A Swinging Midtown Manhattan Weekend
By David McKay Wilson
New York City’s hotel boom brought me to midtown Manhattan, where I’d decided to spend a weekend at North America’s tallest hotel, a few doors down from The Late Show studios. I live in New York City’s northern suburbs and typically come into the city on weekend nights to dance. But it had been a spell since I’d slept over down there.
Why not live it up? A guy gets to splurge once in a while.
Our destination was the Residence Inn/Central Park Manhattan, located atop the Courtyard New York Manhattan/ Central Park – all 68 stories with 639 rooms. It opened in December, 2013, so our room on the 52nd floor still had that fresh, hadn’t been slept-in smell about it. It was a room with a kitchenette and a shower with a temperature gauge. The locks were high-tech. The alarm went off without us even setting it. Upstairs on the 52nd floor, rain pelted against the window, obscuring the view at the H&M Building and Bank of America, which loomed a few blocks away. The sky darkened. Thunder crackled. A bolt of lightning struck off a building nearby, welcoming me to one of America’s prime tourist destinations.
We headed for our first destination: Minus 5 Ice Bar, on the street level of the New York Midtown Hilton at West 54th and Avenue of the Americas. The scene was chill when we arrived at 6. We donned faux fur coats before entering the ice cave, which was very cool, at 23 degrees. We wore white cotton gloves and slugged down cinnamon-flavored vodka drinks from ice glasses. There was an ice sculpture of the Statue of Liberty, and Central Park landscapes were etched on the ice walls. You sit on faux-fur pelts and feel your fingers get cold while you drink.
Refreshed after 40 minutes, we returned to the streets on a brilliant evening, the storm having passed, all of New York aglow.
On West 45th Street, we arrived for dinner at T-45 Midtown Diner, the sleek diner designed by George Wong, with a beautiful poem penned in cursive on the far wall. It’s on the ground floor of the 487-room Hyatt Times Square New York, 135 West 45th ST., which opened in December, 2013. At T-45, we shared a beet salad with goat cheese, and vegan chili. The chili was spicy and hearty. The beets were still a little firm, just as I like them.
We capped our visit at one of the city’s newest rooftop aeries – Bar 54, on the hotel’s 54th floor. There, we ordered glasses of Merlot, sipped them out on the balcony, and peered south to the new World Trade Center tower, its spire shimmering at dusk.
Fortified, we head for the Swing Remix dance, was which was part of the weeklong tribute to the late Frankie Manning, one of the Lindy Hop world’s legends, and the man who taught me the eight-count in 1994. Here I was 20 years later, still dancing that dance. In the Jewish Community Center gymnasium on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, the Solomon Douglas Swingtet had hundreds of dancers in motion. All level of dancers were there – from Ryan Francois, this era’s Frankie Manning, to newbies showing up to dance for the first time.
Dancers sort themselves out fairly quickly. If you are there as a couple, you can just dance together for as long as you’d like. If you are there alone, ask someone to dance – it’s perfectly acceptable for a man or woman can make the ask.
Sunday morning dawned on the 52nd floor at the Residence Inn, and we lingered a spell, soaking in the morning light. After all, the buffet was open until 10 a.m. But we lingered too long. You need to show up at the buffet before 9:15 a.m. When we arrived, there were a few scraps of omelet and potatoes left in the buffet pans. The coffee urns were empty too. We waited for 15 minutes. Still nothing. Oh well. I found a bagel and a banana, and headed for Central Park.
There, we strolled down the Literary Walk under a canopy of towering elms, with Robert Burns staring up into the spring, inspired, pen in hand. It led us to a plaza, where the Positive Brothers, brimming with energy, provided an entertaining performance of street humor, acrobatic feats, and improvisation. I’d been selected at random from the audience, so I spent a good 15 minutes out on the public stage, lining up with five others, and serving as a candidate to be somersaulted over by one of these tattooed black guys. I dodged that assignment, and was left to part with a few bucks for the show. Collecting the donations is part of the schtick as well, and through it, we learn that we’d been watching the show together, and laughing together, with people from the Netherlands, Italy, China, United Kingdom, Ohio, and Boston. The world had come to New York City for the weekend. We were part of that world.