Friday, January 30, 2015

Memories of New York City: 26 Years Ago

Each year around this time, I remember the five days in January that I spent in New York City in conjunction with a college drama class. I cherish the fact that I got to experience the city long before 9-11. It was 1989. The World Trade Center towers were standing.

the picture I took from the ferry ~ it's my favorite one from the trip

My assistance coaching job at Hillsboro Middle School helped me pay for this trip. I was proud of not having to ask Mom and Dad for money to be able to go. Here are three fond memories about the city that this Midwest farm girl experienced while attending Broadway shows in the Big Apple.

Brenda with me: ready for the big trip


Times Square was not scary—even at night. With everyone out and about, Broadway was well-lit. After the first day, my college friend Brenda Wichert and I braved walking six blocks alone at 11:30 pm. No window shopping though, for almost every store had garage-type doors clamped down tight to prevent theft. If not steel doors, then bars on the windows, so even in daylight, window shopping was not enjoyable.

my view of NYC from atop the World Trade Center


Stoplights are to be ignored. If it was red and nobody was coming, go. Even in a car. No one, and I mean no one, paid any attention to the signals. Jaywalking, weaving through traffic? The norm. Just check out the picture below. I certainly understood Seinfeld years later when the characters would speak of not owning a car. Yellow taxis everywhere. I counted over 20 in a single block. The subway maps? Let’s just say I’m glad we had some non-directionally challenged guys to hang out with. In my journal I wrote that I had no idea how we found our way back via the subway to where we were supposed to be.

what happens when traffic lights are ignored in New York City


Expense. I wasn't much of a breakfast eater back then, but I went along when a few people went out to eat our last morning there. The waitress told me I needed to order something or I would get a ser charge. I didn't understand what that meant and asked her to repeat it. She didn't seem to like that. One of the guys had to pound it into my head. "She is going to charge you four bucks for just sitting there!" I ordered an orange juice. I also remember a McDonald’s with an upstairs. That freaked me out more than the price of the food or theater tickets.

I had no idea they would cost so much. Phantom of the Opera was in its second year on Broadway. We stood in line for over an hour hoping to get tickets. We did. For 50 bucks a a piece. Les Miserables may have been that expensive too, but since those had been pre-ordered, I didn't really think about it. Tickets for Cats, Into the Woods, and Me and My Girl were more like $25 apiece. No, I did not see Old Calcutta. That was one of the first things my dad asked me. I didn't know what the big deal was until he told me what it was about. How some old farmer in South Dakota knew that, I don't knowthat's my dad!

us: waiting for Phantom tickets
seems I had the nerve to ask a stranger to take this picture

My $800 trip to New York City sent me to all the major attractions: Statue of Liberty, The Metropolitan Opera House, The Twin Towers, NBC Studios (the Saturday Night Life stage is small in person), Hard Rock Cafe, and other places my mind doesn't remember now. The UN was closed, and I never got to go all the way up on Lady Liberty. They were renovating. I wanted to pool our money and just tell a cabbie to drive us around. No one would do it with me.

I left New York City hoping for a return visit some day. My some day hasn’t come yet, but after seeing my friend Elizabeth Tatge’s pictures and video of Ground Zero from this past Christmas, I long to return.

not bad for a shot out through a window with a 35 mm camera

If you've been to New York, what stands out in your mind? What about the city or the people surprised you? If you've never been, what would you most want to see?


  1. Love this! It is so easy to picture you trying to convince everyone to pool your money together. Looks so fun!!!

    1. You know me well. They were scared. I said, "We'll lock the doors." We also thought about hopping a train to the presidential inauguration. It was the first George Bush, but two ladies in line near us for Phantom tickets said they left DC to get avoid it.