In the Empire State Building
While Alan was at OBC (military training) in Oklahoma, and I was finishing my degree at Alabama, Alan had this spontaneous idea to meet for the weekend in New York City!!
New York City!!
Y’all. To fully understand why this was such a big deal, I should explain that I was not accustomed to this sort of thing. We did not take annual vacations or move from state to state. I lived in Alabama my entire life.
But for as long as I can remember, I have always been a dreamer and a wanderer.
If you look hard enough, you can spot the Statue of Liberty to the left of my head.
I love excitement.
Alan brought a degree of excitement that I had always yearned for. I couldn’t help it. My Aunt Ann, who I adore, used to joke that as a baby my first word was “Go!”
Traveling and seeing new places, sleeping in hotel rooms, and just roaming in general is something I love.
I do not love trying to relax in a hotel room while my 10-year-old and 11 year-old laugh and joke in the bed beside me, interrupting my every thought……but this was years before I had to deal with that. (Those are today’s problems…)
Me in Times Square
My first flight alone
We used the free ticket we saved from when we missed the ball, so we only had to buy one plane ticket. Then we went online and found the very cheapest room in Manhattan that had a private bathroom. (Yes, you can get hotel rooms in NYC that are community bathroom situations….no thank you.)
I was a tiny, timid, clueless, but giddy 21-year-old newlywed college senior. I had only flown twice before, and both times had been since I married Alan.
You wouldn’t believe how nervous I was about flying, by myself, into the biggest city in America to meet my husband inside an airport, take a bus to the subway in Queen’s, and then ride the rails to Manhattan to find our hotel on foot.
Sure, we’d been to a foreign country together, but somehow this seemed scarier. New York City? Queens? Isn’t this a place where people get mugged and there are gangs and people on drugs?
So yeah, I was all full of anxiety, but it wasn’t all bad. It was a happy nervous.
The hardest part was finding Hotel Pennsylvania on foot. You see, this was before iPhones and GPS. Back then, it was just us and some maps and kind strangers giving us directions.
I’ll never forget my first subway ride.
We boarded the train. I’d seen my share of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle movies as a kid, so I approached the whole subway thing with great fear and trepidation, let me tell you.
Graffiti was everywhere. Just like in the movies. Thankfully, there were no foot soldiers working for Shredder out that day.
Alan was a little nervous too, though he may never admit it. I know he was because he said stuff like, “Turn your ring around. Keep your purse zipped up.”
I have a happy-go-lucky demeanor, and I think people worry about me sometimes.
Sure enough, the subway train was packed, and this man was walking down the aisles preaching about the Kingdom of Heaven. At first I just thought that was interesting, but then I realized he was doing that to get money from people because after he preached he went down the aisles collecting cash.
Now there was a head scratcher. I’ve been on many trains since then. That’s the only time I’ve ever seen someone pull of a stunt like that one.
Ground Zero Oct. 2002, a year after 9/11.
Saving Money in New York City
You are probably picturing Alan and me as poor college students. How could we afford this? Well, we were not poor college students. I was in school, but I had scholarships, and Alan had already graduated, and had an excellent job.
Lieutenant pay may not be much, but for two young twenty-somethings with no kids, it was everything we needed and then some.
While we were well provided for, we were still smart and careful with our money, but Manhattan was shockingly expensive. Alan to this day tells the story of paying $25 for a small pizza from Pizza Hut, and when he tells it, it was more like $40.
Broadway plays that last-minute were $200/ticket, so that was out.
I think that’s my only regret from that trip. I still want to see a Broadway show.
We did a lot of going TO places without actually paying any money and going into anything.
Statue of Liberty?
It had a long line and a fare to ride the ferry, so we squinted at it from the shore.
Empire State Building?
We were afraid it cost money to go up to the top, so we just walked inside the lobby, looked around the gift shop, and left.
We walked around in it for a minute and then moved on.
No, thanks. We took the subway the entire trip, and we did a TON of walking.
I still remember our surprise when we realized that the restaurant was charging Alan for each of his Dr. Pepper refills. Ha! I’m pretty sure he drank water the rest of the weekend.
……..Overzealous frugality aside, I love that we took that trip.
I still remember so much of that weekend vividly. We argued some, especially over the Empire State building thing. One of us thought we were being overly cheap. We were!!!
But how often do you get to spend a weekend in New York City just wandering around?? I loved seeing Times Square and the UN and Trump Tower, in person. Yes, it was famous even 15 years ago.
We did buy souvenirs.
At the UN, we bought a blue tea set from Romania, which still resides in my china cabinet.
And from street vendors, as in the kind who whip their goods out of a black garbage bag, I bought a fake Kate Spade purse and a drawing of the city.
The purse broke the first time I tried to use it, and I have never made another black market purchase.
I don’t remember saying good-bye to Alan and parting ways again, though somehow we did.
I only remember the sights and sounds of this huge city, unlike anything I had ever seen before. Alan carried me on his back when my feet got too tired from the walking. I can tell you how the icy wind blasts between the skyscrapers.
We remember how friendly New Yorkers were to us. One couple on the train even told us to follow them when we got off to show me Bloomingdale’s.
I was also surprised that there were “newsstands” everywhere. They’re like mini-gas stations, only with no gas and tons of periodicals.
We saw Ground Zero, which was literally a giant hole in the fall of 2002.
Just thinking about that trip brings a smile to my face a mile wide because even with all the stress and anxiety and nervousness, it was an adventure, and we loved it.
Or at least I loved it. I hope Alan did too.
With Alan I felt safe there, and the future looked fun and close. Before long, we really would be together like a normal married couple, and we would experience things like this together.
Being a military wife was awesome, everything I’d ever wanted. How I couldn’t wait to get on with it already!
*****Come back each Monday for the next story!*****