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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.

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Kingston-Throop Station/Brooklyn

The Sunday of our New York trip was a “free day,” a day to knock around with no real agenda.

My daughter came up with a lunch plan, though – and it involved Brenda and I taking the subway to Brooklyn this time. The idea was to meet up at the DeKalb Market Hall – a bustling spot boasting 27 thousand square feet and more than 40 diverse food vendors, all under one roof. Our friend Rachel was coming along too.

Photo: Eater NY

Once again, we made it with no issues – and we were amazed. This was like a food truck festival sans trucks, offering culinary choices with names like Bunsmith, Forager’s Market, Hana Noodles, Paella Shack and so much more – the aromas and colorful signage and lighting from the little kitchens merging to create a mélange of sensory pleasures. The folks were friendly and ready to help or to explain the items on their varied menus. Some menus were pretty straightforward, though.

At that level of the mall, there was a Trader Joe’s. This is where Taylor sometimes went shopping. I was happy to know this because now I had a visual reference for when she calls me while out and about.

I opted for conventional pirogi. I am a sucker for those things, and I can’t say there are many eateries in Myrtle Beach that serve them. I shared with Taylor, who in return shared her excellent, hand-pulled ramen.

We all wound up at Target on the upper floor of the shopping complex. Go figure.

We all hopped the “Q” [damn, what an urbanite expression] to Prospect Park and then hoofed it to Rachel’s apartment nearby. It was nice of her to invite us – and we had the chance to meet her roommate, filmmaker Bruce Wemple. I found out at this moment that a couple of his shorts are on Amazon Prime. I will be watching those soon.

Bruce also built a bar – and it was there in all its glory in their living room. Impressive. I don’t drink anymore, but I kept eyeing his bottle of Havana Club with envy.

Rachel suggested we walk around Prospect Park and told us that it was designed by the same pair that gave us Central Park, Frederick Law Olmstead and Calvert Vaux. For whatever reason, we didn’t go. And we didn’t go to Central Park Either. Next time.

But we were on our way to Bed-Stuy – walking along Flatbush Avenue with Taylor. It seems every neighborhood has its own vibe. We ducked into a very nice independent shop called Greenlight Bookstore. Well-stocked, well-lit and welcoming – it was one of two locations in Brooklyn. It’s comforting to walk into a brick-and-mortar bookstore. Familiar. No matter where you are.

https://greenlightbklyn.tumblr.com

Last visit, Taylor and I spent an hour or so checking out Strand Book Store. That place blew my mind. Before that, the last one I visited was Blue Bicycle Books in Charleston when Taylor was still in college.

Fun fact: My daughter told me recently that we got off the train at the very station where Michael Jackson’s Martin Scorsese-directed video for “Bad” was filmed: Hoyt-Schermerhorn.

The human memory is a damned unreliable source, and I’m afraid too much time has gone by for me to remember whether or not we took the train at all on the way back from Rachel’s – but my daughter confirmed that we took the Franklin Avenue Shuttle to another train that took us to Bed-Stuy. At any rate, we got to Taylor’s brownstone on Halsey Street, which was built in 1899. I was happy that Brenda had a chance to see it. As I mentioned in a previous BLOG POST, Taylor’s roommates are also her friends – and one in particular, Catherine, has been Taylor’s friend since middle school in Myrtle Beach.

We were all hungry – so after hanging out for a bit on Halsey Street, we set out to dinner with two of her roommates, Kaja and Jacob. After arriving too late at our first choice, Zaca Café (American/French fusion), we wound up at a snug little Mexican eatery called Tepache, also on Halsey Street. Perfect. I ate a chimichanga the size of my head.

Taylor pointed us in the direction of the correct subway station with instructions, and we arrived back in Hell’s Kitchen in time to wander around the Theatre District. We felt emboldened in our new surroundings, and ended the evening by grabbing a couple of slices of cheesecake at Junior’s and bringing them back to our hotel, Row NYC. We will never be the same again.

We tried to pack as much as living as we could into our four days in New York City. Top of mind as we embarked on day two was the Elton John concert at Barclays Center later that night. Read all about that show HERE.

Before the trip, I happened to find a pair of low-top, old-school Adidas on the clearance rack at a shoe store and picked them up immediately. Divine providence, I figured, had sent me those shoes – just like the ones featured in the Run-D.M.C. video, “My Adidas.”

Now those fucking shoes were killing me, and I didn’t think to bring another pair. The toe boxes were so narrow that my toenails were digging into the sides of the adjacent toes. All I could do was stick Band-Aids on some toes and keep stepping, as it were.  

Some people gird their loins. I girded my toes, preparing for the frenetic pace about to be set by the taskmaster, AKA my daughter.

We woke up a bit late, considering the fact that we were supposed to be exploring – and the first order of business was coffee. As I mentioned in the first installment, there was no coffee maker in our room. So we did what most Americans do in any city. We found a Starbucks down the street from our hotel. Really , we would have ducked into any coffee shop – but lo and behold, Starbucks was the first one we saw. Big surprise, right?

Don’t judge. It did the trick – fortifying us for our stroll to Macy’s, a place Brenda wanted to check out. Hell, we still watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade – and since I have heard the expression, “Kiss my ass in Macy’s window at high noon and tell me it smells like roses” so many times, I didn’t mind checking it out either. Incidentally, that quote is attributed to Lyndon Johnson.

I let my daughter know that we were headed in the direction of Macy’s, and she was heading in from Bed-Stuy to meet us.

It felt interesting to be planted in New York – following my GPS toward the iconic department store. I think we headed down 6th Avenue toward 34th Street. Pretty sure memory serves that I saw Radio City Music Hall down 6th in the other direction. Nonetheless, the walk was awesome. So much to take in. I now wish I took notes.

We made it to Macy’s, but Taylor hadn’t arrived yet – so I went back outside to vape and wait for her while Brenda struck up a conversation with a lady in fragrances.

Side note – that brings to mind Amazon’s “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” – when Mrs. Maisel, going through a divorce, had to work at a cosmetics counter at a huge department store in New York in the late 1950s. I highly recommend that show. Snappy dialogue (I actually appreciated the subtitles turned on in this case), fast-paced writing and a great ensemble.

Rachel Brosnahan as Mrs. Maisel / Amazon Studios

I am sure somebody will take offense – but Macy’s was, well, a department store. Perhaps the multiple floors and the sheer amount of upscale branding coming at you was interesting. My favorite part about the visit was watching Brenda interact with the fragrance lady, who had been to Myrtle Beach on vacation. She planned on coming again. It’s funny, and as evidenced by Carolina Forest – so many New Yorkers want to make the Myrtle Beach area home. Brenda got herself a bottle of Versace Bright Crystal and we ducked out.

Somehow I am over department stores, as I believe most Americans are.

Taylor, trouper that she is, got us to the Staten Island Ferry. We decided to take a ride back and forth and catch a glimpse of the harbor and the Statue of Liberty from that vantage point. We thought about going on the actual tour of both Liberty Island and Ellis Island, but we figured this Ferry would work for our purposes.

I must admit that I thought of my father arriving by ocean liner from London when he moved here in 1956. He was, like I am, prone to a good cry – and he told me he sobbed when he first caught sight of Lady Liberty. He loved America and everything he thought it stood for. Always called presidents Mister – like Mr. Nixon or Mr. Reagan. Such a wonderful guy. There was nobody else like him.

There were so many people gathering to take the ferry across that I got worried that we would have to push for seats. This shows how little I knew about the sheer size of those vessels. Unbelievable. Room to spare – and I spend a lot of time walking around onboard as well.

When we got to Staten Island, I was kind of pissed that we had to get off. We wanted to go right back across. But we hung out for about 30 minutes inside the terminal. I bought Taylor a beer and went outside to vape, of course. When I was out there, I saw some dude get out of an Uber and drop a shopping bag. He was grateful when I told him about it.

I thought to myself, where were all of the rude people?

Time seemed to compress. I think it was because we were getting excited about Elton. By the time we made it back to Midtown, it was time to grab a quick bite and change. We decided to pop into Shake Shack in the Theater District and take some burgers and fried up to our room – with Taylor, of course.

We took a train together to the Barclays Center stop, and I was amazed about how convenient that trip was. Tay ran off to have a drink with her friend Rachel Feldman, who lived nearby and was at a local watering hole. We hung around outside Barclays for a time, marveling at the huge digital sign at the arena touting the sold out show. The crowds were arriving from everywhere.

An employee directed a bunch of folks toward other entrances – and Brenda and I noticed an entrance for American Express Cardmembers. What the heck, I only have a Green Card, but that was enough – and we slipped into the arena. I guess we all didn’t have to be Tina Fey to enjoy a bit of a perk.

I bought myself a tour shirt and one for Taylor at 40 bucks a pop. At the end of the day, that didn’t seem nearly as outrageous as I anticipated. We found our seats, and Taylor met up with us in perfect time to make the beginning of the show. She was wearing an awesome red sequined blouse. Reg Dwight would approve.

For the next three hours, forget it. I cried from the downbeat, Hell, I cried when the place went black – that all-too-familiar anticipation. Hooted. Hollered. Cried again. Tried my best to be in the moment. This was the last time I would see Elton John play live. Read about it and see video HERE.

What a night!

Since Taylor lives in Brooklyn, there was no reason for her to have to escort us back to Midtown. We said goodnight at the subway station, and Tay went to the other side to wait for her train.

Brenda and I made it back with no problems. When we emerged from the subway, I swore I heard somebody calling me. Sure enough, it was Clyde Moser, who had come with us to Marie’s Crisis the night before. He and a friend had just gotten out of a show. In a city with more than eight million people, moments like this are priceless.

After a quick selfie, Brenda and I went to a corner pizza place and had a slice. We never say “slice” in Myrtle Beach.

We unwound in our room at Row NYC, “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” still ringing in our ears.

Earlier this month, we spent four days in and around New York City. The trip was much anticipated, and it came about because of Elton John.

I’ll explain…

In February 2018, my daughter and I were having a back-and-forth on Facebook messenger – discussing  Elton John’s Farewell Yellow Brick Road tour. New dates were about to be added, including Brooklyn and Columbia, South Carolina.

Taylor lives in Brooklyn and I live in Myrtle Beach. We discussed the possibility of her coming here for the Columbia show, but she would have had to return to her work in New York quickly – which would basically give her only a couple of days here. In short order, a new plan gelled. How about we (with my girlfriend, Brenda) come up there…

That was it. The show would be more than a year later, and we figured it was doable. We could spend time together, see the City and catch Elton at Barclays Center. See my post about that show HERE.

When all was said and done, we packed a lot of living into those four days.

DAY ONE

We flew into LaGuardia via Spirit Airlines on March 8. My daughter gave us two tickets as a Christmas present. I had only been in New York once before over Memorial Day Weekend in 2017. At that time, I flew into JFK on American Airlines. Taylor met me there and we took a couple of trains into Brooklyn without any problems. I stayed with her at her place in Bedford–Stuyvesant.

Quite frankly, I heard a lot of negatives about LaGuardia – from ongoing construction issues to delayed flights and transportation snarls. Add to these the fact that we would have no clue about the lay of the land and you would be right that I didn’t think I’d want to deal with any of that.

We must have gotten lucky, because flying in and navigating the airport was fine – and Taylor opted to greet us at the airport. Strangers in a strange land, as it were – it was good to see Taylor get off the bus at the terminal. We got immersed in the MTA system immediately; first with a bus and then a train into Manhattan.

First up was a tour of Taylor’s work, SPOTCO, an entertainment advertising, marketing and branding agency in Midtown. I was taken with how genuinely nice the people were – to me and in what they had to say about Taylor. The offices were smart, inviting and no doubt conducive to productivity. What a great vibe! I am by nature a hugger, and many of her coworkers were huggers as well. For those that weren’t, I was on a roll and hugged just about everyone anyway.

At Ivanna’s Desk at SPOTCO

SPOTCO represents a dizzying array of clients, currently including “Kinky Boots,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “The Book of Mormon,” “Beetlejuice,” “Mean Girls” and much more. I am thrilled that my daughter is involved with such an awesome organization and so many wonderful people.

But we had places to go. Taylor and her friend, Erin, helped us over to our hotel with a couple of boxes of clothes we shipped to avoid having to check them on Spirit. That was too kind of them both – they wouldn’t let us carry them. Thanks, Ladies!

Row NYC is on 8th Avenue just off Times Square in a neighborhood called Hell’s Kitchen. It boasts 27 stories and more than 1300 rooms and opened in 1928 as the Hotel Lincoln. In its long history in good times and bad, it was also called the Manhattan Hotel, the Royal Manhattan and the Milford Plaza.

During renovations in 2013, the building was briefly named the Milford New York Hotel before it became Row NYC in 2014.

Whenever I book a hotel, I am a bit hyper-vigilant and sometimes afraid to hit the button to finalize the purchase. I looked at too many reviews of Row NYC and other properties around Times Square. To my satisfaction, the room was just what we thought it was going to be. Recently-renovated but tiny. Modern. No coffee maker. But decent city views and a comfortable bed. We were going for economy, of course – and we had no complaints.

We wanted to be in Times Square because Taylor’s work was nearby. We considered staying in Brooklyn but preferred to be right in the thick of things – ideally to have the freedom to mosey around from this centralized location. All good.

But this was just the beginning. Taylor had it all worked out: We would go eat pizza and then head to a place far from Kansas but close to “Oklahoma,” as we shall see.

Prince Street Pizza is located in the Nolita neighborhood – or “North of Little Italy” – on, well, Prince Street.   We waited quite a long time to get in – and the place was tiny – a counter up front and a small section to stand and eat if you could get a spot. We crammed in as best we could after receiving our pizza – their famous “Soho Squares” and chowed down. The pizza was gooey with scalding mozzarella, “old world” pepperoni and thick dough. Simple and delicious.

Whether or not this trumps any pizza slice I have ever eaten is certainly up for debate. When I brought that up later, Taylor got annoyed – but there it is. Photos of celebrities lined the wall where we ate, and even at close proximity, other customers were friendly enough. Nobody was rude.

We said our goodbyes to Erin, and then it was off to the West Village to a spot very near the Stonewall Inn, the epicenter of the 1969 Stonewall Riots, a watershed event in the fight for LGBT rights.

The spot in question was Marie’s Crisis. An online reviewer summed up the place like this: ”Marie’s Crisis is a basement piano bar with cheap drinks and the opportunity to sing unlimited show tunes.”

Thomas Paine Died in this House

Marie’s Crisis is just off Christopher Street on Grove Street. I went there once before with Taylor on my previous trip. It’s tiny. With an upright piano surrounded by an enclosure and a bar to its right – folks are squished together and it is mandatory to check your coat.

But that place – that place might be the happiest place in New York – especially when the piano player starts in with the showtunes. Even the surliest, meanest looking motherfucker becomes angelic as he belts out “Corner of the Sky” or “Don’t Cry For Me Argentina.” Maybe it’s a tune from “Rent” or “Wicked” that does the trick.

For me, it’s almost anything from “A Chorus Line.”

We met up with three of Taylor’s friends – Rachel, Clyde and Mary. Thank God they let us get in line with them, because the line was getting longer as we arrived.

Taylor went to the College of Charleston with Rachel and Clyde, which is amazing in itself – I mean the fact that the three of them now live and work in The City.  I am happy to also call them friends. And it was great to meet Mary, too.

We spent a couple of hours at Marie’s – singing our hearts out. Rachel and I had spoken about our affection for “A Chorus Line” many times – including when she visited us in Myrtle Beach years ago. I am not sure if it was Clyde or Rachel that put in the request for a series of songs from the show – but singing together brought me so much joy.

I blogged about a production of “A Chorus Line” that Taylor and I went to see in Charleston in 2016 – with none other than Clyde in the part of Bobby Mills. Read that post HERE.

I am happy that Brenda got a taste of all of this too. Musicals are a part of my DNA – and now, thank God, they are part of Taylor’s.

We rode the train back to our neck of the woods with Taylor and friends. They went off to her favorite Bar, Hold Fast, which I will be blogging about later.

Brenda and I got some snacks at Duane Reade near Times Square and moseyed to our hotel.

I’d say this was a good day.

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Sunday, I bid my son farewell before he headed back to base in Virginia.

Wes had been overseas for seven months, and was able to spend the past two weeks on leave here in Myrtle Beach.

As he pulled away, the reality hit me again, as it often does, that my son is a United States Marine. A Devil Dog.

Teufel_Hunden_US_Marines_recruiting_poster

Surreal.

I was also astonished to think about all he had done in the time he was here – a testament to squeezing as much enjoyment and quality time that you can out of a limited visit to a particular place.

The iffy thing for parents, spouses and loved ones of active duty servicemembers is to nail down exactly when they will be arriving, despite what they tell you. We have all heard horror stories of military delays, last-minute changeups and other logistical snafus. This can suck when it comes to airline reservations – particularly because there is really no way to get the best deals – not only for the servicemember, but also for family that might also want to fly in.

In this case, that family is my daughter and his twin sister, Taylor, who flew in from New York City the following weekend.

We also wanted to make sure that Wes had the proper welcome home that he deserved, and once we knew for sure that he was set to arrive, I got in touch with several of his friends to make sure that he had a greeting party ready for him at the Myrtle Beach Airport.

An outstanding group of friends from Tinder Box Myrtle Beach rallied as well – and we had an impromptu reception at our humble apartment here in Myrtle Beach afterwards.

I am beyond grateful to Stephen Shuessler of CrossFit Myrtle Beach for putting the word out at his box [CrossFit lingo for gym] – and helping to gather a group of Wes’ CrossFit family. It warms my heart to feel the love.

His Uncle Chris [my twin brother and musical accomplice] and Aunt Betsy [my sister-in-law] were there also – as well as Wes’ best friend and de facto brother, Xavier Pringle – and we wore the amazing tee shirts my dear friends Tonya and Kenny [A Plus Screen Printing] made for Wes’ graduation at Parris Island 16 months ago.

Here’s a laundry list of what he was up to:

CrossFit. A half-marathon in his 30-pound flak vest, or Modular Tactical Vest [I guess he did want his MTV]. Multiple trips to Chipotle. A dinner out, looking awesome in his Dress Blue Deltas. A walk on the beach with yours truly and his twin sister. A jaw-dropping new tattoo from the master, Shay Haf-Ded, at Red Raven Art Company.

The young man took the time to catch Yale Brothers gig at Liberty Brewery and Grill in Myrtle Beach. That meant a lot. We dedicated the night to him and he was received enthusiastically.

I had a bet with my girlfriend Brenda as to how long it would take before he and Taylor bickered about something. Answer: Not long – and it was music to my ears. Being a twin myself – I understand the dynamic. The old cliché’ stands: They might bandy about all day – but don’t get it twisted. They have each other’s backs.

My regret is that Taylor’s job required her to be back in The City – and she was only here for a weekend. But she was here, and that was awesome.

My adult children. Who knew?

My main man. My son. My Marine.

Semper fi, son!

 

 

 

 

I officiated my niece’s wedding last month.

Cathy and Pat Altar

Cathy and her now husband Pat had met and dated in high school in the 1980s, and as life happened, the pair went on to their own lives and respective marriages.

They reconnected nearly ten years ago, rekindling the fire that never quite went out between them – and on June 24, they made it legal and tied the knot.

Aside from being flattered and honored that they would have thought of me for such a milestone, I also felt unqualified – to say nothing of the fact that I was not an ordained minister.

But I also knew that I could do this. I officiated a wedding at the last minute here in Myrtle Beach a few years ago, when a minister failed to show up to a friend’s wedding. Thankfully, there was a notary on hand to make the deal official – and I did the best I could to drum up an impromptu ceremony. Nothing like a little pressure – but we all know enough about weddings from movies and TV shows we have seen and other weddings we have attended to know the basic routine of a wedding ceremony.

Cathy and Pat Wedding Group

I said yes immediately, thinking that we could replicate the whole notary-on-hand thing. The problem was this: After a quick search on the Web, I discovered that a notarized wedding is not allowed in North Carolina.

Cathy sent me a link to an outfit that ordained folks online – and it was perfectly legit – only I wasn’t particularly down with the oath I was supposed to take before proceeding. This was something to the effect that marriage was only for a man and a woman and I would have to swear that I agreed with all that – including a decisively fundamentalist doctrine.

Check, please.

It should come as no big surprise that I am for marriage equality – and diversity. Call me what you will, but I believe that if they so desire, any two people who love each other should be entitled to marry and to enjoy all the privileges, benefits and yes – the headaches – of married life.

I also believe in God, but I can live without some of His people.

After a brief search, I was happy to find an organization called American marriage Ministries, which more accurately lined up with my beliefs – and after a simple process, I became an ordained minister.

Some states require that officiants register within the counties in which they are to perform marriage ceremonies, but North Carolina is not one of them – so I was good to go.

The cool thing about my ordination is that I am free to design and perform whatever type of ceremony the couple wants – from uber-religious to secular to quirky – and I am not hamstrung by one set of beliefs.

Cathy and Pat opted for a traditional Christian ceremony with an added feature called a sand ceremony, where the officiant and the couple pour different colors of sand into a vessel, signifying the union in a nice visual and symbolic way. The sand ceremony is an alternative to the better-known unity candle ceremony.

Roger With Cathy and Pat - Wedding

The gathering, at my sister’s home in Denver, North Carolina, was attended by friends and loved ones – all in all a beautiful setting.

Saying yes opens doors and paves the way for sometimes unexpected opportunities. I believe that.

Roger Filling Out Marriage License

I remain honored to have been asked – and happy that I punched another hole in my comfort zone.

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!