On Easter Sunday this year, my 76-year-old Nana and I decided we were going to take a trip to New York City together before the year was out. We sat down and made a plan, which was entirely centered around the Metropolitan Opera season schedule, and decided that we’d head to the Big Apple in October.
Fast forward over six months, one AirBnB reservation, several touristy Groupons, and a generous contribution to United Airlines’ business endeavors, and suddenly, it’s October in NYC, and here we are.
Honestly, it hadn’t even occurred to me to blog this adventure before today, but after the laughter we’ve shared, I realized I have to document this trip. (Even if it is well past 1 am at this writing.)
Nana and I have made a twosome trip to this city before, just over four years ago. At that time, she shamed me with her incredible walking stamina. (We clocked over 90 blocks in one day on nothing more than a cup of coffee and a Snickers bar.) We saw two operas, two Broadway musicals, and managed to snap a picture of the back of Catherine Zeta-Jones’ head.
I can’t really believe I’m fortunate enough to have the opportunity to wander the streets of New York a second time with my Nana. Just the two of us! It’s a gift, and I am thankful for it.
This time, we’re old pros. Instead of an expensive hotel, we’ve booked a private apartment via AirBnB that is just two blocks from Lincoln Center. Trust me, this is the way to go! It’s quieter, roomier, lovelier, and much, much cheaper. (It’s also provided Nana a new favorite past time: watching the lights in the evenings and making up stories about the people who turn them on and off.) We’ve planned our days with the perfect amount of activity. (Bus tours and sleeping in are now far superior to 90-block hikes.) And, we’ve varied our entertainment. (One opera, one concert at Carnegie Hall, one Broadway musical, and one dinner cruise.)
Today, Day 1, began with a leisurely easing into city-dwelling life. (Weirdly) I woke before Nana, made myself toast and tea (did I mention we’re watching a lot of Downton Abbey in the evenings? Tea was the first thing Nana wanted to buy at the grocery store), and sat at the window to watch the city’s good-morning stretch. Once we were both awake and feeling ready for adventure (around 11 am), we struck out, walking from 63rd down to Carnegie Hall, saw David Boreanaz outside of a hotel (“He is a good looking fellow!” says Nana), and then hopped a double-decker near the M&M store for a breezy (and spitty, for me, as I was unfortunately seated too close to the tour guide) bus ride around downtown.
We learned amazing things, like the fact that the building for which Time Square is named, once the New York Times offices, is now entirely devoted to billboards, with the exception of the Walgreens on the lower levels. We also learned that NYU costs more than Harvard University, and we saw where Hugh Jackman lives. (You know…in passing.) The tour guide (spittily) pointed out the cast iron facades of many downtown buildings, and described the architect of the new World Trade Center’s vision to create a “building that disappears into the sky, so the terrorists will never see it again.”
This evening, we went to see Norma at the Metropolitan Opera. It was fabulous, of course. My favorite aria is from Norma, and the soprano sang it so beautifully that she received the longest applause during the course of a performance I’ve ever witnessed.
It’s been a good day.
Nana, I have to say, is my hero. She’s so jolly here. This morning she clapped her hands with the enthusiasm of a child and said, “Oh, this is just so wonderful! I love it here!” (We hadn’t even left the apartment yet.) She stops in the middle of the sidewalk to gaze up at buildings, and her genuine awe seems to make even the stodgiest pedestrians smile as they squeeze past her.
She’s also fearless, which I love. Always dedicated to her conservative roots, we made a pilgrimage to the Fox News building, and she posed with a bold, fresh thumb’s up under the O’Reilly Factor poster. (She laughed and said she was surprised she “hadn’t gotten shot” for that particular venture in this particular city.) And later, as we were crossing a street, she saw Bill Moyers and shouted at him as we passed, “I love poetry!” (Not, “I love your interviews,” or “I’m a fan of your show.” Nope. Not Nana. She makes her love of verse known as a way of “telling him which topics most interest her.”)
Despite the miles clocked and the chilly wind, Nana is incapable of complaint here. She’s endlessly enthralled with what she sees, and is a fastidious reporter of her experiences on social media. (“That man’s sign says he’s hungry!…Can you imagine paying $4.23 every half-hour to park?…I could never drive in this city! I’m surprised people don’t constantly die in these streets…New York pizza is the best pizza! I’m going to tweet that…Nobody has responded to my Facebook post about being Billy Joel’s housekeeper. I think I’ll text someone…Let’s stop a minute so I can email my friend that I saw Bill Moyers!”) Her enthusiasm is catching. Not that I wasn’t enthusiastic before. I love this city and all of its writhing energy. But I feel like I’m seeing it through different eyes this visit. Walking at Nana’s more relaxed pace, gazing up unabashedly at the towering buildings and wondering who’s inside and what their lives are like, noting the dirty sidewalks, the brave drivers, the idiotic tourists, the glittering advertisements–it’s renewing my perspective on much more than a city.
I sent my mom the photo below this evening, describing it as “Nana’s new favorite thing to do.” And it’s true. She could sit and stare out that window all day, I think. My mom’s response echoed my own thoughts, and reflects my attitude about this entire week.
“I’ll treasure this photo forever.”
Me, too, Mom. Me, too.
(Follow my adventures on Twitter all week long, if you dare. #NYCwithNana)