04 June 2011

A Saturday New York story

As I get ready for another trip to New York, something that's become almost a routine, my mind drifts back to a time not too long ago. Actually, it feels like a lifetime, but on a calendar it was only seven years ago.

I was about to turn 39 and I'd been a fervent promoter of a novel by Gregory Maguire called Wicked since the late '90s. If you were anywhere in my sphere back then, you'd have heard me hollering about that novel. I still holler about it if you catch me in a nostalgic moment.

Wicked is an achievement in American fiction and it remains an amazing read. If you've never read it, forget your preconceptions and pick up a copy. You'll never look at history the same way.

Anyhow, seven years ago somebody turned my beloved novel into a Broadway musical that was then struggling to keep the doors open. I was beyond intrigued by the idea of it and I hadn't been in New York in nearly 15 years. So to commemorate my 39th, my great friend Kevin Smith and I flew to New York for a weekend. We'd see the show, hang out with his friend Janine and spend a whole day running around New York.

Despite the juggernaut Wicked became eventually, Kevin and I saw it with its original cast in a half empty Gershwin Theater. We sat feet away in the fifth row of the orchestra when Kristin Chenoweth and Idina Menzel sang this:

I remember sitting in that theater during that number and getting choked up because that song was about me and Kevin. It was more than me and Kevin of course. It was about everyone I've ever known but it stopped with Kevin Smith.

Kevin Smith is a dear, dear friend. His is best and most solid friendship I've ever formed in my life. When we were in New York that weekend we were also neighbors in St. Pete. Back in St. Pete, Kevin taught me more than I think he'll ever know. Among many other things, he taught me how to live a life without shame and he taught me how to laugh. Kevin's willingness to share a cup of coffee and fresh cinnamon rolls taught me how to be a neighbor. His legendary rice and beans taught me how to be welcome guest.

Through our various highs and lows he's always been there to bring me back to earth when I'm flying too high and he's always been around to catch me when I crash and burn. I'd never be in the position I am today without his constant challenges and encouragement. More than anybody else, Kevin equipped me for the things I have in front of me now.

In the last seven years, New York's become what I like to call my home away from home away from home and Kevin's moved on to greener pastures in New Orleans. But every time I find myself on Madison Avenue I find myself thinking about Kevin Smith and that weekend way back when and I thank him for the role he's played in my life.

 Kevin, not to be a cliche, but because I know you, I have been changed for the better and for good.


  1. If he's not blushing, I'd be surprised. That is a really nice post.

  2. I'm more than blushing, I'm practically speechless.

    Thanks for the sweet post, Petal. I miss you more than you know.

  3. There's your answer Melody.

    Kevin, we need to arrange things so that we're in the Big Apple at the same time.

  4. I'm currently planning a summer trip with my 2 teenagers to NYC. Any suggestions for a nice, normal hotel for us to stay? (As in $5-10 oatmeal)

  5. You've read a couple of my New York stories...

    Your best bet is for the three of you to stay in one good-sized room in Midtown, away from Times Square but still centrally located. Look for a place like the Roosevelt Hotel. In that neighborhood you're still within walking distance or a short cab ride to what ever you want to see. Don't eat at the hotel, walk around until you find a menu that appeals to you and charges what you want to pay. New York's full of small places that don't charge and arm and a leg for things like oatmeal.

    It's an expensive city to spend time in, there's no question about that. But with a little digging and research, it's not hard to enjoy the city while remaining true to a budget. Just remember to stay in Midtown and away from Times Square.

  6. Paul,
    That recommendation is perfect. Right location, as we can easily get to Grand Central for the ride up to Westchester to see my childhood friends and of course well situated to explore the city. I'm so pleased that my Colorado raised kids love NY as much as I do. It will be our 2nd trip in as many years, having only scratched the surface the first time. And, I hope to get design inspiration while there. I'm starting to remodel my 1000 sq foot house and I keep thinking if it were a NYC apartment, I'd be living large.

  7. I'm glad that works. I love that city to an almost unnatural degree and it's a great to spread that around. Enjoy your trip and let me know if you need any show room recommendations for inspiration.

  8. @Ginny and save some room in the tummy for a slice of apple pie at Bubby's in Tribeca or Dumbo (Brooklyn) right off the bridge. You'll kick yourself if you do NYC without pie :-)

    Paul, I love how no matter how many times you visit NYC, you see it with the amazement and wonder like it is your first time.

    Amazing how friends come and go in our lives at just the right time and teach us what we need to learn. Sometimes we don't appreciate their significance until they've moved on, but the advantage of age is you are less eager to rush through the lifespan of a friend. Enough of that, I have a book to read! You are going make me go broke eventually :-) Heck of a way to go, though.

  9. New York will never cease to amaze and enthrall me. Really, it's the capital of the world and I can't imagine getting enough of it to ever sate me.

    That I know so many people there just makes it all the more an amazing place. I get to see beyond the Times Squares and the Rockefeller Centers and it gets all the more magical the more I can see it as a resident does.

    The novel Wicked will thrill and and enthrall you as it did me I hope and if nothing else, you'll never see The Wizard of Oz the same way again.

  10. Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! I adore the book and when I saw it (the first time) in NY I too sat in the 5th row and cried. When I saw it later with one of my best friends I cried then too! So happy you got to share it with someone who means so much to you in a city you love. Nice way to start my week. ; )

  11. Hurray! Another Maguire fan. We should start a club. Have a great week Saucy.

  12. I had a friend like that in the army in the 1960s. I'm white; he's black. It was 1965, and lots and lots of things were happening between the races. Having him for a friend taught me so much about race (I was born and raised in Montana, so had never seen the things in the south). But it went further then that because it eventually go to a point where every question I had for him on race had been answered. Then he went on to teach me a lot about life itself. His name was Billy Pruitt, and after I left Berlin in 1966 I never saw him again. But I will always be grateful for the things he taught me.

  13. That's a great story Joseph, thanks.


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