NYC, what is it about you?” asks the opening lines of the song by the same name from the musical “Annie.” Many of my friends have visited NYC through the years — I went myself in high school — but no one has done the city better than my best friend, Mrs. Tonya Warren, who went there this summer.
It takes a Wacoan, I think, to appreciate New York City. My non-Waco friends who go to NYC just tell me about the Broadway shows. But Mrs. Warren took the time to research what makes NYC unique.
When we welcome folks to Waco, we don’t invite them to join us for a meal at a chain restaurant (do we?). No, we take them to Vitek’s for a Gut Pak. Mrs. Warren applied the same logic to the Big Apple. If you’re going to eat a bagel in NYC, have an onion bagel with a schmear and scallions from Barney Greengrass, in business since 1908. She stopped at Coney Island for a hot dog from Nathan’s Famous, selling frankfurters since 1916. She also made a side trip to Joisey for three local eateries: JBJ Soul Kitchen, a community restaurant and nonprofit operated by the Jon Bon Jovi Soul Foundation; Carlo’s Bake Shop, home of “Buddy” Valastro, aka the Cake Boss; and The Stone Pony, where Bruce Springsteen still drops by.
Mrs. Warren did not see The Boss that day, but back on the streets of Manhattan, she did see Caroline Kennedy. She relayed the story with as much pride as a New York tourist who comes to Waco and raves about a Chip and Joanna sighting.
Wherever Mrs. Warren goes on vacation, she visits museums, perhaps because she’s used to the many good ones in Waco. She went to the 9/11 Memorial and adjacent museum, to Ellis Island for the hard hat tour through the hospital for immigrants, to the Neue Galerie with the famous painting “The Woman in Gold.” And she went to Tiffany’s, which if you’re not Daddy Warbucks, might as well be a museum.
One thing I did not know about Mrs. Warren is that she can do a pretty fair New York accent, which she inflected when recalling her conversation with a salesclerk at Tiffany’s.
“What’s the most expensive thing in the store?” Mrs. Warren asked.
The clerk pointed to two security guards and explained that the diamond necklace they guarded had been tried on by only three people: Jackie Kennedy, a New York philanthropist and Audrey Hepburn.
“But what was your favorite thing you did?” I asked Mrs. Warren.
She sighed as she answered, “The New York Public Library.”
When her kids were little, Mrs. Warren faithfully took them to every reading program and kid event at the Waco-McLennan County Library. Of course she’d want to see NYC’s library, the one guarded by the giant lion statues, Patience and Fortitude. The one with the copy of the Gutenberg Bible. And the one with the original stuffed animals belonging to Christopher Robin, which are usually on display in the Children’s Center.
Unfortunately, Pooh, Eeyore, Piglet, Kanga and Tigger were being refurbished while Mrs. Warren was there, but instead she saw the wooden doll that inspired the illustrations for “Mary Poppins,” plus author P.L. Travers’ umbrella. If Mrs. Warren’s family had not dragged her away, she would have spent the rest of her vacation right there in the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building.
The day after my 59-minute phone call with Mrs. Warren — every minute a New York minute, detailing some aspect of her trip — I received a small gift from her in the mail. It contained a magnet from the library with the lion icon and a quote from Jane Austen. Along with the magnet came a card with a painting of Central Park and these words by poet Emily Dickinson: “To see the summer sky is poetry.”
Ms. Dickinson didn’t get out of Amherst enough to visit NYC, but if she had, I think she might have enjoyed accompanying Mrs. Warren to the library. Maybe the poet and my best friend could have sat together on a bench in Central Park, feeding pigeons. I like to imagine them walking the streets together, taking it all in, like Annie and Daddy Warbucks did during their night on the town.
“NYC, I go years without you. Then I can’t get enough,” he sings.
Later in the song Annie says, “To think that I’ve lived here all of my life and never seen these things.”
Have you seen Waco’s wonders? Have you been to Cameron Park? To the Hippodrome? Ordered a Big “O” at George’s? Walked across the Suspension Bridge?
“Most people who go to New York just see shows,” I commented to Mrs. Warren.
“Oh,” she paused. “Well, we did see ‘Wicked.’”