On a plane to New York City, a few thoughts circle through my head.
- I have no idea what to do there.
- I hope I don’t look like a tourist.
- The hotel is gonna be awesome.
Number two became a spiraling thought that stayed near and dear throughout the entire four-day New York City excursion. I packed my finest blacks, new striped slip-ons, some essential hair product. But as we drove to the airport earlier that morning – something like 6am – I realized I forgot a crucial accessory. My giant, midnight black Ray Ban wayfarers. Fail.
I’ve never been a New York lover.
More of a New York stresser.
helium’s Creative Director, Chris, has a relentless crush on the Big Apple. So it was due time I truly was able to see the city through the eyes of someone who can’t get enough. Like a kid in a candy store, the sugar of NYC remains all over his face.
Inspiration can be found anywhere. We know it and we preach it. What’s great is when inspiration is literally at your bedside. In the shower. On the ceiling. The walls. We stayed at 1 Hotel Central Park, a sustainable and eco-friendly hotel located, well, next to Central Park. The hotel was saturated in rich earth tones, beautiful textures. Pairings of rustic and modern design, a great balance of the handmade meets the not-so hand-made. An abundance of plants were sourced from a local nursery called Brooklyn Sprouts, a typographic living-ish wall. The ish comes from the usage of branches and other raw materials.
So, yeah, the hotel. It was awesome.
Those details we love at helium, those details were all over.
Once we ventured out into the streets of the city, I immediately started to think about my sunglasses sitting on the kitchen counter back home. My cat probably laying next to them. Or on top of them. Me, now squinting all over the city.
Chris gave me his glasses to wear.
For months he wanted to show me the High Line. So it goes without question this was one of our first destinations. Chris is a botanical enthusiast, which is an understatement. Me not so much. But every few feet his finger pointed to another tree or bush, another reclaimed bench or repurposed fill-in-the-blank. I started to gain an appreciation for this project just by being with someone who so genuinely found inspiration from it.
My eyes opened and I saw what awesome design work the High Line put out. A great brand supports the concept, from signage to product there is a strong attention to design. Not only the environment, but the bits and pieces that help visually communicate it.
While Chris obsessed over a tote bag design, I found myself at a gourmet ice cream sandwich vendor. No shock there. I’m a foodie at heart, so there is no passing up interesting food.
Or ice cream.
Never pass up ice cream.
Especially hand-made peppermint ice cream in a brownie and chocolate chunk cookie sandwich. Yes, please. However I threw out the last bite because it makes me feel like I’m doing something good for my body.
A little mouse came to hang out with me on a bench. I never really hung out with a mouse before. He was a nice guy. He tried valiantly to detach a bite of food stuck to the ground. I don’t think he succeeded. But I watched him for a while as a group of people gathered around to take photos, all of us laughing at how cute this little Fievel was.
We made our way to Chelsea Market, another place Chris was determined to show me. I’ll love NYC if it’s the death of him.
I couldn’t stand the glare of sun in my eyes and lack of cool dressing my face, so I broke down and bought a pair of $10 sunglasses. They give my almost $200 Ray Bans a run for their money. Another New York perk.
Once in the Market, a mass of people and design and food and smells and art and fashion spread across our path. Where I first wanted to dive to the nearest open space to breathe, my eyes kept catching shiny objects. Things that pulled me forward to investigate further. Fashion designers selling clothes, artists showing off their work, cafes offering samples of food. It was life everywhere.
An exchange of energy everywhere.
And maybe in that moment my hardened shell of an opinion of New York began to crack.
As I touched fabric, spoke to designers, bought a cool wallet directly from the guy who made it. There was something infectious about it all.
The next days in the city continued to unfold like a good mystery. The excitement of watching a show on Broadway filled with amazing costumes, lighting design, energy. Consumed by people who live for what they love. Surrounded by passion and excitement for art. For creation.
We made our way through Central Park, Chris expressing his love for this giant green space within the heart of such a thriving city. We grabbed breakfast from a vendor in the park – thick, homemade waffles with powdered sugar, crispy bacon covered in maple syrup.
I don’t want a bite, I told Chris as I shoveled half the waffle in my mouth by accident.
And so the day went.
One moment after another of tasty bites, both the literal shove-it-in-your-mouth kind, as well as the figurative oh-check-out-that-awesome-fill-in-the-blank kind. Moments of surprise, moments of cool whatever. But best of all, moments of wandering through a pulsating city with someone who makes me smile, someone who turns every corner with the wide-eyes of a little boy discovering Santa Claus.
We ended up at One World and the Oculus, two places Chris was determined to show me. After a glorious 45-minute line in sweltering heat dressed in a full black ensemble – refer back to circling thought number two and not wanting to look like a tourist – I couldn’t feel more like a tourist whilst waiting to sightsee. But I started to care a little less.
Maybe it’s New York infusing a little attitude in me.
Maybe I’m becoming a New Yorker.
Nah, I’m a Floridian at heart.
Chris tells me he came to the Oculus before it was open to the public. He laid on the floor to photograph the ceiling of intricate architecture. The skeletal structure resembling a whale carcass – or something. A building unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Chris starts talking about design, about the architectural focus on every detail. He says how unnecessary the elaborate design is for the building structurally, but how it was built with such a keen focus on aesthetics. This makes it a triumph in his eyes.
He continued talking about New York architecture while I found myself sifting through clothes in a store. A stark white interior with equally stark, tailored racks of extra long, asymmetrical cut shirts, square cut jackets in stiff quilted fabric. Black upon black upon hunter green and navy blue. It was all about design. From the tags to the logo, minimal signage and the fashion and interior. Attention to detail everywhere I looked.
One stop after another.
One sight after another.
We crossed the Brooklyn Bridge, which is adorned with thousands of colorful headphones tied across steel beams and endless graffiti.
We hit up the MOMA in a twenty-minute whirlwind tour before getting in an Uber to the airport.
Chris snagged a hot dog from a street vendor. The city darkened with a setting sun, shadow and twinkling lights painted the backdrop of a New York City landscape. He ate his hot dog with a giant smile, eyes aglow.
I think I get it.
I think I get the New York buzz when seeing it through the eyes of someone who truly appreciates it. It’s not just about the energy, the miles upon miles of creative inspiration from museums and galleries, graffiti and design. It’s not just about the fashion and architecture or countless foodie destinations.
I think it’s about those moments like on the High Line. Where a group of strangers from all over the world spontaneously gathered with huge smiles and laughter to take photographs of a tiny mouse. Where the simplest of things can connect the greatest in all of us. Where there is always something to see, something to experience. Most importantly, where there is always something to feel.
On a plane home from New York City, a few thoughts circle through my head:
- The first presidential debate is in an hour.
- I think we should go back to New York.
- I’m inspired to write about this experience.
**A huge thanks to a few of the companies for the photos to help us illustrate our story!
Let us know how much you love/hate NYC @heliumcreative on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter!