An Empire State of Mind Part 1

NYC Travelogue- Day 1 4/14/10

“Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, ninety-nine bottles of beer…”
Are we there yet?
Nope. Actually, we haven’t even left the driveway of the school.
Welcome to the first hour of the first day- well, night- of the Music Department trip to New York City. We’d been planning and preparing for the trip for months, and finally it was upon us. We were supposed to report at 9:00 p.m. and for the most part, everybody was on time. I’ve never seen such a sea of suitcases, instrument cases and just plain junk…at least not since the last trip two years ago.
Tomorrow’s entry will be more entertaining, I promise. It’s a little late now- ten till 11:00- and I have a headache. Good night for now!

12:32 a.m. Ha! Just kidding! We’ve been driving for a little over two hours now, and trust me, nobody’s gotten much sleep. We’re at a rest stop near Mansfield, and everyone’s starting to get into that silly stage, even the adults. My headache has miraculously disappeared. Sue (our tour guide) wanted us to be in and out of here by now. The boys, I declare, took longer than the girls to get out of the bathroom.
Oh, I almost forgot to tell you: guess who’s meeting up with us in NYC? Amanda! Plus her friend Kyle, who she graduated high school with back in ‘04. He’s really a family friend, and has house-, pet- , pool- and plant-sat for us on more than one occasion. At one point in time, we were even going to see the same showing of Wicked, but that fell through. For the sake of organization, I’d sent a mass Facebook message to everyone on the trip about a week ago to get a definitive group to try and get tickets the following night to see the show. Organization, after all, is what my career will revolve around. Why not start now?
It’s not much of a surprise, I guess, that I’m reminded of the trip the MD took to Tennessee my sophomore year. Maybe it’s the air, or something, on this huge charter bus, or the ungodly hour, that calls to mind:
-My friend Giles, who transferred last year to Julian, a school about an hour away from ours, sitting with this girlfriend of the time, foreign exchange student Sindy, and the two of them…er, canoodling. Another friend of mine, Julia, sitting directly in front of me, amused the whole bus- all of whom had been aware of the situation for quite some time by this point- by turning around and stage whispering, ‘Front row seat, baby!’
Hahaha. Or- Mrs. Van Treese, the mother of one my friends, and director of the show choir and the all-school musical (at the time) as well as a chaperone on both trips, sitting across the aisle from me as the bus pulled out of Lehman and the look on her face as she stared at me like I was Gonzo from the Muppets tap dancing with a flowerpot on my head as I blissfully rocked out to my Gaelic Storm CDs, back in the day before iPods, happier than a clam at high tide. But I couldn’t help it- it was the first time I’d had them in three months after lending them to my friend so she could perfect her accent to play Katie, the Irish maid in that year’s musical, Meet Me In St. Louis.
Or the same lady, some time afterwards when we’d reached Memphis, after seeing a naked statue in town or a real man who allegedly, we read on the plaque under the statue while stopped at a reeeally long red light, had been paralyzed on the spot after taking off his clothes (ew. I wonder if public nudity was illegal back then) and to a boy who was in the restroom on the bus, changing, “Ryan, keep your clothes on!”
Haha! Hoo boy, good times, good times…
I’d better try to sleep for real now. Before I go, though, here’s some random trivia for ya: did you know that the songs "Seventy-Six Trombones" and "Good Night, My Someone" from The Music Man are the same tune in different time signatures? I didn’t. I figured it out, though, at my friend’s homeschool co-op’s production of it a couple of weeks ago.


NYC Travelogue Day 2 4/15/10
Wow, was I getting off-track in that last entry there. That’s what you get for writing way past midnight. The last time I did that, though, I wrote a rather good paper for English- and by rather good, I mean a 98. That paper, by the way, is now on that blog site of mine.
Anyhoo, no one got much sleep last night. I know I didn’t. But then, I’m not surprised. Quarters are pretty tight here on this bus, which very quickly lost its ‘huge’ rating. We stopped a few times for gas and “potty breaks”, as Sue referred to them. Now it’s a quarter after seven, and we’re at a rest stop for breakfast. Can I just say- trying to squeeze seventy-something women into one teensy rest stop bathroom is no joke. At all.
According to the newspaper stands here, we’re somewhere in PA, though nowhere near Harrisburg, which is where my dance contest was back in January. Mrs. VT and the other People In Charge wanted to be rolling by now. I knew that wasn’t going to happen. We’ll still get to our first destination- Covenant House- in time. Covenant House is a shelter for teens who run away from bad home situations. It takes kids off the streets where they can get into all sorts of trouble and gives them a place to stay for a time. It also offers programs to help them get jobs and continue their educations. They can always use personal toiletries, like soap, toothbrushes, etc. and that’s where Lehman’s Lenten Project 2010 comes in. Every year we have a project, usually raising money for various charities, or for disaster victims. We actually had two this year- Covenant House and the victims of the earthquake in Haiti. We are delivering our donations when we get there.
So that’s where are now. To be precise, my ears tell me we’re in some mountains, and that everybody’s pretty much up by now (except for my bus buddy and best friend, Caitlin) and making a lot of racket. From the pandemonium sticks out animal sounds that are seriously reminding me of that one scene in the third Harry Potter movie. You know which one I mean? In the beginning, where Harry and his friends eat some kind of magical candy or something which makes them do various animal sounds. Mixing with that are snatches of songs, movie quotes and someone trying unsuccessfully to start a bus-wide game of Do You Want To Buy a Duck?
Did you know that The Lion King is loosely based off of Hamlet?

10:21 a.m. I honestly didn’t intend to fall asleep after that last pitstop, but I did. Worse yet, I fell asleep with my iPod on and wasted some power. I was dismayed to learn that the Do You Want To Buy a Duck? effort, far from dying out, had been taken over by the more bilingual among us. I guess if I hadn’t taken Spanish I wouldn’t be so annoyed, but I did, and I am, and if I hear ‘Quiere comprar un pato?’ one more time, I’m gonna scream! At least it’s being diluted by Mrs. VT’s tenth time asking ‘Where are all these water bottles coming from?’ It’s funny- Mrs. Shoenfelt had ended up with one last night. “It’s the water fairy,” my mom had responded.
(It wasn’t until later- much later- that I learned that my mom and Mrs. Shoenfelt, as the trip wore on, started putting the water bottles they found in Mrs. VT’s seat. I wondered what those two were cackling about!)
We saw the skyline quite some time ago, and after a lot of crawling around, we’re finally in the Lincoln Tunnel. Too dark to write. Just passed the NJ I NY line. (Really, it looks just like that)
A sign for Forty-Second Street. Gag. Me.
Oh, my gosh! The driver just stopped the bus and got off! What on earth? We’ll have to fend for ourselves!

11:22 a.m. Never mind with the histrionics there. He did get off the bus, but so did we all a few seconds later because we were at Covenant House. Due to time constraints (I knew it!) we couldn’t take a tour, but we presented our 156 bags of personal hygiene items along with a letter. Now we’re on our way to a picnic lunch in Central Park (yes, the!) and we even have a special guest- Matt Zimmerman, a guy who graduated with my sister and is now working on Broadway.

12:17 p.m. In Central Park. My word, is it pretty here! We’re sitting on a hill overlooking the pond with its cute little sailboats. Before Matt came, there was a lady playing a violin before a small crowd of people who were all just listening quietly. Amazing! Too bad we have to go back on the bus now to perform at the Children’s Hospital. And I don’t mean Dayton Children’s, either.
It may sound funny (not that that ever stopped me) but just being in the “real world”, per se, makes me even more excited to graduate. I’m not saying I want to go in New York, or anything, or even that I don’t want to go to Edison and then Ashland. It’s just…now I know what’s out there, ya know?
I knew this place was big, and I’ve seen pictures, but believe me, what you hear and what you see don’t even hold a mini Yankee candle to the real thing.
Which brings me to my next question: have you ever been to the Big Apple?

1:11 p.m. My mom’s bus partner, Mrs. Shoenfelt, who is another mother of a friend, is taking pictures of old men sitting on benches. Why? Who knows. Not a whole lot else to do. We have yet to see a woman on a bench, actually. Oh, there’s two of them! Ooh, that one has a beard…oh, no, wait, that’s a cell phone.
3:31 p.m. Finished with our performance. Maybe it was because there weren’t a lot of patients actually in the room with us since they were broadcasting our show bedside, but it wasn’t nearly as saddening as the time I -well, we- danced at Children’s in Dayton. There weren’t any pretty little oncology patients melting our hearts with ‘one day, I’ll be as good as them!’ True story, by the way.
We’re on our way to the hotel, where we’ll settle in and freshen up before hoofing it 13 blocks to the Birdland Jazz Club in Times Square for dinner. Now, by “settle in” I mean frenetically grab keys from chaperones, try to find our rooms on the eighth floor after dragging suitcases up flights and flights of stairs because the elevators don’t work in a scene not unlike the first day of band camp at Wittenberg U., fling said suitcases on the beds once we finally reach those un-air-conditioned rooms and wildly dig for those good clothes, fight for time in the bathroom, get dressed, try to get everyone’s hair care products, jewelry, etc. sorted out again after the maelstrom of flying clothing and achieve some semblance of neatness and get back downstairs again in the broad expanse of…twenty minutes.

11:00 p.m. Well, we made it back to the hotel somehow. That was quite an ordeal. We went to dinner, which wasn’t all that spectacular. In fact, it was gross. Some people got macaroni and cheese (which had, on the sign-up sheet they gave us a few weeks ago, been advertised as “pasta“) all of whom testified to its grossness, as did those of us who got burgers. They weren’t rare, they were raw. So by the time we hit Times Square some time later, everyone was hungry, and ready to shop. First, though we had to take a group picture. We started out in an amoeba-shaped blob and eventually organized into a little more controlled chaos so we could take this darn thing, which was a lot like your typical school photo: you’re positioned in some invariably awkward stance, fake smile, which may or may not have ever even started real, in place, focusing on the guy on a ladder with a camera in front of you and squinting through the spots in your eyes as he yells ’All right! One more!’ for the zillionth time.
After that we went our separate ways to explore Times Square. I ended up with four of my friends and two chaperones, and we went to American Eagle, Billabong, Toys ’R’ Us, Starbucks and Walgreens, in that order. We saw an ad for the Gazillion Bubble Show (“It’s unbubblievable!”) which we’d see on Saturday.
I tell you, the Toys ’R’ Us is ha-uuuge! I took tons and tons of pics. By the time we were finished, it was well after ten, and we had to be back at the hotel by eleven. It was getting chilly and we had 13 blocks to walk, so we decided to get a cab.
Well, easier said than done. Since there were seven of us, we couldn’t get anything smaller than a van. So we started walking, and for blocks we saw vans, all right, but each one was full. Now, we’re freezing and taking turns with each other’s flimsy dressy sweaters since it was our designated dress-up night. All of a sudden, we see this white limo, whose driver said he’d take us to Fifty-seventh- our street- for five bucks a person. Mom tripped out because the cab was unmarked and the driver made it seem like he didn’t know where he was going, but things were fine.
And that, my friend, is how we got back to our hotel around 10:45. Gotta get to sleep, since tomorrow we’re getting up early to be on the ‘Today’ show.





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