I’ve just returned from a week-long stay in New York (the city and the state), where I was on my own, missing Chuck, who couldn’t travel with me this time, but feeling a bit like Mary Tyler Moore when she threw her hat into the sky. While there, I saw enough and did enough for a year's worth of blogging. But for now, I'll stick to just one of the musical highlights of my trip.
I stayed two nights in the East Village, at my cousin Gina's one-bedroom third floor walk-up. The place is neat, but crammed full of interesting stuff, including a piano, a cat, self-portraits, a lemon tree grown from seed, old vinyl classical records, and several shelves of books about acting. I once wrote a poem about Gina’s apartment.* I slept on a mattress in the living room, next to the lemon tree, with the windows open to the sounds of the city. It was delightful.
On my first morning there, I rose early and walked a few blocks to a coffee shop. While enjoying a melt-in-your-mouth cheese brioche and the best latte I've ever had (at Madman Espresso on E. 14th Street between 1st and 2nd Avenues), I picked up the entertainment section of the Wall Street Journal that happened to be lying on the counter. Now mind you, I’ve never read the Wall Street Journal, but that morning I was glad I did. My eyes fell on a tiny paragraph that said, "Birdland, Joey DeFrancesco, August 17, 8:30." I'd heard of Joey DeFrancesco and knew he was a jazz organist (specializing in the Hammond B-3). I decided on the spot to buy two tickets for the show that night. If my cousin couldn't go, I'd go alone. I wanted very badly to experience Birdland, and besides, I was married to a man whose favorite instrument is the Hammond B-3. How could I pass up this chance to make him insanely jealous?!
I continued to walk around the city all day and came home with a sore ankle. It didn’t matter, I told myself. I was still going to Birdland, and Gina (a bit reluctantly, after a long day at work) said she’d go with me. We went, and I loved it. You walk in, and it’s like walking into one of those dimly lit nightclub scenes in the movies, where everyone’s sitting at small cloth-covered tables, having drinks and watching the stage. We got there just in time to be seated before Joey came on stage with his backing band, the City Rhythm Orchestra. The show was mind-blowingly great. I recorded one tune with my phone, barely able to sit still enough to hold the camera steady. I noticed that others in the room were also bobbing and nodding to the infectious beat. It was probably the best live music I’ve heard in decades. When the set ended, Joey thanked everyone for coming and I thought the show was over. My ankle was swollen and so painful that I didn’t think I could walk out of there, but I managed to get to my feet. It was then that I learned that this was just intermission and there was another set, but it was too late. Now that I was standing, my ankle hurt so much that I knew I had to get home and ice it.
We managed to snag a cab outside and in no time I had an ice pack on my ankle. I took some Advil PM and fell right to sleep. At 8 a.m., I took another one, and then a third one at 11:00 a.m. Finally, my ankle felt better and I decided to go uptown again for some fun and adventures. Around noon, I started to feel a bit strange. It wasn’t until I returned that evening and read the Advil PM label that I realized that Advil PM has something in it to make you sleepy. No wonder I was floating around Manhattan that day. But all was well, I didn’t die and I did enjoy myself.
Here’s the link to the Birdland recording I made: http://youtu.be/J2CXRKqvosw
* Here’s the poem I wrote about Gina’s apartment in 2002:
Three RoomsHer home’s a kind of holy place a tiny shrine to life it smells of spices and rose petals three rooms behind a small brown door two cats, some goldfish, and a snail Beethoven, books, and art a lot of little notes and such and don’t forget the Indar tea a cozy nook, it suits her well a place to gather strength to stretch and grow and celebrate the dance that is within her soul.