For break, I was surprised with a trip to New York by family. The Christmas gift of an experience.
A few weeks back I promised myself I’d make it one day. This was after talking to a friend who made the trip for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade this year as a Marching 110 member. (Ohio University – we’re known for our marching band.)
I’d dreamed about what the big city was like. I’d already outlined the productions I wanted to see. The food I had to eat. The necessary glimpse of Central Park. Unexpectedly, I found myself immersed in my dreams mere days after my last fall semester final this month.
I flew in with my Dad and sister to Newark, New Jersey. Rented a red minivan to drive to the busy streets of midtown Manhattan. I managed to enjoy an hour of rush hour traffic, which reminded me of driving in Thailand. The same blatant disregard for personal vehicle spacing. So much rush, but the scene was intoxicatingly alive.
We stayed at the Marriot Marquis, our room on the 32nd floor overlooking Times Square. 13 days, at the time, until the New Year. A full view of the crystal ball, the Good Morning America studio, the people. The electronic billboards. It was blinding, but we left the curtains open all night.
We spent the first night noshing at the Dim Sum Palace. I enjoyed whipped soybeans and mushroom curls wrapped in steam and rice blankets. Snow pea shoots and sauteed gnocchi mushrooms dressed up in sauce. Then, dessert throughout the meal with Yellow Dragon and lychee cocktails, shots of liquor with sugared glass rims, and crunchy green tea balls.
Our full bellies took a taxi to the Neil Simon theater. CATS. One of their last performances before leaving Broadway at the year’s end after decades of success. I’d dreamed of seeing the production since I was five, watching previews for one of my favorite Disney movies. I swore I’d see it one day.
There I found myself. Sitting in the audience. Awestruck by the grace of the dancers and their feline features. Their eyes blazing. Feet tapping. The raw emotion and power in their songs.
I can’t believe I witnessed this.
The handful of minutes between the two acts, I sipped on Jack Daniels from a CATS coffee mug. My sister and I also found ourselves onstage. Stepping near the figure of Old Deuteronomy underneath a glowing moon. We faced the full audience at the lip of the stage. I was reminded faintly of theater days in high school.
After the performance, we took a bike taxi back to the hotel. Walking down the way to a Celtic pub that we’d passed 15 times over the course of the day. Fate was guiding us to visit. Shared a few glasses of Jameson and Guinness.
We hiked to Times Square. Performers and characters striding under lights bringing the light of day to crosswalks at midnight.
We shopped at the four floors of Forever 21. I introduced my Dad to the band t-shirts. He’s fallen hard for the deals offered by the brand. My sister and had a small spree at 1 am. I’ll confess I was shopping while slightly tipsy. No regrets. When in New York.
Back to the hotel for movies, leftover sticky rice and coconut cake. Finally fell asleep with the billboards as an appropriate night light.