With plenty of time to spare, my son and I arrived in New York City, daunted and excited by the heat, traffic and cavernous setting of the landscape. Easily, we found Bleeker Street and wandered along in the redster, recognizing that full of shops and restaurants, it felt much like Burlington's Church Street, but much,much longer.
At sight of the Bitter End's blue awning, so small in presence, so large in reputation, my throat clutched and I worried I was a most foolish man. Just as quickly, excitement took over and we felt giddy in the reality of playing on that stage. Finding a parking spot just a few blocks farther down, we raced back to put our foot at the door.
Really way too early by several hours, we set out to explore, but settled almost immediately at a table just two doors down for lemonade and to get oriented to the big city life. A British league soccer tame was just beginning on TV and a few minutes later a man (also from the UK) marched in with a guitar to play. We needed to go nowhere else, and figured this was all meant to be.
James Maddock kept us entertained with song and gave me a lot of information on playing music in the city. The soccer match kept my mind off the nerves tingling in my throat and fingers. A short walk in either direction introduced me to other well-known stages.
At 6:30, I was swept into the motion of the event, meeting, greeting and preparing myself. The famous brickwall that has been background to so many big names looked just like any other brickwall with a grand piano and a stack of monitors and speakers before it. They gave us a green room (covered in graffiti) to tune up and relax, although there were no chairs and it was filled with cardboard and an ice machine that clattered constantly with a shocking crash, ice chips in melted puddles on the floor.
My entrepreneurial roadie son set up a little table with CD's for sale displayed neatly, and ordered another OJ and 7up, pretending it was alcohol. We often joke about the deadbeat dad influence I have on him, taking him to bars to shoot pool and watch football or listen to music. Now, i have put him to honest work.
The time of the set vanished quickly even as I tried to linger in the moment and relish the sweet sound of the PA system. It was easy to relax and dance when my voice and guitar were reflected back so gently and cleanly, as if no one else were talking in the room. Such a long way I have come in a short time since finally rejecting my former partner's embarrassment that I might go to a party with my guitar. This was just way too fun and others seemed to like it too.
Afterwards, my energy was both ecstatic and n umb, brilliant and subdued as the pulse of the evening and the good music wore on. It was also a reunion with a college roommate and formerguitar partner and his wife, another dear friend, so we soon turned the corner to a wonderful dinner al fresco. The whine flowed with stories new and old, the evening cooled as the waiters entertained. Our cosmopolitan experience seduced us into wanting many more.