Shout outs to: Zoe!
Day 1: The dirt like air clung to me. I already felt the kind of filthy you feel when you leave a thrift store that you know in the depths of your soul was pestiferous. The heat wafted in my face and enveloped my body. Zoe, my on the ground scout and on the plane conversation enthusiast, waved me over in the direction of what would be our luggage carousel while hollering to me by name. She thanked me for our discussion time and then wandered away to claim her bag but not without one last welcome to New York initiative. She barked an order to my travel companion to, “make sure I had a great time in the city.” Her heart was warm. Her demeanor had been uplifting. But as we landed she made it clear that her attitude would make an intentional shift to the aggressive the second we were wheels down. She did not let me down in any facet and I look forward to how we will stay in touch over the years. (Shout out to our newest searcher Zoe! Glad to have you following!)
We jumped in a cab and in no time we were whizzing down the noisy Manhattan street ways, leaving our opponents in the dust at an average speed of ten miles an hour.
The sounds were everything I expected of New York and then some. My only exposure as to what to expect had been satire sitcoms on the late 90’s television circuit and this city delivered. Constant horn honking and a barrage of sirens met my auditory system as though it had been designed for me personally by the sound crew on set.
We booked our first two nights stay on the fly in the back of a cab using a new found app and dry but kind dialogue of a sales clerk on the other end of a dying iphone. As we trudged through the city the driver mentioned in a muffled whisper that we may have chosen a hotel that was more than a little difficult to get to. We thanked him, swiped my debit card and we’re off, well almost. My card was declined. Apparently the company has a vested interest in my security and had not yet been notified that the wind had blown me this far to the east. I scurried to shuffle through my ill prepared wad of bills and pay him in cash. All the while the driver mumbling something to me under his breath. Keep the change I exhaled in just enough time to be assertively corrected on my over tipping.
The hotel had swagger. An overworked, cab flagging, doorman greeted us with directions in regards to how we should walk: through the door, up the escalator and to the check-in desk. The escalator gave way to a grand lobby with an ivy roof, an oversized chandelier with hundreds of hanging crystals and upright holograms of light bulbs serving as visual ornaments. Flanked by 3 separate bars and lacking only in the grand piano it wreaked of something almost speak easy meets modern contemporary, and I liked it. The staff was kind and the check-in quick.
I had no complaints and was almost ready to commend our resourcefulness when the elevator opened to an eerie ship like simulation of a drab olive green hallway with yellow numbers adorning the wall for directional value. There were no knee knockers or low overhangs to avoid but otherwise I could have easily been transported back to my TAD days aboard the USS Blueridge. When the room door swung open two feet and immediately met the wall behind it the room did not leave me disenchanted. It was the exact New York experience I had been promised.
We had almost 200 square feet all to ourselves. The rooms, yes plural, were divided by only a sheer white hanging curtain making the bathroom a smidgen less private than the originally intended set up. The television was mounted on the mirror in an effort to save space and the office desk only consumed valuable suitcase real estate.
After dropping our things and scrambling to save one of our phone batteries we headed back out to take in some quick site seeing before our previously ticketed show. We weaved our way, on foot this time, through the city and into Central Park. No room for dissatisfaction with; shirtless volleyball, kids skating by, couples and children a-like having their portrait painted, traditional wedding and engagement photos and of course the picturesque tree lined stroll. My tour guide, trying to give me the authentic experience, brought me as close to dead center of the park as we could possibly get and I took in the sites, sounds, and smells from a crowded little boat house on that lake where a wedding party was clearly wrapping up their celebratory efforts. We cheers with our first $10 New York brewski here, looking out on the lake-boats and gondola captain who aims not to disappoint in his red and white striped shirt.
A slow stroll back through the tree lined park and past the quintessential marathon gave way to the hustle of the city. This is where it is brought to my attention that Central Park is more than a romantic movie scene setting. It’s a refuge for the city dwellers. A way to escape the speed, concert and concrete of the city and reconnect with nature and self.
Next up, a small sushi joint named Ruki, where I would toy with my rusty Japanese and we would brainstorm some trip ideas. We would effectively lose sight of our watches which is generally fine because time usually isn’t of the essence to me. In fact, my friends often jest that I operate on AST (Ariel standard time.) But tonight we had the “hottest ticket in town” and couldn’t afford to be late. How did I know the ticket was so coveted? The media, the city, the hotel clerk and my travel companion all made note of it.
In an effort to get back with intention we opted for the subway and after commandeering a week long subway pass we hustled out the turnstile and onto the wrong express train having us arrive back at our hotel a transfer and a quick jaunt later. We clambered into our clothes and back down the elevator into the already awaiting cab and reveled in the likelihood of our timely arrival.
Two blocks down the street and almost at Time Square we would all but throw money at the driver and bail onto the street in an effort to close the gap between us and our coveted curtain call. Arriving with moments to spare before lights we open our E tickets and they won’t load. Remaining as calm as possible when tickets like these are on the line, we worked as a team to navigate the technological debacle and finally load the tickets only to discover that we had to back track a block to have them hard copy printed in a hotel. Curtain in T minus 10 minutes. As an aside, if you ever want to know how compatible you are with someone just find yourself a stressful situation with enough to overcome that you must work in unison to accomplish it. We moved briskly and with a purpose but also with precision. We split up and both headed to the eighth floor where we would converge, conquer the at hand objective and then jettison back to the theater. We walk in. Curtain. Allow it or not, I was proud of our rally. We are still learning one another and with this being opening night on a week long trip it wreaked of an opportunity for failure or growth. We chose growth.
This show! The pace, the energy, the crowd involvement! We were watching history unfold before our eyes in every context. The plot line of the musical was the history of Alexander Hamilton but almost as striking was the history being made on the stage by this immensely talented and ethnically diverse melting pot of a cast. They were awe-inspiring. I would say that the extras stole the stage but the cast and set were both so intimate there almost wasn’t an extra to be found. Breathtaking. Then, to add a tertiary level of history making power one of the lead characters is Leslie Odom Jr., who just a few years earlier had a television role where he had played a rising star in an unknown Broadway show that he would take to the top. I knew the parallel irony could not be lost on him. History in the making. The music was captivating and the dance skills were heart-stopping. The slow motion scenes were so intensely encompassing to the dancers it was difficult for the audience not to be wrapped in time as the story took your breath away with it.
As we exited the theater I was replaying every scene and every song. It is one of those shows that just gets better and better the more you replay it in your mind. To our immediate right was what appeared to be a young adult homeless camp. “The line for tomorrow’s show.” Someone said. What??! Could that be true? Indeed, it was the lottery line camping out to claim the unclaimed tickets to tomorrow nights attested performance. We had pulled off the impossible and gotten to the hottest ticket in town with moments to spare and no camp out. It was time to celebrate.
We waded through the slew of people in Time Square. Past the hundreds of bystanders in the bleachers that were just taking it all in and up an alley. Between the; crowds, street food and rickshaws the streets had the familiar feel of Tokyo or Rupungi and lacked only the smell of roasting chestnut to make it complete. This was a feeling I remembered fondly. Maybe I’m a city girl. The epiphany hits me like a torrent that the only places that ever rang close to my heart as “home” were; Chicago, Japan and now this comfortable concrete jungle. I am still both learning and surprising myself. We were in search of a well known, by my friend, Irish pub that we would soon discover had been leveled. Happy to be fluid we hopped back on the subway, added a 2 block walk and this time made it, almost effortlessly, back to our hotel.
Ready to wrap the night but unwilling to bypass our celebratory toast we wandered into one of the three bars. The top third of the wall lined with a faux bookstore and the ceiling adorned with hundreds of hanging white lights made the room feel cozy and comfortable. Avoiding the couple, who apparently couldn’t find their room, we took our over-tipped $25 glass of whiskey to one of the other two bars and sipped as we reveled in our daily feats. This city has already grown on me and it is only day one. So here’s to tomorrow’s explorations and here’s to you my fellow searchers. Tonight I raise my ten year aged Widow Jane to a smooth toast in your honor. Tomorrow is another adventure.
As usual I am excited to share my journey with you all! I look forward to your; commenting, likes, shares and of course you following the journey for my always updates.
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