Planes, Trains, and Taxi Cabs; Day 1 in NYC

Monday, June 23, 2014

Beep, beep… beep, beep… 2:30 AM, rise and shine!  The alarm went off far too early for this sleepy girl and her hubby, and did we even manage 3 hours of sleep?  Not likely. Does anyone truly sleep before a big trip such as this?  What with all of the thoughts flooding my brain, and checking off that “mental list”.  The four of us inhaled our breakfast, collected the last of our necessities, tossed the luggage into the trunk, and headed off for the airport.

For the last weeks, we anxiously anticipated this morning.   As is typical for me, I had my packing list written out, categorized, and checked off.   I made the best use of each carry-on bag, making certain that we would not be left high and dry if our checked bags were separated from us. And figuring we would need some snacks to sustain us during the busy days in New York, I packed a couple dozen granola bars, and a large bag of Peanut Butter M & M’s in carry on bags so they would stay an even temperature inside the plane (yes, always the chronic planner, that’s me!).

The long drive to Omaha went faster than Chris or I expected, especially considering there was construction in progress on the interstate at such an early hour.  We arrived at the airport, parked our car, and hopped onto the shuttle.  What a weird discovery to find a very wild, scared young deer running around inside the fenced-in parking lot.  There was only one entrance/exit, so how it got in there, past security, is a good question.  It was surely a sign, we were in for an adventure!

Once inside the airport, I concluded rather quickly that things had changed considerably since I’d flown some 18 years ago.  Checking bags via a kiosk seemed not only strange to me, but unnerving.  I like to think I’m pretty computer savvy, but this made me feel like an old lady using a credit card for the very first time; I had no freaking idea what I was doing! Thankfully, people are helpful, and we made it through.

When it was time to board our plane, they casually announced that our plane was small, and therefore had smaller-than-usual overhead bins for bags, so many of the carry ons would have to be checked, free of charge of course.  I panicked a little, thinking of all our “meltable” f00d that would likely be a real mess by the time we arrived at our destination.  I was relieved, albeit momentarily, when the nice lady that scanned my ticket told me she thought my carry on would fit just fine (my bag contained the goodies, of course).  With the other bags checked, we proceeded down the jetway and onto the plane.

“Small plane” was an understatement. It had just seventy-some seats for passengers, two seats on each side of the aisle.  I was trying to place my bag into the overhead bin, when it was quickly evident it was not going in.  I started to panic, just a bit, as there is a whole line of people behind us, and I had nowhere to put my bag.  Chris suggested, calmly, trying to place it under my seat.  I tried, and it was just a bit too big, it didn’t want to budge.  I’m not sure if it was by the grace of God, or my literally kicking it under there with panicked force, several times, but it did eventually go.  I also wasn’t sure if it would be coming back off the plane with me in a few hours, but it made it that far at least.  Emily’s clarinet was our one item that did fit in the overhead bin, fortunately.

Within minutes, it seemed, we were in the air, and climbing quite rapidly.  As our plane took off, Emily’s clarinet took a ride of its own.  We heard this zzzzzzzzzip…. thunk, and quickly realized her clarinet went from its spot above the guys, to the very back of the plane.  Of course this would be because hardly anyone had carry on luggage that fit, right?  The force of the take off really forced me back into my seat; this I did not like, at all!  I don’t enjoy flying, and at this point I wished to be on a slow train instead of a fast plane.  Emily, Sid, and Chris were enjoying themselves immensely, however.  This was the first time any of them had flown in a commercial airliner, and there was no doubt they were mesmerized by looking out the windows (the ones that were not aligned with the seats, whatsoever).  I, on the other hand, did better if I just didn’t focus on the windows.

I'm not sure where Emily snapped this one, I wasn't looking :-) .

I’m not sure where Emily snapped this one, I wasn’t looking :-) .

I put on my headphones, turned up my music, and tried to read.  The one article that did manage to grab my attention was in Time Life Magazine.  Does anyone remember the news in 2009 about the United Airlines Airbus that had to go down into the Hudson River after hitting a flock of Canada geese during the climb from New York’s La Guardia Airport?  Yes, that article just happened to be in one of the two magazines I bought for the flight; what are the chances?!?  Although I wasn’t truly concerned, it did manage to cross my mind as we were coming down over the Hudson River, landing at La Guardia.

Landing was even more abrupt than the take off. We were all shoved forward in our seats going, AaaAAaaahhhhh.  Okay, maybe that was just me with my mouth open, but it was a very quick stop!  And in the middle of all that, what do you know but that clarinet came back to us; zzzzzzzzzip, and stopped in its original spot above the guys, thanks to the duffel bag belonging to the guy in front of them :-).  All I could think was it must have been a very short runway!

Once safely on the ground and I managed to yank my bag from under my seat, we collected our other bags and proceeded to take our first ever taxi ride across the city.  Awkward silence surrounded us for the next 40 minutes or so.  It took nearly an hour to get to our hotel at The Hampton Inn from the airport.  Traffic was quite heavy; but for all I know, it might have been light for that time of day.  Drivers cutting each other off, honking at one another, and nearly rear-ending someone every few minutes was soon to become the new “normal” for the next week.

Arriving at our hotel. I look just a little too excited to get out of the cab I think :-) .

Arriving at our hotel. I look just a little too excited to get out of the cab I think :-) .

At last we arrived at our hotel, and there was my sister Lori, and brother-in-law FD, waiting outside to greet us.  It was so exciting meeting them in New York City!  Quickly, we dropped off our bags, and headed over to a nice little bar & grill just a half-block away.  The House of Brews had the most delicious burgers, and they ran a noon special of a burger, fries, and a beer for $10; not a bad deal at all!

Once we had satisfied our hunger, we started exploring the area on foot.  We walked through Times Square, where we saw the Naked Cowboy.  Well I had heard of him, but I certainly did not think we would see him our first day in the city.  I was awfully tempted to put a little money in his skivvies so I could get a picture with him, but I just couldn’t muster up the nerve.  So this is what you get instead; not half bad!

The Naked Cowboy

The Naked Cowboy

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Okay, so he’s not completely naked!

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Next we headed over to see where Emily would stay with her group in just a few short days; The Roosevelt Hotel.  Grand is the only word I can find that truly describes The Roosevelt, elegant might be a close second.  Everything about the lobby was beautiful, luxurious, and fine; I certainly didn’t feel we looked like we “belonged” in such a place, especially after a morning and afternoon of travel and sightseeing.

Grand Central Station, taken by Emily.

Grand Central Station, taken by Emily.

We then moseyed across the street to Grand Central Terminal.  This building was amazing, I had no idea the beauty it held.  Even the cathedral ceiling is something to marvel over with a display of the zodiac.  It was here that we purchased our Metro Passes, good for one week of riding the trains and busses.  While looking around, Lori mentioned something about our hotel being within walking distance to Carnegie Hall, and that she thought we could just as well walk there on the night that Emily was to perform.  Suddenly, I got a sinking feeling, and a wave of panic came over me.  I pulled Lori aside, and struggled to speak the words, “I don’t know if I packed the tickets!”  “What tickets?” she asked.  “THE tickets!” I retorted back with teary eyes and panicked eyebrows.  The rest of the family soon caught on that something was wrong, and I had to confess my fears to all of them; that I wasn’t sure I packed the tickets that were for the very reason we were in NYC, to see Emily perform at Carnegie Hall with the Honors Performance Series!

Big eyes, wide with surprise, surrounded me.  Lori tried reassuring me that it would be okay.  She was the purchaser of all our tickets, and she had the foresight to bring her receipt with her, along with her and FD’s tickets.  She would call the box office in the morning, and see if replacements could be printed.  In the mean time, we made tracks for our hotel and proceeded to empty every single bag and look for the tickets.  Plan B was to call home and have Grandpa break into our house, and overnight the tickets to us.  That was a logical plan, I could see, as this was only Monday and the performance wasn’t until Saturday.

We decided to make the best of our free time, and we walked over to the Empire State Building to see the skyline at dark.  What an amazing view, I truly had no idea!  We bought tickets up to the Main Deck on the 86th floor for $29 each.  You could go even higher, up to the Top Deck on the 102nd floor for another $17 per person, but we decided we were plenty high to see it all.  I would never have thought the lights of NYC would take my breath away, but the view was just spectacular!

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We traveled back to our hotel by foot; fully exhausted, with memories of the good, and the tearful, fresh in our heads.

Watch for Day Two to follow…