Showing Off “My City”

When I lived in Manhattan, I often got so focused on work that I forgot my surroundings.  My office on 40 Wall Street was more of an irritant than it was a novelty.   I always seemed to be running late for meetings with my clients in office buildings scattered throughout lower Manhattan.  I used to mutter under my breath, “I WOULD have to work in a f*@&ing tourist attraction!” as I would run the gauntlet through sight seers stopping to pose at every landmark, clogging up the subway entrances while checking their maps, and walking in the wrong direction down the sidewalk during rush hour.  (Yes, there is sidewalk protocol in the Financial District.) It wasn’t until someone from out of town would come to visit that I would stop and settle down long enough to appreciate the remarkable place I called home.

Seeing it through the eyes of a newcomer helped me realize it is a city like no other.  Their impressions shined a light on all the aspects to which I had become impervious.  The steep towering canyons.  The monotone navy and black work attire of Wall Street.  National Historic landmarks in every block. The plethora of independent eateries (there simply were no chain restaurants outside of McDonalds and Burger King in the nineties.)  And the ability to have anything you want “delivhahhed” to your doorstep.  I lived on the thirteenth floor of a pre-war building with a knock-out view straight down Third Avenue from the United Nations to the World Trade Center, and a view of the East River from the rooftop.  But I rarely looked.  Until that is, I was showing off “my city” when friends and family came to town.

Still to this day, it feels like my city when I am showing someone else around.  So when I asked my niece Hannah where she wanted to go on our planned summer vacation, I beamed with pride when she exclaimed “New York!”

We got lucky...this is Hannah's view out her AA window. If I ever tire of this view, I'm dead.

We got lucky…this is Hannah’s view out her AA window. If I ever tire of this view, I’m dead.

Our quirky Jane hotel may have had a room the size of a postage stamp, but it made up for it in historical early 1900's charm.

Our quirky Jane hotel may have had a room the size of a postage stamp, but it made up for it in historical early 1900’s charm.

Eighth Ave subway art.

Eighth Ave subway art. I will try not to let this happen to Hannah while she is in my care. 😉

Sunset across Sixth Avenue, reflecting on the walls of the new Freedom Tower.

Sunset across Sixth Avenue, reflecting on the walls of the new Freedom Tower.

The Oculus, new World Trade Center PATH station, designed by architect Calatrava, to simulate wings.

The Oculus, new World Trade Center PATH station, designed by architect Calatrava, to simulate wings.

Hannah has made a miraculous turnaround since my brother died suddenly in 2015.  She has come out of the fog having lost her one “true north.”  She weaned herself off anti-depressants, got on a self-imposed fitness plan losing over seventy pounds, and has become an “almost straight A” student (darned that French B!)  So if anyone deserves a reward for achievement, it is my dear “Hannahgram.”

When we first began to talk about a trip this summer, I asked her where she wanted to go.  She loves history and politics, so when faced with the impossible choice between New York versus Washington, DC, how could I say no when she asked, “Can’t we do both?”  Knowing the Amtrak Acela train from NY Penn to Washington Union Station would be a treat for us both, I said “Sure, why not.”   Using Frequent Flyer tickets makes it all the same to fly into one city and out of the other.

Heading to Battery Park for our trip to the Statue and Ellis Island.

Heading to Battery Park for our trip to the Statue and Ellis Island.

Glorious view of the lower Manhattan skyline from the water, though it's doesn't feel as much like home without the Twin Towers.

Glorious view of the lower Manhattan skyline from the water, though it’s doesn’t feel as much like home without the Twin Towers.

Lady Liberty and her young protégé

Lady Liberty and her young protégé

My fearless girl beside Wall Street's bronze "Fearless Girl."

My fearless girl beside Wall Street’s bronze “Fearless Girl.”

I am starting to think she feels even more at home here than I do!

I am starting to think she feels even more at home here than I do!

Trying to stick to the budget of my paltry income tax return, I began the impossible task of finding affordable hotels in both cities.   I decided to steer clear of AirBnB in the big cities having heard too many scams and horror stories these days.   But living in my own personal hotel room for 5 years now, I have become naïve to the price of hotels .  A tiny hotel room in either city with two separate beds “starts” at $250 per night!   So I asked Hannah if she would be comfortable staying in “dorm room” type accommodations with a bathroom down the hall.  I figured what better prep for college, right?    The only challenge for me would be the bunk beds. Imagine my relief when she asked, “Can I take the top bunk?”

Manhattan's newest greenway, the elevated "High Line," a reclaimed railway viaduct. Now an architecturally landscaped hike and bike path, with just enough seediness so you don't forget you are in New York. ;-)

Manhattan’s newest greenway, the elevated “High Line,” a reclaimed railway viaduct. Now an architecturally landscaped hike and bike path, with just enough seediness so you don’t forget you are in New York. 😉

My iconic niece in front of NY's iconic landmark, the Flatiron Building.

My iconic niece in front of NY’s iconic landmark, the Flatiron Building, completed in 1902.

St Patrick's Cathedral, built late 1800's, now a National Historic Landmark.

St Patrick’s Cathedral, built late 1800’s, now a National Historic Landmark.

St Pat's ceiling and famous stained glass windows.

St Pat’s ceiling and famous stained glass windows.

What would a tour of New York be without dinner in Little Italy? (It's all about the cannoli.)

What would a tour of New York be without dinner in Little Italy? (It’s all about the cannoli.)

Seeing life through the eyes of a 16 year old is a wonder.  Everything takes on heightened interest, as if I myself were experiencing it for the first time.  Hannah is a student of life, curious about everything past, present, and future.   She loves both science and the arts passionately.   At one point, I wondered “who is leading whom?” on this tour, as she recited the rise and fall of the Nazi party, and put me to shame on identifying the artist Masters.  I often see her with her nose in her phone.  I figure like most teenagers, she texting or “snapping” on Snapchat with her friends.  But more often than not, she is researching attractions on the fly, coming back with a list of stats and facts to educate us both.

Feeling the love with Rodin at The Met.

A brief love affair with Rodin at The Met.

Robert Indiana's "LOVE" sculpture was featured on the 8 cent postage stamp in 1973.

Robert Indiana’s “LOVE” sculpture was featured on the 8 cent postage stamp in 1973.

"You don't KNOW??? It's Matisse!!"

Said with a hint of impertinence, “You don’t KNOW??? It’s Matisse!!”

Monet's famous Water Lilies, Modern Museum of Art.

Monet’s famous Water Lilies, Modern Museum of Art.

First ride in a yellow cab.

Forget Uber! First ride in a yellow cab.

Heading for Amtrak's Acela train from Penn Station to D.C.

Heading for Amtrak’s Acela train from Penn Station to D.C.

Union Station, Washington D.C.

Union Station, Washington D.C.

We are staying at "The Pod" hotel near the gate to Chinatown.

We are staying at “The Pod” hotel near the gate to Chinatown.

She had lots of “firsts” on this trip.  First time in a taxi.  First train ride. First subway.  We shared a dozen laughs an hour, and made enough inside jokes and memories to last a lifetime.

When asked about her favorite part of New York, she responded, “All of it!”  Whereas my older niece loves the glitz, glamour and fashion of Manhattan, Hannah truly loves the “gritty city,” warts and all.  When lamenting over leaving, I asked her if she wanted to stay another week, to which she replied, “How about another decade?”

A somber tour through the Holocaust Museum.

A somber tour through the Holocaust Museum.

After over 20,000 steps, one deserves a soft serve!

After over 20,000 steps, one deserves a soft serve!

John Glenn's Mercury Friendship 7 in the National Air and Space Museum.

John Glenn’s Mercury Friendship 7 in the National Air and Space Museum.

Piloting an Airbus 320.

Piloting an Airbus 320.

"Aunt Suz" finds her tribe in the Smithsonian.

“Aunt Suz” finds her tribe in the Smithsonian.

When asked about her favorite part of D.C., she responded “The Capitol!”  We were lucky enough to get passes into both Congress and Senate while they were in session.  And love ‘em or hate ‘em, it’s still interesting to recognize people on the floor like Nancy Pelosi, Marco Rubio, and Mitch the Turtle.  At 16, Hannah is more interested in politics than most of my peers.    Like many of her generation, she seems poised to “change the world.”  I believe her “Generation W (for “woke”)  is our greatest hope.

Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, West Potomac Park.

Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial, West Potomac Park.

MLK's memorial statue is surrounded by inspirational quotes.

MLK’s memorial statue is surrounded by inspirational quotes.

Looking across Tidal Basin at the National Monument.

Looking across Tidal Basin at the National Monument.

Having a chat with George Mason to figure out why he is known as "The Forgotten Founder."

Having a chat with George Mason (wrote model of what would become Bill of Rights) to figure out why he is known as “The Forgotten Founder.”

Trying to focus on the history, not the current resident.

Trying to focus on the history, not the current resident.

Reflections on a fun eight days!

Reflections on a fun eight days!

Initially, I orchestrated this trip for her.  But in the end, the pleasure was equally mine!

21 thoughts on “Showing Off “My City”

  1. I enjoyed this because I lived in NYC 2001-2006 and wayyyy back in 1973 and 74! The city cleaned up it’s act during that time, and although I didn’t work on Wall St my years working as a Paramedic there gave me an overdose of the gritty. I just did a memory post about the city for some reason it was on my mind. DC will be better after 2020!

  2. Wow…you did a LOT in 8 days! I’m so happy to hear she is poised to change the world, like many of her generation…there is hope!!

  3. Never been to New York City (only Oneanta), but you certainly made it come alive for me. What a wonderful way to spend that week+. It’s surely a trip she will never forget.

    I certainly hope you are right in that this is the generation that will get us back on track.

    Virtual hugs,

    Judie

  4. A good post and fingers crossed for the next generation. Sometimes its good to be a “tourist in your own town” as we often take places / sights for granted.

  5. It was great seeing you Suzanne and meeting Hannah. It is wonderful you had this time together. Greetings from Munich Germany. I’m attending Wagner’s Ring Cycle instead of Santa Fe this year. I’m looking forward to your post on your SF experience. xoxo

  6. It’s great you had this time with your niece in NYC and my hometown, DC. I wish I knew you were going so I could hook you up with my kids who live there in the city. It looks like you did well enough on your own though!

    Ed and Marti

  7. Hooray for Hannah! I feel inspired by this wonderful story which you have shared, Suzanne. A few generations ago I had a grandmother named Hannah. She lost her husband in 1790 and 13 years later she took their entire family of 11 children by then all adults from central Massachusetts to Martinsburg, NY where they were among the earliest settlers of that forested area. The trip took months as for the most part there were only rivers to cross and trails to follow. I have always been awed by that woman, now I read of another Hannah with similar strength and positive attitude.
    Congratulate Hannah for me please. And thanks for all the pictures of my favorite city.
    Allen

  8. What a great experience for both of you!! When I go back to my city now, I appreciate it more than when I lived there. So glad Hannah is doing so much better! You’re a great Aunt!!!

  9. Your bright, curious and passionate niece is fortunate to have a loving aunt to offer up such a delightful vacation experience which, surely, will hold lasting memories. And what a treat it must have been for you to revisit the city you loved spending years of your life in. The trip photos were crisp and telling of a marvelous adventure for the both of you. 🙂

  10. I got anxiety just reading your post and seeing the pictures! We are not big city people and do everything we can to avoid them. Some very cool sights and architecture but we will stick with the beauty of nature.

  11. I agree with others that you did a lot in 8 short days! So glad you were able to show sweet Hannah your city. What a great experience for you both!

  12. I loved taking this walk back through time with you and your niece. Wish I had such a wonderful tour guide when we went to Manhattan. What a great experience for your niece.

  13. Tears in my eyes, happiness in my heart to see the transformation. Thank you for your feature story about dear Hannah….what achievements!!! You are the best Aunt ever.

  14. NYC is my favorite place in all the world. Thank you for introducing Hannah to us. Knowing the little that I do about Hannah, I have hope for the future. She is very fortunate to have such a special aunt.

  15. GREAT post! What awesome memories for both you and Hannah. I love the spunky generation that Hannah belongs to……….they are inspirational in their knowledge and their fearlessness to stand up for what is right. (Well, at least, the kids her age that I know are that way).

    It is great that you both took the time for such an amazing experience. Bring her to Mexico some time……….

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