The trip got off to a rocky start. Despite the fact that I had just been reading an article about Hurricane Ike, I didn't process that a hurricane hitting Houston, where both my flight and my sister's flights were connecting could be problematic until Sarah called to ask if we needed to do anything about our tickets. We called the airline, who wouldn't do anything for us, and by Sunday night, I figured everything must be okay, checked in online for my flight, and tried to catch a few minutes sleep. At 2:30 am, my phone rang, with an automated voice of doom telling me that my flight had been cancelled. I immediately called the airline to try to find a solution, and dealt with several of the most unhelpful customer service reps I have ever had the misfortune to encounter. Long story short, they scheduled me on the 12 o'clock flight, which would put me in New York 6 hours later, not connect with my sisters (whose flight left on time, with no delays or problems of any kind), and ensure that I would be seriously sleep deprived by the time I got to Millionaire. I cried myself to sleep for a couple more hours, and when I woke up, checked my flight online again. Only to discover that it had been delayed another 2 hours, which would cause me to miss my connection in Houston, have to spend the night in the airport, and not make it to New York until 5 hours after I was supposed to be on set. Cue more hysterical crying and unhelpful CSR's.
But Bracken saved the day and hopped on the phone, finding me the last ticket out of Sacramento, and rushing me into the car to get to the airport. He was really the hero of the trip, because left to my own at that point, I was about to just curl up on the floor with a "do NOT resuscitate" sign. I sure do love that husband of mine.
The rest of the trip was uneventful, and I do have to say, my first view of New York was beautiful at night. I took my first taxi ride to the Lucerne Hotel, where my sisters were camped out watching Family Matters. They decided to wait to enjoy any more sights of New York until I could join them. They also presented me with a care package from my friend Missy. I looked through the items she sent, but didn't have the time to thumb through the little trivia book inside. This is important later. It was already almost midnight, and I needed to be at the studio at 7:30 the next morning.
We all walked over to the studio together. I was escorted inside where I spent the next 10 hours under heavy supervision. There were 8 other contestants that day, and we got to know each other pretty well as we sat in a 6 x 12 room together all day watching Millionaire reruns. We had to be supervised when we went to the bathroom, got food, or wanted to do anything else outside the room. Occasionally the phone in the corner would ring, and they would tell us they were ready for someone, but the whole day passed without them calling my name. At the end, three of us were told we would have to come back the next day. I met up with my sisters outside and spent of few minutes chatting with the families of the other contestants that they had spent the day with. Turns out we all had really great opportunities to be missionaries. By the end of the day, everyone knew we were LDS, and we were able to show them that we are (mostly) normal and answer a lot of questions they had.
Sarah, Katie and I went to dinner at a little New York Pizza place. Delicious. Then we walked over to the Manhattan temple and did some initiatories. The temple was amazing. You don't realize how loud the city is until you walk into the temple and the sound all stops. It was wonderful to attend the temple with my sisters.
The next day I didn't have to be the studio quite so early, and I was one of the first few contestants up that day. I can't tell you much about it, other than it should air on December 2, but they'll let me know for sure about 10 days in advance. What I will tell you is that the answer to the question I didn't know, the one that will haunt me forever, was in the little book of trivia Missy had sent that I didn't have time to read. I'm trying to figure out how to blame the airline for the lost time and recoup the rest of the million I would have otherwise won if I'd had time to study.
After the taping was over, we finally had time to explore the city. We braved the subways, which really didn't take much bravery at all. I was amazed at how easy they were, and how inexpensive they were to ride. We took the subway down to Battery Park, then rode the Staten Island ferry. We saw the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, and were nearly accosted by a very bold pigeon. Afterward we walked up to Ground Zero. It doesn't really look different from any other construction site in the world, but the presence there is overwhelming. It was all I could to to keep back the tears. I can remember my experience that day, having moved to LA less than a week before, surrounded by talk that we would be next, and the fear my middle Eastern bosses had of retribution, but I can't begin to imagine what it was like to be in New York.
We took the subway back to our hotel, and learned that when you want to get off at
68th street, don't take the express train. We corrected our error quickly, though, changed our clothes, and hopped back on the subway to the Gerswhin theatre to see Wicked. I thought there was no way we would make it in time, but we got there 10 minutes early. New York mass transit is amazing! Wicked was amazing. I loved the show, but I have to admit, it did make me realize I've been involved in some incredible productions.
After the show, we walked to Times Square, then wandered Broadway looking for a restaurant Meredith had recommended. We didn't find it, but we did find a late night diner and I had a delicious Reuben sandwich. We then headed back to the hotel via Columbus Circle. I am amazed by New York City. We were three women, wandering the largest city in the United States at 1 in the morning and felt completely safe. It was amazing. We decided New York is a lot like a large amusement park for tourists. There's lots to see and do, it's clean, there are redes, and there are a lot of people. Honestly, though, it didn't feel nearly as crowded as I imagined it would. I seriously can't wrap my mind around how people actually live there, but I would love to visit again.
The next morning, Sarah left super early to return to Utah and resume her frantic life there. Katie and I got up fairly early and began our walking tour of NYC. We left our hotel on Amsterdam and W. 79th at around 8 and saw:
The Museum of Natural History
A big chunk of Central Park
Secret Service, Snipers and police dogs awaiting the arrival of someone
Saks 5th Ave.
St. Patrick's Cathedral
H&M (Katie's Choice)
Grand Central Station
The Chrysler Building
Times Square again, with delicious gyros
New York Public Library
Macy's on 34th St.
The Grace Building
And finally, the Empire State building.
We arrived at the Empire State Building after having walked over 5 miles around NYC, wanting to go to the top, but seriously debating our time constraints and physical limitations (we were exhausted and hadn't sat down at all all day). We struck up a conversation with two older gentlemen working there, asking them how long the line was (45 min. at least)and whether or not there were places to sit while waiting. We went back and forth over whether or not we could really do it, when suddenly proud New Yorker Phil stepped up and said, "That's it, I'm taking you to the top." He didn't want us to leave NYC without seeing the view. He whisked us past all the lines, and straight up the 80th floor elevator, saying goodbye to us as we got on the elevator to the 86th floor, and collecting no money from us either! We couldn't believe our good fortune. He told us just to to a good deed for someone else that day. I realized that I was actually being repaid for returning the airplane tickets that had fallen out of another person's pocket earlier in the day. It was an amazing end to our trip to New York. The view was incredible, but the way we got there made it even better.
We rode the subway back to the hotel, stopping for a hotdog from Gray's Papaya on the way, then hailed a taxi to the airport. Katie and I were able to share the first leg of our flight, then split up in Houston. I returned home around midnight, grateful to see my family again, but having had a wonderful trip. I had such a lovely time with my sisters, and so many wonderful experiences. Despite the headaches and last minute changes, I would do it again in a heartbeat.