Thursday, July 5, 2012


This was intended to be the joyous sequel to last week's tardy but tip worthy look at teenage birthday parties. Last week was the homey one, the one with family and simple handmade joys. This one is more an indulgence, one we saved up for so we could make a memory for a little girl who has asked for very little. Some sixteen year olds end up with more practical gifts like cars or summer camp. We saved up enough for Emmy to take three of her girl friends from Madison to New York for an extended weekend and we surprised her with her Tennessee cousin who had just graduated from high school. Here's how it went.
In order to find tickets we could actually afford we ended up having to leave from Milwaukee on a six a.m. flight. This meant having the girls sleep over the night before and then getting them up at two-thirty so we could be out the door by three and at the airport by four-thirty. I was exhausted before we even started.
The girls were in charge of their own expenses and our first stop once we dropped our luggage off at the one bedroom apartment one of our clients had lent us was to go for lunch at Max Brenner's where everything is chocolate including the pizza.
All kids are expecting to meet celebrities when they go to New York. Unfortunately the only one we met was made of wax. It didn't matter. The girls felt like celebrities themselves.
Then there was the shopping. We shopped everywhere. I gave them the two keys to New York shopping. First, I taught the girls how to haggle, an important asset for any tourist who doesn't want to look like a tourist in New York. This is especially important when trying to pick up a steal off a street vendor on 42nd Street.
The second key, and perhaps the most important is to look for the bargain. Betsy Johnson was going out of business and having a 70% off sale. The girls couldn't resist trying on some of the dresses but all we walked out with was this picture.
On our second day I had offered to go down to the South Street Seaport to stand in line at the TKTS office for half-priced Broadway tickets. This was the big item the girls had saved up for. I had forgotten that the line for tickets could get rather long. I had also not anticipated on the weather reaching ninety plus degrees before noon that day. When I got there the line was over a city block long on a block next to an open-air parking garage with no shade in sight and the thermometer inching up over ninety-five. Emmy had given me instructions on what they wanted to see and then run off to the cool air-conditioned shops of the Seaport while stood in line counting the hours until I might reach the booth. Emmy was pushing them toward Chicago but one of the outside attendants told me to go with their second choice, Mama Mia. She thought it would be a splashier musical for first-time theatergoers. When I met the girls after the theater I think the attendant was right. They loved it
One of the highlights of the entire trip was an event that almost didn't happen. The night we arrived I had arranged for the girls to do a tour of New York called The Ride. This is no ordinary bus ride around the city. It's not a double-decker copy of London's bus system. It's a $1.3 million theater on wheels. Sometimes the theater is outside the bus and sometimes it's the riders themselves inside the bus. The night we were scheduled to go on the bus they kept on delaying the 8:30 start time, saying the bus was scheduled to show up any minute, until they finally canceled the trip offering next day tickets to all us at discount prices. I didn't think we could fit it in but I'm glad we did. The girls felt like rock stars. For anyone doing a first time trip to New York don't miss out on The Ride.
This whole trip was meant to make up for a lot of lost trips over the past several years. We've got a kid who would never complain but since we couldn't afford the traditional car this was maybe something she might just remember for a much longer time.

I've already let the cat out of the bag by mentioning Max Brenner's but I've got to say teenage girls have a real sweet tooth and so do their much older Daddies. Two of the places we had to try were two of my favorites. Virtually around the corner from our apartment is Beard Papa's. Beard Papa's is an international chain hugely popular in Japan, Canada and on the West Coast but there's one little franchise on the upper Westside where you can get their all-natural, organic cream puffs. I'm addicted to their traditional vanilla custard and whipped cream filled pastry but there are always daily offerings like chocolate, Earl Grey, pumpkin, strawberry or green tea. They fill them as you order them and then dust them from a sifter full of powdered sugar.
After the cream puffs we were too full to actually taste the cupcakes from Magnolia Bakery but it didn't stop us from doing a Jimmy Carter and devouring them in our minds. The Magnolia Bakery started at their original location on Bleeker Street. It's become so popular that tourist buses now make regular stops there and smaller versions have popped up in Bloomingdales and on Columbus Avenue. There are imitation versions of this cupcake palace all over the country now but none can compare with the original.

Moulin Rouge, Sydney, 2000
Ellen von Unwerth, photographer
Represented by Staley-Wise

1 comment:

  1. Just caught up with a bunch of posts: What a great birthday treat! Worth all the loss of sleep and chaos.

    I remember going crazy when I read that list of beige paints in 77 Square. I only know folks with colorful interiors so I can imagine who those other people are.

    And the Bill Brandt photo of the Parlormaids — can you believe that was taken in 1938? Really gives you a sense of how the world changed after WWII.