I was awakened by a sharp pain in the back. Took the painkiller too early last night, I suppose. All attempts to fall asleep earlier than usual failed miserably; sleep wouldn’t come.
Excited, anxious, and a bundle of nerves? You bet. My brain was still processing various scenarios that could have played out today when the muscle relaxant must have kicked in because the next thing I remember was waking to that pain.
Arriving at the home of our hosts I was happy and surprised to find two friends from my previous church excited about seeing the Metropolitan Museum of Art for the first time, and a few others from the community that I volunteered with for various charities.
Tables set up on the driveway were laden with fresh local fruit, tea, donuts, cold soda, and bottled water – all provided by the hosts – but I was too excited to consume anything other than bottled water.
Our names were checked off a passenger list as we arrived and told we could store personal things on the bus on the seat of our choice. We hit the road at 7:10 a.m. and everyone was giddy with excitement and we got to know one another easily by sharing our plans for the day. Some were going to the theatre, others were going shopping, and I was going to spend the day with a friend from childhood, another I’ve known over 50 years, and meeting new ones for the first time. This drew lots of attention, for some reason.
By 8 a.m. a couple of women traveling together and a gay couple revealed that they had brought (among other goodies) the makings for Mimosa’s and Bloody Marys and promptly started on their mixology thingies. Mind you, one of them even brought along plastic champagne flutes, and tumblers. Things got rowdy among those four and (lucky me) two were seated behind me and the other two directly across from me…what fun.
By 8:45 a.m. those four were in rare form. The laughter was contagious. Then began the inevitable “are we there yet” taunts at our driver. Not from the youngsters onboard, but from the boomers. It would have been embarrassing if it wasn't such fun.
When Manhattan came into view I had a flashback to the first time I saw that skyline followed by a rush of memories. It was pretty much unchanged since the twin towers weren’t even being considered back in 1963. Hell, Lincoln Center wasn’t even finished.
We arrived on 47th street in front of the Barrymore Theatre, directly across from the Brooks Atkinson, at 10:20 a.m.
And as we left the bus going our separate ways many people offered wishes that my day go well. Maybe they were prayers; Did they know something I didn’t???
As I made my way up 8th avenue to my childhood friend’s apartment I experienced very strange sensations related to the smells, sounds that live within me to this day. It was bizarre, but also quite comforting. Sorry, I have no other words. This was my home from age 16 to age 34.
I arrived at the apartment building at about 10:45; my presence was announced and I took the elevator to his floor. Conveniently, his apartment was directly in front of me as I exited. He couldn’t have made this easier. I rang the doorbell and was greeted with the brightest smile and a pair of the most beautiful baby-blues I have ever seen. It was David, my friend’s partner (use your own word here) and I don’t remember if we hugged, or not. By this time I was a mess. Dennis (my friend) was still pulling himself together and would join us shortly. I felt comfortable in their space. A good sign.
Though Dennis and I spent over an hour by phone playing catch up and preparing ourselves individually for this moment I sensed a bit of apprehension on his end, but for me it was as if life separated us for a while, but we were still on the same page about to pick up where we left off. We did.
Note: Dennis and I share the same birth date, same birth year, are left-handed, lived 10 houses apart, and each other’s hero growing up. Though we didn't share this last part until today.
About 20 minutes into our “back story” Dione arrived adding her own memories to some of the back-stories. This was a helluva lotta fun.
Not that you care what I think, but I believe that when old friends gather to reminisce about various events they all remember different details of the event, triggering further memories in the others that enhanced the experience of that particular incident which then becomes a shared truth.
By the time Dione’s friend Paul arrived conversations were jumping from one thread to two or three more before returning to the original topic…yes that’s what playing catch up on almost a half century can do…especially as there was so little time before the glass slipper would be left behind.
As we prepared to go out for lunch Dennis grew quiet, looking almost sad. No one said anything. I was concerned (of course, imagining that I had said something offensive) and asked him if there was something wrong. His face slowly turned into a smile and he offered the following: "Do you remember when we were in Jr. High and preparing for the annual May Festival whose theme was "Holidays" and you were dancing to Satan Takes a Holiday for Halloween and I was to represent St. Patrick's Day by dancing to the song 'Harrigan'?"
I remembered it, though vaguely.
Dennis continued, "Mrs. Satterley didn't know I wasn't a dancer and asked you to take me out to the cafeteria and teach me how to do the soft shoe - and you did that - and choreographed the entire number for me. I wanted to learn to do that. You were my hero and my life is what it is because of you, your talent and kindness."
We were tearing up. It was my turn.
Dennis was a natural tumbler at a very early age and as we put on "shows" for the neighborhood he would amaze me with his effortless flights through space hardly touching the earth. I got dizzy just trying to cartwheel. He was my hero and I was grateful that he considered me his friend. When he arrived in NYC and Broadway he was one of only 3 tumblers capable of many breathtaking feats that boggle the mind. He has made me very proud.
So, there you have it. Moving on...
After an al fresco lunch at a nearby Mexican place where we sipped margaritas and talked politics (both of which were satisfying, I might add) the skies opened up and thunderstorms sent people scrambling as we returned to the apartment (except for Paul) and the fill-in-the-blanks stories picked up where we left off.
Dione brought along a DVD of a star-studded concert to benefit NOLA and the survivors of Katrina. We watched a bit of that, but I was itching to get back to playing catch up.
As the old saying goes: “time flies like an arrow, fruit flies like a banana” and suddenly it was time to leave. We said our 'goodbyes' to Dennis and David, and in a heavy downpour Dione and I walked to the bus where we parted. The glass slipper was left beneath the Barrymore marquee when the bus pulled out at 7 p.m.
The ride back to Delaware was subdued. We were all soaked to the skin and tired after our adventures. As the thunderstorms and lightening strikes lit up the night sky, we were treated to two films on DVD. The Bucket List – with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson was quite good. The second was National Treasure 2 – one of the worst films I’ve ever seen. Oy.
We arrived at about 10:20 p.m., said our farewells, and drove off as I realized my jeans were still damp. I didn't care. Rainy days in NYC were always favourites while living there. I was way too cranked up from the events of the day, so writing this with events fresh in my mind is helping the coming down process.
Now for a few obligatory photos of the day...
For a brief seven hours my life was beautiful again. More love was shared this day then I’ve felt in a very long time. A blessing that I never dreamed I would receive.
And so it goes.