Looking Back: NYC, Part I.

I am finally feeling recovered from my trip to New York City, and I think I can finally talk about all of the new things I experienced! I’m certain it’s going to be long-winded, so it’s a two-parter, but please bear with me.

I headed to the city on Tuesday morning; my flight was scheduled to leave Austin around 9 am. I went to the ATM to get cash for my trip around 6:30 in the morning, and I got an alert on my phone that my bank account was low.

So, I took a look at things once I got in line for TSA… bad idea. I saw a $700 charge and a $75 charge in my checking account that I didn’t recognize. So, I called Chase bank and they said it wasn’t a “charge”, it was a “freeze” and they needed to connect me with the legal department.

Legal?? What?? I had no idea what was happening. Once I got someone on the line, she explained to me that apparently I had an outstanding balance with the Louisiana State Department of Revenue from 2012, and they froze the money from my bank account.

My first thought was: awesome timing. I’m about to travel on THE most expensive trip I’ve ever taken and you just took nearly $800 from my account.

My second thought was: How in the FUCK did I owe $700 in state taxes and why am I just NOW being notified?! Note: the $75 charge was from Chase for “legal fees” (I’m rolling my eyes right now).

I know this is probably a bad look – especially if you’re new to these parts. But, just a quick summary – I always owe taxes. Every year. Sometimes it’s only a few hundred dollars, one year it was a few thousand dollars, and I ate canned soup and peanut butter sandwiches for six months so I could pay the IRS. I do not dip out on taxes or try and not pay things. So this was a shock!

I should also mention that… I’m not what I would consider financially well off. I don’t make much money at my job; in fact if I didn’t have side hustles, I likely wouldn’t be able to eat. I have a teaching gig and writing and editing jobs and my Etsy shop, and ads on this blog so that I can actually do other things besides just pay bills.

So the fact that there was even an extra $800 in my checking account to be TAKEN, is a miracle from above. Like I’m still not understanding how that happened.

But, in the end, everything worked out – the IRS got their monies, and I still survived in New York. It wasn’t an ideal way to start my trip, but that’s usually how my life rolls.

On the plane ride, I was next to an older woman, who was heading to the city with her friend. When she found out I was traveling alone, she was shocked – this was a theme throughout the week.

Once we landed at JFK, I hopped onto the train and made it to Times Square where my hotel was. I stayed at The Row, which I booked through the Hotel Tonight app (if you’ve never used the app, you can use code HPHILLIPS96 to get 20% off your first booking).

To me, it was within walking distance to all of the things I had planned, I would probably feel safe given all the people around, and at around $325/night, it was my cheapest option.

My experience checking in was standard – the front desk lady was pretty rude and I needed help figuring out the elevators. I was already feeling like things in NYC weren’t very user-friendly. And why should they be?

My room was an upgrade from trash. Super basic. No decor. View of a brick wall. Heater that barely worked.

Regardless, I had a whole night of things planned. I grabbed the subway to the National September 11 Memorial and Museum and the new World Trade Center.

It was Tuesday, which means you could get free admission and donate instead – so I donated $20 and got in around 5:30 pm. I’d read online that you should give yourself at least two hours to explore, and it closes at 8, so I felt good. I put my phone away because I really wanted to focus on whatever was inside (I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect).

Right when you walk in, even before going through security, an employee informed people in line that we were standing in the exact same spot as the attacks. It was chilling.

Once I got inside, I chose to go for a self-guided tour. It’s not really obvious if you should look at the exhibits in a specific order, but I will say I was surprised at how much they have to look at. It’s a lot of… parts of the original building – including parts that hit the planes. There’s articles of clothing from those that were inside, firetrucks, and business files that have burned edges.

There’s also lots of media – video clips from news programs announcing the first tower had been hit, a clip from “Saturday Night Live” when they performed the Saturday right after the attacks, and there’s even security footage of the terrorists going through the TSA line that morning.

There are so many phone calls – voicemails people left for friends and family that were in the towers or on the planes that were hijacked. There are calls from the flight crew to the ground; calls from passengers telling their loved ones that they’re about to die. There are calls from emergency personnel trying to organize a plan; calls from people inside tower two saying they were safe since they weren’t in tower one (before the second plane hit).

What got me were the missing signs. There are so many missing signs, and many of those people were never found.

Outside of the museum is the memorial, which is a reflecting pool that houses the names of every person killed in the 2001 attacks, along with those from the 1993 World Trade Center bombing.

After a few hours at the museum and memorial, I ventured to dinner at Tiny’s, which is just about a mile from the museum. Tiny’s was on my list, as it’s an American-French fusion, and it’s known for its small size and original elements.

It certainly was small and very dark, as I was nearly sharing a table next to the people beside me (this was also a trend during my week). I ordered the buratta to start with and got the salmon as my entree, which was all delicious!

I was trying not to pay too much attention to the gentlemen seated next to me, but I couldn’t help but overhear some of their conversation, and from what I gathered, they were friends both living in the city, but didn’t get to meet up often. They both seemed like “Million Dollar Listing New York” types, which made me uncomfortable. I felt like I was from Makin, Georgia wearing a scrunchie (hopefully you’ll get the “Sex and the City” reference) in Tribeca, while two NYC CEOs were beside me.

Originally, I’d planned to leave dinner and go on a trek to see as many holiday windows as possible while eating candy shoved into my coat pockets.

But, I was starting to feel a bit of anxiety and depression weighing on me. I had only been in New York for a few hours, and I was already struggling to find my way, I was cold, and I felt very alone and almost scared. Perhaps I’d gotten myself into a mess. I felt out of place.

So, after looking for the right subway entrance for a solid 20 minutes (I found it by following some locals), I decided to head back to my hotel, get some quality rest, and start fresh the next day.

Best idea ever.

I felt so much better once I woke up and saw daylight. Darkness + being alone don’t mix.

I got up as if it was a work day – meaning 6:30 am (5:30 Austin time), grabbed coffee and a pastry in the hotel lobby, and caught the subway to find Carrie Bardshaw’s apartment on Perry Street.

The whole neighborhood surrounding Carrie’s stoop is much more pleasant and seems like a place I’d want to hang. But, I jumped right back on the subway and headed to Rockefeller Center where I saw the TREE and bought a ticket to the Top of the Rock at 30 Rockefeller Center.

“30 Rock” as its known, is where many NBC shows are taped, and it’s where nearly everything goes down. It was cool to even be in the building. I’d read that the Top of the Rock is the best place to see the city, and I’d say it was the best $40 I spent, and possibly one of my favorite places I saw all week.

The elevator takes you to the 67th floor in about 16 seconds, and from there, you can lookout from the inside, or step out onto a patio and see a 360-degree view of the city. You can also go up to floors 68 and 69, which I did, and see it completely unobstructed (without glass). It was quite spectacular.

Next, I grabbed a quick lunch inside 30 Rock, where they have all sorts of different shops and restaurants, plus you can watch the skaters at Rockefeller Center.

Then, I walked over to Radio City Music Hall. I had tickets to see the Radio City Christmas Spectacular featuring the Radio City Rockettes at 2 pm, and heard that you should get there one hour before the show started. I’m glad I did, because there was a bit of a line.

While I was waiting in line, I saw that the line to get into the Top of the Rock was more than two blocks long – travel tip: go EARLY.

There was an older couple behind me that quickly struck a conversation – they were newlyweds visiting from Boston. It was their first time in the city and they couldn’t get over me traveling alone. I told them this was my year of adventure after my dad passed away.

“Did you promise him something?” she asked me.

I told her no, but inside I know that this was more of a promise to myself.

“Well, I’m sure he’s smiling down on you,” she said.

Once I got inside Radio City, I was in complete awe. It is gorgeous – much more than I ever imagined. I treated myself to a hot chocolate with whipped cream AND marshmallows, and it was glorious (PLUS it came in a souvenir cup)!

My seat was next to a girl from Wisconsin. She was visiting her mom. I asked her if she knew if these shows were all the same Rockettes because they had showtimes all day long. She was like… yeah but these shows are only 90 minutes. I said, well I sit at my desk all day, so…. but she was convinced that her work as a reporter was similar in physicality to that of a Rockette.

We’ll just have to agree to disagree because this performance was AMAZING. Lots of people told me how great this show was, but words can’t really do it justice. It’s not just the Rockettes – it’s some acts from Santa, and even a nativity scene with live animals. I loved all of the songs and costumes… I can’t even explain how perfect the dancing is though! I seriously was about to cry tears of joy and that has NEVER happened to me!

From there, I booked it to Rickey’s – a cosmetic store on Broadway – known for all of their supplies fit for the stars of the stage. This place was stocked with wig glue, false eyelashes of all sorts, and top-of-the-line face paint. I picked up a few unique goodies for myself, including those hair clips that professional makeup artists use… along with a big jar of rose gold body glitter, because why not?

I had a bit of time to spare before seeing my first Broadway show, so I made a pit stop at the Cosmic Diner, just off Broadway and right around the corner from the August Wilson theatre. I got the cheese fries, and in true diner style it was just a giant pile of fries with two square cheese slices melting on top. It was delicious and a perfect snack as my dinner reservations weren’t until 10:15 pm.

At 6:30, I headed to the theatre for “Mean Girls”! I used the Today Tix app for my ticket and it was perfect and convenient.

I wasn’t really sure what to expect with “Mean Girls”…. but it was FANTASTIC. Or, should I say, fetch? I loved it – I was grinning ear-to-ear. The core plot of the movie is there, and they kept some fan favorite lines (“You go glen Cocoa!”), but the songs and dances are so much fun. I absolutely loved Regina and Janis in this play – amazing. I have been listening to the soundtrack ever since!

Once the show was over, I booked it to 2nd avenue for a late dinner at La Pecora Bianca – known for its house-made pasta. I got a large glass of wine, the arancini, and the bucatini and… I really wish I could have brought some back with me. Definitely some of the best pasta I’ve ever had.

When I sat down though, I was next to a woman eating solo as well. We started talking and her name was Kate. She just started a graduate program at NYU, and had recently visited Austin. I really enjoyed talking to her and although she’d only been living in the city for awhile, her brother had been living in SoHo for years, so she seemed to know her way around pretty well. She spoke to me like an old friend, and it was comforting in a way.

It was a good end to my very full day.

Tomorrow, I’ll post the second-half of my trip! Thanks for letting me share 🙂

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