So Hyatt has this deal where if you sign up for their credit card you get 2 free nights at ANY Hyatt in the world. Lydia and I both signed up and then we had 4 free nights on our hands. We used two of them at the Grand Hyatt Berlin in December, and now the last 2 nights were burning a hole in my pocket.
I could have booked us some lame staycation at some stinky ol St. Louis Hyatt but... nah. You know I have a certain... passion for flashin'. I found a list of the most expensive Hyatts in the country and booked us a stay at the global flagship Park Hyatt New York. Per the website:
"Located in the heart of Midtown Manhattan, our New York luxury hotel is situated directly across the street from Carnegie Hall and one block from Central Park. Designed by world-renowned, Pritzker Prize-winning architect Christian de Portzamparc, Park Hyatt New York features 210 generously sized guest rooms, including 92 luxury suites, designed by Yabu Pushelberg. Our stunning and state-of-the-art rooms are among the largest in New York City averaging 530 square feet and feature breathtaking views of the New York skyline and partial views of Central Park."
A standard room at this place costs in the $600-$700ish range. We were initially thinking of visiting on Valentine's Day weekend but they were booked up. Rooms then were listed at $1K a night.
Lydia's sister Zoe joined in on the plan and quickly came through with tickets to a taping of The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. I was very much anticipating this trip.
The trip got pretty interesting before we even left the St. Louis airport. We had those tickets to Jimmy Fallon so we didn't have a whole lot of flexibility in our flight schedule. So of course pretty much immediately our flight was delayed by several hours due to the weather in New York. We went to the ticket counter and painlessly switched our flight to arrive in Newark, NJ. Fuggedaboutit, right? Well while sitting at our new flight's gate we heard boarding instructions for our original flight across the airport. It was back on time!
We were like: AHHHH!!
We jogged back and changed our tickets yet again. This has never ever happened to me so I asked the ticket lady what the deal was and she explained that there was an air traffic controller on the flight who used their pull to get our flight spot back. So... those people are apparently scary powerful. I made a note in my "people not to cross" notebook.
We landed without incident in NYC and took a bus and a subway to the hotel.
I'm not sure how it happened but while we were walking along and pulling our suitcases I ended up in a conversation with a stranger about how Subway raised the price of footlongs. I'm Midwestern nice, what can I say?
With a couple blocks of walking we made it to the hotel. The hotel! It was great, it was grand. It had like 7 doormen standing out front, and when we checked in a lady gave us a short tour of the hotel and then showed us around the room. All that swiping your credit card for incidentals business took place right in the room on her little tablet.
This place looks like where the Wizard of Oz lives.
Lydia's tour of our room, including crazy priced champagne and snacks.
Almost better than the hotel itself was its excellent location. Central Park was like a block north and Times Square was maybe 9 or 10 blocks south. It was killer.
Well as I mentioned I still had that date with Jimmy Fallon so there was no time to rest on one's fancy hotel laurels. We popped into Brooklyn Diner for some lunch. We quickly realized a big downside of staying in a fancy neighborhood: the food is quite pricey. A fountain soda was $5.
I had the "Brooklyn Diner "Dodger" Pot Roast (known as stracotto in bay ridge) mashed sweet potatoes, pan roasted broccolini, our famous noodle kugel." I was most interested in the noodle kugel and it didn't disappoint. It was sort of like a sweet lasagna with raisins inside. Wikipedia says it's a "traditional Ashkenazi Jewish dish, often served on Shabbat and Yom Tov." The dish cost $25 which I guess isn't completely insane but we were eating lunch. At a diner. If I walked into a St. Louis Denny's and just ordered "all the pancakes" the total would not be $25.
Whelp it went plane, baller hotel, crazy expensive diner, then Jimmy Fallon. We were moving right along.
It was funny while I was in New York I had the feeling like I had just entered into a more concentrated version of America. When I saw awesome things I didn't feel "wow New York", I felt proud of America. And so do the garbage men.
We made it to 30 Rockefeller Plaza and entered through the Rainbow Room entrance.
We didn't see a line outside and so were wondering if we had arrived too early. The answer to that question is no. It was quickly apparent that these people were running a very tight ship. Our clueless civilian nature was not going to be allowed to slow down this show. Like the very first rule was "no pictures". It was repeated over and over at every stage of the process. It seems like a rule of life that the most awesome places are the places you can't take any damn pictures. Oh well.
At one point one of the cattle herders was talking to a half of the room that was there only to be the audience while Jimmy worked on his opening monologue. More like monotonous, am I right? I was really glad that we were in the group that got to see the whole show.
There were lots of NBC pages running around and I couldn't look at one without giggling a bit and thinking about Kenneth from 30 Rock. While we stood and waited then sat and waited some of the pages wandered around and chatted up the crowd. A few of them were walking around with tablets taking our pictures, which we could then add funny things to before they were posted on the show's webpage. It was a nice way to pass the time.
The pics were fun but the pages insisted on taking them super cropped like this so you couldn't tell where we were. After the third time I asked why and the page replied it's because the photos of the Tonight Show all over the walls are copyrighted and so can't be in our picture. Snore.
Somehow when it was time to be seated we got a really good spot in line. We were seated in the front row! We were dead center right behind the camera guys, which was cool because I could watch them work their magic as well as see the show. Things got less perfect when the cue card guy showed up, as they were directly in front of my face! I imagine Jimmy was a bit distracted while he was doing his monologue and my sideways face came peaking out around the edge of what he was trying to read. Jimmy did stumble once or twice during the act, and then just immediately started from the same joke, with everything being fixed in editing.
Before, after, and during some of the breaks we got to talk with some rando comedian who was there to warm us up, as well as some of the members of house band The Roots. One guy in the audience revealed that he is from "Springfield, IL, home of Abraham Lincoln" and the comedian guy spent a good amount of time making fun of him for saying that, asking him if he wore a stove pipe hat in his dating profile pictures. I was glad I had kept my mouth shut. Springfield's apparently not as beloved here as it is in France.
It was interesting how the audience was like a character on the show. We were asked multiple times to laugh hard and get excited and so forth. At one point Lydia scolded me for not being excited enough. Only one gear on this motorcycle, baby.
They told us that they don't add any laughter to the show, it's all really us. There were microphones taped to the railing right in front of me. I laughed my beautiful laugh out as hard as I could. You're welcome America.
Jimmy came up and answered questions from the crowd. They were mostly silly stuff but he did a good job of being personable. Speaking of being forced to be excited, I felt like that must be a hard part of his job. He pretty much had to laugh if his guest told him a joke regardless of whether it was funny. After the first scene with Rebel Wilson before the break they both stood up and did multiple little commercial spots for local NBC networks. He'd say something like "Hi Ed in Nashville, stay tuned after the news for my show blah blah." Then he'd do the same thing for the next city. He probably did 5 or 6 specific ones before doing a final generic spot. That little look into the business was especially interesting.
Also at every break lots of helpers streamed onto the stage to talk with Jimmy, touch up his makeup, fill up the water cups, and other such fiddling around.
I was so tired from traveling that I couldn't even stay up long enough to watch the show later that night but I caught the show the next morning online. The guests were Rebel Wilson of Bachelorette and Pitch Perfect and Jack Huston of Boardwalk Empire fame. At the end Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats played a couple of songs from their album. It was quite a show.
Our prime seating position afforded us some excellent shots in the show. You can see the three of us multiple times. I feel like explaining where I am will take a lot of effort so I'll just let you Where's Waldo it out.
I like this one just because you can see me and Jimmy on screen at the same time. We're pretty much best friends.
Still coming down from our fame high, we explored the palatial 30 Rockefeller Plaza. The place is ridiculously ornate.
I've started watching 30 Rock again just to relive the excitement.
We headed over to check out the action over at Times Square. It was a bit disorienting because the giant tv screens were so bright that they turned night into day, but if they were showing a dark scene on the screen then you'd be cast back into darkness temporarily.
What a day.