Spring break in NYC with a teenager. April 2018


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So last June I found myself with yet another Alaska Air $99 companion fare coupon about to expire. You get one annually with their mileage card, but I don’t take a domestic flight annually, so can’t always use them. Or I’ve used them for flights to CA (thereby only saving $50). So I was wishing I had a cross country flight upcoming, to “maximize value,” and it occurred to me I could take my 17 yr old niece to NYC. A few calls to her mom to coordinate, and to her to make sure she was interested (she was!!!) and we were set. And then had to wait 9 months!!! Although I did buy the Dear Evan Hansen tickets back in June, as they’d just won the Tony and were selling quickly.

And now we’re here, and it’s been lovely!!! Gisele is a great travel companion. Cheerful and kind, quick to laugh, super chatty and easy going. The only hard part is choosing what to do, as this city is overloaded with experiences!!! Early morning flights are the worst. Ugh! But there was a security dog with TSA, which always makes me happy, because dog!! (Even though I have to repeat to myself, “You can’t pet that dog. That dog has a job. You can’t pet that dog.”) And then TSA told us to keep out shoes on and keep everything in our bags for a new program, which made security less hassle. “keep your shoes on. If the alarm beeps, then you’ll have to take them off. But everyone gets to try with their shoes on first.” The Woman in front of us got a beep and took off her shoes, but I stopped Gisele from taking off hers. And that’s when the TSA woman said I won the Stellar Passenger Award for actually listening. (Not gonna lie, still feeling proud of it. Ha! Getting recognition for paying attention and following rules!! It’s kind of perfect for me. If she’d also somehow told me I was right, that’d be the perfect trifecta!)
Airport Starbucks’ misspelled name game was on extra that morning. As Gisele’s cup read “drezel.” I think the 4 hr of sleep may have contributed to the hilarity, but come on!! They even used lower case ‘d.’ We both managed to nap for about an hour on the plane, thank goodness. And Gisele’s mom (my older sister) had sent us with a care package of pastries and salad for the plane!) We were given the good news at takeoff that we’d be arriving about an hour early!! However, apparently Newark couldn’t handle us early. We had to spend 24 minutes circling in the air. And another 30 minutes waiting on the tarmac after landing, until our originally assigned gate was free. Then into the city to check in, and off to dinner. Went to Khe-yo (because Lindy West mentioned it was her favorite NYC restaurant in the Eating Out video). And damn, it was amazing!!!!!! Very cool spot with lots of delicious food and a hip waitstaff and diners. Waitress suggested two small plates and two large plates. We ordered 3 small and 1 large and were too full even before the large plate was served. (They bring you a complimentary sticky rice and amazing spicy Bang Bang sauce to start) It’s Laotian inspired and bursting with vibrant flavors and lots of spice. The coconut crispy was amazing, the beef was so great, and the tuna poke special with prawn chips were lovely (which was served with a piece of bone marrow AND one of the best foi gras I’ve had. Swimming in butter and so rich). While it was suggested we mix them with the tuna, we ate them separately and drooled! Although I worried at the price tag (as it was a “special,” I feared these extra fancy ingredients/components would be a way to justify an insane price). But pricing was on par with the other menu items. I mean, it’s a fancier place and it’s in new york, but we spent actually far less than I’d budgeted for this meal).
We ended up taking the pork curry noodles “to go,” and they made for the most amazing breakfast ever in our hotel room the next morning!! Truly, yum! And they’d packaged all the fresh veggies and herbs and lime separately, so we got to dress up our bowls with bright crisp flavors.
After our spicy noodles soup breakfast, we were off to explore the Met. Subway up to natural history museum (with a quick stop in to the lobby to see some dinosaurs). And crisis averted when I tripped and fell going up the marble stairs. Much better than falling down stairs, I just have some minor bruising AND managed to not break my camera which I was holding. So, yeah, embarrassing and minorly painful, but totally fine. And so I have implemented Tracy’s Rainforest Rules, which means I can’t be looking up at cool stuff and walking at the same time. Because, clearly, I can’t. So I need to “pull over” to the side of the trail (sidewalk in this case) and temporarily stop walking to look up at things. Ha! Then the sun came out. It was in the 40’s but gorgeous as we walked across Central Park to museum mile. Even saw some turtles!
“So, what exactly does The Metropolitan Museum of Art have?” she asks me. “Um, it kind of has everything, I think.” Boy, was I right. It’d take days to see it all. But we sure had fun trying. AND she ran into a friend from her high school, who was in town for college tours. Fun. I’d like to point out that the 17 yr old’s snapchat story was lovely and informative selection of cool stuff. And I used my snapchat to celebrate butts! Or rather, celebrating the statues who so clearly want you to celebrate their butt. I didn’t think of this until our last 30 minutes, but then this lion-dog statue was so clearly excited about showing his butt to visitors that it became a theme. And I giggled like a maniac all day. 
After, we ended up walking 50 blocks up to Sylvia’s in Harlem for some delicious southern cooking. Thanks again for my buddies Joseph and Michelle for telling us about this place last time!! This trip I learned Sylvia’s Vegetarian option is just your choice of 4 of their side dishes. Which are one of the best parts. Gisele suggested we order a meat entree (which comes with 2 sides) & get that, and share… So we’d get 6 sides. 
I had to text Michelle about what a genius my niece is. Michelle responded, “Give that girl all the scholarships!!” And told us to get cookies at Levain on our way back. Dude!!!
So we had amazing cookies to start the day today. Ha! Then back to Museum Mile/Central Park because Gisele really wanted to go to Cooper Hewitt Industrial Design Museum. It’s located inside Carnegie’s former house (mansion?). It was cool, with some great interactive options (guests are given a stylus/wand that let’s you save different items to a specialized website to view when you get home, as well as get to design your own wallpaper, hats, buildings, tables, etc). And they had a special exhibition on accessibility which was very cool. Honestly, though, I was done after an hour, and super bored after 2. But darn it if the kid wasn’t loving it still for almost 3 hours. It’s NOT a very big museum. Honestly. The internet says most people spend one hour here. When we were about to leave, at a security guard recommendation, we went into the basement to try the spinning chairs, which were cool. But then Gisele spent 24 minutes reading every single poster board sized info board about different items. They didn’t even have the items on display. It felt like former exhibit explanations, just used to decorate the downstairs lobby. But she read, and loved learning about, all of it. Ha.
Then more wandering in Central Park, and to eat the other half other half of the bagels we’d gotten for breakfast. I’d felt required to order the insane looking “rainbow bagel” from the bagel shop at 91st & 3rd, because who ever saw such a thing?!?  Not the adorable elderly couple on the bench next to us, who’ve lived in Central Park West since the early 70’s. It was quite a conversation starter. I mean, it is a visually striking, not necessarily appetizing, but striking appearance. Tastes like a normal bagel. And this couple was a hoot. (Gisele bragging about how her bagel has the most delicious smoked salmon. “You must not be from around here. Nobody calls it smoked salmon. It’s lox.” Ha.) The wife had to leave after 10 minutes, but Mr Katz talked to us for over an hour, slinging wisdom and cliches and colorful anecdotes from a life well lived. And advice for college and life in general to the teenager. This lecture wasn’t on the agenda, but it was wonderful. At the end of it all, Gisele asked for his email and he hoped she’d keep him informed about what college she ends up attending. It was a bit hard to say goodbye and leave the conversation though. We’d thanked him, shaken hands, stood up from the bench, and he just kept talking, with each parting story for us sparking a memory for him that strung itself into another story. At least I could keep up/contribute to the Henry V quotes (Prince Hal has long been my Shakespeare crush. Him, and Edgar from King Lear). Very cool, and much more interesting/special than our original plan of Gisele doing some shopping in Times Square).
Back to the hotel to change, and into the theater district for Dear Evan Hansen. I knew I was gonna be in trouble when I started crying a little during “for forever” (only the 3rd song in Act I) because some of the Act II songs make me cry just listening to the cast recording. It was a super great show. And I may have cried so hard my bra got soggy. But whatever.  Very cathartic, and we both felt wrung out after the powerful emotional show. Phew. Then a pleasant walk back through all the madness of Times Square. Dang,  I’ve been typing this up and, holy crap, it’s now midnight. So I’m going to stop now. I’ll probably not post this until tomorrow, because I have to add pictures,  or my “look at my butt” Met experience can’t be fully appreciated. *laughs*

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