Saturday, December 6, 2014
I arrived into NY Saturday evening. My godmother was on her way to big gala (she’s an award winning TV producer!) & the timing was perfect b’c as she was leaving her apartment, my car was just pulling up. So we got to say a quick hello & then I was able to go in & unpack & get settled in & relax a bit. When she got home we had fun catching up.
My god-mother is so fancy! Look at all the Emmy’s she’s won!
Sunday morning we got up early & headed over to her parents’ house. I hadn’t seen them in over six years & I just burst out into tears when I saw them. I’ve missed them so much. My god-mother & I headed off to church & then back to her parents’ house where the rest of the family joined us. To be honest with you, I was having SUCH a good time with them that there was a part of me that almost wanted to just forget about the royals & spend all of my time with them! Almost! lol
Monday, December 8, 2014
First up: Catherine’s event at the Northside Center for Child Development in Harlem.
I had done a good deal of prep work beforehand, researching each event & gathering as many specific details as possible but in many cases we didn’t really know all the details. Part of the challenge, but also part of the fun, was trying to map out the adventure & figure out where to go & when. It was sort of like a scavenger hunt mixed with a military operation!
I knew that the Harlem event started at 11am so I headed out on the 8:30am Staten Island Ferry (did you know the ferry is FREE? Both directions?? How is that even possible?). Anyways, as I waited for the Ferry I couldn’t help but wonder how everyone could be so CALM! Didn’t they know that I was on my way to see the royals?? Lol Instead, it was just a big group of folks heading into work on a Monday morning.
Waiting to board the ferry. I was SO excited!
It was in this moment, as I waited to board the ferry that it really dawned on me: “OMG! I can’t believe I am actually DOING this. I can’t believe I am actually here in NY to see the royals! This is SO crazy!” The anticipation really started to set in & I was like a little kid the night before Christmas!
On the ferry ride I tried to remember to enjoy the view. As many times as I have taken that ferry ride & seen the Statue of Liberty, I still get a lump in my throat. It’s such a beautiful sight.
There is nothing quite like seeing the skyline of that great city come into view!
Once we docked, I headed to the subway for Harlem. Again, my familiarity with NYC really helped me to get around easily. When I got off the subway & walked the few blocks to the location, I started to get SOOOO excited & a little bit nervous. Would there be crowds? Would I even be able to get close? I had no idea what to expect.
Eventually into view came the answer: lots of press, smallish but excited crowd. At that point I had to decide where the best vantage point would be. I determined that it was best to be on the side of the street facing the entrance of the building. That way I’d be able to see her walk in & walk out. There was a group of about 20 people on that corner. Such a fun group! And we all debated endlessly about whether or not we made the right decision to stand there. That was an ongoing theme & no matter where we stood we ALL were convinced that THAT was the best spot to stand. Lol!
The group I was standing with was a hoot. Some really fun Harlem characters who kept us all laughing & in high spirits. But it was COLD!!! Too cold to even try & hold my camera. So we just waited for any signs that the royals were coming.
We saw NYC’s first lady Chirlane McCray arrive & she gave a cheerful wave & smile to all of us. She looked lovely in a bright purple coat dress. The crowd gave her a warm cheer.
Every time we heard sirens we thought it was the royals approaching. Many false alarms. But when that moment finally DOES happen, there is no mistaking it. A police car with flashing lights & then three black SUVS (and the dude with the machine gun) & the crowd goes wild, knowing that SOMEWHERE behind the tinted window is our girl…but not quite sure WHICH window so we just waved & cheered at ALL of the passing windows. “I saw her!” someone yelled & even if we were pretty sure it wasn’t really her, we all cheered. I finally figured out that she was always in the middle car.
At one point I jokingly said to no one in particular, “This is not a drill. The Tiara has landed. I repeat. This is NOT a drill” Everyone around started cracking up b’c there were so many times when we DID think they were coming, only to be disappointed that it was not them. But this was THE moment!
And then they turned the corner & slowed down & we thought, “OMG! This is IT! The moment we’ve waited for & we’re going to get the best view of her coming out of the car! OMG! This is amazi…” wait. WHAT? The ambulance that followed last in the motorcade turned down the block as well & then instead of pulling up behind her car it just STOPPED, blocking the intersection. OMG! We all groaned. Even the press that was on our side of the street groaned. How can this be happening? I wanted to cry. But then all of a sudden, and only b’c I am very tall & was on my tip toes, I saw the top of her head & her hand waving in our direction!!! I swear to you, it was almost as good as actually seeing her face. I mean, there she WAS. It was really HER. That was her head! Her hair! Her glove covered hand! This must be what Heaven feels like!
She was waving in our direction! And it was EVERYTHING!
And then she was gone. Into the building.
Everyone in the crowd was comparing notes. “Did you see her?” “I think she’s wearing black” “I think she’s wearing blue!” No one managed to get a photo b’c it just went so fast but we were all on a high. Some people left but of course the real royal watchers stayed. So for an hour we waited…in the cold! It started to get really cold. Really cold. That is when you know you are a TRUE royal watcher. Standing out in that cold, with the hopes of getting another brief glimpse of our girl. Only the truly dedicated will do that!
Finally, after about an hour of waiting we saw the doors open…but it wasn’t her. Every time the doors opened the crowd would cheer! It was so funny. A bunch of little kids, all bundled up were brought out of the building & lined up. We knew that Catherine would be on her way soon b’c they wouldn’t make the kids stand out in the cold for very long. From where we were standing we figured we’d have a REALLY good view of her when she came out & chatted with the kids. So exciting. But then drat, a decision was made to move the kids down the block just a few feet…just enough that they were blocked by her SUVS. DANG! Not sure why they did that but it prevented us from getting a good view. It became clear that the only sighting we might get was when she walked out of the building before she turned to her right & greeted the kids.
And that is what happened. The door opened & we could hear the crowd on the other side of the street (who had a better view) start cheering. And in my excitement I lost all manners & put my hand on the shoulder of a very petite young woman standing next to me so that I could boost myself up to stand on the rung of the barricade for a better view. I would like to apologize to her! Lol I know she is now a follower on this page. “I am so sorry that I put all of my body weight on your tiny little shoulders, with no warning”. But my crass actions DID allow me to see our girl, looking right at me & she waved!!!!
She is waving right at me. I KNOW she is!
I seriously couldn’t believe it! I had actually seen her face & I am sure she saw mine! Lol Even if the adventure had ended right there, I would have been content!
We couldn’t see this part but we did see the kids when they lined up.
Such troopers. It was cold.
She spent quite a lot of time with them. It was so cold but she doesn’t seem phased by it. It was sort of frustrating for us because we KNEW she was right there but we couldn’t see her.
After she spent some time with the kids she slipped into her car & she was gone! That was it! But we were all so excited from the little bit that we DID see & everyone was comparing notes, “She waved at us!”, “Yes, she was totally waving at us”. Everyone was hugging & high-fiving & it was so exhilarating! Just writing about it gives me chills!
Catherine 2 (entering & exiting; it all counts!)
I was on cloud nine. It was more electrifying than I could have imagined but then it dawned on me, “Ok, what’s next?”
That was one of the fun things about having other royal watchers around to share the excitement with. Everyone would huddle around & discuss what they were going to do next. “Are you going to try to see her at the next event?” “Are you going to the game?” “I think I’ll try to see them at the hotel!” “Maybe I’ll see you there!” It was so fun to plot & plan with all of my new friends.
I realized that the way things were set up, seeing her arrive/depart at the next event (a luncheon at the British Consul General’s Residence) would not seem likely esp since those were more private affairs. And I still had to factor in that I was going to the basketball game that evening; it was going to be a long day. So it seemed to make more sense to try & get warmed up first, charge my phone & then plan my next move.
I had overheard some of the press people say they were going down the block to the Dunkin’ Donuts so I thought I’d go too. Mainly I wanted to get warm & use the restroom. It was really interesting to see all the press folks sitting at the counter going through all of their pix & sending the best ones to their editors. I saw press from Italy, Japan, Germany, Spain, Australia & the US. I chatted with a really nice guy who worked for Reuters. I told him that I wasn’t able to get any pix & he was kind enough to let me see the pix he took. It was so interesting to see how they get such great pix. And it was sort of surreal to see the pix of what I KNEW had happened but what I couldn’t quite see.
As I was sitting there with my hot cocoa I met the loveliest couple from Washington, David & Jennifer. They were adorable! OMG! LOVE them. They are hardcore royal watchers. They went to London for the wedding & showed me their video. They also had some really cute video of them following Catherine’s motorcade in NY. (See previously posted Video #2). I LOVE how excited they were! My kind of people!
I was actually glad that I made those little business cards for my page.
I was able to share them with the folks I met & it’s funny b’c unlike all of you, they were introduced to my page in reverse. They met me in person & THEN discovered my page! That is sort of cool.
David & Jennifer went on their way & I decided that I was not going to try to see the royals at their next event. It didn’t seem practical. I decided instead that I might try to see the royals when they returned to the hotel before they left for the basketball game. So once I was warmed up I took the subway back to the Upper East Side where the hotel was. I figured I could keep checking Twitter for updates & get to the hotel quickly as needed.
I was so hyped up after seeing our girl. I felt like I needed time to process is all.
I decided to really enjoy the fact that I was in the city & took a nice stroll down Madison Avenue. It’s so glam & entertaining. Lots of great fashion & people watching. But drat, my phone needed to be charged again (is there something about the cold weather that drains it so fast??). So I found a really cute little French café & hoped they would let me charge my phone. They did! And so I enjoyed a tasty little treat & some MORE hot chocolate & rested my feet.
So many yummy treats!
I’ve got eagle eyes when it comes to spotting celebrities & as I was sitting there I noticed that Phil Donahue walked in. He got a cup of coffee…and seemed sort of miffed that no one seemed to recognize him. Lol
At found 3pm I figured that it was time to head back to the hotel. When I got there there were about four press people & about five royal watchers standing out front. “Did I miss her?” I asked one of the ladies. “Yes. By about 10 minutes”. Drat. But she told me that Catherine walked in SO fast that they could barely see her & she showed me her very blurry pix of Catherine’s hair. Phooey. So a bunch of us were standing around trying to figure out what to do. I went up to one of the cops & joked, “Ok, just between you & me…is William already in the hotel or did I miss him too? No pressure. I only came all the way from California to see them!” Luckily he thought that was funny. “William will be here in about 15 minutes”. Jackpot!!
I told the rest of the group & we decided that we would for sure wait for Wills. The cops ushered us down the block to the area just past the garage a bit. Boo!!! There were only about eight of us. It was then that I realized that THIS is where we were going to have to stay. But the group I was with was really fun. There was a man & his son who were actually staying at the hotel. They said that they were in the lobby when Catherine left earlier in the day & it was like something out of a movie. All of a sudden there was this rush of people, about 10 of them, all security & hotel staff & they moved as one & in the middle was Catherine. They said you could barely see her as the group moved through the lobby & that there were also some very menacing looking security people who walked with the group facing outwards to keep their eyes on the people in the lobby.
It actually made me feel sorry for Catherine, to realize that this is how she has to live & it seemed a bit extreme in terms of security. The guys said that they couldn’t even get into the hotel right now, even though they were guests, which meant that something was happening soon: William’s imminent arrival.
There was a young girl in our group who had some flowers she had been trying to give to Catherine. I’ve since learned that her mum, who was there with her, is a follower of this page! The man who was staying at the hotel said that he would bring the little girl into the hotel as his guest & see if they could find someone to give the flowers to, to try get them to Catherine. I don’t know if that happened but it is another lovely example of how nice everyone in the crowd was & how people really bonded.
So we waited & then suddenly the police put the barricades up & then the cop car came down the block with the lights going & our hearts started racing b’c we knew this was it & then came the SUVS. I was pretty calm up till then & hadn’t really thought much about what my reaction would be if I saw William b’c I am All Catherine, All the time! lol But as the car door opened & a swarm of people surrounding a tall lanky figure came into view & I realized that it was William & I could hear myself yelling his name, “William!”. I actually surprised myself! lol
(See Video #3 on my FB page to HEAR me & SEE William!)
I didn’t expect to get so excited but there he was, the man I’d watched grow up. Diana’s boy. Wills. Georgie’s papa. The future King of England. He was RIGHT there. In front of me. Walking SOOO fast. Looking straight head. So I yelled his name. So that he would know that I cared. And he turned his head. And he waved. I think I floated ten feet off the ground. I am convinced that he turned b’c he heard my voice. And as silly as it seems for a 48 year old woman to feel excited & even validated as a royal watcher since the age of nine because William turned when he heard MY voice, I gotta tell you, it was a thrill. It was EVERYTHING. EVERYTHING!
And then he was gone. And my cohorts & I were left to reenact every moment & compare photos & videos. It was exhilarating & now I was on a roll. I was bound & determined to see them when they departed for the Nets game.
By now & it was around 3:45pm. I debated going to mid-town to see Rockefeller Center & take in the holiday decorations & sights but I was suddenly feeling like an actual official royal reporter & I kept thinking of all of you & how it was my duty to get the scoop, the breaking news. I was on mission! Nothing could stop me now! I felt like it was best to stay close to the hotel in case there was any breaking news. I realized that I hadn’t really eaten much all day. I still had to basketball game to attend & I knew food would be VERY expensive there so I thought it was best to get something to eat & then head back to the hotel.
I decided to walk down Madison Ave again to look for a place to eat. I noticed a handsome man walking past me; he gave me a gentlemanly nod of the head. It was Jennifer Aniston’s actor father, John. He is really quite dashing in person!
I found one of those classic only in NY Greek diners (which was fortuitous given that I am part Greek, as is Mr. Aniston!). I got a great seat by the window & had a nice little nosh & just sat there, people watching & reflecting on everything that had happened thus far. I was a bit tired but I was also so energized by the day’s events.
Around 4:30pm I headed back to the hotel & there was a super fun group of people waiting in the same spot where I had been earlier. I saw a few familiar faces & also met some really fantastic new people (secret handshake hi to the “comedy writer” & the “celeb stand-in”; they know who they are! Lol). The group was really lively & entertaining & we all had a blast waiting for the royals to leave the hotel. The cops were a hoot & kept us entertained.
Suddenly the barricades went up & that slight hum & buzz of energy & excitement that comes with knowing that something is going to happen filled the air. We all had our cameras at the ready, steady. GO!
And then it happened. Catherine & William walked out of the hotel & it went SOOOOOOO fast. It was a blur of him & her & security. I could tell she had pants on & something grey on top. We cheered. She waved. And it was over. They ducked into the car.
At first the group of us were sort of just standing there, not sure what to do, numb with the excitement that we had just seen them, but THEN we realized that the cars were going to have to drive right past us!!! So we all got so excited & started jumping around to position ourselves to see them.
We could barely see them through the car window but they DID wave & since there were only about 10 of us waving back we all felt like we had now officially become their BFFS! Lol
It went so fast but the thrill you get in that moment is just amazing. And to share it with a group of people who were JUST as excited as I was made it all the more special!
My video of it shows the hustle & excitement of that moment! (See Video #4 on my FB page!)
There was a really nice guy named Griffin who was videotaping the whole thing with professional grade cameras; he didn’t seem to be with the regular press (who were kept across the street). He was gracious enough to email the video & photos to me & he perfectly & so hilariously recapped what it was like to be there with all of us. Thankfully he only captured the back of my head so I am comfortable sharing the video but he did start it off with my biz card! Lol His video & photos (See video #5 on my FB page & Album titled #6 ~ Catherine Walks where if you click thru fast, it almost looks like a movie) are a VERY special treat!
Here is a peek at his pix! You can see her waving at us!
(photos Griffin Hammond)
Even tho if was brief & a blur, we HAD seen her & she HAD seen us & we had ALL waved to each other & all was right with the world!
So now I was really jazzed & fired up. Off to the subway. Brooklyn here we come!
It was so funny on the subway because because it was about 5:30pm & everyone on the train was heading home from work & they all looked so tired & Monday-ish. I kept thinking, “Gosh, don’t they know the ROYALS are in town!”
When I got out of the subway in front of the Barclay Center it was an intense scene. There was a big “I can’t breathe” protest; about 200 people. It was savvy of them as there was so much press & while I support their cause I thought to myself, “I’ll get back to saving the world tomorrow. I’ve got royals to see today!”. LOTS of cops & of course all the people heading into the game. It was loud & sort of tense but things moved smoothly & I entered the Center with no problem.
I am a huge sports fan & I love the excitement of going to games. There is always a palpable electricity in the air but this was excitement on steroids. The energy was really intense & it was the combo of the protest & the fact that the Nets were playing the Cavs & King James & then of course the royals. I was listening to people around me & I could hear a lot of royal talk but for the most part I got the sense that the crowd was mostly there for the game.
I charged my phone AGAIN, grabbed a $10 juice (Yipes!) & headed for my seats. OMG! My heart was racing. The music was pounding, the players were warming up & my seats were AMAZING. And the realization that I was in the same building as the royals was almost more than I could bear. I actually felt sort of regal, special. I know it was all in my head but STILL, it really felt that way!
To be honest, going to the game was really just for one reason: to be able to say that for a brief period of time I sat under the same roof as William & Catherine. That was all I expected. I didn’t even think they’d be shown on the jumbo-tron. I didn’t think I’d be able to see where they were seated. I kept looking around at all of the private booths, figuring that that was where they were. I had my binoculars with me & settled into my seat, just happy to be there.
There were two couples on either side of me who were clearly there for the game. They must have thought I was a goof because I kept looking at my phone & through my binoculars & not paying attention to the game at all. I was on high alert, looking around the venue with my binoculars, trying to spot anything of royal note.
There had been some rumors that the royals were going to sit court side but I didn’t believe it. It seemed highly unlikely considering the tight security I had witnessed all day. There was NO way they were going to let them sit there, so publicly exposed. No way.
Then I noticed something. Two court side chairs were cleared. Men in grey suits were standing in front of them. Something was going on. Could it be? No. No way.
And then the most amazing thing: from the far end of the court, there was sort of this buzz of energy. And a slow & steady cheer accompanied by this extraordinary wave of energy started to build. A mass of people was starting to move towards the chairs & the energy of the venue started to shift in a way that you could actually feel in your bones.
OMG!!! It was THEM! They were walking to the seats. They were right there. I seriously thought I was going to pass out. I had my binoculars trained in their direction & I saw them. Clear as day. Right there. I honestly could not believe it. I felt light headed. My heart was racing. My mouth felt dry. I wanted to jump up & Scream! I wanted to wave & blow kisses! I wanted to run across the court & jump into their laps!
One of the women sitting next to me said to her date, “Is that the royals? I didn’t know they were here!” Cue Lulu: I turned to them in a flush of excitement, “Yes it’s William & Catherine. They are here. That is why I am here. I am freaking out! OMG”. The other couple noticed as well. They all also noticed that I was sort of so excited that I didn’t know what to do! Lol They could have laughed at me but they were SOOOOO sweet. I said that I didn’t know if I should take pix or video. I wasn’t sure. I was overwhelmed. One of the women said she would take video for me if I wanted to just look through my binoculars. One of the other guys said he’d hold my drink & my coat (I had a big puffer coat & it was getting in my way) & the other girl said she’d take pix for me. They were so sweet & they really helped me to calm done. Lol My main concern was that I was trying to take it all in but I wasn’t sure how to focus.
But it turned out that the royals were there long enough for me to get video, pix and just stare at them.
Follow the green arrow!
I was actually closer than it seems.
I SERIOUSLY couldn’t believe what I was seeing!
I suddenly became very aware of the fact that I was playing a role in the intense focused attention on Catherine & I actually started to feel bad. I decided that I was not going to keep my camera/video focused on her for long. I felt self-conscious it. I couldn’t even imagine how she felt knowing that all eyes were on her (while people were still focused on the game, it was clear that the MAIN attraction was the royals. Cameras, cell phone, video cameras were all pointed at them from every corner of the venue). I wanted to practice what I’ve always preached on this page & try to be respectful. My eyes never left them. I was transfixed. I watched her eat her popcorn & try to get the kernel unstuck from her teeth. I watched William explaining the game to her. I watched her make small talk with her hosts. And I noticed that it was one of the first times I’d ever seen her sit with her legs crossed…b’c those are the types of things I notice. lol And the whole time I kept thinking about how so many times we think about her & wonder what she is doing at that exact moment. Well, this time I KNEW! I really tried to take it all in & savor the memory.
It is very possible they were looking at ME. That is the direction in which I was sitting! lol (press photo)
At one point the announcer introduced the royals & they were shown on the big screen & the crowd went wild!!!! They were so cute & almost seemed shy about all of the attention. I got some good pix & video of it! (See Video #6 on my FB page).
There was a lot of buzz about if they would meet JayZ & Beyoncé who were there (JayZ is part owner of the Nets). At one point, during a time out, there was another murmur in the crowd that built & built. J & B were walking over to the royals. The crowd REALLY went wild at that point (I got the sense that this was more of a J & B crowd than a W & C crowd! Lol). With the help of my friendly seatmates, I was able to get pix AND video! (See Video #7 on my FB page). The two couples chatted for quite a bit. The crowd loved it. There was a level of excitement in the crowd that you could actually feel!
The royals stayed until the end of the game. When they got up to leave that same electricity went through the crowd & everyone stood up with their camera phones & tablets & that same hum & buzz moved through the crowds. People started applauding & I honestly felt all tingly inside. I managed to steady my nerves long enough to get some video (See Video #8 on my FB page; you can see them moving as a large group in the upper left of the frame & you can notice everyone in the arena watching them! It was electric!).
As people started to leave I actually just sat in my seat for a few minutes, trying to process what had just happened. I was sort of overwhelmed. I couldn’t believe that I had been there, in the same air space, for almost 30 minutes with the royals. I didn’t know if I should laugh or cry. I was elated & exhausted. It was more than I could ever have hoped for.
Prior to the game I had connected via DM with two women who follow this page. I knew they were at the game so I texted them & we decided to meet up in front of the venue. I was sort of nervous because, for the first time I was going to be meeting followers from my page, in person. Would I be what they expected? Would they be disappointed? I felt like I was going on a blind date! Lol Well, they couldn’t have been lovelier. So sweet. I will refer to them as “Lily” & “Rose” to protect their privacy. We hugged & bonded over the game & we were just giggly & jumping up & down with glee. I felt like I’d known them forever. We walked back to subway together.
As we walked, we discussed our plans for the next day. There were reports that there was a BIG storm coming through so we weren’t sure what we were going to do. We agreed that the MET event was a MUST for several reasons: the MET has a LOT of stairs which meant that they would have to walk up and down them very slowly, which would give us a good amount of time to see them AND take pix. And also, it would certainly be a full glam moment for our girl. I decided that I would play it by ear in the morning. If the weather was really bad, I was probably not going to try to go to the 9/11 event or try to see the royals at the other events. It didn’t seem worth it to stand in the pouring rain just to see them whisked inside.
I said by goodbyes to the girls & headed back to Staten Island. I didn’t get home till about 12:30am. My god-mother had stayed up to wait for me. I put on my flannel pjs & jumped onto her bed & reenacted the whole day for her! It was then that I realized how tired I was AND how my body ached! Lol I had been on my feet & in the cold all day & it suddenly hit me: I was exhausted but over the moon. So off to bed I went with sweet dreams indeed!
Stay tuned for Part Three! xo lulu