Tuesday, October 18, 2016

New York, New York

Two years ago, an Iowa horde invaded the DMV (DC, Maryland, Virginia) to welcome the Maryland Terrapins to the Big Ten. The Terrapins were not very welcoming on game day, but our group had such a great time traveling east that we scheduled another trip to the East Coast, this one to see the Hawkeyes play Rutgers and to visit New York City. Since we’d had such a great time the last time, we ended up picking up a few new people.  

Tailgating before an Iowa victory!

 Here’s the crew for the New York trip:

Me (Estherville, IA)
Garv and Lindsay (my brother-in-law and sister; Santiago, Chile)
Mom and Dad (Remsen, IA)
Ron and Jeanne (Garv's aunt and uncle but they're like family; Okoboji, IA)
Brandee (Ron and Jeanne's daughter; Las Vegas, NV)
Jean (Dad's sister Des Moines, IA)
Lynda and Pat (Jeanne's cousin and her husband; St. Louis, MO)
Betty (Jeanne's cousin; St. Louis, MO)
Jimmy (Lynda and Betty’s Nephew; New York, NY)
Mary and Dick (my aunt and uncle, mom’s sister; Idaho Falls, ID)
Eric (my cousin; Onawa, IA or wherever there’s wind turbines to be worked on)
Justin (Eric’s dad; Onawa, IA)

Saturday crew:
Toni and Jon (Brandee’s friends who recently moved to New Jersey from Las Vegas)
Nick (Garv and LG's friend Des Moines, IA)

I do have to mention that we sadly missed one of the crew members from our last trip, Mark Johnson, my aunt Jean's boyfriend, who was not able to make it because he was diagnosed with leukemia in July.  This was very disappointing because of all the people who went on our previous trip, Mark had the most fun.  He was greatly missed.

Since this trip involved such a big group, I wanted to have everyone’s impressions and memories included so I asked everyone to share their favorite moments of the trip. I arranged them chronologically so as to provide some structure. You'll also notice that there is a "Tony" and a "Tony as narrator" characters. The "Tony" voice will be my impressions of the trip.  "Tony the Narrator" will fill in the gaps in the narrative and provide context and explanation when necessary.  Anything in parentheses is also my words.

Arriving in Manhattan, Thursday, September 22
Tony the Narrator: We had people flying in from Santiago, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Omaha, Des Moines, and St Louis and into Newark, LaGuardia and JFK airports, and remarkably,  everyone arrived at their scheduled times and made it to our hotel, the Doubletree Suites, Times Square by Thursday evening.  Brandee, Garv, and Lindsay arrived before everyone else so they got to do a little bit extra. So Brandee bats leadoff.

Brandee: I loved my first morning in NYC.  I was able to meet up with my friend, Toni, and hearing her talk about the city was great.  I got to experience getting a bagel from a deli and enjoying it by the Hudson.  Even did a little shopping for the kids.  It was such a wonderful start to the trip.
The arrivals of everyone worked out perfectly.  I got to spend some time with Michael and Lindsay, saw a few of the sights and walked through Central Park (really just scratched the surface).  We were excited for everyone else’s arrival.  Funniest thing that day was when LG and I were getting some coffee and she tried to order hers in Spanish.  That one got a lot of miles.
Brandee, Lindsay, and Garv--The first arrivals celebrating their arrival in New York.

Dinner at Hillstone, Thursday Evening
Tony the Narrator: After one part of the group had arrived at the Doubletree Suites and been introduced to the prices of alcohol in New York City, we walked through Mid-town to Hillstone for a drink and dinner.  
Times Square on the walk to Hillstone

At Hillstone, we met up with Pat, Betty, and Jimmy, but unfortunately not Lynda who had a mishap as she will explain below.  We enjoyed a great dinner at Hillstone and then toured Jimmy’s apartment which was right next door.  
Dad, Justin, Eric, Mom, Mary, and Dick at Hillstone

Jeanne, Jean, Betty, Lindsay and Brandee

Garv, Me, Pat, Jimmy, and Ron
The first rule of politics...Never eat when a camera is present.

Lynda: I have been in New York many times, and have seen most of the sites more than once.
This year was so much more special! I had family and very dear friends to see the same sites with, as the majority of things I did in New York in the past I did alone.

Waiting for luggage at Southwest I fell and cut my lip, not bad enough for stitches, but frightful none the less...and I am the person who doesn't drink and don't do drugs. Ha Ha...jokes on me! The Southwest staff were outstanding in cleaning me up, providing me with a chair, and ice packs. That evening I skipped dinner [at Hillstone] and the Empire State Building, fortunately I had been there. The reason all of this was a highlight for me is much more important: the concern my family and friends had for me. Everyone after dinner came by to say hi, see how I was doing, and many hugs from everyone. And I know I was a scary sight. Am I blessed or what!

Empire State Building, Thursday Night
Tony the Narrator: On our way from Hillstone to the Empire State Building, we passed the Remsen Building so those of us who had lived in Remsen got our picture taken there and puzzled the doorman as to to what in the world we were doing.  
WTF are they doing?

We got some good views from the top of the Empire State Building, but it didn’t make anyone’s most memorable list.  After all, as Lindsay so adroitly pointed out when she and I were at the top of the Costanera Center in Santiago, every city has a touristy place from which the tourists can have a great view.  But it was still something we had to do.  
Obligatory Picture from the top of the Empire State. You can see the Freedom Tower in the middle.

Tony: After the Empire State Building, we took the subway for the first time of the trip which led to one of my favorite moments of the trip--Mom’s reaction to seeing a rat scurrying around on the platform across the track from us!
This is actually the day after seeing the rat. I don't consider it a trip to New York unless I spot one in the subway.

Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island, and World Trade Center Memorial, Friday, September 23
Tony the Narrator: Getting to the ferry that took us to the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island was a little more adventurous than it had to be…We probably spent too much time enjoying our morning bagels.  But we did some good pushing off and knee driving and though we didn’t make the 10:00 ferry, we did make the 10:20 ferry.  

The group on Liberty Island

The Manhattan Skyline from the Statue of Liberty's Pedestal

Lady Liberty and Me

Lynda: The second  favorite memory was on Friday. Battery Park, Ellis Island, Statue of Liberty, but most important the 9-11 Museum as well as the sight on which it stood. I had been to see the very beginning of the museum (still had dust etc. around area) and my oh my, now it is so well done, it is awesome. A very serene, sad and heart felt surrounding. The amount of history is remarkable. I look forward to going again and having more time in the entire area. To me, a very spiritual time, as so many souls lay buried on such sacred ground.

The National 9/11 Memorial and Museum

Dad: I enjoyed the World Trade Center the most.

Garv: World Trade Center memorial. Amazingly well done.  I loved all the quotes about the benefits of free trade that were on display as you walked down the ramp.  Very interesting during this election cycle where both candidates are against TPP.

Ron: The World Trade Center was my favorite.  I could have spent all day there.  And to think what those people sacrificed going into those buildings is just incredible.
A mangled fire truck. Wow

One of the two waterfalls that is part of the memorial to represent the collapsing buildings.

Ringing the waterfalls are the names of those who died in the building.

Tony the Narrator: After we had left the September 11 Museum, Mom and Mary wanted to spend a little more time looking at the waterfall portion of the memorial which has the names of those killed inscribed around it. They picked a spot to look at the waterfall and the name right in front of them was Patrick Dunn, which was very significant because Granny's (their mother, my grandmother) maiden name was Patrick and Gramps's (their father, my grandfather) surname (and their maiden names) was Dunn (and they also have a nephew Patrick Dunn). Sometimes you can't make this stuff up.

Broadway Shows, Friday Night, Saturday Night, Sunday Night
Tony the Narrator: The Doubletree Suites Time Square was right in the heart of Times Square and we took advantage of the proximity to Broadway shows as members of our group attended shows on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday nights.

Tony: One of my favorite moments was walking out of our hotel and into Times Square at about 7:00 PM as we headed to our various Broadway shows. It looked like it was daylight, but I knew that it wasn't. So I told some members of our group to look up so that they could be awed by the realization that Times Square truly was lit up like daylight.  

Tony the Narrator: I went to Something Rotten and School of Rock on Saturday night.  On Friday night, other groups went to Jersey Boys and Kinky Boots, on Saturday, others went to Jersey Boys or An American in Paris, and on Sunday, everyone still there went to Beautiful.

 Lindsay: I liked the Broadway shows the best! I also liked walking outside our hotel room at night with all the lights, people, energy, etc.

Jeanne: My favorite part of the trip was Kinky Boots on Friday night.

Brandee: Everyone heading to their Broadway plays on Friday was amazing!  Saw Kinky Boots and it was the best show I have ever seen.  It was also great as everyone arrived back to the hotel after their own shows and the excitement in the air. Saw School of Rock, a must for 3 teachers and then had a wonderful dinner together at Vice Versa to end the day.   The coffee and dessert were delicious.

Mom: “What I enjoyed the most was when Frankie Valle came out during Jersey Boys and starting singing ‘You’re just too good to be true. I can’t take my eyes off you.’ I would rate Jersey Boys as a 10/10, Beautiful  as 9.89/10, and School of Rock as a 9.75/10.”

Tony: Broadway is also my favorite part about New York. In my two previous trips to New York City, I’d attended a total of seven shows and on this trip I added two more, Something’s Rotten and School of Rock.  The shows are amazing and incredible and it’s hard to believe that people can sing, dance, and act like that. I loved Something’s Rotten because it was a musical that didn’t take itself too seriously and seemed to fill the niche of the musical on Broadway that makes fun of musicals on Broadway.  I loved School of Rock because besides the Jack Black character, the stars of the show were 10-12 year old kids.  They were unreal.   Another favorite part of a Broadway show  is that moment when the show is over and people are pouring out of their shows into Times Square.  It’s such an intense positive energy as show-goers excitedly talk about the amazing performance they just witnessed, marvel at the lights of Times Square making daylight out of night, and decide where to go eat or drink.  It’s just a moment because that’s all the time there is before you have to move to avoid being trampled or causing a cluster.

Tailgating and a Hawkeye Victory,  Saturday, September 24
Brandee: Tailgating on Saturday with Toni and Jon…how that came together was outstanding!!  Even though the game itself was probably the least exciting thing of the trip, the Hawkeye win was not!  Go Hawks!

Jon, Garv, Toni, and Brandee, our tailgate organizers!

Lynda: The next big memory was the Rutgers game, and Iowa winning, (even though such a boring game!). HA HA  Fun to be in a different stadium and with friends and family! The tailgating venue was a big surprise and welcomed by all.

Tony: My favorite part of the trip was tailgating before the football game because it was not something that I had counted on as part of the trip.  Brandee’s friends, Toni (I'll never forget your name!) and Jon drove their vehicle to the game and brought lots of snacks, Miller Lite, and Coors Light.  Garv and Brandee helped them find a great tailgate spot in a grass lot very close to the stadium.  Since there was plenty of time and Miller Lite, I made sure to enjoy my share.  One of the nice things about games in the Eastern Time Zone is that the early game starts at noon instead of 11:00 AM so there was an extra hour of tailgating.  It was a lot of fun because we had a big group, some first time tailgaters, some friendly Rutgers fans next to us who shared some Budweisers for a few group members averse to Miller-Coors products, and another friendly Rutgers fan who gave me an excellent restaurant recommendation.  As for the game, it was really boring which is better than a loss.  Two years ago, at Maryland, I was not well-behaved and set some F bomb records.  I guess after Coach Ferentz signed an extension through 2026, I resigned myself to getting used to the same old offensive and defensive issues.  Fortunately, Rutgers is a little worse than us.
I figured I'd use this picture in context

"In Heaven there is no beer! That's why we drink it here! And when we're gone from here, our friends will be drinking all our beer!

More Broadway and Times Square, Saturday Night
Tony the Narrator: We arrived back at the hotel after the game at about 6 pm and since we were in the heart of Broadway and Broadway is so amazing, most of us went to some more shows. Then we met for some great Italian food from my restaurant recommendation and finished our evening in the heart of Times Square, watching a flash mob and all the action, energy, and intensity, even at midnight.

Times Square at Midnight. Our view from the stands above the Tkts, Tkts booth.

Lots of photo bombers

Church, Sunday Morning, September 25
Tony the Narrator: Unfortunately, on Sunday, the group startled to trickle home. Eric and Justin left very early in the morning. My final New York event was attending church at St. Patrick’s Cathedral.  It was full of worshipers from all over the world and it was much more enjoyable than a normal church experience.
I hope I don't go to Hell for that previous sentence.

In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

Museums and Other Activities, Sunday Afternoon
Tony the narrator: After I departed, the rest of the group visited some of New York's better known museums, the Guggenheim and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Brandee: I can say I’ve been to the Guggenheim and that’s a good thing because I don’t have to go back.  Ever. The MET was overwhelming…and we just needed more time to try and read the map.

Lunch outside a museum

Tony: I’ve never been to the Guggenheim, but from what it sounds like, it’s one of those museums that is designed so that if you don’t understand it, then you’re a rustic rube lacking in culture and sophistication.  For my true thoughts on these types of museums, please see the July 9th entry from this post.

Tony the Narrator: Sunday also happened to be Lynda's 70th birthday.

Betty: Having never been to New York City it was overwhelming in the beginning, but after a few days, it all felt normal, so to speak!!

My favorite memory was being in New York City and being able to celebrate my sister’s 70th birthday. After a fun filled morning seeing sights we continued onward. All had a great time boating, eating lobsters roll, wings, and more. Then bus tour of city, and off to a fantastic dinner.

My memories are so numerous, and all special.

The Today Show and Final Departures, Monday, September 26

On Monday morning, the group still in New York went to the Today Show and Rockefeller Center.
Hawkeyes representing at the Today Show

Dad trying to get some airtime.

Matt, over here!

Al, over here!

The set
30 Rock

One last beer before returning home!

Closing Thoughts
Tony: New York, particularly the borough of Manhattan, is my favorite city. There is nothing quite like it. I even have a fondness for the garbage and rats. But it's my favorite because there's no where else can match the energy that is created by so many people living, working, and visiting.

Eric: My favorite part was being in Times Square. Trying all the street food and watching the Hawks win.
Eric ordering some street food!
Justin: Other than the Hawks win, I really enjoyed Something Rotten and the Statue of Liberty. The whole trip was great!  Thanks to you and Garv for being tour guides!

Jean: Family and opportunity is what sums up this trip for me.  Getting to spend more than just a quick few hours with everyone was so wonderful.  The opportunity to see and do everything we did would not otherwise be there for me.  The patience (most of the time) and planning  from our guides was fantastic.  I loved flying into Newark and seeing the Manhattan skyline and the Statue of Liberty in the harbor for the first time.  You cannot even imagine Times Square unless you actually experience it.  And THREE Broadway plays!  Just like our DC trip, it was so great going to so many famous locations -  now I can say that I've been there.  The cookies on the last day were the best!
Brandee: This is such an outstanding group of people to travel with.  The planning and adherence to the schedule is very efficient.  Between you and Michael getting all of us where we need to go, I thank you from the bottom of my heart!  

Jeanne: The trip went so smoothly. It was a well-oiled machine.

Tony the Narrator: I can’t summarize the trip any better than my aunt Mary.

Mary and Dick
There was:
Laughing- Happiness of family
Singing- Amazing Broadway shows
Cheering- A Hawkeye victory
Shrieking- Rats in the subway
Eating- Deli and street vendors
Tearing- 911 museum, Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Praying- St. Patrick's Cathedral
Gawking- Tall buildings and Times Square
Thanking- Garv, Tony and all our family and extended family for making this such a memorable and fabulous trip.