Dry Weekend: The Big Apple!

Anticipation was high despite energy levels being low we we stumbled off our fairly sleepless, red-eye flight from Phoenix to New York at 6:00am on Saturday morning. My mother, sister and I had departed hot and dry Phoenix, Arizona after my brothers highschool graduation for a whirlwind trip of sight-seeing, shopping, museum hopping and more walking than you might think you could cram into four fast days.

I quickly fell into the roll of navigator as I began reading signs to lead us to the AirTrain that would connect us to the New Jersey Transit train to Penn Station in New York. From there we hopped on the E Line subway uptown to our hotel. New York was hot like Phoenix, with a minor difference of major humidity. We emerged from the subway onto Lexington where many vendors were setting up for a Saturday street fair. Apparently fairs like these rotate around the city throughout the summer allowing vendors from all over to bring their merchandise to different people in new areas of the city. After depositing our bags at the hotel (waaayyyy to early to check in, which was probably good or we would have gone up and not come out until that evening!) we decided to meander through the fair to see what all was being offered. After walking several blocks down and back up, we headed west towards Radio City, Rockefeller Plaza (where apparently they were filming a live action mixed with animation Smurfs movie… ugh). We wandered around with the final destination in mind being The Museum of Modern Art (MOMA). This was Lauren’s pick, as a graphic designer and art major, she’s very interested in the modern art scene. I was just excited to see Van Gogh’s Starry Night which is currently at the MOMA. We passed by performance artist Marina Abromovic, who had been sitting still in a chair for a month at the museum (8-5) while volunteers from the crowd sat across from her for as long as they like. I don’t really get most performance art, and honestly to me it seemed pretty lame. As a side note however, we read an article on the train back to the airport a few days later that on her final day of the installation a man attempted to vomit on her and a woman stripped naked in front of her, yet she kept her stone composure and completed her final hours.

The MOMA had some interesting art, including a chandelier made of exploded dishes, one of my favorites. We wandered slowly up and up through the exhibits until the top where an exhibit for Ms. Abromovic was on display. It was a mix of pictures and video of past performances as well as live recreations of some performances by other artists. One such piece that I must mention was an exploration of space, where two naked people (a man and a woman) stood apart from each other in a small space leaving about a foot between them. The viewers were instructed to walk between the two people as a way to get to the next part of the exhibit. My mom, sis and I all looked doubtfully at each other and teased about going through, but no one took the first step until I just went for it. So yeah, I went to New York and walked between two naked folks. All I could think, was “gee, I wonder if her nipples and his penis get rubbed raw at all from the multitudes of people brushing past in clothes and with purses, etc.”

Around two in the afternoon we were definitely feeling the lack of sleep from the red eye flight, so we headed back to the hotel, got checked into our room, dropped our bags and crashed for about two hours before getting up, showering and dressing for dinner and a Broadway show. We walked down to Carmines in Times Square knowing it was unlikely that we would get a table as we were running late and the wait was upwards of an hour. However we lucked out with a spot at the bar, and enjoyed a glass of wine and a delicious Italian meal before heading off through Times Square to see Promises Promises starring Kristin Chenoweth and Sean Hays. The show is based off the movie The Apartment, set in the 1960’s. The story surrounds a young employee of an insurance company who is in love with a girl who works in the cafeteria who happens to be in love with his boss. Hoping to move up the ladder he gets talked into allowing some of the higher ups use his apartment for their trysts with younger cute girls. Hilarity and drama are both to be found, and the best scene was the opener after intermission when Sean Hays character is drunk in a seedy bar on Christmas. I’d definitely recommend it!

We wandered a bit after the show, getting back to the hotel around midnight. Slept like a rock and we were up and going again the next morning. We went over to the famous St. Patrick’s Cathedral for morning mass (no, we’re not Catholic, but my Mom really wanted to experience that church and it is famous after all). Sneaking out during communion (we couldn’t take it anyways… the Catholics and their rules…) we headed up towards Central Park. I loved Central Park. Its huge and green and feels so much cleaner than the rest of the city we had seen so far. While its still crowded, mostly with trees, it was far less poplulated than all the streets around town. We walked along, trying to follow the map in my hands, but mostly just wandering down different paths. We rested at the Bethesda Fountain (under construction…) before moving over to Strawberry Fields and the Imagine mosaic that memorializes John Lennon. After wards we popped out of the park for lunch, then walked up to the Museum of Natural History. It was already about 1:00pm, so we had to pick and choose what to see in the museum. The main attraction was the new special exhibit, “Race to the end of the Earth” which highlighted the daring challenge between Amundsen and Scott to be the first to reach the South Pole. I found it fascinating to see the different levels in preparation, the different choices each man made for his team and how those choice played out in the harsh environment.

We finished that up, then had to somewhat rush through the dinosaurs, ocean room and others as the museum closed. It was fantastic, and I probably could have spent three days exploring it all, but we had too much on our agenda to come back. We paused for a drink at the Plaza Hotel, feeling posh as we lounged in the opulence. After stopping back at the hotel to freshen up and change clothes, we hopped back on the subway down to Chelsea to meet one of Lauren’s friends, Liz, for dinner. After dinner we walked along the Highline; a new park attraction that was created out of an abandoned elevated train track in stead of tearing it down. The path is landscaped with native plants, and set with low lighting. Walking just above the city provided nice views and a cool breeze, it was calm and relaxing after a busy day rushing around. Following our stroll along that we headed to Magnolia Bakery, a famous cupcakery (its where Michelle Obama visited with her daughters, oh my!) We grabbed some sweets and walked down to the water where the four of us sat on a bench looking out across the Hudson and enjoyed dessert.

Once again, we were home after midnight, slept like the dead, and awoke Monday morning for another jam-packed day. We got up and went down to Canal Street, in search of the “designer purse.” As we walked along the street we were approached by person after person, mostly of Asian descent asking if we were looking for handbags, watches, sunglasses, all in whispered tones. We had a goal, a store just off Canal on Mulberry that was recommended by a friend of my Mom’s. We poked around, saw somethings we like but were hesitant to buy right away so on we went. We continued down Mulberry into Little Italy, which seemed like Italian restaurant after Italian restaurant after… you get the idea. Popped into a few more stores, even got “invited” into the back room of one, where the kept the good stuff… all real assured the man… no copy. (yeah right). Mom and Lou each got a purse, but I decided to go back to our first stop for a cute little teal bag, that the guy says is “Dolce and Gabbana”… whatever. We then walked further up Canal heading towards the ocean to make our 2:00pm boat tour. I thought we could walk, but upon realizing I had the wrong address in my phone, we hailed our first New York taxi and sped up to the right place.

Now we weren’t going for your typical three hour cruise. My mom had found THE BEAST. This was a 30 minute speedboat tour that whipped you along the Hudson, paused at the Statue of Liberty for pictures, then sped you back up to the dock. Let me tell you, it was AWESOME. The spray from the boat was getting everyone wet, and if you managed to stay dry, the tour guide helped you out with a super-soaker or water balloon. His commentary was hilarious, the music was pumping and the cool wind whipping around us felt great after the hot morning shopping. After our trip we walked down to the Chelsea Brewery for lunch followed by an exploration of the Chelsea area, including the famous Chelsea Market. We jumped on the train down to the Ground Zero area as the sun was starting set, then walked a little ways into Battery Park city, but never quite made it down to Battery Park. Our energy levels were dropping, so we grabbed a train back uptown, hoping to grab a small bite of dinner at the Serendipity 3 cafe and indulge ourselves with one of their famous Frozen Hot Chocolates. Again, another long wait, which we didn’t have the desire for, so I grabbed a pack to make at home, and we headed back towards a little pizza joint we had passed on the way. This was definitely the smart choice. Splitting a delicious pizza with a glass of wine made the perfect ending to our last full day in the city. We walked back to the hotel and were in bed before midnight this time.

Tuesday morning we packed, checked out of the hotel the hurried out to check a few more things off our list. The impressive Macy’s window displays (under going construction…the black cloth drapped in them read, bummer), followed by a hot dog from Gray’s Papaya (at about 10am, yup) before jumping on the subway down to Greenwich Village where we found the small letterpress store my sister wanted to visit. After that we found a wine store and picked up a bottle, followed by a grocer where we got a baguette, goat cheese, pesto spread, sliced turkey and grapes then walked over to Washington Square Park by NYU for a lovely and relaxed final lunch in New York. After this there was a bit more walking, then subway again, picking up our bags, more subway, train to New Jersey (where we almost missed our stop at the airport), then the flight back home.

All in all it was an exhausting vacation, which are usually the best kind. I had a blast and can’t thank my Mom enough for putting the whole thing together. It took me about a day and a half to recover and sift through the almost 500 pictures I took, but life is back to normal, diving and all, and our dance through The Big Apple seems a bit like a dream.

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