Thursday, January 23, 2020

The Big Apple Day 6

 Her last day of classes were about a half day, and her flight left around 6pm.  She decided that she would check out early and have the front desk hold her luggage so she could do the NBC tour and do a final walk around Rockefeller Center, and visit the shops that had always been closed when she walked by.  

After her last class she headed over and walked around until her scheduled tour, and by accident found out there was an entire mall beneath 30 Rock.  She walked around looking at everything, visited the bottom portion where the ice skating rink was.  She wanted to ice skate but there was no where to store her purse, and she thought it would feel awkward in her big coat and purse trying to traverse the ice.  She went to spend more time in the NBC gift shop and ended up buying a few more gifts for KSL.  She honestly couldn't decide on just one, and knew if he were with her he'd be having a blast just looking over all the SNL items.  She finally settled on a Weekend Update mug and decided she would need to put it in her backpack to make sure it didn't break.

She bought a "Radio City Music Hall" magnet for herself out of their tiny gift shop, and then headed back for the tour.  She had wanted to stop into Magnolia bakery one last time but decided she didn't quite have enough time to sit down and eat anything.  While she walked around she got a text from her mom saying that they were not going to let her into the airport or on her flight due to something called the coronavirus.  Her mom also lost her mind during swine flu, so she laughed it off and continued on her way.

The studio tour was fun, she didn't regret going on it but she was left feeling a bit unimpressed.  She walked around a bit more and did some shopping at Uniqlo, her favorite store that wasn't in her hometown.  She purchased a shirt that felt amazing and she was angry at herself that she hadn't made more time to shop there sooner, as the shirt could've been worn the entire week and she would have felt more comfortable.  Everyone had told her that it would be bitterly cold and she'd believed them, but she ended up just carrying her giant coat everywhere rather than wearing it.  She made a mental note to order more online from this store in the future.

It was still early, but not early enough for her to really embark on a brand new adventure before she had to leave for the airport.  She headed back to the hotel for her bags, changed in the bathroom to her new shirt and hoodie, then attempted to put her coat into her luggage.  No dice, she couldn't fit it with all the gifts she had purchased for everything.  Defeated, she headed out the door pulling up her Lyft app.

The doorman, who had been incredibly friendly throughout her stay, asked if she needed a ride anywhere.  She was about to say she was getting a lift to the airport, when she realized he was gesturing to a taxi cab already parked out front.  As her company was footing the bill, she supposed it didn't much matter how she got there.  The driver launched her luggage into the truck, and she was imminently thankful that KSL's mug was safely in her backpack, which she held onto.

All the rides she had taken in New York all felt a bit chaotic, but also like the pulse of the city.  It was like a ballet, everyone knew where to go and what to do.

That wasn't the case with this ride.

This man, who mostly spoke in a language she couldn't place, careened around the first few blocks as if the streets of New York City were his own personal pinball game.  

"You pay cash" He stated to her, devoid of all feeling.

"Excuse me?" She said, taken aback.

"You pay cash."

"I need a receipt, I'm here on business."

"I give you receipt, you pay in cash."

"I don't think I have enough cash to give you.  How much to JFK?"

"$50"

It was literally all the money she had left.  She hoped that she didn't need it at the airport for any reason.

When they got to the airport, after almost getting into three thousand accidents in Queens, he stopped in the middle of 3 lanes of traffic and put her bag on the curb so that she had to choice but to throw the money at him and go after it.  She looked at the receipt and found an empty sheet of paper with an empty amount line and a clip art of a taxi cab, and nothing else.  She felt scammed.

She found herself behind a Hassidic couple at TSA, and because she could, she watched them carefully.  They didn't speak to one another, and they didn't even seem to have a connection beyond just existing side by side.  He wasn't overly nice to her, and she didn't seem to expect it.  It was fascinating to watch, this silent partnership joined only by faith...and not even faith of each other, just faith in their shared religion.

New York had been an incredibly unique experience, and strangely one that she was forced to experience all by herself.  She both loved and hated that she'd been alone for the duration, but she had gotten to do exactly what she wanted as soon or as late as she wanted to do it, and for that she was grateful.

She would never forget her first time, and hoped it wouldn't be her last.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

The Big Apple Day 4-5

The fourth day was spent at classes for her conference.  She'd meticulously set up her schedule so that after the newcomers breakfast she was jam packed with things until the group lunch.  She ran into an old co-worker from a decade ago and sat at her table.  She heard her old boss from there had gotten bumped up after the venue decided to go with another company to manage their shows.  It seems she'd left that job just in time.

After the day was complete she went back to her room across the street.  She didn't have anything more that day until she had to go to Times Square for a networking party.  She decided that since she didn't find anything during her walk the day before, she would try Shake Shack and have them deliver it to the hotel, since the hotel's room service menu would've ended up costing her another $50.  She ran down to get her meal and then sat at her hotel desk in the room and ate.  It was good, but about average.  She was glad she tried it, and it did give her the energy she needed to get down to the party.

She looked at the map and decided that it was a bit far to walk, but she wanted to be able to take in as much of the city as possible which could only be done by walking.  So she left a little early and walked down the now closed stores of 5th Ave window shopping.

Times Square was a street she turned onto, so as she rounded the corner it felt like it slapped her directly in the face.  The address she had for the party was in fact an entire block of Broadway, and she had to find the one unmarked door.  She circled several times, and the overload of stimuli made it so she actually walked down the street to the Lyric Theatre where Harry Potter was performing so she could catch her breath.  She ended up running into the Bubba Gump and asking them for directions but they were completely unhelpful.  She finally found the unmarked door and went into the party.  She was covered in panic attack sweat by the time she made it upstairs, but tried her best to shake it off and socialize.  She hated the idea of "networking" for the sake of it, she found it very performative, but she tried her best to connect with as many people as possible.  She asked about their theatres and took photos out the window of the NYE ball that was still lit in the main section of Times Square.  After an hour she had spoken to everyone at the party and decided to go.  Her late night walk back was quiet and reflective, and she fell asleep very quickly at her hotel room.

The following day she picked up breakfast from Joe and the Juice instead of her $50 bagel from the hotel and went to class.  

After the day of classes were complete, instead of going to the country music concert for the conference, she took a Lyft down to her cousin J's job.  She showed her around the massive offices and they grabbed some food from a party they were having in one of the rooms.  Soon they decided to take off and go to a "speakeasy" called Angel's Share where she had a "New York New York" cocktail which was delightful.  Then they had a chat about where they wanted to eat.  "I really want to eat in a NYC deli before I leave, I feel like I have to or I won't be able to live with myself."

Katz's Deli was nearby, but J suggested 2nd St Deli instead.  She said it was a bit more authentic and Katz almost always had a huge line.  She opted for 2nd street and they were off.  J ordered a bit of everything and 2 matzo ball soups and they dined like kings.  She talked about how she weirdly never felt closer to her Jewish roots than she did in the city.  J said that it was understandable and it did feel more authentic in the city.  J was the type of person who could always find something cool in any town and make even the most mundane of experiences amazing.  She was sad to say goodbye to her, but eventually they got into their respective Lyfts and headed in opposite directions.

On the ride home they drove around Grand Central Station, and it felt like a dream seeing it.  She had to check her map to make sure that was what she was actually seeing, and got very excited when she realized she had guessed correctly.  She still found it strange that just existing in the city, walking the streets, felt more magical than any "sight" she'd seen so far.  This must be why so many people wanted to live there.

She didn't want to leave.

Monday, January 20, 2020

The Big Apple Day 3

 She had chosen The Warwick not just because it was the less pricy of all the hotels, but because of it's history.  She liked that William Randolph Hearst had built it for his girlfriend in 1926, so she could walk the short half-block to work at Ziegfeld.  As soon as she'd walked into the hotel, she knew she'd never want to stay anywhere else again.  The beautiful hotel felt instantly like she was meant to be there, and the room was so large she thought there might have been a mistake that she was unwilling to correct.  She was able to hang up her clothes in the closet as well as store her luggage in it, and she flung herself onto the bed with delight.  

It was comfortable, cozy, and welcoming.  It was at the end of the hallway so there was very little noise, and the only thing she lacked was a view, which she could do without.  The darkness assisted her sleep and she was almost afraid she would sleep her entire week away.

Eventually she pulled herself out of bed and after a $50 breakfast at Murals she walked across the street to the Hilton to register for her conference.  She almost regretted not staying there as she saw people walking around without having to lug their coat everywhere they went.  She felt squished into her seat at the theatre the night before with her coat, and had accepted that she would feel fat and in the way everywhere indoors in NYC.

After reading through her credentials, including a note instructing her to remove her lanyard when outside the hotel as it subjected the wearer to more theft on the street, she walked downstairs and got in line for the tour of Radio City Music Hall.  One of her favorite movies as a child was Annie, and the idea of even walking into the idea of "buying out the 8 o'clock show" was overwhelming.

As it turns out, there were too many people who wanted the exact same thing, and they were told to disperse for an hour and a half and then return for a tour.  She decided that was the perfect amount of time to try for High Tea at The Plaza.  

Sadly, because of it's popularity due to Bride Wars, Eloise, and Home Alone 2 amongst other films, The Plaza didn't actually allow anyone inside unless they were staying at the hotel.  Her High Tea Hopes dashed, she settled for the food court pho in the basement shops.  She considered buying something in the Eloise shop, but she knew she wouldn't use whatever it was and it would just be a waste of space back home.

Back at Radio City, she had a fantastic time.  She was sad that the "backdoor tour" didn't include actually going into the theatre itself, but they were rehearsing a performance of some kind.  She wished she'd been able to see a show while she was there, especially one with a Rockette, but she did get to meet one on the tour.  She had accepted before the trip that she wouldn't be able to do everything she wanted to do and had made peace with it.

She was shocked to see that the NBC studios were literally across the street, and people were flowing in and out of the doorway freely.  She shrugged and walked through the door to see where it would lead her.  She had nothing until a networking welcome party much later that night.

Inside was the entrance to the NBC studio tour, as well as the gift shop.  She wandered the shop, sending photos to KSL that she thought would amuse him.  She continued down the corridor to see if anything else was of interest and came out the other side of the building.  She continued her walk outside and realized something looked familiar about where she was, even though she'd never been there before.  

Could it be?  It looked like Rockefeller Center, except much smaller.  She looked around and then at Google Maps and found she was actually there.  She stood there shocked.  It was so small.  It felt like a miniature version of everything she'd seen on TV.  The skating rink below was smaller than the one they set up in a parking lot in her hometown every winter.  

She walked around FAO for awhile, shocked at it's small size as well.  She bought some things for The Ex, as a thank you for driving her home from the airport.  She took a picture of children playing on the big piano.  Overall she was unimpressed, as it was only a bit larger than the KB Toys in her local mall back home.

There was an energy to the streets though, that just called out to her.  She started to walk.  There was so much in that area that felt familiar even though she'd never been there, and she continued to walk with purpose, but with no destination.  She walked past the 21 Club, the Museum of Modern Art, sadly all closed at the late hour.

She wished she'd had more time to sightsee while everything was open.  So much for the city that never sleeps.

She was starting to get hungry and decided she would continue to walk until she found a place to stop that looked like interesting food she'd never heard of before.

She never found it.  She suddenly realized how cold it had become and how she had ignored it for too long.  Her heart rate quickened as her mind caught up with what her body was telling her.

She had to get back to her hotel.

Luckily there was hardly anyone on the street and she made her way back quickly.  She took a hot shower and tried to weakly get ready for the party.  Instead she turned up the heat and crawled into her bed where she remained the rest of the evening.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

The Big Apple Day 2

She woke up in Brooklyn once again, and she was already wishing she could stay there.  She played with the cats, put the bed back into it's original couch configuration, and she and the cousins were on their way to walking through Williamsburg.

After stopping for some (horrible) coffee in a bakery so small she could barely stand to be in there before it triggered her claustrophobia, the scenery slowly changed around them.  Signs popped up in Hebrew, school buses, and buildings with landings that were fully enclosed.  It looked as if it was a wild animal cage, but the animal was sleeping inside.  There was a sign she snapped a photo of that said "Build a Sukkah" some Hebrew, and a phone number. Her cousins informed her that people built them on their little zoo-like landings, and she never thought she'd see a sign like that, plain as day, the way that they advertised Christmas trees everywhere else in the country.

She especially delighted in the various ads on the sides of buildings advertising Hassidic men's clothing.  It was so much more fancy than the ladies, who just had various wig shops with no advertising whatsoever.  In fact, all the women she saw rarely varied in dress.  Long sleeved black dresses, heavy nude colored pantyhose, a delicate necklace, and a brown wig.  The wig even had the same blunt cut bangs; she never saw anything different on anyone.  Of course she didn't take any pictures of them, knowing that would be incredibly disrespectful.

Then just as suddenly as when it started, the Hassidic section of Williamsburg was over and the Hipster part of town began.  Forget Portland; this is clearly where Hipster culture had been birthed.  Here was the $14 avocado toast on every corner, and overpriced fashions.  Here is where she decided to buy her hoodie from Brooklyn Industries, her one big purchase.  Then they decided to stop for lunch at the epitome of hipster; the Williamsburg Hotel.

The brick building was beautiful, and the winding staircase down to The Restaurant (no seriously that's the actual name) was.  They went back and forth on what to eat, and decided they were too hungry to just do High Tea.  She was a little disappointed because she'd always wanted to have high tea, but she had also decided that was something she wanted to do at The Plaza later, like Eloise.

They had amazing drinks, great food, and generally had a good time.  They went downstairs to the bathrooms for a quick empty before starting down the street again, and in the hallway she found the most interesting toile wallpaper.  She felt foolish for fixating on something as strange as wallpaper, but she couldn't stop staring at it.  It looked like a china pattern dedicated to everything Brooklyn.  They had the train, the Cyclone, a bust of Biggie Smalls, and a gaggle Hassidic Men kvetching down a street.  It beautifully encompassed everything the borough was about, and she wished she could stand there forever.

 Eventually they walked down to Artists & Fleas indoor market.  She wanted to buy everything that said Brooklyn on it, but decided on two magnets; one of an octopus invading the Brooklyn Bridge, and the other a polaroid spitting out a photo of the Manhattan skyline.  After they were done there they went to Devoion for coffee, and took a walk to Domino Park.  After watching a fantastic sunset, they took a lyft back to the apartment so that she could pack up and be on her way into Manhattan for a Sunday performance of Beetlejuice.

As she crossed over the bridge she was suddenly struck with a thought; This is where America started.  All of us came from here, even if we've never been here.  New York City really is everyone's hometown.

She quickly checked into the hotel, the Warwick.  She threw her stuff into the room and started walking to the Winter Garden Theatre.  It didn't look that far and she didn't want to be late.

She could see Times Square in the distance as she approached, and a huge line.  She knew she shouldn't talk to people, or seem weak on the street, but she didn't want to make a mistake either.  "Excuse me, what is this line for?" She asked the people on the end.  They said Beetlejuice, so she stood behind them.  She ended up talking to them as they made their way to the front.  They were taking their chances with the stand by line.  She knew she had a ticket in will call, but didn't want to seem like she was jumping a line.

It quickly became obvious that it was the right decision.  Her company had purchased her tickets, and she was shown to will call once she reached the front.  They were the house seats, and she found herself a mere 5 rows from the stage.  She was overcome with emotion; theatre had been her life for so long, and she was finally seeing a Broadway show.

The show itself was charming, but she was struck with the obvious thought that almost every actor had a sort of twin role in physical form.  Beetlejuice could have been played by any of the male characters.  Barbara and Delia were similar enough they could have switched places.  She'd never noticed this in any other show before, and she wondered if that was just how it was done, so that the show could go on no matter what.  She still had fun with the people sitting next to her, gave them tips on how to get house seats more often, and had to pee like crazy by the time the show got out.  She rounded the corner to Ellen's Stardust Diner to see if she could use the bathroom there, but found the line to get in longer than any line she would've stood in to get into a club in Vegas.  Forgetting completely about the stage door, she hightailed it back the 7 blocks to her hotel room.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Big Apple Day 1

In the morning she heard her cousin M open up their bedroom door, and their sandy colored pit bull padded out and jumped on the pull out bed into her lap.  She'd missed him a lot since the years they'd met in her cousin's Oakland Tidal Canal loft.  The dog was the sweetest, and she snuggled with him for a bit before her cousin's came out of their room.

Her cousin's had thought ahead and bought some authentic NYC bagels to eat, but toasted them so she didn't really know if they were any better than anywhere else or not.  No matter, as they decided to take a taxi to DUMBO and walk on the pier.  

They arrived and she could see they were close to the Manhattan bridge, and they walked towards and then under the Brooklyn bridge.  She could see how the Brooklyn Bridge was easily the most beautiful one she'd seen so far in New York.  M informed her that no matter when you walked the bridge, it was always full of French tourists for some reason.  "French is practically the national language of the Brooklyn Bridge."

They ducked into the Time Out Market to check out the food stalls.  There were so many to choose from she became overwhelmed.  She was shocked to find that some Jewish stalls were closed for the Sabbath. Because she'd left behind being religious when she was a child, she was surprised that there was a community still very much keeping up with it.  She asked he cousin's about the Hasidic couples she saw the night before, and they said that Williamsburg was basically full of them, and that's why she'd seen them.  She would've seen more if it hadn't been for the Sabbath keeping most of them inside.  The assured her they'd go there tomorrow and check out the neighborhood.  She couldn't wait.

They continued to walk along the East river; passing Jane's Carousel, stopping to take photos under the bridge as the snow gently began to fall.  It didn't stick, didn't intrude, just added the the atmosphere.  Brooklyn was different than NYC.  She knew this without even crossing the bridge.  People lived here, things were not as intense.

They walked around Pier 2, a park that was partially under some structures so that it could be enjoyed even with the elements all around them.  It was charming to see that you could swing while staring out at NYC.  She was shocked at how small the Statue of Liberty looked out on the water.

They looped back to the bridge and ate at Juliana's.  They waited in line for a while, and when they got inside the place was packed and small.  She was sensing a theme with the places they were going to, and hadn't prepared herself for the small spaces of the East Coast.  She ordered an egg cream and they enjoyed authentic NYC pizza.  No one back home would have forgiven her if she'd missed out on pizza.

They decided that even though it was late in the day, they should shoot over to the Brooklyn museum and sneak in a bit of time there before they closed.  

They listened to an album by Mos Def while walking around a room with others also listening to the album at the same time.  They walked around and were amazed by JR's larger than life art, and they ran through the rest of the museum before they could get kicked out.

They decided to go for a drink at Tooker Alley, and got a seat by the entrance and looked across Washington to the people in the Nancy Lincoln apartments coming home and starting their dinner.  Because all three of them were writers, they improved a story about a couple as they moved through their nightly routine.

They decided to move onto Butter and Scotch, but found the place jam packed.  They decided instead of drinks they would order some brownies to go, then go back and eat their Mekelburg's leftovers for dinner.  

They ended the night with a comedy special on Netflix and wonderful food and conversation.  It had been a perfect first day, even if it had been a day late.

Friday, January 17, 2020

The Big Apple Night 1 Part 2

 A Hasidic couple was stopped in front of a taxi, like a deer in the headlights would have been back home.

She hadn't prepared for this at all.  She had no idea that this subgroup of her religion was still even in existence in that way.  The man's Shtreimel was so large she was shocked it hadn't fallen off when they had stopped suddenly.  The woman's Sheitel was mostly covered in a black head wrap, or a Tichel, only her blunt cut bangs were visible. 

She texted KSL.  She had to tell someone what she just saw who wouldn't judge her on how completely na├»ve she felt in the moment.  Less than a minute later she saw another couple, this one the woman was wearing a full turban style Tichel.  She snuck a picture of them as they sped by.

Her cousin M met her as the taxi pulled up.  He took her luggage up the three flights of stairs to their apartment, which was a very good size.  They were located in Crown Heights, and after catching up in the apartment they asked if she was hungry.  Even though it was 11pm, all she had to eat that day was an avocado toast at the airport.  Her cousins warned her that anywhere you went for an avocado toast in Brooklyn was $14, no matter what.

They walked a few short blocks to Clinton Hill and stopped in at Mekelburg's.  Her cousin's knew the owners, and at the front was a cramped grocery store that was obviously closed. Further back however, was a bar that served the most amazing food.  No more than a dozen tables alongside the bar, they squished in next to another party that wasn't using three chairs.  She felt huge and out of place with her giant coat, but everyone else didn't seem to mind. 

The menu had duck pate, wild dandelion salad, and roasted marrow bone.  She didn't expect anything that good behind a grocery store.  Her cousin J order 4 or 5 things as well as drinks, and they ate like kings and had plenty left over.  The owners came over and brought them a drink, a specialty that she didn't quite hear above the music, but it tasted delightful.

In the early morning hours they pulled out the couch, she snuggled in with the two cats and drifted off to her first New York Sleep.

The Big Apple, Night 1 Part 1

 She arrived back at her apartment and tried the door.  It was locked.  KSL must have fallen asleep again and forgotten to unlock it.  She called him again, and he came to unlock the door.  He asked if he was still allowed to keep the car, she said fine but when he went to work to please leave her house keys so she could lock up.  She didn't want to take them with her on the trip but, desperate times.

She went to her room and fell asleep.

Waking up at noon, she checked her email for an update on her new flight.  Nothing.

She decided to just check the app, and found that her flight was due to leave at 1:30pm.  Panicked, she threw everything she needed back into her luggage and called a rideshare.  She looked around for her keys and found nothing.  KSL had forgotten to leave them for her, so she dragged her luggage up to the front office to ask them to lock the door behind her.

Silently she urged the driver to hurry.  At this rate she'd be getting into the city at 8pm and she'd been cheated out of an entire day with her cousin's exploring Brooklyn.  Of course her flight was delayed an hour when she got there, so she had breakfast in a small place just inside security.  She had a great chat with a woman about what content writers do, and then she was finally boarding her flight.

She didn't have the couple sitting next to her any longer, so she put up the arm rests, laid across the seats, and slept most of the way there.

Thirty minutes before landing she put up the window and looked out into the dark.  Lights started to pop up, and slowly the city came into focus.  She was filled with excitement, guessing that every skyscraper she saw was the Empire State Building.  She was finally right, and the plane gently made it's way into Queens, and JFK.

She knew it was time to be "on."  The City preys on weakness, senses it, and she needed to practice in the airport.  She walked quickly and with purpose, even though she wasn't completely sure where she was going.  Luckily the airport was set up well, and she was able to make her way to baggage claim.  She wasn't able to find exactly where her baggage was coming out and asked an attendant, perfecting her "polite but impatient" tone.  It worked, and she felt like she was succeeding already, even though she was still nervous.

She looked around at the people as she waited for her luggage, and noticed that there were many people that looked exactly like her cousins from New York, and her mom.  It was the first time that she realized that she'd never really been surrounded with people that looked like her before, even though she took after her dad's side of the family in her looks.  She still smiled like these people did, and a small part of her heart felt like she was home, even in the airport.

She made her way to the taxi line, and then made her way through Queens to Brooklyn.  She tracked on Google Maps, making sure she knew where she was at all times.  She drove through Queens thinking about The Nanny, Williamsburg thinking about the Humphrey's from Gossip Girl.  She was so busy staring out the window that she was shocked when the taxi slammed on it's breaks and the driver swore in a language she'd never heard before.

She looked up to see what had gotten in their way and went into Culture Shock.