I Made It There, So Now I Assume I Can Make It Anywhere

This is a repost from 2009, the last Spring break Spawn and I spent together. This month is his last "real" semester in college (he has two classes to take this summer to finish), and next week is his last Spring break. It all made me think of this trip. I never had more fun with him.

Flight landed twenty minutes early. EARLY. That’s never happened to me. The new Indianapolis airport is empty (feels a little like it's throwing a party and nobody's arrived). And clean and nice. Shelves in the bathroom stalls for your stuff. At LaGuardia, the ground transportation counter woman called my shuttle reservation number three times while I wasn’t paying attention. She finally came up to me and asked, “1017?” loudly in my face to get my attention. Thanks to her, we got right on the shuttle to the hotel. I can’t say enough positive things about the Westin Times Square. We were upgraded. Had a southern view above 42nd Street so I could watch all the people going to work and home again at the 42nd Street Port Authority Bus Terminal. It was perfect. Quiet. Completely non-smoking and renovated. Big rooms for the city. Ideal location for us. Nice, helpful people. Fast and yummy room service. Super lathery soap (very important).

Day One: Walked up 8th Avenue a hair and stopped for a Nathan's hot dog, kept walking to Columbus Circle to the Barnes and Noble on Broadway. Walked through Central Park (stopping to rest at the skating rink and listen to a sax player under a bridge) to Park Avenue and over to Lexington for the heck of it. Walked back to 5th Avenue to the Plaza Hotel (shame on you Plaza Hotel owners for the horribly stained carpet at the 5th Avenue entrance) and sat in the lobby for a minute or two. Walked down 5th Avenue to see the stores. Sat in Saint Patrick’s Cathedral, awestruck by the ceilings and the windows and the altars. Lit a candle and said a little prayer. Austin dipped his fingers in the holy water and gestured the sign of the cross. (I laughed at him, of course, because he makes fun of me for any sign of faithfulness. He minimized it all by saying, “It’s magic. I’m not going to turn down magic.”) Walked to Rockefeller Center where I could’ve stayed all afternoon. Found the Magnolia Bakery by accident (the whole trip was full of “where is X, we need to look for X” only to turn around or walk a few steps and find it) and stopped for chocolate butter-cream cupcakes. Walked back to 42nd Street and the hotel for a “barking dogs break”. Had a nice dinner at Shula’s in the hotel, and then walked around Times Square a bit to see the lights at night.

Day Two: Caught a cab to the Flatiron Building, then NYU and Washington Square Park. Walked through Greenwich Village and SoHo (where I swear I could live even though Austin thinks not). Caught a cab to the WTC site. Walked to Wall Street (Austin’s favorite part). Caught a cab to Katz’s Deli in NoHo for lunch. Saved room for a walk to Chinatown and a dumpling sample. Or two. Walked along Canal Street and bought a tote bag, some tourist crap and a fake Dolce and Gabbana purse for Katie, my lovely dog/house-sitter and really good friend of Austin’s. Caught a cab back to Times Square where we got Junior’s Cheesecake supplies and went to the hotel for a late room-service dinner.

Day Three: Snow?! Luckily, it stopped by 10am. Walked to Grand Central Station (now we know what’s at the beginning of Damages each week) and the Chrysler building. Caught a cab to Pier 78 for the NY Waterways Harbor Tour (Brooklyn Bridge, Manhattan Bridge, Statue of Liberty (and up-close, too!), Governors Island, Ellis Island, etc.). Walked back (wanted to take a cab, but the Empire State Building looks close until you start walking towards it when it gets farther away each block – glad we did, though, because we saw a lot on the way) to the Garment District, Penn Square/Station, Madison Square Garden, Macy’s, the New Yorker Hotel and finally the Empire State Building Observatory. Caught a cab to the United Nations Building, then another to the hotel for another “barking dogs break”. Got dressed up for a dinner at Keen’s Steakhouse for the best Porterhouse steak and creamed spinach and crab cakes I’ve ever had, even though it was unnerving being the only woman among twenty men my age in the Teddy Roosevelt Bull Moose Room. Caught a cab to the hotel and one last Times Square at night experience.

Memory One: I remember waking up in the middle of the night between Day Two and Day Three and remembering where I was and thinking “Oh god, I have to do NYC again tomorrow”. My back hurt on Day Two but was fine by Day Three, and I didn’t want to leave by Day Four. But leave we did.

The shuttle to LaGuardia drove by the Ed Sullivan Theater where Late Night with David Letterman is taped and took a back route through Queens, so we got to see some of that area complete with a just-opening flower and fruit market. Perfect flight back to the still empty Indianapolis airport.

Memory Two: Austin seeing Times Square for the first time and saying, “This reminds me of Tokyo.” The bastard. :)

Memory Three: Waiting on the shuttle back to LaGuardia in the first floor bell captain area, I learned that there can be as much happening on the 5am side of darkness as there is on the 9pm side. Four scary-looking men – two had huge hoods on hiding their faces – walked up to the glass at the hotel window right by us. One hit the glass as hard as he could. Then, they headed for the revolving door to enter. One of the security guys immediately picked up his walkie-talkie-thingie and said something like “21 to dispatch. Backup. Standby.” One of the bellmen, in his full-length black overcoat, sped over to them all Breakfast Club Judd Nelson / Matrix like and stuck to them like glue until they acted right and left. Then, the Matrix bellman came over to apologize to me and asked if I was alright. Big brown eyes, dark hair and complexion, full-length black coat and a New York accent asking if I was okay. I damn near fell out of the chair and faked a dizzy spell. When the shuttle came 16 minutes late, said bellmen took our bags before I was thinking straight and told the driver, “You’re 16 minutes late. You told her 5:30. You shouldn’t make the lady wait.” I had to hold onto the door for support. This was a New York highlight for me. I loved every minute of the whole trip, but this was an unexpected mama bonus and all it took was a few hoodlums and a 5am wakeup call.

  • Best pre-trip purchase: Cross-body tiny purse
  • Personal space violations: One in the cupcake line by a man who should’ve been in the cookie line and one on the NY Waterways boat trip by a middle-aged father who was narrating over the tour guide to his family
  • Mother vs. son street fights: Six, but fairly clean and inconspicuous (usually caused by Austin saying “Mom!”, me saying “What?”, him turning away from me to point to and explain something, then me saying, “I can’t hear you when you talk in the other direction”, then him saying, “Then you need to listen”, then me trying to explain why I can’t hear him and him getting mad that I might be anywhere near pointing out an error).
  • Lessons learned: Study your East River and Hudson River locations before getting mad at any cab driver. Austin and I can still crack each other up. And keep moving in Times Square.
  • Next time: Ellis Island, the MoMA and the burroughs
  • Final tally: Three pounds lighter (despite eating my way through town) replaced with an increased level of wanderlust that might be harder to work off.

All in all: Happy dog. Happy spring-breaker. Happy mama.