For professional development, I took the World Music Drumming course in Boston last summer. I decided to meet some friends in New York City the weekend before. I stayed at an AirBNB in Bushwick. It was very close to the brown line that goes directly into Manhattan, there were loads of delis around, and it was significantly cheaper than anything in Manhattan.
I had only been to NYC once before when I was 15 years old. The jazz band at my high school had been selected to perform at the Essentially Ellington Jazz Festival at Lincoln Center. I have very vivid memories of that experience, even 10+ years later.
I met up with my friend Anne on my first night in the city. She and I had studied abroad in Salzburg together in 2009. We have only seen each other once since then. We decided to ride the Staten Island Ferry together (free) and then grab dinner at The Dead Rabbit. She was eager to help me plan my weekend with loads of local recommendations.
We rode the ferry at exactly the right time to catch the sunset on the return.
The next day, I went to Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty. I sincerely loved spending the day developing a better understanding of what it was like to move to the United States as I read the stories of the immigrants. The museum was fantastic.
Next, I walked over to the 9-11 Memorial. When I was in NYC in 2004, the entire area was still a construction zone. I still struggle to identify the feeling that I had when seeing the fountains and the Freedom Tower. Relief? Pride? The two fountains say to me, “We will never forget.” The Freedom Tower says, “We will press on.”
I was interested in going to the 9-11 museum but it was very expensive ($20-30 per ticket). I decided seeing the fountains was enough for me.
That evening, I made my way towards Times Square. I walked by BB King’s and remembered feeling like a celebrity as our jazz band walked down those stairs for a special dinner and jam session. The stairs were lined with volunteers and staff who applauded each and every step we took. That was the night that I met Wynton Marsalis for the first time.
I booked a ticket for that night at Birdland to hear the Birdland Big Band. I felt completely in my element. I love listening to live music and it had been a long time since I had gotten to listen to live jazz.
That night, 15 July 2016, was the night that the coup attempt happened in Turkey. I was in Hawaii earlier that summer when the explosion happened at the Ataturk Airport in Istanbul. I never wrote about all my feelings after these events, but suffice it to say that I was very troubled since I was expected to return to Turkey for work just four weeks later. It was getting harder and harder to assure my friends and family that I would be safe. Istanbul had become my home and I wasn’t ready to leave it permanently.
The next morning, I made my way to the TKTS Ticket Office to see which show I could catch that evening at a discounted price. I decided on Chicago because one of my Turkish friends would be joining me. I picked a show that I thought he would enjoy since he had never seen musical theatre, but alas, he fell asleep. How is that possible? Jazzy music, funny lyrics, skimpy costumes… I thought I had made the right choice! I blame the jetlag. Anyway, I loved it.
After getting the tickets, I made my way to the Brooklyn Bridge. I have walked across the Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul and the Mighty Mac in Michigan, so I wanted to add this one to my list as well.
That afternoon, I went to Central Park and watched a group of people rollerblading. The weather was a bit rainy and very humid, so it wasn’t the best day for the park. Next, I met my friend Julie. I grew up with Julie. We went to church together, but she had moved to NYC to teach a few years ago. It is always nice to see familiar faces in different places. We sat outside Lincoln Center to talk then walked over to the LDS Temple, which was just being built last time I was in NYC.
I had to fly to Boston on Sunday evening, so my final day was spent running around enjoying architecture. I didn’t feel the need to go up the Empire State or to the Top of the Rock at $30+ a pop, but it was nice to walk those streets.
I went to Central Station to people watch and tried to go to the NY Public Library, but it was closed… a reoccurring theme in my life.
There are loads of things to do in New York, and I barely made a dent. With the limited amount of time I had, I feel pretty good about my trip. While New York is great, I think I’m forever a Chicago girl.
If you’re interested, I used this list to help me plan my trip.
Till next time, New York!