Buenos días a todos from the Old Pueblo! I have returned to Tucson following five wonderful days in New York City with my sister, Bonny. I planned this trip in September when I visited our 96 y/o mum at the memory center. Mum lived with Bonny and her family for some 6 years before dementia set in. Mum babysat all three of Bonny’s children since birth so there is a long history between them. Plus, Bonny and mum would go on gambling and Bingo trips (mum won $42,000; $28K after taxes several years ago). She was a marvel and winning. Anyway, Bonny has looked haggard from the pandemic, placing mum in the center, and her loss of traveling companion. Since we were vaccinated and NYC was opening up, I though a few days doing what we did pre-pandemic would be helpful for Bonny.
We had a marvelous time. First, though let me tell you what NYC expects of visitors…any visitors. You must carry proof of your vaccine, photo ID and wear a mask. We saw several booths in Times Square for vaccine testing (free) and on Wednesday, I saw that health workers had a table set up to provide vaccines. I expect it was Moderna as they had small freezers in their ‘trailer’. Again, vaccines were free. If the police (or any health checker) came into a bar or restaurant to check ALL patrons for proof of vaccine and ID and even if ONE patron did not have these items, the business can be fined $1000/violation! So, businesses were quite firm about vaccine card, ID and mask (when not stuffing food or drink into our faces). We stayed at the Riu on 42nd and 8th and it was FABULOUS. We got a room on the 24th floor, breakfast was a feast and they ran the huge number of people better than a military campaign. And same deal…ever morning we had to show ID and proof of vaccination even if you showed it the day before. If you had neither, no breakfast until you came back with required items.
We arrived last Saturday and returned on Wednesday night. Our first task after checking in was theater tickets. We could not afford $359 each for Waitress. We did manage to get 3rd row orchestra seats for $180.00 each for Hadestown (totally outstanding and with cross-generation and cross-racial actors) for Tuesday night. The story is based on a Greek tragedy relevant to modern times. The music, for me, was like being in New Orleans. Here’s the bargain, though. After snagging tickets for Hadestown, we went to the ticket office for Chicago. The young fellow said if we could do it, he could sell us 4th row orchestra seats for THAT Saturday matinee for $70 each, which would normal have been $170! Well, our momma didn’t raise no fools! So, we attended Chicago and were so close to the stage that I was able to lip read the actor who played “Mama” the prison warden saying “thank you” at the end of her standing ovation. And at the end of the play with the final bows, I was blowing kisses from my mask to the cast and several who exited stage right looked at me and patted their hearts! These performers are as happy to be back on Broadway as the audience is to be back in their seats seeing great musicals! Sadly, Bonny and I will miss Hugh Jackman in The Music Man which opens in October.
Other activities, a walking Ghost Tour of Greenwich on Saturday night (free, but you really tip at the end and it was great), a walking tour of Harlem on Sunday morning (tip at the end, and now we have a new BFF, Derrick). This tour was really outstanding and I highly recommend it. We got great history from the time Haarlem was a Dutch colony until it was sold to the English, the turn of the century influx of African Americans from the South, civil rights, human rights and so much more. Derrick brought it all to life. We also saw the Abyssinian Baptist Church where Cicely Tyson’s funeral was held and where Nat King Cole had been married. All of us listened quietly outside and we could hear the choir, which was very African American Baptist! Fantastic! Following the 2.5 hour tour, Bonny and I walked the streets of Harlem buying from vendors and then went to the Apollo (of course) and took photos of the exterior. It’s being redone on the inside. We caught the subway to NW Harlem and took photos of Alexander Hamilton’s Home (no tours).
Monday night found us at the Kettle of Fish, a Packer Bar in Greenwich owned by a native of Wauwatosa. It turns out that the owner’s father was a surgeon at St. Joe’s when I worked there in hospice. We sat with several New Yorkers transplanted from Wisconsin. All wore Packer Jerseys or caps and masks. Plus, we all had to show photo ID and proof of vaccination! Just after half time, Derrick our tour guide from Harlem joined us. He said he would if he could, but we didn’t believe him. Because he is from Illinois, he is a Bears fan (we forgive him). Instead of wearing a Bears t-shirt (and taking his life in his hands at a Packer bar), he wore an original Chicago Athletics Black League shirt! He’s been to this bar for Packer/Bears games, but they like him so much he is forgiven for being a Bears fan and he is also a good sport about singing along to “The Bears Still Suck.” Since we were going on a boat tour of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island on Tuesday, Derrick told us that with our limited time to just take photos of Lady Liberty and stay on the boat to Ellis Island and spend more time there. We did exactly that and the tour of Ellis Island was fantastic. They even have computers so that if you know your family name and arrival, you can look up their processing through Ellis. We were time limited, but the librarian gave me a card with URL such that I can look up my family in their online archives. I will post this URL on G2G for all. It’s free! They are in the process of restoring the old hospital, bare bones right now, and have a limited ‘Hard Hat’ tour for about $30 which goes toward restoration. I would love to have gone, but…no time.
On our return from Ellis Island we stopped again in Greenwich because right next door to the Kettle of Fish is The Stonewall, the bar that became the heart and hearth of the gay movement in the 1960s. There is a little park across the street, a national park that tells of the history of the movement with photos, etc. I have a niece who is gay. My sister and I had a drink at the bar (a killer margarita) and purchased a Stonewall T-shirt for my niece for Christmas. I chatted with the gentleman next to me and we swapped numbers. Turns out that he lives in Phoenix and is the stage manager for the Tucson Opera! I’m going to attend this fall and Brandon will give me a tour backstage after the show.
On Wednesday, our last day, I insisted we have “Breakfast at Tiffany’s.” My kid sister had no clue what I was talking about save that she did know who Audrey Hepburn was. We trekked to 5th Avenue, purchased two pieces each of very expensive Swiss chocolate, donned sunglasses and had a nice person from Switzerland (go figure) take a photo of us with the ‘Tiffany’s’ sign bold as brass behind us. Sadly, I don’t think this is the original Tiffany & Co but bare-boned version of the glorious original. The rest of the afternoon was spent shopping for family members. I got a great poster of the workmen sitting on the beam as the John Hancock building was being built in maybe the 1930’s. It’s a classic photo and my daughter, Jennifer, wants to post if for her 8th grade American History class.
I know this is a longer chat than my other very long chats; however, I wanted to share the sights, sounds, etc. of our NYC experience, the history, the opportunities to learn more about Haarlem of the 1600s becoming Harlem today. On WikiTree we talk about how we are all connected generally referring to and through the ancestors who came before us. This trip really reflected and reinforced how we are all truly connected in the present!
Finally, M, Pip or any others, if any of my photos of Hamilton’s home, or the Statue of Liberty or Ellis Island turn out really great, should I post them somewhere on WT for others to use if they are related to Alexander Hamilton, or for their immigrant families if they so choose? I have uploaded photos that I took at Temple Church in London for use with the Magna Carta Barons, but not sure where to post these other photos.
Everyone have a great last weekend of September. I will be working with the Might Oaks on the Thon next weekend. Meanwhile, take care and stay safe.