Last August, I received an email from the Hamilton mailing list, indicating that a batch of tickets were going on sale for "verified fans" first. While I knew it would be touring to Orlando at some point in 2019, I didn't want to wait another entire year to see what I feel is one of the most important pieces of art to be made in years, so I was open to seeing it. Sure enough, we scored tickets without having to deal with the resale market. They were still $200 each, but people were paying a lot more than that, so we made plans eight months out to visit New York. (#thegreatestcityintheworld, if you're a Hamilton fan.)
I had never been to the city, which is weird to say out loud, but I didn't see LA until I was 37 either. The only top-5 big city I had any experience with was Chicago, which I liked in small doses, but honestly I found generally exhausting on every visit. I think part of the reason for that was having to drive there. I didn't care for LA at all, even though I didn't see much of it. So while I was optimistic about New York, I was a little worried that I wouldn't care for it. Fortunately, that was not the case. Aside from an extended wait for our shuttle at LGA (which was refunded), getting around was easy enough on the subway and walking, and we ended up spending about $35 on subway fares and walking just under 20 miles for the three-ish days we were there. It didn't even bother me that much that it was cold much of the time, though I certainly missed the Florida heat.
Our general plans were fairly loose beyond Hamilton and Frozen, the latter of which had just opened two weeks before and we were lucky enough to get tickets. I also scoured the late night shows for ticket lotteries, but SNL did theirs at the start of the season, Fallon does his monthly and Colbert wasn't even taping, but we got lucky and scored for Seth Meyers. Even then, since it was free, it wasn't a hard commitment. I vaguely knew I wanted to see the main branch of the library and Grand Central, since both were near our hotel, the Millennium on 44th just off of Time Square (an ideal location for quickly crashing after the shows). After we arrived Wednesday night, I realized that I had not really researched any of the museums, and I always wanted to see the Egyptian stuff at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, so we made an audible to go do that on Thursday.
We started our morning (slowly) with breakfast at a diner called the Red Flame. Aside from their insane juice pricing, it was as reasonable as I would expect for being in the proximity it is to Broadway. They were also crazy fast, and we ended up eating there three of the four mornings, and I'd do it again. We were out by 11, and headed a few blocks south to our first stop, the main branch of the New York Public Library. It's an extraordinary building, for sure, but also a functional library. I wanted to see it mostly because of the scene in Ghostbusters. Around back is Bryant Park, which I'm sure is lovely when there are leaves on the trees, but we were battling sub-40 temperatures and some crazy wind.
From there we headed to Grand Central to see the beautiful building up close, but also to get on the subway. This was a theme in all of the things we did, that these beautiful, old, well-maintained buildings were also used every day. That really speaks to the vitality of the city. We bought a couple of Metrocards, and the swipe readers almost never worked for me first time until I realized I had to go slower. We wanted to take the 4 uptown to 86th, which would put us a few blocks from the Met. It was surprisingly crowded, and we chatted with a young woman who was apparently going to law school (and thought Diana's nosering was cute). The express train threatened to make local stops, but then it didn't, and there was much rejoicing.
The Met was something I've seen in countless movies, and as I said, their Egyptian collection is extraordinary. It was always my favorite stuff at Cleveland's museum, and they plus it up dozens of times over in New York. Of particular note is the Temple of Dendur, which was a gift to the United States from Egypt, as it was relocated from an area being routinely flooded by way of a dam. You don't find many 2,000-year-old buildings being relocated. They have a number of artifacts even older, where you can actually touch the carvings in the rock, and it's extraordinary that you can connect to some person who has been dead for millennia that way. I found it to be deeply moving.
We also spent a little time looking at an exhibit of paintings of parks and gardens, including a number of familiar pieces by van Gogh, Seurat and Monet. I'm not even remotely an art historian, but there were a lot of paintings there I've certainly seen in books countless times, and it was cool to see them up close. Oil paintings are fascinating to me because of the texture they show in person. We also toured their medieval collection, and a stunning collection of French luxury rooms reconstructed from actual rooms decorated in the late 18th Century. We could have spent more time there, but instead we ate some of their crappy cafeteria food (for the arts!) and checked out familiar sculptures before heading back to the hotel for a brief rest. I'll also admit that we got fast food to tide us over through the taping, which would last until almost 8.
Check-in for Seth Meyers began at 4:45, and they over-provision tickets to make sure the studio is full, so you don't want to be late. NBC does a really nice job welcoming you and making you comfortable for the shows, and I was immediately struck by the familiarity of the decor inside 30 Rock, as it obviously dictated the interiors of the Jimmy Fallon ride at Universal Orlando. They didn't want you taking photos anywhere, and especially not in the studio, but you could see the back of our heads in the televised show (S5 E87), so we were totally there.
As a former TV guy, there was nothing surprising about the taping of the show, which was live to tape, meaning the breaks were all timed to actual commercial times. I explained to Diana that the intention is to not have to edit anything, so they run the show as if it were live. They did, however, stop tape and Seth came up into the audience to take questions for some reason. He seems like a really solid guy, definitely a writer at heart, because he was very gracious to some (frankly) dumb questions that amounted to "favorite color" queries. Standing right next to us, I asked him if he found parenthood difficult working in show business. He said that in this gig it wasn't bad because he doesn't have to work weekends, the way he did for SNL. His second child was just born Sunday, in the lobby of his building no less.
The audience entrance for the show is right next to that of SNL, so on the way out we saw Mikey Day and Kyle Mooney leaving. After sending us down the elevators, no joke, they route you out through the gift shop. Obviously a company that now owns theme parks.
After the show, we dropped into an Irish pub called Connolly's, which was a largely unambitious effort because it was across the street from our hotel and we were pretty spent from the day of running around. Figuring on proximity to Times Square, I assumed it would be, at best, convenience food, but it turned out to be really good. I had a chicken curry that was fabulous. It wasn't cheap, but meh, I'm used to eating at theme parks. It was so low friction and convenient that we ate there again the next night, because I really wanted that curry again.
A word about Times Square... it's obnoxious. It's filled with chain restaurants and retail that you can see literally anywhere in the United States. Why the hell would you care about any of that there? There were people lined up in the cold around the block for a fucking Buca di Beppo, while local places a block away had tables available and better food.
We were back to our room by 10, but we were pretty tired. It wasn't even the running around as much as it was the cold. Florida has ruined me for cold. It makes me tense up every muscle in my back and it just starts to hurt. Still, it was an awesome, successful start to our vacation.