Monday, 6 May 2013

Verklempt at the top of 30 Rock

I've always wanted to go to Manhattan, and for some reason, just never got around to it.
Top: 30 Rock Bottom: Lovely spring day in Central Park
Until last week.  I turn 50 this summer, and my husband decided to pack up the family and take me as an early birthday surprise. Which is odd, since we aren't really very spontaneous, not as a rule. Usually we really plan and plan, then plan some more, before we go anywhere. Not this time.We packed the teenagers into the car, we drove to the hotel 8 hours away in a different country, we got to our Manhattan hotel at 7th and 31st street (just south of Times Square) unscathed. Then for four days we wandered, we dallied, we discovered. I knew I had specific things to see, of course, but I had no idea until I was there that I've loved Manhattan with all my heart, all my life.
Here are my 5 top verklempt-inducing moments in Manhattan:

Carousel in Central Park, couldn't stop grinning
1. Central Park. Our first outing, Central Park was perfect. Blossoms everywhere, no pollution, few people. We rode the carousel (even the teens, with goofy smiles), we looked at the Balto statue (loved that movie), thought how weird the bell clock was at the Children's zoo (there's a creepy horror story there, for sure). Then sat on a Central Park bench, eating ice-cream, wondering if I was actually there. Later in the week we took the subway to 72nd street, and stood, reverential, in front of the Dakota hotel. Bought a John Lennon button from one of the dozens of artists in the park. Verklempt factor: 4.2 out of 5
Top of Rockefeller Centre, verklempt

2. Top of the Rock: Then we went down to the Rockefeller Centre. We bought tickets, went up 30 Rock (daughter hoping to see Tina Fey, but alas no), and stood looking down at the island from 70 stories high. No pollution, not a cloud in the sky, just the lego-land that industry built. I scanned the upper and lower
Very, very happy
island, cut on both sides by the rivers, then out past Long Island and clear to the Atlantic ocean. There was Brooklyn Bridge, there was the Empire State (rather in the way), then Lady Liberty, stalwart on her own little island, off to the bottom right. Two fat tears rolled down my cheeks. To be fair, those were my only actual tears of the week. Verklempt factor: 4.8

3. Bryant Park. My daughter and I wandered down 6th avenue after our 30 Rock experience, and discovered Bryant Park (around 42nd street). It's hard to describe how beautiful this park is: think Paris-old-world-outdoor-cafe but on a bigger scale. In fact, the London plane trees everywhere are the same species you'd find in the Tuilleries in Paris. The children's carousel was playing Edith Piaf. We sat in this amazingly calm oasis and yes, there were more tears (not mine this time). Verklempt-factor: 4.5

We are incapable of taking non-blurry photos, btw
(that's my nephew in the cap)
4. New York City Central Library. Turn your head from the Edith Piaf-playing-carousel and you'll see the back doors of the New York Central Library. You need to get up from your green chair (although you don't really want to leave ever) and walk to the front of the building. I've never seen a more beautiful building, and it's a library. Thank you Mr. Schwarzman. The New Yorkers really know how to build an impressive building. The lions, the statuary, the baskets of tulips everywhere, the steps out front (remember Ghostbusters?), the soaring, painted ceilings, the marble marble marble, the sheer grandeur. And all in the name of books and reading and knowledge. I bought souvenirs, I had to. All proceeds go to the library. It's a library, folks, a place to read. And it's so beautiful. And yes, I checked if any of my gargoyle books were there. Verklempt-factor: 4

'Scuse me m'am, is that Grand Central Station? Why yes, yes I think it is.
5. Grand Central Station. By day four, we'd walked all over the island, through Wall street (suitable for another post one day), the 9/11 memorial (again, another post which is going to take some patience and courage to write), and Soho (geesh, I have a lot more writing to do). My feet were screaming for me to stop walking. I had to bandage parts of my feet, but we walked anyway. I'm so glad we did. We walked on our last afternoon up Madison Avenue and across to Grand Central Station. As we neared it but long before I saw it, I detected a definite uptick in humanity, meaning the station draws people toward it, like a fluid human river. People with toddlers, dogs, trolleys, hand-trucks, people dressed as the Statue of Liberty or draped in American flags, it was people people everywhere, slowly  making their way toward this junction, this central axis, like a heart in the city. A woman with what I could only describe as a New York accent (but I must have been wrong), asked me if that was Grand Central Station. I turned and gasped. Yes, I did. I gasped. I nodded. Yes, I said, it must be. What else could it be? I said, more to myself than to her. She looked at me like I was kidding, but what was I supposed to say? And then we went inside, and I realized after a moment of looking up at the vast ceiling painted with constellations above me, that my jaw was hanging open. Dropped. I'm so happy that at 50, my jaw can still drop in wonder, that I can still gawk. I can't remember the last time that happened. Verklempt-factor: 4.7

There's plenty more to say about NYC, about the smells, the sounds, the people, Times Square, Broadway, Yankee Stadium, Battery Park, the taxis, the endless thrum of humanity through your solar plexus. I'll write more, but for now I'll end with this: thanks NYC for being so graciously more than I had imagined. One of my best vacations ever.

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