New York, New York, what a beautiful town...
Finally, after all these years of looking at Broadway and the largest city in the nation from afar, I finally got the chance to journey to New York City. It was an amazing experience to say the least and I am planning my return as we speak. But that is too far into the future. We must first go back to the past...
I found out that the Norton/Scott residence hall complex, the complex that I work at, was going to host a trip to New York City. I also found out that there weren't that many students signed up to go, which excited me. You see, each residence hall has a hall council and they are given money to put on a certain event or make an improvement within the building. Norton/Scott decided to take a trip to New York City with the money with additional money being raised through grants. But this left a problem for me. I am a resident of Drackett Tower, not Norton House or Scott House. The only way I would be given a chance to do is if the trip didn't fill up and there was an extra space for me to go. I had my fingers crossed, but when the new year came, the trip filled. I went ahead and scheduled my work hours for Martin Luther King weekend, the weekend in which the trip would take place. But one day, I got a call from Jamie, the Hall Director of Norton/Scott who is also the sponsor for B.A.N.C.S. and who also knew how badly I wanted to go on this trip. Jeffrey, I am calling to see if you are still interested in going on the New York City trip. One of the people who signed up had a grandparent pass and so we have an open spot. She didn't have to ask me twice. I accepted and quickly gave away my hours to work. Jamie said that I could pay her the money after the trip since it was technically already paid for. I was set.
The night of the trip arrived and I had been running everywhere trying to make sure that I had everything. Once I was confident that I didn't leave anything I couldn't buy when I was in the Big Apple, I left the dorm and went to wait for the bus. Inside Norton, I got a lot of surprised smiles from my co-workers. I didn't know you were coming on the trip. I was happy that they were happy that I was there. Also on the trip was a fellow BANCS member and a good friend, Matthew. I think he was just happy to have another Black person on the trip with him. I spent most of my time joking with my co-workers, Melanie and Carmen. When the bus arrived, we all hopped on. I was one of four lucky people to get a seat to themselves. Matthew, who was originally supposed to sit with me, was another lucky one. The bus ride was an uncomfortable one. I wondered to myself how anyone can sleep comfortably for an 8 hour ride, because every time I woke up a different part of my body hurt. But when dawn came, we were in New York City and it was beautiful.
We were staying in a Red Roof Inn on 32nd and Broadway in Manhattan. I didn't know the city so I had no idea where everything was. We unloaded our things into the lobby and the bus drove away, but we faced a small problem. We would not be able to check in until 3:00 p.m. and it was 8:30 a.m. The folks are the hotel were nice enough to let us store our things in two of the rooms a little early. We had a quick breakfast too before heading off, but we had to eat it in the halls. After that, it was off to do community service in Central Park. We would be taking the subway and you guessed it, it was my first time. New York really did make me nervous at first because of the shear size of it. My number one fear was getting lost and having to ask someone for directions. I clung closely to Melanie as though she knew the city like the back of her hand even though she didn't. Our 40 something person group walked up the street to Penn Station and the front of Madison Square Garden. That's when I pulled out the camera and became a tourist. The subway was a strange experience. The thing took off with a jolt that sent some people flying to the floor. Most grabbed on to something before they went that far though. The subway was very bumpy and I was surprised the thing didn't de-rail, but at any rate, it was an experience.
We got to Central Park to do our community service. Turns out, the dorms got a lot of grant money for doing this, knocking the cost for students from $500 to $150. Our job was to rack up dead leaves off the ground. Walking through Central Park was nice because it is really beautiful. It is shown on television as a very dangerous place, but it didn't seem that way to me. Maybe because it was daylight, but it was definitely not the scrubby looking park that I thought it would be. It was also the home to the largest collection of Elm Tress. They were all fenced off however, because a disease has been killing a lot of them off across the nation. We were allowed to hop the fence and rake though. Now, this is where things got a little dirty. The leaves had obviously been on the ground of a few months. Many of them were frozen to the ground itself, but there were a few that we were able to get up. We used this time to really socialize with each other as we worked. Melanie, Carmen, and I had a great time making each other laugh. Melanie was a little sick so she would cough more than laugh. This helped the time go by a lot quicker and I think we got a lot done. But things were kind of miserable though. The temperature was very low and we were all very cold. It was also wet out which didn't help our case. But in the end, we got it done.
We were allowed to have about two hours of free time and there was only one thing on my mind, getting tickets to see a Broadway show. Melanie showed a little interest, but Carmen didn't. I called to see if there were any tickets available to see The Phantom of the Opera and the folks told me that they were sold out. Bastards. We got on the subway to go back to Penn Station. I was still going to be on the hunt. When we got back, Jamie broke from us to get coffee with another supervisor of the trip and that left myself, Melanie, and Carmen. Melanie began to talk about how she was cold and how she wanted to get something to drink. We walked into a mall for a few minutes, but I thought to myself that there was no way that I would stay at a mall while I was in NYC. She wanted me to come along, but I was on a mission. I left her and Carmen in the mall almost immediately and started walking in New York alone.
Finding things in New York wasn't too difficult, although I was nervous. Manhattan reminds me of a mall at Christmas; busy as hell! But I walked around with a smile on my face. I wanted to see Phantom and I had hopes that I could get standing room only tickets or student tickets. The Majestic Theatre was located on 44th so it wasn't much of a walk from where I was (34th) to get there. The day was still bitterly cold and I had already lost feeling in my toes. But as I walked, I noticed something familiar. Times Square stood right in front of me with all of its lights and huge buildings. On one side there was the Mtv building and on the other was the ABC building. There was a building with a monitor that covered the entire side of the building. It was utterly amazing.
It didn't take long to find the Majestic Theatre. It was located on a street that was pretty deserted from the people that occupied Times Square, only one block away. The theatre was small and quiet and I could see people going in and out of it. Well here goes nothing. I went into the small area where the ticket booth was located and waited in a line of people. The guy in the ticket booth was both handing people tickets and telling others that the show had been sold out. That killed my spirits, but then they were quickly lifted. We do have two standing room only tickets available. After this was said, everyone let out a long sigh and got out of line and so I stepped up. The ticket was only $20 and I would have to stand at the back of the first floor. Considering that there were less than 26 rows of seats, I was in great view of the stage.
I left the Majestic feeling great and ready to move all my crap into the my room. I was the first guy back so I got the keys to our room and went inside. The room smelled of cigarettes, but I didn't care. That night, I would be seeing my favorite musical on Broadway. When everyone arrived, we headed to the Hard Rock Cafe to eat. The food there was pretty good, but I was ready to leave almost as soon as I sat down. We all left around 6:45. Melanie and Jamie had gotten tickets to go see Chicago and Melanie told the Hall Director that she would meet her at the theatre at 7:30. We had about 45 minutes to walk around Time Square and a large group of us did just that. Times Square was much different at night. It was bright, almost like being in daylight. Tourists and natives walked around at a busy pace, something that we all adapted over time in fear that we would be run over. Melanie and I shared our fear of the taxi drivers. I learned from observing to never cross the street when a taxi has the right of way because they will hit you. I saw one almost hit a security guard or a police officer of some kind. Our group traveled all over to small shops and then the big Toys R Us store. Within was a large farris wheel. It was a child's dream, but I was ready to get out.
Soon the time came that Melanie and I had to leave. She needed to get to her theatre on 49th and I needed to get to mine on 44th. Will you walk with me, babe? I didn't mind. Melanie and I marched like true New Yorkers, plowing past tourists and natives alike. I got her to the theatre just as Jamie did and quickly, I departed them. I walked very quickly to the Majestic theatre for no real reason. I was only going five blocks down the street and I had over a half hour of time before the show started. Too eager I guess. When I arrived at the theatre, there was a long line coming from the front entrance. I waited only about 10 minutes before I was inside the building that I dreamt about for 15 years. First, I went downstairs and used the bathroom in fear that I would lose control of all bodily functions once I saw the stage and that theatre. Walking into the auditorium is a real blur to me now. I asked the usher where my standing place was and she pointed to the back of the orchestra seats. I came to rest at the very right of the theatre. The show was amazing and $20 was cheap for what I experienced. Sure, I had to stand for two and a half hours, but considering the people right in front of me paid $80 to sit, I was satisfied. The only problem I faced was that the balcony ceiling was very low and so some events that took place high above the stage could not be seen. No matter, I've seen the show before.
After Phantom, I was exhausted and I went back to the room and fell asleep. The next day was a busy one. Melanie and I opted out of going to the Natural History Museum to try and get lottery tickets to see Wicked. Wicked is a great musical that is completely sold out of tickets until February, but there are $20 lottery tickets available everyday for people who cannot afford the $100 fee for regular tickets. Needless to say, after standing for a few hours, more than a hundred people showed up to place their name in the drawing. Mel and I didn't care because we really didn't expect to win. Things got very cold waiting though. I lost feeling in my fingers and my toes and Mel was still sick. Not to mention, I had to use the bathroom. We placed our names in the drawing, went and got food, and returned before they called the first name. We didn't get our names call, but it was still a great experience.
After that was done, we on a hunt to find the Sanrio store...Hello Kitty. Melanie, as evil and cynical as she can be, loves Hello Kitty and when we found the store, she absolutely died. She ended up buying a blanket and wallet. I was just happy that she found it. Next, she wanted to go to Victoria's Secret for the semi-annual sale. This was when I started getting bored. I hate walking around Victoria's Secret, but I stayed silent so that she could shop. We had just got done waiting two hours for Wicked tickets, so I owed her. While I was waiting, one of the workers there began to talk to me. She was an older lady who seemed nice enough. I asked her what the very tall building next to us was and she said that it was once the tallest building in the world. I figured it was probably the Empire State Building when I first saw it while entering the store, but I wasn't sure. The woman and I began talking more and more and she brought up a very good point about New York City. Everyone who comes and visits here think New Yorkers are rude or mean, but we really aren't. It's just that we are in a hurry. This is a big city and it's hard getting from one side to another without rushing. Sometimes you just don't hear or see people when they approach you so we come off as mean. I had to agree with her. Most of the people I encountered were no more or less rude than in any other city. But New Yorkers did walk with a certain determination. I liked that about the city.
After Melanie was done buying her scandalous underwear, I knew that I had to go to the Empire State Building. Since I had not seen the Statue of Liberty at all, I figured I could at least do this. Melanie and I waited in line for about an hour. I feared that by the time we actually got up to the top that it would be dark and that meant no good pictures. But we did get to the top with daylight left. The view was utterly amazing. The only experience I had that rivaled this one was during the summer when I was in South Bend, Ian, a fellow intern, and I took a tip to Chicago and went to the Sears Tower. It's much taller than the Empire State Building, but the observation deck is inside. The Empire State Building allows its patrons to go outside and experience the high up close and personal. New York was a lot quieter up there and it was nice seeing the city so peaceful. I looked around and saw Times Square still lit up like a jewel. I saw various bridges, but had no clue as to which they were. Being up there was like being free, I just wish that Melanie had enjoyed it like I did. She was bitterly cold and tired and so she went into the building while I took pictures. Soon, I came in and we journeyed back down.
Next we all went to see RENT. I went there determined to get a picture of one of the actors for a friend of mine. Krystal L. Washington used to be on the tour of RENT and she moved to NYC to do the broadway production. She is hard to catch at the stage door so I figure I would try and get her picture. We were all waiting in line to be let into the theatre when I turned around to see the guy who played the character Roger and right next to him was Krystal. They were talking to two girls and so I jumped out of line and as they finished asked her for her picture trying not to scare her. She let me take it and I got back in line. RENT was great and it was nice seeing it again. one thing that I do like a lot about Broadway theatres are that they are smaller than regional houses. Regional houses or theatres may seat 2,000 or more people. On Broadway, most theatres don't even reach 2,000. It makes for a very intimate environment. We were in very sucky seats, but they were a lot closer than we would have been had we been in another playhouse.
When the show was over, I was going to try and stick around to get an autograph from Krystal, but we were to leave at 10:30 and it was already 9:50. We still had to go back to the hotel and load the bus. I walked quickly back to the hotel and got my things. I once again got a single seat and so did Melanie, Carmen, and Matthew. From there, I drifted softly to sleep.