The Story of Tonight: Freezing Walks & Hamilton on Broadway

We awoke on Saturday morning to gray skies with freezing rain and lots of wind. The perfect kind of day to sleep in and be lazy. Hearing the wind howling and the frozen rain drops hitting the windows was like a lullaby, encouraging us to stay in bed. Olivia’s cats, Cappuccino and Marbles, however, had other ideas, so before long we were up and slowly getting a start to the day. With only two things on our agenda, we weren’t in any kind of rush.

We made our way to the corner diner for a delicious, greasy breakfast late in the morning. When we’d finished, the wind was still blowing sleet all around outside the windows, and we had to angle our umbrellas just right lest the wind turn them inside out or carry them right out of our hands. It was cold and wet, but we were on a mission. For several minutes as we walked I was so focused on not losing my umbrella or getting pelted in the face with ice-rain bullets that I wasn’t paying attention to my surroundings. When we entered a more sheltered area I looked up to discover we were walking through the gorgeous campus of The City College of New York. Established in the mid 19th Century as the first free public school for higher education in the U.S., The City College campus is filled with old, stone buildings that are absolutely stunning. Given our destination, it felt appropriate to be passing though the architecturally impressive institution of higher education.

We were on our way to the former home of Founding Father, Revolutionary soldier, 1st U.S. Treasury Secretary, ladies man, and posthumous pop culture icon, Alexander Hamilton. Hamilton Grange National Memorial, while not sitting in its original location, still resides on a piece of the original 32 acre plot Alexander purchased in 1801 to be his family’s country estate, and I couldn’t wait to see it with my own eyes!

I’d been devouring books on American historical figures for years. George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Teddy, Franklin, and Eleanor Roosevelt, Thomas Jefferson; the list goes on. So when Hamilton The Musical was released on Disney+ my brother invited me over to watch it, knowing it was right up my alley. My brother now regrets that day, cause he created a monster. My mind was blown. It’s absolutely brilliant! Lin Manuel Miranda is so talented I can’t even believe he’s human.

I became instantly obsessed with all things Hamilton. I’ve watched the musical at least 25 times, listen to the soundtrack in my car constantly, and immediately devoured Ron Chernow’s book, Alexander Hamilton, which the musical is based on. A little more than a year later and there I was, walking up to the home he built for his beloved family.

Hamilton Grange National Memorial wasn’t open on this blustery day, which we knew before we left. Instead of going inside we walked around the outside, gazing up at the neoclassical yellow house and trying to imagine Eliza sipping tea on the porch while the kids ran around the yard, and Alexander sat at the desk in his study, writing letters as always. However, the picture in my mind was not historically accurate, as I was picturing Lin Manuel Miranda and Phillipa Soo instead of the actual Alexander and Eliza.

With the freezing rain and wind not letting up, we began to make our way back to Olivia’s apartment. That evening would be the grand finale of our Little Ladycation, but for the remainder of the afternoon Liv and I would veg-out on her couch watching Hulu. Not every moment of a trip needs to be filled with activity. Liv and I have always loved watching shows together, especially biopics. It was with Olivia that I watched Medici: Masters of Florence, and The Tudors. We were both obsessed with Game of Thrones during it’s reign as TV’s top program, and if it was released during COVID, Liv and I probably watched it together. So there we were, another Saturday with mother and daughter lounging on the couch, laughing and giving commentary as we watched the biopic about fraudster Elizabeth Holmes, staring Amanda Seyfried and Naveen Andrews (who will always be Sayid from LOST to me).

As the afternoon wore on we slowly started getting ourselves ready for dinner. We had reservations at Glass House Tavern near Times Square that evening before the main event. Mercifully, the rain stopped before we left Liv’s apartment and headed for the subway station. However, the wind had not died down, and it was still freezing cold. We made it to Midtown, emerged from the subway station, and began briskly walking towards the restaurant.

Something I found particularly magical about New York on this trip is that, since my last visit when Liv turned 16, the city had legalized cannabis. Not only could it be purchased in NYC, it could be smoked openly. So, when I saw a weed truck (like an ice cream truck for stoners) I couldn’t resist. I purchased the most ridiculously expensive joint I’ve ever purchased, and looked forward to smoking it for dessert.

Glass House Tavern was excellent. I ordered the filet mignon, one of my favorite meals, and it was cooked to perfection. Our cocktails were so good we had to drink more than one (oh darn), and the waiters were delightful. We had such a nice time, with delicious food and tasty cocktails, and were full and ready to rap our way through the next event, Hamilton on Broadway, when we finally paid our tab and headed towards the Richard Rodgers Theatre.

Once we got outside I found a corner to shelter in long enough to light my joint, and we began making our way to the Theatre. Intellectually I knew smoking the joint as I walked through Times Square was totally legal, but there was a part of me that felt like I was going to be thrown in the paddy wagon and hauled off to jail. When we passed by a New York City police officer who didn’t even flinch as I exhaled a giant plume of Pineapple Express in his general direction I wondered if he’d had COVID and had lost his sense of smell. I’m just so used to hiding my cannabis use that it felt weird to be smoking it so openly and publicly. But I had the thought, I could get used to this.

We arrived at the Theatre before they’d opened the doors, and had to stand outside shivering with the other attendees until they let us in. It was so cold that by the time they opened up everyone was practically running inside. We stopped and bought “Hamiltinis” and a shot glass, then made our way inside the theatre to our seats.

I was beside myself. We both loved Hamilton, and neither of us had seen it live yet, and there we were staring at the stage I knew so well from watching it on Disney+. By the time the stage lights turned up and the house lights went down I was ready to burst. Olivia had told me ahead of time not to rap along to the show, but that was simply not a level of self-control I was capable of exercising, and I was pleased to discover I wasn’t the only one. It was very clear who had and hadn’t seen the show previously, cause half the audience was jamming just as hard as I was–including my daughter, who was singing along and chair-dancing right beside me.

The original cast is long gone, and I could sit here and review the differences between the casts, and compare the two, but that would be unfair. The bottom line is that every single person in that performance is more talented than I could ever hope to be, and they were all incredible. It was the same show I knew and loved, but they each made their characters their own in some small way, so it was like seeing it again for the first time. Magic.

Seeing it live was so different from watching it on TV. Instead of my eyes focusing on whatever the camera was focusing on in any particular scene, I was able to see the whole stage. I could watch the overall performance or hone in on some aspect I hadn’t seen before, but wherever I was looking, I was singing and chair-dancing and having the time of my life! By the time we left we were glowing. All I wanted to do was grab a hot dog from a vendor and watch it again. Instead, we essentially ran to the subway, no stopping for hot dogs which I regretted later, to get back to Liv’s apartment before we froze to death.

What an incredible weekend with my beautiful daughter! I would cry as I drove away the next morning, struggling with my new role as mom to an adult daughter who no longer needed her mama in the same way she once did. The truth was that I missed the living shit out of her, and seeing her waving in my rearview mirror was almost unbearable. I pulled myself together as I crossed the George Washington (“Here comes the General!”) Bridge, laughing when I saw the text she’d sent shortly after I departed, telling me I damn well better have been listening to Hamilton as I drove (of course I was). No matter how proud of and amazed by my kids as I am, there’s a part of me that will always see them as my babies and want to scoop them up and keep them with me and safe forever. It may as well have been a toddler in pigtails in my rearview mirror waving. I suspect those of you with kiddos of your own can relate to that.

Thanks for joining Olivia and me on our Little Ladycation! I hope you enjoyed the journey with us. Come back again for the latest tips, trips and tales, and until then, stay chill and keep hiking, my friends!

Raise A Glass To Freedom: New York for Nerds

We awoke to an absolutely beautiful Spring day in New York City. The sun was shining, the sky was blue; it was the perfect day to explore the Big Apple! Unlike most of my Ladycations, New York came with my very own, personal tour guide. If you’re reading this and you have children, ensure you raise them to want to live in cool places so you have somewhere fun to visit. Being that this adorable tour guide knows me so well, she’d planned a weekend full of nerd-friendly activities! Sure, New York is for the rich and powerful, the beautiful and fashionable, but forget all that. Let’s raise a glass to freedom as we explore the New York for nerds!

We took our time getting ready for our day. We had activities planned, but weren’t in any kind of rush. With the weather being so wonderful we decided our first stop wouldn’t be a stop at all, but a walk through Central Park. I don’t know how New Yorkers can stand to live in their concrete jungle of a city, but Central Park is pretty great. One minute you’re surrounded by traffic and buildings and noise and commotion. Then you enter the park and you’re surrounded by green. You can hear the birds singing, people are out walking their pups, joggers pass by on their daily runs, and in early March the trees were just starting to bud. It was absolutely glorious after the long, gray winter.

We meandered through the park and ended up where we’d been 6 years prior. Strawberry Fields is an area of Central Park right across the street from the Dakota, which is where John Lennon lived, and where he was shot and killed. John’s ashes were scattered in the area of Central Park now called Strawberry Fields (forever). We took some pictures and listened briefly to the street performer singing Imagine before deciding to head over to the Natural History Museum, my favorite museum in NYC.

New York’s Natural History Museum has so much to see. From the first creatures to roam this planet, to the first humans to cultivate its land, to the giant rock that’s been orbiting Earth through it all, the Natural History Museum has it covered. We took a selfie by the big blue whale, took turns chatting with a statue of Teddy Roosevelt (this history nerd loves Teddy! You didn’t think my nerdiness was limited to French and Italian history, did you?). But those were just bonuses, Liv and I were in search of the dinosaur bones, our favorite part. Given the size of the museum, it took a while for us to find what we were looking for, but ultimately we found ourselves surrounded by dinos and taking dorky pictures. Mission: Accomplished!

Once we finished clowning around we decided we were hungry and headed out in search of someplace to eat. We ended up at a pizza place nearby that wasn’t anywhere near as good as those we’d frequented in Italy, but it was delicious nonetheless. After we scarfed down our meal we paid our check and headed back out into the city.

We got back on the subway and made our way to Tribeca for our first super-nerd fan-girl stop of the day. There are a few things that Olivia is absolutely obsessed with. If you followed our European Ladycation you may remember that one of those things is cats. My girl is the youngest crazy cat lady you’ll ever meet. Her other obsession is Taylor Swift (fittingly, someone also obsessed with cats).

When I say she’s “obsessed” with Taylor Swift, I mean she’s obsessed! She knows the story behind every song on every album, every Easter egg in every music video, and even the story behind how Taylor came to adopt her cats (fun fact: Tay Tay has a cat she named Detective Olivia Benson after Mariska Hargitay’s SVU character. SVU came out shortly before my Olivia was born, and is the reason my daughter’s name is Olivia). My Liv is 100% Swiftie. So much so, in fact, that during pandemic lockdown, she even turned her rock-n-roller mom into a T-Swizzle super fan, her uncle into an admirer, and convinced her grandfather to watch the Taylor Swift documentary on Netflix.

So there we were, in Tribeca, Liv wearing the All Too Well hoodie I’d gotten her for Christmas, walking down Taylor Swift’s street. We didn’t see any sign of Taylor, but we did find out that she lives right around the corner from the Ghostbusters firehouse from the 1984 film, which is pretty awesome. What a neighborhood!

We stopped at Bubby’s for a drink before moving on. I ordered a mimosa, and it was delicious, but I was more focused on the people watching. New York City has the best people watching I’ve seen since Europe. Part of that is that New York has the most similar crowd to any European city we went to, simply because it has the most international tourists, and such a diverse population. I was enjoying watching the snobby group of thirty-something hipsters, and the girls in their early twenties trying so hard to look like a magazine cover, and the teenage skater boys who didn’t seem to have anywhere to be. Alas, we did not see Taylor Swift, and finally finished our cocktails and decided to head to the home of yet another boss-ass-New-York-bitch, though a fictional one: Carrie Bradshaw.

During the first year of the pandemic, when everyone was pretty much shut-up in their homes desperately trying to find new things to watch or read or play, my daughter discovered Sex and the City, a show and characters I’d loved for decades. She’d found it just in time for her big move to NYC, and I now found myself walking up to Carrie’s New York Brownstone with my New Yorker daughter. Such a fun nerd stop!

We headed back to Liv’s apartment to get ready for dinner. You know by now that I’m a history nerd. I left my bitch-baby nerd-tears all over Europe, but it’s not just European history that gets me fan-girling like my daughter on a Taylor Swift themed dinner cruise (yes, it’s a thing, and yes, she did that), I go hardcore nerd over American history, as well. In particular, I’m obsessed with the American Revolution, and New York City is filled with Revolutionary era history!

For dinner that evening we headed to the oldest building standing in New York City, Fraunces Tavern. In Lower Manhattan, Fraunces was built in 1719, and established as a tavern in 1762. During the Revolutionary period Fraunces held countless meetings and events for both Loyalists and Revolutionaries alike. On December 4, 1783, a little over a week after the last British troops left American soil, General George Washington gathered his officers at Fraunces for an emotional farewell. Some years later, the week before their duel, Alexander Hamilton and Aaron Burr both attended a meeting there. Speaking of Hamilton, if you’re a fan of the musical, Fraunces is where the tavern scene in Lin Manuel Miranda’s brilliant play was supposed to have taken place. If walls could talk I might never leave Fraunces Tavern.

Sitting in this historic building gave me the same rush I got from exploring the Palazzo Medici, or seeing the place where Caesar was assassinated. Pretty difficult to get that feeling in the U.S. where few physical structures still stand that predate the 19th Century. We ordered wine and raised a glass to freedom as our Founders did, and as Lin made so catchy and beautiful on Broadway, and then ordered our dinner. Liv got fish and chips, I got a burger, and both were fantastic. Liv’s fish was, like, a whole fucking fish. It was huge, an entire family could’ve shared it. My burger was cooked to perfection and absolutely delicious. You really can’t make me much happier than good food, a glass of wine, in a place with awesome history, on vacation, with one of my favorite humans. That’s what life is all about, the moments that bring us pure joy, when you’re so happy and content you feel lighter. More moments like that, please.

We went back to Olivia’s apartment full and happy, and watched some TV before turning in for the night. I was having so much fun, and it struck me how crazy it felt to be staying at my adult daughter’s New York City apartment. We spend all those years teaching and guiding and protecting our kids so that they grow up and can make it on their own, and here my daughter was. Doing it. Killing it. I’m so proud of her. Hell, I’m so proud of me! I made that human from scratch, taught her how to be human, and look what an amazing job I did! If I knew what I did to make such incredible humans I’d write a book, get rich, and buy a house next to George and Amal in Italy, but I’ll settle for getting a front row seat to watch my kids kick the world’s ass, instead.

Thanks for stopping by! I hope you’ll swing back around for the next installment when instead of talking about history we watch it unfold before our very eyes, with singing and dancing and sick beats. Hamilton on Broadway, baby. Bucket List: checked. Till then, as always, stay chill and keep hiking, my friends!

New York: Big City, Little Ladycation

Standing under the 30 Rockefeller Plaza sign

I think it was the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s that started Olivia’s obsession with New York City. Even as a little girl she had sophisticated taste, preferring Audrey Hepburn over Miley Cyrus. Whatever sparked it, my daughter spent her entire childhood telling her father and me that she was going to live in New York City one day. And when Liv says she’s going to do something you’d be wise to get the hell out of her way and just watch the magic.

In 2015, when she turned 16 years old I took Olivia to New York on her first Ladycation. I had never seen the city myself, so I decided we’d explore it together. As you know, I take my Ladycations very seriously, so I planned the shit out of this Little Ladycation. We spent two nights in a fancy hotel room overlooking Times Square (then two nights in Brooklyn, staying with my stepsister), enjoyed her birthday dinner at a swanky steakhouse, celebrated our liberties at the Statue of Liberty, soaked in the view from the top of the Empire State Building, clowned around the Natural History Museum, and paid our respects to musical legend John Lennon at Strawberry Fields in Central Park. But the highlight was Wicked.

Olivia had wanted to see a Broadway show for almost as long as she’d wanted to live in New York. I did some research and spoke to my stepsisters, both of whom lived in NYC at the time, and decided to take her to Wicked. But, I didn’t just want to take her to the show. It was her Sweet 16, I wanted to do it right. I wanted front row center! I didn’t tell Olivia we’d have the best seats in the house. I told her the seats were very expensive (not a lie), and that we’d be near the back of the balcony. She said, “That’s okay, Mom, I’m just happy we get to go. I don’t care where we sit.” When we arrived at the theater and were being led closer to the stage Olivia looked at me, confused. “Oh, by the way, I lied. We’re front row, center. Happy Birthday.” She scolded me, but the smile creeping up on her face was all I needed to see to make the expensive charade worth it.

Both of us fell in love with Broadway that night. First of all, Wicked is spectacular. Such a great story, beautiful, with fun music, and the actors were fantastic and obscenely talented. We laughed, we cried, we cheered, we loved it. After the show we stood by the stage doors and waited for the actors to come out and sign autographs. We’d had such a wonderful night! Of course, nothing is perfect, so I accidentally led us about 8 blocks in the wrong direction (in heels) trying to find our hotel, despite Olivia telling me we were going the wrong way. She wanted to punch me in the face, but we laughed anyway. I’m fairly certain that trip cemented Olivia’s desire to live in New York City.

And so, when Olivia graduated college, after we returned from our epic European Ladycation, she and Carey loaded up a U-Haul and did exactly what she said she was going to do more than a decade earlier: they moved to New York City. Like I said, stay out of my girl’s way!

Having a daughter living in NYC is pretty great (fucking terrifying, but also great). What better place to be forced to visit than a city with endless things to see and do?! Thank god she didn’t move to North Dakota. So, a few months after she’d settled in, I hopped into Ruth Bader Ginsburg, my trusty Volkswagen, and road tripped to New York for a long weekend with my Number One gal! I got an early start so we wouldn’t be late for our first activity of the weekend, something that allowed me to check another item off my Bucket List: attending a live taping of The Late Show with Stephen Colbert!

Oh, how I adore Stephen Colbert! I’ve been a super-fan for more than a decade, and was so excited when he took over for the legendary David Letterman. In fact, when Olivia and I went to New York for her 16th birthday it was during the interval between Dave and Stephen. I was so overjoyed when I got tickets I almost ran around my office screaming like a teenage girl at a Harry Styles concert.

I arrived at Olivia’s apartment in the early afternoon, and after she gave me the tour of her adorable little pad, we got ready to head to Midtown to see Stephen, me grabbing a hot dog from a vendor on the way, cause I was famished. We were giddy as we waited in line. We received wristbands and were shuffled inside the lobby, and crammed in like sardines. It got rather stuffy, all pressed together and masked, but it was so worth it. When they opened the doors and we walked into the historic Ed Sullivan Theater I was in absolute awe. When Stephen came out I practically swooned.

Holy charisma, Batman. He was as charming, and warm, and funny, and beautiful as I knew he would be as he greeted the audience and interacted with his crew. When there were technical issues setting up for the musical guest Stephen came out, jumped up on his desk, and started taking audience questions. He didn’t have to do that, he could have sent his warmup comedian back out, or just made us sit there and wait, but he’s the real deal, folks. It was incredible. If his beautiful wife Evie had appeared I may have asked if they’d be interested in becoming a thruple.

We watched interviews with Marie Yovanovitch, former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine. This was shortly after Putin invaded Ukraine, and she came wearing her “Fuck Putin” bracelet, something she passes out to people who visit her office, which is just such a boss move. Then we saw Aidy Bryant from Saturday Night Live. As one would expect, she was hilarious, and though I didn’t know who she was when I arrived, I was a fan when I left.

Not ready to call it a night after the show, and me still hungry from consuming nothing but a street vendor hot dog all day, we stopped at Serafina for dinner. An Italian restaurant near the theater, Serafina serves Italian cuisine that’s better than the Olive Garden, but not by much. We enjoyed ourselves anyway, having a couple of cocktails and talking about Stephen’s amazingness. I loved that she, too, was fan-girling over my man, Colbert.

My Little Ladycation was off to a phenomenal start, and we still had two more full days of fun! We hopped on the subway to head back uptown to Liv’s apartment for the night. Between getting up at the ass-crack of dawn, the long drive, and the late hour, I was exhausted. I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep to prepare for the remainder of our mother-daughter weekend.

Thanks for reading! Stop by next week to follow along as I go into history nerd mode as we explore more of The Big Apple! And don’t forget to subscribe to Ladycations to stay up to date on the latest travel tips, tricks and tales! Until then, stay chill and keep hiking, my friends!