Labor Day Weekend in Manhattan.
Eat a pretzel from the street corner vendor. Buy a pretzel on your first evening, while waiting in Bryant Park for your husband who flew in separately. Realize street pretzels are dry and overly salty and that the taste could never live up to the smell. You don’t care because it is a beautiful Friday night in Manhattan, and this park, which you don’t recall being here when you were a kid, is lovely. Green grass, a main fountain, and most of all — New Yorkers. Sit back on the randomly placed chairs, feel your feet ache after a full day of travel, and watch the world. Lovers greet one another. Children climb out of strollers to reach the fountain spray. An elegant Asian woman hurries by. Two old men, bearded, play chess. A crowd of twenty-somethings fill the bar. Breathe in the magic of a warm summer night in a vibrant city.
Take the subway. Nah, you did that when you were young and broke and had months, not days, to see the city. Walk everywhere, uptown, downtown, crosstown, then give up and grab a cab when you can’t walk anymore. Notice NYC cabs now have little TV’s.
Pay a fortune for Broadway tickets months ahead. Have no real expectations whatsoever when you approach the half-price ticket booth, except to get tickets to something.
(This is what I learned from my parents, those many Saturday afternoons. The Zen of cheap ticket buying. We used to line up at the TKTS booth on Times Square while my father circled the block for an hour, rather than pay for parking. I can remember being dressed for the theater, cold air flying up my dress, without knowing for sure we’d make it to the theater. At 3:00, the sign went up. The plays that still had seats would be listed, and we’d start our list. What was our first, second and third choice. By the time we got to the front of the line, the plays would have changed and we would have to recalculate, checking the location of the seats, scanning the Times reviews, anxious about what we chose. We saw everything from Peter Pan and Cats to tiny obscure off Broadway shows. It’s in my blood.)
See both The Humans and An American in Paris for half price, in great seats. Be blown away.
Go to all your old haunts. Explore new areas because Manhattan is a constantly changing animal. Walk the High Line and discuss the merits of urban planning and renewal. Check out the new Whitney. Eat an impromptu brunch in the Meat Packing District, which is now cool and hip. Watch gangs of hipsters drink too many mimosas, and smile because you are not them.
Rent Bikes from City Bike to just toodle around Manhattan. Are you crazy? You barely ride bikes in California. Why are you riding willy-nilly through Times Square, between screaming taxi drivers, pissed of cops and looming silveHmen on stilts? Return the bikes quickly before someone gets hurt. Take it as a momentary lapse in judgement brought on by Manhattan fever. Notice that your neck sort of hurts?
Visit everyone we know. Plan to come back for a week just to see all the people we love in NY area. Make a list in the course of the weekend of whom you’ll visit. But this is your 25th anniversary, so wander, just the two of you, for days. Perfect.
Skip Central Park. No. Never skip Central Park. Lie in the grass, watching people play, and think of all the times you were happy here. Remember the movies you’ve seen here. Walk down the Harry Met Sally pathway. Picture Woody Allen and Dianne Keaton strolling by. Consider another dry pretzel.
Have your dinner reservations set up ahead of time. Eat impromptu dinners at neighborhood places. Realize that nothing compares to being able to sit down to dinner at 10:30 on a balmy night, and not feel rushed to go. Chat with waiters from foreign countries, waitresses from Jersey, people who live in our Midtown hotel, tourists from Nebraska, restaurant owners from Greece. Try not to get sloppy and cry because you’re so happy to be “home” amongst people from everywhere, but you fly out in the morning.
Ignore the pain in your neck. Wake up Monday morning and realize the achy neck thing has turned into a throbbing infection thing. Find an urgent care. Get heavy duty antibiotics. Accept that you will never see a city without visiting its healthcare system. Be glad you’re in New York, not a tiny village in Timbuktu. Be grateful you have health care. Watch New York disappear in the rear view mirror as you drive to the airport, and wonder if you could manifest homesickness as a throbbing lump on the back of your head?
Don’t look at your phone too much, as it hurts your neck more. Go through your photos one by one on the flight back. From that first evening at Bryant Park to the incredible colors of the sunset from Battery Park on Sunday. Look at your calendar, scheming to return. Be grateful that the universe conspired to get you there at all. Put some ice on your neck. Go home.