The Manhattan Trip, Day One

My FirstBorn, Sarah, is in the process of applying to various schools, pursuing her dream of a career on the stage. As one might expect, schools that specialize in the performing arts usually require applicants to audition. So Sarah has been saving up her hard earned pennies to travel around, giving monologues and singing songs in the hope of getting an offer of admission.

Last Friday and Saturday (January 27th and 28th), she auditioned for Juilliard and Carnegie Mellon. Both auditions were in New York City. I thought it might be fun, and helpful to her, if I tagged along. That way, we could split costs and both get to see some of the Big Apple. We set off on Thursday morning, flying down to Charlotte, NC, and from there to John F. Kennedy Airport.

The last time Sarah traveled by plane was eleven years ago, when she, SecondBorn, and I flew to England. She wasn’t even a teenager then, so for this trip, I let her take the window seat so she could enjoy watching the earth fall away from us, and the cars and houses shrink as we flew high over the trees and into the clouds. Flying gives you a whole new perspective on places you think you know. I always find it incredible how green North Carolina is, something I don’t always appreciate at ground level. And I never realized how many little islands there are off the shore line of New York. They sit on the water like broken fragments, some with a few roads and a building or two, some seemingly unpopulated. Do people travel to these islands? Is there anything worth visiting on them, or are they just cast-off bits of land, like strips of discarded cloth on the dressmaker’s floor?

Our New York adventure started with a twist. Just as we were making our approach to JFK, the captain came on the intercom to tell us that we had to circle and land on a different runway because the plane in front of us encountered some birds on touchdown. The aircraft was okay, but the runway had to be cleared of the… results, which meant we needed to land elsewhere. Sarah and I had no agenda for the day other than getting to our hotel, so we didn’t mind the slight delay. The plane eventually landed, and we got out at JFK…

We then spent the next two hours getting to the hotel. Yes. Two hours. First we had to take the AirTrain from the airport to the subway. If you’re not familiar with New York City, like other big cities (Washington DC, London, Paris, etc.), it has an underground railway system that enables people to get around relatively cheaply and quickly without having to deal with traffic and parking. New Yorkers make much use of the subway because New York is very big. Very very big. Our hotel was (and still is) on Seventh Avenue in midtown Manhattan, so we needed to get a train on the E-line. This meant we had to get off the AirTrain at its last stop, buy a MetroCard, and then take the next E-train to Seventh Avenue. From where we were, that was about 20 stops down the line. It would take about thirty to forty minutes normally, but our train had to stop part-way into the journey because the train ahead of us had slammed on its emergency brakes. I have no idea why–our driver didn’t go into detail. But we had to wait for that train to go, and then wait a few more minutes to allow for time between trains.

Macy’s of Times Square, the largest store in the world. I think it would make a nice library.

When we finally emerged onto Seventh Avenue, Sarah pulled out her phone and checked Google Maps. The hotel was on the other side of Times Square, about a twenty minute walk. So we headed down Seventh Avenue, surrounded by the bright lights, billboards, and sky-scraping buildings for which New York is renown. It’s hard to try to take everything in and not get run over by pedestrians. New Yorkers are people on a mission. Whenever we crossed a street, the hoards lined up on either side like warriors on the battlefield waiting for the light to change so they could engage. As soon as the signal turned to “Walk,” the two sides charged, and so help you if you got in the way of someone trying to make it to the other side. Thankfully, Sarah and I packed relatively light, so we didn’t have a lot of luggage to slow us down.

We were staying at the Hotel Pennsylvania, right across the road from Madison Square Garden. The hotel looked nice, and from the lobby area you would think it quite plush. But our room was a bit primitive. Perhaps I’ve been spoiled by the fact that whenever I travel for work, we usually stay at nice hotels, so I’ve come to expect little details like a coffee maker that I can use to get hot water for my tea, and a shower that takes less than five minutes to produce hot water that comes out of the shower head at a fair clip. And this was supposed to be one of the newer rooms. At least we didn’t pay a lot for it, and Sarah and I agreed it was worth putting up with for a couple of nights for the sake of being in midtown Manhattan, close to where her auditions were being held.

For supper that evening, we visited Korea Town, which is a street in midtown Manhattan given over to the Korean community (kind of like Chinatown, which is elsewhere in NYC). There we found our choice of Korean restaurants, as well as Korean stores and bakeries. Both Sarah and her sister (SecondBorn) enjoy Korean food and music (K-Pop), so a visit to Korea Town was inevitable. We ate at a restaurant called Han Bat, and I ordered a dish called Bok Eum Bab. I don’t recall what Sarah got, sorry. Our meal came with side dishes:

As best I recall, from left to right we have potato squares cooked in some kind of pork broth, thin strands of radish (pickled?), kimchi (fermented vegetables–a traditional Korean dish), lettuce with a kimchi-style dressing (quite spicy), what looked like strips of cooked eggplant–it had that kind of texture, some kind of green vegetable, and crunchy seaweed.

My Bok Eum Bab was essentially fried rice with broccoli and tofu squares:

As you can see, they served a lot of food. It wasn’t bad, but it needed a splash of soy sauce to give the flavor a bit of a kick. It was expensive, however (at least compared to what I’m used to here in North Carolina). I don’t think any of the menu items were less than $15.

After dinner, we ventured back down Korea Way (yes, there’s actually a street called Korea Way, with the street name in Korean underneath the English), and checked out the Korean book and music store. I mentioned Sarah and SecondBorn both love K-Pop, so this was heaven on earth for Sarah. Shelves of K-Pop, as well as merchandise, and posters. I was taken with the rows of books, all in Korean. Down the center of the store they had a table with stacks of books that appeared to be Korean translations of popular novels (GAME OF THRONES, and REVIVAL by Stephen King to name a couple I remember).

After some hot beverages at the Besfren café (I got a chai “Teappuccino”), we took a walk past the Empire State Building, and then back to the hotel.

That was Day One. Tomorrow, I’ll tell you about Day Two, which includes Juilliard, the Lennon Memorial, Mood, Hell’s Kitchen, and a Shark at New Leaf…

14 thoughts on “The Manhattan Trip, Day One

  1. AJ Blythe

    Sounds like your trip was a fun adventure, Colin. With Sarah about to fly the coup it would have been nice to have some quality time with her as well.

  2. Lisa B

    Ha! Macy’s would make a nice library! I with you there!

    What an exciting time, Colin. My daughter, Sarah, studied Asian Art History although her focus was on Chinese. But she had Korean friends at university. Looking forward to hearing more about your and your Sarah’s adventures.

    1. cds Post author

      Thanks, Lisa! SecondBorn is an Asiaphile, with particular interest in Korea, China, and Japan. She is learning Korean, Mandarin, Cantonese, and Japanese, and would LOVE Korea Town. Indeed, there were a few times where Sarah and I both wished she was there to translate for us. 🙂

  3. Claire Bobrow

    Hey Colin! So much fun to hear about your NYC adventures. I love that your girls love K-Pop. It always makes me think of an oral exam our daughter had to take and somehow the subject of K-Pop arose, and then J-Pop…
    Looking forward to part two of your story tomorrow. I hope the auditions went well. How exciting!

    1. cds Post author

      Thanks, Claire! I swear, I could drop SecondBorn in Korea Town and she would never come home. She would probably take up residence in that book/music store. I told her, I have never seen so much K-Pop outside of her bedroom! 🙂

  4. Diane

    You make me want to go back; I haven’t been to Manhattan in YEARS now. One of the places I remember best from my very first visit there was Madame Tussaud’s. I got my picture taken with Patrick Stewart, RuPaul stood tall, and we got some great shots of my girlfriend with Janis Joplin. I’d love to get back and have more time just to “be” in NYC.

    1. cds Post author

      I saw Madame Tussaud’s marked on Google Maps, but we didn’t have the time, unfortunately. There is just SO MUCH to see! One of the cool things about Manhattan is that, even though there are many things that are crazy expensive (including the food), there’s a lot to see and experience that costs nothing. Like you said, just being in NYC is an experience. I don’t know that I could live there, but definitely cool to visit. 🙂

  5. Carolynnwith2Ns

    Hey Colin you were up in my neck of the woods. I don’t get to The Big Apple much anymore. Too congested. But when I was a kid, living in Jersey, I went over all the time. Can’wait for part two.

    1. cds Post author

      I hope the hotel was in better shape back then! Although, if you weren’t desperate for a cup of tea, you probably wouldn’t have cared. 🙂

  6. John Davis Frain

    Colin, such fun! I know, I know, I’m way behind. Work has been too demanding. I can barely get to my ms. You have so many awesome lines in this entry. I know it’s about so much more than writing, but I love things like “watch the earth fall away” and comparing the NY islands to discarded cloth. Great stuff.

    You must be uber proud of your daughter. Those are some special schools she’s looking at. Great to follow your dream, good for her. I’m pulling for her!

    1. cds Post author

      Thanks, John! While I write these for fun and for my own memory’s sake, I am also trying to write them like a real proper writer might, so your compliment means a lot. 🙂


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