As I was researching current Broadway plays and playing Sudoku on my phone trying to pass the time as we drove from Washington D.C. to New York City, I was interrupted by an anxious professor, describing to us the first time he caught a glimpse of the New York skyline and challenging us to create our own special experience with the sights of New York City. Meanwhile, he was partially interrupted by another anxiously excited professor singing karaoke style to Taylor Swift's "Welcome to New York." All of a sudden, my New York experience had begun.
As we drove up to our hotel, all of our noses were practically pressed up against the window watching the people and the places we were passing on the 8th Avenue. After arriving at the hotel, we all scrambled out the buses anxious to get outside. After assigning rooms and getting unloaded we quickly began our evening with an evening tour of Times Square and Rockefeller Center. After giving the students who hadn't already ventured out on their own brief travel instructions, we had the rest of the evening to explore New York City.
I spent the rest of the evening purchasing my Wicked tickets, exploring Grand Central Station and seeing the city from the 86th floor of the Empire State Building. Just as another one of the faculty members suggested, seeing the entire city from the top upon arrival created a thrill for what the next few days would hold. If the wind didn't completely take my breath away, the view finished the job.
As is the nature of New York City, our group schedule was much more flexible and we were rarely all together as a group, but the first day I walked around the city with the leadership of others who had more experience. We visited and sat in St. Patrick's Cathedral during the mass at noon, we ate lunch in the Grand Central Station dining hall, where I got a decent falafel, and we stood in the lobby of the Rockefeller Center, watching the security guards and observing the heightened security, waiting on the edge of our seats for some action, but never saw any. I walked into Trump Tower and Tiffany's and warmed up to the city life.
As if there were any better way, I finished my first full day in NYC in the Gershwin Theatre seeing Wicked, my all-time favorite Broadway musical. It truly was perfection.
On Friday morning (January 6), a randomly selected group of students had the opportunity to privately tour Google, make connections with their staff, learn about their internship opportunities and get a glimpse of the unique personality and culture found within the company. It was a very cool experience. I know I personally often forget that this tool I use everyday is run and organized by so many people all over the world. It was humbling to see where some of that happens in the Google New York offices.
For lunch we walked to Chelsea Market, and, as a Food Network fanatic, I had my eyes peeled for a cooking-celebrity, but I was not so lucky. I ate a warm, toasted ham and cheese sandwich from a fresh bread shop and two perfectly crafted macaroons (dark chocolate and red velvet). In addition to what I put in my mouth, the vast array of things I smelled throughout the market created more appetite than I could quench in an entire day.
After leaving Chelsea Market, a few friends and I walked the Brooklyn Bridge as the sunlight was disappearing. While most enjoy this spectacle in the daylight, seeing it at night had its own surprising spectacle. While I was walking underneath the first big structure standing above me on the bridge I began to wish there was more light to appreciate the character of the structure and say a few lines from the movie "Kate and Leopold" (which is one of my all-time favorite movies). As I was in the middle of thinking this I turned around, and my mind immediately changed. I saw the city, The city of New York was coming alive and the vast array of lights that danced across the skyline took my breath away. This was one of my favorite scenes of the entire trip.
After taking it in, I rushed back to Times Square on the subway and stood in line for half-price day-of Broadway tickets. As we hoped, we got tickets to see Holiday Inn, the classic Christmas movie turned Broadway play starring Corbin Blue. Not only was I pleasantly surprised by how much I loved the play, it was the epic Broadway experience. We snagged third-row seats on the far right side of this small, intimate theatre. Little did I know we had the perfect view of Corbin Blue's initial stage presence, and yes, I did fan-girl. After the show we waited outside the stage door and, yes, I met Corbin Blue. It was a pretty great night to say the least.
I've had a few snow days in my life, but none of them compared to my snow day in New York City. Although I didn't get a day off or time to relax as we often associate with good snow days, I was able to walk the streets of New York City while snow heavily fell all day long. Over the course of the day, the rumor is that seven inches of snow fell.
Our goal for the day was to see the 9/11 Memorial Sight and Museum. As nearly 70 students traveled on foot to the museum, I felt every drop of snow on my face. We began the day by going inside to warm up after traveling. The museum was moving and dramatic, even visiting it for the second time. The scenes and stories cause you to pause and stare. The greatest thing I realized that day is that there are so many stories from that day that will never be told. Despite the fact that we have heard many stories of people who experienced that day from a front row seat, we will never know everything that happened and every story that deserves to be told.
After spending several hours inside, we went back out into the cold to experience the magnitude of the memorial. The footers in the foundations of the buildings are unlike any other memorial, and the way the names are grouped by association shows the extra efforts taken to make this memorial as real and true to that fateful day as possible. Seeing the names light up with the snow falling created a unique experience, and I tried to take in every second.
As if we were not frozen enough, we decided to extend our snow day adventures to Central Park. Although we did not stay long, we explored and walked around the snow covered, white stretches of what are usually grassy areas at the feet of a city full of sky scrapers. It is a much different experience than the classic, green, grassy Central Park I saw on my last visit, but it was magical nonetheless. It is Central Park after all.
If we had known the line to get a table was outside we might not have gone, but for dinner we visited the must-see Stardust Diner. I had been here on my last visit to the city and was very happy to return. In short, this diner serves a free show along with your food. All the waiters and waitresses are Broadway actors in between show contracts or young performers trying to make their way to their first Broadway show. I was able to hear the internationally toured Glenda from Wicked, an actor who had played Shrek and the many other Broadway stars light up the diner with their vocal talent. It really is an experience like no other.
Being fans of the movie "You've Got Mail," after warming up in the hotel and resting our feet, we finished the Saturday evening off with a trip Cafe Lalo. In the movie "You've Got Mail" this is the location that Meg Ryan sits waiting for her mysterious online friend, Tom Hanks, to reveal himself to her. It is a highlight of the movie, especially since I got to sit in the same room in which it was filmed.
Our final day in New York City was Sunday, January 8. We attended Manhattan Church of Christ where a panel of professionals working in New York and attended church there told us their stories and reiterated the achievability of living and working in a big city like New York.
After eating lunch in the dining hall of The Met, we toured NBC studios. While this seems anticlimactic, it was easily one of my favorite tours of the trip. Being a weekend we got to see many of the studios that are often closed to the public. I got to stand in Jimmy Fallon's studio and the classic Saturday Night Live Studio. Seeing the backdrops of so many nationally iconic shows located in one building just brought the world of television back to reality for me. The people who put on these shows, producing them and serving as the face of the script, are real people just like anyone else. Feeling close to celebrity stomping grounds and realizing they are not that different from you is a very humbling experience.
After wrapping up the tour and wandering around the lower floor of the Rockefeller Center, a Harding alumni who had spent the day with us offered to take a few other students and me on a personal tour of Harlem, where he lived. Aware of the nervous energy, he led us around the area, showing us the famous Apollo Theatre as well as many murals and well-known buildings like the brown-houses, he put us back on the subway to Times Square where we were more familiar and comfortable. That was an experience I owe completely to him, because I never would have seen those things without his guidance and protective spirit.
We ended our last night in New York City with dinner at Tom's Restaurant, a small diner made famous by Seinfeld. Just a piece of advice, if you decide to spend you last night at Tom's like we did, make sure to save some cash, because they don't take debit or credit cards.
This trip not only allowed me to take three more hours of credit, but it taught me so many things about myself, my future and my interactions with other people. While I was spending my time exploring the city while keeping to myself and completing typographic and writing assignments, other students around me took the time to get to know the people as well. While this made me nervous to begin with, I came to realize that, using caution and awareness, the people around you can be valuable sources of information and lessons. Seeing into the lives of other people, even if only for a second, can open your eyes to so many things around you. As the week continued, I began to pay attention to the people walking by and the people in the subway cars with me. Where were they going? Who were they? What is their story? I found that as I looked around, most other people were trying to lay low and get to their destination just like I was. This trip as a whole opened my eyes to more than just more scenic views and destinations, but to the sheer number of lives and stories simultaneously overlapping silently. What would happen if we let them overlap more openly? What relationships would for formed? What connections could we make? What lessons would we learn? I may not be aware of what walked right by me that I missed while in New York City, but I do know that now I am paying more attention.
To those who got this far, I really appreciate you reading what I have to say. Sometimes I feel like I am just sitting in my dorm room typing into the void of the internet that no one outside my family or friend group may every read, but sometimes someone I haven't talked to in a while will walk up to me and talk to me about something I wrote or experienced and shared; whether it meant something to them or it simply caused them to pause in their day, that makes it all worth it. So to those who are reading this, thank you. It really does mean something.