Monday, March 19, 2012

New York City!

Rob and I, sadly no Tom Hanks or Cary Grant sightings

To put it succinctly, New York City is a very fun town. I was there for the first weekend of my spring break (Friday-Monday), and had an indecently good time. We did a marathon like trip that was jam packed with lovely moments, and I would have to write a novel to give each moment its due. So I'll have to bullet point the highlights

  • Dinner on Friday at Bobby Flay's Bar Americain-delicious oysters and salmon that was served on the wooden plank on which it was cooked (luckily I did not try to eat this and still have all of my teeth)
  • How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying. I may have been skeptical about Nick Jonas but the boy can sing. It would have been easy to mock the preteen girl who had to close her eyes every time Jonas' character kissed someone on stage, but well 12 years ago I was her. The show was great-sort of like Mad Men but with lots more peppy singing and dancing and without all the alcoholism and crippling social tension-so really nothing like Mad Men except for some snazzy skinny ties and sexual harassment of secretaries. 
  • Tour of NBC studios. I did this before, but it was definitely worth doing again. Sure a little cheesy and NBC sells the hell out of their brand (now owned by Cabletown! Er, I mean Comcast), but you would have to be made of stone not to get excited by Brian William's desk (I love you B Dubs!) or the legendary hallways of SNL. When we were there they were rehearsing for the show, and they let us watch from behind glass above the studio. The pages (sadly not Kenneth) gave us very strict, school-marm like instructions not to wave or tap on the glass, UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES or they would whisk us away from the studio immediately and off to NBC detention. God forbid we bother the famous people with our plebeian "waving." So there we all were, grinning and watching (but not WAVING) while Jonah Hill rehearsed. Then Jonah (we're on a first name basis now) looks up at all the gawking tourists, and what does that nice young man do, well he waves. Cue 30 people frozen in stricken panic. What to do!? Wave and get escorted off the premises by uber strict pages? Not wave and be impolite? Mercifully the pages laughed at us and told us if they waved at us we could wave back. Which we all did. Probably maniacally. The other highlight of the NBC tour-when we were in the lobby leaving, who should walk right past us? Why none other than Mr. Andy Samberg. He was wearing headphones and avoided eye contact. It was magical.
  • Went to an old pub-the White Horse Tavern in the West Village (and I mean old, as in 1880s old, Dylan Thomas hung out there, and apparently drunk himself to death there).

                    I may or may not have taken this picture. Regardless we met up with my best friend and her husband and our other friend Elyse (who lives in Brooklyn and works for Elle-she may or may not be the alternate universe version of myself), had delicious pub food and beers that were actually semi-afordable. Afterwards we went to a jazz club. I know nothing about jazz but when in NYC, jazz seems appropriate. The drinks there were not semi-affordable. But they were delicious, especially accompanied by some smooth, dulcet tones.

  • Went to brunch in Brooklyn. We were in Park Slope where Elyse lives, and guess what? I super heart Brooklyn. It was like a giant fan with all of the townhouses on steroids. Just these big, massive, gorgeous brownstones, with little gardens, and happy families out front with dogs and babies. There were restaurants everywhere and a lovely park, and it was all incredibly lovely. I do not understand why Brooklyn has gotten a bad rap honestly, although from what I hear Brooklyn is massive and I only saw this teeny part of it, but this teeny part was right up my alley.
  • After brunch we walked over the Brooklyn Bridge. I secretly wanted to reenact the scene from Sex and the City the movie when Steve and Miranda run toward each other and cry. I managed to resist. This was something I'd never thought to do on previous trips and I'm so glad I did it. It was a gorgeous day and it was awesome to walk over the water, see the Statue of Liberty to our right, and that big, beautiful Manhattan skyline tower in front of us.
  • Ate at Craft, Tom Collichio's restaurant. Dinner was delicious, if a little weeny (really Tom? 4 scallops does not a dinner make, maybe for a New York super model, but for a southern lady with a real appetite, you've got to at least throw in a side salad). (Other side note: I kept wanting to shout, "this is Top Chef, not Top Scallop", which you'll get if you watch Top Chef faithfully like me, but luckily I also resisted this urge). The real winner of this meal though was the dessert. Holy Moses. We got the doughnuts upon the server's request and I think I blacked out while I was eating. Doughnuts are always good. But these doughnuts (and the dipping sauces, oh the dipping sauces!) were stick your face directly in the plate good. Secretly stuff the leftovers in your purse good. Morally indecent good. Just absurd.
  • Saw Chicago, and I absolutely loved it. I was a really big fan of the movie, and after seeing the Broadway show I understand that whoever made the movie really loved the show. It was just all around great-great singing, great dancing, great on top of great (with eloquence like this are you surprised I get paid to review theater?)
  • Ate a bagel at Leo's in Lower Manhattan. It was everything you dream a NYC bagel will be, perfectly crunchy, oh so thin outside layer, and fluffy, chewy goodness on the inside. Heavenly.
  • Went to the 9/11 memorial. I knew this would be sad, but I really wanted to do it. In 2004 I went and saw Ground Zero with my class. It was a pit then, horrible, vast, vacant and so, so raw. I felt the need to go there now, now that there's a memorial, somewhere to remember in a more tangible way, a place to see and touch and pay my respects. The memorial is still surrounded on all four sides by construction (the new tower is like 3/4 done, which I had no idea had happened, it's striking and a very strange, confusing thing to contemplate, to separate the shiny, fancy building going up from what came down), but inside the space is very peaceful. There is a large open square full of trees and places to sit. And the two memorials themselves just felt right to me. I hope they feel right to the families and survivors and to the people in New York. But for me, who experienced 9/11 on a less immediate, but still very emotional and devastating level, it felt  right. You've probably seen pictures, and I can't really do it justice, but there are two massive, square, "inverted" fountains, one for each tower, in the places they once stood. They're inverted because the water doesn't go up in the air, but rather down, along all four sides in a huge waterfall that drains into a pond at the bottom. All along the sides are the names of those who were lost, engraved into the stone. It is incredibly sad there, but it's also peaceful and cathartic, to be able to stand by these two negative spaces, because really that's what they are, placeholders for what was there, reminders of what was lost and what can never be rebuilt. It felt right to be able to run my hands along all of those names, to read them, to know that those names will always be there, always be a physical presence in this world, even generations from now when no one alive has memories of that day. There's a fine line between honoring and witnessing the past and being chained by it, and I feel like this memorial manages that line beautifully. It's not an immobile statue or a hackneyed work of interpretive art. It's a straightforward expression of grief, two enormous footprints forever holding the place of the two once immovable buildings that stood there. It's very sad, but there's hope too, a gentle reminder that things can fall apart, but that something is always left. Something always remains to hold onto.

  • On a (much, and awkwardly segued) lighter note we finished our trip with a walk through the always beautiful Central Park and two hot dogs (with onions and mustard) from Gray's Papaya on the West Side. Ah perfection.
Once upon a time I dreamed of living in New York. That dream has shifted now as I've grown older and have different priorities, but all I can say is thank God NYC is only a 6 hour drive away. Because in all of its chaotic, noisy, crowded, wonderful ways, it's a tremendous city. And I can't wait to go back.

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