It took me 35 years to get to New York City. I’ve seen the skyline countless times from the air, and my heart races every time that I lay eyes on it. However, I’ve only set foot in the city once.
In March of 2010, I made plans to visit Whitney, a friend from Texas perusing a career in photography in New York. She, along with her cousin Jessica, a Julliard-trained actress, had a three-story brownstone in Williamsburg, Brooklyn and there was plenty of room for me. The day I arrived it was miserably cold. Rain followed by sleet followed by snow couldn’t even extinguish my excitement.
I had a distinct vision of what New York would be like. Given all the books, movies, and television shows set in Gotham, I couldn’t help but have the highest of expectations. I’d thought for years of what I would experience. My mom told me stories of when she’d visited New York on her senior trip. Even as a little girl in small-town Texas, I dreamed of setting my sights on Lady Liberty and the bright lights of Broadway, yet somehow New York had eluded me.
Even as a seasoned traveler, New York intimidated me. With mouth agape, I spent five days doing what tourists do, all the while trying not to freeze my ass off. I ruined a pair of boots and two umbrellas. One glove and nearly a toe was lost from frostbite. I kind of thought I might die.
I ate delicious devils on horseback at the Spotted Pig and cupcakes at Magnolia Bakery. I drank too much wine in cozy bars in the Village and sipped on java in Brooklyn’s funky coffee shops.
I went to a book reading at the Soho House and watched a Broadway musical. I saw where the World Trade Center once stood and window shopped along Madison Avenue.
I wandered through the Whitney Museum and went to the top of the Empire State building. I had afternoon tea at the Russian Tea Room.
I took advantage of a sunshine-filled morning and wandered around Central Park. I drank wine from a plastic cup while sitting on a park bench along the East River.
I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge and somehow managed to bypass the long line at Grimaldi’s for a Margherita pizza. I randomly saw Milana, a former basketball player of mine, on the subway at 1:00 am. Little did I know that she’d just been named the winning model of Project Runway.
My time in New York City was all that I imagined, yet I had a heavy heart. Although I loved my time with Whitney, I wasn’t supposed to be with her. Over the course of the previous five years, my mother and I had talked about making the trip together. She again wanted to see the city that fascinated her and share it with me.
There never seemed to be a time that worked for both of us. Then she got sick. She suffered through rounds of chemo and went into remission. We would start planning for New York, but the cancer would return. This happened at least three times. After that, Mother was simply too weak to make the trip.
About a month after she died, I boarded a plane in Houston and headed east. In an antique, amber-colored bottle, I carried a bit of my mother’s ashes. Perhaps it was simply for myself, but I was finally going with my mom to New York City. It was daunting and bittersweet.
At sunset from atop the Empire State building, she floated out over the city. And from the Brooklyn Bridge, the wind carried her past the East River and into Lower East Side. My mom always tried to give me the world. The least I could do was give her New York City.
After three years, I’m traveling to New York City for the second time in my life. Fortunately I don’t feel the sadness that I did on the first trip, although I am again going with a purpose. I’ll be attending the New York Times Travel Show with Lola where we plan on learning from industry experts and schmoozing tourist boards and brands alike. The trip won’t be all work and no play. I’ll get a chance to reconnect with friends that I’ve made over the last year and finally meet others in person.
I will see New York City without a thick veil of sadness. Things will be much different this time around. I might not be carrying that little amber bottle, but I will carry my mother in my heart, just like always.
You can read the story behind this here: “Why I Travel: A Dedication”
All the really good pictures are from Whitney Martin, my talented friend and tour guide for NYC.