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Emma in New York

April 29, 2011 - Betsy Bethel
For years, my friend Chris has been encouraging me to visit her in Jersey City to see the sights around New York. Either I never had the money, couldn't take the time off for that purpose, or Emma wasn't old enough. Last week, however, the stars aligned, and Emma and I set off for the Big Apple.

Taking the MegaBus out of Pittsburgh lifted the burden of driving and gave Emma and I more of an opportunity to "hang out" on the long journey across Pennsylvania. Besides, it was cheaper than driving. When we hit traffic leading up to the Lincoln Tunnel into Manhattan, I decided the cost of the tickets ($76 each roundtrip) was definitely worth it just so I didn't have to deal with that!

We unloaded right in the heart of Manhattan, a few blocks from the Empire State Building, which was lit up green in celebration of Earth Day. Our itinerary included hanging out briefly with Leland Wheeler, a family friend and up-and-coming actor from Wheeling who lives in the city; catching "Mary Poppins" on Broadway; and visits to the M&M store, FAO Schwartz, Serendipity and the American Natural History Museum. Eating New York-style pizza also topped the list.

When asked about it now, Emma says her favorite part was going to see the show, but I beg to differ. I think Chris's dog, Kona, was the highlight of Emma's trip. On our way home on Monday, during the 3/4 mile walk from Chris's apartment to catch the train to Manhattan, Emma cried, whined and whimpered for that adorable, sleek, black puppy dog with disproportionately large ears. She decided we need to send Kona a toy especially from her, "so she'll remember me."

It was fun getting to see the sights I've come to recognize from TV and films over the years, like Times Square, the Empire State Building and Central Park. Emma got a kick out of riding the PATH under the Hudson River from Jersey City to Manhattan, and she was thrilled to ride in a real taxi.

"Mary Poppins" was very good but a little disappointing in that it differed so much from the movie version that I grew up with. The sets were stunning and the singing and dancing were mesmerizing — with Cameron Mackintosh of "Phantom of the Opera," "Cats" and "Les Miserables" fame at the helm, a less-than-exceptional production would be an impossibility! But with 50 percent of the music differing from the movie version and an even higher percentage of changed lyrics, I felt a little lost at times ... even sad.

Nonetheless, I purchased the soundtrack for Emma and I to listen to in the car. Perhaps the more I hear it, the more I will enjoy it. Our hands-down favorite, of course, is "Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious." All the lyrics except the title word have been changed from the film, but the melody is the same! In the musical, it is a huge stage number involving the entire cast simultaneously spelling out the word with body motions. If you see us driving through town singing and wildly seat-dancing in the car, you'll know what we're listening to!

I have to share a few of the funny and/or astute things Emma said on our journey.

On the bus: "The bus bathroom is just like a porta-potty, but a lot movier!"

Heading into the city: "There sure are a lot of litter bugs here. What, do they think New York City is a big garbage can?!"

When Chris asked if Emma liked Indian or Greek food: "No way! I don't like ANYTHING foreign in my food. This is America, y'know!"

In Manhattan: "Why do they call it the Umpire State Building? Do umpires live there?"

In addition to Kona, Mary Poppins and the bus bathroom, other highlights of the trip for her included pigeons, escalators, subway turnstiles, revolving doors, giant slices of pizza, roller dancers in Central Park, and the Natural History Museum, where she was particularly fascinated with the live butterfly exhibit, the dinosaur fossils and the film about what she calls the "Big Boom" (Big Bang).

Would I have enjoyed seeing New York "grown-up" style, going to see "Wicked," enjoying a night on the town and not having to keep an eye on a highly valuable pint-size package of my flesh and blood every second? Sure. But seeing NYC through the eyes of a 5-year-old was like a breath of fresh air — which is something everyone needs in the big city!


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Eating a slice of bonafide New York style pizza.