Updated: Mar 24, 2021
Location: Long Island Rail Road train to Penn Station, 11:27 a.m.
Christmas anywhere is wonderful. But Christmastime in New York City is particularly magical, which is why the city figures so prominently in the plot of my children’s book, “Christmas Carol &
the Defenders of Claus.” (Sky Pony Press) So I had an idea: Wouldn’t it be fun to go into Manhattan for a day with my family and visit every place mentioned in the book, and give a child a free book at each location? And then, because my brain works in peculiar ways, I thought: Wouldn’t it be fun to take my Christmas-obsessed heroine, Carol Glover, with us?
I know what you’re thinking: “Are you feeling OK, Rob? Carol’s a FICTIONAL character. She’s not real!”
Well, I beg to differ. Carol is very real to me and I can take her wherever I darn well please. So I’ll let you decide if this is real or all in my mind. Isn’t that right, Carol?
“That’s right, Robert L. Fouch.”
You can call me Rob, Carol. I’ve told you this.
“Then why does it say Robert L. Fouch on the front of my book?”
That’s my official author name.
“Oooooh, aren’t we all fancy-schmancy?”
(Sigh.) I think we’re getting off track here.
“Off track! Ha! I see what you did. Because we’re on a train, right?”
Um, yes, exactly. Aren’t I hilarious? Can I finish now?
“Go for it, Robert L.!”
As I was saying, we are indeed on the LIRR. With us are my lovely wife, Geovanny, and my 14-year-old son, Tyler, and we’re all pretty pumped about experiencing some Manhattan Christmas magic.
“I still don’t know why we can’t just take a portal. Trains are so sloooooow.”
We discussed this, Carol. You don’t think we might set off a panic if the four of us just plop into the middle of Times Square out of thin air? We had to peel the cat off the ceiling when you popped into our living room.
“But we could be there in like two seconds! I can use my magic cane to make a portal now.”
I said no, Carol! End of discussion. And you know what happened last time I went through a portal.
(Carol giggles.) “Blaaaaaahhhhhhh.”
Yes, Carol. I puked. I don’t have magical powers like you.
“And you’re pretty old.”
“Like I said, old.”
OK, OK, enough of that. We’ll check back in when we’ve arrived at our first destination. See you soon, everybody.
Location: The Waldorf Astoria, 12:21 p.m.
Here we are on Park Avenue approaching the world famous Waldorf Astoria hotel, where Carol stayed with her Grinch of an uncle and her best friend, Amelia Jimenez, during their trip to New York. The day is a bit overcast but the temperature’s around 50 degrees. Pretty amazing for December.
“I hope the piano guy’s in the lobby again playing Christmas songs … Hey, wait, it’s closed!”
Yes, for renovations. And to be honest, it was closed when I was writing the book, too.
“How did Amelia and I stay there then?”
Ah, well that’s the only magical power I have: fiction. I can have my characters do whatever I want – even stay at closed hotels. But maybe I should have had you stay at The Plaza. You could have met Eloise.
One of my favorite characters from children’s books. Younger and considerably more famous than you. Tyler loved that book when he was little. You actually remind me of her, Carol, a pain in the butt always getting herself in trouble.
“Hey! That’s not nice.” (Carol crosses her arm and glares. The white curl in her red hair that marks her as a Defender of Claus falls into her eye and she brushes it away absent-mindedly.)
Let’s give away our first book.
(Carol looks around.) “So you’re just going to walk up to someone on the street and give them a book?”
I guess so.
“What if you get maced?”
Sheesh, Carol! No one’s going to mace us! I hope not anyway.
“You do look pretty shady.”
I’ll put on my reindeer antlers.
“Now you just look ridiculous.”
Turns out it’s a little harder than I thought to give away a book, at least here at the Waldorf.
No kids! Or very few on Park Avenue. We approach a sweet looking family with a little girl, and as I make my spiel, the mother looks at me blankly. Geovanny, who has our official “Christmas Carol & the Defenders of Claus” sign hanging around her neck (much to Tyler’s chagrin), figures it out pretty quickly. “No English?” she asks.
The mother shakes her head no.
Our second try isn’t any more successful. The father looks at me suspiciously. And when I ask if he’s interested in a free book, he and his family shake their heads no and hurry away. Maybe Carol’s onto something about being maced!
But the third time’s the charm. I approach a friendly looking father and daughter and they don’t run. That’s a good sign. And success! Phil and Rachel from Staten Island seem pleased to take the book. We thank them and they thank us, and they’re on their way.
See, Carol? No mace.
“This time!” (Carol grins and on we go to our next stop.)
Location: Outside of Grand Central Terminal, 2:01 p.m.
“Can we go in? Can we? Can we? Please! My uncle wouldn’t take us.”
Of course. Grand Central’s really cool at Christmas.
(We start to head in, but Carol pauses. She grips her magical cane tightly and peers over her shoulder.) “Hey, did you see that guy across the street?” (The three of us turn to look and Carol yells at us.) “Jeez, why don’t you make it obvious?! Don’t let him see you looking! I think he’s following us.”
I don’t see anyone, Carol. I’m sure it’s fine. (Carol glances across the street again but before she can investigate any further, Geovanny makes friends with a Santa pedicab driver. After we snap the requisite photo,
we enter the terminal and walk into the main part of the station.)
Grand Central’s one my favorite places in the city.
“It’s so beautiful!”
They almost tore it down in the ’70s, but Jackie Kennedy Onassis led the movement to preserve it.
“I wish Amelia could see this.”
That would be nice, but I can’t afford to fly her up from Florida. I’m not rich like your uncle.
“I could use a portal . . .”
I said no portals, Carol!
Grand Central is a madhouse but it’s worth fighting the crowds. The building is incredible, with unbelievable detailed stone work inside and out. It’s hard to imagine how much a building like this would cost today. And naturally, the building’s all decked out for the holidays, with a giant wreath on the front and lights and decorations everywhere.
They have a “Holiday Fair” set up at the entrance with beautiful, but rather expensive, gifts.
We make a stop at the Apple store for my technology-obsessed son. And then we hit the New York Transit Museum and take a peek at its amazing miniature city. We look for another kid to give a book, but most of the children here are too young for “Christmas Carol.” And the one mom we do approach practically sprints away from us. Bah humbug!
On the way back out, we stop again at the Holiday Fair and meet Inga, who is thrilled to receive a copy of “Christmas Carol.” The lovely lady with her tells Inga it’s “an honor” to get the book and that she has to make sure to e-mail me after and tell me whether she liked it. I hope you do, Inga. And thanks! On to our next stop!
Location: Bryant Park Winter Village, 3:25 p.m.
“Mmmm. Something smells good.”
Holiday goodies. They build a market and a huge skating rink here every year. And they put up a big tree.
“Can we skate? Please, oh please.”
We have too many spots to hit today. Maybe at Rockefeller Center if there’s time.
(Carol glances behind us again, her eyebrows scrunched with worry.) “I’m telling you, someone is following us. I should freeze time and check it out.” (Carol raises her cane.)
No, Carol! Don’t freeze . . . (She waves her hand.)
“Hi, everybody. It’s just me talking to you now because I froze things. We Defenders have the power to stop time to help Santa deliver all his toys in one night. But it’s also a way for me to check for bad guys. The Masked Man has people on the lookout for me, some of them former Defenders using their powers for evil. So if anyone’s moving, that’ll mean someone with Defender power is here.” (Carol looks around. She thinks she spots a flash of movement but can’t be sure. A portal appears in front of her, revealing an elderly female Elf sitting by a fire. It’s the Ancient One, an Elf who has a special relationship with Carol. She talks to Carol telepathically.)
Why did you freeze time, dear? You must not abuse your powers.
“Someone’s following me. I know it. But Robert L. doesn’t believe me.”
Do you see anyone?
Unfreeze time, dear. I’ll keep watch through the portal so you can have fun today.
“Can I go skating real quick while everyone’s frozen?”
What do you think, Carol?
(Carol sighs and looks longingly at the rink as the portal vanishes. She waves her hand and everything explodes back to life. Robert L. finishes his sentence.)
. . .time, please. You can’t be freezing everybody whenever you feel like it.
(Carol grins.) “You’re right, Robert L. I won’t do it. Can we buy a Santa at the market? I need more for my collection.”
You already have like fifty Santas!
Fifty-nine. And you can never have too many Santas.”
Mm-hmm. We’ll see. Let’s watch the skaters and give away another book.
Before we make it 10 feet into Bryant Park, we meet Gus the pup. He’s very busy — let’s just say he was taking care of some important business — when I try to take his photo. Then I have to wait for his owner to clean up before I can get the shot. Giving books away can be a dirty job!
We stop in a cool little shop called Hot Hugs, which sells fuzzy creatures that literally warm you up, and we meet the delightful Megan Kate. She’s enthusiastic when we tell her about the book and says she has nieces who might like it. So who better to give a copy to?
And while I’m doing that, Geovanny, still wearing her official “Christmas Carol” sign, meets a nice family with kids named Kate and Andy. So we break our rule and give out two books at Bryant Park. Andy is already reading it as we bid them farewell. On to our next stop. Sorry, Carol, no time for skating. We’re getting hungry.
Location: Outside of Macy’s, 34th Street, 6:05 p.m.
(Carol is darting from window to window, looking at the displays. She nearly knocks down a guy wearing a business suit.)
Jeez, Carol, can you calm down?
“But it’s Macy’s! And we’re on 34th Street, where my all-time favorite movie takes place!”
I know. I love “Miracle on 34th Street,” too. We watch it every year. Natalie Wood was so cute.
“Everybody thought Kris Kringle was crazy. Nobody truly believed in Santa, but they did in the end. Do you believe, Robert L.?”
Of course! And we’re going upstairs to see him right now.
Well, I’m not sure if it’s the real one, but we couldn’t come to Macy’s without visiting Santa Land. (Into Macy’s we head, fighting through the huge crowds.)
Santa Land is on the eighth floor so we take the cool old wooden escalators all the way up. Last time we were in Santa Land, Tyler was 2. Things have changed since then. Now you need to make a reservation instead of just showing up and waiting on line for an eternity. But it’s still about a half-hour wait.
A couple of adorable kids are in front of us. They look a bit young for “Christmas Carol & the Defenders of Claus,” but when I ask the mom the age of the older child, she says he’s 7. Close enough! So I give them a book. The 7-year-old’s name is Kyle and his younger sister is Kyra. Kyle seems confused why this weird dude behind them is trying to give him a book. “But it’s not ours,” he keeps saying to his Mom. She eventually convinces him that it’s OK to take. So cute!
We finally get in to see the big guy. He seems a little puzzled when I show him the book, but he’s game. And we
at last get our picture with Santa. He catches Tyler off guard when he asks him what he wants for Christmas. Tyler mumbles, “Maybe an iTunes card.” (He tells us after that he couldn’t think of anything else.) Carol, of course, spends lots of time in the North Pole, so she doesn’t need to ask Santa for anything. She has major connections. Geovanny says she wants “Christmas Carol & the Defenders of Claus” to “reach its full potential.” And being the selfless guy I am, I say I want “world peace.” Santa says he’ll do what he can and that he’ll see us on the 25th. Thanks, Santa! On to the next stop.
Location: Radio City Music Hall, 7:31 p.m.
“Can we see the Rockettes?”
Sorry, Carol. The three of us went last year with Tyler’s Grandma. It was crazy. The line to get in stretched several blocks. But it’s a good show, something everyone who loves Christmas in New York should do at least once.
“I’d love to see when the toy soldiers fall.”
Yeah, that was pretty neat. Maybe next year, OK?
(Around the corner we go to Top of the Rock.)
Location: Rockefeller Center, Top of the Rock, 7:40 p.m.
“We’re here! We’re here! Finally. This is where I learned about my powers.”
Um, yes, Carol. You may recall that I wrote the scene.
“Oh, yeah. That’s so weird.”
We’ll head up top first. I bet the city looks amazing at night. I hope you’re not afraid of heights.
(Carol rolls her eyes.) “I fly on the back of reindeer!”
Oh, yeah. Duh. Sorry.
Our ears pop on the way up and I’m not the biggest fan of heights, but the views are definitely worth it. We can see the Freedom Tower in the distance. The Empire State Building sparkles, as does the Chrysler Building. Carol, of course, went a bit higher in “Christmas Carol
& the Defenders of Claus” than we’re allowed to go, but our views are still pretty breathtaking. Santa doesn’t visit us here, like he does Carol in the book, but that’s OK. We just saw him.
Because we gave out two books at Bryant Park, we’ve got only one left. So we’ll give away our last copy down by the tree and the skating rink. On we go!
Location: Rockefeller Center tree and skating rink, 9 p.m.
(We round the corner and the four of us stop and gaze in wonder at the tree. For the first time all day, Carol is speechless.) Beautiful, isn’t it?
“I could stare at it forever. Do you know it’s 75 feet tall?”
Yes, Carol. I researched ahead of time to give the people following us all the details.
“And it weighs 12 tons.”
“And they brought it all the way from Pennsylvania on a big truck.”
“And they used 50,000 lights and the star on top weighs more than 500 pounds.”
I know, Carol! Come on. Let’s give away our last book before you drive me crazy.
Geovanny strikes gold with a little girl whose dad is Dominican. Because there’s a pretty important Dominican presence in “Christmas Carol & the Defenders of Claus,” we were really hoping we might find a kid who would enjoy that part of the story. Santa must be smiling on us tonight! Nikole seems shy but very happy to receive the book. And mom and dad are both delighted, the father shaking my hand a couple of times while Geovanny chats with them in Spanish.
After that, we walk over to check out the skating rink. Strangely, cheers erupt. We look down and there’s a young man on bended knee proposing. Very cool. Everyone claps, camera flashes go off, people crowd closer to watch . . . it’s all pretty magical. Let’s just hope she said yes! We were too far away to tell.
At this point, even though it’s been an amazing day, we’re just about dead on our feet. But Carol’s still going strong. Apparently fictional characters have much more stamina than we real folks do. Carol makes one last plea.
“Can we skate now? I barely got to skate with Amelia last time.”
I don’t know, Carol. It’s been a long day and we’re really tired. (Carol slumps in defeat but then a devious grin spreads across her face. She raises her cane.) No, Carol! Don’t you dare . . . (Carol waves her hand and stops time.)
“Just me again, everybody. I am NOT missing out on skating at Rockefeller Center.” (Carol runs down to get skates and within minutes is on the ice, leaving her cane at the entrance. She zips around effortlessly,
even though she’s been skating only once before. Because of the Christmas magic she possesses in such abundance, it’s as if she’s been skating forever. Carol maneuvers between the frozen skaters. She spins, she jumps, she whoops with joy. She’s having the time of her life. That’s when the blast comes. From out of nowhere. A North Pulse, a huge ball of energy Defenders create with their power. The Pulse hits her square in the back and she tumbles to the ice. Carol tries to get up but another Pulse blasts her. She sees a man above her, with the familiar red hair and white stripe. He’s manipulating the air again, ready to finish her off. He rears back. Carol tries to summon her own Pulse to defend herself. But she’s weak and dizzy. And the cane that amplifies her power is back at the entrance. She braces for the final attack when suddenly a portal appears next to the man. Out pops the Ancient One, who tumbles to the pavement. The man is distracted and Carol quickly circles her hand in the air to make a Pulse. She flings it at the man. It’s a powerful one and knocks him out cold. The Ancient One picks herself up and brushes off her robe. She glares down at Carol.)
For goodness sake, dear. I leave for one minute to get a snack and I come back to find you under attack. Didn’t I tell you not to freeze time?
(Carol hangs her head.) “Yes. I’m sorry.”
For such a smart girl, you sure can do dumb things. Now get up here and help me. We’ll toss this man through a portal to somewhere where he can’t hurt anyone. (Carol skates over and gets her cane, puts her shoes back on and runs up to help the Ancient One. They push the man through a portal the Ancient One creates.) OK, now, just unfreeze Robert L. so we can say goodbye. I don’t want anyone else seeing me.
(It’s only when Carol unfreezes him that she notices her jacket’s badly torn from the attack and she’s all wet. Robert L. finishes his earlier sentence.) . . . freeze time! (He looks at the Elf.)
Hey, what are you doing here? And what happened to your clothes, Carol? And why is everyone frozen?
“I told you someone was following me. I took care of it.” (The Ancient One raises an eyebrow.)
“Well, we took care of it.”
(The Elf takes Carol by the arm.) We have to go now, Robert L. It was good to see you. (Suddenly the old Elf tenses, as if she felt something, like a tremor from a far-off earthquake.)
I don’t know. A strange disturbance in the time-space continuum. (She levels an intense stare at Robert L.) What do you have up your sleeve? Are you writing again?
Er, maybe. I have a whole new story in my head. It involves time travel.
(Carol bounces on her tiptoes in excitement.) “Cool!”
No, not cool, Carol! That just means trouble for you and me. And for Santa, too, I bet. (Robert L. looks away sheepishly.) What are you writing?
I can’t tell you that! It’ll spoil it. And I don’t know if I’ll even get to do a sequel. My publisher has to want it.
Well, be nice to us, please. I’m getting too old for these adventures.
OK, Ancient One.
We need to go back to the North Pole now. Tell him goodbye, Carol.
“Goodbye, Robert L.!”
Goodbye, Carol. Tell Santa and Mrs. Claus I said hello. And have a merry Christmas.
“You, too! Merry Christmas to everyone out there. And long live Santa!”
A portal appears and Carol and the Ancient one dive through as everything springs back to life. Then they’re gone. At least for now.