I’ll never forget the day I discovered that the last scene in Sleepless in Seattle was filmed on a sound stage. Remember that scene? It’s iconic. After months of admiring from afar, Meg Ryan is finally united with Tom Hanks– the widow with a heart of gold– and his precocious son at the top of the Empire State Building on Valentine’s Day. Watching that scene is basically the best thing that can happen to your insides.
I’ll never forget that day because it’s the same day I visited the Empire State Building.
My boyfriend and I entered the lobby, debated the $32 fee to see the NYC night sky until we decided we’d made it this far, so why not go for it.
Earlier that day, my boyfriend had purchased a ceramic ball intended for crushing dye pigmentation – because he liked the weight of it – but apparently the security at The Empire State Building saw it more as a device to crush people from 102 stories above street level. They thought that perhaps they better keep an eye on his silly purchase while we viewed the city.
After negotiating potential weapons with security, we waited our turn to take the elevator up to viewing deck. Once we were released, I was surprised to find much of the inside to be a museum. Oh hell, I could read all about how they built the damn thing later, I thought as I made a beeline for the door.
All I wanted to do was stand right where Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks stood when they said, “It’s you.” It’s one of the most matter of fact, perfectly, simply romantic and honest declarations of love. The wind blowing through their hair. The minute she decides to give up waiting. The look they give each other once they realize this was the moment they’d been waiting for. It’s all too magical.
I wanted that magic. But, when we stepped out onto the viewing terrace, I was immediately met with freezing October wind blowing my hair out of control. I found myself in a cramped, narrow walkway, looking at New York City lights behind a glass pane, with several tourists bumping and jostling me as they tried to scoot by or raise their arms to capture the memory with a selfie.
It hit me. This wasn’t like the movie at all. Where was the wide open platform where Meg and Tom made eye contact and fell in love? Where were the lack of crowds? It wasn’t anywhere to be seen. Where was I? Not on a sound stage back in LA, I thought, so disheartened.
After pacing the perimeter as long as my frozen fingers would allow, we snapped our own dark, blurry selfie from the top of the most romantic spot in the city in the most unromantic way.
As we blew back inside the warmth of the building, I couldn’t help but feel a little let down. On our way out, a jovial attendant wished us a good night.
“Did you know Sleepless in Seattle wasn’t ACTUALLY filmed at the top?”
“Of course not,” he smiled.
Turns out, of course he knew. He had been working there for years. He used to be in broadcast news, then he was actor, his wife was a costume designer for Broadway shows, but he loved talking to people so damn much.
My boyfriend and i ended up talking to him for an hour about LA versus NY, working in the industry, The Empire State Building, and how we lived our lives. We exchanged information, made empty promises to write, to keep in touch like the excited tourists we were.
As we exited the iconic building, high on good conversation, ceramic ball safely back in tow, we spotted a McDonald’s across the street. We looked at each other and bolted for the door. After we got our fried chicken, fries, and sodas, we hopped in a cab and went back to our AirBnB to watch MTV and eat our greasy food while we laughed at ourselves desperately trying to get the heater to work in an old NYC walkup like LA idiots.
I know I didn’t think so when I first got there, but as it turns out, The Empire State Building is just as romantic as in the movies.
Heather is a contributing editor at the-dah. She is a Los Angeles based writer, improviser, snacker, social media mistress, and aspiring adult. Read more of her food-stained stories about growing up weird at Terrible-Twenties.com, or follow her digital alter ego @MissHezah on Twitter.
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