A Getaway to New York City
This past weekend I sneaked away to one of my favorite spots in the country for a three day vacation. I've been to New York City before but I can honestly say that this trip was by far my favorite. As usual, I plan out an itinerary for myself before I go any place and this time was no different. There were certain people I wanted to see and specific things I wanted to do while I was in The Big Apple, and nary a one went undone.
My cousin Samantha Floyd is a tremendous artist. She's been living on Staten Island for some time now and indulging her passion for her work all the while. On Friday evening I met her and her fiance Mark Altmann in Times Square. Mark works in Manhattan and Samantha took the ferry over. I walked up from my hotel at Lexington and 30th, something which seemed to surprise them, but I walk a lot so it was no big deal to me. The sights you see in NYC are always a blast and this trip we saw a man in a business suit in Times Square holding up a sign that read: "Need money for weed." Only in New York!
The three of us proceeded to Basilica restaurant on 9th Avenue between 46th and 47th Streets and had a fantastic Italian dinner. We talked and talked and I realized what truly gifted people Samantha and Mark are. They are so much in love and their devotion to one another is easy to see. I liked Mark immediately. After dinner they took me to the Discovery Museum on 42nd Street where we saw the Chinese terracotta warriors. It was a breathtaking exhibit. Samantha and Mark are history buffs like I am and we had a wonderful time chatting as we explored the museum. After we left, they took me to Mark's office building, which happens to be the Internal Revenue Service, and I got to see the national debt clock. Here we parted for the evening and I strolled back to my hotel down 5th Avenue.
I had a great night's rest that night and spent Saturday morning getting ready to take the Staten Island Ferry across the harbor where Mark and Samantha met me for an afternoon of exploring. I had never ridden the Staten Island Ferry before and I can happily report that it was a great experience. I took a couple of really cool shots of Manhattan from the ferry. The ride also boasts some incredible views of the Statue of Liberty. It was breathtaking.
On Staten Island they took me to an estate sale. A little old lady had recently passed away and she was a hoarder, but a neat hoarder, and many of her belongings were being sold by an estate agent. I saw a splendid set of Royal Albert china that I would have loved to buy but not knowing how I'd get it home, and not being sure of shipping on the part of the agent, I had to leave it on Staten Island. Sad, but true. We next went to Snug Harbor, which was originally a haven for sailors, but is now a cultural center. Samantha works here and her art is prominently displayed. The campus is adorned with historic buildings and beautiful gardens. Lady Gaga filmed a video there. It was all lovely to behold. I was introduced to Samantha's friend Gustavo Galvan, who designs dresses made from everyday items like shopping bags and such, and he's planning a fashion show in the coming weeks. It was a real treat and Gustavo is a very warm, welcoming guy.
After this Samantha and Mark took me to their apartment so I could see where they live. It's a delightfully spacious place with nice views and lovely appointments. I easily saw why they love it so much and I was so happy for them. They took me to a great pizza place for lunch where Samantha went healthy and ordered a grilled chicken salad while Mark and I split an order of garlic knots and had a slice of pizza each as well. Then it was back to the Ferry and a return to Manhattan. Such a whirlwind afternoon but one I'll never forget.
I am nourished by my relationship with my "writer" friends and I couldn't go to New York without seeing them. A month in advance we planned a dinner together and it was absolutely splendid. Arthur Wooten, Gregory G. Allen, Alina Oswald, Brian Centrone, and Bud Santora were a great group of friends to spend the evening with. We met at Lasagne restaurant in Chelsea, on the corner of 8th and 20th Streets. I was almost late as I couldn't get a cab after departing the ferry and had to walk all through Lower Manhattan until I was finally successful in hailing a taxi in front of the statue of Fiorello LaGuardia, and arrived at my destination with just two minutes to spare before the appointed time.
The evening was spectacular! Great food, fantastic conversation, (I had three glasses of wine!) It was a soul enhancing experience. Alina gave me three of her books to bring home with me - Journey Through Darkness, Infinite Lights, and Vampire Fantasies - and we talked and talked. Alina is a tremendous photographer to boot and she was as lovely as I thought she'd be. Arthur is author of the bestsellers On Picking Fruit, Fruit Cocktail, Birthday Pie, Wise Bear William, and Arthur Wooten's Shorts. He and I had met before, two years ago when I was invited to the finale of Survivor: Heroes vs. Villians and Arthur accompanied me to the show. He's one of my oldest pals and spending time with him is always a delight. Greg is the author of the critically acclaimed Well With My Soul and his latest release is Patchwork of Me, an unqualified success. He's a sweetheart of a guy whose company I truly enjoyed. Bud Santora is a writer and illustrator (Wise Bear William) who won an Emmy for his work as costume designer on Guiding Light in 1986. He's a warm, welcoming person who I felt like I'd known for years just five minutes after we met. Brian Centrone is a terrific writer who has more than once flattered me immensely by asking me to edit his work for him and his friendship online easily transferred to in-person.
I treasure these people. Their friendship constantly inspires me to become a better writer and I cannot believe how fortunate I am to be a part of this ultra talented group of individuals. It's humbling for a simple guy from Georgia. I cannot wait to be with them all again.
Sunday was for me. I slept in and then after breakfast I strolled up to Bryant Park where I enjoyed the fresh air and got to see the statue of Gertrude Stein. Her life and work have inspired me in my own pursuit of a literary career. I felt a communion with her spirit gazing upon her likeness. I couldn't leave New York without spending those minutes with her.
After shopping for souvenirs for my family, I went back to my hotel and rested until time for the piece de resistance of my day. A matinee of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert at the Palace Theater, Broadway and 47th Street. This show was one of the most amazing things I've ever seen. Tony Sheldon, Will Swenson, and Nick Adams were superb in this production. Bette Midler is a producer of the musical and the star power this play packs is breathtaking. Nick's performance of Material Girl, Will's rendition of MacArthur Park, and Tony's stellar rendering of Bernadette are the highlights of the play. The story of a trio of drag queens travelling by bus from Sydney to Alice Springs, Australia to perform at a casino is a modern masterpiece. I cannot say enough good things about it. The arrangements, the choreography, the story, the comedy, the heart wrenching climax, they're all a part of the triumph of this Tony Award nominated production. If you're in New York, don't miss it!
After the play I walked up to Central Park where I sat in the evening sun and enjoyed the breeze. I love sitting in Central Park. It's so very calm and peaceful there. I could have stayed for hours if I hadn't wanted to do some shopping on 5th Avenue. Plus I had to have dinner and get back to the hotel to prepare for the trip home. Altogether, the Sunday I gave myself in New York was just as wonderful as the previous two days with family and friends.
All good things must come to an end and so did my wonderful vacation to New York. I came home with a feeling of time most splendidly spent and enough soul nourishing energy to keep me stoked for a long to come. It was sensational. I loved it!
Thanks to everyone who conspired to make my long weekend getaway a smashing success. I can't wait for the next one!
To learn more about the people and places I mentioned in this post, click the following links: