30th September (2017) New York, USA

This week: Fran’s travels in Manhattan, New York, USA. I added this section of the trip specifically for my evening with Bette Midler.

30th September (2017) New York, USA

I made my way back to the E Subway line as this would take me to this morning’s destination of The World Trade Centre. They had opened the memorial and the museum since my last visit to New York, so I wanted to experience both and to pay my respects. I did not know anyone who was lost on 9/11, but I knew someone who was lost for three days in the chaos that came after. He was lucky to have had a meeting out of the office that morning, so was walking towards the building as the events unfolded. His office was in one of the World Trade Center towers, though. I was back in Australia by this point.

It was an area I knew well. I visited the observation deck on my 20th birthday. And I celebrated my 25th birthday with dinner at the Windows on the World restaurant on the 107th floor of the World Trade Centre North Tower. No restaurant staff that were present the morning on 9/11 survived. It was no longer standing by my 30th birthday.

New York, USA
Me at the indoor observation deck of the World Trade Center on my 20th Birthday 1994
25th Birthday dinner at Windows on the World Restaurant in the World Trade Center 1999

I have seen the area since the towers fell just before the first anniversary. It remained a giant hole in the ground at that point, with scaffolding holding people back and posters for lost loved ones attached to every surface. I’ll never forget looking down into the gaping hole that was left behind.

Now the re-build was complete with new buildings, the fountain memorial and a museum. It was the first place I thought of visiting when I decided I was coming to New York. I was pleased to see the atrium had been re-built, as that was the only thing I now recognised. I shed many tears as I wandered round the area, the memorial and the museum. 

The Atrium was the only building I recognised.

I then meandered my way up to Times Square on foot, soaking up Manhattan. I bought a hotdog every few blocks, resulting in three in total. They are small hotdogs and one does not make a meal. But who can hold on to multiple hotdogs? And no one likes cold hotdogs. So I did my old trick from back in the day when I lived here, of hotdog grazing. They cost $1 – $1.50 back in 1999. In 2017, I paid $3 – $4 each.

After this it was show time! I was mega excited. Bette Midler live on stage in Hello Dolly. I paid a small fortune for great seats in the Orchestra level row L. I wanted to see every expression on Bette’s face. Get this. Goldie Hawn was two rows in front of me. Did you get that? I could mostly only see her from behind, but now and then she would turn to her companion, not Kurt Russell, and you could see it was definitely her. That’s one way to make this night even better.

Hello Broadway

The girl next to me was not subtle in trying to take photos of Goldie. I was satisfied with a head shot from behind, but she sat there with the phone camera on ready to push the moment Goldie turned her head. Even though we weren’t together, it was a little embarrassing.

Goldie Hawn’s head

I loved every second of Hello Dolly. I was blown away. I’d forgotten how comedic Bette can be. I was laughing to the point of tears. My stomach hurt. There she was, as large as life in front of me, performing for me. I was in awe. I was lost in the music and the story and in Bette. She still has it, and it was so worth it. 

Once the final number was done and the audience clapped, an usher came to collect Goldie, literally ushering her out of her seat, “Follow me Miss Hawn.” I felt bad for her. She had come to see her friend perform and was trying to clap for her friend, but she was being dragged out. She got up as instructed but took a last turn to the stage and gave an enthusiastic clap as was dragged away. The price of fame is being whisked away so you don’t get stuck in the crowd. But you miss the bows and curtain calls and a chance to yell out to your friend on stage.

I was on cloud nine. I was as light as a feather floating my way back to my hotel. I wanted to feel like this always. If it was a movie, I would have been dancing down the street. I wanted to dance down the street. In my head I was. I was musing on how wonderful my life was and how lucky I was to do something like see Bette Midler live.

Along the way, I passed some homeless people sleeping in doorways and I wanted to make them as happy as I was. I wanted to share the joy and happiness that was overflowing in me. I got out a $20 note and wanted to leave it so they would wake up to a wonderful surprise in the morning. But I couldn’t work out where to put it without disturbing them, it being stolen, or blowing away before they discovered it. So I kept it folded up in my hand as I continued walking, hoping I could make it work.

I had all but given up when I was less than a block from my hotel and was approached by a man asking for help. I thought he was after directions. What followed was a long, drawn out sob story about how he had just been released from the hospital and that he had left his wallet and phone in the back seat of the taxi that had picked him up. The details are fuzzy now, so I don’t remember why the taxi didn’t take him home. Maybe it was taking him to a train station? But the taxi company was saying they found no wallet so couldn’t help him. Now he was wandering the streets, trying to get money to get home. He said he had tried the Jewish Centre who let him use their phone to call the taxi company, but that there was no other way they could help him. He did have a hospital band on, but it was all a little fishy. Most importantly, he was ruining my buzz. So I gave him the $20 note I had been trying to give to a homeless person. Instead of being grateful and thanking me, he said, “That’s not enough. I need $40 for the train home.” He was complaining and getting mad at me. So I walked off. I could see my hotel entrance from where we were and was confident I could get there safely, even if he tried to come after me. 

He didn’t follow me. He yelled a few words after me but, I was in the safety of my hotel within a couple of minutes. I was so mad at this point. I’d had an incredible buzz going on and he took it away from me. I feel bad if he was telling the truth, and was stuck in the city with no money, but how was I to know if it was the truth? My wonderful floating in the clouds had ended, and I went to bed with angry thoughts. I was not happy.

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