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My New Yorker

The last day of our New York trip in March began with a couple of coffees from the Row NYC bar I brought back up to our room – while getting plans together with my daughter, Taylor.

When Tay arrived, we headed out toward Rockefeller Center. I had been here on my last visit a couple of years ago, but it was fun to revisit with Brenda – and watch the folks outside, still ice skating in March. We tried to imagine what the Christmas tree might have looked like in its spot – up close and personal. We also hung around The Shop at NBC Studios, where those so inclined could grab a souvenir – perhaps a t-shirt emblazoned with “SNL” or a Rachel Maddow mug. How about a book of “Seinfeld” scripts from the first and second season, a deck of “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” playing cards or an NBC Peacock hoodie? It’s all there, and much more.

But really, why cram a carry-on with such bric-a-brac? It’s all online, of course. Just looking at that stuff in that venue was enough.

We wandered around inside the mall there for a bit and then ventured outside again to watch the ice skaters while we finished some top-notch banana pudding we picked up at a spot called Magnolia Bakery. Unbelievably good.

Peeping Ice Skaters at Rockefeller Center

We then set our sights on Bryant Park, where we were going to meet Ivanna Fortunato, another friend of Taylor’s who wasn’t at the office on the day we visited because of a knee injury.

Content on the Bryant Park website says that the location is “known as Manhattan’s Town Square…famous for its lush seasonal gardens, free activities, world class restrooms, and al fresco dining.” Believe me – any public restroom in the area is a godsend, and my visit for a tinkle was a pleasant one. At my age, they should have one on every other block.

We grabbed some coffee at a kiosk and Taylor kept an eye out for Ivanna, who arrived on her lunch break from SpotCo. She was wearing a brace, and seemed to be handling her knee issue like a trouper. It was a delight to meet her, and I felt as if we already knew each other because Tay told me so much about her and we are Facebook friends. It’s refreshing to actually meet somebody outside of the virtual world.

Ivanna is getting married in the Dominican Republic in July, and I am happy to report that Taylor is going to be there. I wish Ivanna and her fiancé the very best.

To see Taylor and Ivanna is to assume that the two young ladies have been friends for a long time. The four of us hung out and chatted for a good while – and of course snapped photos and selfies. I am like the drunk uncle who has to document every moment. Every family has one. I hope somebody finds all of those digital memories after I am gone. Perhaps I should send thumb drives to a couple of key loved ones. Unfortunately, they will only contain the photos. No account numbers for offshore accounts.

After saying our goodbyes – I needed an updated photo outside of the New York Public Library, which was right next door. We also got hot dogs from a street vendor – and I took a photo of the Empire State Building, which was looming over a tree line nearby.

As we made our way back to Eighth Avenue, I was content that we had done so much in a few short days without going nuts and without breaking the bank. I recall looking into Sardi’s and taking in some of the celebrity caricatures on those famous walls – and passing by the Copacabana.

We wanted to ship some clothes and other belongings back to Myrtle Beach in an attempt to avoid luggage fees on Spirit Airlines – the reverse of what we did on the way – but we had more shit to pack now. We passed The UPS Store and bought a decent-sized box and took it back with us to the hotel.

But we still had big plans, specifically “Phantom of the Opera” at the Majestic Theatre – a show that Brenda had long fantasized about seeing in New York someday. It is one of her all-time favorites, and we had tickets for that night – box seats – thanks to my son’s fiancée, Leigh Schwartz, who had given them to us as a Christmas gift.

HOLD FAST TO YOUR DREAMS

We packed up that box with everything we could – and Taylor and I took it to a Staples location nearby. The layout was nothing like any Staples I had seen – especially the whole multiple floors thing. But a very nice young guy helped us and dispensed sightseeing advice, albeit a bit too late – and it only cost me eighteen bucks to ship the box. Things like that please me. It was like a little surprise.

We didn’t yet eat properly, but we had an agenda.

Much like when she was in college, Taylor found a home bar where the folks were down to earth and she felt comfortable. In Charleston it was Smoke BBQ.  In Hell’s Kitchen it is Hold Fast, tucked into a laid-back space with a brick and hardwood interior on 46th Street. One of the owners, Jason, grew up in the Charlotte area. We talked briefly, and I told him that my sister used to live in Cornelius until she moved around Lake Norman to Denver. Turns out he used to go to the dentist in Cornelius. Small world indeed.

Hold Fast in Hell’s Kitchen

I had bone marrow and a soft scrambled egg with soy glaze, tobiko and toasted artisanal bread. Most excellent, and thankfully on the light side. I didn’t want to fall asleep at the theater.

I feel like Taylor made a good call when she chose Hold Fast as a hangout. Both Jason and co-owner Chris seemed to be really nice guys – and I love the name of their bar. Taylor told me that another co-owner named Shane is equally awesome. I wish them continued success with their enterprise.

THE MUSIC OF THE NIGHT

We gave Taylor our hotel room key before leaving Hold Fast, just in case she wanted to hang out there while we watched “Phantom.” She told us that she would likely hang out at the bar. In any case, we wanted to see her again to say our goodbyes because we were leaving in the morning.

The walk to the Majestic was short – basically just down the block and over – and the line was already forming. We got behind a massive school group, but we were inside the theater in no time. After stopping to grab Brenda a t-shirt, we were ushered to our box seats at stage right.

I was hoping the box was just for the two of us, but there were two other seats there. I vape, so I’m always looking for a strategic spot to sneak in a rip – and I thought I was home free, but a young couple was seated beside us just before curtain.

You can believe I thought about Abraham Lincoln many times. Sic semper tyrannis and all that rot. Same seating situation. Poor bastard.

By now, we all know all about Phantom – but just because we were late to the party didn’t mean we didn’t enjoy it. Ben Crawford was terrific as The Phantom. I thought it was interesting that he shares the same last name with the original Phantom, Michael Crawford. They are not related. Kaley Ann Voorhees was excellent as Christine. One of the benefits of our seats was the fact that I could look directly down into the orchestra pit to see the musicians at work. I must admit that I was glancing down there quite a bit.

It was nice to see my girlfriend so happy. Glad she can cross “Phantom” off her list at long last.

We strolled back to Hold Fast to grab Taylor, but hung out for a little while longer. It was good to be with her – and she was in her element.

But it was getting late and Taylor had to catch a train to Brooklyn. We all ducked back into the same pizza joint Brenda and I ate at a couple of days before and enjoyed a slice (there’s that expression again).

It takes me forever to say goodbye to my daughter – and no matter how many hugs, there is always the chance for one more. This was true when she was close at hand, so you can imagine how it is when she lives far away. Finally, she disappeared down into the subway and we went across the street to our hotel.

The next morning came quickly, and we took a cab to LaGuardia. No issues. No delays. No problem. We were back in Myrtle Beach like nothing had happened.

But it did happen.

And our UPS package was waiting at our front door when we got home.

This month, Kevin Kline won the Tony for Best Leading Actor in a Play for his performance in Noel Coward’s Present Laughter.

My daughter took me to see Present Laughter at the St. James Theatre in New York over Memorial Day weekend.

 

As some of you know, I was captivated by Coward when I was a young man – read everything there was to read by him and about him. I had plays, records, diaries, biographies, memoirs. You name it.

Coward even inspired me to smoke cigarettes. That was a bad idea. I switched to vape three years ago.

Through July 2, Kline stars in the lead role of Garry Essendine, one that Coward – AKA “The Master” – brought to life in all his self-absorbed glory in 1942.

But I am getting ahead of myself.

I spent an amazing long weekend in New York City with my equally amazing daughter, Taylor. What started out as a casual comment from Taylor – the fact that she had three days off and it would be great if I could finally come to see her – turned into an impromptu trip that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Rog and Tay NY Skyline

I’m 53, and this was the first time I had ever been there.

There isn’t a good reason why I’d never been. I had entertained romantic thoughts of driving across the country when I was 18, taking jobs along the way and ultimately winding up in the Big Apple. Who didn’t at that age. But I know myself then as I know myself now – not much, mind you – but that trip wasn’t about to happen.

The ensuing decades enabled me to build up a solid repertoire of misconceptions about New York and New Yorkers. You know the stereotypes – like, watch it or you will surely get mugged in Times Square (holdover from the seedy 1970s) – or that New Yorkers are rude, impatient and always in a hurry. I know so many New Yorkers who are not those things at all. Why would it be different on their turf?

Rog Times Square

Billy Joel bragging about walking through Bedford-Stuyvesant alone in “You May Be Right” kind of worried me because that’s exactly where my daughter lives, although she doesn’t have a motorcycle and probably wouldn’t ride it in the rain if she did.

My imagination couldn’t quite make out what “The City” would really be like – the sights and sounds glamorized in movies and television – and the music – the litany of bright lights, big city stuff – the hustle and bustle – the “if-I-can-make-it-there-I’ll-make-it-anywhere,” mantra.

And the other New York, New York (On the Town) line, “The People ride in a hole in the ground,” made me wonder what the subways were all about.

Somehow, riding the London Underground and for that matter, the Los Angeles subway (Metro Red Line) made me think the subway experience in New York couldn’t be much different. How about the touring companies performing the myriad Broadway shows I caught at the now-defunct Shubert Theatre or the Music Center, or the Pantages Theatre in L.A. – could the Broadway experience really be much different?

Roger NY Library

And could a simple slice of pizza really be any better there?

And how was everything connected – the boroughs, the layout? The reality had to be different from my imagined version.

The thought of setting foot where the unspeakable tragedy of 911 happened was also a bit surreal, chilling, and profoundly sad.

 

And, finally, I was about to take it all in.

From the moment I got off the plane at JFK, I could feel the energy.

Over the next three days, Taylor and I relied on the trains and walked our asses of – and I am surprised at the sheer amount of ground we covered. Taylor gave me truly immersive experience, and with the exception of an excellent leisurely breakfast at place where she used to work, an outstanding French-American restaurant and café in Brooklyn called French Louie (where she reconnected with her friends and coworkers and I could feel the love), we relied on lighter, faster fare in the form of tuna melts from a bodega on her block in Bed-Stuy, a couple of slices of pizza on her block, bagels and an interesting culinary oddity from a place called Sushirrito – and more.

I am still a bit overwhelmed by the trip – and I wanted to get something down in this blog to get started, but I think this deserves multiple posts.

I think it’s fair to say that I will never be quite the same after this trip – and now, in the limited time I was there – I have been there, done that.

But I am struck with how well my daughter is doing up there, putting that College of Charleston communication degree to work, currently at an awesome advertising agency called SpotCo – specializing in theatre, and more specifically the branding of many leading productions.

Taylor has really gotten to know the lay of the land, has awesome roommates, and doesn’t appear to take any shit from anyone.

Thanks for the advice, kid – but I can’t help saying hello to strangers.

I will always remember our long weekend in “The City,” but spending time with Taylor was priceless!

 

tay-in-brooklyn

Almost a month ago, my daughter took off to New York City.

Taylor had only been back in Myrtle Beach for a month when the opportunity presented itself, and it’s like the universe conspired to make the trip possible: A friend of one of her lifelong friends was heading up there and had room in her vehicle – but the friend making the trip was leaving from Winston-Salem, NC.

And that lifelong friend had a place for Taylor to stay when she got there.

It just so happened that my niece – Taylor’s cousin – was in town for Labor Day and was heading back to her home in High Point on that Sunday.

High Point is 20 miles away from Winston-Salem.

See where I am going with this?

tay-nyc20

By a wonderful, serendipitous miracle of logistics and goodwill – my daughter is where the action is.

She already told me she wasn’t coming back. I hope she’s kidding – but I am also confident that she will carve out a niche for herself up there and will be able to put that College of Charleston communication degree to good use.

If she can make it there, she’ll make it anywhere…

My daughter isn’t one to let the grass grow under foot. Within about a week she snagged a hostessing job at a French-American restaurant and cafe in Brooklyn called French Louie. No doubt having worked at excellent places in Charleston such as Slightly North of Broad (S.N.O.B.) and more recently Amen Street Fish & Raw Bar, coupled with her familiarity with OpenTable were big pluses.

They told her that they were after hospitality at French Louie. My kid lived in the epicenter of Southern hospitality for four years.

This week she was interviewed by a College of Charleston graduate at a PR firm on Madison Avenue. There is a CofC alumni group in Manhattan – and another friend made her aware of this.

Frankly – Taylor has a group of friends in The City that parallels her Charleston experience. Not to mention that lifelong friend since middle school in Myrtle Beach, who has already been working steadily in the entertainment industry up there.

If not now, when…

Taylor was about to wait until she saved up a bit from working here in Myrtle before heading up North to poke around – but I suppose fate intervened when the universe conspired.

The last thing I would want for her would be to “settle” for a temporary job here and then, ten years on, wonder what the hell happened.

I can’t be more proud.

Or more terrified.

tay-leaving

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“Who am I anyway/Am I My Resume/That is a picture of a person I don’t know…” – A Chorus Line

My daughter Taylor, bought tickets for us to check out a revival of “A Chorus Line” at the Footlight Players Theatre – a venerable playhouse in Charleston’s French Quarter – a wonderful birthday present for me and well worth the wait.

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From curtain to curtain – I was transported back to July 1976, when I was lucky enough to see some of the original Broadway cast in the now iconic show’s first national tour at the Shubert Theatre in Los Angeles.

Could that really have been 40 years ago? Good god.

Funny about the human psyche. Memories merged with reality – and it was like I remembered everything – I had fight the urge to sing along, and Taylor actually gave me the look and warned me not to even think about it.

I cried several times, of course.

Two of her friends were in the cast, and both did a wonderful job: Tyler Brockington handling the role of Diana Morales [think “Nothing” and “What I Did For Love”] and Clyde Moser as Bobby Mills [Replacing Troy Donahue – with Jamie Foxx and Channing Tatum – in the “If Troy Donahue can be a movie star/then I can be a movie star” bit].

Both Brockington and Moser were terrific – as was the rest of the cast and the production as a whole – and kudos to director Robin Burke, musical director Manny Houston [who slayed it on piano, with a bassist and drummer] and choreographer Megan Pue.

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Packed house.

The day began with a visit to the Karpeles Manuscript Library/Museum, which is said to be the world’s largest private collection of original manuscripts and documents. We scoped out the current exhibit, boasting letters and other documentation from the Wright Brothers.

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Then coffee at her favorite coffee shop, Brown’s Court Bakery, and later a bite at Cane Rhum Bar. I enjoyed the Charleston Hots, a mini fish fry and Taylor had chicken with coconut curry – but we shared. Apparently, Cane had just opened, replacing a bar that was at that location for 70 years and was a low-key Citadel hangout.

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Taylor’s friends Steph Mazzella and Danielle Mullis joined us there.

As I mentioned before in this blog, Taylor has such an amazing group of friends in the Holy City.

This was a day for the books, and I am so grateful to have been invited.