Seven years ago, I made my first trip to New York City when I was invited by some friends to attend the As the World Turns fan club luncheon with them. I wasn’t much of a traveler back then, but these gals bought me a ticket and begged me to join them, so I threw caution to the wind and headed north.
Since then, I have been to New York almost fifteen different times, and every time, I seem to love it just a little bit more, and find myself feeling more and more at home. This past weekend, I attended the final As the World Turns luncheon, saying “goodbye” to a show I’ve watched for a quarter of a century before it leaves the airwaves in September. (I bid a similar adieu to Guiding Light last October.) That made this trip feel like a farewell in many ways. For starters, these fan events have been the catalyst for my regular NYC trips for seven years, leaving me to wonder when I’ll visit the Big Apple again. In the larger sense, though, this trip carried the weight of the realization that I would be saying goodbye to some people that I may actually never see again, which is as appalling as it sounds.
Still, even with a bittersweet tinge marking this trip, I had a glorious time sharing the experience with dear friends.
My best friend, Jessica, along with her 8-year-old daughter, Thai, accompanied me on this trip. They had been planning one of their own, and we decided to lump our trips together in the interest of finances and fun. We set out for NYC on Friday morning, by way of a JetBlue flight from RIC to JFK. We made it into midtown Manhattan just after noon, dropped our bags off in the room, and set out on our first adventure to the Statue of Liberty.
First, we stopped by a street vendor for some hot dogs. I tend not to eat hot dogs, and I REALLY tend not to eat food that: was cooked outside, is currently outside, or is sold in a building where you can also buy motor oil. That being said, I hadn’t eaten since lunch the day before, so I actually took a bite of one of Thai’s hot dogs – a New York City first for me. Jessica even had to ask for clarification, because she thought she was seeing things. (Later in the weekend, I took THREE bites of a pretzel from a food cart. I’m a wild woman, I tell you!)
Eating on the run like true New Yorkers, we headed for the Subway station to ride downtown. Thai enjoyed the experience immensely; first, for all the germ-laden surfaces she could touch immediately before adjusting the gum in her mouth; second, for trying to stand up while the subway was moving. Luckily, she stayed within catching distance.
Possibly due to the foggy skies or chilly weather, the ferry line for the Statue of Liberty was very short. We breezed right through security and braved the wind atop the boat for optimum views en route to Liberty Island.
This was my first time actually going over to Liberty Island. Previously, I have opted to ride the (free!) Staten Island Ferry to simply get a good view of the statue, but it is a nice experience to actually go over to the statue at least once.
When we returned to Battery Park, we hopped back on the subway and rode up to visit one of my favorite locations, Old St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Little Italy. I’ve been to Riverside Church on the Upper West Side and to Trinity at Wall Street, and while I suppose those are larger and more celebrated, they still do not outdo this place in my mind.
I got a mix of plain and pomegranate yogurt and topped it off with strawberries, kiwi, and blackberries, pictured here in all its glory. Jessica and Thai both got chocolate yogurt with strawberries and fruity pebbles, and while they were enamored with the taste, it was the nastiest looking cup of stuff I have ever seen, so I will not be sharing those pictures.
When we left Pinkberry, we proceeded to walk through Little Italy and head down to Chinatown. Thai has a reading assignment coming up at school about Chinatown, so her teacher suggested taking her down there so she could report back to the class about what she saw. She was not overly excited about the prospect of doing something school-related on our trip, and she seemed even less interested in walking the necessary blocks. In fact, having seen enough of Chinatown to satisfy Thai’s teacher, we discovered Thai’s favorite New York City attraction – the taxi cab.
We took the cab to a place called S’Mac, which serves only macaroni and cheese – in other words, my mecca. The menu featured many different varieties, or you could build your own, and I didn’t even recognize all the cheeses listed. While my mind boggled at the possibilities, Jessica ordered a regular mac and cheese for Thai and cheeseburger macaroni for herself (pictured). I settled on the Four Cheese with Bacon.
That’s when things got interesting. We were seated at a table near the kitchen, and Jessica and Thai’s order came up first. The delay seemed longer than necessary between the arrival of their orders and mine, but I attributed that to my overwhelming hunger at that point. When my piping hot skillet arrived, I quickly grabbed a fork and dug in, but while I was still blowing on the first bite to cool it down, an older lady seated by the window got up, crossed the restaurant, and stole my skillet of mac and cheese right from under my nose (and my dangling fork that still held a bite full). I was in shock, and the waitress came over and explained that I had gotten that lady’s food and she got mine. She then asked if I wanted the skillet she was holding (which had come from the other lady’s table, as evidenced by the blanket of pepper on top and the gaping hole in the side where she had taken her first bite). I declined that generous offer and said I would wait for a new skillet. In the meantime, I finally ate the bite that was on my fork, which is probably the best bite of macaroni and cheese I have ever tasted. Only a few moments passed before the waitress returned and offered me a “new” skillet – still oddly covered with pepper and caved in on one side. This time, Jessica flagged the waitress down and pointed out that this skillet didn’t have bacon in it, which I had overlooked due to sheer astonishment and disbelief. What I really wanted to do was go punch that other lady in the face and take my skillet back with the magically delicious mac and cheese. I couldn’t do that, anyway, because after STEALING my food from me, she took one bite and then brought it back up to the counter and told them it was cold and she needed another. Unbelievable. I did eventually get my order, two bites into which, Thai asked if we were ready to leave. *blink*
After our candid camera experience in fine dining, we proceeded uptown to The Metropolitan Museum of Art, aka “The Met.” Jessica loves all things historical, and Thai seems to have picked up on the gene, so while they ooh’d and ahh’d over various old pieces of pottery and stone busts of various old dead people, I simply looked around for pretty stuff to photograph:
Given our early morning wake up time and our long day of travel, we were ready to head back to the hotel fairly early (by New York standards). We did linger around Times Square and let Thai take in all of the lights before passing out in the hotel.
On Saturday, our itineraries went two separate ways. Jessica and Thai went off on their own to take in the Empire State Building, the Museum of Natural History, and the Hayden Planetarium. They also did a little napping and a little shopping, which were NOT on the itinerary. Bloody insurrectionists.
Meanwhile, my friend Christina came in from Staten Island, and Terri flew in from South Carolina, and together, we went down to the ballroom (in our hotel) for the As the World Turns luncheon.
Having procured a script from the final episode of Guiding Light at the luncheon in October, I entered the raffle for an As the World Turns script as well. (The final episode hasn’t been filmed yet, so that script obviously wasn’t available.) I did end up winning one of the scripts, which will be quite welcome in my collection. After lunch, we were off to the meet and greet lines, and while I made the rounds, I figured I’d just post a few highlights.
First, this fellow from France, whose name I have already forgotten, was in NYC with his parents, who had flown him over for his birthday so he could attend the luncheon for the first time. As the World Turns, he said, is his favorite show. Here he is sporting an autograph from Eric Sheffer Stevens.
Since this was the final luncheon, several actors returned to see the fans even if they hadn’t been on the show in years. One of my old favorites, Peter Parros, was on hand and told me about his company, Ten Talents Productions, which produces comic books and a cartoon aimed at ministering to children. Another familiar face back to visit was Jon Prescott (pictured), who was only on ATWT for a short time, but made such a great impression on me years ago that I had to go and say hello to him again.
On the list of the most talented people I have ever had the pleasure to meet is Tom Pelphrey, and he was also on hand to greet the fans, even though he wrapped filming on ATWT months ago. His line was one of the most popular at the luncheon, and certainly with me. I cannot say enough good things about his acting (the man can make a simple play reading riveting) and he has one of those infectious personalities that is a joy to be around. The incredible success that he has had during his very short career so far tells me that the whole world will know his name one day.
On the topic of talented youngsters, let’s go even younger (I’m a cougar now, apparently) and mention Mick Hazen, who seemed like such a little boy just a few years ago, and suddenly he turned 17 and shot up to six feet, three inches tall! More importantly, he’s a wonderful actor, and I think we’ll be seeing a lot more of him after college. No matter how tall he gets, he’ll always be sweet little Parker Munson Snyder to me. I resisted the urge to pinch his cheeks like an old lady.
After the luncheon, I walked over to Latitude Bar & Grill to participate in another grand tradition: Martinis With Henry. I was fortunate enough to be present when this tradition was born, and it has grown to a much bigger group over the years. Trent Dawson (the “Henry” of Martinis with Henry) has always and will always hold a very special place in my heart. I hope my next trip to NYC will be to see him tearing it up on Broadway.
After reuniting our group at the hotel, we headed out once again to visit the Top of the Rock. Great view and that light room is fantastic.
Afterward, we walked across the street to Rockefeller Center so Thai could check out the ice skating rink.
By then, it was time for me to part ways again so that I could head down to the Lower East Side to see Matthew Perryman Jones play at Rockwood Music Hall. I was a little tentative about hopping on a subway alone and going to a part of New York I was entirely unfamiliar with at 10:00 at night, but the inducement was strong enough, and partly I just wanted to prove to myself that I could do it.
When I made it down to 2nd Avenue, and walked up the stairs out of the subway station toward the street lights and graffiti, I almost ran smack into Jon Prescott. We laughed at the coincidence – New York City is such a big place in a very small world. He remembered from our earlier conversation that I was headed to the show, so he pointed me in the right direction. I found the line of people waiting to go inside the Rockwood and waited with them for a few minutes. The act before was finishing up, and when he did, enough people exited the hall to allow those of us on the street to get inside. I found a seat at a table against the wall (I don’t like standing in the midst of a big crowd), and shortly my table was filled with strangers, all there for the same reason as me. The guy next to me initiated conversation, and it took only minutes for us to discover that we had a lot of common musical interests. Then, no one could shut us up! We talked in detail about Derek Webb and Caedmon’s Call (whose drummer, Todd Bragg, is touring with Matthew Perryman Jones) and we even tossed some music suggestions back and forth.
Watching Matthew Perryman Jones perform (and he is fantastic, by the way), the whole essence of the evening struck me. I was in New York City, having come downtown alone, sitting next to a fellow Caedmon’s Call buff, listening to one of my favorite artists perform just a few feet from me. It is hard to explain the emotion of a moment like that, but it was beautiful.
I was in such great spirits that I forgot I was taking a different train back, so I hopped off one stop too early and, weighing my options, decided to just enjoy the 14 blocks back to Times Square on foot.
Even though I was the last one in bed Saturday night, I still managed to wake up first on Sunday morning. (Anybody who knows me also knows how ridiculous that is.) With a chorus of snoring around me, I contemplated slipping out on my own again, but as I started to move around, I saw some signs of life, so I waited for Jess and Thai to get moving so we could head down to Central Park.
Thai was eager to ride a horse-drawn carriage, so we took the 45-minute tour of the park with a guide named Kevin and a horse named Beethoven.
When our ride was finished, we still had about an hour before we were supposed to meet Terri and Christina for lunch, so we decided to go to the Conservatory Gardens in Central Park, since we didn’t have time on Friday. I am glad we were able to fit that in, because the gardens were absolutely gorgeous, and this wasn’t even peak season!
Our group gathered together again to chow down on some delicious (and cheap!) pizza before heading to our matinee of Mamma Mia at the Winter Garden Theater. David Andrew MacDonald – once the evil villain, Edmund, on Guiding Light – was playing the much more affable role of Harry for Mamma Mia, so we were excited to see him on stage. The show itself was fantastic, and we all found ourselves singing and dancing along. Of course, there was plenty cause for laughter, too. Broadway is the only place on earth where platform boots and spandex can add up to a good time!
After the show, we waited at the stage door in the hopes of saying hello to David. He was the first one out the door and as charming as ever. We talked to him and he signed our playbills and posed for a picture.
Thai was more excited by that than we originally anticipated, and she wanted to hang around and see who else might come out from the show. We were happy to oblige her, and she got more pictures and signatures from Mamma Mia’s “Tanya” and “Sophie.”
From there, we had to say goodbye to Christina, because she had to get back home to return to work the next day. She headed down to Battery Park to catch the ferry home, and the rest of us were Brooklyn-bound.
We made it to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade just as the sun was setting, and were able to enjoy the view (and take some photos) as the sky got darker and the lights got brighter.
We hopped on the subway again, but this time Terri and I left Jessica and Thai behind as we transferred trains to go back downtown to the Rockwood Music Hall again. They have recently built a new space next door to the original hall, and refer to it as “Stage 2.” In a brilliant stroke of luck, Wakey!Wakey! was playing there Sunday night! Terri opted to come along, although she had never heard any of their music before. We weren’t sure how our music tastes would line up, but I appreciated the company all the same, and just hoped that she’d enjoy the show.
When we walked in the door, the first person I saw was Mike Grubbs, lead singer of Wakey!Wakey! (and bonus: Bartender “Grubbsy” from One Tree Hill). I am pretty sure the combination of those two things made me a little too giddy, but he obliged me with a photo and we talked a bit. I related how I’d fallen in love with their music upon hearing “War Sweater,” and then when he popped up in a recurring role on One Tree Hill, that was the icing on the cake for me.
We settled in for the show – again, mere feet from the stage. Two songs in, I looked back at Terri to gauge if she was enjoying herself and she nodded yes. Meanwhile, I was over the moon! It is disappointing when you love an artist and then you go to a show and realize that what you really loved was the miracle-working producer who put the album together. In this case, though, it was quite the opposite. I’ve been a fan of the music for quite a while, but seeing them live was – wow – spectacular!
The whole band played most of the show, and Grubbs did a few songs on his own as well. Rosi Golan even joined him onstage for a rendition of “Blame You.” When the whole band was playing, I was quite taken with the violinist, Patrick. Amazing!!
Somewhere around the middle of the show – and I don’t even remember what song was playing – Terri tapped me on the shoulder. When I turned around, she was grinning and giving me a big thumbs up! Needless to say, Wakey!Wakey! has a new fan, and since Terri asked me, “Man, what did I miss last night?!” – she’s probably home looking up Matthew Perryman Jones as well. We both talked to Mike Grubbs again after the show, and then I got to meet the band’s manager, Wesley, which was a delight after having corresponded sporadically on Twitter.
Monday morning, we all slept in, but still woke up exhausted. There wasn’t much on Monday’s schedule for that very reason. Terri was meeting another friend for breakfast, so Jessica, Thai, and I walked around Times Square some more, hitting the Hershey store and the M&M store, much to Thai’s delight.
We had lunch at Junior’s (and packed our cheesecake in our purses to go), met Terri at the hotel for the goodbyes, and jumped in a cab back to the airport.
The cheesecake never made it out of the city, since we ate that while we waited at our gate, but before long, we were on a plane headed back to Virginia.
Thai certainly seemed to enjoy her first-ever trip to New York City, and I can only hope that, like me, she finds something new to love about it every time she goes from now on. For my part, I am sure I will find another reason to go back to the Big City soon enough – you can bet I’ll be keeping a keen eye on the schedule down at Rockwood Music Hall!