Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Ellen's NYC trip (through Dad's eyes)

Ellen and I just returned from a late trip to NYC. We spent two nights and three days in the Big Apple and crammed in as much as we could handle. Below are some of the highlights of the trip as well as some answers to the obvious question: why in the world did yall drive up to NYC?
Atop the Empire State Building
We drove up to NYC and along the way stayed a night in Richmond with our good friends Lesley and Jason Bulluck and their boys Alder and Heath. Unfortunately my camera was on a "manual" setting and all my pictures were duds. From Richmond we drove to Philly and stayed with my brother David for a day and night. Both of these stops broke up the trip nicely, saved us some money on hotels, and made the trip much more fun.
Inside the Empire State Building
We arrived in Brooklyn at our hotel around lunch. Our hotel was crammed in between row houses in a working class neighborhood, but we chose Brooklyn because it was cheaper. The subway was three blocks away and required about thirty minutes one way to get in to central Manhattan. Our first day we went straight to the Empire State Building and determinedly waited in line for our turn to view from the 86th floor. When finished we ate lunch, took the subway up to Harlem and then walked back down to The Cathedral of St. John the Divine. When done we headed to Time Square, and after hanging around there we watched Phantom of the Opera at Majestic Theater. By 11:30pm we were back in our hotel. Quite a day.
Feeding the birds at Morningside Park before ascending the steps to The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.
Our second day we first took the Staten Island Ferry to view the Statue of Liberty and walked around the financial district. I made some sad attempt to explain the international importance of the NY Stock Exchange. Next, we headed for Central Park and literally hiked from the main entrance on the southwest corner at Columbus Circle all the way to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. This was one of those poorly chosen routes that Ellen cheerfully trekked through.
My Ellen...
Along the hike through Central Park we stopped for a father-daughter heart to heart. We spent several hours in the Metropolitan Museum viewing most thoroughly the ancient Egyptian exhibit and the European painters. Ellen had very real reverence around the Monets, Degas, and Van Goghs. Next we took the subway to the East Side and ate at Angelicas Kitchen, a well known vegan restaurant. We ended the night watching the crazies in Union Square before heading back to the hotel.
Inside The Cathedral Church of St. John the Divine.
Our third day was primarily souvenir shopping day. We headed back in to Time Square and Ellen carefully analyzed the very similar items at several of the souvenir shops before selecting some very nice little reminders of the trip. Then we had her portrait sketched by a sidewalk artist and said our farewell.
The zoo at Time Square.
We drove back to Richmond where we again spent the night with our friends. I don't know what we would have done without the Richmond stop. Thanks so much Bullucks for opening your home and feeding us. The trip was a great success. Ellen and I had a very memorable time together.
Lego heaven at Time Square Toys-r-us.

So, why a trip to NYC? Ellen turned ten that's why.
Look Mom! We're on a billboard in Time Square! Can you find us?
What I wanted was a way to make memorable a particular time in her life that should be memorable. She is no longer a little girl. She is not yet a fully independent woman. But ten is a good time to recognize just how marvelous the first decade has been, how thankful I am for her, to honor her hard work at school, piano, dance, her character, herself.
Scared to death of the gestapo like seating officials at Majestic Theater I quickly snapped a pic of Ellen before Phantom of the Opera started.
On the other side I wanted a memorable initiation into womanhood. I wanted some event to refer back to to as a point of initiation, a welcoming, but also to remember the forecasts that were given and commitments that were made. Don't worry those of you who know me. The preachy part of our trip lasted under thirty minutes in Central Park. But there I shared my heart with her, offered her what little and ill-developed thoughts I have for the next decade, and yes even offered her my expectations. Mostly I asked for us to preserve what we had right there on that rock over the next decade. No matter what we agreed to fight to keep our friendship. That in sum was the purpose of the trip.
Riding the Staten Island Ferry past the Statue of Liberty
Probably most memorable to me was the following: we held hands constantly for three days. Whether exiting or entering the subway, walking through Central Park, or weaving through the crowds in Time Square she held my hand tightly and in some sense I still haven't let go.
Statten Island Ferry
The trip will remain for me the milestone moment when I accepted my daughter as a partner and soon to be equal in this life. She kept up with our subway routes, kept up with me without a word of complaint, offered suggestions when I looked confused, and more often reminded me that nothing was worth getting stressed about. We were and are some strange mix of father/daughter and mutual friends. I hope to always be dad, but the older she becomes in maturity and grace the more thankful I am for such a friend and real partner to continue life with.
A moment of repose on our lengthy trek through Central Park. For a moment I thought we wouldn't make it out.
I'll remember her jumping up and down at each new sight or event and her very genuine joy in the presence of great acting or great art. We were both blown away by THE PHANTOM OF THE OPERA. It is a magical performance and full of rich themes. I wondered whether Ellen would enjoy the show. She sat on the edge of her seat the entire performance. She ran to stand near the Degas ballerina paintings at the Met. She identified her Monet instantly. She beamed proudly standing next to van Gogh's self portrait.
Ellen loves Degas.
There were plenty of speechless moments atop the Empire State Building, gazing in wonder at the intricate craftsmanship in St. Johns Cathedral, or walking through Time Square at night. I don't often have the pleasure of watching her head explode in awe, excitement, or reverence, but it happened over and over again on the trip.
A father-daughter heart to heart on a rock in Central Park.
I'll remember watching her watch others on the subway or in the crowds. She was blown away by all the different languages she heard. She was intrigued by the poor folks singing on the subway asking for money, and couldn't stop glancing at the occasional crazy guy muttering to himself for all to hear. She was always cautious, but not scared. Curious, but not overly social.
I'm not sure where to rank feeding the birds. But it was up there.
There are a thousand ways to say thank you, make memorable moments, appreciate art, culture, and experience a different slice of life. This was ours. As Ellen gets older I'll keep vivid this treasure of a time we spent together. I told the girls that when they got older I'd take them on a special trip just daughter and dad. This was Ellen's choice. On a side note: I remember telling Arianna when she was much younger that I would take her on a special trip without Mom and Ellen and she promptly cried. At that time she couldn't even fathom doing anything without those two. But, she is primed and ready for her opportunity now.
Ellen's $5 portrait that ended up needing a $15 frame.
Here's to the next decade! Here's to Ellen!


William Kruidenier said...

Awesome -- trip, pictures, commentary, and reasons for going. Shows that life can have unforgettable moments if somebody makes them happen. I look forward to Arianna's and Katie's trips. Wonder where they will choose to go?

Lesley said...

Wonderful sweet words Daniel. We were honored to have you guys stop in on the way up and back and enjoyed the tme with folks we miss so much!

Looking forward to seeing you again next month...all five of you!

KathyB said...

How lucky is Ellen! Wow Daniel, it never ceases to amaze me how gifted you are at expressing yourself. Your story is beautiful and brings happy tears to this grandmother's eyes.