SMITH COLUMN: New York is back

Published 10:30 am Thursday, December 15, 2022

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NEW YORK – Dating back to the mid-seventies, I was fortunate to visit this electric city at least once a year. I have never had a bad experience in New York.

Until COVID, the National Football Foundation held its annual induction dinner at the Waldorf Astoria. Then the property was sold to a Chinese group and the Foundation had to find a new home. The event moved to the mid-town Hilton. Not a bad address but it did not carry the esteem that patrons found at the Waldorf.

The lobby at the Waldorf, with the big clock as the centerpiece of a smashing people center, was always abuzz with foot traffic that was unparalleled. Quite often there were countless celebrities moving about without a lot of fanfare. When the virus brought New York to its knees, there was no banquet held in 2020. The decision was made to move the event to Las Vegas in 2021. It returned to Vegas in early December a fortnight ago and will remain in “Sin City” for at least a couple more years.

Now that Las Vegas is home for the banquet, the likelihood that it might wind up in “the City” again is unknown. Happily, for this country boy who will always be fascinated with Manhattan, I was able to return to one of my favorite cities for the recent Heisman trophy ceremony.

I am happy to say that New York is back. The streets were filled with shoppers. Families were out in abundance to enjoy the theatre, Times Square and Rockefeller Center. Traffic was so overwhelming that gridlock meant that it might take an hour to move three blocks. For sure, New York is back.

The tree at Rockefeller Center is as splendorous as it has ever been. This part of town is where you see kids in their stocking caps, smiling and laughing as they and their parents elbow their way down the streets. 

New York really dresses up for Christmas. All the trees and buildings with the simple white lights which sparkle in the snow and rain when that takes place, are a charming and a heartwarming delight. All those classy tiny lights are soul soothing. There are no colored lights in the mix. There are no oversized bulbs. How nice.

They say that Broadway is back, but, like hotel rates, tickets are at a much higher price than ever. A public relations friend, Phil Marwill, says, “If you know what to do there is a way to get around that.” When I return, I am going to let my friend show me how that is done. There is nothing to compare to a Broadway musical. Mere mention of Broadway makes one hark back to the classic shows of yesteryear. Too many to count, but here was West Side Story, Les Miserables, Chicago, Miracle at 42nd Street, Hello Dolly among others which made you pine for more trips to New York even if you only had time to visit the theatre for a couple of days. But $600.00 for a ticket? I’d have to settle for SportsCenter on my TV at the hotel.

Food and drink are not cheap, not that they ever were in Manhattan, but you can always find a place where it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to satiate your hunger.

Years ago, I found a place, “Burger Heaven,” which offered a nice eggs, toast and bacon breakfast for a little over $10. Lunch allowed for a modestly priced hamburger for a little more. Dinner? Now that was another story.

I remember paying $100 for a luncheon steak at the Plaza and wondered if I had lost my mind. Now I wonder if that steak is still on the menu and if so, how much would that set me back?

The museums, the attractions, and the shows. New York is a magical place where you are never bored. Then there was a fellow I know who went to New York for a function and spent his time going to a movie. I was astounded. You go to New York and take in a movie. You can do that in Anywhere, USA. I know there is something negative about New York other than inflation. I am aware that crime can be an issue as it is in any big city in our country today, but on a recent trip, I felt safe in the most exciting city in the world.

Now I can’t wait to go back.