Jul
30

Trip to the Concrete Jungle Where Dreams Are Made Of

I finally got to go on my research trip to New York City this past weekend and I have just returned – tired feet and all. My phone says I took over 81,000 steps – move over, Usain Bolt. This trip was essential to the writing of my thesis, since all of the action in the novel takes place in New York. I got to look through places that I had written about vaguely already and places that I have yet to write about. I just want to thank everyone who contributed to my research grant! The money really went far on this trip, and I think I have a good plan on writing and rewriting many sections now. A trip to New York was the perfect inspiration that I needed to revamp the piece.

Here is a breakdown of my experience:

Thursday:

I left on Thursday on an Amtrak train, getting to New York mid-afternoon. Once we arrived, I took a stroll through Washington Square, which is the focus of my piece. My character sits in this park and interviews people, and so my main job was trying to figure out where she would sit (she doesn’t work in the sun). I tried to find the perfect shady location and then figure out what she would be seeing around her.

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Then, I spent some time at Strand Bookstore – a natural location that Brooke would hang out in, since she is a writer after all. I then visited Union Square and a diner, called Big Daddy’s – which is totally right up Brooke’s alley. Since it was nighttime, I decided to stroll back through the park to get a bit of that nighttime feel. I just happened to stumble on a movie in the park event, which was Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse.

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Friday:

I started out the day by visiting Joe Coffee Company off Waverly Place. This is a classic writer-coffee shop location in New York, as I learned from my previous summer at an NYU writing program. I took a bunch of pictures and was surrounded by other writers working on their screenplays and novels.

Then, I walked down to the Woolworth Building, which just happens to be the building that Brooke’s ex-boyfriend lives in, since he’s a rich kind of finance guy. Touring the lobby was absolutely beautiful and totally haunted (not confirmed but basically confirmed) (it was way too cold to be internal A/C) (especially since it was built in the early 1900s)

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After that, I went to Ellen’s Stardust Diner, where singing waiters serenaded the crowd. It was the type of place Brooke would have been forced to go to against her will. If she can’t handle the awkwardness of close friends singing Happy Birthday to her, she definitely can’t handle a waiter maintaining eye contact while singing Uptown Funk.

Then, I took the subway to the late night hours at the Met. This is a place where Brooke and her best friend, Denise, visit often. Brooke tries to look at paintings for inspiration for her writing; Denise sketches the paintings, as a budding artist. I happened to see a certain painting that caught my eye, so I tweeted about it…

Boom! Fame!

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I have been reading so many comedian memoirs, since my book is a comedy. One of those books, Yes, Please by Amy Poehler, had a chapter written by Seth Meyers. I feel like getting a joke noticed by him means that I’m on a good comedy track. 48 hours into New York and I’m already an Internet celebrity? Heck yeah! (I’m kidding of course. My self-confidence is terribly fragile)

Saturday:

I went down to Central Park to check out the newly opened Belvedore Castle – something I missed when I stayed in New York last summer. I could imagine Brooke coming here, since Denise lives near Central Park. Plus, I think she would enjoy how it is less crowded than the other parts of New York.

That night, I ended up scoring tickets to a new Broadway show that is still in previews. It’s called Sea Wall / A Life at Hudson Theater. It stars Tom Sturridge and Jake Gyllenhaal in a dual monologue show. I had never seen a monologue play before, but I thought that the narrative format would be helpful in writing the narratives in my own book. Since my novel is largely full of interviews with New Yorkers, it was helpful to see how Sturridge and Gyllenhaal mastered storytelling to a crowd. In the first act, Sturridge’s character described the hearbreaking grief of losing his daughter. In the second act, Gyllenhaal described losing his father, while also tying in comedic elements describing the birth of his daughter. It was an absolutely beautiful show.

I happened to catch a good spot by the stage door and… y’all…

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If Brooke has to be in a terrifying claustrophobic-inducing crowd, I know just how to describe it. But totally worth it. I learned so much about storytelling, how to add comedy into a devastating tale, and it was just an incredible night.

Sunday:

I focused back around Washington Square and the East Village area. Then, I visited Amorino’s Gelato and Pommes Frites, which are two places that Brooke visits in the beginning of the novel. I had already written this part, but I couldn’t completely remember what they looked like, so it was a nice reminder. I had remembered Pommes Frites being super dark and had described it as such, but I didn’t remember at all that it had this kind of Shakespeare Globe kind of feel…

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…which was totally ruined by “Give Up the Funk” playing over the speakers.

That night, I got tickets to a Comedy Central taping at the Comedy Cellar, which was super fun! I learned a lot about comedy in more of a live-action format. It was a nice change from comedy novels, but I also learned a lot about jokes and set-up.

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Monday:

Before I left back on an Amtrak train, I went by New York Public Library, where I can imagine Brooke going to work – especially because she’s a big Ghostbusters fan.

All in all, this was a really successful trip. I took a lot of photos, videos, and notes. I had forgotten about the minute details of New York – the cigarette butts, the graffiti, the walking. This was a great reminder, and I feel like I’ll be able to successfully put these details into the book now. I had a plot, but now I have atmosphere. Exciting!

Comments

  1. Wow! Your trip looks absolutely incredible. I completely understand what you mean when you say “I had a plot, but now I have atmosphere.” It definitely sounds like you made the most of your time in New York. I can’t wait to hear more about your project!

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