My New York adventure began with a thunderstorm that closed LaGuardia to all incoming traffic and diverted my plan to Allentown, Pennsylvania. UGH! But it really could have been so much worse. I arrived only about two hours late, and my mom and aunt waited at the airport for me. We had to rearrange our itinerary a bit, but no major harm done. We took a thrilling (and expensive, oy!) cab ride into Manhattan and checked into the Hotel Edison near Times Square.
Our first order of business was to buy unlimited-ride subway passes, since I had plans for us to be alllll over the city. We took a train to lower Manhattan and grabbed a late lunch at a decent but unremarkable cafe.
I spent as much time researching restaurants as I did planning other things for us to do. My goal was to avoid chain restaurants at all costs, instead going out of the way to eat at places that were uniquely New York. If I can eat there in Ohio or in Tennessee, why on earth would I want to waste time there in Manhattan?? My mom and aunt are not the adventurous foodies that Steve and I [like to pretend we] are, but they were GREAT sports and let me call the shots, within reason, since it was my birthday trip. I had some hits and some misses, and some plans had to get rearranged, including Saturday lunch--since my flight came in late, we didn't have time for the SoHo sandwich shop I'd found. But the New York-style pizza slice I had at Cafe Bravo was good for being impromptu.
We had passes to visit the 9/11 Memorial on Saturday afternoon, something I hadn't thought of, but which my mom and aunt had requested. I'm so glad they did. After seeing the World Trade Center towers way back when, and seeing Ground Zero as a rubble-filled pit in early 2003, I got to see the monuments established in tribute to the victims and heroes of 9/11. The names engraved in bronze around the actual footprints of the towers give you an overwhelming sense of the scope of the loss, making it at once enormous, and very personal.
Since my brother is a firefighter, I feel a special draw toward, and awed admiration for, the firefighters who led the charge *into* the towers when everyone else was rushing *out*. I found the names of men about whom I've read books:
The arrangement of the names is unusual and very deliberate--rather than alphabetical, they are grouped into "meaningful adjacencies." First responders are together...each of the four flights...
...people who worked for the same company... Within those groupings, family members had the option to request that their loved one's name be listed beside specific people. The memorial website explains: "Some requests were between relatives and friends; others were between people who had just met, but who responded together as events unfolded.
This design allows the names of family, friends, and colleagues to be together, as they lived and died." I saw a handful of names like this, which were particularly piercing:
We saw the Survivor Tree, which was salvaged from the wreckage only to be uprooted in a storm while it was being revived at a Bronx nursery. It survived that, too, and was replanted at the site:
And it was moving to see the Freedom Tower going up in view of the memorial--such tremendous loss and tragedy, yet such spirit rising taller, grander, hopeful.
After our visit there, we went out for dinner and a Broadway show. Crunched for time, I was afraid we were going to have to forego my evening restaurant choice as well, but it turned out perfectly. We ate in Hell's Kitchen at a Thai place called Room Service, which I cannot recommend highly enough. The ambiance was classy and hip, not at all touristy...
...the service was FAST, which we needed to make it to our show, and the food was fantastic. My Pad Thai was so delicious, and Mom and Aunt Judy, who'd never had Thai food, both raved about what they ordered. AND, did I mention we each paid under $10 for our entrees? In Manhattan! Thanks to Carmin for the winning recommendation.
As we walked to the theater, we had our first celebrity sighting. A wedding between two theater moguls was just letting out, and as charter buses waited to load glamorously-dressed guests, we spotted Judith Light (who remembers watching Who's the Boss back in the 80s??). We found out later that it had been quite the guest list: Barbara Walters, Tyra Banks, Donald Trump. But we didn't have time to stand around and gawk, because we had tickets to Nice Work if You Can Get It, a new Gershwin musical starring Matthew Broderick and Kelli O'Hara.
I could have listened to O'Hara sing all night long; she was phenomenal. Honestly, though, I was a bit disappointed with my show selection. Some of the themes/music/costumes were pretty risque; a lot of the plot celebrated/winked at promiscuity (the main character, Broderick, falls in love with O'Hara while engaged to his fourth wife). It wasn't the 1920s feel-good family musical I was expecting, though there were some funny parts, and the ending was pretty satisfying. All in all, I'd recommend downloading O'Hara's songs from iTunes and getting tickets to Newsies or Wicked instead.
Once the show was over, we couldn't resist running back to a little bakery we'd passed on the way called Schmackary's, for after-theater cookies. I had to try one with candied bacon in it--yum. Can't resist that salty-sweet combination...and doesn't bacon make everything better?
And that was day one!
[Day 2: Upper West Side church and brunch, library, Union Square tour]
NYC Girls' Weekend