Date of trip: August 18, 2016 - August 21, 2016
Our weekend trip to see a musical and visit a New Yorker.
- Day 1: Landed in NYC at 8p, went to Keysina’s in Valley Stream
- Day 2: Commuter rail to Manhattan, walked accross Brooklyn Bridge, explored Brooklyn, Grimaldi’s Pizza for lunch, McSorley’s Old Ale House, Dutch Fred’s for dinner, went to The Waitress Musical
- Day 3: Went to Long Beach, World Trade Center Memorial, took subway to West Village and ate late lunch in Chelsea’s Market, walked to Smalls Jazz Club, dive bar, train home
- Day 4: Took subway to Brooklyn, breakfast at Reynard, Brooklyn Brewery, took Uber to Brooklyn Flea Market, back to Keysina’s, flight home
We landed in NYC to a long wait at baggage claim. COME ON, I thought. She was waiting for us! We were so jazzed to see Keysina, (Christina, rather, but an endearing nickname no less) a dear friend who befriended me when we were studying abroad in London. She waited patiently in a sea of cars, even getting out of her car with a big smile on her face to hug us when we finally spotted her. Asking us all about our life since our last visit, she drove us the short distance from the airport to her family’s colonial home in Valley Stream, a village on Long Island. At her family’s kitchen table we drank local beer and snacked with Key and her Armenian mother, Roxy. We had made it to New York.
In the morning, we were ready to take on the city. But first we needed Dunkin. Chris walked a few blocks to the closest Dunkin Donuts and returned with coffee and sweets. I took the bag but didn’t see it. “Where’s my cake donut?” He said he hadn’t seen any. Key asked, “What’s a cake donut?” We then had a discussion about donut terminology, learning that New Yorkers call “cake” donuts “cider” donuts, though they’re typically covered in cinnamon and sugar. I was sad for New York. Perhaps this wasn’t the full story. Sorry, Key, but a guest cake donut audaciously appears later in the story. Sidenote: I clearly settled and ate the raised donut.
Key made a more substantial breakfast before we loaded our things and left for the city (shout out to Key for keeping our bellies full!). It was going to be a hot one–that we could tell as we walked to the commuter rail. Key helped us purchase tickets and we boarded the train, which took us 45 minutes into the city. From there, we took the subway to the Brooklyn Bridge. Key showed us her old “stomping grounds” as we crossed the river from Manhattan into Brooklyn. In the distance we saw Lady Liberty and Ellis Island and straight ahead the mighty borough.
We crossed and walked through the Brooklyn Heights neighborhood towards Grimaldi’s pizzeria. We arrived to a line of 20 people deep. Key held down the fort and encouraged us to explore Brooklyn Bridge Park while she waited in line. We returned just in time to be seated in a cozy upstairs corner of the historic pizza joint. We sighed in relief, resting our feet and enjoying a cold beverage. Our sausage pizza came and we merrily gobbled it down.
We then made our way to the subway, taking the underground towards East Village to McSorley’s Old Ale House, the oldest Irish tavern in NYC where they serve two beers: light or dark. McSorley’s is also famous for being the last bar in NYC to serve women, being legally forced to do so in 1970. We sat at a round table in the back of the bar and the no nonsense server came back with two small mugs for each of us. Sawdust covered the floor to sop up beer spills. The tabletop was covered in dark scratches and the walls covered in old picture frames and memorabilia, claiming to be untouched since the early 1900’s. We drank a few in that dark corner, talking about engagements, arrangements and other commitments. Think about it. Or don’t.
And then. Then it was time to dine. For afterwards, we were to see what we came for. Besides our really gracious and lovely host, we came to see the broadway musical that is Waitress. Holy in my standards not for it’s southern charm but for it’s musical scores written by Sara Bareilles, who we may as well just call my ultimate cake donut, my lionheart, and my one true soulmate. So now that that’s out of the way….
We were off. We took the hot and muggy subway to Times Square and grabbed strong drinks at The Rum House—rum punch and caipirinhas. (Though it was months after our trip to Rio, we were still floating high from our cachaça). We dined at a place called Dutch Fred’s near the Brooks Atkinson Theatre and got tipsy on more cocktails and full up on juicy appetizers.
And then it was show time. I squealed. Maybe not outwardly, but likely. We entered the theater to the smell of cinnamon and sugar. What musical about pies would be complete without the aroma of cinnamon and sugar? (But seriously, before each show an actual baker brings a 9-inch apple pie to bake in a convection oven near the orchestra seating).
We found our seats and I waited, fidgeting and waiting for the curtains to open. Men and women in aprons walked around selling small mason jars of pie as the red velvet seats filled up. We hadn’t waited more than 10 minutes when the lights went dark and the curtains opened to a woman standing on stage. She began singing “sugar, butter, flour…” aaaaaand then I lost my shit. The tears came and we all pretended like I was fine. In truth, the play in its entirety was fine and the southern accents distracting, but I cried with so much joy and pride for Sara (and me). I don’t even care. I left a red-faced mess while Key and Chris pretended they weren’t with me. I collected myself as we filtered out back onto the pavement.
There wasn’t much time after the show for casual strolls under Time Square’s florescent glow. We were exhausted and wanted to make the train out of NYC to Valley Stream. We weaved inappropriately in and out of slow moving tourists on crowded sidewalks. Key was impressed with our agility and we made it just in time to the train station to buy Milk Duds, Cheetos, and Gatorade for the ride home.
On our second morning, we took our time getting up and out of the house. It was beach day, after all, and apparently a popular thing to do on Long Island (so weird). Roxy kindly helped us load the car with beach gear and sent us on our way. We stopped at a bagel joint, one that Key had worked at in high school, and made an order to go. And may I add, Key was quite impressed with my swift order. “What, have you done this before?!” I gave her a sly smirk. “Ain’t no thang” (No, I totally rehearsed it).
Aaaaand we were off to the sand and surf! Chris in the front seat and me and bagels in back. I sat there drooling over the warm bag of bread, watching out of the window a blur of suburban Long Island pass by. Key pulled into a large pay lot and parked the car. The water lay just beyond the sandy dunes. It was hot already, though it was just mid morning. With our chairs, food, and bags in hand we headed towards the dunes and followed a wide sandy trail lined by tall grass. The beach, wide and busy, came into view.
Key and I laid out our big beach blanket and set our short beach chairs on top. The three of us devoured our bagel sandwiches and took in the waves. I looked around at the set ups of our sunbathing neighbors and those past them, with their oversized towels, their chairs, coolers, games, food, and sun umbrellas. “This is a culture,” I said confidently. Key wanted more. “Go on,” she said. I explained that in my experience, in Minnesota, people spend time on the boat. Not so much the beach. Long Island had a beach culture (again, weird, like what?) We were among professional beach goers, Key included.
After a couple hours of soaking in the sun, we sleepily returned to Valley Stream to rest and get ready for a night in the city. Again, we took the train into the city, hopping on the subway to take us to the world trade center memorial. That subway ride was the hottest yet. We rode for maybe eight minutes and were drenched by the end of it. Happily, the three of us exited the underground with the masses and stood before the 9/11 memorials. Two massive footprints where the towers once stood are now the place of two square pools. Water continuously falls from the edges into a hole in the middle, symbolizing the loss of life and the void left by the attacks.
Crowds of people stood around the pools, searching for and touching the names of victims sketched into the brass plates lining the pools. Key sought out a friend’s father’s name while Chris and I parted, exploring the memorial on our own. I tried getting a photo of the crowd and an officer standing and observing the crowd, the word “security” in bold print on the back of his jacket. I haven’t found that photo yet.
After soaking in the wonder and all the feelings, we left the crowd and the sunny plaza for Chelsea Market. We got happy hour beers and ate an early, damn good dinner inside the market. The sun was setting at this point. We walked a short stretch of High Line, watching the ships on the river before walking through Greenwich Village.
The neighborhood was as charming as could be. In the dark we passed corner restaurants lit by warm candlelight and full of friends drunk on wine. People with really nice shoes walked their little dogs. And the stoops and oversized wooden front doors?! What? No biggie. Except we were walking through a movie. And I was Carrie Bradshaw. No. Can I be Shoshanna? Either way, we were famous for at least four blocks. We were off to Smalls, a small basement jazz club to watch Key’s Italian uncle Ralph play the saxophone. Like I said. Not a normal day.
When we arrived to Smalls, we took a crowded seat near the front of the room. Ralph and his band jazzed the small humble crowd to oblivion. They closed their eyes and swayed in their chairs, cheeks rosy from their drinks. Key danced in her seat and tapped her fingers and toes to her favorite, familiar songs. Key told us a story of how her grandparents met, playing in a band, and explained her uncle and father (also a jazz musician) grew up playing jazz. Also not a big deal, just the most romantic thing ever.
After the show, we met Ralph and he wished us a relaxing rest of our stay in NYC. Key took us to a dark hoodlum bar and we talked about embarrassing drunk moments. Roxy graciously picked us up from the train station when we arrived back in Valley Stream, and took us home for our deep slumber.
On our last day in New York, Chris and I ventured out on our own so Key could stay back and catch up on life. We walked to the train station as we had the past two days, but instantly aware this time of being on our own. Unsure at first which train to take, we figured it out and sat pretty on our last train into the city.
As we rode closer, two women sat across the aisle from us. They were strangers, both seemingly on their way to work. One woman had her feet up on the seat across from her, the other sitting next to the woman’s feet. She furrowed her brows and said to the other, “Can you move your foot?” The woman didn’t hear, so she said it louder. Startled, the woman lowered her feet and said, “yeah, sorry.” I was startled. How cranky. Or was it? Was that cranky? Or was that just called honesty? We were already feeling claustrophobic after two days. It seemed living in NYC meant literally vying for space, giving potentially very good reason for being forthright. I thought about my daily routine, the space I receive, and how often I don’t need to be uncomfortably close to a stranger. I was thankful for my space. So sorry, New York. It’s not you. It’s me.
We took the subway again into Brooklyn. All the hipsters got off at once, which is how we knew where we were, in Williamsburg. We wandered in search of a breakfast place. We found Reynard, a gorgeous space with the hippest of hipsters.
Wide wooden planks covered the high ceilings. And yes, there were brick walls with large, arched windows. Behind the dark wooden bar were distressed mirrors the size of the entire wall. Under our toes were the tiniest hexagonal tiles making mosaics across the room. Our waiter approached in parachute pants, a button up with little bicycles and round Harry Potter eyeglasses. A woman at the bar sat with her back to us. Under her ponytail, at the back on her neck, I spotted a small tattoo of a rose under a glass dome, Beauty and the Beast style. On the menu I found a blueberry cake donut (WHAT?!) Was this my haven? But alas, they were fresh out of my donut. We sat drinking cold water, pleased to be out of the heat and resting our toes once again.
After we ate, we took to the Brooklyn Brewery.
At the entrance, a man sat behind a desk with signs for purchasing drink tokens. Picnic tables flanked the sides of the room and in the far right corner a projector streamed a video of Bob Ross painting a waterfall. Indeed, it was the most Brooklyn thing we had seen yet. We exchanged our tokens for beers and shared a picnic table with other tourists, planning our next move. When our pints were empty, we walked towards an open-air market a few blocks away.
A man in a maroon Subaru outback passed by slowly. All his windows were down and he sang unabashedly to some 80’s song for all to hear. At the market were art vendors, yard games, hammocks, and a tent with cool misting water from hoses above. I stayed mostly under the tent while Chris photographed the lot.
It was time to head to the Brooklyn flea, of which we called an Uber for. Because Brooklyn is serious. And I mean in size. If it was considered a city, instead of a neighborhood, it would rank within the top 5 most populous cities in the country. That’s what Wikipedia says at least. Google it.
We stood there under the massive Brooklyn Bridge in front of a crowded street lined with colorful tents. We were in our spot–our happiness–surrounded by junk and jewels, and of course food. We ate and we poked around. I knew I needed to splurge on something or I’d hate myself for being a cheap-ass. Under a large archway of the bridge, I spotted a worn leather black purse hanging among other oddities. Hey, guuuuuurl. Yea, I bought that shit.
Chris and I ordered food and sat under the bridge taking shelter from the rain clouds. I sat slurping on dumplings of some sort while Chris ate pulled pork and mac’n’cheese. He then walked around snapping shots of the bridge and the water, the skyline of Manhattan in the background. Taking in one last view, we thanked the city for its grit and glory and started the trek back.
We exited the subway at a different spot than before, and somehow found ourselves a little lost in what seemed to be non-hipster Brooklyn. “Look natural” I told Chris. We went up and down a block maybe three times? So I think the neighborhood knew. Shhhh. We DID find our way, however. We sat under the covered benches of the train station above the city streets. More and more commuters joined us on the platform, seeking shelter from the rain.
The train took us one last time into Valley Stream. Key made us a yummy quinoa and chicken dinner. The three of us sat snuggled on her parents couch eating and watching Fixer Upper as we waited for the clock to read 6:00pm. When it was time, Key drove our tired butts through the rain and kissed us goodbye at the curb of JFK. The last hour or two of our trip we sat at the crowded terminal, vying for charger space and feeling guilty enough to share when families started sitting on the floor. I sat and wrote about our highlights, hoping not to forget the simple details and all the feels. I looked around at the crowd. Because why would we have space? This was New York City after all…
Day 4 pictures ↴
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