The First Bite: Day One in the Big Apple

4 Jun

zcdinnerZack and I booked our flight to New York City back in November of 2013*. We had high expectations for the big city — it was our first time to New York together, though each of us have been a handful of times on our own. I even lived there in 2009, when I was an intern at Rolling Stone** (unreal, I know). I wanted to share the full-of-possibilities, endless-grin-worthy-excitement version of NYC that I had experienced then and again in 2010 at CMJ/the Madison Square Garden Phoenix show a few weeks after we started dating. Zack liked New York, but he didn’t yet adore it in the deep-down way that I did***, so I wanted to show him the best of the best.

*Gotta cash in those frequent flyer miles when you can.

**How cool is my fiancé?

***I’ve always had a fun, albeit expensive time in NYC, but this was my first time there as a financially independent adult. I wanted to make sure it lived up to Caitlin’s high expectations, but didn’t want to fall so in love with the city that I would be ready to leave Austin. It’s Rock Love Austin, not Rock Love New York.

We had an inauspicious beginning, before we even left Austin. We realized far too late that we’d booked our trip a week before the Governors Ball, where Phoenix, Jack White, White Sea, Outkast and a dizzyingly longer list of favorites would be performing. We realized we’d also be away from Texas for Free Press Summer Fest, where many of the aforementioned artists would be performing. Zack was especially gutted, since he’d be in the exact opposite spot from Jack White* in each instance. At first, we had trouble finding any shows we were really excited about, which seemed so unlike New York, a city that’s always offering something amazing. But, NYC always comes through — and this trip was no exception. In fact, Zack and I agree that this is the best vacation** we’ve ever taken together.

*I did watch about 40 Vines of Jack’s Houston show while Caitlin washed her face on our last night in NYC and went out of my way to find the Rolling Stone issue with him on the cover at a bodega, but otherwise, I dealt with missing Jack the best I could.

**We decided this as we walked around Greenwich Village Saturday night. I’d just made a basket in a nerf hoop in an old used bookstore on my second attempt. The kind owner agreed to knock the price of a copy of “All The President’s Men” down to $4.75 from $5.50, even though the sign only offered a deal if you made your first try. We’d just had the best fro yo of our lives and were about to duck into an incredible wine bar with friends, and I asked Caitlin if NYC was part of our Europe trip, would it have been our favorite city? We unilaterally agreed it would have been.

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Read from the bottom up

Wednesday did not start well. I had intended on sleeping in until 9AM, a luxurious time for my alarm to go off when compared to my normal 6AM wake-up. At 7, almost on the dot, the fire alarms went off throughout the apartment and I woke up in a confused, frightened daze. Zack had already left for work, which I remembered when I looked to my side and saw he was gone. I jumped out of bed, trying to collect my thoughts as I listened to the alarms sounding throughout the whole building. I threw on a sweatshirt and Zack’s flip-flops, grabbed my keys and phone, put Scooby on a leash and ran outside. I didn’t bother locking the door as I wandered downstairs and away from the building, watching as my neighbors moved around me like zombies. A firefighter approached the group and told us that they had confirmed there was no fire in our building at all…but that they couldn’t get the alarms off. He said that they had called in a specialist, but they had no idea when he’d be here to work on the alarms. He promised it was safe to return to our apartments, so I did, and dealt with an hour and a half of the shrillest screeching alarm I’d ever heard in my life. I couldn’t fall back asleep, so I just moved on with my day as best I could. Ahhhh, relaxing vacation. I spent the day at work starting at 6 a.m., so it was a long day for me as well.

View from our hotel room.

View from our hotel room.

The rest of the day went by in a hurry, and I found myself frantically packing the last of my necessities until the last minute, when we hurried out the door and then waited around for a late Yellow Cab to collect us and get us to the airport. We had a layover in Chicago, and on the flight from Chicago to La Guardia, a very angry, very oblivious child cried the ENTIRE FLIGHT and sounded like she was being exorcised. It was horrific, but we tried to ignore the kid and keep our cool, unlike another passenger who apparently spent the whole flight shaking her head at the baby, which sent up a shitstorm between her and the kid’s mother. They started fighting and it got very testy and uncomfortable and I was SO happy to get out of the situation and get to our hotel at midnight. That’s when the real NYC vacation began. Definitely not the most relaxing flight, but we were able to tune the kid out enough to read and listen to podcasts and at least we made it to our hotel (which was also a night club) and get some sleep. 

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Thursday, we started early. We had brunch at the Grey Dog, an amazing restaurant just around the corner from our hotel, with Zack’s old friend Zach (it was a Zack(h) sandwich*). Then we were off to the Natural History Museum, where we enjoyed statues of naked people, naked animals, and naked gemstones. 

*The guy who took our brunch orders at the counter asked whose name he should put the order under and Zach and I looked at each other and laughed. Without us even telling him to, he wrote the k in Zack so it partially looked like an h. Or the h in Zach so it looked partially like a k, depending on your perspective. This was our first of many opportunities that weekend to tell our engagement story, catch up and add NY to the list of places Zach and I have hung out, along with Austin, New Orleans, Chicago and Israel.

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The gems were probably my favorite attraction, although there was so much to enjoy at the museum. There was some really gorgeous stuff. It reminded me of my sister, who “loves me some headdie gems” as she texted me when I told her she needed to come here her next time she’s in NYC.

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More gems. I love the opals. It’s so cool how they’re formed inside such normal looking rocks.

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The Squid & The Whale. Squid not pictured.

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The real reason we made the trip was for the Hayden Planetarium, which is inside of the museum. We got to watch the amazing Planetarium show “Dark Universe,” a short film narrated by Neil Tyson Degrasse where he basically explains that we don’t know much and it’s crazy and time is space and the stuff that is far away from us happened billions of years ago. Zack and I had some mindsplosions going on after that show. It was so incredible, it genuinely made my brain hurt. Watch the trailer here. You’ll get the idea.

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Next, we were off to dinner with my dear friend Kim at Ippudo. She pitched it to us as a “fantastic ramen restaurant.” “Psh,” I thought, “How good can ramen be?!” Well, past self, let me tell you:  So. Damn. GOOD. Seriously, Ippudo was to-die for. We’ll go into it more in our restaurant round-up, but just, holy moses. Go there. Now. Do it now. We chatted it up with Kim, who is creeping up on her second year anniversary in the city, and then we got to walk to her office where her adorable dog Rema was hanging out. We’re pretty convinced that Rema and Scooby need to be together, or at least be best friends. We’ve kind of missed the boat on the ramen phase, but I’m glad Caitlin enjoyed it so much that we can check out some of Austin’s Ramen offerings. Mine was almost as mind blowing for my taste buds as “Dark Universe” was for my brain space. And the company was perfect. Kim is a doll and Rema is such a sweetheart. She was even more well behaved than Scooby usually is with new people and I played an endless game of fetch with her and she was extra cuddly. It helped us get over our home/dog sickness.

Then we ran by Billy’s Bakery and enjoyed a slice of chocolate cake while we kicked our feet up and recuperated before heading back into the night. We went to the Bowery Ballroom to see Lee Fields, an incredible R&B/soul singer whose best song, in my opinion, is “Ladies,” because I shook it like there was no tomorrow when that song came on. It moved us all, and had the whole crowd “amen”-ing along. Just listen to that groove!! It was even more soulful live, I’m telling you. We stayed for the first hour of his show, and then high-tailed it to Brooklyn to meet up with Zack’s friend Benny. The Bowery is one of those venues I’d heard a lot about, but never gotten the chance to see and was glad I got to. It reminds me of a Chicago venue with a grand stage with curtains and a nice overhanging balcony for a smallish mid-sized venue. Lee “still got it” as he sang in one song and danced around in a cool suit and we were sad to leave before it was over, but we had other plans to get to.

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We had a drink* at a big, open bar**, and then headed to the Brooklyn Bowl for ?uestlove’s weekly DJ set, “Bowl Train.” We saw some guys start to breakdance a bit, and then Zack, Benny and I helped the crowd circle up for a true, spontaneous breakdancing situation — we totally helped start it, y’all! At around 1AM, we were totally pooped and headed back to Manhattan and sleep (and some cookie sandwiches c/o Billy’s). It was a blissfully busy, friend-filled first NYC day. And we were just getting started.

*or two

**Benny wisely advised us to meet at a bar around the corner so we could actually talk for a minute. There was no way we’d hear each other in the Bowl. Somehow I hadn’t seen Benny since we moved out of the apartment we shared senior year of college in the summer of 2007, so it was great to see him in person and have a chat that wasn’t on g-chat or the occasional text for the first time in 7 years. 

Check back tomorrow for the recap of Friday in which we hit up Strand Books, get some pizza, see a Broadway play and get more sweets.

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