It happened! As teased in a previous post, I got to visit New York City for the first time ever! It was an all too brief encounter of just two days in Manhattan – barely enough time to get a few first impressions.
So I guess it was kind of like a speed date!
I’d had the chance years ago to introduce myself to the Big Apple when I timidly stood at my first professional crossroads. Fresh out of college, I was thrilled to accept a job at an advertising agency in San Francisco! Then two days later, I received a letter (yes, a letter – it was a while ago…) accepting me into a “literary internship” program at New York’s Manhattan Theatre Club. But, reasoning that I’d made a safe and sound commitment just 48 hours before, I turned it down in favor of keeping my new day job.
It haunts me. Would my life be different today if I’d heard about that internship first, or if I’d altered my newly laid plans anyway to accept it? Realistically, was I even ready at that stage for a serious, long distance relationship? I’ll never know. And despite my good fortune in traveling lots of the world, I’d never gotten to know New York either.
Then recently, dear friend Dee invited me for a visit back east to watch my Los Angeles Kings play her New York Rangers – and I figured at long last I’d go and meet at least part of that famous collection of boroughs out there!
But as February approached, I started to wonder if our getting together still wouldn’t be in the cards…
Disruptions from the government shutdown had made La Guardia Airport the unflattering punchline of a “Weekend Update” joke on SNL. And brutally frigid temps in Chicago threatened to ground me before I could even get there.
But then fortune smiled!
The government opened back up, and a break in the weather allowed my traveling companion Dedrie and me to breeze through the Windy City (after picking up a Blackhawk shirt for Mum!) and change to a plane that would end up gliding with ease over the New York skyline just as magic hour sunlight cast a beguiling glow on the buildings and water beneath.
Talk about your first impressions! I mean, I don’t want to seem superficial but they’re a very important aspect of dating – and in this case, other than the countless depictions of New York I’d come across in film, television, music, theatre and literature, I was going into this relationship totally blind!
But I wasn’t worried. Dee had studied at Parsons School of Design and knew her way around – so I decided not to set my heart on seeing anything in particular but put my visit in her capable hands and enjoy things as they came.
Day One began with a train ride back into town from Stamford, Connecticut where we’d been graciously hosted for the night. I hadn’t traveled by rail in a while – and though I didn’t expect that retina scans had replaced tickets, I was kind of surprised to have to surrender my first paper souvenir to a friendly gentleman dressed in a uniform right out of Polar Express.
But that image was perfectly in keeping with an arrival at glorious Grand Central Terminal – the ornate and imposing building that’s been many people’s first view of New York City since 1913. And with the constant jostle and flow of humanity through a wide array of shops and restaurants housed there, it’s also a proper acclimation to the thrilling pulse of the city just outside!
Tour Guide Dee had warned Dedrie and me to pack lightly because, according to her agenda, my introduction to NYC would be a meandering journey on foot from the station to our hotel at Times Square.
Which reminds me – I’ve been lucky to make quite a few trips to London where I love to get reacquainted by taking what I’ve come to call “The Walk”. I begin at Leicester Square, taking in one iconic London landmark after another until I reach Westminster Bridge over the Thames.
Dee just may have kicked off a new tradition for me as I can’t think of a more exciting way to enter the New York blood stream than by hitting its streets!
After passing through Grand Central’s main entryway (dedicated to Jackie Kennedy Onassis for her role in ensuring the preservation of this Beaux Art gem), we emerged onto 42nd Street at Park Avenue on a marvelously crisp and clear day!
Dee and Dedrie very kindly offered to pause in our walking whenever I felt moved to stop and photograph an NYC landmark – which turned out to be every few feet!
For starters, still making its presence known amid newer structures near the station was the Art Deco-style Chrysler Building!
Along our way, we took a quick peek inside the majestic New York Public Library – after first saying hello to its regal guardians, Patience and Fortitude, of course!
The Christmas tree was no longer on display among the buildings that make up Rockefeller Center – but Prometheus still presided over the ice rink!
We got a look at stately St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Here’s NBC Studios where one of my all-time favorite shows Saturday Night Live is produced – ah, the comedy legends that have walked through those doors!
And then there’s Radio City Music Hall, home of the Rockettes and the Radio City Christmas Spectacular which, according to Dee, is very aptly named!
Eventually (after a great deal of pausing), we arrived at our hotel which offered a dizzying view of Times Square and the surrounding Midtown skyline!
I let my NYC-savvy friends choose where we’d eat on our one night out (what with my being culinarily challenged, that’s actually wise in any city). Right near Times Square, we ventured a few steps below street level to dine at Da Marino – a charming restaurant specializing in sumptuous Northern Italian fare (I had a wonderful grilled salmon!) served amid delightfully festive decor!
I love that their hospitality would have extended to saving our leftovers until after we’d taken in a nearby play! However, since seeing a Broadway show (ever the stuff of my dreams!) would have to wait for another occasion, I opted to eat my entire meal – you know, just so that leftovers wouldn’t be an issue.
Ah, the theatre – probably my first true love! Even so, it was another love that finally brought me to the Great White Way – hockey!
Yes, Day One culminated with an NHL hockey game in storied Madison Square Garden! Our keen trio (we were recreation hockey teammates back in the day) was among the first wave of fans to enter the building, and I got the chance for a nearly private moment with that lovely sheet of ice – still pristine before the night’s sporting story would be written on it and added to the history and legend already created right there!
And the icing (no pun intended – seriously) on an already ridiculously rich cake? Well, that would be the late rally by my somewhat beleaguered but no less beloved Kings, and their subsequent overtime victory! First the weather change, then the end to the shutdown, and now this – how lucky could one girl get?!
So what impressions of New York did I take away from the mere ten hours we’d been together so far? Well, pretty clearly my date was intelligent, sophisticated, artistic, energetic – and add to those qualities an all-important sense of humor and interest in sports!
In a speed dating scenario, this should have been where I stammered something about what a nice time I’d had (whether true or not) and moved on to the next prospect. But thankfully, I had another day to spend with New York – because I sure wasn’t ready to let this one get away!
Cheers! And check back next time for the second half of my date with the Big Apple, short as it was – but oh so very sweet!