NY*W

About a month ago, I was scrolling on my phone and saw that Southwest was offering their $49 sale. Knowing it wouldn’t be applicable for a ticket between ABQ and LaGuardia, I still wanted to see what the price would be. However, I was able to find a round-trip ticket under $200. It had been 6 months since I had last visited NYC and Fashion Week was right around the corner. I decided to book a flight because I knew how easy it would be to make the change, if I needed to with Southwest.

When I was visiting in February, my friend Josie had commented on my posts that she’d like to join me on a trip. We had originally planned for May or June. That didn’t happen, so I thought, I’d invite her on the chance she was in need of an adventure.

I think what I love so much about NYC is how I easily fill my days with culture, food, fashion, work and people watching when traveling solo, but it’s even more amazing when I can show others my NEW YORK and especially during fashion week or the holiday season.

I continued to work while monitoring the state of COVID in both NM and NY. I wasn’t going to go if NM was still on the 14 day quarantine list in NYC, nor would I go if I had to quarantine for 14 days upon my return. I put it in the back of my mind trying not to get too excited and went upon my days focusing on my work at Macy’s and #EatOutToLiftUp event. I was invited to participate in an online forum about how retail has pivoted in the time of COVID.

https://www.facebook.com/watch/live/?v=618879889055582&ref=watch_permalink

I was also super lucky to be asked to be one of the first training cohorts to participate in Macy’s Virtual Selling Program. Now, if for any reason I need to work from home, I can now work on your styling/shopping virtually. I also may or may not have access to the sister department store with the Little Brown Bag (okay, well I do). All while doing what I love, working one-on-one with my clients and getting some good traction with the event.

Then an interesting email came across my in box with the subject line, “Show in Times Square”. Intrigued, I read on. The opportunity was available to the first few designers that wanted to show 6 pieces for the cost of $500…an astronomical discount for NYFW. I responded immediately saying I was interested. Unfortunately, a few days later I received a response that the slots had been filled. Boo hoo! Oh well. Then there was a change to the Fashion Week, week. Governor Cuomo set the following limits on SS21. The traditional calendar for Spring/Summer Ready-To-Wear New York Fashion Week runs the first Thursday after Labor Day until the following Thursday. This year’s “week” would run from Sunday to Thursday, 3 days shorter and eliminated the biggest days for parties (Thursday, Friday and Saturday). In person shows would have a maximum of 50 attendees, all social distanced. Many designers, like Ana Sui, opted to host virtual shows. A few designers, like Jason Wu, decided to host in-person shows. And, others, like Marc Jacobs (who normally closes fashion week DOWN), opted not to show entirely. So I thought, “what would New York Fashion Week look like without Fashion…NY*W?”

The week before, our scheduled trip, I noticed NM had been taken off of NY Health Department’s website for having to quarantine. My heart skipped a bit. The real test would be New Mexico. Would I have to quarantine after I traveled? And, then a miracle happened; thank you angels! The Governor lifted the quarantine requirement after traveling. However, I still had nightmares about Labor Day Weekend, this is…COVID cases flaring and being stopped at the gate to be told to turn around.

I worked Friday and Saturday of Labor Weekend. I woke Sunday morning took a deep breath and decided to do it. I texted Josie and she was feeling as anxious as I was but decided to go for it. I think what we were both most anxious about beyond the obvious, was the judgement. How could we travel especially to large metropolitan city like, NYC, where it would seem impossible to socially distance? Well, we knew all the safety precautions we would take. Packing was so different than what I’m used to.

Tuesday morning, I awoke around 5a.m. Wanting to hit snooze, I pulled myself out of bed and got the coffee going. I had packed the night before, but used a carry-on and could barely close it. I was flying Southwest and had forgotten I could check my bag. Not that I was going for a week, but I wanted options from day-to-night and have additional room in case I found some fabulous fabric. I arrived at Josie’s 20 after 7:00am. She climbed into the jeep and we arrived at the airport 15 mins later. It was a ghost town. There was no line at TSA and no one walking through the airport. Most eateries were closed. We found one open and grabbed a libation to chill the nerves. We boarded the plane less than an hour later. While it was a full flight, every middle seat was to remain open, unless traveling with loved ones.

Feeling the butterflies, we arrived in grey and drizzling Chicago for a 40 minute layover. Again, even though it was mid day, it still was not what I expected for a September day. The next leg was the same with the plane full minus the middle seats. I plugged in my ear buds and watched the free movie options on Southwest app. As we started our decent, I could see the Statue of Liberty waving me home and all I could do was smile under my mask.

Sitting in the front row, we popped out of the plane as soon as those cabin doors opened. The airport was once again a ghost town. We grabbed our bags from baggage claim and jumped into an Uber. Driving through the city with the windows open that familiar late summer breeze gave me all the feels. As we strolled down the streets, I thought about all the stories I read through out the past 6 months. So many boarded up businesses, the streets mostly vacated with dots of people most wearing masks, it wasn’t the same New York I remembered from February.

We checked into the hotel with the additional layers of safety. We had to complete the NY Health Department questionnaire. We would not get daily housekeeping unless we asked and we needed to wear our masks in every common area. This is life now. Our room had the Lysol seal on the door. We had 6:15pm reservations at Mykonos Bleu Restaurant and Rooftop Bar, so we unpacked, freshened up and hit the pavement.

Honey, I’m Home

It was a beautiful day outside. The sun was out. It was humid, but just enough to help my hair grow (semi-Monica moment). We were a block away from the Empire State Building and three blocks from, Macy’s Herald Square. Josie took a photo of me and as you can see I was cheesing hard. On Thursday I had plans to meet with my colleagues at Louis Vuitton and Gucci. I was also hoping the Benefit Brow Bar was open again. The last time I had an eyebrow wax was when I was there in February (I tease that I have to go to NYC for a brow wax…any excuse actually). The restaurant was in Chelsea, my stomping ground. AFAR had listed it as one of the top rooftop bars in the country.

It was part of a small boutique hotel like most fabulous rooftop bars. When we arrived we were greeted and seated right away. The restaurant was somewhat empty, but then I remembered I kind of made the early bird reservation. LOL! The restaurant was in white to mimic the Greek Island. We ordered drinks with our Greek server, whom I also believe was the manager. We had an incredible view of the Freedom Tower and as the sun began to set the restaurant steadily filled to capacity. There was fun, upbeat music coming from around the corner and we were trying to figure out how to get invited to that party, but I think there was actually a private party happening back there. Josie was amused by the woman sitting behind me. It seems she was loving herself as she was either taking selfies or videoing herself the entire evening. We ordered light snacks and summer cocktails and cheered to the fact that we did it. After couple of hours of enjoying our first evening in NYC and a few cocktails in, we decided to head back. After a long day of travel and a little anxiety (maybe a lot), we decided to head back to the room. Plus most of the restaurants closed at 9pm. Happily watching Friends, we crashed.

We woke around 9am the next morning. Got ready and headed out about 11am. Believe it or not, the hardest thing about NYC this trip was finding a place to eat. If we wanted fast-food that wasn’t a problem except that there is no indoor seating (indoor dining wouldn’t be opening up until the end of September). Only the restaurants that were able to set up outdoor seating were open and many of my favorites hadn’t opened up yet (if they were able to open ever). We finally found a quaint little pub, settled in and grabbed a bite. The plan was to walk north on 5th Avenue, stop by Rockefeller Center, cross the street to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, maybe pop into Bergdorf Goodman and then head to Central Park. I wanted to take Josie to the Boathouse. I thought it would be a perfect day to sit out by the water.

We made our way to Rockefeller Center and it was odd. The summer time crowds of tourists and employees working the vicinity weren’t there. It was like an odd dream. We took a selfie and then went into Kate Spade. Why not see what deals might be available. Not finding anything we couldn’t live without we crossed the street to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Again, there weren’t many visitors. We made our way around. Josie lit a candle and I took my customary photo of St. Jude, my patron saint. Walking outside, I was stopped in my tracks by Atlas, the bronze sculpture that faces St. Patrick’s from Rockefeller Center. I noticed something different.

The busiest parts of NYC, like Rockefeller Center, were empty of the week day works and summertime tourists

He was wearing a mask. It drove the point home. If he can hold up the world with his two hands and wear a mask, so can you. We headed north again and as we walked, I remembered that Mayor de Blasio had BLACK LIVES MATTER painted in front of the Trump building. It was still there the print facing the tower, there were areas where paint had been spread to try to cover the powerful message, but it was still shining through. We went into Bergdorfs and we went straight up to 5F…the contemporary and emerging designers floor. After looking through the sales rack, again, there wasn’t anything we could live without, so we continued to next floor (I just wanted to share one of my favorite places….KK and boy, remember to scatter my ashes at Bergdorfs). As we walked on the east side of Central Park, I looked online to see if I could make a reservation to the Boat House, only to find out it was closed and once it was a sad reminder of our current state of the world. I next thought, “let’s walk to the Met” and see if we could take in the museum. About 10 blocks later, we arrived at the steps of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. There was no Blair. There was no Serena. Although it was September and we saw, heard and avoided all the children at the park, the steps were quite empty.

I had become accustomed to arriving at the Met and going right in to purchase my ticket and viewing the latest exhibits. We learned that day that is no longer the case. Patrons have to purchase their tickets in advance and make a reservation. It was disappointing and unfortunately, because I had a scheduled call with the #EatOutToLiftUp team back in Albuquerque in less than an hour. I suggested that we go to The Hudson Hotel, to grab a cocktail and sit out on their terrace that overlooks 56th while I take the call. After walking approximately 35 blocks back and going in a bit of a circle (believe it or not, I got turned around), we arrived at the hotel to find out that the terrace is closed and only people staying at the hotel could go in.

We both needed a drink and to get off our feet. We started working toward Times Square and found the Applejack Diner, we took a seat outside. Traffic on the sidewalks was a little more active and while NYC has had it’s share of homeless and the pandemic has exacerbated the numbers, this trip I also noticed a higher level people on the streets with mental and/or behavioral health issues. We settled into our seats and ordered a round of Frose drinks. I received the call, but not all parties were there, so I got off the phone and asked to be called back when everyone arrived. The waiter brought over the drinks and asked if we wanted anything to eat. We said not yet chatted about our walk. Josie had be tracking and I found out we had walked close to 8 miles. I jumped back on the phone and talked through what was still needed from the restaurants.

After another round or two and some free french fries brought to our table, we decided to head down to Times Square. While there were more people here than all the other major landmarks we hit, it was still abysmally vacant, in comparison to a year ago. We took in the electric neon energy and then I had an idea. I still want to be on the Brooklyn Bridge either at sunrise or sunset and sunset was looming, so I asked Josie if she was up for it. I mapped out our route and jumped on the A Train. Thinking we’d get off at City Hall and walk for a while from the Manhattan side, the train seemed to take longer that I had anticipated. There were only a few riders on what should have been the later part of rush hour. On patron had his bike on the train and provided the music until he got off two stops before ours. When we finally got of the train at High Street, and ascended to ground level, I realized we were on the Brooklyn side of the bridge and had to walk all the way across to Manhattan and because the train ride was longer than expected, we missed sunset.

Seeing Dallas BBQ made me think of the clairvoyant I met 7 years ago. I always think of calling her when I’m in NYC.

It was a beautiful night. When everyone at home was talking about the extreme cold and wind in Albuquerque, we were walking across in balmy 72 degree weather. I know Josie wanted to kill me but she was a good sport. We walked along the path trying not to get run over by the cyclists and dodging the people taking scenic photos of Manhattan in the background. We walked back into Manhattan and got into an Uber, heading back to the hotel. Our hotel had a rooftop bar so we thought we’d try to get a seat up there and enjoy the rest of the evening, but like animals featured on WWF, accessing rooftop locales without a reservation were a rare opportunity. We settled on a wine bar around the corner.

The next day was filled with work for me. I was meeting with both Louis Vuitton and Gucci at Herald Square. I had scheduled call with a reporter with the Albuquerque Journal for the event and working with one of the non-profits and partnering restaurant for a KRQE TV segment. I also had a Teams meeting with my virtual selling co-hort. I headed out the door just after 10a.m. in order to get to Macy’s by 10:20a.m. It had been raining that morning, but I was so grateful that it had stopped just before I made my trek. I again was going through the employee entrance on the west end of 35th (I could easily get used to this). After getting through security for my temporary badge, I stopped at the wellness check center to have my temperature taken before I could move on to visiting with the Louis Vuitton team. The entrance is now stanchioned off. Guest have to make a reservation or wait for an opening in order to shop and there is no dilly-dallying. I love that I get to sell LV in NM…I’ve been working to for luxury products for so long and was tired always hearing I shop in Scottsdale or Vegas or Cali when I want higher end designers. We talked about the latest releases. I asked about products for a few of my clients and took photos. I even got to witness the opening of Macy’s and the fabulous welcome they provide to their customers. If you’ve never seen it, you need to go once when the doors open. The energy takes me to a place of the customer experience that I love.

I headed back to the hotel and checked email as Josie finished getting ready. We headed back to Herald Square because Josie wanted to take a look at some of the luxury bags. We stopped by Louis Vuitton, then went on to Gucci. I talked through an issue I was having on an order while getting educated on the product lines. We then went over to Burberry and I made a few connections there. I saw that the Benefit Brow Bar was open and made an appointment for the following day, YES! After window shopping STORY, we decided we needed a bite to eat and I remembered that Shake Shack was the next block north. Since Josie and I were both fans, I suggested it. And of course there was a line and no place to sit, so we opted to head south. I wanted to take her to the consignment shops in Chelsea and I needed someplace we could sit that wasn’t too loud for the call with the staff writer at the Journal. We found a BBQ place with delectable food (while there aren’t as many choices as you’d normally find in NYC, everything we did find was absolutely yummy). I took the call and talked about the event. After we satisfied our hunger we headed over to Buffalo Exchange. The last time I was there I found a Halston Heritage dress and a Kate Spade dress, each under $20. Unfortunately there wasn’t anything that appealing nor could we try anything on so we continued on.

We decided to head back to the hotel so I could connect with my virtual selling team. However Josie stumbled upon another lovely consignment shop, Crossroads Trading. They had a wonderful collection of clothing and I liked the options and prices much more than Buffalo. There were a few cute pieces but again we couldn’t try them on. I also was watching my budget, until I got paid the next day. We walked back and I couldn’t help to think that normally on this day, Thursday, it would have been the first day of SS RTW Fashion Week. We walked by the Flatiron Building and last year at this time, there was a Burberry pop-up in the triangle. This year there was nothing. No fashionistas snapping photos or impromptu fashion shoots, no pop-ups, no store windows highlighting that it was NYFW and that made me sad.

We got back to the hotel and Josie relax while I jumped on my meeting. The day before we walked a total of 11 miles and while we did do some walking, our dawgs were barking trying to recover from the day before. We didn’t have reservations that evening, and Josie wanted to catch the game, so when we finally headed out, we found a restaurant with outdoor TVs. The place we choose had Happy Hour all day. However, there was a note that stated must order food with first round of drinks. Thinking that was odd, we grabbed a high boy and Josie had the view of a TV. We ordered wine and the first waiter asked if what we were going to order. We hadn’t had the chance to look at the menu. The next waiter came by and he gave a better pour. However once again asked what we’d like to order as far as food. We ordered a small plate just because we didn’t understand why there was so much pressure to order food (later we found out that is one of the conditions for restaurants to be open–ordering food anytime alcohol is ordered). We ordered a couple more small plates and had a couple more glasses of wine and then the heavens opened. It rained and rained and rained. We settled our check and headed back to the hotel. The wine kicking in and needed to absorb it with NY Style Pizza I suggested we go to the pizza shop just down the street from the hotel. While walking, we ducked under the awnings when possible and made it over there in time to get a slice or two.

At that time, I found out one of the Chefs had to bow out of the event because his restaurant wasn’t going to be opening in time for the event. That is the reality of life right now both in NY and NM. It made me sad and determined to make this event successful all at once. We watched the rain come down, enjoyed our pizza then headed back to the hotel. It was another night of Friends (perfect way to end the night if you ask me).

I woke in the middle of the night with an incredible urge to scratch the area around my ankles. I could not believe how bad my legged itched, rubbing my hands down my legs in the dark, I found that I was dinner for one or several very hungry mosquitoes. It was horrible. I couldn’t stop scratching and I thought I’d for sure wake up Josie. The next morning I asked her if she had been bitten. She had but at that time not as intensely as me…darn sweet meat. LOL!

It was Friday, September 11, 2020. We turned on the TV and the names of all who were killed in the attacks of 9/11/01 were being announced on the news program. It’s always surreal when I’m in NYC for 9/11 and because it tends to fall around NYFW, I’m often here on this day. One year, I remember heading to ground zero with Heather hearing the names be read as we drove up to the Freedom Tower. Last year, it was a normal day in Paris, France while I continually read about the posts on Facebook. I had scheduled my brow appointment at 11a.m. so Josie joined me. Instead of playing upbeat party music when Macy’s opened the doors, they chose to play a more appropriate yet somber, Michael Jackson’s Heal the World. And again, I was reminded of home and here and all around the world and how this pandemic has played out, but I think it hit home even more when we went to eat afterwards seeing so many homeless on the streets. There were many more requests for food vs. money and even though I heard the comment that there are services that can help feed the hungry, those organizations are stretched thin and while I seemed to hit obstacle after obstacle for the #EatOutToLiftup event. I had the resolve to let go of my ego and do all I can and bring all those I can to make it successful.

I wanted to hit Mood because they had been promoting a number of sales online. I was hoping the option was available in the store. I found a bounty of beautiful fabrics, but not quite the price point I was hoping for so after pursuing the options we headed out. We had reservations that afternoon for Dante, one of the original speakeasies in lower Manhattan. We hit the pavement again. FYI: if you ever want to travel with me know this, I walk ALOT.

We arrived at our location but our table wasn’t quite ready yet. I loved that it was a neighborhood restaurant and we had the perfect view of the Freedom Tower, quite appropriate on this day. There was a trio playing fabulous music. We ordered classic cocktails and I went on to order Italian while Josie ordered a breakfast style panini (I had deprived her of breakfast the past few days). We ate, drank and were merry. It was another beautiful day in NYC and I loved people watching in the West Village. Josie found a rooftop bar nearby, so after dinner we headed west towards the piers. We arrived at the hotel that hosts the bar to find out that it was completely booked, so we started walking back to the hotel. We walked through NoHo and SoHo and saw the cobblestone streets. The area known for the high-end boutiques, reminded me much of Santa Fe, where everything closes up by 8p.m. Trying to gather my bearings, Josie asked if we could get an Uber. I laughed and said yes. We had arrived in the East Village and a neighborhood I had stayed at a number of times the year prior. We got back to the hotel and tried one more time to see if there was an opening at the hotel terrace bar. I don’t know how we did it on a Friday night, but there was. We sat at the bar and had a great bartender who know how to pour a drink and another who caught eyes. We had cocktails after a fun and beautiful last night in NYC, we went to our hotel room and The Proposal was on.

It was the perfect way to end the night except I got the munchies. I went back down stairs and ordered a plethora of food for us but got back to the hotel to find Josie fast asleep. I went to bed to find my mosquito bites had multiplied. This time I put toothpaste on them in hopes it would stop the itching (it kind of did but not really).

The next morning I woke, took a shower, packed my bag and ran out. We had an extended check out of 12:30p.m. It was after 11a.m. and I wanted to head to the Nintendo Store to get my boy something. It was cooler and there was a breeze, but when I stopped in the sun it was quite warm. I headed north 14 blocks to Rockefeller Center, walked into the store, had my temperature taken, immediately found him the perfect gift, paid for it and realized I would have enough time to walk to Macy’s and get my girls a few gifts from Story. I got there just before noon, headed to the mezzanine, picked up a few fun things then chatted with the sales colleague before heading back to the hotel. I walked 30 blocks and shopped within an hour…basically, your New York Minute.

We checked out, jumped into an Uber and were back at LaGuardia within the next hour. While in the car, I read a message from my dear friend. She asked if I was in NYC. I said yes, but that I was heading back that afternoon. She said she didn’t have the courage to travel yet. While I completely understood where she was coming from, it made me think of another message I had received from another dear friend. When I was on the plane heading to NYC, she said, “You only live once and sometimes you have to live to LIVE instead of live to die. Be safe out there. Love you.” I was anxious about going but I was also in dire need to be able to travel again. I took all the safety precautions possible. NYC is very much a part of who I am and I had to see the current state for myself and as surreal as it was (sometimes reminding me of moments of I Am Legend), it still gave me all the feels of home. Plus, I was much more worried about getting West Nile Virus than COVID-19 (hope you read this as a joke).

While this September, there was so much fashion lacking than what I normally find in NYC. It was still my urban jungle, my soul filling experience. It also put into perspective what I can do back at home, supporting the #EatOutToLiftUp event…and bring some fashion to that event. Cheers to another Ms. Adventures!

With Light and Love,
Dara Sophia

I ain’t too proud to beg….I hope you will support the #EatOutToLiftUp event. Hopeless + Cause Atelier will be participating with a small show at Fork & Fig, 6p.m. If you’d like to watch it, please purchase the DINE IN option or support one of the other dining times at Fork & Fig, Hollow Spirits, or Tako Ten. Not in town, you can still support raising fund for the non-profits by purchasing raffle tickets. Click on the image or scan the QPR code below. PLEASE AND THANK YOU!!

1 thought on “NY*W”

  1. Thank you for documenting our trip! It was definitely strange, but so glad that the timing of everything worked out for us. The food we did find was so delicious and I’m glad I got to see the luxury bags in person before I decide on my purchase. I’ll wear better shoes next time and bring bug spray! 🙂

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