Saturday, May 26, 2007

We attended the conference luncheon yesterday, which was highlighted by the lengthiest and totally strangest prayer ever. One of the attendees had been asked to say grace, and she launched into a rather incomprehensible talk about how she went about planning what to say, which seemed to go on forever, especially since we were starving and our salads and rolls were sitting RIGHT IN FRONT OF US.

Backgrounder: As part of the after-lunch program, famous author and Catholic Mary Higgins Clark was scheduled to give an award to a young person who had won a writing award; unfortunately she was ill, and her daughter, author Carol Higgins Clark, came instead.

So the person who says grace mentions this fact, and goes on about Mary Higgins Clark, and I'm not making this up, ends up saying the prayer to SAINT Mary Higgins Clark. A woman who 1) is only sick, not dead and 2) is not a saint.

We almost fell off our chairs with ill-contained laughter.

Luckily the remainder of the luncheon was free from theological gaff, and we spent the afternoon freezing in various sessions. The conference rooms are like ice-houses. My feet may be suffering from frostbite.

After the last session, Sarah, Joyce, our two writer colleagues, and me took off for MANHATTAN! Needing cheap and quick transportation, we found the hole in the ground called the subway (there a station right behind the hotel) and joined the masses heading into the city. We got our tickets out of an ATM-like machine that I was so inept at deciphering the attendant came over and helped. After acquiring our $2 tickets we were through the turnstiles and waiting for the F Train. I was a little disappointed--the A Train boarded on the other side of the platform and I wanted to ride IT. Oh well!

It's a little surreal to really experience something like this--I've seen the subway SO often on TV and movies, it's just weird to really DO it. So riding the subway is both totally familiar and totally new--the crowds moving into the car, sliding into a seat someone exiting has left, people standing, holding onto the bars. People asleep, people reading, people holding bags and backpacks, weird people, weirder people, seemingly "normal" people, people of all shapes, sizes and colors. And me.

We truly flew through "the hole in the ground," a dark journey, cars swaying, roaring, garbled announcements of what station you're at, the train stopping, another intake and outflow of people, all the while you're watching for YOUR exit. Which came up fairly fast--42nd street!

We get off the train and walk a fairly long way to find the sun--what there is of it in the tall canyons of the city. Plenty of the usual people, cars, taxis, busses, etc.The noise of the city is like a cacaphonic symphony--it never stops, it may ebb and flow like pianissimo and forte, but always there.

We were headed for Rockefeller Center. We made a couple of shopping stops on the way and gawked like the tourists we were at buildings and street names and people and landmarks.

Rockefeller Center is much smaller than I imagined. Of course, no Christmas tree now, and no skating. It's filled with a restaurant and tables right now, lots of people and color but nothing really unusual. But it was another of those things so instantly familiar, it's as if you'd been there a hundred times, not just once.

We went into the NBC store and it had lots of overpriced items from all the NBC shows, from Today to Jay Leno. Was I as thinking of picking up something for a couple people on my list, but nothing they had was very exciting and I didn't think a Today show mug was very compelling for $15.

So after lingering a moment in the plaza, we tried to find the Waldorf Astoria hotel to use the restroom, because we knew it would be nice! LOL! Unfortunately we did not find it, so settled for the restroom at Saks 5th Avenue! Yes! I've used the restroom at Saks. On our way out, I spied Jimmy Choo handbags...I wanted to go just touch them, but contained myself. (Ed. note: A friend of mine found the Jimmy Choo shoestore, and actually touched a pair of $895 Jimmy Choos. High-heeled gold flipflops.)

Then we went on to St. Patrick's Cathedral, home of the Archdiocese of New York. Cardinal Egan was saying mass at 6:30 for the group. There was a regular mass going on when we got there, but it's such a tourist attraction--all kinds of people walking around, looking at stuff, checking out the side chapels with their candles and statues, going into the little gift shop, reading all the plaques, etc. The altar area is just amazing--soaring butresses and arches, all granite, big stained glass windows, lots of gold, two altars, an ambo, the bapistry at the side, and on the second level at the back, just a magnificent pipe organ.

The 5 p.m. mass ended as we were looking around and we sat down near the front around 6:15, as I am like a little kid and wanted to see everything.

The pews are very old, very straight, very hard, and I had to sit there for an hour and a half :)

Once the mass started the pagentry of it is quite arresting. The procession in with all the priests who were concelebrating (probably a dozen, including our own Monsignor Campion), several other priests and servers, and the two cutest altar boys I have ever seen. They were positively cherubic, one blond, the other a redhead, maybe about Julian's age. Quite the contrast to the cardinal!

A lady was cantor, she had a lovely voice, and the youth choir also sang--they were very good. The cardinal doe sa very by-the-book mass, it's quite the dance though with so many people helping out and celebrating along. Everyone seemed to know what to do, though--it was well planned. I was very bad and took pictures during the proceedings.

I liked the end the best (oh, how did you guess!) because the choir sang a hymn to the melody of Song of Joy and then the organ took it up with the bass on high. Made you feel you'd REALLY been to church!

then it was back on a chartered bus to the hotel. A group of us connected to OSV were being taken to dinner by our boss, Greg E. He has done some research (he'd thought about eating in Manhattan but it was NOT cheap) so we ended up at an Italian place called Queen, which proclaimed it had won the AOL cityguide best in the city award (for Italian). And it was within walking distance of the hotel.

Not a very big place, packed full of tables, a small bar, and the kind of personal service that the best places have. And I can see why it was recommended, for the food was delicious, from the bread basket to the appetizers (fresh, homemade motzarella!) to my main course of spaghetti with a spicy marinara sauce and shrimp (it has an Italian name that I will never be able to reproduce). Our boss is into wine, so he ordered a couple bottles for us, both Italian, a white and a red. I drank the white, and tasted the red, and both were very good. Very. For dessert, I shared a very Italian dessert that included almond biscotti and a snifter of very sweet wine. You dip the biscotti in the wine and hhhmmmmmm. Pretty good stuff.

Afterwards, we rolled down the sidewalk (this was about 11 p.m.) and a group of us walked down Montague Street to the Promenade. Again, full of people even that late (I always thought "the city that never sleeps" was an exaggeration, but I was wrong). And the views of Manhattan and the bridges were ------ (insert my favorite glowing over used adjective there).

Finally in bed about 12:30, and just beat.

Today has been good--no big excursions, though. Sessions all day. We skipped the formal lunch and walked down to Fulton Street. I wanted real NYC pizza and how lucky to have a place nearby to get it! We got pepperoni and diet cokes and sat at a picnic table and just enjoyed the food and the day--it was sunny and borderline hot but not too much.

Then we walked down Fulton Street Mall (me having discovered it's called a "mall" because only buses are allowed down the street)--Sarah and Joyce wanted to hit Macy's again. I went out onto the street and hit all the funky discount department stores, full of cheap, cute clothes and people and activity. Didn't buy much, but so fun to check out the stores, the little stores and venders on the sidewalk, and people what.

In Ft. Wayne, if I walked by a couple talking with voices raised, or even someone talking rather violently into a cellphone, I might call 911. Not in NYC. It IS just like on TV and movies--LOTS of people having raised-voice conversations of some kind. I think that is so cool.

On Fulton Street, I was one of the only people like me...a dressed up white woman. I didn't care, nor did anyone else, but how different from the Summit City, where we are so segregated it's never the case (although it was when I worked for Frost and I movd in and out of the neighbors everyday, and liked it a lot). I wonder if the downtown project will help that little deficiency at all?

Tonight the Big Banquet, and I get to wear my H&M dress with my marked-down Von Maur jacket, and my Payless Shoes. Those Sex in the city girls have nothing on this midwesterner.

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