Monday, September 10, 2007
No, I didn't get lost in downtown Manhattan for two weeks (though I can see how it might be possible) I've just been too busy since my return to check in. My apologies. It's funny how the things we love the most get left behind the quickest when the tyranny of the urgent takes over. Having said that, Saturday was very restful, and we even managed to hit the rail trail and do some bike riding with the fam now that my older two can ride. Very cool.
Here's a rundown of the NYC excursion/fly-away/junket/whatever.
8:10A - Crammed myself into a regulation airplane seat next to a mortified young lady who must of thought life as she knew it was ending. I would have requested an exit row, but Northwest now makes you pay extra for those. Which strikes me as analogous to charging the fireman $30 before he runs in to save your puppy.
10:30A - Squeeze myself into a second plane this time next to an older woman, a younger woman, and a baby. They turn out to be heading toward NYC to appear on a "who's your daddy" version of the Maury Povich show. Is it just me or should they rename his show "Maury's Paternity Hour"? It seems to be all he does anymore. The older woman turns out to be her chaperon (and aunt) as the young mom is still just 17. Every time I think I'm not a judgmental person, something like this pokes me in my judgmental plank-filled eye. Her "whatever" attitude toward her aunt and demeaning attitude toward her baby (whom she referred to casually as her "little freak") didn't do much to ease these tendencies. The truth is, however, that she and I are on the same plane (literally and figuratively) in God's eyes, both his creation and both needing his grace.
Noon - Arrive at JFK in New York City and immediately realize why that guy that Tom Hanks played in that one movie lived in JFK for almost 20 years. It had nothing to do with his passport he just couldn't find the hotel shuttle pick up.
1P - Within 5 minutes of being in a vehicle in NYC, I realize that everything you have ever heard about New York driving is true, that is, if what you've heard is that driving in New York ranks between being a dental hygienist for a shark and clicking on an email attachment from an unknown sender on the hazardous activities scale. A suggestion to help the NYC economy. Quit spending money on stop signs, turn signals, and painting lane lines, nobody uses them anyway.
3P - We meet downstairs to head to the shindig, still knowing absolutely nothing about what artist we are in town to see, or why we are in New York. That question is answered shortly as we found out that the artist is rapper John Cook, who lives in NYC and is signed to his church's music label in Brooklyn.
4:30P - We arrive at the aforementioned church, CCC (Christian Cultural Center), we are told they run about 20,000 people a week, have their own restaurant and swimming pool, and a wall sized aquarium in the foyer, you know, because Jesus used so many fishing analogies.
4:45P - A funeral service ends and the casket is wheeled out directly in front of us as we are touring the facilities. As most of us stand in respectful silence, one of us whispers, "How much for the long black coffee table?" Radio people... sheesh.
5:20P - As we are waiting in the restaurant for the last programmer to arrive so we can start the performance (I believe she got lost for a few hours at JFK... seriously), the waiter guy offers my programming friend from Tampa a refill on her half empty glass while completely passing my bone dry glass by with no notice. It's only when I "subtly" rattle my ice cubes does he even realize I exist. I mention to my friend that it must be tough living as a "hot chick", she mentions that she has already noticed he has a staring problem, at which point I realize it probably actually is tough to be an attractive woman in this culture. I immediately cancel my plans for losing weight (and having the operation.)
5:50P - We finally get started with John Cook's showcase and it goes off pretty well. Even though of the dozen or so of us there, I'm likely one of about two who would even consider playing his stuff. I'll save the "where's the hip-hop on Christian radio?" rant for another day.
6:15P - I find myself staring at John Cook's massive tattooed arms. When I mention later that if he worked out more he might look like me someday he explained (after the laughing died down) that he worked in the fish market, as if the tree trunk sized muscles had come about naturally. I'm pretty sure he actually works out though, cause I've seen pictures of Mrs. Paul and she doesn't seem all that buff.
6:30P - We eat dinner together with the band and John, and one local mentions that every time the local DJs take a break they use the phrase, "time to pay the bills". He then asks if there are a lot of bills to pay and why the DJs have to run out and pay them during commercials. Two weeks later, and I'm still not sure if he was joking.
8:00P - We decide to head into downtown Manhattan to see the sights. Our hosts are gracious enough to provide the vehicle, drive, and be tour guides. The driving is as harrowing as ever, but it's nice to have a native New Yorker behind the wheel. It makes me realize that over here I would be the unsafe driver, doing crazy stuff like checking my blind spot and staying in my lane.
9:10P - First stop, ground zero. It's hard to describe the heaviness of thousands of people wandering around where the twin towers stood each one contemplating life and tragedy. It was enough to silence even a dozen radio gabbers. Tomorrow will be 6 years, it does not seem possible.
9:30 - We stop in at Gray's Papaya's for a couple world famous cheap New York dogs. The hot dog tastes fine, the fruit drink, not so much. Must be an acquired taste. Seeing as this store is right in the heart of "the village" there are some extremely "interesting" characters milling about. New York city... Come here and let your eccentricities blend right in.
10:30 - Last stop, Times Square, which is one of those things (like the Grand Canyon, Las Vegas, or the Comerica Park scoreboard) that you think you get an idea of from pictures but can't fully appreciate until you are standing there staring it in the face. Which is exactly what we did. Stood there and stared... for 10 full minutes... with mouths agape, until someone finally mentioned actually walking down the street a bit. Here at 10:30 on a Tuesday night there were probably 9 times as many human beings than live in my hometown, all of them just milling around in the luminescence of daytime that never finds rest. Stunning, and the literal and figurative high light of the trip.
Midnight - I kiss the ground back at the hotel having survived an evening of New York driving and thank God that I have such a sweet vocation that affords the opportunities for these excursions.
I won't detail my 13 hours in various airports on that Wednesday, surviving it once was plenty thank you. I'll only mention that it ended appropriately enough when our airplane stopped short on the landing strip because of a construction hole blocking our path. We were then ushered "dignitary style" out the pull down steps in the back of the plane, except without the marching band, screaming fans, and placards that usually accompany such an exit.
Big thanks to John Cook, the crew at CCC music, Shayne Boyd for the invite, and of course my crazy radio peeps from across the nation.
Can't wait to do it again sometime.