How my husband surprised me with Hamilton

I just had the most amazing weekend with Scott. For our birthdays he planned a trip to New York City with 15 surprises (including all sorts of amazing restaurants, activities, people, and even a new set of carry-on luggage because ours was always too big to fit in the overhead bins). I knew this guy was good, but this trip was beyond my wildest imagination. It will never be beat, I’m pretty sure.

Let me preface everything by saying I am obsessed with the Broadway hit Hamilton (as is much of America, evidenced by the fact that the show is sold out for about a decade, or something close to that). My kids and I know all the songs and listen to the music repeatedly. I now have a hard time listening to anything that doesn’t have an amazing, dramatic storyline that will keep me engaged, laughing, crying and basically spellbound throughout the duration of my listening session. When I found out we were going to New York, my first thoughts went to Hamilton, but I had no idea how he would get us in. And he would not spill the beans, no matter how hard I tried. He wouldn’t even say if he was trying (though he did ask permission to possibly spend a ridiculous amount of money on something we would never forget, IF he could make it work. I, of course, said yes. But then a few hours later he said he wasn’t sure if HE could. That of course made me bonkers, because I thought, “Well then why did you even ask??”). More on that later.

We got to the city via Uber and met up with cousins Megan and Preston, who live in upper Manhattan. We caught up over dinner at a yummy Indian restaurant Thursday night and slept on a blow-up mattress in the middle of their darling little apartment. On Friday our first stop was at a quaint bakery that created the now-famous “Cronut,” which is basically a croissant donut with banana cream. Super yummy–though I don’t know that I’d stand in line for 2 hours for one. I don’t think any food is worth that sacrifice.  We next img_1561walked in the rain to the 9/11 Museum, which I’ve wanted to see. It was sad but powerful walking through and reliving the events of that awful day and seeing some of the artifacts left behind, like twisted steel and a ruined fire truck. There was a beautiful wall of 3,000 blue watercolor squares and a quote from Virgil about time not erasing you from our memory and a room full of photographs of the people who were lost. Outside we visited the large square waterfall memorial. Beautiful. Touching. Amazing.

Next we went to lunch at a restaurant called Max Brenner, which specializes in chocolate and has a menu that says on the cover “Chocolate is Good for You.” Ha! I liked this place instantly. I shared a bit of Scott’s chicken salad but wanted to save room for my chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and shot of cold chocolate. Yum!!! Keep in mind, at this point there himg_1566as been no mention of the musical I am dying to see, in New York. And we’re IN New York, 2200 miles from home. But I wait . . .

After lunch we went to 30 Rockefeller Center and saw the view of the city from the top of the building. They actually warned us that their was no visibility but we had no time to come back so we pressed our luck and ascended in a musical, colorfully lit elevator ride to the top. When we stepped out we saw the clouds clearing away for us to see beautiful views in all directions. It was perfect! We saw the leaves changing colors in Central Park, the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty and thoimg_1576usands of other buildings (with, apparently, more than 30 million windows in sight). I loved it.

Afterwards we went downstairs to a tour of NBC Studios, where we got to see the sets for Saturday Night Live, the Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, and the Seth Meyers Show. So cool.

Next we went to dinner at a darling restaurant called Bea with brick walls covered in theater photographs and a lighted tree growing inside. We shared a delicious pear salad, shredded pork appetizer, and a pizza. So good! Great company. Scott then relayed the secret of our next adventure. We were going to see… the Broadway hit…. Something Rotten! My heart about stopped with anticipation, but I had heard great things about this show, so I was immediately excited. The show is about a writer in the Renaissance who is trying to beat out Shakespeare and learns that in the future musicals are the next big thing, so he sees a fortune teller who mentions something about Shakespeare’s next big hit, “Omelet could it be?” and tries to beat Shakespeare to it. The best part was the portrayal of Shakespeare as a David Bowie-like, black leather clad, self-absorbed pop star. He had us cracking up the whole time.

Then we went back to sleep at Megan and Preston’s where I tried not to think about the impossible–actually getting tickets to Hamilton. I wasn’t sure if Scott could make it happen. And he, of course, wasn’t saying a word.

First thing Saturday morning, we went to a little French bakery. It was so cool because we had just been walking along this beautiful tree-lined street that reminded me of Paris. Then we sat down in this cafe for another Cronut (and hot chocolate. I was on vacation, ok?) and the couple at the table next to us was speaking French! Were we in Paris? Wormhole? Too funny. We sat and talked about how inflation works and our feelings about the coming election as it drizzled outside. “Bubble effect” we call it.

We finally left the restaurant and headed for the Museum of Natural History, where we saw the outside but didn’t have time to go in because of our long and lovely conversation at the cafe. We were taking a stroll through a wet and beautiful Central Park when Scott got a phone call. He said something about “ok” and “Marriott Marquis.” After he hung up I said “who was that?” And Scott said “no one” and then said we needed to go to the Marriott for a minute. So we high tailed it out of the park and back into the city. When we got to the Marriott, he sat me down and said “I’ll be right back.” I was so curious!! When he came back 10 minutes later I couldn’t exactly read his face but something was going on in that head. Good or bad, I couldn’t tell, but he wouldn’t look at me. I asked if everything was OK and he said “it will work out.” Ah!! I was dying to know if he had been able to get tickets!

Next stop was a little Italian restaurant called Cielo in the theater district. I went to the restroom and then joined Scott at this adorable table up in a little nook by a window. I said “so when do I get to know about the next surprise??” He said “as soon as you find it!” I looked around and saw nothing and he said “look under your seat.” I lifted the cushion on the bench and there, sitting on the dark wood, were. . . get ready. . .  two tickets to Hamilton!! I couldn’t believe it! I jumped up and down and hugged Scott and said I was so excited! This was the impossible, and Scott had achieved it! I asked himg_1595ow he did it and he told me about the process. He had read about ten ways to get tickets. He tried one through eight with no luck. The ninth option was to wait until the hype died down–which would not work for a scheduled birthday trip that we were already ON. Last option: pay a line sitter. He ended up figuring out the best group to do that (Same Old Line Dudes) and paying for two guys (it had to be two because of the particular rules of Broadway line sitting) to stay out all night in sleeping bags. Good at their job, they were the first two in line when the theater released the small batch of daily available tickets (which sometimes don’t get released at all depending on whether the actors have special guests attending). It had worked and we had our tickets! Unreal. I was so full of emotion and excitement I felt like I was going to pop right out of my skin. I held it together enough to avoid making a scene, but just barely.

The show started at 2:00 so we made our way down the street to get in line at the theater. Where Hamilton was playing!!!! What a dream.
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We sat down in our amazing seats (we had to buy premium seats–or enough tickets for our line sitters to attend, which would have been just a few dollars less expensive. Again, line sitter rules! Whatever–it worked.). Our seats were close enough to see all the incredible emotion and expression on the actors’ faces. Wow. I mean, I already loved the music, but to hear the music AND see the actors and the expression and movement and dancing and lighting–it was even more brilliant and amazing and wonderful than I could have imagined. I loved every single minute of it (and those were some expensive minutes–but worth it). By the end I was so emotional from the beautiful story and performance and the fact that I was even there that I started to cry right there in my seat. The theater staff finally had to kick us out so they could prepare for the next show. Outside I just stood there and let tears drip on to Scott’s jacket. It was an experience I will never forget and that will surely never be replicated. I am so grateful to Scott for the incredible effort and thought and time he put into giving me this gift.

We ended the trip with a wonderful reunion dinner with Josh, Mike and Lex and their family, who had taken a bus down from Boston. We ate pizza and then walked out by the water and looked over the Manhatten skyline. Then kids got ice cream and I got yet another hot chocolate (I’d be concerned by now but we calculated that we walked something like 35,000 steps in the last two days so I figured “Why not?” Still on vacation).
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We said our goodbyes and went back to end the evening at Megan and Preston’s place. As I write, I’m sitting on an airplane headed for home, with Scott asleep beside me. I don’t know if I’m quite ready to wake up from this dream but I guess real life needed to come back at some point. It always does. Thankfully, I have a pretty darn good life back at home. And a pretty darn good man going there with me–dream giver, Scott Poelman.

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