without stepping on shit like random Legos and Chronicles of Narnia action figures and other people's kids, but this fantasy playworld resents grown-up rules. It feels like an Apple Store or something. Maybe they'll someday throw in a ballpit and even things out.