Well, I did it. After 47 years of living on this earth in California, I finally visited New York City this past week. Where do I even begin?
After taking a cab ride from JFK to Manhattan that was so jerky and bumpy, I felt like throwing up, we finally made it to our home away from home via Airbnb.
Enter through the Barber Shop, past the Massage Parlor and the Watch Repair.
Ah, the joys of staying in “Midtown”. Now I know it doesn’t look like much, but it was a decent sized studio apartment that I forgot to take pictures of on the inside. I slept on the bed and my sister took the fold out couch. And with the exception of this stench of a restaurant cooking around 4am, that we could not identify, (we always had to remember to close the window before going to sleep), it was comfortable. Plus the place had internet and cable, allowing my sister to get all caught up on all the Real Housewives, so it’s all good. Oh and the host was super nice and accommodating.
I Can’t Even Imagine The Electric Bill
Just a block away was Times Square and as we stepped out to see it for the first time.
“That’s it?” my sister asked.
Yeah, that’s pretty much how I felt too about all the advertising. Okay, now we can cross it off our bucket list. Done.
Our first night we did a walk-through to the places we were going to visit nearby throughout our week: The August Wilson Theater, Rockefeller Plaza, The Ed Sullivan Theater. We got lost right away because my phone’s directions suck, but we figured it out. As we walked down streets east of Broadway it felt like we were in the Financial District in SF. But it was dark out. Perhaps it would look and feel more unique in the morning.
Here it is!
First Time Caller, Long Time Listener
Growing up, I have fond memories of watching movies and television shows that were filmed in New York and with all its pretty lights it seemed like such a magical place. I remember staying up late, as a young girl, during the summer and watching reruns of Saturday Night Live with the original cast. At one point, I put a tape recorder up to the television and taped a sketch hosted by Madeline Kahn titled “Slumber Party.” I remember Jane Curtain had this funny line. “Isn’t your brother the one who says if you chew your nails and swallow them, hands will grow in your stomach?”
So how giddy was I, on our first full day of the trip, after all these years of being a fan of the show, when I finally was able to visit Studio 8H at the 30 Rockefeller Plaza Building where SNL is performed? My sister and I did an NBC Studio Tour, and with the exception of not being able to see where Jimmy Fallon tapes his show (he was probably in rehearsal when we were there), it did not disappoint. I have to say though, Studio 8H looks much smaller in person than it does on TV and it’s so small that we were told that every Saturday (when they are live) they have to bring in extra stage equipment from Brooklyn. They don’t even have enough room to store their own equipment? This sort of floored me. As someone who has done her fair share stand-in work on movies and television shows in San Francisco, we always housed our own equipment. But New York is so crowded, they literally, can’t even. They just can’t. Culture Shock #1.
But it was still pretty cool though.
Oh, they also let us do this:
I played the guest on our fake late night talk show while my sister was “behind the scenes”. But even with my name spelled correctly on the teleprompters, both the “host” and the “announcer” mispronounced my last name. It’s DONAHOE, not DONAHUE. Why is my last name so hard? Moving on…
“Theresa, turn on the news.”
On September 11, 2001, my sister and I were both living with our parents at the time. I had gotten up a little after 6am to go to the bathroom when my sister showed me what was happening on television. At this point, only one of the two twin towers had been hit with an airplane so we just assumed it was an accident. But when the second one hit…. I called in sick from work that day.
Following our NBC studio tour, my sister and I took our first subway ride ever to downtown to see the 911 Memorial and the World Trade Center.
It’s pretty intense and so crazy that this actually happened on our soil almost 17 years ago.
However, we were not impressed with the World Trade Center, especially since they wanted to charge us to enter. So we opted to get a bite to eat nearby and realized the World Trade Center has a mall in it. A mall. A Westfield mall. San Francisco has a Westfield mall. We go there every Christmas to buy our nieces presents. We came to see sights and sounds that make New York unique. A mall is not one of them. We decided to chill and I snapped some pics:
Relax. I take the subway now.
That’s it. That’s all I got for Jersey. Give it up for Jersey.
After that we hightailed it back on the subway (such pros now. okay, that’s a lie- we got on the wrong train twice on this trip). One subway station was so small that in order to get back on the same train heading in the opposite direction we had to exit the station on to the street and then re-enter the station on the next block. Of course, not all stations were like this, but still-this was not intuitive for us . No BART stations in the Bay Area make changing platforms so confusing. However the subway is way older than BART, so our local trains probably learned from the NYC system. Too bad BART doesn’t have any where near as many trains in service as the subway does though. NYC wins hands down when it comes to public transportation– but in our Bay Area defense, NYC is flat everywhere-so that makes building a train system a lot more accessible. No one has our hills. But I digress. Anyway, after finally making it on to the correct train we headed to….
THE EMPIRE STATE BUILDING!!
Again, like with Saturday Night Live, I have been watching tv shows and movies all my life that take place in New York and many times in this famous building, that it’s hard not to romanticize what it must look like in real life:
“Whachya gonna do when you get there kid? Spit from the top?”
“Walter is my dad!”
My sister and I shelled out the 37 bucks and got in a line to the 86th floor, and according to the brochure, 1050 feet up. Worth. Every. Penny.
I love gaining a new perspective. What I realized as I took pictures from this distance is that New York City isn’t that big. I was able to see all the bridges that lead to the other boroughs. I don’t know why people think Manhattan feels so much bigger than San Francisco. It did not feel that way to me at all. Probably because…it’s not. I googled it.
After that, my sister and I were exhausted so we opted to eat close by. Yes, we ate at all the convenient touristy restaurants. You see, that’s how they get you. They know out-of- towners simply will not have the energy to be picky about food. And they’re right.
The weather was perfect that first day and almost felt like home in the Bay Area. The next day, that would all change…
Culture Shock #2- Humidity
Now you may think 80 degrees is not that hot, but with humidity all it did was get hotter and more uncomfortable as the day wore on. We walked through Central Park West in search of shade. I was also looking for unique sightings that I would not find in the Bay Area. I took plenty of photos, but honestly, a part of me felt like this could be anywhere.
Well, this is pleasant.
I like this.
Ah, there’s the backdrop I am looking for. Too flat to be the Bay Area! Culture Shock #3.
On the way back we looked for the place where John Lennon was killed and I had my first real experience with a sarcastic New York Street Vendor. Now that’s what I’m talking about!
Me: Excuse me sir, where did John Lennon actually die?
Him: On the way to the hospital.
Me: Ha. I mean, where was he shot?
Him: (he points) There.
The Dakota Apartments. December 8, 1980. The Night the Music Died.
Now I was 10 years old when he was shot. The only thing I knew about John Lennon was that he had a song on the radio “(Just Like) Starting Over” and that he had been in the Beatles. Then Yoko Ono had a sad song on the radio after his death. And then a few months later, Ronald Reagan was shot. Those memories sort of mesh together for me.
Let me take you down ’cause I’m going to….
Well, at least he’s honest.
After that, we got on the subway to head back to the Theater District and get in line for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. I had scored free tickets a few weeks beforehand and I was very excited about this, but worried that waiting in line in the heat would wipe me out. Fortunately, the buildings are so tall in this concrete jungle, that they blocked the sun, hallelujah.
Now, I’m used to waiting in long lines and just flat out waiting because I have done a ton of extra work on movie sets, so I was mentally prepared. But my poor sister. We got in line around 2:30pm, were checked in quickly after that, but were not let into the theater until closer to 4:30pm. I was worried she would hate me for getting in line so early, but once we got into the air conditioned theater and seated in the third row center, it was all worth it.
Shout out to my friend Doug Campbell, who took these screenshots on his phone! We look like we’re riding a roller coaster. I’m in the red, my sister is on the right.
Well, I can’t say enough good things about Stephen Colbert. I am going to just gush about him. He is so funny and quick witted and I was in awe how fast he navigated the teleprompter, and how seamlessly interviewed Jamie Foxx. Stephen Colbert was exactly the same as he is on television and let me tell you, I have seen plenty of celebrities where that is not the case. I am happy to report that Mr. Colbert is the man who you want him to be and the time flew by so fast once we started taping the show. He was entertaining throughout the whole thing and yeah, it didn’t hurt that Jamie Foxx was a great guest.
Yes, we were those obnoxious tourists. I do not apologize.
After the show, we hit another touristy restaurant that was next door to the theater that served over priced average pasta and then called it a day. We were beat.
On the walk back to our apartment we could tell it had rained while we had been inside. We thought we missed the rain, but God had other plans.
RAIN RAIN GO AWAY
It was now Wednesday and our final full day in NYC and my Fitbit watch still refused to switch over to EST.
Also– it was just wet. I had thought about wearing nicer shoes on the way to the August Wilson Theater to see the musical MEAN GIRLS, but the weather made that decision for me. I was in tennis shoes the entire trip because the weather is bipolar, and walking is quicker than taking a cab. The subway is quicker than taking a cab. Everything is quicker than taking a cab and my stomach couldn’t handle another one of those rides anyway. So a sweatshirt and jeans it was for a Broadway musical!
Don’t ask me how much these drinks cost.
There’s a reason they don’t list the price of certain items in NYC. That’s how they get you! “You’re paying for the experience” the bartender told my sister and me.
Uh huh. My sister still tipped him a dollar. I was like, WHATEVER.
I admit I haven’t seen a lot of musicals through the years, but this show was so good. The singing was top notch, the direction, the writing and even the acting. I think I tend to shy away from musicals because it always feels like the acting suffers, but the physical comedy of the lead actors was so wonderful that I could see every gesture they did from the upper left mezzanine seats we were in. I was very impressed. I would say the only element in this show that didn’t wow me was the dancing. I suspect the choreography centered around the limitations of the lead performers and the most impressive dance numbers were led by the ensemble cast. It reminded me of that scene in the movie Grease in the number “We Go Together” when the lead actors get out of the way and the back up dancers come forward.
Remember him? He was awesome!
After the show we could feel the effects of going non-stop throughout the week setting in and were becoming quite exhausted. It would have been tempting to call it a day, but we had one more final stop.
GRAND CENTRAL STATION
We had to do it. This place is iconic. Yes, it’s just a train station, but come on now. I saw it on an episode of Law and Order SVU, so it must be good.
Yup, we ate at the train station, because that’s what tourists do. Don’t ask me how much my burger cost, but it was pretty darn good. As I played Pokémon Go on my phone, a father with his family sitting behind us told his son, “look, she’s playing it too!” He was so nice. I suspected he wasn’t from New York. He told me he was from Florida and when I told him we were from California, he said he had never been and then asked “where in California?” Now, I have to say that on this whole entire trip, no one ever asked me and my sister that follow up question. It’s like people have no idea how big California is or they do not care. But the Florida man knew to ask that question. Is this a small state/big state kind of thing? Whenever someone says to me “I’m from Ohio” or “I’m from Texas“, I always follow up with a more specific question. “Really, where in Ohio?” Not that I’ve ever been to Ohio, but I figure I can learn something…
Oh, and Grand Central also has shops in it, but not cute unique boutique- like shops. Just pricey shops, a food court, and a market.
During that final walk in the rain back to our apartment I felt like I was moving in slow motion. I just wanted to get some sleep. We had an early flight out and had to pack.
Too Bad I wasn’t in a Fitbit Challenge This Week!
The next morning we took the subway to the airport and arrived to JFK around 8am. As I sat there waiting to board our flight I realized I hadn’t heard one person in New York during the entire trip, mutter the phrase, “fo-get about it!” or any other stereotypical stuff we only hear on TV. Where were those people? Not in Manhattan. For our next New York trip, our sister and I decide to visit in the Fall and venture outside the city more. I really want to see the Statue of Liberty, The Brooklyn Bridge and another street vendor with attitude. I didn’t really experience any impatient east coasters except for this one woman standing behind us at the subway station who let out a heavy sigh while my sister and I bought Metro Cards for the first time. I wanted to whip my head around and say, “deal with it lady! You live in New York! I would be nice to you at any BART station!” In fact, when I was in Berkeley yesterday I saw a few tourists downtown looking confused and I gave them directions immediately. They didn’t even ask me. I’m a nice person. 🙂 Most of the time. But in NYC’s defense, they have to deal with crappy weather and over 8 million people on any given day- so I will let it slide.
Almost six hours later, we arrive back to SFO and return to the mild dry weather.
Home, Sweet Home.
Now while I did enjoy my trip to New York and do plan on coming back, can I honestly say that “I love New York“? Love is a strong word. But we will definitely be friends.