The subject of Gramercy Park Hotel was brought up, and the decision was unanimous to take a trip across the city to experience Alex’s old stomping ground. When we walked into the hotel, my overall impression was that a cedar forest must have wooed a primeval castle, and their union had produced a very artsy and abstract child. The smell that overtook you in the entrance was a cedar closet that had been given a good scrub down with your mother’s most expensive soap. The walls were rough wood, and it seemed that if you leaned against them you would find yourself with a splinter. The enormous blown glass chandelier dangled delicately but ominously from the high, exposed-beam ceiling. Oversized fireplaces blazed in the distance. Heavy red draperies were hung 20 feet in the air and tumbled to the floor in piles of liquid velvet, making a dominant statement of permanence. The ambiance was dark, with low lights dimmed to an even darker hue by jewel colored sconces. However, in the midst of this union of old and new, there hung gigantic original works of art by Andy Warhol and Julian Schnabel with their abstract sense of space, skewed lines, and brave color pallets. The furniture was bordering on New Age, with shark-toothed light fixtures, shallow couches, and royal blue velvet fabrics. This was a place of art, and a place where it was OK to be different. It was, however, not a place to huddle in large groups, laugh raucously, and take tourist shots. Even so, that was exactly what we did 🙂 The stiff manager on duty, the aquiline-faced doorman, and the model bar tender all did their best to show their respect to Alex, their former co-worker, and her rowdy family. However, when we turned away, I could feel the tips of their mouths curling into a smile as they looked at us down their pretty noses.
Evening came and it was time for the theatre! Or at least, that is how Jeremiah and I dressed. I wore a red dress with a plunging back, and Jeremiah wore a suit and tie. It felt like everyone else at the theatre wore blue jeans, or some close equivalent, but Jeremiah and I stood proud in paying our respect for this esteemed art form. “The Color Purple” was a delightful experience with magnificent singing, lively dance numbers, and a moving story line. There was some lesbianism that seemed forced and added for political correctness. It was short-lived, however, and we didn’t allow it to detract from our overall experience. Tommy, who had a front-row seat said that some of the suggestive dancing, which was just amusing from our seats, was outright vulgar from his close proximity (but I don’t think he minded THAT much :)). After the play, we went to a fancy pizza and pasta restarurant right there on Broadway and all shared our favorite moments from the play. Down at our end of the table we also heard the soap-operaesque stories of some of Aunt Jeanie’s friends, and laughed as Uncle Sam realized he had bought a $40 gourmet pizza that he could hardly stand to take a bite of because of its funky cheese 🙂
The night ended with a quick stop at a bakery where we all munched on various desserts and found ourselves so giddy with tiredness that we laughed about nothing until we cried. Jeremiah and I also invited Tommy to come stay in our room for the night. The guilt of knowing that Tommy, Mrs. Ohs, and Alex were all sharing one futon while Jeremiah and I had an extra bed in our hotel room finally got to us. Tommy, Jeremiah, and me piled into our room still laughing and reminissing about a fun night.
When we landed in New York City my first thought was how dramatically our placement on the map had changed. Somehow traveling always takes me back to the giant map of the United States hanging on the board in my eighth grade history classroom. Dothan–here, New York– WAY up there, oh Pace was so far away. Then we were off, out of the airport, away from that map and into the heart of the city. Our hotel was beautiful and only a couple of blocks from Times Square. Jeremiah and I plopped onto the bed and reveled in the thought of three whole nights in luxury. The first evening we toured Rockefeller Center, and I saw the biggest tree I have ever seen. All I could think was that somebody strung all of those lights and somebody has to take them all off. That is, unless they just chunk the lights with the tree, but what an astronomical waste if they did that! Next we toured St. Peters, looked at Jimmy Choo shoes and marveled that some people actually pay hundreds or thousands of dollars for one pair, and oohhed over the shop displays that some artist had fashioned in Christmas splendor.
That night we (Dr. and Mrs. Maddox, Jeremiah and me) met Josh, Alex, Tommy, Mrs. Ohs, and Marissa for dinner at an Italian restaurant called Sambuca’s. We had pasta with pesto and pine nuts, T-bone steaks, mashed potatoes, broccoli leaves cooked with minced garlic, chicken pasta with a cream-based red sauce, baked ziti, and smooth red wine, all served family style. We stuffed ourselves with food and conversation and basked in the joy of all being together. Then, we set off for a small bar tucked on a side street, that few tourists would ever notice. It was a bar where a man sat at a large piano and played any Broadway song upon request. He never faltered with a word or note, and his enthusiasm never wavered. We were surrounded by what I imagine were some of the Broadway actors themselves singing their own songs and also some hopefuls like ourselves who can only dream of days on the big stage. I must note that the gay population was quite healthy in this particular bar and that was a culture shock for me. There is something about watching a man nuzzle another man’s neck that is just never going to be comfortable.
The next morning we met the group again for brunch at a restaurant on Broadway called Ellen’s Stardust. Because our party was so large, we had to be seated downstairs all by ourselves. We had five waiters that sang directly to our table, and they were all incredibly talented singers. We could never have afforded to pay for such a private party! Jeremiah even got pulled up to dance when a waitress performed “Cowboy Take Me Away”. Don’t worry, I was watching to be sure she didn’t take him TOO far away 🙂 After that delightful treat, the boys and girls parted company. The ladies went shopping and the guys went to build more marvels in Josh’s apartment. There was one moment on our shopping expedition that I would like to mention. After trying on lots of clothes and laughing with the other girls about what looked good and what, frankly looked ridiculous, I took a minute to sit in an overstuffed chair off in a discreet corner and just soak up where I was. I was in the middle of NEW YORK CITY, with all its eccentricities, larger than life monuments to industrialization, people of every nationality, money and luxury to the extreme, and poverty. I was content to be one of the masses, a lone island in a swirling sea of technicolor.
When I worked at the PSDF in Wilsonville, it was important to me that Jeremiah make the trek out there and see for himself where I worked. I wanted to feel him in my everyday life. I wanted to know that when I told him I was sitting in the control room, he had a visual image of what that meant. In my mind, seeing where I worked was a part of KNOWING the “new” me. There was also an added bonus, because Jeremiah’s prescence at my work made it more familiar than it had been before his visit. I enjoyed looking over at my “visitor’s chair” and remembering what he had looked like sitting in it. When I climbed the stairs into the intimidating structure, I remembered the laughter we had shared thinking about me running something that big. No longer were my co-workers just stories around the dinner table, they became real people to him, and in doing so, they became a bit more real to me as well.
So, I don’t know if Josh and Alex will feel any difference after knowing that their family has taken a dip into their new lives, but I know that I certainly enjoyed the plunge.