The Other New York City

Been there, done that, but have you really? Traveling back to your hometown doesn’t have to mean visiting all the touristy sights you’ve already experienced. There’s another layer to every city; an underbelly of interesting, sometimes magical destinations that are there for the taking, but only if you are aware of them. 

So, with a desire to rekindle some great memories and see something new, Mr. Wiz* and I set out to spend a couple of days in good old NYC.

Prices have skyrocketed in New York hotels, so when we noticed the Arlo Hotel Midtown, a four- star hotel, was offering a 40% room discount on hotels.com if you booked your 2023 room reservation by Dec. 1, 2022, we jumped at the chance. Before jumping too high, I researched a bit further and found out the discount was being offered at all their hotels, which made me feel more secure. 

Located on 38th street and ninth Avenue, its central location suits us perfectly. While rooms are on the small side, they are nicely designed and oh, so peaceful and quiet. The lobby area, with its multiple sitting areas and alcoves, including a glass topped atrium, gives off a very cool vibe. Unfortunately, the rooftop terrace was not yet open for the season. We are given vouchers for tea and coffee at their café, saving $4 per cup each day and offered a once daily 20% discount at their bar or restaurant. The staff is very courteous, or maybe it’s the English accents that they all seem to have. 

Day One

Not wanting to waste a minute, our first stop is the West Village, a charming neighborhood in lower Manhattan’s Greenwich Village. With its 19th century townhouses, cobblestone streets and flowers blooming everywhere, it’s easy to forget you’re in NYC. After a bite at Fairfax Tavern, a small French Bistro, we peruse the area and head back uptown. 

Grand Central Terminal houses the iconic Grand Central Oyster Bar, but what most people don’t know is that if you walk toward the restaurant, stand near the domed arches, put your ear against the tiles and take turns speaking in the softest voice, it is also a whispering gallery. And if that’s not clandestine enough for you, how about a cocktail at The Campbell Bar? The private office and reception hall of financier John W. Campbell, now, a bar and event space, celebrates 1920s opulence with its 25-foot hand painted ceilings, majestic furniture and a grand fireplace. For a lovely, peaceful end to the day, we head to the New York Public Library, with its impressive architecture and interesting free exhibits, and then for a stroll through Bryant Park

Day Two

First thing in the morning, we’re off to the Nederland Theater box office to secure two tickets to that evening’s performance of “Shucked.” If you are able to narrow down your choice to one show, it is much easier to go directly to the box office, rather than standing on the long lines at the TKTS ticket booth at Broadway and 47thStreet. Be sure to check the theater’s seating chart and choose a few seating options before arriving. 

Choosing a show, then purchasing a $4.95 access code on NYTIX to use for discounted tickets seems simple enough. Unfortunately, after multiple attempts, the code did not work on Ticketmaster and I sympathized with those young girls with no Taylor Swift tickets crying into their computers. It did work perfectly well at the box office. We saved the extra handling service charge and secured $130 seats for $69 each. 

Thank goodness area residents convinced the City of New York to save the historic elevated rail line. The High Line is a refreshing touch of nature and art and a great way to walk to Hudson Yards, our next stop. A brand-new neighborhood, boasting 14 acres of public plazas and gardens, this chic area has revitalized the area between 10th and 12th Avenues from west 30th to west 34th streets. 

The Vessel is the area’s focal point. With interconnecting flights of stairs and multiple landings, the large gleaming sculpture serves as visual eye candy, treating the observer to views of the city from various spaces and offering different perspectives. The Shed, an entertainment venue, is able to adapt itself to its ever-changing calendar of events. After a stroll through The Shops at Hudson Yards, an elegant indoor mall, we’re ready for lunch and the main reason we are here. 

We’ve followed Chef Jose Andres since he worked his magic on food that resembled science experiments at the restaurant, el Bulli in Spain (now closed). When he came to the rescue of hurricane victims, first in Puerto Rico and then all over the world, by setting up World Central Kitchen, a nonprofit devoted to feeding victims of natural disasters, he won our hearts. So, we just had to visit his new endeavor Mercado Little Spain Food Hall. If you’ve ever been to an Eataly, this is the Spanish version, selling both food and merchandise. What makes this more impressive are the large signs explaining how to pronounce the names of Jose’s favorite foods along with explanations of what they are; very unintimidating for any gringos. We “yum” our way through Fabada, a bean and Spanish sausage stew, while we enjoy the restaurant’s music and energy. 

Walking back uptown, we have just enough time to freshen up and enjoy a glass of wine in one of the lobby seating areas before heading to dinner. It’s good to be back at Victor’s Café, an old family favorite. With its colorful art, white tablecloths, elegant, tropical feel and Cuban music playing softly in the background, it brings back wonderful memories.

We hardly need to look at the menu and both agree instantly on Lechón Asado, roast suckling pig served with yucca (a root vegetable) and Moros (a combination of black beans and rice). Since this is one of the few restaurants we’ve encountered that actually uses real saffron (one of the most expensive spices in the world, it’s made from the dried stigmas of a crocus; a little goes a long way), we also can’t resist the Paella De Mariscos, saffron infused rice with shellfish. 

To me, the excitement of Broadway starts with everyone on the streets rushing to their respective theaters and ends with the doors all reopening to let the throngs back out on to the street. In between, we swoon over the talented cast, the singing and dancing and how Shucked keeps us chuckling until they take their final bow. 

As we head back to our hotel on foot, NYC is just getting started for the night, but after 10 miles of galivanting today, I am happy to cuddle up in our quiet room and fall asleep with visions of my hometown, still as exciting as ever, still dancing in my head. 

Photo courtesy of Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

*Who’s who? “Cast of Characters on the “About” page. 

Author’s Note:
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“Hello, Universe?…This is Linda Calling”

THE SECRET UNIVERSE CALL CENTER

You can’t just call the universe and ask it to provide you with something that you want. Or, can you?

I have been doing this for years, never realizing there was a whole philosophy built around my practice. The fact that it’s actually worked has given me a deeper sense of belief.

In her book, The Secret, Rhonda Byrne is a bit analytical, but I like the author’s use of the straightforward mantras: “Ask, believe, receive; If you see it in your mind, you will hold it in your hand; Thoughts become their physical equivalents.” Byrne bases her theories on the Law of Attraction, which states that the universe is governed by a matching of frequencies of a person’s experiences with their thoughts. Thoughts are a form of energy; positive thoughts bring positive outcomes and likewise, negative thoughts bring negative outcomes.

Intrigued by the concept, I started with a simple exercise, which seemed easy enough. I was to think of an old friend and see if they somehow came back into my life. I did and they did! Now, armed with confidence, I began focusing on something I wanted or wanted to happen. Thinking it best to confide in someone, so documented proof was established, I regaled Mr. Wiz* with my new practices and focus goals, who, with a wide-eyed stare, seemed relieved when I also mentioned that no involvement on his part was necessary.

Sure, the whole premise of lifting up your energized thoughts and placing them on a fast track to the cosmos may lack scientific evidence, but for me, I can only relate my own experiences. Now, every day, with eyes closed and arms outstretched, I envision and say (either to myself or out loud) something I wish for. I try to only focus on one request at a time.

Since colliding with the universe, so many of my desires have come to fruition, there are too many to count! From small everyday requests to life changing experiences, I can see that there Is a “method to this madness.”

Just to name a few, I have been hired for a corporate position I may not have been entirely qualified for, but knew I could do (repeating daily the voicemail I would record on my first day might have moved that wish along), found a photographer to take free headshots not once, but twice, located the special olive oil I was searching for, found my lost wedding ring and became a journalist!

Lately, I have taken my practice outside, arms outstretched, while imagining the rays of the sun are sparkling down on me and igniting my frequencies. Coincidentally, this was around the same time Mr. Wiz decided our patio needed side privacy panels.

There’s no right way or wrong way to approach this practice. For me, I enjoy the mystical side of it all, so my way works for me. You can do what is comfortable for you. The point is, give it a try! Really, what have you got to lose?

Image by Peggy und Marco Lachmann-Anke from Pixabay

*Who’s who? See “Cast of Characters” on the “About” page.

Author’s Note:
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The Latin From Manhattan

She had fibbed to her friends. She told them she was busy, but instead had decided she would venture out solo and go dancing. Guided by her independent spirit, she was determined to have a good time. Excitedly, she chose her outfit carefully. Making sure the padded shoulders of her dress were adjusted properly, the line down the back of each leg was straight as she put on her hose and any scuffs were cleaned off her ankle strap shoes, she then carefully removed the metal clip that crimped and waved her hair in the front ever so slightly.

She barreled down the stairs and called to her mother that she was leaving. As she closed the front door, she smirked when she heard her mother’s usual comment “Don’t forget to walk near the street and not too close to the buildings.” It was July 4, 1948, and a young girl could venture out alone, as long as she remembered to be cautious.

She changed into her dance shoes and then checked her walking shoes and purse into a cubby, receiving a ticket from the coat check girl. As always, she remembered to fold up some money and hide it in the secret compartment of her purse, just in case.

“Do you wan to dunce?” He wasn’t sure why he had faked a Spanish accent. He had entered the army with it and then returned home without it after World War II. What was he thinking? He smiled to think that maybe he was channeling Cèsar Romero, the famous actor that routinely played “Latin Lover” roles.

He had decided to go out alone that night, bored with heading to the same places with the same crowd. He was restless, always eager to try something new. All these thoughts sped through his mind, when just a few seconds later, the beautiful petite blonde, with the soft waves of her shoulder length hair framing her face, turned and with a lovely smile said “Yes!”

They lost count of how many dances they had danced in a row. Known as the most famous dance hall in the world, New York City’s Roseland Ballroom was at its capacity crowd that night, as almost 3000 people glided around the dance floor. According to an article from The New Yorker, “People accustomed to nightclub life often find the atmosphere slightly phantasmal. The ceiling is hung with dark-blue muslin studded with tiny electric bulbs that give a night-sky effect. The room is lit by neon lamps, graduating in shade from deep pink to lemon yellow. In their dim rays, knots of patrons drift to and from the dance floor with a curiously delicate air, fluorescing a bit as they go.”

The marquee featured the word “Roseland” in script, all aglow in white lights. Underneath, the simple caption, “Dance in air cooled comfort,” reminded those fortunate enough to be inside that tonight they would be enjoying a luxury not available in most homes. Finally and most important, tonight’s bands were displayed: Tommy Reynolds and his Orchestra along with Stella Lopez and Her Rumbas.

He bought her a drink, and they sipped slowly and chatted, he captivated by her sweet smile and her spunk and she, intrigued by his swagger and good looks. This time, he spoke without an accent, hoping she wouldn’t notice the change. She did… and years later, they would still laugh about that night.

He asked if he could escort her home, not knowing she lived in West New York, New Jersey. He didn’t care. Being a “city boy,” he didn’t realize she was taking him the long way home via bus, then ferry and then, up the hill to her house. She didn’t want the night to end.

Hours later, returning back to New York, he walked down the middle of the quiet street, humming and dreamily recounting how, when the clock struck midnight on the ferry, she had said it was officially her birthday and how he had asked if he could kiss her on the cheek. It was brazen of him, but he was happy that, once again, she had smiled and said “Yes!”

I smile every time I recount the story of how my parents met and I say “Yes!” – to being independent, to going it alone and to seeking out new adventures. And, when all else fails, to go dancing!

Post Script #1:
The original Roseland Ballroom, located in the theater district at Broadway and 51st Street was demolished in 1956. It was then resurrected on the site of a former indoor ice-skating rink on 52nd Street and finally closed in 2014 to make way for a 62-story luxury apartment building.

Post Script #2:
According to my parents, the photograph that accompanies this post graced the cover of a Latin magazine that was popular in Manhattan at the time. Their copies were lost over time and after intense research, the cover photograph could not be tracked down.

Author’s Note:
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