Wednesday, January 23, 2013

crazy vacation

I went to visit my best friend and chosen sister, Heather for about 11 days. I came back home yesterday and I'm still exhausted from the excitement that is her life. The first day I was there, she had to do a PT test for the Army so I spent the day playing with my 4 nieces. (12, 10, 9, & 4) We had a make-up party, breakfast, lunch and basically just goofed off for the entire day. The next day we went to church. It's been over 15 years since I've been to a Lutheran church, and I have to say, it was interesting.
Monday, I made Heather go to the doctor where she had to get on antibiotics and steroids for her horrible cold. We also spent the day running errands. Once the girls came home from school, it was a madhouse again trying to get the middle girls ready for Cheer practice and the youngest one ready to go with us. The oldest was being moody. We get to Cheer practice after running just barely late, only to almost literally run into a Care-flight helicopter in the parking lot.
Tuesday I watched Baby Moose (the youngest) and went shopping and crazy with her while cleaning the house a bit for the family. Having not been around a 4-year-old that much, I was exhausted by the time Heather came home.
Wednesday she totaled her brand new Lincoln just before the girls had to go to Cheer practice.
Thursday we took the Lincoln to the shop and rented a rental car just in time to take the 9-year-old to the doctor for her annual check-up.
Friday we did a drive by tour of Washington D. C., stopping at the Smithsonian castle only to find it was closed for renovations. We decided to check out the set-up for the inauguration. Having never been to one, I was rather excited to see all the preparations. On our way back home, we got stuck in traffic. The reason: Some guy got pulled over for not wearing his seatbelt and shot himself in the chest. He died.
Saturday we drove up to PA to go to a Cheer competition. For those of you who've never been to one of those, let me tell you, it's intense. There was a ridiculous amount of half-naked children running around with porn star make-up on with just as many parents cheering them on. I was volunteered to help assist with our teams make-up. I was grateful it wasn't porn star material like some of the girls. We spent an ungodly amount of time watching the girls in skin-tight short shorts, jumping and leaping across the stage. It was actually quite a bit of fun and I was surprised at the variety of sizes of girls. I always thought a pre-rec for Cheering was that you had to be a size two or lower to join. I was happy to be proven wrong.
As soon as the girls got their award, Heather and I drove the 3 hours up to New York City. We had to make it there before midnight. Between my mad driving skills and Heather's phone app, we got to the parking garage at 11:53p.m., arriving at our hotel less than five minutes later. We stayed at the Mansfield, spending more on a hotel room than I've ever dreamed of spending. Picture this: A full sized bed with about two to three feet of walking space around the sides and foot of the bed, a closet large enough to fit 4 jackets and a bathroom smaller than my closet at home. Our view was the wall of the building next to us that I could almost touch if I leaned out the bathroom window. In a word: tiny.
We passed out, waking the next day to experience NYC. Experience it, we did...
We left the hotel room and found a tourist shop where Heather got some new socks (she forgot to pack socks) and I picked up souvenirs for a couple of people. We walked over to the parking garage to make sure we could keep our car parked for the day without it getting towed, and Heather put on her socks.
After that, we were on our way to get coffee when Heather spotted a sign for a palm reader. We hit the button and were buzzed into the creepy building where we crammed into a tiny room to have our palms read. I'm apparently going to live well past my 80s, have two kids and work in an office of sorts. I'm also severely disconnected from my spiritual self. Gonna work on that. Heather's disconnected from her husband, they need to spend more alone time together, and she's past the worst of things in her life. yea! We left the psychic to go to times square and get coffee. Heather was waiting to pick up her coffee and I took advantage of the moment to snap some pictures of the costumed people wandering downtown. I should never have left the sanctity of the Starbucks. I was accosted by an Elmo, who had me take a picture with him. What little English he could say, was "You pay now." Awesome. While I was trying to figure out what the hell just happened, three more Elmo's, Cookie Monster and two Minnie Mice surrounded me. *a warning to all, don't get caught snapping pictures of the freaks in Time's Square - it's a terrifying experience.*
As soon as I got free from the furry things, Heather and I raced down Time's Square to find Grand Central Station. We got lost. She expertly hailed a cab and we went across town to see the Statue of Liberty. Ellis Island was closed due to damage from Sandy, but we were able to take a boat tour of the harbor and snap a bunch of pictures. It was a very cold, windy day. Going out to take pictures was seriously challenging. We desperately tried to not shiver off the boat.
As we arrived back into port, we found the subway station. The super helpful (not) guy in the booth spoke heavy blackineese through a 6 inch glass and a crackly microphone. We didn't understand a word he said. We went back to the map, pondering how to get back to the hotel, finally deciding to just jump on a train and figure it out from there. It was my first actual train ride. I scared the locals.
We made it to Grand Central Station, discovering that we'd originally been across the street from it when we hailed the taxi! We went back to the hotel so I could pick up my jacket and ran up 6th street to MAZE by Gordon Ramsay. It was amazingly wonderful food. She got steak and I, the chicken. I have to say, her steak was better than the chicken, but my sides were better than hers, so it evened out. We took a more leisurely stroll back to the hotel, stopping at various locations to take pictures, explore and laugh at things. We had about two hours to kill before the main event of our trip - Wicked at the Gershwin!
We were both tired of spending money, so we decided to take a walk down 5th ave, ogling all the shops. We ended up at the mouth of Central Park just after dark. Deciding that we were brave women, we walked into the park and took pictures. She hid in the tunnel, being creepy and I laid on the grass as if someone had killed or mugged me. It was hilarious. We were going to walk further, but there was a really creepy delivery truck and we both ran out of the park squealing. It was a blast.
We ran back to the hotel so she could get her phone and I could charge mine. We had just enough time to literally run to the Gershwin to see the show. We literally made it to our seats 30 seconds before it started.
If you ever get the chance to see a Broadway play, I highly recommend it. If you can see a Broadway play not on Broadway, that would be even more amazing. Wicked was absolutely fantastic! I loved the book, but seeing it performed was breathtaking.
We left Broadway to have dinner. We went to the Hard Rock Cafe where we picked up our traditional souvenir glasses and were shown to our table. I'd like to take a minute and explain that both Heather and I have food allergies. She's extremely sensitive to wheat and gluten and I'm mildly sensitive to dairy. Her allergy is more severe than mine, so we make sure to tell everyone that comes into contact with delivering food to our table that she has this allergy. Cross contamination will make her sick for about two weeks. It sucks. Our waitress was amazing. She took our order, went into the back and talked with the head chef about the allergy and came back to explain that it would be a few minutes longer than normal to get our food because the kitchen staff is cleaning and preparing her dish separate from anything else. We were totally understanding and okay with this. Our waitress had to leave for her break. Her substitute seemed very friendly and understanding. Heather ate her salad and I patiently waited for my steak. Our food arrived, much to my stomach's enjoyment, and Heather's fish was completely raw. She returned it and the substitute waiter was very pleasant about the whole thing. He came back an eternity later with the new fish. She asked if she could have some butter as long as it didn't have cross contamination. He brought out the butter. Our waitress returned. She stopped Heather from eating the buttered food just as she was finishing lathering it on everything. She went into the back to triple check that it was safe to eat and came back with the manager. He apologized for our frustrations and inconvenience and I stopped eating because I felt bad that she wasn't able to eat anything other than her salad. The manager explained that they take food allergies very seriously and that there may be a chance that the butter was contaminated. The head chef himself was making her third salmon and it was on the house.
Before the food could be given to us, the waiters all did some stupid little dance in the middle of the restaurant. The substitute waiter came up to our table and basically accused Heather of lying about her allergy and upset with her that they were getting in trouble for giving her the butter. By this time, we were both mad. The manager came up to our table to talk to us again, comping our meals and apologizing for the behavior of his staff. Heather still feels bad for getting them in trouble, but if that guy hadn't come up and accused her of lying, she never would've had any issue.
We left the Hard Rock needing to blow off some steam. Luckily we ran into a guy pitching a free comedy show. The funniest comedian was the guy announcing the acts. There was a 21 year old blond in front of us that clearly defined the definition of dumb blond. When the guy asked us where we were from, I said "Reno." The girl turns around in her seat, "Reno?!? ..... That's far!" Wow. Really? <shakes head> The comedian teased her about that for the rest of the night.
In the morning we packed up everything, picked up the car and stopped at Bella Vita Trattoria for a slice of authentic brick oven pizza. I'm officially ruined for pizza for the rest of my life. It was absolutely beyond amazing. If you ever go to NYC, go there. Beyond fabulous.
We drove the four hours it took to get back to her house and hung out with the family for the rest of the night. I flew out Tuesday morning amongst lots of hugs and tears.