As soon as I got back from NYC last week, I was completely giddy about my once in a lifetime experience. My boyfriend, being the absolute gem that he is, likes to joke on me about my blog.. but ya know what, this trip certainly deserves to be documented.
We can rekindle the spirit of America, because God intended this land to be free;
because we are free to dream, to plan, and to make our dreams come true.
As some of you might know, my dad works for the Department of State at the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan. So, needless to say, I don't get to see him too often. After spending a week or so at home with my sisters, he moseyed his way up the east coast, eventually making it to New York to reunite with some old work buddies. Luckily, since I'm such a big ball of fun, I got invited for a very unique opportunity... an adventure not open to the public, an experience so close to the heart as an American, it doesn't seem real.
But we'll get to that soon.
No surprise here, I spent most of a Monday in an airport. Bouncing from OAJ to CLT to DCA to LGA.. that last leg though.. Jet Blue pilots, I got to see firsthand their obvious neglect of social acceptable behavior on airplanes. In my case, he luckily did not go bat crazy on me, but rather blatantly laid on some thick flirtation. Its improper status has a bit to do with his being 50+ and me being 21.. but no matter. I was just cornered in the exit row, criticized for not believing in going green and wanting to live in South Korea someday, but I still managed to weasel out a business card and a personal tour of D.C., starting with his residence! ..VOM. I only share this little tidbit of my travels because it seemed to be the joke of the trip, that I know how to pick up the older men.. the old, wrinkly, smelly, gray-haired ones. Craig said it right.. a man could never live in a chick's shoes. We deal with too many weirdos.
So anyways, hooray! I eventually make it to LaGuardia. Luckily I had a quick getaway.. hopped in a NYC yellow cab and off I was to Times Square. But this wasn't just any hotel. This was the Marriott Marquis in Times Square.. 28 stories up. I can honestly say that I have never stayed in such an amazing hotel, I mean, any hotel that has their check-in desk on the 8th floor has got to be somewhat ridiculous. When I arrive, there is no time to take the bags up to the room. Conveniently on the 8th floor is also the bar, so naturally we must have an appropriate cheers of Sam Adams before taking on the evening.
Next priority.. more booze and some grub. More specifically, Italian grub, family style. If ya'll have ever been to Italy or have eaten at a family style Italian restaurant, you'll understand the ungodly amount of food that was on our table. We walked a couple blocks down to Carmine's to meet up with three of my dad's good friends, Dennis, Vince and James. Over some Brooklyn Summer Ale, I listened to the boys cut up about the good ol' days when they reined the Marine Corps or chased overgrown drunk men through the streets of NYC. Its always so funny to me to hear men reuniting and catching up. It usually starts with a "you look good man!" or "this is how I have been a baller badass since you last saw me" ..in a much more eloquent bromance manner, of course. This reunion was no different, but I loved it. All four of them had gone in different directions.. James owning ATM machines, Vince becoming an FBI agent, Dennis a part-time bartender and part-time iron worker and my dad in the DOS. But after some scotch on the rocks, I figured I'd take my estrogen elsewhere and take up some shopping throughout Times Square. Naturally, as poor as I am, what better place to escape to than a four-story Forever 21?
Six a.m.. Never have I seen Times Square so empty. Perfect time for a grande Starbucks cup and a stroll down the strip. We had a 7am date with Mr. Dennis Byrnes outside of the Freedom Towers gate, not really expecting what our tour was about to unfold. We were met with a couple orange vests and some hard hats, not too different from my usual work attire! Needless to say, we looked sexy. After some exchanges of IDs and a couple day passes, we passed through to gates leading to complete constructive chaos. From the outside, as a tourist, all you can see is the progress of the actual towers.. high and reflective.. but being on the inside, on the ground.. in the dirt, its a entirely different world. Thousands of workers were drilling, digging, wiring from ground level all the way up to hundreds of feet in midair. First, Dennis took us through the museum. Again, a beautiful building from the outside. If you've seen the site, its the triangular-looking structure right in the midst of the towers. But on the inside.. when I go back to NYC to see the finished product, I am convinced I will not look at anything like the average person will. We touched GIANT, twisted, dusted pieces of steel from the original World Trade Centers, many of which had been preserved to be on display in the museum. I walked along the columns bases where the actual towers stood and among all the dusted ground, the last remaining piece of the tower continued to stand. Apparently the iron workers were able to sign it but sadly it was covered up to be preserved for museum purposes. As seen belong, in some of the steel, workers over the years had carved out crosses and Stars of David, many of which were given to families that had lost loved ones in the tragedy. Dennis, such a kind hearted man, had one made for my dad.. seriously one of the most touching gifts I have ever seen.
Time to make our way up the Freedom Tower! Apparently we were going out of Dennis's Local 40 zone, so we had to be on our best behavior. I feel like I stuck out like a sore thumb, my bombshell blonde hair and rainbow colored shirt among these burly men. Amazing enough, that was another inspiring aspect about the Freedom Towers. So many different people were contributing to this amazing project. From young to old, retired to working, white to black, military to white collar to blue collar.. it didn't matter the background, because every man and woman working on these towers had one single thing in common in my eyes.. faithful, giving and undoubtedly heroic Americans.
We started on the 39th floor. This was the only floor we made a stop at that actually had windows stopping me from falling to undoubtedly fatal death. I had a pretty solid view between the buildings. Lucky for us, it was absolutely GORGEOUS day in NYC! There were a ton of boats on the river, the reflections were clear as day on every window of every surrounding building. But apparently, it only got better from there. Up the elevator we went. The elevator, side note, was another interesting aspect of the tower. There were no buttons, besides up and down. One man stands inside the elevator to make it go, and they either go up or down until they were someone yell "STOP!" so he knows that someone needs to go in that direction. I guess it makes sense.. he can't stop at every floor, it would take forever to get anywhere. It was just funny, don't yell to loud at the poor elevator guy. He might get a little angry! Anyways, going up. Up, up, up.. to the 73rd floor. Nothing but net.. nothing but net keeping me from going splat on the ground level. Not only was my own uncoordinated self putting the fear in me, but the 35mph winds weren't exactly helping. Then, seeing a man take down the majority of the nets got me a little nervous.. and excited. Naturally, I started snapping away. We seemed to be eye level with the Empire State Building on the one side, and high above the State of Liberty and Ellis Island on the other. And still.. there's more! Up, up, up.. to the 89th floor! There were all sorts of workers up here! We had to walk around, over, under bars of steel to get to the picturesque views. They led me to stairs.. ON THE OUTSIDE OF THE TOWER. Literally, we were climbing four flights of stairs along the side of the building. My feet seemed to get a little numb by this point. But, they must have known I was coming up, because there were holes all along the nets. As freaky as that was, my inner photographer was very grateful. I wrapped my camera strap around my wrist, stuck my entire arm outside of the net (reminder: ~93 stories above ground) and started snapping away. What a perfect New York day. I had been to the top of the Empire State Building before, but nothing could beat the views I witnessed that day. Just the concept of being that high up, in the Freedom Tower, seeing NYC as some of those that died in the WTC tragedy on 9/11 might have seen daily.. it was just heart-stopping and unreal. At that point, it had really hit me that this was seriously a once in a lifetime experience that not many people will be able to do. I literally stood over New York City, completely inspired and whole, feeling more patriotic than ever.
Also, everyone, GO SEE THE MEMORIAL. They are magnificent fountains, giant squares that are exactly where the towers stood. Surrounding the waterfalls are the names of those individuals and groups that passed away in the 9/11 attacks. It makes it so much more real, especially if you're just a tourist like me and had no direct experience to the tragedy. Seeing people's names engraved in the stone proved that they were there, that is where many were laid to rest. My goodness, its beautiful.
Later in the day, lunch with some pretty interesting people. More friends of papa bear from the DOS, one being a Harvard Law graduate.. whoa. Fabulous folks though, of course work obsessed people.. but with jobs like theirs, who could blame them! If you've never been to Hill Country restaurant, I highly recommend it. Best macaroni and cheese EVER. Rick Perry claimed it has the best barbecue sauce, behind Texas's. He would. But really, its amazing. After having to waddle out of the restaurant, I did a nice round about in the fashion district. Popped into Macy's for a bit, did some wishful thinking, then moved along Fifth Ave and took some pretty pictures. Spring time in the Big Apple is actually quite awe-inspiring, despite all the homeless and liberal crazies shoving "Stop Military spending" pamphlets in my face. Haha. Gotta love the upper class for their ignorance!
More drinks? Sure! Hells Kitchen for happy hour.. check. Also, another monumental moment in my life.. as a beach girl, this was surprisingly my first time eating mussels! Can't complain, I guess I'm still alive, but I'm slightly impartial to foods that resemble the look and texture of boogers, but hey, it was something new! A newly engaged couple that were a part of our dinner party invited us to their apartment near the Hudson on 35th and between 9th and 10th. We shared some good Russian vodka and cranberry and Heineken on the rooftop.. brace yourself for more amazing photography, courtesy of yours truly.
I'll make my final adventure somewhat short and sweet, because if you're read this far, bless you, thank you. I get overly excited when talking about my journeys, especially if I'm writing about it, so you can't tell when I'm stumbling over my words.
The U.S. Olympics had come to Times Square! Their "Road to London" tour bus had gone to the Big Apple to start raising money for the Olympic potentials, hoping to make an appearance in July! We got to see the CEO of the U.S. Olympic Team.. as well as Olympic heroes like Carl Lewis, Greg Louganis and Stephanie Miller! They were promoting their $12 for a stitch in the American flag they will take with them to London.. such a brilliant idea! Sadly we couldn't stay too long.. LGA was pressing us for time.
And that was my trip to New York City. In one word: Phenomenal.
Thanks for reading, ya'll!
I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.
- 2 Timothy 4:7
...and I'll just throw this in there. Memory lane reminded me of this bucket list I made for 2011. Lets see what has been accomplished!
- Run a marathon
- Get back on the level of piano where I left off ..whilst dust covers my keyboard.
- Get a big girl job during the summer
- Volunteer more often
- Take my sisters on a getaway ..sorry, guys!
- Make Dean's List (we'll shoot for at least the Spring for now!) ..guess my last chance is coming up!
- Go to a country I've never been before ..France, Portugal, St. Thomas, Scotland.. success.
- Rekindle a lost friendship ..Kasey, you were never lost.. we'll call it revamped!
- Make it a point to see and learn more about my family ..Texans, I've seen you more this year than the past 3!
- Visit an old friend I haven't seen in a while ..Erika Rankin, my beautiful Aussie friend I visited in Paris.
- Fall in love and give all my love ..Glad I found you, Craig Sherman.
- Keep up going to church ..woops, I still love Jesus..
- Find a new hobby that I can become passionate about ..since I made this list, it has become traveling. I must always just.. GO.
- Read a classic book ..Hand of Providence isn't exactly a classic, but I'll cut the corners on this one!
- Apply to grad school (or somethin' along those lines..) Applied.. accepted.. but I turned them down!