Family life

I love New York

Tracy tells all about her amazing NYC trip, which included an arrest, some great girl-time and so much more

By Tracy Chappell
I love New York

Tracy in front of the Italian restaurant

What is it about New York that is so exciting? If I had told you I was flying off to Phoenix to a conference, I know it wouldn’t have had quite the same impact. The idea of going to New York City makes everyone all tingly with anticipation, but maybe that’s because the city never fails to disappoint.

I act like I go to New York City a lot. But I’ve only been there once before — in 1995. I went with a group of friends and did the whole Times Square on New Year’s Eve thing, which was quite the experience. Not something I’d ever do again, unless I was in one of those warms skyscrapers overlooking the melee, but it was very memorable.

So we landed around noon on Thursday and made our way downtown by shuttle, found our hotel, and tried to make a quick plan so we could make the most out of our remaining 48 hours, most of which were gobbled up by the purpose of our trip, the BlogHer Writers’ Conference.

There was a cocktail reception at six, so we decided to get our hair blown out so we could go shopping and not have to leave so much time to get ready for the evening. This was my friend Jenn’s idea, I never would have thought of doing that. Then we did a little shopping (Jenn is much more familiar with NYC, so I just followed her around). One shop was incredibly crowded, so as Jenn stood in line to buy her cool new boots, I decided to wait out front so I could watch people. New York people.

So I’m standing there beside the door to the store, my back against the wall, just people-watching. Then I notice a trio of guys sort of huddled together on the sidewalk, moving together very slowly towards the wall just a few feet beside me on the other side of the store’s doorway. The guy in the middle starts shouting “I didn’t do nuthin! I didn’t! Whatcha doin??” And the other two guys very slowly, calmly, but firmly smoosh this guy into the wall face first, speaking very quietly but intensely to him. My eyes fly open. I have no idea what’s going on. Should I be intervening? Is this guy in trouble? More people are slowing down to watch but nobody says anything and I keep thinking of all those YouTube videos where bystanders just let bad things happen. Then out come the handcuffs and they’re cuffing this guy as he’s hollering, then Jenn pops out of the store between me and them, all smiles, showing off her cool boots. We gallop away as I tell her I’ve just seen a guy get arrested beside me. Oh, New York!

I bought some funky sunglasses, and some kitten mittens for the girls, and we just wandered around just soaking it all in, before realizing we’d better start getting ready for the reception. In an extremely smart move, I made us stop to pick up sandwiches because I don’t think we’d eaten and I knew alcohol would be involved in the evening’s plans. This turned out to be an extraordinarily smart move.

People who know me might think I don’t like wine because I don’t drink it often, but quite the opposite is true. I love wine. But it also has this horrible ability to make me blank out on all conversations if I’ve had more than about three glasses. We started out ordering a mixed drink, but it was so strong I couldn’t drink it and then I uttered these fatal words: “Why don’t we have a glass of wine?”

We had no plans to have more than a couple of drinks here, so I wasn’t worried. But I’ll understate this by saying I drank a little too much on our first night in New York because, truly, I love wine. This probably isn’t good when you’re trying to schmooze with people in a career-building and information-gathering kind of way. I do remember having a lot of fun and good conversations, though please don’t quiz me on the content of said conversations. At least I know never to do this unless I’m with people I know will take care of me.

We woke up the next morning and I was kicking myself because we had to get to the conference for eight o’clock — the conference that could play a role in my destiny — and I was so hungover. Dumb, dumb. Jenn said, “Thank God you made us eat! Can you imagine?” After many glasses of water, a good breakfast and an early-morning Diet Coke, I was OK and had a very good time at the conference.

Then already, it was our last night in New York. When the conference ended, we jetted over to the half-price ticket booth in Times Square to find a play to attend. So many of the big shows were musicals, and ones that have been in Toronto, so I’m thrilled we went for the off-Broadway Love, Loss and What I Wore — we saw that Nora Ephron was one of the writers and figured it would be good. And tickets were only $35.

Hungry again, we hustled back to the hotel and checked to see if this lovely Italian restaurant just beside us was able to take us for dinner. “Do we have room for two?” the man at the front said, rhetorically, with a thick Italian accent. “Do we have room for two!” He guided us through the dimly-lit restaurant full of character and exposed brick, squeezing through tightly-packed tables, a piano player, and people leaving full of thanks. It was so Billy Joel, I loved every moment of it. We splurged on creamy, delicious pasta and drinks. Jenn’s friend (who used to live here, but boldly moved to NYC last year) joined us. She also came to join us the night before, but I don’t remember a whole lot of that. She laughed at us. “Everyone does that on their first night in New York — everyone!” she told us.

Then it was on to the play. It was in this intimate little theatre, so there was no craning or squinting to see anything. It stars a rotating cast of fabulously talented women. On our night, it starred: La La Anthony, Dee Hoty, Samantha Mathis, Zuzanna Szadkowski (who stole the show, I think), and Concetta Tomei.

I have a hard time describing the play. It was just five women on a stage, speaking lines to each other, about each other, about themselves, weaving a story about all the stages of these women’s lives — any woman’s life, really. About relationships with parents, and men and sisters and friends, and mostly, about their relationship with themselves and how it evolves over the all the years and stages of your life. And yes, it was about clothes — our loathing of them, our enjoyment of them, what you were wearing when…  I can’t put it any better than that. It’s closing its NYC run right now, and I am so grateful we caught it. You should too, if you can. I laughed out loud, and then cried. Really cried. And couldn’t stop thinking about it afterwards.

After that, we hit the humongous Toys"R"Us in Times Square that is four stories high and has a Barbie house in it,  a moving dinosaur and a Ferris
wheel, with the cars all models of famous toys — the Little People bus, a Mega Bloks car, etc. It was mind-boggling, this place. And even more so, it was filled with kids at 11 p.m.! Next up, we went to a cool Irish pub where Jenn’s friend was a regular, but couldn’t manage more than one drink and some delicious nachos. We were exhausted. We headed back to the hotel and packed 'er up for home the next morning.

I loved every too-short minute of it all, and am making a vow to get there more often. It’s not far at all and you can do it on the cheap if you want to. You can be entertained just by wandering around, and you could even just go to a cool play every night and not break the bank, and I would love to do that. But one of the best parts of the trip for me was my travelling companion, who is a pretty inspirational woman. We talked non-stop (and hardly at all about our kids!). We were incapable of shutting up even on the plane on the way back, or the hour and a half car ride home (we flew out of Buffalo because it was way cheaper). So it wasn’t just that it was nice to get away, to attend the conference, and live a little, but to enjoy some girl-time that was truly good for the soul. Thank you, JP.

Now I know why they sell “I heart NYC” shirts on every street corner. I was tempted to buy one just because I do. Maybe next time.

Read more of Tracy's adventures in New York City.

This article was originally published on Oct 29, 2011

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