Last we checked in, I was on my way to go see Hamilton in New York. Well, that happened and it was ridiculously good and now I have nothing left in this world to live for because I will never get to go to New York to see Hamilton again.
I think instead of crumbling into ennui due to my bleak Hamilton-less future, I shall instead regale you with the story of my trip.
A few months ago, Alex told me he wanted to get me and a friend tickets to see Hamilton on Broadway for my birthday because I love Hamilton so much. He told me he’d use his hotel points to get us a hotel and that I should proceed with making plans.
I told him that I never wanted him to tell me how much he spent on the tickets and got in touch with my friend Jen, who lives in Minnesota and talks ALL THE TIME on Facebook about how much she loves Hamilton. For those of you sad that I didn’t take you on this once-in-a-lifetime trip, let this be a lesson to you that you should be fanatical to the point of annoyance in any interest you share with me because apparently that is how I select companions for fun things.
Jen and I had tickets for Wednesday June 21, but headed up that Tuesday because you don’t want to have a travel delay and not make it to the show. That’s why I built in a 36-hour cushion for just such travel emergencies. You can’t take chances, you know.
I took the train and Jen took a plane and a train and we planned to meet at Penn Station at 11 am. I can’t speak to Jen’s long odyssey to get there, but I made Alex give me step by step instructions on how to arrive at the train, board the train, stash my luggage on the train, sit on the train, give my ticket to the train guy, not get off at any of the other two Penn Stations we passed prior to the correct one, how to identify the proper Penn Station, and how to detrain.
It’s hard to travel alone.
Fortunately, everything was as described and I successfully managed to get on the train and snag a window seat.
Jen had an arduous trip, involving a 3 am wake-up, an airplane, Newark airport, and NJ train transit. I took a nap in my seat.
Jen was already there and we sent a series of texts saying things like, “I’m by the Dunkin’ Donuts,” and “I’m by the Dunkin’ Donuts too,” and then I twirled in confused circles for a while and finally we spotted each other and exchanged sweaty hugs and jumped up and down a little and then we went outside to get a cab to our hotel and I decided that New York is terrifying and I am a rube.
I wasn’t quite ready to start embarrassing Jen in public yet, so I don’t have any photos of this part of our trip. Instead I will insert this photo from slightly later in the day so you can get a mental picture of us.
We checked into our hotel room, de-sweated a little, then headed out to what Jen described as “the best place on Earth,” aka Chelsea Market, land of any kind of food you want. It turns out that the kind of food WE wanted was pasta served IN A BOWL MADE OUT OF CHEESE.
Before we did that though, we wandered the entire Chelsea Market, including the best store, The Filling Station, that sold many flavors of, among other things, salt and vinegar. The last time Jen and I had been together in person, we had established that salt was a waaaay more valuable mineral than fancy gemstones, so she insisted we go there and taste all the salt.
It was amazing. I got a little overexcited and ended up with four containers of different flavored salt, a little salt spoon, and some pomegranate balsamic vinegar. Jen ended up with a burned tongue because I told her she should taste the spicy salt and she accidentally ate two grains instead of one, like the sign suggested she do, and thus began a string of questionable actions taken by Jen just because I told her to.
I’d purchased the vinegar because Quinn has recently discovered balsamic vinegar. I told him over the phone that I’d bought it and he asked me to locate and buy “a salad kit” for him before I came home. I did not.
We were near the High Line, so we decided to go there. We walked to one end, then we turned around and walked all the way to the other end, with a middle stop to sit on a bench and people watch for a long time.
For those of you that don’t know, the High Line is an old elevated rail line that has been turned into green space full of people, kinda warm water fountains, vendors, and questionable art. Or at least art that is smarter than Jen and me combined.
We also spent some time walking along the Hudson River, where we were reprimanded by a random lady for standing too close to the railing and scaring the seagulls away. Although I have a feeling that Hudson Bay seagulls aren’t afraid of a lot of things and certainly not me.
Tuesday was mostly a day that involved eating, resting, eating, resting, and then more eating. We rested at our hotel for a while before we headed out to the East Village to eat risotto for dinner because we apparently will travel long distances for delicious food, especially if it is risotto. And delicious it was, although instead of putting a bread basket on the table, the restaurant we went to put out a basket full of rice cakes. It was a little weird. I mean, I get that their thing was rice, what with the risotto and all, but still.
We were finishing our risotto and talking about how neither of us are night owl/party people so we were contemplating going back to the hotel when I said, “Or we could go find a place to eat dessert.” Well. It turns out that Jen and I agree on the need for dessert in our lives. I Yelped dessert bars and there were TWO within 0.2 miles of us. New York, man.
We chose the dessert tapas place where they recommended the three-tapas selection for two people. That’s obviously what we did because who are we to argue with a menu?
After that, we were done for the evening. We slept in the next morning, which was great and because it was Hamilton day, we didn’t want to do anything that would take too much time, so we decided to go to the Nintendo store and Rockefeller Center because our kids are nerds and we wanted to get them souvenirs.
First, however, we obviously needed to eat. It seems like everyone in New York is all, “Ramen is the greatest; you’ve gotta eat ramen,” so even though I was nervous about it, I agreed when Jen suggested we eat that for lunch. (We slept reeeeeaaaaaalllllly late.)
I could have told you it was not going to go great when we started eating and Jen immediately started talking about worms and then when I told her that I have a thing about worms and it was not helping with my noodle consumption, she made a smooth segue into talking about her dog’s “exploded anal gland” and I did a real-life, actual spit take.
It turns out that ramen, which is basically a big bowl of surprising ingredients all mixed in together in broth, is not really my thing. I was, however, glad that I tried it and comforted by the fact that we were following up by sharing a giant doughnut. Also the wall next to me was covered in a chain curtain and it was really fun to touch and stroke as I tried to not think I was eating worms.
We walked through Times Square first, stopping briefly at the Disney Store, where I encouraged Jen to make bad shopping decisions that I am sure made her daughter very happy. Then we went to the Nintendo store where we both made bad shopping decisions that made our children very happy.
We wandered around Rockefeller Center after that. Jen was on the lookout for Rachel Maddow and I was trying to take a good photograph of a pigeon.
We ended up sitting outside and talking for a really long time and doing some more people watching. It was really nice. Also, eventually I got the money shot of a pigeon.
We browsed around some more and happened by the Swarovski crystal store where I found the nicest, most glittery place I’ve ever been and I made Jen sit there for a while so I could pet the crystal drape and sit in rainbows.
We decided to walk past the Richard Rogers Theatre on our way back to the hotel so we would know where it was. Obviously we walked down the street juuuuuuust as all the Wednesday matinees were letting out, so it was a total mob scene. Regardless, battling crowds did not dim our excitement.
Ticket time was 8 pm, so naturally Jen and I returned and were in line at 6:50. Because that’s how we roll.
What time is it?
They let us in the theater at 7:30 and told us to take an immediate right turn. Then the next usher we met said, “Oh let me take you down here,” and then there we were. At our seats. In the fifth row.
It was ridiculous. We spent some time texting Alex all-caps notes of excitement and thanks, including the following photo, which pretty much sums up how both of us were feeling.
The seats around us started filling in and I breathed a sigh of relief as someone short sat in front of me. Shortly after Jen did the same. I’d been worrying about the person who was going to sit in front of me ever since Alex had bought the tickets. I was less worried about the person who was going to sit in front of Jen, but it’s nice that it worked out for her too.
Then we watched Hamilton.
As Gina said on Brooklyn Nine-Nine, “Hamilton. Was. Amazing! How is no one talking about this musical? It’s so good.”
The show was phenomenal, you guys. It really was. I know there is so much hype around it, but I had absolutely no disappointment. I thought all the actors did wonderful jobs and I liked how they put their spin on the roles. I was rapt the entire time. It was hilarious and inspirational and heartbreaking and I know just how lucky I am that I was able to go see it. This was my very first Broadway show and it was amazing. I have a million thoughts about the show and my poor family heard them all, but I don’t know that I can communicate how much I loved it in written words.
When we were walking out, Jen and I both agreed that we could sit down right there and then and watch it again without being the slightest bit bored. Both of us had apparently gotten a little sad a few songs from the end because we knew it was almost over. It was really incredible.
I didn’t imagine myself to be a “hang by the stage door” kind of gal, but it turns out that I am. On our way out, we passed the door and were all, well, me might as well wait. Then we made an immediate transition into ridiculous squealing fangirls. We saw a couple of the ensemble cast and then the actors who played Laurens/Phillip (below in the P. Ham hat OMG) and Lafayette/Jefferson. They were both so nice and wonderful and didn’t even make fun of us for our ridiculous squealy, grinning selves.
Josh Groban was performing in something next door and came out of an adjacent door while we were waiting. There was lots of screaming from that crowd, but we just couldn’t be bothered, except for me to note that Groban likes his ladies to pop. (Bonus points if you get that.)
We wandered/floated back toward our hotel and we decided to stop to get some food and when we passed a 24-hour diner with giant cupcakes in the window, we made our decision. After all, we were only about 15 minutes away from my birthday.
We woke up the next morning full of statements like, “Hey, remember that time we saw Hamilton?” and “Life is pointless now that we don’t have Hamilton to look forward to,” and “OMG, remember that part when [insert minute but oh so meaningful observation here] happened and it was fucking brilliant?!”
Then we went to breakfast and ate cheese and ham on toasted bread and life began to have meaning again. We were going to MOMA that day because we wanted to make fun of art that we didn’t understand. I have been to New York several times but I have never taken the subway because no one has ever given me step-by-step instructions on how to do so, so Jen declared that we were going to do it and I became the coolest, most casual New York City subway rider ever.
I might write an insightful piece about the art we saw at MOMA later, so I’m not going to go too deeply into our visit here other than to say it took me about 45 seconds from entering the museum to be reprimanded by security for getting too close to the art. This reprimand is a thing that happens often to me, but even so, this one happened faster than usual.
I also want to post this photo of Jen contemplating modern art because it is maybe my favorite photo of all goddamn time.
I also saw my favorite painting of all time, which was really exciting and also made me wonder how MOMA defines “modern” art, seeing as how this was painted in the 19th century.
I also found my favorite wall curtain at this museum. Fortunately no one reprimanded me for getting too close to it because I stroked it like it was my cat.
I think those three photos really sum up our museum trip well. On our way back to our hotel, we stopped at the Hamilton store across the street from the Richard Rogers Theatre because it was closed by the time we finished jumping up and down at the stage door the night before. It was there that Jen took her turn at encouraging me to make bad purchasing decisions, none of which I regret at all.
I also really enjoyed the Hamilton in-joke on the door of the store.
We spent that evening having dinner with one of the families that Jen had provided surrogate services for seven years ago. No photos or long stories here because not my family/not my place to do so, but I’m just sayin’ if they ever wanted to adopt me, I’m available because they were delightful. Great couple, great kids, AND once they found out it was my birthday, they busted out candles and sang to me. My only regret is that Jen almost tricked me into eating octopus. Fortunately, I was able to pawn it off on the 7-year-old sitting next to me.
Friday dawned with the knowledge that we were going home in just a couple of hours and we hadn’t eaten any bagels yet. We rectified that with a jaunt to a delicious deli and I utilized my newfound skills at blending in as a New Yorker by taking photos of tall buildings…
and the sidewalk.
It took Jen and I a really long time to find the actual Penn Station we were looking for because there is a building across the street from the actual Penn Station that is labeled as Penn Station, but is really a post office and home to the Long Island Rail Road. We were wandering through the post office and I was texting Alex to ask him how to find the trains at Penn Station and he was all, “Um…follow the signs? What the fuck is wrong with you?” and I was all, “I NEVER GOT MY RETURN TO DC ON THE TRAIN STEP-BY-STEP POWER POINT I AM LOST AND WILL HAVE TO LIVE IN NEW YORK FOREVER AND EVERY TIME I TAKE A PHOTO POINTED UP SOMEONE TRIES TO SELL ME A BUS TOUR AND IT IS JUST A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE I AM PICKED OFF AS A RUBE AND MY BODY SHOWS UP IN THE HUDSON.”
Or something along those lines.
No thanks to Alex, we eventually found our way to the right place. Jen set off on her way back to the airport and eventually home. I bought a slice of pizza, because I was in New York and needed to do so and I dropped an entire piece of pepperoni down my shirt because I am the most embarrassing person in the history of people.
It also turns out that to get on a train from New York to DC, you really have to throw some elbows and jockey for space. Because I’m an asshole, if I get on a crowded train and there are empty aisle seats, but one of those empty aisle seats has a purse on it because someone is obviously trying to not have to sit next to someone, I will insist on sitting there. I bet you didn’t know exactly how passive aggressive I am, didja?
I’m a good seat mate because I hate people though, so I think it all balances out.
Big thanks to Alex. Big thanks to Jen. Big thanks to the cast and creators of Hamilton.