Four Days in NYC

Tim and I got engaged on a Wednesday night in the middle of September, right in the midst of a busy week and semester and season in life. We celebrated, of course, with friends and balloons and chips with salsa. But it was one night of bliss and then immediately back to the bustle and routine of everyday life. We wanted a chance to get away and have some time alone to let it sink in that WOW WE ARE GETTING MARRIED and OH MY GOSH WE ARE GOING TO BE LIFE PARTNERS with maybe a dash of both rest and magic thrown in for good measure. So we decided on a whim to book a flight to New York over our five day fall break and go on our first of many adventures together. With the last homework assignment completed and the majority of midterms taken, we hopped on a flight Saturday evening and headed to the Empire State.

One of my childhood friends Jackie got married this past spring to a wonderful man named Stephen and they settled down in an apartment in Jackie’s hometown of Bloomfield, New Jersey. When we mentioned that we were interested in spending our fall break in New York, they threw open their arms and doors to us and invited us to stay with them for the week. After all, they were just one short 25 minute train ride from the heart of the city! They made up an air mattress in their spare bedroom and threw blankets and pillows on the living room couch. We got our own set of keys and the freedom to come and go as we pleased. It was surreal to be hosted by the girl I was a frizzy haired middle schooler with eight long years ago. Now she was hosting and spare bedroom owning–offering us cups of coffee or a ride to the bagel shop when we woke up in the morning. I never felt so perilously close to adulthood as I did seeing Jackie standing in it firmly.

Our four days in the city were magic. We wandered wherever we wanted to wander. We slept in, stayed up late, ate pounds upon pounds of pizza, macaroni and cheese, ice cream, soft pretzels, and bagels. We held hands. Sang songs–out loud, with skipping and sometimes spinning. We met up with friends, both old and new. Kissed in front of lit up fountains and in empty train cars. Napped under big trees in the park. Watched movies, went shopping, rode up and down too many escalators to count. We did a lot of everything and a lot of nothing and saw a bunch of stars and hearts in front of our eyes.

My friend Cara commented on one of my Instagram posts on the last day of our trip and said, “So cute! It sounds like you went on a honeymoon for getting engaged.” I paused when I read that and realized she was kind of right. Tim and I spent every waking moment for five days together and didn’t get sick of each other for a moment of it. We don’t live together here on campus, and had never spent the night under the same roof. But last week it felt so special to know that I could wake up each morning, throw on a hoodie, and find him sleeping on the couch. We could consult each other before every meal, trip, and decision. Time passed in lengthy discussions or no words at all. And it all felt so comfortable and right and good. I knew I was being taken care of and treasured, and that fact was like something I could tuck into my pocket and carry with me all week long.

All of this to say, we had a magical fall break in the Big Apple. There were too many stories and jokes to record each one, but I did want to share with you all some of our photos and a breakdown of where we went + how we saved money so that any of you planning  a trip to New York yourselves (or just day-dreaming) could have some ideas!

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Day One – Upper West Side

Sunday was our first full day on the East Coast, so we slept in late and then went and had a big meal with Jackie and her whole family (who I have known for forever, it seems). We ate lots of pie and played mafia and laughed until our sides hurt. Then Tim and I hopped on a 5 PM train into the city to catch the last night of the New York Film Festival. We met up with his friends Michael and Rebecca and we all ate giant, cheesy slices of pizza at some no-name pizzeria on the Upper West Side. Then we said goodnight to our friends and walked over to the Lincoln Center, where the lights and the fountains were aglow. We watched an independent French film in a small theater, then wandered out into the cooling night air and walked hand in hand for a while by the fountains, feeling alive and young and joyful. Then we took the long way back to the train, pressing through crowds of people in Times Square (which is always crowded and always bright as day) before getting home for the evening, well past midnight.

 Day Two – Lower Manhattan + Madison Ave + Central Park

Our second day in New York was definitely our fullest. We woke up bright and early for a fitting in Lower Manhattan at Indochino–an atelier I’d scoped out long ago in search of  a custom-made wedding suit for Tim. After the fitting, he walked me to TWO different Kate Spades (one on Broome St and a five-story one on Madison Ave), stopping for brunch in between at the very pink and very European Cafe Henrie . We sat in front of a big open window and people watched. After lunch, we took the subway back up to mid Manhattan and spent a few hours at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)–a spot that quickly became my happy place. We watched a forty minute long video of slides from the 80′s entitled The Ballad of Sexual Dependency that moved us both, waited in line for half an hour to see a special exhibit on the top floor in which no photos were allowed, and wandered through the 20th Century wing, coming face to face with Picassos and Van Goghs we had only ever seen in books.

In the late afternoon, we walked over to Central Park and met up with Tim’s friend Michael again. The leaves were all changing colors and the sun was golden. We sat on benches and watched tourists and New Yorkers walk by, then wandered over to the ponds on the edge of the park where kids ran around with sailboats in their arms. It was magic hour and I trailed behind the guys, my heart in my throat and all the stereotypes I’d always found to be true about New York one hundred percent on display.

As the sun went down, Michael went home and Tim hunted down a Japanese restaurant called Ootoya in Greenwich Village where we stuffed ourselves with rice, salmon, pork, and miso soup. We got home early that night and rested, our tummies full of fish and ice cream and our feet sore from adventuring.

Day Three – The Met + Brooklyn

We started off our third day with a simple and overwhelmingly good decision: to eat macaroni and cheese for lunch. Tim had been to S’MAC on a high school trip to NYC and, knowing that macaroni and cheese is my love language, we decided to go there for lunch and eat a big order of macaroni out of a skillet. It was perfection. Everyone should go.

After lunch, finding out that the Met was “pay what you choose”, we felt only a little bit bad for spending almost an entire day there for only $5 each. But really! It’s worth going! The museum was breathtaking and we wandered around with Michael looking at all the Ancient and Classical art, marveling over first century sculptures and Egyptian hieroglyphics. The light was perfect everywhere, and we even headed up to the rooftop garden for a spell to sit and look out over the city.

In the evening, we decided to take the subway over to Brooklyn, where Michael lives. We hunted for weird treasures in a crazy vintage store in Park Slope, then Tim and I went off and found bleu cheese burgers at a local joint called 67 Burger. After dinner, we walked over to Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM)–a historic theater that features independent film, plays, music, and even opera. We caught a 7:00 independent film by a female director that was so boring we laughed about it for days. But it was fun to sit in the movie theater with a bunch of New Yorkers and just relax for a couple hours. The perfect ending to our last full day.

Day Four – World Trade Center + Financial District

By our last morning in New York, we were tired and slow. We wanted to make the most of our last day, so we headed into the city and down to the tip of Manhattan, so we could see the completed World Trade Center memorials. The last time I was in that part of New York, I was twelve and construction hadn’t finished yet. We were quiet and still as we stood by the memorials, watching people take selfies and buy souvenirs. We did neither.

After spending time reflecting at the memorials, we walked over to Battery Park and rested beneath a big oak tree. Tim laid his head in my lap and took a short nap and I felt full and sunny and content. We walked hand in hand over to the financial district and had lunch at a pub (tuna melts, hamburgers, and lots and lots of tater tots) before headed back to New Jersey and then back to Chicago–sleepy, worn out, but happy, happy, happy.

-Rachel

A Love Letter to Chicago

Dear Chicago,

Everyone called you the “Second City”. And, for a while, I believed them. I’d been to New York before. I wasn’t exactly a spring chicken, coming in with country girl eyes and ready to fall in love with every little part of you. Or maybe I was. Either way, I’m completely and utterly an admirer of you now, with all of your quirks and grittiness.

Thank you for being a city of artists. New York is beautiful, with all of its flashing lights and noise. But there’s something about Chicago that grips me. It shakes me by the shoulders and shouts “Look. At. This.” and “This. Is. Important.” Your art isn’t always meant to be beautiful. It’s not always meant to be awed over and breathed through and enjoyed. But I’ve always found it to be moving. I’ve cried in the back rows of theaters, in the corners of small galleries and once, by surprise, on the street. There’s something to catch every time you turn your head and, unlike New York, space is allowed to notice it.

Thank you for being a city of enthusiasm. I remember walking through Millennium Park in mid-October, when the Cubs still had a chance at the World Series, and seeing banners strewn from the upper windows of skyscrapers. Everyone was talking, cheering, laughing, hoping. On the metra, strangers taught me about the history of baseball and shared with me stories about seeing games as a child. I never felt so close to the mobs of faces around me, glints of their excitement bouncing off of them and onto me.

And thank you for being a city of imperfection. You’ve given me biting wind and frozen toes. You’ve opened my eyes to the hurt in the world, to the gangs and homeless shelters and gunshots only a few miles from my home. You’re a city of wonder and art and history, and also of violence and pain and oppression. Thank you for never trying to cover up your scars. I’m glad it pops up on my news feed every time a teenager on the south side dies in a drive by shooting. I’m thankful you don’t leave me sheltered, happy to believe that twenty-first century America means wealth and health and kindness. The aching in your city reminds me of what we’re all slowly moving toward, and the tears I’ve seen shed give me a different kind of longing for the day they’ll all be wiped away.

Living less than an hour away from such a powerful city for the past eight months has been a dizzying, wonderful, tremendous opportunity. I wouldn’t trade my current little spot in the universe for anything in the world, and even as this semester draws to a close I look forward to returning in a few months and spending more time in my favorite smog-filled haven.

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I know I haven’t been living in Chicago nearly long enough to give advice on where to go and what to do when you’re visiting, but here are a few spots that have become familiar and good to me this year. I know I’ll be back to each of them!

The Chagall “Four Seasons” mosaic on S. Dearborn St.

The historic Lookingglass Theatre

The Museum of Contemporary Art

The Italian Village

The Gene Siskel Film Center

The 20th Century floor of the Art Institute

Lou Mitchell’s

Music Box movie theater

The Lincoln Park Zoo

And that’s all for now!

-Rachel

Cuties in Cudjoe

There’s something to be said about traveling while you’re young. I don’t know yet how it feels to be in a new place at sixty, or forty-five, or even thirty, but I do know that every trip feels like an adventure when you’re nineteen, and I hope it always feels that way. Travel should always be exciting. The world has so many treasures to offer to those who take the time to find them.

Hannah decided that when she graduated high school this spring, instead of a big party, she wanted a quiet trip down to the Florida Keys to visit our grandpa. So our amazing parents booked flights for Hannah and I, along with one of our best friends Lily, for a week-long trip in the Southernmost town. We didn’t bar-hop or party or mix drinks and oysters, but we did spend long nights under the stars, get lost beyond reason, and stuff our stomachs with tacos and pizza. We acted like kids quickly becoming adults, with all the awkwardness and giggles and wonder of three girls exploring on their own. Strangers were kind to us. Waiters were sentimental. Even our grandpa seemed joy-filled and choked-up to sing in the car with three out-of-tune young women who just couldn’t be happier in the sunshine.

We flooded everyone’s Instagram feeds with our little daily stories, but I couldn’t resist re-sharing the iPhone photos here, on my big public journal, as one last keepsake of our week in the islands.

-Rachel