Thursday, December 16, 2010

Donny and Marie, and 23 hours in New York City

May tomorrow be a perfect day - May you find love and laughter along the way....

If you don't recognize those words, you're not a true Donny and Marie fan! Every Friday night, they would end their show with those lyrics.....and it happened again last Saturday night at about 10:00 p.m.!

Being a military brat, I lived in lots of places and have a wide variety of memories from all over the world, but one of the best times of my younger life was my first - fourth grade years when I lived in Billerica, Massachusetts.  We lived there for 3 years (that was an eternity for my family), and it was during that time that I discovered Donny and Marie.  Every Friday night, my friend Jackie and I would watch the show at her house or at mine.  My mom would watch it with us and we all just laughed and sang our hearts out.  I wasn't in love with Donny, but I was in love with the show that they put on.  I never missed a Friday, and if my mom missed it (because they got a babysitter and were out), then I would get my cassette player and hold the microphone up to the tv for the whole hour and record it so that mom could listen to it on Saturday morning.  And she did!! Every last minute of it!!!

We had the Osmond Family Christmas Album (yes a record) and my sister and I would listen to it endlessly during the holiday season.  That continued all they way through high school!  Recently, I found the CD version on Amazon and now my girls can appreciate it!

We would gather in the basement of our Massachusetts home to watch their Osmond Family Christmas specials, even my dad would watch those, and I loved every minute of it.  Donny and Marie take me back to that happy place from my childhood.

About two years ago, I found a DVD of the 1978 season - about 4 episodes - and also the 1978 Osmond Family Christmas show.  Donny and Marie had just started their Vegas show and released these DVD's  at the same time.  I purchased them and Carleigh and Katie were introduced to Donny and Marie.  They loved it.  They laughed like I did and enjoyed the cheesy comedy and slapstick.  Then we watched Dancing With the Stars....and then I received an email from Broadway Across America.....

....Donny and Marie would be doing a Christmas show on Broadway in the style/format of their variety show from the 70's.....I called mom and begged - yes, I did beg!! I really had to be there - it was a genuine need to do this. I didn't want to go by myself, and I didn't want to take the girls by myself.  She agreed, I planned the trip - which I love doing anyway and we were off!!! Myself, Carleigh, Katie and mom - a girls only trip to NYC to see Donny and Marie. 

We picked the weekend, she paid for the tickets and the hotel room.  I paid for the train tickets.  I found a hotel and we chose the train schedule that we wanted and then I had to LONG month....and let me tell you, it was worth every second of waiting!!! I loved the show, my mom loved the show and even Carleigh and Katie loved the show.

So...that's the backstory of my love of Donny and Marie and now here's the frontstory of our 23 hours in New York City...two weeks before Christmas....during the NYC Santacon....on the first above 40 degree day in a couple of weeks...on a Saturday.....with LOTS of people!

I know I probably didn't impress a lot of people with my chatter about the upcoming trip, but at the same time, I found that many of my friends are also Donny and Marie fans from way back .  Friday finally came and I couldn't wait.  I had been watching the internet for any tidbit of info about the show or interviews with them - and finally the day was here.

The girls and I woke at 4:00 a.m. on Saturday to pick up mom in Ashburn (about 30 minutes away) at 5:00, to be at the train station in Washington D.C. by 6:30 a.m., to leave on a 7:30 a.m. train to NYC.

We made it, but not after realizing that the "gated community" that mom and dad live in ...that never closes the big metal gates at the front of the community...actually does close them at 10:00 at night and opens them at 6:00 a.m. and dad didn't know how to buzz open the gate from their beautiful, brand new, single family home, so at 5:00 a.m. dad hopped in the car and drove mom  down to the front gate to meet us and get in our car.  I love my dad...he didn't even grumble, which actually surprised me. Looking back, that part was a comedy of errors (I left out some details), but at the time I was VERY stressed. 

Then to drive into the dark...not quite sure where I was going, with a GPS that recently had been taking us on routes through less desired lands to get to our destinations.  We made it and were down at our track by about 6:30.  

Here we are...waiting for the train...bright eyed, and bushy tailed at 6:30 on Saturday morning.  We weren't excited :)

Here's the route the train took - many stops before we would get to New York:

 You might be thinking, why all the luggage, for one night....the show wasn't until 8:00 pm and we planned on doing LOTS of shopping beforehand.  We each had a destination in mind:
  • Katie - Build A Bear Workshop Flagship store on Fifth Avenue
  • Carleigh - American Girl Place on Fifth Avenue
  • Me - brand new Disney Store in Times Square
  • Mom - All of the above with a quick side trip Macy's Herald Square - that story will come later.

The train left on time and we had a very uneventful journey to NYC.  We had a few snacks and took a few naps, then arrived at Penn Station in New York City.

The hotel was about 4 short blocks from the train station, so we decided to walk.  As we were leaving the station we noticed an UNUSUAL amount of people dressed as Santa Claus.  There were groups of 5-6 Santas (male and female) in all corners and walkways of the train station.  It was strange and we couldn't help but wonder what was going on.  But...we continued and arrived at The Strand Hotel on 37th Street at about 11:00 a.m.  and YES, our room was ready! 

I really can't say enough good things about this hotel.  It is about two years old and very nice!  The employees were very friendly and everything was wonderful.  We even had free wifi and a free continental breakfast in the morning.  It was great!!

Our room:

We got settled and then headed out...first stop, Macy's to see the windows decorated for Christmas and a side shopping trip for mom.

As we were walking, we continued to see MORE Santas! was really bothering me now, I wanted to know what was going on and why there were thousands of people dressed as Santa roaming the streets of NYC.

Here are two pics that I took - one around Macy's and another later on in the evening:

I did discover why they were there, but that will be revealed later.....

So, on to Macy's - I love my mother, but she can be an impulse buyer, and sometimes that can work to the advantage of those that she is shopping for, but on Saturday she decided that she needed a new purse to walk around with, the one she was carrying was too awkward to walk around for the next 5-6 hours with.  So inside we went and then bought one of the first that she saw, add in two sets of earmuffs for the girls and we were back out on the streets.  She switched purses and tried to give her old one to the Salvation Army bell ringers, nope....she wanted to give it to a homeless person, but I vetoed that idea, so the trash can it went and we were off.  Yep, I LOVE my mom! :)

The windows of Macy's were telling the story of Yes, Virginia there is a Santa Claus.  They were incredible, the girls really appreciated them.  I had read that Broadway stage designers design Macy's windows every year and it definitely showed.

Here are a few:

After our Macy's adventure we ventured forth...down to Fifth Avenue - destination Build A Bear Workshop.  As we meandered down the avenue, more santas...and more santas...we made it to Build A Bear and Katie was thrilled!

Then on to American Girl Place... Mom has 3 of her own American Girl dolls and loves this store as much as the girls.  Grandma was very nice during our visit to AG Place, and Carleigh and Katie got quite a few early Christmas presents.

The decorations and the atmosphere in NYC during Christmas was so exciting and there was so much to look at.  Even the American Girl store decorated their windows with festive themes.  The above pictures are outside, looking in to their widows.  So much fun!

The only stress of the whole 24 hours was the crowds in certain areas.  The stores were manageable and for the most part, the sidewalks weren't bad.  At times, you did encounter wall-to-wall people, and that got a little scary for Katie because she wasn't tall enough to navigate and almost got knocked down a few times.  We remedied that by having her walk with us.  We couldn't get near the tree or skating rink at Rockefeller Center, but close enough to get a pic.

Here are some crowd pics and also our attempt at Rockefeller Center:

We continued for a while and then realized everyone needed a break, so we decided to do an early dinner and eat at 2:30 p.m. - we headed to Ellen's Stardust Diner.  Our family had eaten there in April and had a blast, so we decided to share it with mom.  The line was long, but we were seated in about 20 minutes and had a great time.

 Mom waiting to get in - she was ready for a rest

Carleigh was adequately embarassed by the singing waiter. The above waiter is going to be on American Idol this season.  It was a fun time!

Next stop, Disney Store and Times Square.  We were going to do a little shopping and then head back to the hotel to rest for a few hours before going to the show.

The Disney Store was a lot of fun - we spent some time there looking around and then explored Times Square in the daylight.

We got back to the hotel around 5:00 p.m. and had a nice break away from the crowds.  The hotel really was nice, and there was a great deli/cafe across the street.  I headed over there and brought back sandwiches, chips and drinks for us to eat in the room while watching Disney Channel and relaxing.
Then it was time to get ready for Donny and Marie...SO excited!!
Here we are ready to head out to the show:

We tried to get a car/taxi to head over, but that didn't we walked the 15-20 minute walk back to the theater...we arrived in time to take some pics before heading to our seats.

The show started and it was fantastic!  So much fun!!  They started with some of the oldies, then did some new ones, and threw in a few Christmas tunes and included LOTS of brother/sister banter.  It was a great evening.  I wasn't disappointed, and the girls stayed awake for the whole show and giggled, laughed, and sang their way through the whole concert.  It was absolutely wonderful and a great quality time moment with my mom and my girls!

Here are some of the better (illegal) pics that I was able to get:

 Lots of costumes, lots of scenery, and lots of fun!
The show laid out like this:
30 minutes together
30 minutes just Marie
30 minutes just Donny
final 30 minutes back together
no intermission

After the concert, we took a few more Times Square pics - the crowds had thinned and everyone was still wide awake.

Then we began our journey back to the hotel and passed by a Pedicab.  We joked with him about taking the four of us the 8 blocks or so back to our hotel and he said he could do it - and he did!!!  The four of us piled in and he slowly pedaled us (all 400 lbs)  back to the hotel. Needless to say, he got a REALLY big tip!

We arrived back at the hotel, in bed and asleep before midnight, up at 7:00 and on the train to come home by 10:00. 

Most of the train ride looked like this:

The train ride home was an adventure, but we finally made it and were safe and sound back in Purcellville with Don and the dogs by 4:30 p.m.

Thanks Mom for a weekend I won't forget for a long time, and I'm so happy that I got to share it with my girls and my mother!!!

In the words of Donny and Marie:

Good Night, Everyone!