The popular song, "I’ll Be There for You," which comes from a certain popular sitcom, means a lot more to my friend and I than it probably should. Especially when it’s the sole reason to make a surprise trip cross country to see the song performed in a musical.
But what was supposed to be an adventure for our obsession for "Friends" soon became a quest to explore as much of the Big Apple as was possible in the two full days and one night we had afforded to us.
Last spring when "Friends! The Musical Parody" was announced that it would be running in the fall, Qua and I knew that we needed to see it -- even if it wasn’t on Broadway, it was still in New York City where it was sure to please. And it was only about three weeks ago that an especial notion sprung up in us to not only buy tickets for a show in a city that we currently did not reside in, but we also became prompted to purchase roundtrip plane tickets for only $340 (thanks, United!). I should note that in this three-week time span that I never told my parents about the trip that I was about to make.
I know. It sounds really stupid, even to me. But I knew that if I had asked then, they would’ve immediately said no and my desire for adventure would be squashed. Plus, what can I say? The mischief in me wanted to see how long this could go on before I had to come clean -- the first night of the trip had not even started before my mom’s super powerful sixth sense caught on, but we’ll get to that later.
So, with our boarding passes in hand, our bags slung on our shoulders, and grins plastered to our faces as we kept wondering, “Are we really doing this?” we boarded the first plane destined for Chicago from OKC with trepidation and excitement.
And the flight ended as quickly as it began.
And soon we were on to the next one by sprinting through the Chicago airport as we only had 45 minutes to make the plane bound for our final destination: The City that Never Sleeps.
Should I mention that the plane was leaving from a gate from an entirely different terminal than the one that we had just come into. Yeah, that was fun. But nothing will ever be as bad as flying standby that one time with my friend Jalene and having to run marathons in the airport as we continued chasing any open seats that could be made available to us. But that’s a different story for another time.
Anyways, Qua and I successfully boarded the next plane -- we even got seats next to each other -- and we were on our way to a fall break that tore down my earlier expectations for it.
Or rather, we were on our way until our pilot decided to extricate the plane from the platform quicker than is allowed for a vessel of this size, and so, per Claire’s prediction, we were delayed in Chicago for an hour and a half, forced to pass the time in the cramped confines of the seats we were sitting in.
And finally, finally, when the clocks ticked down the last second of that delay, the flight commenced, we were in the clouds, and a playlist solely dedicated to the atmosphere of New York City resounded throughout the headphones perched on my head. Can’t lie that I have had several dreams where "Welcome to New York" plays loudly in the background as I walk down Times Square, relishing the sights all around me.
As we came upon the air over New York, the veins that clearly draw from the heart of the metropolis slithered their glows into our window. We were looking down below at a city that looked more like the stars that should have been above us. And my face took up the entire scope of the window as I searched frantically for any landmark that could reassure me that we had made it.
Is that the Empire State Building? No.
Is that the Rockefeller Center? No. Just some random skyscraper. Could be the Chrysler Building though!
Is that the Statue of Liberty? No, that would be too small to see from this height.
“Hello everybody, I’m just checking in again to let you know that we are beginning to make our initial descent into New York City at LaGuardia Airport. So please return to your seats if you’re not currently in them and fasten your -- ” the pilot's words were cut off as I grasped Qua’s hand and tried resisting the urge to emit blood-curdling screams.
For those of you who do not know, I am obsessed with New York City. I have wanted to live there since the eighth grade. I have dedicated an entire group project over regional literature to just this city. I have devoted a bunch of my time to just consuming any medium of entertainment that utilizes New York City as its backdrop.
This is where I plan on going to graduate school and where I plan to work once I graduate from whichever college I decide to go here as well. I’m in love with the culture and the atmosphere and the foods and the architecture and the unending possibilities that are very present within these five boroughs.
I think you get it by now, but if you don’t I have another article all about my love for NYC if you care to read it -- there’s a video for that one, too.
Anyways, once the plane had landed, Qua and I believed that the hardest part of our adventure was over and that we could relax as we began to plan our itineraries for the next two days.
But nothing in Stillwater, Oklahoma, could’ve prepared us for the entangling web that is the subway system that runs through the entire city. When you ask every person around you if they’re a local and if you’re going the right way and if you’re on the right transportation, nothing screams tourist more than these three repeated questions that we asked even after leaving the airport behind.
But the funny thing is, is that we did not get the chance to hop on a subway right when we left the airport. Instead, we were subjected to a bus, but even that proved as confusing as the map that depicted all the subway routes and their respective stations.
Qua and I made sure to commit the subway system as close to memory as possible because there’s something unappealing about walking almost fifteen blocks bedecked with our bags and cautiously looking in every direction to make sure we would not be ambushed.
But we made it and may our bodies thank us for the workout that didn’t have to happen.
For this trip, Qua and I lived with my friend Claire, who I had met at my job at the Frisco Athletic Center back home, and her Aunt Sue (who besides Claire, is one of the nicest people you’ll ever meet in your life), who both lived in a brownstone somewhere between Harlem and the Washington Bridge.
It was a beautiful little house that really gave us that true New York experience that you cannot access from a hotel. The stairs were creaky and steep and the pipes rattled creepily throughout the house, and there may have been a demonic cat one night out in the alley, but it felt like home for the three nights we spent in it.
Not even waiting to catch our breaths though, Qua and I put our stuff away in our room and asked for the quickest directions towards Times Square -- preferably directions that would not involve anymore walking.
And to the subway, we finally went.
We swiped our metro cards and embarked upon the metal snake that would deliver us to the maw of the beast of this sprawling world. This was both of our first times in the subway and it was actually pleasant. Sure, it was a little jerky and unclean, but they are more concerned with the time it can get you to your destination than how pretty it can actually be. Besides, the rustic, dirty smear of the subway represents such an important fabric into the culture of New York.
In only 15 minutes, we came out onto Times Square and the look that came upon Qua’s face was one of unaltered wonder and insane delight. The screens blaring from the sides of every skyscraper accosted our retinas and the dull roars of the crowds milling about the communal urban landscape danced around our ears. “Oh my god,” was a phrase repeated by Qua and I almost a hundred times that night.
Because we had made it.
We were in the heart of New York City.
We. Had. Made. It.
That night we went to The Disney Store and the typical NYC souvenir shop. That night Qua took pictures with people dressed in cheap, knockoff Halloween costumes that demanded money for her taking that picture with them.
That night we stumbled aimlessly around until Claire helped us out once she had gotten off work and took us to a pizza restaurant whereby Qua’s Southern traditions were challenged.
“Sir, may I have some ranch please?” Qua asked.
“This is New York; we don’t have ranch here.” The disdain that dripped from his tone could’ve acted as the cheese on these huge slices of pizza. There was silence and then an:
But even without the ranch (which I don’t agree with that condiment for pizza; it’s the same as putting pineapple on pizza -- it’s a sin) the pizza from Joe’s was the best pizza that I have ever had -- and the biggest as well.
Once all three of us were full, we clambered our way through the people amassing outside and headed towards the subway home.