New York. The first time I went to New York was when I was seven on a family holiday. We arrived at the airport, were greeted by a stretch limo that took us to our accommodation, the very aptly named, ‘Quality Hotel’, and spent two weeks wading through the snow exploring every tourist trap we possibly could. The main things I remember from that very intense holiday were; trying iced tea for the first time, going to the haunted Jekyll and Hyde themed restaurant, waiting so long for my food at the WWF themed (wrestling not animal welfare) bar that I, and my two cousins, fell asleep on the table and wearing my flatform trainers out from all the walking. It’s safe to say that visiting New York as an adult is somewhat different.
The streets are as busy as I remember, perhaps even more so, but being a couple of feet higher off the ground definitely allowed me to fully appreciate the unassuming edge of the city’s buildings, restaurants and bars – still, of course, in my flatform trainers. I must say, most of the food I tried, including a ramen burger and live (yup) octopus, was visually incredible. Unfortunately, I ate so much throughout the week that it is all an indistinct flavour blur. However, one tasty experience stands out miles ahead of the rest; this was the Tuna Melt at B&H Dairy. The restaurant opened its doors in East Village in 1983 and is now run by a Polish Catholic and an Egyptian Muslim. As B&H Dairy was originally owned by Jewish immigrants, the food is all kosher and, not only cheap but, absolutely delicious. The whole thing, including a banana milkshake and my ‘overstuffed’ sandwich, cost me $12.50; the staff were wonderfully gregarious as they bustled around the skinny dinner carrying pots of coffee. When I arrived, there wasn’t an empty stool or seat to be had, but, it was most definitely worth the 20 minute wait.
Along with the incredibly over the top decorative food, the scent of fresh coffee and the abrupt demeanour of native New Yorkers, one thing I could not miss out on was going to see Hamilton the Musical. Being an avid musical lover, and always dreaming of visiting the famous Broadway, Hamilton was one of the very first bookings made after deciding to take a journey to NYC. Tracking the life of Alexander Hamilton, America’s Founding Father, this show uses hip-hop, R&B, soul and traditional-style show tunes to take the audience on a journey inspired by a 2004 historical biography written by Ron Chernow.
It’s no secret that Hamilton has been revered by critics ever since the first curtain call on 13th June 2015 and it is even better than I had expected. So, what happens? The musical is, mostly, rapped and is about an orphan immigrant from the Caribbean who came to New York, served as secretary to General Washington, fought against the redcoats, wrote most of the Federalist Papers defending the Constitution, founded the Treasury and the New York Post and he still, amongst all this, had time for a steamy affair. In the end, and this is a spoiler, Hamilton dies at the hands of the wistful and morose Vice President Aaron Burr.
It wasn’t just the diverse casting and sociological import that made Hamilton brilliant it is, first and foremost, a fiercely congenial show. Previous attempts at hip-hop style musicals haven’t come close to the successful writing of an incredibly well informed Lin-Manuel Miranda, who, creatively, manages to bring the show tune vibe into the mix to craft a unique hybrid. Just imagine: the emotions and dexterous melodies of Coolio’s Gansta’s Paradise blended with the hilarious, edge of your seat story telling music from Chicago. My personal favourite is the 90’s-style, classically ‘masculine’ R&B narrative given to Hamilton’s future wife Eliza and his soulmate Angelica. But, as no hip-hop mix-tape does, the show never settles on one beat for more than a few minutes, constantly keeping the audience alive and thrilled.
Of course, without going to see Hamilton, New York would still have been an unforgettable trip. If it wasn’t for the fact that every round trip from England to NYC strips back four square metres of Arctic Sea Ice (sorry), I would visit every season. However, if you ever catch yourself wondering how to spend a day in the big apple, grab a tuna melt and book a seat for Hamilton - you won’t be disappointed.
Original image, property of Vintage Child.