I’m going to take a moment to reminisce. Every spring in college the honors program took a day trip to New York City. People from home thought that I zipped into the City every weekend, considering that I went to school in New York state. They failed to figure in the fact that I was four hours from New York, about the same as if I were at home in Virginia. New York is a really big state. The yearly trip was, therefore, a big deal.
It inevitably fell on the day before the time change. Every year we’d arrive back in Ithaca at 2am only to discover that it was really 3am. So, when this time rolls around I find myself thinking about those trips.
There was room for 40 or so people (there were only about 120 people in the program in the whole school) on the charter bus. It filled up fast, but one year there was enough room that I snuck a good friend and music student on board. We left early and got passes to an art museum and tickets to a show. We didn’t really have to do the museum, but it was our heads if we missed the show and therefore the bus back.
Of course, I love art museums, especially when that museum is the Metropolitan Museum of Art—large enough to satisfy any art lover for several days. At least that year, I did indeed spend quite a bit of time at the museum. Other years at other museums, not so much. I remember an Andy Warhol exhibit that I really hated. What I did always make time for was Central Park.
It’s an amazing oasis in the middle of this huge city. There is so much going on inside the park itself that it should actually qualify for its own zip code. There are street performers playing strange Asian instruments, dancing, juggling, the works. Just walking through the park is an event. My favorite memory by far, however, is when my best friend, Kim, and I went to the zoo. I can honestly tell you that the only exhibit at the Central Park Zoo that I remember with absolute clarity is the penguin exhibit.
Kim is quite the penguin enthusiast. We entered a darkened corridor and the penguins were behind floor to ceiling glass. They dove in and out of the water, nudged each other for position, and waddled about. Penguins almost shouldn’t be classified as flightless birds, because they truly fly when they hit the water. It was amazing to see the way they'd shoot through the water as if they had jet packs and explode back onto land. The best part of the exhibit, though, was how excited Kim was watching those penguins. I hope she doesn’t disown me for saying so, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen her that happy. Just pure, simple happiness. It’s because of that trip that I so want to take H to the zoo before we leave the east coast. I think she’ll love the penguins just as much as her Aunt Kim.
While I may not have always been faithful to the museum portion of the itinerary, I never missed the show. Every year we got ridiculously good tickets to something amazing. Freshman year it was Rent, in the Orchestra, like row G. One year is was Tosca at Lincoln Center. One year it was Urine Town, surprisingly good—much better than the title implies. But one year, it was Cabaret. Cabaret is one of my all time favorites. I actually begged our director, Hugh, to take us when I found out it was one of the options. If you’ve seen the movie version—forget it. Wipe it from your memory forever. It holds not even half a candle to the real thing, at Studio 54, in (wait for it) the front row. Yes, you read right, that year I somehow got front row tickets. I will never again have seats that good. Never again will I have attractive orchestra members sit on the stage and flirt with us as part of the pre-show ambience. Never again will I have no one (in my shortness) to peer around.
Cabaret was hands down one of the most fabulous shows I’ve ever seen. It’s got everything—Nazis, smut, war—you name it. And it has some really catchy tunes too. You also get mooned by the Emcee with a swastika painted on his ass. Now, who doesn’t want to see that?
Those trips made me feel cosmopolitan (I’m sheltered, I know). We found a tiny, hole-in-the-wall Italian restaurant that was so good we went there two years in a row. We ate chocolate covered strawberries sitting on the fountain in Lincoln Center. It was, to me, just what college should be, a care-free way to see the world.
And every year we’d arrive back at school, in a complete stupor, only to discover that a precious hour of sleep had been stolen by modern time keeping conventions. So this year, as I get ready to set my clocks ahead and climb in bed, I raise a glass of warm milk (sadly, I’m not kidding), and toast to long spring days in New York.