The City With Everything (And I Mean Everything)

This blog post is brought to you one whole day late thanks to the Empire State Building and the lack of free WiFi in any airport in America.

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New York from the top of the Empire State

Yesterday morning got off to a slow start with plenty of sleep because I probably could have slept through a hurricane and not noticed. Or my alarm, in any case.

I was late to the first round of sessions for the conference, but I made up for it by sneaking into the complementary breakfast room at the conference hotel. Our hotel did not provide breakfast, but the day before I had overheard some people talking about the continental breakfast there and I wasn’t about to pass that up. The conference hotel was a lot nicer than ours, and I thoroughly enjoyed the view while I ate my croissant.

Breakfast

Breakfast on the 44th floor every day, please?

I had to get some food in me because today was my big day. The tour to Viacom had been disappointing, and I had been sick for The Wall Street Journal, so I knew I had to make the tour of CBS good. Even if I had to pretend to sneak off to the bathroom and get “lost”.

CBS

The Columbia Broadcasting System

Fortunately, I didn’t have to engage in any code of conduct violations. Our tour guide picked us up at the door and took us straight up into the studio to watch them broadcast the noon news live. Maybe it was just because I had been experiencing so much disappointment with the tours, or maybe I’m just a huge nerd, but either way, my heart actually started racing. The closer we got to the studio, the more I started freaking out.

Live Broadcast

I am freaking out.

Do you know how many times I have been part of a live broadcast at my school? I know it all by heart. The rundown, the teleprompter, the camera angles- I’ve seen it all before.

I shouldn’t have been hyperventilating. I shouldn’t have been smiling like an idiot the whole time.

Ohmygod.

Ohmygod.

But I was. I was totally freaking out. They were professionals, professional anchors and floor directors and people who were doing the things I do almost every day, but they were doing it for real. Their broadcast wasn’t just going out to their campus cable channel, it was being broadcast across the entire state of New York. In front of us, the newscaster was in front of the camera, and right behind us was a TV showing exactly what was being broadcast on TV.

Of course, this was coolest with the weather woman, who was standing in front a green screen in the studio but was broadcast with graphics projected behind her.

We stopped in the control room, which was like a miniature Times Square. Every inch of wall space was hidden by monitors and screens and LED TVs. I stood mesmerized, surrounded by all the programming you flip through when you watch TV (Glee, The Young and the Restless, Futurama, and, of course, the CBS news broadcasts), and it was all being controlled right there in that room.

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My school has about three monitors, to put that in perspective.

After the tour, our tour guide told us a little bit about internships and how to apply. All of this talk about internships and moving to New York to work has maybe warped my brain in some way, but more than anything it has convinced me that it’s something I can do. I used to think that it would be too hard, to far away, too frightening, but listening to all of the people here talk about internships, I honestly think I could handle it. I love New York City, I love the atmosphere, I love the people, I love the busy streets and crowded sidewalks and just all of the things happening.

After the tour, I tried to find my way back to my hotel all on my own, and was mostly successful. Aside from a panicked moment on a street corner where I thought I was lost forever and going to die alone in the middle on Manhattan, I was mostly fine, especially when I came across a street crowded with food trucks and stopped for lunch.

French fries and mayo

French fries and mayo

After that, I stopped a souvenir stand to get some cheap postcards for my family and friends. One thing to keep in mind about New York City is that everyone loves cash. It felt like I was in Europe again, because everyone scoffed at me when I tried to use a credit card. The guy at the souvenir stand even got mad at me because I didn’t have any bills smaller than a twenty.

Still slightly unsettled by the thought that I might become a homeless bum sleeping on the street corner, I frantically scurried one more block to find myself on in front of my hotel. Travel tip: always remember the name of the street that your hotel is on.

After attending the last few workshop sessions, we decided to spend our free evening at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. The walk from our hotel was straight through Central Park, so it was a kill-two-birds-with-one-stone kind of deal.

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Always a good time for selfies.

For some reason I had been under the assumption that Central Park was only a few blocks large, that it might take a person 10 minutes to walk from one side to the other. After walking for about an hour, I realized that I was very, very wrong. Central Park is massive, and I probably could have spent one entire day wandering around it.

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Sunset behind the skyscrapers

It’s so odd the way that the park seems to go on forever, but that if you turn to your left or right you’re immediately met with skyscrapers towering over the trees. It’s as if you can’t escape the city no matter where you go. It’s quieter, but you can still hear the traffic, and the city only disappears from view for so long. Once you go over the next hill, there’s the buildings enclosing on all sides again, and the landscape of bark and grass transforms to steel and concrete.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art

After only one wrong turn (a new record for me), we finally made it to the Met. One thing that they conveniently forget to tell you is that the price of admission is apparently optional. When I first looked it up and saw that regular priced tickets were almost $25, I almost changed my mind, but I noticed they have student discount tickets for $12. Once we got there, the man at the ticket counter told me the $12 was the “recommended” payment, but that we were free to pay whatever we chose. At that point, though, you kind of feel like a jerk if you don’t pay the recommended price (or anything at all), so you go ahead and do it just because it’s charitable.

Roman art

The Metropolitan Museum of Art was probably my favorite thing that we did. The only reason we were able to go is because it’s open late on Fridays and Saturdays, so we got there around six but could only stay for an hour and a half. It’s so massive that in that short time I only probably saw a sixteenth of everything there is to see, maybe less. If I ever go back to New York, I will devote an entire day of my trip just to going back to the Met and seeing everything I missed.

Buddha 2 by Sopheap Pich

Buddha 2 by Sopheap Pich

Of what I did get to see, my favorite areas were the Asian art and the European art. The section on Asian art is absolutely fascinating because the ancient, historic art mingles with the modern Asian art, a lot of which is critiques and comments on the ancient lifestyle and religion. It’s amazing to see the two perspectives side-by-side.

Dissected Buddha by Gonkar Gyatso (it's made out of stickers and pop culture images)

Dissected Buddha by Gonkar Gyatso (it’s made out of stickers and pop culture images)

The European art I enjoyed for purely selfish reasons, just because I had always wanted to see Van Gogh and Degas in real life. I had almost assumed that after seeing these famous paintings in text books and on the internet that they didn’t really exist in real life, that they couldn’t ever actually be hanging in a museum, or that if they were I would never see them in real life. So to be standing, face-to-face, with The Dance Class felt like an out of body experience, like I had jumped into another dimension where these sorts of famous and powerful things were within my reach.

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The Dance Class by Edgar Degas

In fact, they were. I could have reached out and touched the painting if I wanted. I might have been tackled by eight security guards and arrested, but I could have.

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Chrysanthemums and Bouquet of Sunflowers by Claude Monet

I was walking around with the goofiest smile on my face, wandering through the Impressionist rooms and taking selfies with Monet and Van Gogh. At one point, walking around in another room, a modern-art movie was showing with The Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairies playing in the background. And here I was, tip-toeing through these rooms filled with amazing historic paintings, feeling quite literally like a kid on Christmas.

Olive Trees and Wheat Field with Cypresses by Vincent Van Gogh

Olive Trees and Wheat Field with Cypresses by Vincent Van Gogh

I didn’t want to leave, but we all had skipped dinner and were getting pretty hungry. The guy we had toured with at the Wall Street Journal had recommended a Thai restaurant to us, which he described as being a really delicious hole-in-the-wall place, called Room Service. It wasn’t too far from our hotel, over in the Hell’s Kitchen area, so we made the hour-long walk back to that part of town. Of course, it might not always be the best idea to take restaurant advice from people who work for places like The Wall Street Journal. Club music was pounding out onto the street, and the only lights were blue and purple florescents along the walls. All of the girls were in sparkly cocktail dresses and stilettos, while I strolled in wearing jeans and worn down boots. The bar was overflowing with people ordering cocktails and expensive vodkas, and I’m not even old enough to drink. After we were told it would be a 45 minute wait, we decided to head to the other, slightly less classy, Thai place on the other side the street called Long Charm.

Obviously this area of town was not frequented by tourists very often, and we were all unsettled by the less friendly atmosphere. Our waiter must have thought we were dumb as rocks because he literally stepped us through our order. They had a special for a four-course dinner that was reasonably priced and really good. Even though the waiter was somewhat rude and the guys at the table next to us were going on and on about how much they hated tourists, it was my first time having really authentic Thai food and it was an amazing experience.

By the time we had walked all the way back to the hotel, it was almost 10:30 pm. One of the things I wanted to do before I left New York was go up to the top of the Empire State and get pictures of the city, because I’m a sucker for tourist traps like that.

Total sucker.

Total sucker.

If you’re going to go to the Empire State Building at all, do it at night. The observation deck stays open until two in the morning. I had heard from some friends that they waited in line for three to four hours to get to the top during the day, and I was hoping that it would be less of a wait at night. I was prepared to wait in line for about and hour, maybe an hour and fifteen minutes. The line that we waited in was ten minutes long.

That little bright spot is Times Square.

That little bright spot is Times Square.

The view is absolutely breathtaking. Everyone accuses it of being a tourist trap, but it really puts the city in perspective. Before, I had actually felt pretty accomplished, like I had done some stuff and seen a lot of New York. After seeing the whole city laid out in front of me like that, I realized how small my idea of New York City was.

Hudson River

It would take someone months, maybe years, to see and experience everything New York has to offer. It made me feel both better and worse. Worse because I knew I would never be able to see it all in my lifetime, and better because I knew that no one really could.

The city that never sleeps

At this point it was well after midnight and we were all exhausted. Walking back to the hotel, I noticed how different the streets are on a Friday night versus any other night during the week. There were so many more people walking around, mostly young adults, all out and about going to pubs and shops. On the weeknights it had been busy, but not hectic. On Times Square on a Friday night, it was like rush hour.

We knew it was the last night and we wanted to go and do something more, but we had been walking for miles all evening long and we were tired. I decided to forgo writing in favor of sleeping, since it was going to be a long day of traveling back to St. Louis tomorrow.

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