Last Thursday morning I woke up in the city that doesn’t sleep: New York City! This wasn’t an archaeological adventure — just a brief vacation to a place I’ve wanted to go for a number of years. I was in NYC twice as a kid: once with the high school band and once on a layover on the way to Barranquilla, Colombia, SA, where my dad worked for 2 years. The latter was just over night, but the former was with my high school band and we actually had about a day & a half in the Big Apple. I look back in disbelief at how naive I was. I did know that when in New York one should take in a show — so a fellow trombone player and myself went to see a movie!! I think it was called, “Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows!
After 9/11, I thought I’d like to go as a kind of pilgrimage to honour the people lost and their families. That was back when I thought I had to travel with someone and I couldn’t find anyone to go with me. Now, I don’t care. I rather like going on my own and am getting better at it. My flight last December to Rapa Nui was the first time I’d been on a plane in many years. (Decades, actually.) I used air miles for my flight this time and booked my hotel through booking.com. (I think this was actually the same hotel I stayed in with the concert band back in the 60s; it looked very familiar as was the location — one block from Macy’s and right across the street from Madison Square Gardens!) So last Tuesday, I took Budge to stay with friends, did some last minute packing, and set my sights on the Big Apple.
I arrived about one o’clock in the afternoon and took a cab to my hotel from the airport. (Another time, I’d take the shuttle which is a lot cheaper even though it might take a bit longer; I ended up having lots of time.) The hotel check-in was a zoo. The line-up took longer than that of security check at the airport. Met some nice young people from Argentina in the line-up though. Their first time to NYC.
First on the agenda was the 8:30 show at Birdland. Sheila Jordan has been singing jazz at all the great venues and with some of the best jazz musicians for a very long time. She’s now in her 80s and still going strong. I purchased one of her CDs and she signed the liner for me. Birdland is a very intimate club with tables on 3 tiers so there really isn’t a bad spot in the house. This is the club where Lorna Luft gathered together an allstar group of performers last fall for a benefit concert to help with breast cancer research and care. She’s a survivor! A great spot to go and hear wonderful jazz!
On the way back to the hotel, I got this great picture of the Empire State Building all lit up!
Thursday morning, first full day in town, I caught the early GreyHound bus from the Port Authority (bus terminal) to the Woodbury Commons, a 220-store mall, all outlets for famous brands, in upstate New York. You have to take the Lincoln Tunnel to New Jersey and then travel back into New York State to get there. The ride is about an hour one way but well worth the time. Your bus ticket includes a coupon for a discount booklet; you trade it in at the Information Center when you get there and there are coupons for every store, even the food court stores. Many of the stores you encounter right off the bus are very high end. I’d never been in a Marcus Neiman store and thought it was something like a J. C. Penny but it is not. When the first thing you see on entering the store is a very nice scarf, 60% off, for only $150, for me, anyway, I know I’m in the wrong place.
There is a really great store called Loft and the discount outlet is way better than the store on 7th Ave., NYC. I love stores that carry petites; so many stores today don’t. I caught the return bus after lunch and stopped outside the Port Authority to purchase an NYC sweatshirt I had seen the previous evening. I had searched images online before leaving home and knew which one I wanted. I was surprised and delighted to find a statue of Jackie Gleason as bus driver Ralph Kramden outside the terminal. (Not my bags on the pedestal!) For those of you old enough to remember The Honeymooners, this picture’s for you!
After a brief rest in my room, I headed over to Broadway and up to Times Square to find the Ambassador Theatre. That’s where Chicago, the musical, was playing and I had a ticket. Once the location was established, I went to a nearby Irish Pub for dinner, then returned to line up for the show. There were about 6 substitutions of understudies for the performance but as I didn’t know any of the principles anyway, it didn’t really matter. The music was great. The dancing, too. At intermission, I learned I was sitting beside some people from Chile. The lady was very excited to be in NYC and knew the story of the musical because she had watched the movie before in Spanish. Her English was quite good and we had a nice chat. They were staying for 15 days and she was going to see many musicals.
I ended up walking back to the hotel. The streets were full of people and everything was well lit up. Two long days but very satisfying with music spinning ’round in my head as I wrote up my journal in the book pictured above. More to come — the Guggenheim, the Met Museum & Central Park tomorrow.