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A quick trip to the Big Apple

Updated: Mar 27

Like nearly every other aspect of this trip, New York City was both amazing and maddening. Looking back on my regular trips when I was younger, I suppose that mix has always been the New York City experience.



My daughter and I traveled to New York City several weeks ago to visit Columbia University in the City of New York, more commonly known as Columbia University. The trip didn’t go quite as we had planned, perhaps a slightly worse deviation than our normal plan versus reality, but there were some sensational moments and nobody lost an eye – to wreck an idiomatic expression.


Our trip started early on a Friday morning, traversed 8,955 miles across the international date line and two stops, and arrived on Friday afternoon, astonishingly no worse for wear.


A couple weeks prior to our trip I had made arrangements to take a van service into the city, which, in hindsight, was probably not a great decision. The van service employee who initially assisted us must have been new to the job since he didn’t know how to access our reservation information. Thankfully, another employee sensed my increased production of gamma-aminobutyric acid and intervened to get us situated. We waited a while for the van to arrive, loaded up, and then left for the other terminal. After taking on more passengers we doubled back to our terminal and added additional passengers. At this point, I sensed that my fellow passengers were all regretting the decision to hire a van service. But eventually, as eventually always comes, we headed off to the Lincoln Tunnel and Midtown Manhattan.


The first thing I observed, having not visited the City since my sister attended college, was that every road in Manhattan was either under construction or was obstructed by buildings under construction. My second observation was that every driver was High Commander of “Me World” and drove like he was more important than everyone else, and the rest of the planet needed to allow left turns from the right lane and accept that the intersections will be impassable whenever traffic lights were green. By the time we arrived at the Moxy, our hotel, I was worse for wear.


A quick aside about the Moxy (485 7th Ave, New York). Moxy hotels are part of the Marriott family of hotels. They are hip, young, and a bit cheaper than the marque Marriotts – a bit like five-star youth hostels. There are two Moxy’s in Midtown Manhattan, but we stayed at the one that was closest to Times Square so we could enjoy the energy of the area. Our room was fantastic, and our stay was very nice, but with one twist. The Moxy has the “most happening” roof bar in the City, I’m told – and I heard. Since our stay was on Friday and Saturday nights, we got an earful of the “guthunka thunka” beat from the roof while trying to sleep. Fortunately, a combination of hotel-provided earplugs and unmitigated exhaustion allowed us to push through. But if you’re a light sleeper this might not work for you. I should conclude this discursion by saying that I would absolutely stay at this hotel again.


My daughter, like most teenage girls who have access to multimedia, is a fan of the K-pop band, BTS (Bangtan Boys). So, our first stop after checking in to our hotel was to pay a visit to the Line Friends store (1515 Broadway, New York) for the BT21 pop-up. We visited the Line Friends BT21 pop-up in Los Angeles earlier in the year so I wasn’t quite as unfamiliar this time. But, it happened to be pouring rain the afternoon of our visit and like so many other tourists, we didn’t have an umbrella. This posed an interesting dilemma since the newly acquired BT21 pillow was some sort of combination of cotton candy and cure for cancer that couldn’t suffer the elements. Fortunately, some enterprising “five dollar, ten dollar” street vendor sold me an umbrella that didn’t instantly self-destruct – yay, that – and all was right in the world.


A quick bite to eat at a highly rated deli turned out to be a bit disappointing, and then a change of clothes before we set off to my surprise of the night – the theatre. I couldn’t justify some of the ticket prices when I planned the trip, so on the advice of a seasoned theatre aficionado who sees all shows on their first run, I bought tickets to Waitress – which wasn’t on its first run. I had low expectations but was willing to endure an evening at the theatre for my daughter’s sake. But, almost from the moment we walked into the Brooks Atkinson Theatre ( 256 West 47th Street, New York) , my attitude started to change. First, and I completely didn’t expect this, the theater smelled like freshly baked pie. Then came the revelation that we got amazing seats and to top off the unexpected, we were able to buy little cup-sized pies to enjoy during the performance. Then the actual performance. It was, to keep on theme, simply delicious - absolutely, delicious.


After the show we walked back to our hotel through Times Square – the earlier deluge had turned into a very light, and much more manageable, drizzle. Like so much of our trip, there were elements of magic mixed in with general unpleasantness and some overly aggressive tourist-related vendors, but, there were plenty of food vendors along the way to distract and occupy us on our casual stroll back to the hotel.


The next day began at Columbia University’s Morningside campus. Thankfully, the rains had passed, and we were left with clear skies and a plummeting thermometer – the concept of zero Kelvin aside, we were happy it wasn’t raining. I was not surprised by the full day of talks about opportunities, meetings with advisers, and campus tour (some photos have previously been posted). What I wasn’t expecting was how difficult it was going to be to stay awake. So periodically stepping out into temperatures in the low 40s (Fahrenheit) helped wake me up, even if only for a short while, throughout the day.


During our mid-day parole we walked to Mill Korean Restaurant (2895 Broadway, New York) for lunch. Yelp reviewers give Mill a 3.2 out of 5.0, while Zomato gives it a 4.0 out of 5.0. Based on our experience, I’d side with Zomato. My daughter and I have eaten our share of Korean food and Mill was yummy and servings were abundant.


We left Morningside Heights in the mid-afternoon and took the 45-minute, five-mile, Uber back to the hotel with enough time before our dinner reservations to take a cat nap. As Robert Burns once wrote, “the best-laid plans of mice and men often go awry.” I had managed to secure reservations at the highly regarded, Quality Italian steakhouse (57 W 57th St, New York), but both of us slept through our reservation time. So, at 11:00 pm my daughter and I went to a corner hot dog stand where I had a truly awful hot dog. We then stopped in at the very busy Shake Shack in the hopes of getting something more esculent but were only slightly happier with our choice. In the end, our best meal of the trip ended up being our Korean lunch. Curses, cat nap.


Early Sunday morning we returned to the worst large airport in the world, Newark. We spent so much time dealing with a seating issue (the airline decided to change our reserved seats and separate my daughter and me by twenty rows) and the downright idiotic design of the airline’s check-in kiosks and counters (even for elite/priority flyers), that by the time we made it through security the plane was half boarded. My daughter and I still didn’t sit together in our previously assigned premium economy seats, but at least she was only a couple rows behind me so I could periodically check on her.


So, like nearly every other aspect of this trip, New York City was both amazing and maddening. Looking back on my regular trips to visit my sister, I suppose that mix has always been the New York City experience – at least the smell of urine that was so pervasive in the ‘80s was gone.


There is only one New York City on earth, and that’s a good thing for a number of reasons. And still, I look forward to my next visit.


(All photos, such as they are, were taken by me; all copyrights are reserved).


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