I’ll always love you though New York…

A week ago tonight, I had a belly full of New York pizza and feet tired from a day spent walking – exploring Central Park, walking miles to and around the park. Exhausted from our full day and an early morning flight, my mom and I were probably hanging out in our hotel room at this time, winding down and preparing to start all over again on Saturday morning.

I have said before how much I love big cities – and NYC is no different. The love I have for New York is similar to the love I have for Chicago is similar to the love I have for San Francisco. All three cities are vibrant and radiate with a lovely chaos. The architecture, the landscape, the motion. But New York is different than Chicago which is different than San Francisco. And those three are probably in many ways similar to other cities across the country, and just as different.

(You with me so far: Things are alike but different)

I could have spent another four, eight, twelve, whatever days in New York and still not finished exploring all I wanted to see. We wandered through the Village, eating brunch in some random restaurant (waffles! yummy!). We found the Washington Square arch, and I took a picture of the Waverly Place sign for my daughter.

I love like a fountain
And it left me with nothing
Just the memories of walking through Washington Square
-Counting Crows

I took far more pictures of the Flatiron Building than seemed reasonable, but the shape and the unexpectedness of it, looming so high above just somehow pleased me and I couldn’t stop with the pictures.

Battery Park looking over the Statue of Liberty as the sunset, the Empire State Building and the Chrysler Building lit up like Christmas out my hotel room at night, the crowded heat of a subway station on a Saturday afternoon as trains were cancelled, rerouted and who knows what (probably old hat for the residents of NYC – but all new to the touristy folks trying to get back to Manhattan from Queens when all the trains we were “supposed to” take were cancelled).

For all my fear of flying, I am a surprisingly relaxed traveler. I don’t necessarily always need to know where I’m going. Subway switcheroo? No problem. We’ll get there eventually. My mom, she looked so upset with the uncertainty – but that never hit me that day. Maybe because I just figured, Worst case scenario, we get a cab. No big deal. WE CAN DO THIS. And you know what? We did. Sure, it took a little longer than we’d anticipated but… where else did we have to go? We’d get there when we got there.

The noise – the sirens, the rush of crowds? All of that. I love all. of. that.

And I was sad to leave.

This trip made me realize that I want my children to travel. When I was younger, my family never went on vacations – we just couldn’t afford it. That’s always the way it was and I never really realized I was missing out. Sure, my brother and I would fly to visit our grandparents in the summers but I started to learn the ropes of travel later, after college, during my first job when I would travel often for trade shows. My first trip for work was to Vegas and I arrived hours before my coworkers – I was so freaked out – because now, instead of meeting them all at the airport, I had to pick up the rental car on my own, drive in a strange city, and find the hotel somewhere on the Strip. I was a wreck.

It’s taken awhile to get a bit more at ease with travel. I don’t want it to take my kids that long. While our adventures may not be fully global (alas, that money tree JUST WON’T GROW), I want them to feel at ease traveling and not be intimidated by it.

I don’t want them to be upset by a rerouted subway schedule on a Saturday afternoon.

I was a tourist and I explored and then I put on my fancy dress, went to a wedding in what appeared to be an abandoned warehouse in Queens and I danced until I felt my feet were on fire and the next morning said goodbye to a beautiful city to come back home to Michigan.

But I think I’ll be back.

I Get Allergic Smelling Hay

I used to think that Indiana was the most boring state to drive through. You can go for hours without passing anything of note (LIKE STARBUCKS), and the scenery consists mostly of farmlands, fields, adult bookstores and religious billboards. I was wrong, however.

Northern Michigan is more boring to drive through. It doesn’t even have billboards. Or bookstores. Or Starbucks. (You can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a McDonalds though, and as someone who doesn’t eat McDonald’s this is a pretty neutral discovery for me).

Three plus hours in the car with the girls to attend the memorial service for my mother’s sister-in-law, a woman I barely knew, but who my mom and her husband loved tremendously. A woman who was a fantastic sister to my mom’s husband, and in recent years, a wonderful friend to my mom. I went to be of support to my family and their extended families.

I have to say that I’ve been in a somewhat funky mood for the past several days – nothing about this trip seemed right for me – starting with the fact that it required the purchase of a new portable DVD player since ours had gone kaput in the middle of our last (TEN HOUR) road trip. I wasn’t about to replay that scene, so a new machine was in order. Got that installed minutes before hitting the road.

Actually, it did a fantastic job of keeping the kids occupied. However, because the thought of my kids having sound blasting directly into their eardrums for hours on end, I didn’t opt to have them wearing headphones. Instead from their dual screens I had movies playing into my ears the whole way. This meant: NO RADIO FOR SARAH. And to me, driving without music is TORTUROUS.

So, no music.

Nothing to look at either. Hills, trees, grass.

Yeah, that’s pretty much it.

I’m not immune to the charms of how beautiful Michigan is or can be. I am, however, kind of a city girl. Yes, I prefer a Starbucks on every corner to a local espresso shop that doesn’t open before ten on a Friday (seriously, what is THAT all about?). I prefer knowing that I can essentially throw a dart at a map to determine what kind of fresh cuisine I could eat, if I wanted to (this is nearly a moot point – I will almost always pick Mexican, Spanish or Cuban food if presented with a host of options because …YUM) over a local pub that reheats frozen entrees from a local distributor’s freezer section.

Like I said, I was kind of cranky on this trip.

We arrived to a hotel that hadn’t been updated since the 70s, complete with wood paneling, a blue toilet, and pink tile in the bathroom. None of the outlets could accomodate my laptop’s power cord. The room key was AN ACTUAL KEY. And I picked up the wifi of the hotel across the street better than this motel’s so-called wi-fi.

Thursday night, I slept horribly and woke up several times. This was in part due to the fact that Pumpkin evidently talks in her sleep and partly because I was at a really tense part of “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” right before I went to sleep. Oh, and partly because the hotel skeeved me out.

Friday morning, we drove around for an hour looking for a place to get donuts for the girls – a Friday tradition we relish, whether we are home or away. AN HOUR. And after all that? After I found grocery store donuts? I still had no coffee.

And yet, there was so much beauty. So much beauty and I couldn’t quite wrap my head around it – so frustrated I was by the lack of convenience, the bickering of my daughters and the sleep deprivation.

Because really? This is pretty.

I know that. You know that.

And I love the water, and the lakes and the oceans and beaches, and I love the serenity of waves crashing and sand between my toes and yet…

I love the roar of a city street. I love street vendors selling pretzels. I love the architecture of a skyline punctuated with skyscrapers. I love a glass building that reflects all it sees. People playing guitar on the street for change. The blur of a yellow taxi streaming by. Neon lights. Anticipation and energy hanging on the wind.

And though one is not better than another, for me, someone who needs a lesson or two on how to chill out – the bustle of a city makes it easier for me to catch my breath.

Thursday Ten: Like a Hummingbird Edition

1. Once someone told me that I’m like a hummingbird, in constant motion – that I don’t slow down and would fall into a deep torpor if I just stopped for a second. (Don’t worry, I had to google torpor, also). I’ve since google’d hummingbirds also – and it turns out… they’re just fine if they stop. Either way, I’ve been moving at hummingbird speed this week: first the AWBC, then an awesome trip to Cincinnati (I’ll share those deets with you tomorrow), as well as an awesome One eskimO/Michael Franti concert last night (again, details to follow. Soon. This week has been awesome for kicking my writer’s block in the keister).

2. My feet are still hurty, but so much better than last year at this time. I pre-wrapped most of my toes in bandages pre-walk in the hopes that it would prevent blisters, and it worked for the most part. I have four blisters – one on each heel (HOLY FREAKIN’ COW DO THOSE HURT) and one on each little toe. But overall it was a less painful experience for me, so that’s a good thing.

3. I purchased the book Ask the Pilot in hopes that it would abate some of my fear of flying for my flights to and from Cincinnati. The flight down was actually pretty wonderful – smooth, nearly clear sky with very minimal turbulence. The way back to Michigan? I thought I was going to cry. Guess I should have finished reading the book first, huh? It’s on my pile – still have a ways to go to finish it.

4. Speaking of books… Someone just gave me a gift card to B&N (oh, one of the ways to my heart). What’s new? What are you reading? Are you on GoodReads?  If so, lemme know and we can connect.

5. Twice this week, I have gone out with nearly dead camera batteries (in my point and shoot – my dSLR has a remarkably fabulous battery life. The P&S? Not so much. I feel like I’ve missed so many moments because of my forgetfulness. Particularly at last night’s concert. Sad face.

6. Right now I am craving a toasted bagel with drippy melted butter. I do not have any bagels. I do have butter. Eating a stick of butter by itself doesn’t appeal to me. Yet.

7. I missed the season finale of Glee because I was on a plane. I have yet to track it down on Hulu or Fox. And I need to do that soonish. If you saw it, what did you think? I don’t get my knickers in a twist over spoilers – just wondering if it turned out well or if you were so mad you threw stuff at the tv?

8. New music for the week – I’ve been listening to some Sarah McLachlan, some stuff from Glee, and Michael Franti & Spearhead’s “Sound of Sunshine” (Which I canNOT believe they didn’t play last night).

9. As I was travelling, I missed the live blogging and tweets for the iPhone announcement, but I’ve had a chance to kinda sorta catch up in the moments I’ve been able to sit still, and uh, yeah. I want one. And then I want to kick myself in the shin for wanting one because my phone is JUST FINE. RESIST THE URGE, SARAH. DON’T DO IT.

10. I haven’t picked up my guitar in a week – I’m kind of going through withdrawal, but I’ve just been so busy. And I’m on break from my lessons for another week. I think I’m gonna have to remedy this soon.

This post contains an affiliate link to Amazon, and the blood sweat and tears of a distracted writer who took about two hours to put this together. When i say it’s been a long week, it has REALLY BEEN A LONG WEEK.

New York, New York Is Everything They Say…

As you could have probably guessed from my Weekly Winner set that I belatedly posted yesterday, I recently spent some time in NYC. Hubby and I have both always wanted to go and finally decided to put something on the calendar. I’ve been looking forward to this trip for a long time – and, this probably won’t be a surprise, I was looking forward to New York because I knew that not only would there be a lot to do and to see, it would also be an amazing city to photograph.

I wasn’t wrong.

From the moment we drove into the city (yes, we drove – it was about twelve hours by car from Michigan to NYC – not counting the stop in Pennsylvania at 4 a.m. to nap for an hour because BLEH, driving all night suuuuucks), we were overtaken by sights and sounds and, yeah, it’s kind of a sensory overload of sorts.

We managed to park, get semi-settled at the hotel (we were very early for our 3 p.m. check in), grabbed some lunch at Dos Caminos on 3rd Street (BEST CARNITAS EVER), before wandering around the city a little. We visited Dylan’s Candy Bar because The Princess and I had seen it on one of those cake shows and I knew she’d dig a souvenir from there (and uh, so would I… I brought home the Everything but the Kitchen Sink Bar).

And then? Central Park.

I could have spent the whole time in Central Park

I loved Central Park. I kept recognizing spots from movies. It’s amazing – this bit of tranquility in a city so large. I was overwhelmed with calm and happiness being there. I know, I know… CHEESY. But, yes, I loved Central Park.

We took in a lot of sights over the weekend – purchasing weekend passes on one of those double decker tour buses seemed like a kind of corny thing to do, but we used it like a taxi cab. We’d hop on the bus near the hotel, go through some of the tour stops, get off the bus where we wanted to visit more, and jump back on the bus when we were done. Sure, the bus moved A LOT SLOWER than a NYC taxi, but… what’s the hurry?

I wanted to see the site of Ground Zero as well as the new WTC construction. We wanted to go to the Statue of Liberty, but didn’t (a 90 minute wait for tickets, and then a 90 minute wait to get on the boat – we weren’t in a hurry, but we weren’t in the mood to stand around for three hours either). Instead of actually going to the Statue of Liberty, we hopped on the (FREE!) Staten Island Ferry where we got close enough to Miss Liberty that I got some snaps with my lovely zoom lens. She was short. Why did I always think she’d be taller?

Saturday evening, we took in a performance of “Phantom of the Opera”. It was breathtakingly beautiful, but… I don’t love the music of Phantom. While the performers were brilliant and their voices amazing, and the production of the show was unbelievable… I realized that I’m not really a fan of the music (I know, I know… ).

A lot of time was spent wandering aimlessly – to FAO Schwarz, Toys R Us, and other assorted random places. Yes, we spent an awful lot of time in toy stores considering we were travelling sans kids – but holy cow, that huge T Rex at Toys R Us was worth seeing, and it made for a fun picture to send Pumpkin.

I had an UNBELIEVABLE time in New York. Sure, I felt frumpy and midwestern among all the black legging-clad women (it’s the standard uniform, it seems – black leggings or very-skinny jeans, neither of which are very flattering on MY midwestern shape, but OH WELL) — there’s nothing like walking around knowing that everything about you screams “tourist!” (and not ’cause I was holding a map, because I promise there was no holding of maps).

I know things now, like: I need to be careful of who I take restaurant recommendations from because someone’s rave review is my “OH MY GOD THAT IS THE GROSSEST SANDWICH EVER”. Like, the cupcakes at Magnolia aren’t really that fabulous. You only think they are because the FROSTING is phenomenal and you are so goo-goo over that supah-smooth frosting that you maybe don’t notice that the cupcake itself is only mediocre. I learned that walking around New York in high heels is painful, and I am calling shenanigans on Carrie Bradshaw and the rest of her Sex and the City friends. I know that New York bagels really are that good, but that I still am on Team Chicago as far as pizza goes.

And that really, it’s a nice place to visit… but I’m glad to be home.

Weekly Winners, New York Style

It’s late because of all the traffic, y’all.

You KNOW I love Lotus’s Weekly Winners and so not being able to post my pics on Sunday kind of made me sad. But, I got over it because I was in New York! That’s right. I was on vacay in NYC, so even though I’m several days late I still wanted to play along.

Light fixtures at the hotel. Funky, no?

Window treatment thingy in the hotel room

I could have spent the whole time in Central Park

You may say I'm a dreamer...

I kept thinking of the movie, ANNIE - "If this floor don't shine like the top of the Chrysler Building, your backside will." Miss Hannigan burned in my brain forever.

She looks much shorter in person.