I’ve written before about how I love going to a dog show for the very first time and how I am one of those fortunate people whose first show experience was at Westminster.
I stand by my claims of the wonder of Westminster: the spectacle of all those beautiful dogs “on the green” surrounded by rows and rows of vertical seating, me being propelled through the benching area by the crush of people and then sitting at one of the press tables on the floor during Groups and Best in Show.
So, of course, I’m looking forward to all of those things in just a couple of weeks.
But the city of New York, itself, brings its own excitement for me as well.
I only visited the city once as a child. I was in junior high, and my parents took us on a whirlwind East Coast trip. I’ve been numerous times as an adult, virtually always for work or some other obligation. Despite how my time is monopolized, every time I am there I revel in just soaking up the city atmosphere – even if it’s only between my hotel and Madison Square Garden.
I love putting on a warm scarf and gloves, then stepping out into the bracing cold air in the morning as I head out of my hotel lobby. As a Southern California native, I appreciate temperatures that aren’t in the 70s, plus the wind, rain and snow, or all three. I remember sitting in a hotel bar one night after an event, chatting with colleagues, when we suddenly noticed what looked like sheets of snow coming down outside. Before retiring for the night, I bundled up and walked around the very long block surrounding my hotel. Even after midnight, plenty of people were out enjoying the city. Turns out it was a blizzard. And it very nearly shut down the city the next day. I had to co-write an article with a fellow editor over the telephone the next day, but it was totally worth it.
Another thing I love about New York is the taxis. Just the concept that you can step out of any hotel, business or restaurant and flag down a cab is amazing to someone who grew up where you only see taxis at airports or dropping people off in “clubby” neighborhoods. But in New York, I can just stand on the side of a street, raise my hand and get a ride anywhere I want to go. And I don’t have to worry about the traffic or how to get there.
Nearly as great as the plethora of taxis is the abundance of great, simple restaurants. Whether it’s the Tick Tock Diner or Lindy’s, known by every dog person who goes to Westminster, or any of the delis you can find in any block, a good meal is around every corner. Of course, if you want to venture into something more exotic, there is no shortage of options. I always seem to be in grab-something-quick mode, so those reliable, nearby restaurants are my go-to places.
Though I rarely have time for much of anything but work, nourishment and some sleep, after the show last year I found myself with a day on my own in the city. After bidding farewell to my Best In Show Daily colleagues, I retreated to my hotel room to devise a strategy for making the most of it. I remembered seeing a notice months prior about a Renoir exhibit at The Frick Collection, so I checked to see if it was still there, and it was. That would be my first stop of the day. I went through The New Yorker to see what play I might like to see. When I found one about a crotchety novelist, played by Alan Rickman, who conducts a seminar for young writers, I reserved a seat. Next, I called a writer I know in the city to see if she’d like to have dinner. It was the perfect New York day – all decided upon and arranged at the last minute.
While all of these things make the city wonderful in my mind at least, the added bonuses during Westminster week are like the proverbial frosting on the cake. No, that’s not right. The show and the dogs are the cake and the city, the frosting.
No stay in the city during Westminster week would be complete without spending a little time in the lobbies of the Hotel Pennsylvania and the New Yorker. In my inevitable outings to Lindy’s and the Tick Tock, I try to arrive early so I can dawdle a while to watch the comings and goings of people – but more fondly for me – the dogs. Seeing them all outside the rings, in a less competitive setting, makes me smile. I find myself awash in admiration for their equanimity in the face of all the hustle and bustle. Whether their owners or handlers are calm, upset, bored or impatient, the dogs are just looking around, taking it all in, or just relaxing while sprawled on the floor.
Last year I was lucky enough to be at the top of the ramp that exits Madison Square Garden when the dogs not going to the Groups on Monday were released. It was a fabulous parade – both human and canine. A long day was at an end for all of these dogs, their owners, handlers, groomers and assistants. Each dog needed a form to exit, so a long, messy line had formed. It inched forward as the form was produced and checked, and the person, dog and cart full of equipment and supplies were waved through. I felt I’d seen a spectacle I might never again witness. As most readers know, the dogs normally remain benched during the Groups. Because of construction at the Garden last year, they were dismissed before Groups began. This year, the breed rings will be at the Piers, and I have no idea how the dogs – every single one of them – will leave the facility at the end of the day. Nonetheless, it’s unlikely to be a repeat of 2012’s grand exit, as I’ve come to think of it.
Whatever happens weather-, food- or show-wise this year, it will, I’m sure, once again be a wonderful adventure. Hope to see you in New York!