A year after moving away, I got myself back to New York for a weekend and anticipation was high, to say the least. I am happy to report that the trip not only lived up to expectations, it surprised and delighted in ways I never could have guessed, making it all the more memorable.
I flew out after work on Wednesday and made my way to my room in Park Slope, a tiny second-floor spot in a brownstone owned by a lovely woman who’d lived there for 35-plus years. She welcomed me warmly at nearly midnight, and I settled in quickly, buzzing with good energy being back in the city I love so much. I fell asleep that night with my head spinning, like a kid on Christmas Eve, anxious for the weekend – and all the fun I had in store – to start in earnest!
I wasted no time on Thursday getting up and moving; the plan was to soak up as much Alexander Hamilton history as I could before seeing the show that night. Metro card safely in hand, I zipped over to Wall Street where I’d start my day. I found a coffee shop for a quick breakfast sandwich and hot coffee (my go-to breakfast many a busy mornings during my stint as a New Yorker!), and enjoyed both while I walked over to Trinity Church and the site of Hamilton’s grave (and Eliza’s…and Angelica’s). I’d walked by the church – and noticed Hamilton’s unmistakable grave – many times, but never made my way in. It’s truly a sanctuary in the most bustling part of town, and it was quite moving to visit the graves of these historical figures I’ve come to know so well.
Hamilton lived his life much like we do now, working in the city and living in the suburbs. After my time downtown, I jumped back on a train and traversed the length of the city to his house at 141st St, open to the public for just a short window of time that day. A National Park Service site, it is a gem hidden in plain site just north of Central Park, with an informative exhibit on the ground floor and well-kept rooms above. It’s easy to imagine Hamilton and Eliza enjoying time there in the final years of his life.
My historical itch successfully scratched, I took advantage of being uptown and made my way to Central Park for a walk through some of my favorite sections – Bethesda Fountain, the Mall…I walked and walked until I had to make my way back to Brooklyn for coffee with a friend. That also allowed enough time to get dolled up for the show, which I have documented thoroughly here and will spare you now! Suffice it to say I made it another classic night on Broadway, snagging a slice of pizza for dinner beforehand and wandering through Times Square (floating on Cloud 12 all the while) afterwards.
I woke up Friday hardly believing I was still in the city. I’d come, after all, primarily to see Hamilton. I’d been looking forward to the show for six months, and now I found myself in a post-Hamilton world without any idea of what to live for or what to do with myself…(only slightly an over-exaggeration!). The whole city at my fingertips, I set out for familiarity: a bagel (everything with scallion cream cheese) and an iced coffee from my favorite spot in my old neighborhood in Williamsburg. I have had several amazing meals in New York City, but that bagel that morning was easily the best morsel I enjoyed all weekend, so impossible is it to find a decent one anywhere outside of the five boroughs. I spent the rest of the middle of the day doing my other favorite Brooklyn thing: thrifting. I tried on everything, but with limited suitcase space only brought home a few new-to-me dresses. Like bagels, the thrifting in NYC is always better, too.
Before heading to a fabulously indulgent dinner on Friday night, I snuck in some time for a visit to my happiest of all NYC spots, The Met. I’d been saving an episode of The Memory Palace to listen to until I could get there – it was a brief story about the woman who lived in the house with this dressing room featured in their Gilded Age exhibit (scroll down), and it was as lovely as I expected it to be (the exhibit and the museum, both).
The most delightful moment of my fast weekend in the city came on Saturday morning as I walked down the street from the house where I was staying. The diner where I planned on having a nice, leisurely breakfast was cash-only, so I strolled down to a nearby ATM and quite literally bumped into a friend of mine – there she was, walking towards me on the same street at the same time. Of all the gin joints! It worked out even better as she was able to join me as I finished breakfast, an unanticipated yet entirely welcome opportunity to catch up with a kindred spirit. My flight still a few hours away, I used the last of my time to explore the Whitney Museum in its new downtown digs. Between beautiful views of the city skyline, their unique galleries captivate, and the exhibit by documentarian Laura Poitras proved equal parts stunning and terrifying.
As I made my way to the airport that afternoon, it was with a full heart, a cup that runneth over. It’s so often the case that reality doesn’t come anywhere close to meeting expectations. Had I inflated my memories of the city and overplayed its importance to me? Indeed, I had not. The energy I draw from the city is real, and the whole affair ended up as enjoyable as I could’ve hoped, from a perfect spot to lay my head to the most amazing Broadway show of its time to great conversations with great people to the art and history and public spaces that make the city so unique. It was all right where I left it, as perfect as I remember it – and it will all be there again when I go back.