Thursday, June 25, 2015

The City That Never Sleeps

My first trip to NYC was four years ago...a business trip for Bryan that he took solely so he could bring me along, knowing how much I'd wanted to visit the place. We stayed in a hotel on 51st street directly across from an entrance to Rockefeller Center and slightly down from the side doors to Radio City Music Hall. I spent a lot of time peering out my window, watching workers unload and haul in set pieces for a new show they were putting on. One morning there were long lines of heavily made-up, bunheads....all anxiously waiting for their turn to audition for the famed Rockettes. But it wasn't until this year that I actually ever went into the iconic and historic theatre.

We took an official tour and the place is every bit as awe inspiring as you would think. Just the immense history of the place took my breath away. We started our tour in the seats of the actual theatre which was pretty cool, seeing as we had all watched the Tony Awards just four days earlier on TV which had taken place in that very spot. Interestingly enough, once again they were having Rockette auditions while we were there. Did you know they have to re-audition every year? Talk about pressure! So though there is no age limit (or year limit) for how long you can be a Rockette, you can't rest on your laurels once you're have to keep proving yourself each year to keep your spot. Also, I learned that apparently I can't ever aspire to be a Rockette. There is a height requirement. You have to be between 5'6"-5'10." My dreams are dashed! Except that even if I were tall enough, I can't really dance so I guess I have that problem as well...
While we were waiting for everyone to finish their tour I walked across a subway grate on the sidewalk out front and had a Marilyn Monroe moment. So I guess if I can't be a Rockette, at least I can pretend to be blonde bombshell? Except that I'm not blonde anymore...

After our tour we descended below ground to catch the subway...China Town and Little Italy being the next stop on our agenda of places to explore. Manhattan itself isn't very big. It just feels that way because its so jam-packed. But it's still kind of amazing how you don't have to go very far to feel like you are a world removed from where you just were.

We had dumplings for $1 at a little side street shop. Delicious! And the little Chinese woman inside was demanding and rude, "You! Money! Now get out!" It totally cracked me up. And then because it was so incredibly hot and humid that day, we got Chinese ice cream with flavors like maple bacon, ginger, pandam, zen butter, and durian. Good stuff!

That night we had tickets to see the Broadway musical "Matilda." Truth be told, I hadn't been overly excited that this was one of the shows we were scheduled to see as part of our trip. Oh, I had heard it was good and I knew that I'd enjoy it but there were other shows higher on my priority list. I didn't really want to waste my Broadway time on a kids show, you know? I was wrong. "Matilda" was incredibly impressive! I loved the music and the choreography. I couldn't get over the intricacies of the set. And the character of "Miss Trunchbull" was played by a man...which made sense but I hadn't known beforehand. And it was downright hilarious! The show was thoughtful and silly all at the same time. One of the songs was called "When I Grow Up" and had some thought provoking lyrics...
When I grow up I will be smart enough to answer all the questions that you need to know the answers to before you're grown up.
....I will be strong enough to carry all the heavy things you have to haul around when you're a grown up.
....I will be brave enough to fight the creatures that you have to fight beneath the bed each night to be a grown up.

 I ended up being very happy with the choice of "Matilda."

Friday morning we headed to the Top of the Rock in Rockefeller Center. The view up there is rather fantastic as you can imagine. And it gives you a really good sense of Manhattan, as you can pretty much see the entire island. I'm always struck with just how big Central Park is when I see it from above.

 {Looking at the Empire State Building from the Top of the Rock...}

Afterwards everyone split up. Julianne, Liz, Alyssa and I meandered our way through the various shops in Rockefeller Center and watched Susan Sarandon be interviewed outside the NBC studios. We had lunch at a food truck (chicken gyros...yum!) and then cupcakes/cheesecake at Magnolia Bakery. And then we too split up. Liz and Alyssa had a hankering to check out the Museum of Natural History and Julianne wanted to finally see the Guggenheim. Julianne and I had planned to take the bus up 5th Ave. Until we realized that it was a one way street and no buses were actually running the way we were going. So we back tracked a bit and jumped on the subway. It was a rather complicated subway station and platform set up...but hey, we handled it like pros and I was super proud of us!

{Gyros from the food truck and dog walkers. How very NYC.}

The Guggenheim is a museum featuring mostly modern art. But the building itself is an architectural piece of art designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. I'd seen the building twice before. (On my first trip to NYC it was closed the day I tried to visit. Last year we made it into the lobby before Bryan nixed the idea of paying the entrance fee...I think he was less than enthusiastic about the art and more interested in finding lunch.) It was nice to finally go inside. I think maybe I don't really get modern art. Or maybe I get it, I just don't love it? It was interesting to see, I suppose. I'm glad we went. There was a gallery with a bunch of Van Goghs, Monets, Picassos, etc and I really enjoyed that. There was a fascinating children's exhibit where we spent the majority of our time. I guess in my mind art is something that you would potentially be able to display in your home. Much modern art is weirdly eclectic and not something that I would want to or even could put in my home. It's more of a display with a story or thought process/meaning behind it. Which is why I guess it is in an exhibit in a museum rather than in an art gallery with a price tag on it. One piece of art was literally a large analog clock on the wall and a transistor radio sitting on a shelf next to it. There was some sort of symbolism and reason attached to it, of course but I remember thinking "That's art? I could make that!" I'm showing my ignorance right now, I'm sure of it. Oh well. Anyhow, it was interesting all the same.

{The Metropolitan Museum of Art is more my style...and it is just a few blocks down from the Guggenheim. But the place is enormous and we didn't really have time to go inside and explore. But we did enjoy sitting on the steps and people watch for a bit while we rested our sore feet. And then we hopped on a bus and took it down the one-way 5th Ave. seeing as this time we were going the right direction...}

That evening we hooked back up with the rest of our group and went to see "The Lion King." Once again, this was a show that I'd heard great things about and expected to enjoy....even if it wasn't one that I would've chosen. But this time my experience was a little different. Oh, I did enjoy it. There were scenes that were incredibly magical. The puppetry was glorious and the Circle of Life scene specifically brought tears to my eyes. But the whole show seemed uneven to me. Parts were proudly tribal, while other parts seemed Disney cartoonish. It seemed to me (and maybe this makes me sound like a theatre snob) that the show was Broadway for the masses. People who were maybe not normally theatre-goers but who wanted to see something on Broadway while in NYC would choose something like this. It's recognizable. It's popular. It's Disney. And you could kind of tell just from the audience and their lack of proper theatre etiquette. Talking in the middle of the show, taking pictures, leaving their garbage on the floor like they are in a movie theater or at a sporting event. But what surprised me also was that this is Andra's (the high school theatre teacher) favorite show. She's seen in seven times and finds it completely inspiring. I respect Andra and her theatre knowledge and creativity SO much....the woman consistently impresses me. So it made me wonder if I was missing something, not liking Lion King as much. Not that we need to have the same opinions or tastes in shows....its just, in the case of so many other shows, we did. Hmmm.

After the show we decided that we needed to experience Shake Shack, long lines and all. And then ended the evening by people watching in Times Square. And speaking of Times Square...I'm over it. It's neat, certainly. Everyone should experience it at least once. But the novelty has worn off, I guess. I'd rather avoid the place (specifically the hordes of people) unless I'm seeing a show. Which of course is one of the main reasons I come to NYC. So I guess I can't be done with Times Square all together.

One last NYC update coming up....

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

The Big Apple

If I can't live in NYC, then maybe a trip once a year (or at the very least, every other year) is in order? I've documented before how much NYC seems to speak to my cheesy as that sounds. And though at this stage of my life I'm happy and content to live where I do and where my children are thriving....there is a part of me that yearns for NYC. Silly? Maybe. But I sure do love that city.

So though we spent Julianne's birthday trip in the Big Apple just a year ago, when the theatre department at her high school put together a trip for this summer, Julianne jumped on board...and a few months later when she came home and announced that there were a few spots left, I jumped too. We spent 6 days in the city. Some things on our itinerary I'd seen and done before...but most I had not. It was exhausting and exhilarating all at the same time...and left me with an even bigger bucket list of things to do/see next time. Because there will of course be a next time.

We took a red-eye flight on Monday night. I've decided that I hate red-eyes. But tired or no, we dropped our luggage off at the hotel and headed to Battery Park to hop a ferry so we could pay our respects to Lady Liberty. I was a little preoccupied at this point. This day just so happened to be the one where Rebekah was scheduled to fly out of Salt Lake City to London. And she was allowed to call her family from the airport. We get precious few phone calls...only Mothers Day and Christmas, so we certainly did not want to miss this one, despite being in NYC. I didn't dare put my cell phone in my purse or even in my back pocket for fear of missing the call...not hearing the ring or feeling the vibration. So I kept it in my hand. And then started worrying about the "what ifs." What if she called while we were in the underground subway? What if we had no service on Liberty Island? As the time creeped past when I thought she would likely call I started to worry that maybe we wouldn't be getting a call after all and started hoping that she would at least be able to talk to her dad.

But then suddenly while up in the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty, out on the little balcony....the phone rang. The service was indeed spotty and the call dropped a few times but both Julianne and I were able to get in some precious minutes talking to Rebekah and hearing her voice. I was thankful for sunglasses to hide my tears. Oh, how I miss my girl!!

Once I had that call done, I could finally turn my attention to the adventure at hand and focus more fully on Lady Liberty (I had never been up to the pedestal before) and Ellis Island which we skipped last year.

{These two girls with Julianne are Liz and Alyssa. You're going to see more of them as the trip report progresses. Julianne and I had the privilege of sharing a hotel room with them. And though I already knew both of them to a small degree seeing as they are friends of Julianne's and have been to our home before, I hugely enjoyed getting to know them better....kind, sweet, funny and good girls...both of them. I can see why Julianne adores spending time with them.}

After we made it back to mainland Manhattan, we walked over to the 9/11 Memorial...another place I had never visited. (Bucket list item for next time: the new museum.) I have vivid memories still of 9/11/01...where I was, how I felt, how it impacted me. So being at the memorial was very sobering....yet peaceful, hopeful and even sacred. Such a beautiful place with the newly finished One World Trade Center towering above at a symbolic height of 1,776 feet...standing as a witness of American resolve and pride. Because though we were humbled on that day 13 and 1/2 years ago, we were not beaten. And we will never forget.
{Two very famous streets. And this particular sign was fun to see because it plays a part in one of my favorite movies...."National Treasure."}

That evening, after an hour nap and another quick phone call with Rebekah (during her layover in Detroit) we hopped on the subway once again...this time for a very packed-like-sardines sort of ride to Yankee Stadium! Admittedly, I am not a baseball fan. Not that I couldn't fact I've often thought that if Bryan had been into any kind of sports, I could easily be drawn into that world, be it football, basketball or baseball. But he's not, so therefore I'm not. But I tell you what, there was something magical about being at the famed Yankee Stadium!

My Uncle Craig is a big baseball fan and was pretty excited when I told him that Julianne and I had tickets for the Yankees vs Nationals game. He said he'd watch on TV from home so as to be with us in spirit. We took a picture of the two of us and emailed it to him while we were there.

We bought ourselves some Yankees t-shirts, ate stadium hotdogs and declared ourselves official fans. We had amazing seats and the Yankees won! When the game ended they played Frank Sinatra's "New York, New York"...and I tell you what, I couldn't wipe the grin off my face. We were extremely tired by this point in the day, but boy...the game was certainly a highlight of the trip!

After a good nights rest we were ready to tackle Central Park and 5th Avenue the next morning. With an unlimited metro card for the subway and bus systems, we were set to go pretty much anywhere so we learned quickly to hop on and off with ease. I even saw a rat down on the tracks. Which delighted me rather than disgusted me. Weird I know, but it seemed like such a NYC thing, you know?

We came up at the Dakota Apartments on the corner of 72nd Street and Central Park West on the Upper West Side. The Dakota is where John Lennon lived...and was murdered. Across the street is Central Park where they have created a Beatles memorial of sorts called Strawberry Fields (after the Beatles song, of course.)
Central Park is so huge that even though I have visited the park twice, the places we explored were parts I hadn't seen before.

Apparently a lot of people think this fountain is the one from the TV show "Friends" opening credits. It isn't...although it looks a lot like it. Seeing as "Friends" takes place in NYC, you can see why people think this is it. Alyssa, Liz, Savannah and Julianne decided to take a friends picture in front of it regardless, because why not?

Did you know the famous F.A.O. Schwarz on 5th Avenue is officially closing next month? Apparently the rent has risen too high and they have to shut their doors. This is the first time I'd been there so I have no idea why this makes me sad, but somehow it does. It was a pretty amazing store!

Our first Broadway show of the week (because you know, we were a theatre group after all so of course Broadway was going to be the main draw) was a matinee of the play "The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime." I read the book many years ago and remember it being good...different but interesting. But it'd been so long that I couldn't remember much but the bare essentials of the plot. The show had just won best play, best director and best actor at the Tony Awards just a few days earlier so we were all pretty excited to see the show. It was not what I expected. Not that I really could've described what I expected, necessarily....but those expectations were completely exceeded and the experience had my brain spinning. For lack of any better words to describe it....the show was, well...simply stunning. It took a long time to process and wrap my mind around everything I had seen...the story, the acting, the character choices, the incredible set and everything it could do. It was truly one of the best things I have ever seen.

Later that evening we took a Circle Line Cruise up the East River and around New York Harbor. The sun was going down so we got some amazing views of the NYC skyline and the Statue of Liberty from the water. Is it morbid if I say that one of my favorite parts was seeing where the Titanic would've docked? You know...if she hadn't hit an iceberg and sunk? What can I say...I'm a Titanic buff.

More NYC coming soon...

The City That Never Sleeps
"New York, New's a helluva town!'