Somewhere over the rainbow really does exist. It’s in New York, way up high, where troubles melt like lemon drops and last weekend, my dreams I dared to dream really did come true.
My Friday night started in Washington, DC on the rooftop of the gorgeous W Hotel with Mr. W…there’s something about that letter that makes me…but I digress. We did a walking tour after dinner but I was wearing stilettos, not wise tourist gear. My evening in DC was lovely but alas, all too short, and before I could bandage up my blisters, I was in a cab and on the way to the airport to take a little charming jet to New York.
This was it. My long-distance love affair with New York was finally going to be consummated.
We took the subway into Manhattan and I felt butterflies as we got closer and closer. Emerging up out of the subway and onto the street I felt what only can be described as a resuscitative procedure being done on my small town heart. It was like the city put paddles on me and I came alive. The feeling made me burst out laughing and I found I couldn’t stop, it was the most joyous moment to feel the energy that is New York hit me with all its chutzpah glory.
In that instant, I fell hard. I knew I wouldn’t ever be separated from my soulmate-city again.
We made our giddy–my giddy way–to our hotel. Now, for someone with an obsession for hotels, you have to understand what going to the Plaza means. It’s one of a handful of iconic hotels in the entire world and for this girl, it was a dream come true to get to stay there. I tried not to skip towards the front desk where I was greeted by Marco with a lovely hand-written note from the GM and then good news, our room was ready early!
Heaven is truly a room at the Plaza Hotel. If you can do better, let me know. It’s worth every penny, from the elevator to the hallway to the gold tile, princess-worthy bedding and commanding view of competing skyscrapers–even a moment in a Plaza room is memorable. The staff make sure of it and I love them for it.
While it was bittersweet to part from my aerie perch, Mr. W. wisely led me downstairs where we embarked on a mini-tour of the area around 5th Ave., including big name stores like Dior, Chanel, Escada, Tiffany’s. Oh Tiffany’s, you blue devil, you had me at your yellow diamonds, though I would have liked to see a pink diamond. Just once.
We toured all six floors and restrained ourselves, well, I did most of the restraining, before we left to saunter over to Central Park. It was a bucolic scene: dancers working the crowd and deservedly passing the hat, young brides laughing and posing, old ladies knitting, middle-aged men passed out on the grass, their shirts riding up to expose white tummies, students reading earnestly under trees, and first-time tourists, like me, falling in love with the city.
Central Park felt like a giant party, the kind you got to go to when you were a kid, where the parents ignore you because they’re having too good a time to care what you’re up to. Except this was so much more and I wondered, did these people know how good they had it? Coming from a town where I’m more than not walking alone in the woods or nodding to the odd passerby, it was intoxicating to feel like I was in one giant open market of human expression, thousands of voices telling stories about their beautiful, broken, loving, humanness. The light was like warmed Grand Marnier, as though it had a wink behind it, giving us a gloriously sunny day to bask in and as we made our way back to the Plaza I had already in my mind starting devising ways to come back to the party that is Central Park.
Back at the Plaza, I was faced with getting ready to go out to a swanky New York restaurant on Park Avenue. Luckily, Mr. W was content to peruse football games and a New York Times while I did my handiwork. There’s nothing worse than having your someone special tap their foot in impatience as you try to finesse your perfect pout. I don’t know if it was my glow of happiness, but I have to mention that the lighting was incredible. The Plaza really knows how to woo a girl.
We were going to walk to dinner but as luck would have it, the Plaza club car, a black Rolls Royce (about as sexy as it gets really), scooped us off the tawdry sidewalk and chauffeured us to our destination: the Casa Lever. As if it wasn’t enough to slide out of the leather seats from the Rolls, we had managed to score a banquette booth looking out at a dozen original Warhol’s and interior design that screamed Italian Vogue with the owner centre stage–you just know he sleeps less than most watchman at a difficult border. Everyone was ‘on’. As someone who has had a career in hospitality, watching great service is like going to the ballet. There is so much enjoyment in the delivery that you can’t help but revel in the product and in this case, my baby chicken and for Mr W., a deliciously sweet order of ribs, was just the way to do it.
I think Mr. W sometimes forgot there wasn’t in fact a 4th wall to our banquette but I didn’t dress for church, I dressed for New York so who can blame us? The city will have its way with you.
Back at our 5th Avenue home for the night, we sampled some wine in the famous Oak Bar, nipped into the Rose bar for some moody pink lighting, and sat in wing backed chairs in the Champagne bar fit for Dom and hushed flirting. I tried very hard at slowing down time, wresting quantum physics down to my black satin toe, willing time to stop, stop, stop, and allow me to savour every sip, crystal chandelier, blooming orchid, and warm kiss.
The rest of the night isn’t for you reader, but suffice it to say, it’s indelibly imprinted on my mind and heart, not to be washed away by any amount of the sands of time.
The next day I thought I had been hit by a train but managed to put myself together for a full day of walking and touring and eating and sightseeing.We had a great greasy breakfast at a diner and made our way down towards MOMA. As we walked, I loved hearing all the different accents and languages, what diversity! It felt like a rich tapestry, full and complex and exciting to navigate.
At MOMA I really wanted to see the Pictures by Women: A History of Modern Photography exhibit and we did. But there were pictures that popped my happy balloon instantly—women with children starving during the depression, starkly haunted faces of young mothers unable to afford garters, their nylons rolled down around their ankles as they waited for handouts. Juxtaposed with the sorrow however, were pieces by Cindy Sherman, and Diane Arbus, full of wit and sexual candor that made you step back and think for a minute. I adored the sheer number of people enjoying works by Matisse, Van Gogh, Klimt and many more, collectively paying homage to masters and giving ourselves an artistic respite in a city nipping at our heels to hurry up.
Next we hit Times Square and it truly is deafening to the senses—holy mecca of branding! Your eyes just go up and up and up, everywhere you turn, another movie, another product, another video. It gets a little harder to walk in Times Square and as we made our way to the Garment district I was longing to see a neighbourhood that had a little less in-your-face-look-at-me-logo-mania going on.
Stepping out into Greenwich village was like getting into a cab after a nightclub, hushed in comparison, with stately brownstone’s that reminded me of Hannah and Her sisters, and I half expected to see Woody Allen in neurotic conversation gesturing to Diane Keaton about a tumour he’s sure he has. If you go to Greenwich village, don’t miss Washington Park. Music and artists everywhere and it’s like ‘community’ on steroids—there’s so much life here you wonder at how you lived with your life so dialed down as to barely notice other people. We saw an artist by the name of Joe Fortes and as I chatted with Joe about his brownstone illustrations, I found one I loved and had to buy. Turns out, it’s right across from Carrie Bradshaw’s brownstone (’cause isn’t she a real person by now?) and this was kind of fitting.
We ducked into a pizzeria and I have what is so far, the greatest pizza of my life. I’m not sure if anything is not going to be ‘the greatest’ in New York because everything, absolutely everything, is to me.
Returning that night to DC on the Amtrak, I felt, to paraphrase Lady Gaga, my heartseams pop, one by one, track by track, light by light, as New York slipped away, behind me, then into the dark.
I took solace in Mr. W’s shoulder, leaning into the night, the sway and bump of old rails humming a kind of sad tune. I was trying to put on a brave face but the fact of the matter is if I could have stopped the train—I would have.
So, yes, now I know, there’s somewhere over the rainbow, and it’s a real place and I may have been born in the west but baby, I’m all east coast now.
Give it a little listen to Judy’s jubilant live rendition of Somewhere Over the Rainbow–you’ll get just what I mean.