There is such a wealth of things to see and do in New York City. It can be really difficult to know where to go and what to do when you are so spoiled for choice. As I have been writing these entries about my first trip to NYC, I have been remembering delicious tidbits, both large and small, that made our visit there more memorable. One of my delightful moments happened all because of my reading prior to the trip. Not only did the guidebooks talk about places to stay or eat or shop, but also about how to navigate through the city. Believe it or not, Midtown Manhattan is one of the easiest places to get around if you know one simple rule: Avenues run north and south, while streets run east and west. I must have been walking around Manhattan with an aura of confidence. A New Yorker (I could tell by her accent) walked up to me on the street one day and asked if I knew how to get to a specific address. Without batting an eyelash, I told her that we were on such-and-such street, so she just need to go two blocks, take a left, and walk another block or so. Kris was impressed that after only having been in the city a couple of days, I knew exactly how to get there. I told her it was all because of reading "those boring guidebooks."
It is great, if you're away from home, to be able to watch the locals in their native habitat. There were times, walking around the city, that we could hear friends talking loudly (pretty much shouting, really) with each other. In Denver, that tone would have meant they were arguing; in NYC it simply meant that they were friends having a lively discussion. One day when we were on the outskirts of Central Park, we saw three equestrian police officers standing around having a chat. I decided to take a couple of photos, and they all broke into huge grins. "Make sure and get me in the picture, I'm the prettiest one here!" was the gist of their remarks. Which reminds me of something police-related. Rush-hour traffic in Manhattan is way smoother than in Denver, in spite of the number of cars on the street. There are white lines painted where the traffic needs to stop for red lights. If you try to push your way in and cause traffic problems by "blocking the box," you get a hefty fine. Simple, but brilliant.
We also saw, on more than one occasion, streets blocked off for filming of movies and television shows. New Yorkers take it all in stride. The busiest city in the country, and they can reroute traffic any time of the day or night and be none the worse for wear. Oh! Those tv shows you see where the sanitation workers are on the route at seven in the morning? Where we stayed, the garbage was picked up at about three in the morning. When I got home to Denver, it was too quiet for me to sleep!
One of the things we were iffy about on the trip were the optional tours of various sights and neighborhoods. We discussed the matter at some length, but finally decided we didn't care if we looked like tourists for a few hours, because we were tourists. Because of that we got to see some things that we would have completely missed otherwise. I saw a couple of my favorite things on this trip because of those tours, The Statue of Liberty, and The Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts. What can I say about Lady Liberty? I was on a boat for the first time, and my friend Kris was feeling pretty pukey, but I felt fabulous. When I got my first glimpse of the statue, I was stunned. To me, she was a symbol of all of the dreams and hardships of everyone who has struggled to come here, including my family. I didn't try to hide the tears that came from the beauty of it all, because they were not a reason to make me feel ashamed.
Another great memory is our tour of Lincoln Center. If you've ever seen the movie West Side Story, you have seen the location of Lincoln Center. The scenes of basketball games and such were filmed in an area that had been condemned. After the movie was finished filming, demolition began, and the Lincoln Center was constructed. The Lincoln Center has three major venues (as well as some smaller ones): Avery Fisher Hall, David H. Koch Theater, and the beautiful Metropolitan Opera House. Without this tour, I would never have been able to enter any of these buildings. Heck, even if I could have afforded a ticket to the Met, Kris would never have wanted to go. I barely managed to drag her to see Cats, so opera would have been completely out of the question!
I wish I had the words to describe to you the incredible beauty of these buildings that were not open for business when we were there. Their grandeur made you want to whisper as if you were in a church. A theater that is designed and constructed so beautifully can take your breath away, and I was almost like a child that has so many wonderful things going on that they can barely believe it, or absorb it. I had the great fortune, along with the others on the tour, to sit in a director's booth at the Met and watch a few moments of a dress rehearsal for one of Wagner's operas. Yes, I saw a woman onstage singing with horns on her head. It was awesome! We also were allowed to go into the theater and see the rows upon rows of beautiful seats, and the ornate moldings and balconies.
While the atmosphere made me feel that I should be quiet, some of the tour-goers had no concept of politeness or using their "indoor voices." There was no performance going on, but there was a group of hardworking individuals preparing for a performance. A man in the group asked our tour director, "Can I sit in one of these seats?" in kind of a rude, mocking way. What nerve, I thought. The tour guide smiled at him and answered, "Only if you pay for a ticket." He began to argue with her about it, which baffled me. I wouldn't have dreamed of asking such a question, and certainly wouldn't have argued about it! I was getting pretty uncomfortable with his loudness and rudeness, and then something happened that blew my mind. Someone popped up out of one of the orchestra-level seats and turned around, glaring at the offender. I was stunned to be in a group that got a dirty look from none other than Miss Beverly Sills, one of the grand ladies of American Opera, and director of the New York City Opera, and later director of the Met. And, by the way, she was still lovely, even when she was angry! We were whisked out of the theater in short order by our tour guide, because she certainly didn't want Miss Sills to be angry with her!
I know Miss Sills wasn't angry at me, and I know I did nothing wrong. I am sorry that our tour group disturbed her. But then again, how many people do you know who have indirectly gotten a dirty look from such a famous opera star?