And yet, here we were, masochistically trying it again. Why? Because I'm an optimist with a really bad memory.
I knew going into it that it was a bad idea to attempt a trip without an itinerary. Sam, John, and Tom like to know exactly where to be and why and what to expect when they get there. Then, depending on the wheres. whys, and whats, Sam and John complain to me incessantly about doing something different. Therefore, I find planning trips to the nth degree frustrating and limiting, and masochistically like to torture my family by "winging it" because if they don't know what the plans are at any given moment, they can't complain about them!
Going in, all I knew was the three gentlemen in my life were going to pay for forcing me to visit Fort William Henry for Mother's Day. I am ordinarily a take-one-for-the-team kind of girl, but at least on Mother's Day (and maybe my birthday), I should be spared the testosterone. But that's thing about being a mom of just boys. I am totally outnumbered. After threatening to take everyone out for tea, followed by a ballet and pedicures for Father's Day (which would be an awesome Mother's Day--just sayin'...), I told them I'd put up with quite enough manly nonsense from them and we were going to do NYC on my terms!
It wasn't like I had a full weekend of shopping planned or anything. I had a short wish list. Eat at Ellen's Stardust Diner, see a show, maybe take a city tour in an open top sightseeing bus, maybe explore a part of the city I'd never seen before. They were things I'd find enjoyable, but wouldn't be too torturous for the boys.
When I'm in a new place, I like five minutes peace to get my bearings, get my head in the game, and acclimate to my surroundings. Walking out of the Metro North terminal at Grand Central is only a little bit disconcerting compared to stepping from Grand Central onto the 42nd street sidewalk. Since I was the one with gps on my phone, I was the one responsible for us finding our hotel. It would've been nice to do that in some relative peace and quiet, but apparently, in order for the boys to acclimate to a new place, it was necessary for them to follow me, asking me a non-stop barrage of questions, that not only drove me completely bat shit, but (as if it wasn't already obvious) announced to the entire free world that we were tourists.
Mom, do you know where we are? Are we going the right direction? I'm thirsty. Can we get a drink? Ice cream truck! Can we get ice cream? Can we get ice cream and a drink? Is that guy homeless? Can I get a hotdog? Mom, I said I want a drink! Why do homeless people have dogs? Another ice cream truck! I want ice cream! Where's our hotel? We're never getting ice cream are we, Mom? I'm thirsty! Why are we going this way? Does this road go to the hotel? Why did those people stop daddy for money? I'M THIRSTY! I want to take a bus tour! Ice cream truck! Can we get ice cream NOW?
By the time we actually got to the hotel, I was ready for the trip to be over already. This is not like how I like to travel. When I lived in Europe, I prided myself on my ability to camouflage myself among the locals, and go about my business without drawing any interest (or pick pockets, etc). With the boys in tow, we were about as subtle as a circus parade.
Knowing that my night of quiet itenerary-planning was shot, we wandered over to Ellen's Stardust Diner, and after a short wait, got inside to see the show. It's a really fun place. At home (and definitely without an audience), I'm apt to suddenly break into song, or dance, or song and dance. If my life could be a musical, and I could sing my conversations to people, punctuating words with some high kicks and jazz hands, I would die a thousand happy deaths. Imagine how awesome it was at Ellen's, where the waiter who'd just taken our drink order 5 minutes ago, was suddenly shimmying on top of the bench seating belting out Greased Lightning. It was high energy and super entertaining, and the boys declared it the best restaurant in the world.
I wish I could say that the excitement of the evening ended there, but our third floor room just blocks from Time Square made it possible to feel one with the action outside. I would just start to fall asleep, and then the silence would be broken my car alarms, police sirens, screaming people at street level, the heavy rumble of delivery and garbage trucks. Having kids turned me into a light sleeper, and there was no way to sleep through the constant auditory barrage.
So the next morning, when we made our way to the TKTS kiosk in Time Square to get show tickets, I felt a little like death warmed over. Only three shows on the board were age appropriate and could hold the boys' attention. Finding Neverland, Matilda, and Stomp. Since he'd heard we might see a show in NYC, Sam had been begging to see Stomp. He'd seen it in music class and loved it. John thought Finding Neverland looked good. Since Matilda and a show similar to Stomp are coming to our local theater in Schenectady this winter, we decided out first choice was Finding Neverland. That is, until we found out we'd be getting tickets in the last row, with a partially obstructed view for $379. Forget that! For less than half the price of the Finding Neverland tickets, we got four third row seats to see Stomp, and after poking around Times Square some more and deciding it was just too busy to enjoy much, we eventually made our way to the East Village.
I like NYC in theory, but Times Square makes me a little crazy. The place is always "on", and when you're there, you're expected to be "on" right along with it. Even first thing in the morning, there was no slow build up to the day. By this point, I was exhausted, hadn't had even five minutes downtime, and was ready to be done with the constant assault on my senses. It was a space totally incompatible with how I wanted to spend my time.
I'd never been to the East Village, where the Orpheum Theater is, but I hadn't expected it to be a neighborhood, with empty streets, and trees, and a fun casual low key vibe. It was the sort of place you could poke around without getting steam-rolled or jostled. The stores were open and airy, and not stuffed with tourists elbow deep. We ate lunch in a fun organic burger joint, with feet of space between the other diners, then walked around exploring the area until the Stomp afternoon matinee. Just being there chilled me out, and it was a welcome respite from crazy before the awesomeness that was Stomp.
Stomp was amazing. The boys loved it. Tom and I loved it. It was funny, thought provoking, awe inspiring, fun. The perfect show for two little boys.
When it was over, we headed back to the train station, the boys finally got their ice cream from the ice cream truck, and we headed home.
It was fun day and a half in the city, and I'd do again.