For a while, it was kind of weird to think of New York as a dream travel destination because for four years it was just… so accessible. Sort of the way it’s easy to forget DC’s international appeal now. When a place is at your fingertips, you take it for granted.
But now, instead of popping into ~the city~ for an afternoon on a whim once or twice a month, I only get there a few times a year. And the distance has started to restore a little of the excitement of a visit. And it’s cast me much more decisively in the tourist role. As much as college-me liked to play at being a New Yorker, my relationship with the city was always one of an outsider—but being a proper out-of-towner somehow seems to confer a less contentious outsider status than being a suburban asshole traipsing in on the Long Island Railroad.
But I still like to play at being a New Yorker, just as I like to play at being a Londoner, so even though the bulk of my day was to be spent around Times Square, the first thing I did after arriving was hop on the uptown 1 to meet my friend for breakfast in her neighborhood.
We ended up at a charming coffee shop at 97th Street called Earth Cafe, an “almost Brooklyn”-ish spot that apparently used to be a Blimpies (though you would never guess that now). When I first arrived, I somehow didn’t notice they had a full menu until I’d already ordered a peanut butter brownie—a happy mistake, because the brownie was beyond. Also good: the mocha I sipped as Sarah and I grumbled about the presidential election. And the avocado toast I scarfed down at the last minute to (hopefully) tide me over for the rest of the afternoon.
Filling up at Earth Cafe was vital. Because after breakfast came my most highly-anticipated event of the first quarter of 2016: Hamilton.
I can’t describe how unbelievably good this show is. I’ve been listening to the cast recording so incessantly for so long that all I can really do is point to it and tell you it explains itself. Or point to the many writers who have managed to capture it. But I can offer four tips:
- Again: Listen to the cast album. Give it your full, undivided attention—a road trip or a very long walk or an otherwise-boring elliptical workout are some good venues. I honestly can’t imagine anyone actually properly listening to the album and not falling in love with it.
- In New York? Enter the lottery every damn day you’re in town. If I still lived in the area (or if the Acela was a proper high-speed train) I’d enter constantly. You could get front-row seats for $10. $10! I would offer Lin-Manuel Miranda or the deity of his choice my firstborn child (or, like, my cat, if we’re talking about actual difficult sacrifices) for a front-row seat to this show. $10 is a bargain.
- Don’t have plans for your tax refund? I salute you if your priorities are better aligned than mine, but I also just want to put it out there that I don’t regret the decision to drop $330 on the resale market for a seat near the middle of the very last row of the rear mezzanine. Not for a second. But if you go this route, be extra careful—don’t buy from Craigslist or any other source where you don’t have recourse if your tickets are fakes. I used Ticketmaster Resale because, per Ticketmaster, tickets purchased there are “100% guaranteed” to get you in.
- If you make it to the show, hanging out by the stage door afterward is worth it. I’d been reading a George Washington biography (purchased at Mount Vernon) on the train that morning and Chris Jackson, who plays Washington in the show, signed it for me. And it was wonderful. And I’m a fangirl disaster.
I guess I can try to describe the show. It was a revelation. Since putting the cast recording on repeat months ago, it’s dramatically shifted my relationship with an entire period of American history. It’s made the Founding Fathers feel so immediately relevant to me in a way I would’ve thought inconceivable (and this feeling can only deepen if they move forward with gender-blind casting at some point). It’s made me spend way too much energy glaring at the statue of fucking Albert Gallatin outside the Treasury every single time I walk from my office to the gym. It was a gift to see it performed live by the original cast.
And it absolutely justified taking the train to New York just to eat breakfast with a friend and see my first-ever Broadway show.