The first time I ever went to New York City was when I was 6 years old. It was a Cold day in February, and for reasons I don’t remember, me & my family went to the Museum of Natural History. I certainly appreciate it Now as an adult; but as a 6 year old, I found it to be the single most BORING thing I’ve ever experienced in my young life—except for the Giant Whale in the undersea wing, and the Hayden Planetarium where I was treated to a short film about Weather narrated by Al Roker; who at the time was still a humble “Local” weatherman before making it big on the Today show. Between standing in a number of long lines and walking around for what felt like days, it was a day I actually wanted to forget.
About 10 years later, I’m a teenager and I become more aware of things. And during that summer, I wanted to see the City with a fresh perspective. Not just one place, but as many places as I could cram in several days. In essence, be a tourist. My Parents (who originally hailed from the City) begrudgingly accepted, and we went on a whirlwind tour. Day 1 included a number of “TV” related stops—The biggest one being the NBC Studio tour. Since cameras weren’t allowed on the tour, I had to do whatever I could to absorb what I saw—and what I saw were enough memories to last a lifetime. From the “Nightly News” set, to what was then the set of Rosie O’Donnell’s talk show, and then I saw it…the set that I’ve seen every Saturday Night for several years…SNL’s Home Base—which, if you watch the show regularly—gives the impression that it’s a colosseum. Sadly that day, I found out that the old expression of “The Camera adds 10 pounds” also applies to television stages and fixtures. It was a small space, but I’m sure back in the days of Arturo Toscanini it was very much a “Theater of the Mind”. Nevertheless, it was still an amazing sight. The day continued with a stop at the Empire State Building, an overpriced lunch, and then The Paley Center for Media (which back then was called “The Museum of Television & Radio”). It was there where we not only caught a glimpse of some rare broadcasts from the likes of Sid Caesar, The Muppets and a Star Wars documentary from the 70s, but it was also the place where I broke an elevator door. Apparently, these weren’t the kind where you could “hold” it open for people trying to catch it. When they shut, they shut. Unfortunately, I didn’t know this, so when I tried to hold the door for someone, I wound up taking the door off its axis causing alarms to go off, me & my family taking the stairs out of there, and hiding our faces so that security wouldn’t spot us…So awkwardly, ended Day 1.
Day 2 was more “Outdoorsy”, we started the day at the South Street Seaport—which despite the fish smell, still felt folksy and “at home” to me. Not to mention the best view of the Brooklyn Bridge and various jet boats giving patrons a thrill. After that, we headed down to the Battery where we could catch a Ferry to the Statue of Liberty. Taking a look at the view from the boat, all you could do was stare in awe over what you saw—Lower Manhattan in all its glory. The Statue had its fair share of long lines; but unlike the Museum of Natural History, it was a lot more tolerable taking in some of the sights this time. My family eventually worked our way to the Crown of the Statue where you arguably got the Best view of New York (not counting the Empire State Building), and it was there where I took this picture…………….
The Day this picture was taken was August 28th, 2001…
I thought a lot about that trip since then, and I Especially thought about that trip when the attack happened. While a number of friends lost their loved ones and were forced to endure something endlessly heartbreaking, I could only muster a sense of “What If” that paled very sharply in comparison—but not without SOME sense of paranoia. What If I went in there? What if the attack happened on 8/28 instead of 9/11? What if we were stuck at the Statue of Liberty while we helplessly watched NYC go to hell in a Handbasket? Etc. But then I realized just how selfish I sounded, and I started to do my best as an American and cope with what was happening, all while trying to maintain a sense of “Normal”, and also giving people a shoulder to cry on (if applicable). Over the years, the wounds would eventually heal, but the pain still lingers for many. 15 years later, we Still “Never Forget”; Every year, the names of the fallen are read, every year the “Tribute in Light” shines all night, and every year we remind ourselves of a time when something like this not only didn’t happen yet, but we thought it could Never happen in a Million years. Even if the pain dulls down after another 15 years, it never truly goes away. But eventually, pain slowly morphs into reverence which then morphs into full-fledged honor and remembrance. Don’t believe me? Ask the survivors of Pearl Harbor, Vietnam, Desert Storm, just about everything with a memorial site. It will Never NOT be a part of our lives; and no matter how deep or how shallow the pain runs, it’ll always serve as a reminder that we are all but mere mortals. I’ve been working in New York City now for the past 2 years, and during that time I’ve always felt a sense of safety even though I know there’s still a sense of danger wherever I go. But in the end, that’s what New York City is truly about; its unpredictability, its sense that “Anything Can Happen”, and when it does happen, you either go with the flow or you try to change the direction of that flow in some way. Nobody ever knows what tomorrow will bring—not even the weather people—but that’s what makes New York what it is. That’s what make it an indomitable force to be reckoned with in good times or bad, and that’s why it will ALWAYS be “The Greatest City in the World”. The Beastie Boys said it best in “An Open Letter to NYC”—Two Towers down, but we’re Still in the Game. It’s a game that’s never going to end, and just when you think it does, new rules are written and we either play by those rules, or we can make ‘em up as we go along…It would be impossible to describe New York as anything else.
15 years after my first one, I decided at random during a recent lunch break that I wanted to take the NBC Studios tour once again. A number of things have changed in the tour while others have not (Still can’t take any pictures there…odd). Everything is shinier, more HD and more technologically involved than the last time. Me and a VERY Small group of tourists (3 kids, 2 Senior citizens, 2 Parents and myself.) got to see just how much of an illusion Television really is; nowhere was that more evident than looking at the current “Nightly News” set and seeing just how much of it was a mix of Formica and rear projection screens, proving once and for all just how Fake the TV News business can be sometimes. Compared to the last time I saw it when the set looked like an Actual newsroom. We then went to SNL’s stage…I forgot just how small it was in person, but it still remains the centerpiece of the whole building. But as much as I wanted to ask a bunch of “fanboy” questions about the show, it turns out one of the kids decided to do the Fanboying for me. He couldn’t have been more than 7 years old, and he was asking questions about the first show with George Carlin–I mean REALLY technical questions like “Why did George Carlin enter through the audience and not through the doors?” The page guiding the tour was flabbergasted. At that point, I just shut the hell up and let the kid do the rest of the talking–I was both impressed and somewhat terrified for what the future holds…A Future that will probably involve taking over for Jimmy Fallon (whose studio we went to next). If it was possible for something to be Cozy yet Cavernous, Fallon’s Studio fit the bill. I especially like the fact that all the seats in the audience were made with actual leather they use to make the seats of a Ferrari…at which point, the know it all Kid jumps in a seat and proudly exclaims “Look at me, I’m sitting in a Ferrari!” That brings us to all the production suites where they take care of sound, graphics, videotaping and all sorts of things needed to put the cherry on top of a show. It was in this suite where the entire tour got to put together a souvenir video. It was a 6 minute mock-up of a Talk show starring the kid in question, with a different kid as a guest, his father as “The Band”, and myself (wishing I was wearing pancake makeup) doing my best Steve Higgins Impression. I’d show you the video, but it’s sort of a souvenir…also, it would mean showing my face.
But despite that; It was goofy, it was silly, it was well worth the price I paid for the ticket, and it was just one of those moments where you want to step back a little and think to yourself, “I Love New York”…15 years later, I still do, and I wouldn’t trade that love for Anything else in the world…Except maybe a place to live there at a reasonable price…preferably with a Doorman & Security Cameras.
“The Tonight Show With Jonah Brewstein” Premieres in September 2040 on CNNBCBS: A Division of ABC.