ONE DAY IN NEW YORK! This will be hard to beat.
A sneaky photo with Hugh Jackman backstage after the Boy from Oz, snaps with transvestites on floats in the gay Mardi Gras, the New York baseball local derby, breakfast at Balthazar, window shopping on Spring St, cheering Aussies in the New York triathlon in Central Park, a visit to the Guggenheim Museum and a trip to the top of the empire state building.
These are just some of the many things my fun-loving friend Teena and I experienced and did on a two-woman trip to the big apple.
Except we did all on that list and squeezed in a few drinks and a curbside cafe lunch all in just ONE DAY!
My live-life-to-the-full friend Teena just succumbed to her fiercely-fought and tiresome battle with cancer, and while there are so many things that so many can say about how wonderful she was, individual memories from her friends and family will keep her alive.
I have over two decades of stories, travel, challenges and belly-laughs to tell and others would have more or less the same. We all share being on the receiving end of her laugh, a musical reward that has been described as a cross between a seal mating call and a combination of gasping and snorting at the same time.
But that one amazing day in New York will be the best singular day on holiday I’ve ever had and am ever likely to have again. And like a hand-made cartoon on a notepad that you flick through with your thumb, it’s what instantly speeds through my mind when I think of my seal-snorting-snickering friend.
Sunday June 27 2004
Sunny, clear and hot in New York, escaping the cold of divorces and an Australian winter, we woke up early and giddy on our first day in the big apple with a plan to meet aussie mate Gav, who was living and working in NY, for breakfast.
Balthazar is a french-inspired bistro restaurant, where the waiters wear black pants and full-sleeved crisp, white shirts and stylish ties as they serve and seat you for breakfast. It was a fabulous and unforgettable way to start a New york adventure, the croissants were divine and Gav gave us a myriad of insider tips to enjoy our holiday.
We sauntered off down Spring Street, and then decided to start with Central Park.
Except for the not-so-romantic carriage ride we took once we got there, Teena and I, without a discussion about any other transport options, walked everywhere else that day. We both follow that by-foot mantra on holidays, it means you see and discover more and we saw and did so much!
Central Park is big and beautiful. We berthed for a bit at the boat house, stopped in at a temporarily set-up amusement park, in a location where I believe the ice skating usually is in winter months, and stumbled across the finish line of the New York Triathlon.
There were aussies competing, and we cheered for them as you do as an aussie in another country and no-one knows you. Yep “AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE..OI OI, OI” . Although realistically the triathletes could have been from Russia and had somehow borrowed the sun visors with Australian brands on them for all we knew.
We took some ridiculous photos of ourselves in the museum and marvelled at sculptures we had no inkling about before choosing to check out Fifth Ave and maybe see if we could jag a ticket to an afternoon session on Broadway.
As you do when you have no plan and a friend that will walk for an hour or more with you on a whim, we checked out that toy shop you see in every G movie, the red door of Elizabeth Arden and became friends with trannies who had just hopped off their float in the gay mardi gras to meet their fans.
Us. Still yelling, “aussie, aussie, aussie, oi, oi, oi”. (Well you never know if gay Australians were in the parade. No one was wearing sun visors.)
They were impeccably outfitted. It really is a great fashion mix to see wom/men in top to toe white, with a stand-out friend in Daisy yellow and a ring-in with a shell necklace from Kings Beach on the Sunshine Coast, and a scarf for a belt. Thanks goodness Teena and I later bought matching LOVE shoes to bring our style cred back up again.
We did manage to get Broadway tickets and incredibly we were there during Hugh Jackman’s Boy from Oz run. During the show and as Peter Allen, Hugh called someone from the audience up on stage. It was a fluke that the man he enticed up was a high school teacher from Melbourne supervising his drama class on a very expensive excursion.
The aussie students weren’t bad at heckling and Hugh/Peter with his homeland sense of humour appreciated it, inviting the class backstage after the show.
Teena..”Let’s go backstage and meet Hugh Jackman”
Me..”Don’t be stupid”
Teena..”We’re going backstage”
All we did was tell the security guards that we were teachers from the Melbourne highschool as we followed in the 25 or so kids and made sure our aussie accent was just as good as theirs. We had a few photos with Hugh, chatted to the other teachers and wandered around backstage taking photos. For a stupid idea it was fantastic.
A few days later we ran into Hugh’s wife Debra-Lee Furness in little Italy as she was on her way to pick up their kids from swimming lessons. We stopped her (actually almost scared her), chatted with her for quite a bit longer than your usual stalker, took our photo with her and let her know how Hugh could ramp up his security.
After being backstage on Broadway , the next decision was spontaneous. Again.
Without a plan or a clue we ad-hoc agreed to see if we could get a ticket to the New York Yankees versus New York Mets game. Of course it seemed like everyone else who lived or was visiting New York had the same idea. The train or subway or whatever we got on was jam-packed. We were told it was a sold out game but we thought the travel adventure was worth the shot. (So okay we didn’t walk there.)
But we scored a ticket. Not only that, the seats were behind the Yankees dug-out and so we climbed down to see if anyone was loitering in there. Only the manager. We got him to jump the fence for a photo. How could he refuse the girl with the golden seal laugh and the golden girl with the shell necklace?
We did the obligatory luke-warm hot-dog and averagely-cold beer, but it was an amazingly red-hot experience, and while I still have no idea who won we were both as pumped as if we had hit a home run.
So exhilerated, we didn’t want the day to end so returning to Manhattan by subway we made it to the Empire State Building in time for one of the last elevator trips to the top. We couldn’t really see too much except the beautiful lights of the city and the compass did tell us in which direction Central Park was. Just like the return journey to street level it was hard to come down after such a day.
Over the next two weeks we ticked off, lunch at the River Cafe, walking the Brooklyn Bridge, Waldorf Salad( a very in joke), sunset drinks on the top of a building in Lexington Avenue with views of the Chrysler building, a sombre and respectful stop at Ground Zero, a whole lot of summer sale shopping and not one but two cruises out of the Hudson River past the Statue of liberty to Nova Scotia with our mate Megan. We enjoyed our 3 day Carnival cruise to Halifax and St John so much we just stayed on board and did it again. Of course it helps if your friend is the Chief Purser and can get you a cabin for free.
We packed so many memories and so many amazing moments into just one simple girlfriend getaway, it’s easy to see how much living Teena packed into her life. For me that one day in New York will be hard to beat and impossible to forget. Just like Teen. x