It’s Up To You New York, New York

 “I believe in New Yorkers. Whether they’ve ever questioned the dream in which they live, I wouldn’t know, because I won’t ever dare ask that question.” – Dylan Thomas


Listen & Read:

5 – Wilough

This Is The Life – Two Door Cinema Club

Free – Cody Simpson


My love. My life. It was hot as hell but there was no place I’d rather be than fast walking on the streets of New York City… Well actually the air conditioned hotel sounded a bit nicer. Statistically speaking, it takes approx. 15 seconds* to see a hot guy on the street, and I had my reflective sunglasses on so I was having the best time of my life, quite frankly.

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I was flown out to visit the city for the second time (the first time was a 19 hour drive with my high school band… my back was never the same) because I sat for hours at the dinner table with music blasting and managed to make over 2,000 valentine cards for lonely old people (I couldn’t think of a more polite way to word it). The plane ride was obviously scary considering it was practically the world’s smallest plane, it wasn’t the same airline that I flew on the last/first time, and the only person more scared than me to ride planes was hitching a ride with me. This person was my mother. But wait! I have good news: The ride was only one hour and 40 minutes! Compared to 9 hours and 40 minutes just one year before! Although the flight was delayed a little bit, it still didn’t compare to the time I spent on the plane to Zurich, Switzerland (which I still miss and want to go back right now).

We touched down in LaGuardia (pretty dirty but I was in there all but 30 seconds as we zig zagged to the exit) and I snapped 1,000,000 pictures out of the window to calm myself down because the runway was right next to the water. We took an Uber for the first time to the hotel. I forgot the guys name, but he was super nice and stayed on the phone with me until he mazed his way to where we were, and when we arrived at the very young and trendy hotel, my mom and I agreed to give him a $20 tip, even after I googled it and various articles say the tip was in the price so we really didn’t have to. He was just super nice and helpful. Oh and he smelled super nice as well.

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So we go to check in and the doorman is in his early twenties, there were about 15 teenagers having various loud conversations, and maybe 5 iPads on the wall– this place was obviously the trendy place to be. Staring at the walls in my own room, the room at the hotel was definitely smaller. NOT COMPLAINING (even though, yes I am). It doesn’t take long until we are hitting the streets, searching for the glowing white symbol of the Shake Shack. Best decision I’ve ever made. I made a promise to myself to not eat beef, and I’ve been very good. Until that day. That hamburger was so delicious and the cheese fries and the strawberry milkshake (even though I feel guilty now about it because currently I’m trying my best to become a vegan). The table that we sat at was once a bowling alley, and I still couldn’t believe I rode on a plane again (thank you American Airlines– I wasn’t used to you, but you treated me well).

Was Chocolate City the first night or the second? That was interesting. So was the shower head and the water pressure; I felt like I was getting beat up in there. The bed really wasn’t bad– Hotels beds always have my heart.

The next day we both agreed to wake up early so we can walk around midtown east. Even with a grid city, we still could actually get lost, and you’ll read that later.

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We walked a few streets over (was it 41st or 43rd?) and got in the line for Starbucks. My mom and I decided to keep going and we came across Bryant Park. Peaceful and green with many lonely chairs, we finished our drinks and then continued on to Times Square. We headed to Walgreens, I fell in love with a watch store, and then we headed back. By that time it was too hot to continue wearing my fluffy red sweater, so that was stuffed into my bookbag as we made our way back and I got ready for the real reason why I was here.

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So I put on my black and white striped mini dress from the H&M in Florence (yes, that was me bragging. Actually, I kind of feel bad now) and I’m out of the hotel once more. My mom suggests we take an uber but I say we can do it by foot.

Well, for the first time, I gotta admit I was wrong.

The heat already had the both of us mildly disoriented. We live in the south and I still wasn’t prepared. But to add to that, I had absolutely positively no clue where we were or where we were going. You see, “W19” and “W 19” lead you to two different places, and I had no clue which place was the right place. So we were tired, hot, and completely lost. I got to the building an hour late; very awkwardly strolled in and greeted all of the other teenagers/VIPs that did other cool things to help people (who were already almost done with their lunch). I instantly thought “this is not where I belong” and “they probably think I’m better than them because I showed up late and came in a dress”.

About 45 minutes later, my heart rate had finally slowed and my skin had cooled from the fans in the room (wearing a dress around fans that are on the ground gives various amounts of Marilyn Monroe moments; thankfully my hands are quick, and I wore underwear that day). We played several ice breaking games and were told about the gala we were all going to in a few hours to celebrate the things we did for our community. We knew about the general stuff, but what we didn’t know is that there would be celebrity appearances. Victoria Justice, Matt Schneider (I had no clue who he was), and my sophomore crush, Cody Simpson, would be in attendance tonight. You know, I wish I would have seen my face when it was announced that Cody would be there. I wonder if there was a flash of wtf across my face, or maybe I actually stopped breathing, but I reconsidered every choice I made about this outfit and even made a list of the people that I was going to tell.

But first, we all needed a new campaign to create for the gala. Not only would we be celebrated, but this was an event for donations to be made for the people in the campaign that we still have yet to brainstorm. So after deliberation and white board scribble, we all agreed to make the campaign about homelessness in New York. Next step, supplies– It can’t be all Negative Nancy the whole night, we needed to brighten the mood somehow. So the idea of making birthday cards for the people in homeless shelters was brought up, and us teens from around the country were divided into groups of two with an employee. My group took to the streets of New York, heading towards the Staples. We were all divided so quickly into our groups and shooed off, that walking to my bookbag to grab my cellphone was hardly an option. Yes, I literally walked the streets of Manhattan with no phone or wallet and three strangers. What if I got lost? I would literally be screwed. The feeling of “what ifs” had my heart racing the entire time, but I made it through, and after individually searching for markers and stickers, we all met up in the center of Staples and walked up the steps to purchase our supplies. Coming back to the office, we were all given our matching shirts and told to go and change (in two intersex bathrooms, which I wasn’t used to, but I’m all about equality). We were then split up into bigger groups and we were all off again towards the gala. I had no clue where we were, but I knew we were going to the subway, a place where Gossip Girl has taught me to never come within 100 feet of. I heard about all of the crazy things that happen, but my first time was literally fine. I was nervous, but by this time I had spent about two hours with these people, and I was glued to them when it comes to maneuvering around the city. The guys and girls that worked there were so nice (even though I thought they hated me because my mom called them three times while we were extremely lost and had no way of making it on time; my mom, by the way, somehow made it to an H&M after dropping me off at the office and then looked around Times Square, then stopped by Just Salad and got a lemonade at Shake Shack before finding her way back to the hotel. All without an Uber because her shameful iPhone 4 hadn’t enough memory to get the Uber app… I swear, I don’t know how she did it). They would see me awkwardly walking kind of by myself after a brief conversation with someone else and they would ask how I’m feeling and start conversation (the people that work at DoSomething are honestly so genuine and it’s such a cool thing to be apart of. I can’t express that enough). I loved the burn my legs had from all the walking, even though my fake Birks don’t help as I tried to walk fast. But soon enough, I saw a tall man in a suit, standing stiffly in front if two lion statues, and I knew it was show time.

Or so I thought. We were meant to talk to the rich people in suits and pencil skirts about the things we’ve done for our community, to hopefully persuade them to pay more later in the night, but right when we entered for cocktail hour and a lot of people started pouring in, I knew I would have my mouth shut probably the whole evening. Thankfully, the interns were my saving grace. They were so kind and cool and offered their hands as we wedged ourselves through people with salaries that I could probably only dream of.

Then, he showed up. And I didn’t really freak out. My emotions more or less shut down. I got a picture of him from behind, which was really creepy, but that’s the only thing I knew how to do at this point. So cocktail hour is over and everyone goes inside. There is a cool video type photo booth in the corner, and glitter and popcorn and gummy bears at all of the tables. Like a New Years Eve party in June. Me and one other girl that I met earlier, Ashley, sit together at a table full of wealthy men and women along with one man’s daughter and her three friends. They got a picture with Cody in no time! I think being around your friends really pumps you up to do literally anything, trust me. From experience, going to Disney World during a soccer tournament with five of my friends, you will literally do anything with the right people around… I wish there was a camera that followed us around that entire time… Anyways, the food was fine and the speakers all expressed how much they love DoSomething. It’s so weird how just months before when this gala was initially brought to me and my parents, we were all sketched out. The plans were vague and we didn’t even know if we were landing in JFK or LaGuardia (the email that was sent to me with the plane tickets said something different than the tickets sent to my parents). But fast forward and I was looking at Cody Simpson perform songs from his new album while I popped sticky gummy bears in my mouth and talked to the friends about the recent Cody and Gigi breakup. Everyone was having fun and I couldn’t believe I was in a venue in New York without my parents or anyone I knew and I truly had a smile on my face (with my phone dying btw).

We ended up raising more than the amount we all hoped for! Everything was winding down, or winding up… The stage become a dance floor as anyone and everyone (like Victoria Justice and Monique Coleman) went up and danced to the hip hop songs now playing. Ashley knew it was the perfect time to get her pictures. She loves Matt and Victoria, who both sat at the same table as Cody. I took the picture of her with Matt and she got a selfie with Victoria… And then it was my turn. I was shaking like a leaf trying to take off my phone case so there isn’t any weird illumination. And I took one step. As I did, I thought I heard someone talking to Cody behind us. He turned to make eye contact with them (probably one of his posse that he brought) and I gracefully put my hand in his shoulder. I ask for a picture and we take one, I held on to his waist like a weirdo but I thought he would put his arm around me too, not go for the camera, but I have to say it made my photo unique.

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I thanked him of course and then he thanked me back which made my heart drop and it was done. I literally ran up to the stage and grabbed Emma, one of the interns that was so awesome, and told her I got a picture with Cody. She hugged me like I said he asked me to marry him, and it made me so happy that I just met everyone and now we are all friends. So after that I end up meeting him, like shaking his hand and telling him my name, and I got another picture of him with another teen Lulu (who was so cool, of course. Everyone was cool) because I asked her to ask him for me. I do regret not having a conversation with him but it didn’t even cross my mind. Oh yes and he hugged me…… Honestly so embarrassing. I hugged him like I haven’t seen him since sixth grade, he hugged me like I was a girl he just met, which I was. I honestly squeezed him so hard there was no space between us, as he tapped me politely on the back.

So at that point, I had accomplished everything I wanted, and Lulu and I got an uber and had a ride back to the hotel. The car was full of conversation about music and The 70’s and wanting to stay just one extra day with these people. We arrive at the hotel and ride the elevator up together. It was an odd feeling standing there. I felt sort of a rip in my heart. Quick connections are weird, but then having them detached from you kind of… Sucks. I do honestly wish we had at least one more day.

We reached the seventh floor, and I had to get out. I didn’t want to hug her because it’s like the awkward thing where you aren’t sure if they are huggers and then there were other people on the elevator and I always feel like I should stay quiet and swift when other people are in the elevator. But we said our goodbyes and I got out, knocking on my door and being greeted by my mom. We watched tv until we fell asleep and then woke up at 6 am for the flight. It was the exact same really small plane and a few minutes before we took off, the flight attendant was talking about how the flight before that felt like a rollercoaster and even she had to buckle up. I couldn’t even try to pretend I didn’t hear what she just said.

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We arrived an hour and a half later, with the ride being even smoother than it was on the way there, finding my dad quickly and going straight to Chick Fil A. Fried food was the only thing I missed about the south. I followed a few of the VIPs and the interns on Instagram , but it doesn’t help with the fact that I hope one day they ask all of us to come back together. Because it’s the type of thing where none of us had the chance to become close enough to travel and meet one another, but we would all still happily hang out again.

My mom and I still talk about Shake Shack and when we want to go back to NYC. I hope to intern for DoSomething maybe the next summer, and hopefully one day not be so lost and confused in the busy streets.
I want to thank DoSomething, for hopefully seeing this post one day and realizing how great I think they are. The employees and interns and even people like me who use it to help our communities are so amazing (I think I just called myself amazing). This opportunity that they gave me by flying me out is something I will never forget, honestly. I also want to thank Lenovo for giving all of the VIPs laptops. I’m currently watching Parks and Rec on it! I couldn’t have received a new laptop at a better time– I’m moving into college in four weeks. I even want to thank Warby Parker. They spoke at the gala and have given the VIPs a promo code for a pair of their glasses. I just got the five glasses/five days in the mail! I think I want the Upton glasses. And of course, I gotta thank everyone that donated for the campaign for homelessness. They really help nonprofit organizations like this one.

I loved this trip. And I would do it again and again. Traveling is such an amazing thing. I’ve run out of words to say….

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Your tourist,

Ken
*this isn’t a source I totally made this statistic up.

UPDATE (9/1/15): THERE IS A SHAKE SHACK IN ATLANTA. I REPEAT, THERE IS A SHAKE SHACK IN ATLANTA.

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