Note: Photos from the NYC trip can be found at right in the album titled 'NYC 3/08'.
1. First Impressions
--My flights getting to NYC were smoother than the shuttle ride from LaGuardia to the hotel.
--One of the first things I saw after we exited the airport was a Home Depot. Reminded me of seeing a WalMart in Mexico City. Some things are the same no matter where you are.
--My hotel (the Roosevelt Hotel, midtown at 45th and Madison) was even more beautiful than the pictures I had already seen on the Internet. Seriously, check out their web site (https://www.theroosevelthotel.com/); the photos there are so much better than the measly one on my photo album at right.
--Despite the grandeur of the hotel, the cheapie room I had (described in the hotel’s literature by some marketing genius as a ‘Cozy Queen’) was tiny. I jokingly referred to my room as the Barbie Suite. My new Irish friend Paul (see below) kept asking me “Did you say you had dwarves in your room?”
--Despite the smallness of the room, the view out the window was spectacular.
2. The Hotel Bar
--Now I don’t want you to think that I spent the whole time in the bar. But let’s just say I spent most of my hotel time in their bar, the Madison Club Lounge. The Barbie Suite was just too claustrophobic to stay in there for long periods. And the bar was the Platonic ideal of a bar…full of dark, warm wood; unobtrusively attentive bartenders and waiters; a warm crowd.
--After I arrived and settled in my room, I went to the bar to await Whit’s arrival. I immediately struck up a conversation with a lovely couple, Tom and Rosemary, sitting near me. They were from Long Island (pronounced like ‘Lawn Guyland’), in Manhattan at their grown children’s expense to celebrate their 40th wedding anniversary. Tom, upon hearing it was my first time in NYC, immediately grabbed a pen and napkin and started writing down the best restaurants to go to. They were such a lovely couple. The gorgeous bartender, Anthony, was their son-in-law’s brother. So Tom made sure I got special attention.
--I first saw Whit again in the Madison Club Lounge. It had been more than 10 years (and between us, 4 children and 3 marriages) since we’d seen each other, but he looked exactly the same. All the time and strain and hurt feelings fell away, and we just hugged.
--The Madison Club Lounge is also where I met my new Irish friends, Theo and Paul. As mentioned earlier in the blog, they taught me to say “we’re having good craic, eh?” I taught them that the currently cool greeting of bumping fists together is called a ‘dap.’ (Though I also now love how Whit later taught me to do it…while saying “Buuuump It!”) Paul (referred to as my ‘Dublin chum’ in the blog) and I have maintained an interesting email conversation since then…I look forward to more education in all things Irish.
--I don’t know what was better…finally being in NYC, or hanging out with Whit again after all this time. Probably they’ll always be intertwined in my memory.
--You were an awesome tour guide, Whit. Thanks for showing me all the sights and being patient about what I wanted to see and didn’t want to see and about me suddenly veering off our intended path to ogle some un-needed street vendor’s treasure.
--You were an awesome friend, too. I’ll treasure our long conversations about what happened to our friendship long ago; what happened between then and now; what’s happening for each of us now. Plus, you supplied some amazing quotage.
--Despite your embarrassment, your sleepiness was completely endearing. But dude! You gotta start getting more sleep. Take care of yourself, okay?
--My very favorite memory of you is when you helped the exhausted, elderly Brazilian ladies from our hotel catch a cab. Okay, I forced you into it…but that may be part of what makes it such a lovely memory.
--We walked everywhere; we talked everywhere. Certain places will always be intertwined with certain conversations. The bar near the Ed Sullivan theater will always be associated with our ongoing guessing-game at people’s ages. This little game went something like this: “Ok, the woman in the blue hat.” “42.” “No way, she’s like 36.” Walking through the interminable line at the Empire State Building will always be associated with the ‘Lance’s role in our dissolution’ discussion. Walking down Madison Avenue (?) will always be associated with our snotty commentary about the overly foppish menswear displayed in the windows of the chi-chi stores.
--I did, as promised to the Junior Scouts, hop across some of the omnipresent striped crosswalks (ala Buddy in ‘Elf’). Earning my eternal admiration, Whit did a little hopping himself.
--Besides those places mentioned above, we walked (occasionally with help from the subway) to a lot of the places that everyone wants to see in Manhattan: Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Chinatown, Little Italy, the NYC Public Library, Grand Central Terminal, CentralPark, Times Square, Battery Park (to see the Statue of Liberty), Columbus Circle, the Plaza Hotel, etc.
--The temperature never rose above 50 degrees while we were there. All these New Yorkers were walking around, all bundled up in big coats and hats and scarves. I had a sweater and a coat on most of the time, but I reveled in the cool weather and often went coatless. Though I did break down and buy a couple of pashminas from a street vendor (despite the fact that they went out of style on “Sex in the City” about 4 years ago) just so I could be cool like everybody else. Never could quite get those scarves wrapped as stylishly, though.
--I loved walking through Little Italy at night, looking for a restaurant to eat dinner. Each restaurant had its own ‘barker’ out front, enticing you to come in. We ended up eating at Buona Notte due to my immediate crush on the little old man out front displaying the menu. And it turned out to be a good choice…I had a delicious pasta alla carbonara that I couldn’t stop eating, despite the fact that I was already full after the antipasto plate. Of course, this didn’t stop us from heading over to the world-reknowned Ferrara for pastries and coffee afterward.
--Walking through Chinatown was probably my favorite, though…these tiny, gnarled, elderly Chinese men and women would sidle up to you and whisper ‘handbag?’ or ‘perfume?’ to entice you into their stalls filled with knock-off items and/or cruddy NYC souvenirs. You would have thought they were offering me the finest heroin in the world.
--You’ve never really experienced Chinatown until you’ve walked sock-footed through it, because your supposedly comfortable boots completely turned on you. The perfect shoes for NYC walking? Converse All-Stars. (Sorry KC, but it's true.)
5. Final Thoughts
--The best way to start out your last day in NYC is with a big room-service breakfast.
--It rained the last day I was there. I loved seeing NYC in the rain. I loved watching all the people walking in the rain. And I suddenly understood how the umbrella store next to the hotel stayed in business.
--I realized that I do my best writing and editing in hotel and airport bars and in airplanes themselves…I managed to finish my essay for the parenting mag by the time I got back to Austin, submitting it at 11 pm on the deadline date. Thanks, Whit, for reading it for me and giving me helpful feedback.
--I got to see a real, live celebrity…Waiting to check my bags at LaGuardia, Kathleen Turner walked right in front of me. I can only hope I look as good as she does when I’m her age. (Yeah, she’s looked bloated and hellish in the past few years, but she’s a damn fine dame now, I’m here to tell ya.)
--Other than in my Barbie-sized hotel room, I didn’t really notice the completely close quarters that is NYC while I was there. But when I got back to my house in Austin, all the rooms seemed impossibly huge.
--I want to go back to NYC. Right now.
--Despite the rough roads we’ve both traveled over the past 10 years, Whit, I’m so glad we have reconnected. Thanks for a lovely (and I know you appreciate that word as much as I do) time. The weekend was, indeed, a wonderful little world unto itself.