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Friday, July 30, 2004

The Big Apple

The alarm went off at 3:30 a.m., a brutal hour, especially since I only went to bed at midnight. At some point, 3-1/2 hours of sleep will catch up with me. I’m okay now thanks to a steady infusion of coffee.

I nodded off briefly on the plane, but as soon as I felt it slow for descent, I quickly opened my eyes in delicious anticipation. I realized I’ve never flown to the east coast, only over Middle America. So many more towns and cities here. Managed a window seat but didn’t want to show lack of sophistication by announcing that this was my first trip to the city. The Atlantic coast is a glorious site, but I think I’m on the wrong side of the plane to see the Manhattan skyline. The girl across the aisle points out the Statue of Liberty, which looks so small sitting in the harbor but no less beautiful to these eyes.

Oh my God! It’s huge! Manhattan is huge and so is Central Park. Can’t help feeling that I was meant to be here.

It’s now 6:50 p.m. and I’ve walked everywhere and haven’t even scratched the surface of New York City. My dogs are tired and so I found a little Trattoria near Times Square for dinner. The host and owner of Bella Napoli, Luigi Gennetti, asks me if I’m dining alone. And when I say yes he looks up at me (because he’s very short) and says he would take me out for a fine evening with Cristal and caviar after he put his teeth in. He howled and I chuckled and he thanked me for being a good sport.

It’s very clear that one could spend a year in NYC and still not see it all. How awe inducing that would be. This afternoon I’ve managed to walk between the lions at New York Public Library, say a prayer in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, walk amid the throngs of people in Times Square and take the Subway to Wall Street.

An alabaster (or maybe it’s plaster of Paris) bust of David greets you as you step down into the restaurant. I love how they keep the doors wide open to the streets, inviting you in to sit down with a carafe of Chianti. The obligatory Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra play—“’Cause your lovely, never ever change”—and I’m soaking in the kitschy Italian atmosphere.

What a liberating experience it is to be in this city all alone. Ah, but here comes my tomato and mozzarella salad. I tell myself to eat slowly. I’m in no hurry. I’m getting a kick out of the Divine Ya-Ya’s sitting at the table in front of me. They are very southern and in a big hurry to get to a show. I, however, am savoring my mussels marinara.

My kids asked me what I was going to do tonight and I told them I didn’t know because the possibilities are endless. The best part of this trip is that I don’t have to see it all since I’ll be back in about a month.

I called Charlie to reassure him that I was safely in NYC and enjoying the hell out of myself! He told me how happy he was that I was finally able to see things I’ve always wanted to see. “Did you see Manhattan coming in on the plane?” Oh yeah! I’m going to call Jen later. She and I have to be here together.

Since I haven’t eaten all day, I elect to have tiramisu and cappuccino. No matter because I’ll be walking it all off anyway. Luigi and I talk about fine jazz music as I get ready to leave. He has me sit down in his chair and asks me where in the city I live. I’m flattered that he doesn’t notice I’m a newbie.

As I walk toward Grand Central Station, I call Jen and tell her to get her tush to the city ASAP! The walk toward 42nd and Madison is amazing…Rockefeller Center, Harper Collins, NBC and the Rainbow Room and there—majestically rising from the street—is Grand Central Station. And there’s the Hyatt I’ll be staying in when I come back in September. And next to that is the Chrysler Building. I have an amazing photo of photographer Margaret Bourke-White peeking from one of the chrome gargoyles at the top of the Chrysler Building to shoot a photo. Unbelievable!

My hubby recommended having a drink at the Oyster Bar on the lower level of Grand Central Station. I would have liked oysters, too, but they were no longer serving. So I settled for a glass of Shiraz and some fun conversation with Marcello, the bartender. He’s every bit a gentleman and I as get up to leave, he kisses my hand and thanks me for stopping in.

I’ve now been up for 20 hours straight and the three glasses of wine and the long hours spent walking are catching up with me. So I head back to the hotel, walking through Times Square at night. It’s crazy around here, lit up as if it were day and bustling with people. I could get used to this…

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