Two girls who hadn’t seen each other in two decades. Two and half days. Twenty and a half miles on foot. One big city checked off: explored and experienced. That was my trip to New York.
I was really struggling through a rough patch. One thing led to another and before I knew it, my friend Sherry and I had hatched a plan for a girls’ getaway. I flew to Raleigh to meet her and we spent a quiet evening downtown catching up on over twenty years and two lives that had gone in many directions since our days in middle school band! When we boarded the plane bound for New York the next day, she let me have the window seat because, unlike me, it wasn’t her first time to fly into the city. My smile was wide as my eyes darted left and right, waiting for the first glimpses of New York from the tiny windows of the aircraft. When we touched down at La Guardia we looked at each other and smiled even more, completely excited, but also anxious.
Our trip from the airport to the hotel was my first-ever ride in a taxi. It was nothing like the movies, which is probably good since I watch a lot of action movies where taxis are in high-speed chases and in danger of flipping over at any moment. Instead, it was just a pleasant ride through the city. Yes, the traffic was heavy, but it was actually less harrowing than driving through Miami during rush hour. We quickly settled into our hotel room and then changed shoes, checked our map, and headed out.
With just one stop for dinner, we walked for 7 1/2 hours! Our goal was to get our bearings, figure out where the main attractions were, and take in as much as we could. Oh, how we did that! On our first walk we swung by Madison Square Garden, the Empire State Building, Bryant Park, Rockefeller Plaza, Broadway, Times Square, and so much more. We definitely looked like tourists. We looked up… a lot. We smiled, said excuse me, and apologized for bumping into people… a lot. We stayed on the sidewalks and dutifully obeyed the walk/don’t walk signs. We waited patiently for the little man to tell us when to cross the street and the big orange hand to tell us to stay put! We also made our pilgrimage to a mecca for readers: the New York Public Library. We stared in awe and wonder at the beautiful entrance and walked up the stone steps, past the lions guarding the way. We whispered, of course, as we walked the hallowed halls and peered into rooms where people were studying and writing and reading. We had talked about the Library before ever going on our whirlwind adventure and it did not disappoint. Two authors, two bookworms, two bibliophiles: completely happy!
Our first stop on day two was the Empire State Building. As fans of the movie, Elf, we quoted Buddy as we made our way to the entrance and up to the top. The views were spectacular! I was atop the very place where King Kong roared as planes buzzed by, trying to shoot him down! There are moments in life when you realize how small you are, what a tiny piece of a colossal puzzle your life is. Standing at the top of the Empire State Building gives you that sense. As I gazed down at all the skyscrapers surrounding us and the microscopic people below, the itty bitty cabs and cars and buses making their way through the maze of streets, I was struck with that sense of wonder at how many lives are being lived all over the world and how many are intersecting each day, sometimes for the briefest of moments and other times, when we’re lucky, for a lifetime. I was amazed and grateful.
We walked and walked again, covering miles of ground. We walked to Central Park and saw the Plaza Hotel, wandered over to Columbus Circle and met a friend for lunch at a diner. We took a tour of the Museum of Modern Art, impressed and also disturbed by artwork. Our feet took us down Fifth Avenue and back to Rockefeller Plaza where we took in the tree again in all its glory. We watched people skate and shop and saw Christmas lights sparkle and cameras flash like twinkling lights from all directions. Another friend met us at a wonderful wine bar and we caught up again on life and its twists and turns, laughing and sharing where our paths had taken the three of us since graduating all those years ago. Our last stop of the night was the Gershwin where we saw Wicked, the show I’d been waiting for years to see. It was fabulous and there was only a slight moment of regret that Brian and I had been unable to see it together when he bought tickets for us back in April in Denver. He was simply too sick to go by the time the date rolled around and I couldn’t bear to go without him. He would have loved it, but I know he was happily looking down on us and very excited that I’d taken what was, for me, a huge step and gone on a little adventure. Afterward we walked back to our hotel, reliving the evening and the day. Splendid. More than that, really, but splendid will have to do.
Our final day in New York was our biggest one. We had to fit in as much as possible! We were determined to see every sight we could… our feet had no idea what we had in store for them. During our nearly 10 miles + two subway rides, we took in: half of Central Park, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Natural History Museum, Top of the Rock, Washington Square, Gramercy Park, Grand Central Terminal, more of Times Square and the Theater District, and Broadway Comedy Club. A friend was performing there and the thought of someone pursuing a dream like that in a city like that is pretty inspiring. Washington Square was, I’ll admit, a happy accident… I cannot read a subway map very well! Our feet begged us to hail a cab on the way back to the hotel and we decided we should “just because.” As we drifted off to sleep, thoroughly enjoying the sounds of the city that never sleeps, we talked about how good the trip was for both of us, how scared we had been to do it on our own, and how much we had learned about ourselves and each other. I’ll never forget Sherry thanking me for going along and letting her enjoy the city through my eyes. Wow! For me, going to New York was huge. I didn’t have my safety net: someone to take care of me and all the details, and just let me tag along.
It turned out to be two single, clumsy, directionally-challenged, but adventurous girls taking an unforgettable whirlwind trip to NYC… and succeeding in having an amazing time. By the time we left, we still looked up… a lot. We still smiled… a lot. But we pushed our way through when we needed to and learned that sometimes it’s perfectly okay to walk before the man says you can and keep going when the big orange hand says not to. And you don’t have to wait on the sidewalk. You step out of where it’s comfortable and just go with the flow.
Stepping Out = Joy