As I type, I’m sitting on a plush couch at the Long Island home of my lovely roommate Casey. We have neared the end of one of the best weeks of my life – Spring Break 2013. My friend Natalie and I have had the extreme privilege of going home with Case and spending the week at her home. Our adventures this last week have been innumerable. Allow me to recount a few of them for you.
DAY 1 : SATURDAY::THE GETTING THERE
We spent the entire day Saturday driving. Well…Natalie and Casey drove. I made myself a bed in the backseat and drifted in and out of slumber for hours, awakening at rest stops and occasionally, disoriented, during the drive. Casey got Spotify Premium for the occasion (sorry Spotify, as much as we would love to have you, we’re cancelling after the free month trial ends, we’re poor college kids). We blasted tunes ranging from Carrie Underwood’s latest to the beloved Paper Route album “The Peace of Wild Things”. At one point we stopped off at a gas station in the middle of nowhere Pennsylvania. I had just woken up, so I practically stumbled in to use the restroom. Lo and behold, there were a group of guys inside standing around talking about how they didn’t get high enough on their last trip. Because I was so disoriented, I missed this conversation. Natalie and Casey filled me in later. That gas station will forever be known as sketchy in our minds. We traveled through New Jersey, Casey maneuvered us expertly onto the island, and we arrived at the Morrone household that evening. Her family is lovely. We enjoyed delicious grandma pizza (I literally inhaled it) and slept contentedly…knowing what was to come in the next few days would be both insane and incredible.
DAY 2: SUNDAY::THE EXPLORATION
We awoke early Sunday morning to head into the Big Apple…New York City. With the intention of visiting the library first, Casey’s dad dropped us off in the middle of the city. I was confronted suddenly with the overwhelming feeling of being very, very small. Huge skyscrapers towered around me. The city bustled with life. People from every background hustled past us as we walked briskly through sidewalk traffic. The wind whipped through the streets. I felt my heart swell. We walked past vendors selling nuts, magazines, candy, newspapers. Hoards of pigeons clustered together on the sidewalk, completely unaware and unafraid of their surroundings. We made our way to the giant stone steps of the library and walked to the huge front doors. Unfortunately, the library opened later in the day, so we didn’t get to make it inside. We did, however, take a lovely picture in front of well-known giant stone lions that appear to guard the entrance. We took off next to Times Square. Standing in the middle of buildings I have seen on television for years and years felt surreal. We saw the New Year’s eve ball, which was surprisingly small compared to the larger-than-life way they show it on Dick Clark’s.
I stood in the middle of a flock of pigeons. For no particular reason. We ventured into the giant Toys R Us, looking in awe at the multitude of Barbie dolls and Statue of Liberty constructed entirely out of Legos. The M&Ms store called my name, and I made myself a custom bag (I picked out all the colors by hand) of the delicious little chocolates. I paid $8 for 3/4 lb, but it was entirely worth it. That little bag of M&Ms traveled with me all around New York City and I dipped into it often during our adventures. It was like my drug.
We saw everything on Sunday. We saw Rockefeller Center, which reminded me immediately of Catcher in the Rye. I kept thinking about Holden Caulfield and all the places he visited while on his spree in New York City. Casey’s a huge fan of Catcher too, so we had moments of nerdy glee as we passed places mentioned in the book. We also rode the subway. Natalie and I had never ridden before…but we both loved it so much. I loved the hurried-ness of the passengers, the way the doors closed freakishly quickly and you needed to get on within 3.5 seconds or you were getting left behind. I loved the velocity with which the subway took off, that you would need to hold on with at least one hand or you would go flying horizontally towards the back. I never sat down in the couple of times we took the subway. I was always standing. It gave me such a rush…no lie. I get my thrills in cheap ways.
We then proceeded to visit the Met, The Metropolitan Museum of Art. We saw their current exhibit, a show on Fashion, Modernity, and Impressionism, and then ventured to my personal favorite genre of artwork: Modern Art! (no one else likes modern art…I stand alone). Modern art gets a bad rep because abstract paintings that appear, as some would say, “so simplistic a three year old could have painted it…accidentally”, but I believe modern art is a lot more than simple abstract paintings. I won’t rant. I will say this, however: modern art’s relativistic outlook on the confusing nature of life leaves a lot of room for interpretation…and I love that about it.
Surprisingly, my favorite piece I saw at the Met wasn’t modern art. It was photography – a montage of photos taken from Google Map stills, a series of pictures from around the country, usually of pieces of road with the sun coming up on the horizon. Looking at that collection of pictures was like looking at a mirror. In this stage of life, all I can think about and all my friends and I dream about is getting away. Seeing the world. Travelling the country. We love driving. We love visiting new places. That collection of Google Map stills was like a portrait of my friends and I. It was a still of my life right now.
We walked from the Met through Central Park, which was surprisingly unadorned (I don’t know why I was expecting a park to be adorned…) compared to what the movies made it out to be. It was so peaceful walking through the uncluttered park. People strolled by with their dogs, bikers ripped through using bike lanes carving up the grass. We saw the New York skyline through the trees and took a second to take a picture and marvel at the crazy beauty. A park within the country’s biggest city. What a genius idea.
Our quick trip through Central Park got us close to Tim Keller’s church, where we went that evening to hear him speak. We got lucky – Tim Keller does a “luck of the draw” kind of thing when he preaches, only speaking at 4/5 services. He spoke about the inclusive and the exclusive nature of the Gospel. He put a twist on the story of Phillip and the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40), raising points I’d never thought of before.
We got dinner at a Thai restaurant. The vegetable dumplings I got were so delicious. First time trying Thai = complete success.
DAY 3: MONDAY:: SOBER REFLECTIONS AND MEANINGFUL WANDERINGS
We spent Sunday night in a hotel. The World Trade Center hotel. More specifically, the 11th floor, in a room with a huge window overlooking the two huge pools where the Twin Towers once stood. Sunday night I was so overwhelmed with sadness looking out on the gaping holes in the ground that I needed to physically turn away and occupy myself with something else to feel better.
When we woke up Monday morning, the first thing on our to-do list (after grabbing some delicious Dunkin’ Donuts for breakfast) was to visit the 9/11 Memorial. In the light of the morning sun, we could see what we couldn’t the previous night – the pools were huge fountains – water was streaming down from the outside rim of the square holes and into a seemingly unending center hole. When visited the memorial, after getting through the seemingly unending security checks (and after feisty little North Dakotan Natalie got her knife confiscated), we three stood somberly on the edge of the deep holes, just staring out at the vast pits in front of us. Looking into those pools felt like looking into a never-ending vortex. I felt empty watching the water swirl around the bases of what used to be the North and South towers. I looked at the names etched on all sides of the memorial and felt sad in the deepest parts of my spirit. But what I really took away from my time at the memorial was the beauty of the Survivor Tree. Near the base of the North Tower memorial stood a pear tree. This tree was standing at the time of September 11, 2001, and after the collapse of the towers was left a barely alive charred stump. After being nursed back to health, the tree began growing again. We could see, as we looked at it that day, the exact place where the tree had stopped growing and had begun again. It was a beautiful reminder that scars can heal but never truly disappear. We will never forget. I walked away from the 9/11 Memorial thinking repeatedly “Our God makes beautiful things out of the dust“.
We then took to the streets, just the three of us. It was incredible walking through the streets of New York City with two of my best friends by my side. I felt like we could take on the world. We stopped in Trinity Church, which I quickly walked through with my (completely illegal) black Dunkin’ Donuts coffee. We wanted to see where the final scenes from National Treasure were filmed.
As we strode down street after street, we started to get really hungry for lunch. We passed a place called Champ’s and I was completely intrigued by its authentic New York deli feel, so we went inside. We were greeted by an overwhelming amount of hungry New Yorkers in a small little restaurant. The atmosphere was hurried and friendly. The question wasn’t what was on the menu. The question was what WASN’T on the menu – literally, this place had everything. Salads, a grill, a deli, pastries…I was in heaven. The men behind the counter spoke with accents and kindly asked us what we wanted and soon we were swept into the craziness. I feasted delightedly on a veggie burger and a pumpkin muffin as we sat in three stools looking out over the street. I would recommend Champ’s to anyone. Incredible. Delicious. Friendly. Happiness.
We took the subway again (YES!!) to SoHo. What a sick place – high end stores on beautiful paved streets, we strolled through that place like we were on top of the world. We popped in store upon beautiful store, staring at all the clothes we would never in our lifetimes be able to afford. We went into an Alexander Wang boutique and were immediately stunned into silence. The place was unbelievable. A plush hammock hung from the ceiling. Clothes with tailoring unlike you’ve ever seen adorned the store’s few racks. Un. Real.
Casey took us into a dress store that literally look my breath away. You walked in, and all you saw were huge racks, one on the left side, and one on the right side, of beautiful designer dresses. It was the elegantly simple, stunningly beautiful red dress in the window that caught my eye, however. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more lovely dress in my entire life.
After excessive amounts of window shopping, we ventured along the streets of SoHo until we found a brick street with literally no traffic. The stores along the street looked closed to the world, most of the buildings appeared abandoned. So we took pictures. In the road. As the sun set. Taking those pictures with Nat and Case, feeling like we were the queens of New York city, was my favorite part of the day.
That night we ventured back into Manhattan to visit the huge 8-story Macy’s. We also hit up DSW’s – where we each tried on a different pair of 7 3/4 inch Betsey Johnson spiked heels and took one of my favorite pictures from the trip. In Macy’s we pulled the elf stunt (took the escalator with our feet extended in a lunging position) and went all the way up the 8 floors. They have the original wooden escalators in Macy’s! How cool is that?
Pizza in an authentic New York pizzeria.
Monday was great.
DAY 4: TUESDAY:: JUST FORGET THE WORLD
Tuesday we slept in. For a while. Til 2pm. How can you blame us? We literally traipsed all over New York City for 2 days straight. So we took a load off. We visited the beach.
Lovely light blue water. Sandy beaches. Natalie, Casey and I found this collection of huge rocks jutting out into the water and climbed on them to our heart’s content. I spread out on one of them and closed my eyes. Natalie, plucky as I’ll get out, decides to venture all the way out to the end of the rocks – some 20 feet into the water. None of us were wearing the right shoes to climb on rocks partially submerged in water, but Natalie was determined. She made it out really far. And then she saw that there was a five foot gap between where she was and where she wanted to be. And she attempted the leap. She ended up with a soaking wet butt and Case and I got a huge kick out of our little North Dakotan 🙂 Love you Natalie.
It was so peaceful just sitting there on the water. I felt like all the stress of the past few weeks of school literally melted away and all I could feel was peace. It was just us, the water, the sunshine, and the sea gulls.
DAY 5: WEDNESDAY:: HOMEWORK
This is the day we are still trying to forget.
DAY 6: THURSDAY:: SHOPPING. AND MORE SHOPPING.
I am officially a Maxxinista. I blame my fashionable roommate. Casey hails TJ Maxx as the go-to store for designer stuff at discount prices. I don’t think I’ve had a better day of shopping in my life. I beat the system so many ways shopping on Thursday…I would buy a pair of shoes at TJ Maxx for $25 and then go to DSW and see the same pair of shoes for $40. I felt accomplished on many levels. I still spent way too much money. I just don’t feel bad about it.
DAY 7: FRIDAY:: SEA TOWNS
Today we got the deluxe tour of Long Island, in all its beauty. We visited Northport and walked around its lovely, quaint streets. We fell in love with a beautiful antique store – Natalie and I got lost in the very back room looking through a huge tub of $3 jewelry pieces. Nat and I salivated over the most beautiful jewelry I’ve ever seen in my life locked behind glass cases – necklaces princesses would literally lined the place. We saw pocket watches that made us swoon. We are old souls trapped in the bodies of 19 year olds.
We also visited Huntington and Cold Springs Harbor. Both were ridiculously sweet and quaint and just made you happy driving through.
I absolutely love New York. I don’t care what anyone says, the people are so sweet. They are professional, they will cut you off in traffic and honk at you if you so much as flinch, they will push past you on the street if you’re moving too slow for their liking, and they will most certainly utilize sarcasm as an art form in your presence. But…New Yorkers are friendly people. I loved talking to those I got a chance to talk to. When someone smiled at me on the street my hope in the world was renewed. New York is truly the Big Apple. Tough on the outside, sweet on the inside.
Sorry to write a novel. New York is worth it.