As I mentioned yesterday we took my 77-year-old mother to New York City for the first time! It was a lot, but also not too much, but also totally different than any other trip to NYC for us. It all started when we asked Jackson what he wanted for his birthday and he said, “I want to go to the Transit Museum in Brooklyn.” That’s his favorite place, to be sure, so we were like hmm. With Covid being Covid and all that we wondered if we could pull it off and how safely. Everyone has their own idea of what is “safe” right now and in our house it’s like this: We are all fully vaccinated, waiting for boosters in December, Jackson is in school full-time in person (with a mask mandate in place), J is back to going to office once a week, usually, and we have been successfully traveling since this summer. However, I am still not willing to get on an airplane. I know, I know, it sounds dumb, but like I said, we all have our things. I am totally fine eating in a restaurant, but no airplane for me I just don’t trust others enough. So we decided to drive to NYC that’s when the idea of bringing my mom came. She was already asking if she could come stay with us for a month this year and it happened to all line up with my birthday, my mom’s, and Jackson’s. So we asked Jackson if we could bring Mama (we invited Grandma too, but she already had plans) and he said, “Sure!” Then the planning began.
When Mama got here we talked about all the things she wanted to see, and factored in all that Jackson wanted to see/do including the Transit Museum, the 9/11 Memorial, and Coney Island. Then we realized that we had never been to Ellis Island or the Statue of Liberty. Then our friends from Rhode Island were planning to join us one day, so we mashed all of this together and come up with a kind of solid plan. And for the most part, it all went exactly as planned. How amazing is that?!
The rest of the story can best be told in pictures, so I’ll let them do the talking, but in reality just know that there were some unexpected trips (did you know that there is an awesome Harry Potter store in NYC?) and we only missed one timed reservation, but it was okay they let us cancel our tickets and instead we took a hard-hat tour of the hospital at Ellis Island which was fantastic especially since we had watched a documentary on it before we went to NYC. We got to spend all the time Jackson wanted to at the Transit Museum, then I finally got to ride The Cyclone and The Thunderbolt at Coney Island which was a lifelong dream that turned out to be a terrifying nightmare and I will never ride them again! Like for real. Scariest rides I’ve ever been on, and I love crazy rollercoasters, y’all. Whew.
While I was writing my “The Breaking of Spring” blog post the other day I started to think about some of the trips we have taken during spring break in the past, and I remembered that I wanted to share about Jackson’s first time in the Big Apple. We love NYC, and are heartbroken about what they are going through right now. I don’t have words for the pain they must be feeling. And it feels upsetting to suggest “They will be okay, they always are.” Of course I know this, but it’s a sad and scary time for many New Yorkers, and for people who love New York. So I’ll instead say, we are thinking of you.
Jackson’s first time visiting NYC was not during spring break, it was the middle of February. We decided on the end of February because we because had that long break in school wherein he would only miss like one school day for the long weekend we took. It also lined up with some time that Jackson’s grandma had and was able to meet us there for the weekend. It seemed great, until the moment we got to the airport in Charlotte to leave for NYC. We were also hoping the weather had cleared enough in NYC.
Remember how we said we were hoping the weather had cleared. Well it had, in Charlotte. In NYC however, the day we were set to fly out, NYC got hit with one last snowstorm. As we were walking through security we saw the screens at American start blinking with “Cancelled” flights to NYC and the surrounding areas. It seemed that they would finish the “day flights” out, but that was it. We were lucky in that we were on one of those “day flights.” I think our plane was supposed to leave around 2:00 pm. We left Charlotte at 7:00 pm, arriving at NYC’s La Guardia around 10:00 pm. Our plane, upon landing, promptly slid off the runway into a snow bank. This was Jackson’s first trip to NYC, yes, but it was also his first flight, and he 100% though his plane sliding into a snowbank was bitchin’. “Wow, cool!” he said, as Jerimiah and I looked at each other, feeling the wheels of the plane spinning out from under us. “That’s not supposed to happen,” we told Jackson, as I grabbed my son and husband’s hands in nervous energy, and he eagerly watched the small truck tow our giant plane into the terminal. “I’m glad it did!” he said with enthusiasm. Le sigh.
Here’s a fun story I forgot to mention. During the five or so hours we spent at the Charlotte Airport waiting for our plane to depart, all the bathroom in our concourse went down. Some sewage problem. We were in Concourse A and the nearest working restrooms were in Concourse C, which means while I battled the “nervous poops” as my husband likes to call them, I had to walk, nay run, to Concourse C and wait in a long-ass line each time. Super fun. Here is a pic Jackson eating pizza for dinner at the Charlotte Airport, gettin ready for NYC pizza, while our departure time kept getting bumped back and back and back, and I started running low on Xanax and clean underwear.
Eventually our plane did leave, as I said, and the flight was fine until the snowbank incident. But American apologized a bunch and then stopped all of their flights into La Guardia for a few more hours. Looks like we skidded in right before, pun intended.
Because we do NYC the best way (read: cheapest) we had to then take a train through Queens, where we had to catch the subway to our hotel in Midtown Manhattan. Jackson did the most Jackson thing at this point, his first time in La Guardia, his first time in NYC, his first time for everything, he grabs his suitcase, says, “Follow me” and then just starts walking toward a bus parked outside. We were like, “What the hell man?!” Turned out it was the right bus, but that was a total fluke. Had to be. Right?
So there we are, an hour later, schlepping our bags toward the Four Points in the center of Hell’s Kitchen, in a snowstorm, in 20 degree NYC weather, and Jackson was all, “This is FANTASTIC!” That’s when we knew he was our kid. Like, for sure. He’s always up for an adventure this one! I, was of course, cold as shit and just wanted to get to our warm hotel room. Jerimiah was worried about us walking NYC late at night with our suitcases, and Jackson was 100% taking in the sites, jumping on snowbanks, and being an all around nine-year-old. It was sorta great. Then we finally go to our hotel and all quickly passed out. End scene (for the first night).
Jerimiah’s mom was traveling from Kansas City to meet us and she was supposed to be there the same night, but her flight had been cancelled somewhere along the time our plane slid into a snowbank, so she wasn’t able to make it to the city until the next evening, sometime around midnight. Which means we had an unexpected day in NYC without G-Ma, that we needed to fill with things we didn’t think she’d mind missing out on, but that still kept Jackson busy. First stop, yeah, Ghostbuster’s firehouse.
This was after bagel and lox, of course, and before we headed to the Firetruck Museum (to stay on topic for sure) and walking. So much walking, in the cold, cold, cold of a NYC snow. There were some things Jackson just had to see, like NYPD Precinct #1 and lots of different NYPD vehicles.
There was his first subway ride he would remember (the night before had become a blur):
And of course one of these bad boys:
We also stopped by the Public Library that day (something pretty much only I wanted to see, but they gladly tagged along), and ended the day eating Waffle Dogs in Hell’s Kitchen, before Jackson promptly passed the fuck out from exhaustion at 10 pm, and Jerimiah walked from our hotel in the blistering cold to meet his mom at Penn Station.
Jerimiah sent me this picture a little after midnight to tell me all was well and he and his mom were headed back to the hotel. Grandma had finally landed, the real fun could begin!
The next few days were a blur of fun and excitement, even in the rain and blistering cold, as most of our vacations are. We did so much, and saw so much, that I forgot about most of it until I was going through the old pictures. Here, have a gander…
Oh, you know what, those are all food pics! Haha, sorry, we did eat a lot of great food, look:
Okay, okay, I’ll stop with the food. We spent one whole day in Brooklyn, where we saw the cool buildings and sites, and visited the Transportation Museum, which was obviously Jackson’s favorite and he wants to go back every time we go to NYC, and if I were to go ask him right now if he’d rather go to Disney tomorrow or the Transportation Museum in Brooklyn, he’d vote for the Transportation Museum. For real.
The Transportation Museum was actually really cool, and we all had a great time. Afterward, we walked and took the subway to a couple of other cool places, like Ground Zero, where we had a tough talk with Jackson, and then over to Little Italy (where we ate again) and Chinatown. On the way we stopped off at Wall Street and took some pics with the Bull, and also had even more tough talks with Jackson about capitalism and what not.
The next day was just as crazy, with stops at The Natural History Museum, a ferry ride to Staten Island, and a tour bus around the city to see the sites. We walked to Grand Central Station that night for a snack (Magnolia Cupcakes), then of course we ended at Times Square.
As you can see, we refused to stay inside the ferry, even though it was cold. We wanted to see the sights! Always see the sights! We ended that night walking back to our hotel, a little frozen to the core, but happy, oh so happy! And looking forward to our last night in NYC the next day!
The next day we slept in. No one set an alarm and we were tired, so it was 11:00 am before we were up and at ’em. We don’t usually like to sleep in on vacation, so much to see, but it occasionally happens. This was a more relaxing day, still packed full of sights like Central Park, Washington Square, and the New York City History Museum, but the best part of that day was the trip to the top of the Empire State Building after the sun went down.
It certainly was a whirlwind trip, like most of our trips are, and Jackson loved every second of it! He’s been back to NYC once since then, at the beginning of this year when we took a train from Rhode Island with friends to catch a show on Broadway! His first one! And to see the “Big Christmas Tree” before they took it down. It has been a lifelong goal of his, well, you know, since he saw Home Alone 2 a few years back. 🙂
So thanks for going on this trip down memory lane for the sake of posterity. I’ve been meaning to share pictures from this trip for a long time now, and I hope you enjoyed them.
And if you haven’t been to NYC, or it’s been years, I implore you to go (once it is safe of course). You won’t regret it! And hit me up for all the good tips!
We are novice theatergoers. In fact, aside from supporting our friends in high school by dropping in on the plays they were in, we didn’t go to another play until Jackson was in kindergarten. Since then, and with the help of some friends, we have had the pleasure of not just watching plays and musicals, but actually being part of a school production of The Wiz Jr. Wherein Jerimiah helped out with the stage, I helped with costumes, and Jackson played both a flying monkey and a crow. Here, have a gander.
We’ve also seen countless plays, Jackson has taken theater classes at the wonderful ImagineOn School of Theater Training in Charlotte, and Jerimiah and I have seen both Kinky Boots (starring Wayne Brady) and The Play That Goes Wrong, on Broadway. Then a couple of weeks ago we found ourselves, along with Jackson, once again in NYC and we were lucky enough to be able to take him to his first Broadway show. It was fun and it was exciting, as many of you probably know, you never forget your first Broadway show! And what better show for him to see than The Lion King! You can read more about his experience in the link above.
He loved the show, was mesmerized by the cast, the puppets, the music, it all added up to a night of wonderful memories which we got to share with some of our best friends. But the coolest part, in my opinion, was the behind the scenes tour that we had after the show. Apparently a behind the scenes tour on Broadway isn’t as easy to get as at your local playhouse. In fact, you sort of have to know someone, who knows someone. Turns out we did. And we got to walk the wings of the legendary Minskoff Theater located at 1515 Broadway.
The Minskoff Theater is a 1,600 seat theater, much bigger than any other Broadway theater we’ve been in, in the heart of Midtown. It opened in 1973, with a revival of Irene starring Debbie Reynolds. Since then it has been home to Bette Midler’s Clams on the Half Shell Revue; Hello Dolly!, Cabaret, Sunset Boulevard, Fiddler on the Roof, and it was once home to the Miss Universe Pageant. But in 2006 The Lion King set up shop there, and it’s been home to it ever since.
Because we are novice theatergoers, as mentioned before, we learned quite a bit about the backstage area while we were on the tour. We learned, for example, the very real, very scary ways the props made it to the stage. If you have ever seen The Lion King you know there must be some feat of strength to get this done. Bertha, the giant elephant from the opening act, hangs from the rafters, for instance. Which both amazed and terrified me. We saw the boards on each side of the stage where notable celebrities and politicians sign there names when they’ve had their own private tour, and we even got to sneak into the pit below the stage, which is small and claustrophobic for a person like me, filled to the brim with what can only be hundreds of thousands (millions?) of dollars worth of musical equipment. But the story that stuck with me the most, was the story of the ghost light. If you’re a drama person, or a regular theatergoer, you probably already know the story, but this was new to me so I will share with you just in case.
As we were finishing up our tour the crew was running around shutting down lights, cleaning up the theater, putting all the props away, etc. And at one point when we were standing on the stage, just after Jackson did his “Simba” thing with his toy Simba (pic below) the lights shut off. “I guess we are done,” our tour guide said, and we made our way downstairs with him to grab his coat. But as we were leaving the stage I noticed one single light still on. I made a quizzical look and our friends said, “It’s the ghost light.”
The Ghost Light is a single, incandescent bulb left on the stage overnight to give a bit of light to the people still in the theater, mainly so they don’t fall into the open pit below the stage. But it gets its name because it’s believed that every theater has a ghost that haunts it. And the ghost can be destructive if you don’t appease it. Some theaters use the ghost light to allow the ghost to perform at night, so they don’t wreck havoc on the production. Others leave it on to scare away the ghosts, because after all, we know ghosts like the pitch black of night. I don’t know the particular reason the ghost light comes on in The Minskoff, aside from it being mandated by the Actors’ Equity Association, but I suspect it’s for ghostly reasons.
At the end of the night we took the subway back to our hotel and had milkshakes just after one a.m. at the Tick Tock Diner. Stood on our terrace at our New Yorker suite in the rain, and watched the Empire State Building change colors. I wondered about the Minskoff ghost and hoped it was getting all the stage time it needed.
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