New York City is absolutely breathtaking. Not only because of its massive geographic size and population, but because of its iconic status that leaves every other city in North America in its impressive shadow.
This little country mouse found herself in the heart of the continent’s largest city June 2 for the esteemed Lambda Literary’s annual awards (my book “Last Salute” was a finalist in the lesbian romance category).
Although it was my second visit to New York City, it was no less daunting, overwhelming, shocking, astounding and utterly cool than it was the first time for someone who grew up in a town of 6,000 people and has lived in a “city” of 21,000 for the past quarter-century.
Like I did when I visited New York in 2010, I tried to pack as much into my 48 hours there as I could. I mean, it’s The Big Apple, after all. Why not count myself among the millions of rushing, overachieving, driven, sleep deprived, stressed out people skittering like a waterbug around Manhattan?
By cab, by foot, and by subway, my partner and I hit as many of the highlights as we could given the time constraints: Times Square, Grand Central Terminal, the Rockefeller Center, Central Park, the new World Trade Center and the recently unveiled 9/11 Museum, Wall Street and the NY Stock Exchange, and Battery Park (which looks out onto Staten Island, Ellis Island and Lady Liberty herself).
All of those iconic places possess a unique aura and atmosphere. No more than the new 9/11 Museum, which was incredibly sobering, moving, and realistic in transporting me back to that horrible day in 2001.
For a history junkie, New York City is manna from heaven. It reeks of history; history seeps through every pore and crack in its endless miles of concrete.
With history on my mind, we stayed at the Roosevelt Hotel. Built in the jazz age and opened in 1924, it hosted Guy Lombardo for many years and was the stage where “Auld Lang Syne” was played for the first time in America. Thomas Dewey, who once had a suite on the 15th floor, listened to the tightly contested 1948 presidential election results there (Dewey lost to Harry Truman). And J-Lo’s “Maid in Manhattan” and Michael Douglas’s “Wall Street” films were shot at the Roosevelt.
We took in Grand Central Terminal several times, where I reflected on Cornelius Vanderbilt’s famed contribution to the city that was “saved” from the wrecking ball by another very wealthy person more than a century later — Jackie Onassis.
I walked past the iconic Waldorf Astoria, once New York City’s biggest and tallest hotel and where the Kennedy family kept a suite for decades. I strolled over the subway grate where Marilyn Monroe famously posed. I stood at the steps of the posh Plaza Hotel, peeked in the windows of Sak’s Fifth Avenue, Cartier and Tiffany & Co., knelt in St. Patrick’s Cathedral where the funeral mass was held for Robert Kennedy, gaped at the gates of the Metropolitan Club, which was founded by J.P. Morgan and his ultra-rich cronies, and paused at Central Park’s memorial to John Lennon—Strawberry Fields.
And speaking of the uber rich, Donald Trump’s posh personal jet sat on the tarmac of LaGuardia as we took off—one final reminder of the world we were leaving behind for our much more modest environs in Ontario.
But towering above all those highlights was the Lammys itself, as it’s affectionately known. Being a finalist and hanging out for an evening with some of the most talented, brightest, funniest, kindest people I know, was an incredible honour. To me, these folks were the true “stars” of New York City on this visit.
Tracey Richardson has had seven novels published by Bella Books and is working on her eighth. Twitter: trich7117