My friend works on Madison Avenue.
Doesn’t that make me sound important? Yeah, I agree. It doesn’t make me important at all, but in my romanticized-movie-mindset of NYC, working on Madison Avenue seems important, ergo me knowing someone who works there must make me important.
John and I are on a committee together that meets twice a year, so back in September I told him I was thinking about coming to NYC for my birthday. I figured the more people I told, the more likely I would actually go through with the plan. John was awesome — when we saw each other at our meeting, he had a metro map for me and tried to explain the New York transit system. It was after a long day of meetings and I had a Bay Breeze sitting in front of me (not exactly the usual cocktail you would order in September in Baltimore, but I was a girl among men and needed to drink something pink), so I may or may not remember anything he told me… but I still have the map. John also sent me a ton of pamphlets in November — so many things to do I would need a week or two in the city. Sadly, that was around the time when I realized we could only spend a day in the city.
John didn’t just give me information — he went one step further. He came into the city, on a Saturday, at 10 am, to show us some highlights. It was early, inconvenient, and snowing, but he came anyway. How awesome is that? I have the best friends.
We met him in the lobby of his building, where he was going to take us up to show us a nice view of the city. That meant going through security, which was hilarious… It took about twenty minutes for the security guys to print out little guest passes with our names and pictures, and they didn’t even get my name right. Or Trena’s name. Or our destination. Or Marisa’s picture. (Marisa and Trena both had the same picture on their pass…) I can see the importance of security post-911, but it seems like no security would be better than the comedy routine we had to go through. All I could think of what a hey day Neal Caffrey would be having with these guys. But I digress.
John took us up to the 34 floor of their building, and normally you would be able to see the Hudson River, the World Trade Center Memorial, etc. He was quite distressed that the snow meant we could see none of these things. Our conversation the night before went something like this:
Joannie: “Are we going to get stranded in the City!? Are the trains going to run?! Are we going to get snowed in!?”
John: “I hope it doesn’t snow. We won’t have a good view of the City from my building.”
For this small-town girl, the view was awesome. John took time to point out everything we could see and made sure we noticed all the detail on the older buildings. It’s incredible to see the detail and design that the architects incorporated into the tops of buildings that no one would ever see from the street. He also pointed out that the older buildings were much thinner because you needed to have a cross breeze before the days of air conditioning.
Empire State Building… in the clouds
It was interesting to see how our perspective was so skewed — the Empire State building looked tall, but not that much taller than where we were … haha. We were only about a third of the way up the Empire State building. Incredible.
“You’re gonna scrub these floors ’til they shine like the top of the Chrysler Building!”
Really, the day was all quotes and songs to me.
I have few regrets from the day … one of them is that the four of us gals never got a picture together, and another is that I didn’t get a picture with John.
It probably sounds really strange, but meeting up with John and looking out the windows of his office was definitely a highlight of the day. It was great to see him, it was touching that he was willing to come into the city for me, and it was neat to have an inside glimpse of a New York office building. Cubicles and skyscraper offices are not glamorous by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s so entirely different from my day-to-day life, it’s intriguing to get a glimpse of what life is like in there.
After we left his building, John took us over to Grand Central Terminal, ready to share fun New York trivia with us. The first piece I’ve already gotten wrong — in the last post, I mistakenly called it Grand Central Station. But it’s not – it’s Grand Central Terminal, because it’s the terminus of the trains, not simply just a station on a line. He told us the story of Track 61, the secret platform that exists under the Waldorf-Astoria hotel, supposedly enabling FDR to arrive in New York and get into a private elevator while in his armored limousine and arrive at the hotel without anyone seeing him in his wheelchair. Andy Warhol hosted a party on the abandoned track once.
He had all sorts of fun facts about the ceiling — like the fact that the signs of the zodiac are backwards. They are supposedly intentionally backwards, showing us God’s perspective rather than man’s.
When they cleaned the ceiling of the terminal, they left one brick uncleaned — impressively black — to show what the ceiling looked like before cleaning.
And my favorite — at the beginning of the space race, the government decided that they would display a rocket in Grand Central to calm fears that we were falling behind the Russians. Unfortunately, someone forgot to measure the rocket they were going to display… and it pierced the ceiling. The hole remains.
We had noticed a few people dressed up as Santa Claus when we were in the building earlier, but now we couldn’t miss them. It turned out that we were in the middle of NYC’s SantaCon, a day when people invade the city dressed like Santa Clause and go bar hopping. It was pretty funny to see so many Santa Clauses throughout the day — hordes of them at time — and it was just one more thing to make the day cheery, albeit in a quite unusual, unexpected way.
John took us over to the City Library, which was a gorgeous building and impossible to capture in film. From the huge stone lions out front (with Christmas wreathes around their neck- and covered with snow, of course) to the beautiful Christmas tree in the front lobby, to the wood-carved reading rooms, it was a book-lovers paradise.
After the library, it was time to say goodbye to John and head south for a culinary adventure. John hailed us a cab (like the pro he is) and with hugs all around, sent us on our way. It was the best birthday present he could have given me — his time and his love for his City, on a snowy Saturday morning.