Day Two in the Big Apple

Excited and eager tourists, we packed in lots of sightseeing, some fine dining, and Broadway plays into our second day in the city.

 

The next morning we enjoyed a good breakfast in the hotel. From eggs to bagels and lots of yummy items in-between, the Staybridge offered quite a selection. Adding to the ambience of the dining area were the background sounds of Christmas music. Plus, it’s just a little thing, but I was impressed by the bamboo fence outside the huge windows that separated the Staybridge from some apartments. Throughout the room on both mornings that we were there, there was an anticipatory feel of excitement. Everyone was upbeat and looking forward to another day in New York.

When all six of us had finally gathered, we left the hotel with tour bus tickets in hand. We purchased a two-day tour with tickets to the Empire State Building for $74 each, and we perceived that as “a deal.” I still do. The bus tours are great in that they get you around the city and give you tons of information about the sights and history of New York. Plus, you can get off and jump back on all during the day, so it’s nice to know that if you want to spend a little extra time at the South Street Seaport, then a bus will come by about every 20 minutes.  Or say, if your friends want to go to the Tenement Museum and you’re determined to walk the Brooklyn Bridge, there’s no need for concern because a bus will be by shortly. Right, Lisa?

On the way to Empire State Building, we passed a Starbucks, and a couple of the “girls” wanted some hot chocolate. While waiting for them, I spied a friend from Elgin who just happened to be walking by at that moment. How likely is that??? I darted out of the store and ran her down. She and her party united with the six of us in Starbucks for a little conversation, and before parting company, Mary took a picture of the “Southern Girls” outside of Starbucks.

Next stop, Empire State Building. Although I’d been there before, it was just as exciting this time as it was before. For anyone who wants to have the total tourist adventure, I highly recommend it. The aerial sights of the city from all angles are awesome. We loved picking out various landmarks such as Bryant Park, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Flatiron Building. We even spied some ice skaters far in the distance.

In addition, the staff there were all helpful. For instance, when we got to the area just before being allowed outside to view the city, I realized that I didn’t have my new Macy’s hat or my gloves. I shared my plight with one of the attendants who called security downstairs to check on my items, and sure enough, the hat and gloves had been put aside for me. After a few calls between security personnel, Jeanita and I were allowed to go back downstairs to retrieve the items and then reclaim our places in line.

Leaving midtown, we continued the educational bus tour until we arrived in Chinatown. Hopping off, we were immediately immersed in a different culture. Loved that! We kept on walking until we got to Mulberry Street in Little Italy. Mary remembered a restaurant, Angelo’s, where she had dined before, and we decided to eat there.  It was marvelous. White tablecloths, candlelight, Christmas decorations, and Italian music added to the delightful ambience of the restaurant, and the food was delicious too. Dining and conversing with special friends as dusk fell was a treat I’ll always remember.

Dinner complete, we headed back to the bus. On the way, we stopped for some souvenirs, mainly scarves and t-shirts. Amazingly, no one in our group wanted purses. Because of our leisurely dinner, souvenir shopping, and bus tour, we made it back to our rooms with barely time enough to change for our evening at the theatre. Two of our group went to see Wicked, and I went with the three others to see A Little Night Music. I can’t speak for the others in my group, but I LOVED it. The music, the acting, the plot, and the set were superb, and the theatre itself was beautiful.

By the time we left the theatre, we were a bit weary and decided to go back to the hotel rather than dine so late at night, especially since we knew that tomorrow would be busy, busy, busy as we tried to pack as much into our last day as possible. We simply went back to the Staybridge and had some late night conversation before settling down for a long winter’s nap.

I hope someone out there (Connie?) is enjoying this travelogue. I’ll finish it tomorrow.

Lessons from the Pride Lands

I loved loved loved seeing The Lion King in New York last week. I don’t have a vocabulary adequate to describe the music. It was that powerful. I especially enjoyed “The Circle of Life” and the number in which Rafiki is mourning the death of Mufasa. The dancing was extraordinary, and the animals…well, they were all awesome, both in how they looked and in how they performed. I almost cried with pure pleasure and awe when they first walked up on stage, especially the elephant.  Mufasa and Scar both had such deep kingly voices, and Mufasa’s roar was mighty…as was Simba’s at the end.

I could go on and on about the performance itself, but instead I’m going to share a few lessons I was reminded of during the two hour and 45 minute production (didn’t seem that long!).   

  • There’s a lot more to see than will ever be seen and a lot more to do than will ever be done. I had forgotten that these words came from “The Circle of Life.”  The statement is so true!
  • Our ancestors live in us. I love the scene in which young Simba sees his reflection in the water and thinks that it’s Mufasa. But no, it’s his own kingly image staring back at him, and someone (Rafiki I think) tells Simba that his father lives in him. I first saw The Lion King (movie) shortly after the death of my father, and the concept of our parents living in us aided in the grief process (still does). My parents live in me, my siblings, our children, and our grandchildren.
  • Like Simba, we can do two things when it comes to our past:  run from it or learn from it. Actually, there’s another thing we can do, something I see every single day of my life…stay stuck in it. Rafiki reminds Simba to to learn from it and move on.
  • There’s a lot more to being king that lording it over everyone. Leadership involves influence, the ability to see the big picture, the recognition of the interdependence of all life, and lots of other positive attributes, none of which Scar had.
  • Good conquers evil in the end. It might not be in this lifetime, but ultimately it happens.
  • Sometimes we take ourselves too seriously. I’ve been humming “Hakuna Matata” a lot lately. No worries, right?
  • We’re all in this together. The people, the animals, the water, the vegetation, and the celestial bodies all have a part to play. In fact, I learned last week that some of the elements in the stars reside in us and that they’re vital to life on earth.

I think I might rent The Lion King from Netflix today, and maybe you should do it too. So much truth, so much beauty.

New York, New York

My daughter-in-law Kelly is going to New York next weekend, and I’ve been scheming and dreaming of how and when I can go again. Until I have the money and the time, I’m going to do a little walking down Memory Lane.

The last time I went to the Big Apple was the first weekend in May. Some work chums and I had been talking about it for a while, and we decided that the weekend of graduation was the best time. Three of the group took Amtrak, and Nancy and I flew out of Charlotte. Our tickets were only $128 round trip, and we had no problems whatsoever. Well, that’s not entirely true because we had a delay of about an hour leaving Charlotte, but that’s a minor thing when you consider the reasonable cost and speedy, comfortable trip.

We stayed at Double Tree in Times Square, and one of the many things we liked about our accommodations is that they give fresh chocolate cookies to all of their guests. Yum! Sometimes little things make a big difference. After checking in, we walked to the New York Public Library and were overwhelmed with its awesomeness. Is that a word? The upstairs reading rooms had a hushed, reverent quality about themI loved picking up old tomes and reading bits and pieces of information. Afterward, Lisa, Linda, and I walked the streets gawking like a trio of exactly what we were, tourists from SC.  

I know no one is that interested in an hour by hour breakdown of our visit, so I’ll just hit the high spots beginning with the Evergreen, a neat little diner close to the hotel where we had breakfast a couple of mornings. We loved the “local color,” our French server, and reasonable prices on the excellent food.  We also enjoyed :

*The Strand, a bookstore with 18 miles of books. We were agog with the selection of books and atmosphere of the store.
*The two-day bus tour that took us on a loop all over Manhattan, complete with knowledgeable tour guides who gave us tons of  information about the city’s history and some of its famous residents.
*Chinatown and the Jobe restauarant where the dessert was “ice cream meeting with fried banana.”
*The sights, sounds, smells, and street vendors in Chinatown. We bought neat scarves and purses.
*La Mela on Mulberry Street in Little Italy.
*The South Street Seaport and the mix of people there.
*“Scarf night” at Juniors, a cool restaurant in the theatre district.
*Bryant Park and its outdoor reading room behind the New York Public Library.
 *Liberty Island and the climb to the top of the statue with Lisa and Linda.
*Ellis Island and the ambience in the great hall. I enjoyed this stop so much that I’ll probably write more about it later.
*The variety of people on the ferry to Liberty and Ellis Islands.
*Walking across the Brooklyn Bridge to Brooklyn and back to the southern tip of Manhattan.
*Seeing West Side Story with Nancy and Martha (loved the scene at the gym when Tony and Maria first see each other).  Lisa and Linda were equally impressed with Wicked.
*Being at the set of Today and having our picture made with Meredith….also with Lenny, a regular on the show.

What made the trip especially nice was traveling with such compatible, pleasant people. This is an extremely important element to consider if you’re considering a group trip. Not a harsh word was spoken, and all three nights I fell asleep hearing laughter and happy conversation.  We didn’t do everything together, and we were fine with that. Lisa, Linda, and I played the tourist role to the max while Nancy and Martha visited  museums.  

Nancy and I left the city first, and as the cab driver put our luggage in his car, he made polite conversation and asked us where we were from. When we said, “South Carolina,” he shook his head and said his wife was from there and was hinting that she wanted to move back. “It’s a great state” we assured him. “You’d enjoy living there.” We laughed at his reply. “I’m sure gonna miss her when she leaves.”

Anyone out there up for a trip to the Big Apple? I want to see The Lion King and need some pleasant, compatible travel buddies. Just say when.

Widen the Circle

Last weekend Amanda, my sweet daughter-in-law, and I were talking about changes in life, and she mentioned how much she missed Myrtle Beach and expressed the hope that they’d move back there someday. Since she and Paul both grew up in the area, I’m sure it was hard to leave family and friends for Atlanta. When Amanda mentioned that the main friends they now have are from church and work, it got me to thinking about friends and the importance of keeping the old and of making new ones. Plus, it reminded me of a quote I read by Eleanor Roosevelt last week: “The narrower you make the circle of your friends, the narrower will be your experience of people and the narrower will your interests become. It is an important part of one’s personal choices to decide to widen the circle of one’s acquaintances whenever one can.”

Being back in my hometown has occasionally thrown me into the company of friends and acquaintances from the past. It’s enjoyable to rub shoulders with those with whom I share a history, people who know my “back story.” Being around Patty and Joan Ella this past weekend reminded me of the importance of roots, memories, and a collective past.

At the same time, new friends are wonderful too. Sitting with Connie at church Sunday reinforced that. We share the same faith, ups and downs with our children and grandchildren, a love of books, an appreciation of terms like feng shui and wabi sabi, excitement over terms like Namaste, and an appreciation for the several ways one can accessorize black. A couple of other “C” friends, Carol and Cindy from Church, have also added to my enjoyment of life back in good old Camden. So have dozens of other Relief Society members. Our shared sisterhood in the gospel of Jesus Christ centers our lives and provides a sense of community and belongingness like no other…unless it’s with family.

Then there are work friends, people I’d never even laid eyes on this time seven years ago but who are now people whose conversation and company I’ve come to enjoy. Four of us are heading to New York City the day after graduation, and almost daily we discuss some little detail of our trip. Martha ordered the tickets for West Side Story and gave me mine today. Lisa and I had planned to look at the times of the ferry rides to Ellis Island, but we were interrupted by a student who needed a listening ear. Again, these people were complete strangers to me seven years ago.

On Thursday of last week my sister Ann and I went to MUSC to sit with my sister-in-law while my brother was in surgery, and while we were sitting in the fourth floor surgical waiting room, I heard someone say, “Jayne” in a soft, almost inaudible voice. I turned to see Ellen, a woman with whom I worked when I lived at the coast. Talking to her conjured up all sorts of recollections of dear friends with whom I shared so many good times during our “trying twenties” and “catch thirties.” Er, I guess we shared much of our forties too. We went through marriages, children, divorces, remarriages, disappointments, promotions, and a host of other vicissitudes of adult life. June, if you’re out there reading this, I miss you…and Ella, Elaine, Mary, Gail, Millie, Judy, Linda, Murph, and Teresa.

Last but far from least, there are my blog friends, most of whom I’ve never seen eye-to-eye but whose voices have become familiar and important to me. They’ve stimulated my thinking and broadened my horizons. At odd times, I find myself thinking about one or another of them (of you!) and wondering how a certain situation is evolving. Right now, NoSurfGirl’s little girls are on my mind.

I’ve gone on longer than I intended. Sorry about that. My purpose was to stress the importance of friends and to let Amanda know what a feast she has in store for her as she travels through her adult years. Reading E. Roosevelt’s quote and thinking about friends has encouraged me to continue widening my circle of acquaintances and friends.

Last Day in NYC

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This is absolutely the last New York entry. Classes begin Monday, and I’ve got a lot to catch up with before then. Plus, by this time next week, I’ll be pretty much snowed under with limited time for blogging.

This picture was made at Tavern on the Green, a restaurant that had been “talked up” to us by other visitors to the city. What we basically thought (and I think I speak for all of us) was that the food was overpriced and “okay.” To be quite honest, even the atmosphere was just okay, a 7 on a scale of 10. I’m sure the okay factor is at least partially because of where we were seated, in a noisy area between two dining rooms, and two of us (including yours truly) had our backs to the snazziest dining area in the restaurant. I NEVER like to sit with my back to others, and I found it especially loathsome this particular night. If I couldn’t sit in the pretty area, I’d at least like to enjoy the view.  In retrospect, maybe we should have said something about it.

Here’s what we liked best about the evening. Meal complete, we began our journey (really) to the front of the restaurant to get our coats, and when we looked outside, we saw some gently falling snow. It was lovely. When we made it outside, we were enjoying the snow so much that at first we didn’t notice that there were no taxis anywhere. None. Nada. And there were a lot of people standing out in the falling snow in the same situation…no way back to the theatre district. A man standing beside a van approached us and offered to take us for $35, and someone (not sure who) said yes. We piled in, and by the time we’d turned out of the park area, we realized that there was a stranger amongst us, a petite curly haired woman who said she saw us getting in the van and figured she’d join us. Turns out that she was a urologist who’d eaten at the tavern with fellow doctors, and she regaled us with neat information all the way back to our hotel. When we told her that we had all just turned the big 6-0, she admitted that her big birthday was coming up in 2009.

Fast forward to Sunday morning. Our limo (Joan Ella arranged this) picked us up at 10:30 sharp, and the city seemed quiet and gray as we cruised over the bridge and towards the airport. We checked our bags and found our terminal without mishap, and as I sat down to wait for time to board, I looked outside and saw snowflakes. Even though they only lasted about three minutes, I just had to call DH and let him know, and for some reason, that memory seems special…something about connections and sharing, I guess.

The trip back to NC was uneventful, and after landing in Charlotte and retrieving our bags, we headed for SC. Ah, but first we had to stop at Cracker Barrel for a light dinner. It was SO GOOD! Truly, it was one of the best meals we’d had in days, but then we’re Southern born and bred, and we enjoy corn bread and other such vittles. Leaving Charlotte, we began the long, curvy (especially HWY 97) ride home, and as we parted company at Patty’s, we decided that a good time was had by all.

None of us got to do every single thing she wanted to do. For instance, I didn’t get to visit the New York Public Library or Ellis Island. Jeanita didn’t get to go to Tiffany’s, and I don’t think Patty saw any ice skaters at Rockefeller Center. STILL, since I’ve been home, I’ve had a dozen people  tell me how much they long to go to New York. Some want to see a real Broadway show, and others have told me that it’s always been a dream to see the “beautiful lady” in the harbor.

Why did I mention the above? For two reasons: (1) If traveling to New York City is truly on your list of places to visit, do it. Seriously.  Start planning and saving today. (2) I’ve realized that I need to be more grateful. I’m fortunate to have seen and heard all the sights and sounds of my recent trip and to have done so with such good friends. It’s kind of whiny to say, “Yes, but I didn’t get to….”  So what? I got to do a lot of other things. So did we all. Ain’t life grand?

Random Pix

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I snapped these other pictures because they’re of sights not seen in my sleepy little town, and I wanted to remember that somewhere there’s an Elmo standing on a busy sidewalk. I love furry little Elmo. When I move the Elmo chair I bought for the grandchildren, he giggles and says, “Elmo loves you.” We also saw Minnie Mouse and the Tin Man standing around.

Before going inside of Macy’s, we stood staring at the decorated windows like the awe-struck tourists that we were. Look closely at this cool picture, and you can see Judy’s face reflected in the tree. Her nose has an ornament on it.

I’ve been  taking my Macy’s bag to work this week. I didn’t want to use it for fear of getting it dirty or worn looking, but then I thought, “What in the heck am I saving it for?” It’s black and gray with gold and gray stars all over it. When Jeanita and I bought them, we talked about how they’d remind of the Christmas season and the star over Bethlehem, the “stellar” qualities that all women have, and the hustle and bustle of Macy’s itself. I love it…just like I loved the time in Macy’s.  A young Korean couple took our picture, and I took one of them and their sweet baby. We rode the escalator to the top just so we could say we rode the wooden ones, and we did a little shopping too.

Speaking of shopping, we looked all through Macy’s for just the right scarves to take back to family in SC, but none were just what I was looking for.  After we left there, however, we came across dozens of vendors on the street. We finally stopped at one near Rockefeller Center, and with Jeanita’s helpful guidance, I selected ones for Carrie, Elizabeth, Paul, Amanda, Donna, and Jayne. As far as I know, everyone is enjoying them, especially after I gave the lesson on scarf tying (?) and explained that these scarves had come directly from the streets of NY.

The Time’s Square picture speaks for itself…as does the adorable big red M & M. The picture of the American Society of Buddhist studies is one that I snapped in Chinatown for my brother who ribs me about worshipping Buddha (ha ha). I can tell him that I worship God and His beloved son Jesus Christ until I’m blue in the face, but he still hassles me.  After he leaves my home, I almost always have to turn my little Buddha statue, a decorative item from my son, back around the right way. Alas.

Folks, there’s only one more entry I plan to post about the NYC trip. My goals have been to chronicle our goings-on and to motivate some of you who’ve been wanting to go but have been procrastinating.  Have you looked up air fare and hotels on Expedia yet?

Power of Photographs

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I can understand if some of you are getting a little sick and tired of reading about last month’s New York trip with some high school friends. Alas, if so, I’m sorry about that because I do have a little more to add. I’ll make it brief, however, because I have some other thoughts to post before school starts back on Monday. After that, I’ll be in a whirlwind teaching eight classes, day and evening, some online, and at different campuses. I’m not complaining, just stating a fact.

 

I’m not sure, but I think this picture might have been snapped the evening we went to see All My Sons. What I like about it is that we were upbeat and excited about the evening ahead. Plus, since the Christmas tree is in the background, it’s clear that we were celebrating this special season of the year.

 

From years of beach walking, I’ve learned the courtesy of volunteering to take pictures of families. Often, you’ll see a mother taking one of the father and the kids or vice versa. There’s always someone left out unless a volunteer photographer happens along. That’s what happened in this case. I volunteered to take a picture of a mother and her daughter who’d been saving their money for a long time in order to come to the Big Apple, and they were so grateful and pleased that the daughter took one of us too. I hope they like their picture as much as we like ours.

 

By the way, the reason I like pictures so much is that they’re fantastic memory joggers. An event that hasnt crossed your mind for years can be immediately retrieved with a picture. Have you found that to be true?