24 unexpected hours in NYC

24 unexpected hours in NYC

I'm almost done with research work on my upcoming guidebook as my wife and I review the final 14th stadium up in Seattle on Sunday. This past weekend we visited the fields furthest from Oregon, flying to Washington DC to catch a Spirit match on Saturday then an early Sunday morning flight to Newark to see Gotham play in Red Bull Arena that afternoon. The plan was to fly home a few hours after the game, which seemed incredibly efficient when I booked the flights as in my mind these trips are all about getting work done.

Thunderstorms rolled in as the game ended and we started getting flight delay updates pushing our plane back 30-60 minutes repeatedly until six hours later while on our way to the airport, the flight was completely canceled. Unfortunately, the earliest we could get home was the same flight, but 24 hours later.

When I packed for this whirlwind trip, I added an extra day of prescription meds in my bag just in case something went wrong. And while New Jersey isn't that bad, I didn't want to stay in a hotel near a dreary airport's flight path when the most exciting city in the world was so close by.

We decided then and there: fuck it, we get another day here so let's make the best of it. I jumped on my phone, reserved a hotel near Central Park and we jumped on a train into the city. We collapsed into bed around midnight.

Monday morning, we had zero plans beyond grabbing breakfast with good hash browns at a diner. We'd spent lots of time around Central Park on previous trips so we came up with a new rule for this day: let's only hit places we've never been but always wanted to see.

The Guggenheim was nearby and for some reason I hadn't yet been there. Jenny Holzer currently has a big installation so I was totally on board as her work is always both hilarious and thought provoking. I also really appreciated pieces like Two Kennedy Administration Cabinet Room Chairs in their permanent collection gallery.

Next up, Google Maps reminded me the Cooper Hewitt museum was just a couple blocks away and I've always wanted to go. To be honest, in the past I've skipped it because it's in a baroque, over-the-top fancy mansion and frankly it made me question whether it was a good home for cutting edge modern design and digital art.

Cooper Hewitt lobby

Thankfully, I was way wrong about judging a collection by its structure and the gilded age building held an incredible design collection within.

The current show about Es Devlin's work was fantastic. From the first immersive presentation in a room featuring sound and projection to the display of scale models of all the pieces Devlin has created for famous musicians and concerts, it was an amazing combination of architecture, engineering, lighting, theater, and sound. I had no idea so many things I enjoyed over the years were works from the mind of Devlin.

The rest of the collection was fantastic, I especially loved seeing modern things like the design of fonts and icons on display as well as stuff like Stamen Design's Watercolor maps. One of my favorite old Mac apps was one that changed your desktop background to a Watercolor Stamen map of wherever you were sitting, which was fun on a laptop used for travel (sadly, that app is no longer functional).

On this trip I realized I'm so used to museums featuring things from hundreds of years ago that it was a completely new sensation to see current-day work on display. It was weird and fun to look at things I remember experiencing in real-time as I watched them develop in just the past few years.

Next, we walked a couple miles through Central Park, eventually ending up in Columbus Circle where we ducked into the mall for snacks and some quick relief from the heat.

By mid-afternoon, we had to grab our bags from the hotel then jump on some trains back to Newark and eventually we made it all the way back home in Oregon around 2AM.

Lessons learned

Half a dozen people have told me that if I ever fly to London, I should take Icelandic Air, because they touch down in Reykjavik, but give you an open-ended layover. Friends often say they spent a day or two soaking in hot springs and checking out the countryside having an unexpected great time before resuming their trips abroad.

I've always loved that idea of an open-ended layover, but for the past couple months I've taken my book research too seriously as I flew on tight schedules, treating them more like work trips than vacations. In hindsight this trip was silly, going from Oregon to DC to NYC and back within 48 hours, barely ever giving us a spare minute to stop and smell the roses.

Our extra day in NYC was a blast and reminded me I can and should enjoy these trips more than I am. Also? Most airlines in the US will let you delay a flight home by a day or two for a small fee and if I'm ever connecting through a fun place on any trips, I might very well take an extra day to enjoy myself like this in the future.

Over on instagram I posted a little reel with clips from our extra day:

So that's it. Always read the plaque. Stop and smell the roses. And when you're flying around for a project don't forget to enjoy amazing opportunities whenever you can.