It became known, among the employees of Bloomingdale's, as "The Christmas From Hell". We were understaffed, customers were vicious and the new store manager was generally acknowledged by the staff as "psycho". The traditional long holiday hours had added to the stress level. On the up side, the overtime had added greatly to my checking account.
Just after the first of the year my friends in New York contacted me. They were having a party to celebrate the lawyer making partner in his firm. There was some question as to rather or not this would happen due to the homophobic attitudes held by some of the senior partners there. An invitation was extended to me with the knowledge that it was improbable that I would be able to attend. They said even though the chances of my coming weren't great they would love to have me there for this important occasion. After agreeing that I wouldn't be able to come I looked at the vacation time and cash I had amassed. I also looked at the agonizing holiday season I had just been through and decided a trip to New York, with a free place to stay, would be just the rejuvenating treat I needed.
They were in Arizona the week before the party. That week the skies opened over New York and a snowfall occurred that completely shut down "the city that never sleeps". I arrived after nightfall, took the shuttle from Newark to Grand Central Station and then caught a cab through a still snow covered New York.to their apartment on the upper west side. It was Wednesday night. The party was Saturday night. I would be leaving on Sunday night. After drinks and a quick catchup, I retired having worked all day prior to flying in.
The next day the new law partner went off to work. The other had taken a few days off to get ready for the party and spend time with me and and old school friend of his who was also coming into town for the celebration. He and I walked over to Central Park, snowclad and lovely. We sat on a bench and chatted enjoying the tranquillity of the green, or in this case, white oasis in the center of the bustling city. We had lunch and then had drinks at a small bar on Christopher Street, before taking the subway back to their apartment and meeting his partner for dinner.
His school friend came in the next day. He was determined that he was going to redecorate their apartment. The three of us spent most of the day helping him sort through swatches at fabric and furniture stores. That evening we were to meet his partner after work for dinner before being treated by them to the production of "Showboat" playing on Broadway that season. The show was at the Gershwin, a newer Broadway house that is decidedly ugly. New, however, meant more advanced stagecraft possibilities. In this aspect the show did not disappoint; Early on an entire showboat comes onto the stage. There are scenes that take place inside the boat as well as on the decks and the dock it is "moored" to. Marilyn McCoo, of The 5th Dimension fame, had just joined the cast playing the role of Julie. Her singing was sublime, her acting somewhat less so. John McMartin, in his Tony award winning role, was also in the cast. The music I heard in the theatre that evening was exquisite.
Occasionally during live theatre unplanned things happen. Sets fall down or cues missed, this performance had one of those moments. In one scene several of the cast members appear in the windows of the boat. The two ingenues make plans to meet on the top deck. At this point the upper half of the boat sinks behind the lower half to reveal the top deck. It was a wonderful effect. The stars in the night sky were placed in their proper places as opposed to haphazardly strewn across the night sky set piece. They were projections and twinkled. The moon glowed in a realistic fashion. The ingenues snag their beautiful love duet to one another. Then...the moon disappeared. Apparently it to was a projection and something amiss had happened backstage. The ingenues continued to sing on gamely. A few moment later... the moon reappeared. At this point my fist was shoved into my mouth to stifle my laughter. Nothing could stop my shoulders from shaking however. At the end of the scene I leaned over to my host's friend, who was seated next to me and whispered "I just loved the lunar eclipse affect in that scene". She replied"I knew that's why you were laughing. We had bonded at that point and we both enjoyed the remainder of our time together over that weekend.
That night and the next were like a slumber party as there were two guests and only one spare room. I ceded the spare room to her and slept on the couch in the living room. The next night, the night of the party, I was on an air mattress on my host's bedroom floor.
Having a Bally's gym membership has sometimes come in handy when I travel. The next day I went to a location in New York to get out of the way for a couple of hours while they set up for the party. The lawyer's parents were the first to arrive that evening. They reiterated how much my host's had wanted me to be there for the celebration.and how excited they were that I could make it. A group of snotty queens, is there any other kind in New York, were holed up on the couch in the spare room discussing whether their building staff had the right to unionize. The conductor of "Les Miserables", playing on Broadway at the time, a resident of their building, came by after the show. He ended up being cornered by a clueless aspiring actress with absolutely no idea of how to start in the business. Waiters circulated with hor dourves on small trays and a bartender poured stiff drinks, their dining table converted into a makeshift bar. I and their other "out of town" guest giggled together. At one point one of the guests tried to get her phone number or address so he could contact her later. I admired her skill as she deftly fended him off. At the end of the evening we slept wherever we could find room as the overnight guest count exceeded the number of beds.
My flight back was not until Sunday night. At my host's suggestion I decided on a trip to New York's Museum of Natural History. My host's being members, they loaned me their card and I made my way there. The museum's prehistoric exhibitions are particularly impressive. There are the reconstructed skeletons one would expect. Other artifacts are housed under sheets of plexiglass with holes in the top allowing the visitor to reach in and touch fossilized dinosaur eggs or feel the impression of the serrated teeth of a flesh eating creature.
As I left the museum and was walking back to my host's apartment the snow cover from the massive storm had begun to melt. Revealed as the snow bled away were bags of rotting garbage, needleless Christmas trees, bicycles and dog feces which had been buried for a number of days. The resulting aroma was indescribable. As my partner remarked when I relayed this scene to him upon returning home "New York at it's finest." At one corner on Broadway the snow had been pushed into a 14 foot high mound. A backhoe was shoveling clumps of snow out of the pile and dumping it in the street. Thee tires of the cars traveling down Broadway were melting it and washing it into the sewers.
After picking up my bag I was off to Newark to catch my flight home. When I got there a light, very light, snow had begun to fall. This resulted in a light dusting of snow on the runways. This resulted in a long delay in flights. Being from Chicago, with it's legendary winter weather, I kept my thoughts about the inadequacy of the airport's snow removal crew to myself. Newark Airport, at that time, was a rather bare bones affair. It being Sunday what few businesses that were there had closed early. The flight delays turned from minutes into hours. I had exhausted all reading material I had brought with me. Looking down, I saw a Plumbers Union magazine someone had left behind. In desperation I picked it up. I read it cover to cover. After two hours my flight was finally ready to board. I have never been so grateful to get on a plane and take off in my life.