Monday, March 13, 2006

"I Happen To Like New York" - Cole Porter



On Thursday, March 9th, 2006, nine years to the day that Christopher Wallace aka Biggie Smalls aka The Notorious B.I.G. was shot and killed, I took a flight up to New York very early in the morning. The occassion? the annual UNCF gala dinner, to see my family, to visit Columbia and NYU and to see my friends.

I've got to bring it back to Wednesday when while at Nordstrom's shopping for the livest Pumas ever created, who should I bump into but the great Terrell Owens. He was shopping for shoes as well, and I told him to keep his head up, to which he nodded, smiled and went about his business. Then I said, "T.O. we need you in Dallas man!" He stopped, looked at me and chuckled kind of hard. I don't know him, so I don't know his noises, but I could tell that I was irritating him, so I pushed on.

Back to Thursday. I made it to the airport with time to spare, and ran into Jamal Smith, the younger brother of one of my Morehouse classmates and buddies, Julius. We chatted it up as we waited for the flight. My magazines for the trip were Vanity Fair, Gentlemen's Quarterly, Esquire and Men's Vogue. My Ipod, Electric Relaxation, was charged up and ready to roll, and I walked on to the plane, made my final calls and sat in my seat. I was seated in an exit row, and to my surprise, no one sat next to me. Airtran, the carrier providing my flights for the weekend, recently added XM radio to their offerings for their passengers. At first I thought this was silly, until I listened to it. I jammed from Atlanta to Charlotte on several channels. Then I switched over to my Ipod. The night before I prepared a new playlist for my New York trip called, "NY State of Mind."

After overhearing the passengers to my left speak about 'Flavor of Love', I joined their conversation, and we all agreed that Flav should choose Hoopz, which he did.

After a bumpy descent into LaGuardia, I went to pick up my luggage and call my brother for advice on how to get to the City. I took a gypsy cab, instructed him to take the BQE to the Brooklyn Bridge to get me to the Embassy Suites in Battery Park/Tribeca near Ground Zero. When we pushed off from LGA, I started playing my New York mix which includes:

I Happen to Like New York - Bobby Short
Angela (theme from Taxi) - Bob James
New York, New York - The Man
Bread & Butter - Beanie Seagal
The Way You Look Tonight - The Man
Long Island Degrees - De La Soul
Scenario - A Tribe Called Quest
Speed of Sound - Coldplay
Electric Relaxation - A Tribe Called Quest
Harlem Blues (from Mo' Better Blues) - Cynda Williams
Faithful - Common
Fanfare for the Common Man - Aaron Copland
Bonita Applebum - A Tribe Called Quest
I Love You Just the Way You Are - The Piano Man
I'm In Love Again - Bobby Short
Shopping Bags - De La Soul
Itsoweezee - De La Soul
Stakes Is High - De La Soul
Hip Hop - Dead Prez
I Need A Girl, Part II - Diddy & Loon
Bewitched, Bothered & Bewildered - Ella Fitzgerald
Fly Me to the Moon - The Man
Moonlight Serenade - The Man
How We Do - The Game f. 50 Cent
Broadway - Geno Young
Black Woman - George A. Peters, II
Camay - Ghostface Killa
Welcome to the Jungle - Guns and Roses
Promise Me You'll Remember - Harry Connick, Jr.
Fabulous - Jaheim
Dead Presidents 2 - Jay
Big Poppa - Biggie
Can I Live - Jay
Brooklyn's Finest - Biggie & Jay
Lighters Up - Kim
Ms. Fat Booty - Mos
Love Is Like A Summer Day - Louie Armstrong
Life's A Bitch - Nas
Umi Says - Mos
The World Is Yours - Nas
The Panties - Mos
It Ain't Hard to Tell - Nas
One Love - Nas
Juicy - Biggie
Hearts & Bones - Paul Simon
Dreams - Biggie
Still Crazy After All These Years - Paul Simon
Warning - Biggie
In The Air Tonight - Phil Collins
Crazy Love - Paul Simon f. Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Mo' Money Mo Problems - Diddy
Diamonds on the Soles - Paul Simon f. Ladysmith Black Mambazo
Best of Both Worlds - Jay and Kels
Karma Police - Radiohead
Ice Cream - The Wu
Young G's - Biggie and Jay
The Boxer - Simon & Garfunkel
Selfish - Slum Village f. Kanye West
Get By (Remix) - Talib, Jay, Mos, Kanye, Busta, etc.
New York State of Mind - The Piano Man

So as I'm riding over the Brooklyn Bridge, "Angela" by Bob James is playing in my headset, and I instantly see visions of the opening of my favorite tv show as a child, Taxi.

I got to the hotel to check my bags and come back later to check in. The doorman, Jett, suggested that perhaps at 11AM, maybe my room was ready. I walked to the desk, and alas, it was ready. A conversation later, I was headed to room 427. Now, at the Embassy Suites, every room is a suite...so stay with me. The room was huge, live and all mine. It overlooked the Hudson Bay, had great art in it, and was too, too cool. I spread my magazines around on the coffee tables and side tables as though I were home. I hung up my clothes, walked down the hall and got some Cokes and ice, and sat back as I watched Ocean's Twelve awaiting the arrival of my brother Jordan.



After Jordan arrived, he and I hoofed it to Canal Street, which wasn't far away. I was staying in the Financial District on North End Avenue, just west of the Westside Hwy. We walked up Murray Street, and before I knew it, we were in Tribeca. After looking at a couple of places that looked far too expensive, Jordan and I settled on dining at Buster's Garage which was playing college basketball on every available space in the place. We had a tasty lunch and headed to Canal Street, where Jordan's 2:40 television commercial audition for Sprint was.

We had a little time to spare so we walked around Canal and eventually went up to the office where the audition was. When we stepped off of the elevator, I saw several faces that I recognized. I started to get an understanding of my brother's world, when any other African American male who walked in was, essentially his competition. I took a seat and started playing bowling on my phone when I noticed that to my right was Kelly Cofield, from In Living Color. Hilarious.

After the audition we walked over to NYU. I saw several places from some of my favorite films, particularly the Washington Mews and the l'arc de triomphe at Washington Square. After NYU, Jordan and I went to Ralph Lauren's new store, Rugby. If you've been there, or are in any way familiar with it, you'll know why I dig it. It's Ralph's answer to Abercrombie and American Eagle...but done with class, style and dignity.

Jordan had a later audition uptown, and I headed back to the Embassy Suites. I walked around the area, and then upstairs to get ready for the UNCF dinner that night.

As I was flipping channels, I saw Spelman's president, Dr. Beverly Tatum, on Tyra...live.

Due to a mixup, I didn't have a ticket to the dinner...so...I crashed it. The plan was to meet my brother in the downstairs bar at 9PM where he and I would have some drinks then go up for the let out and schmooze. Dressed to the nines in hand tied black tie, I hopped a cab headed for the Sheraton New York and made it there in record time. With 45 minutes to spare before I was to meet with my brother, I headed upstairs to crash the dinner. I walked in to the main room, and saw my dear friend Ray Jones chatting it up with the legal counsel of Federated Dept. Stores and a Morehouse man. After seeing Ray, I saw my good friend Ben Jones, and then my college president and hero, Dr. Walter Massey. We embraced, chatted it up for a minute and he headed off to his table as I went looking for my parents. As I walking I found their table, and greeted and hugged everyone there. I then went over to Dr. Massey's table, and after, found my aunt's and uncle's table. Once again, I hugged and greeted and met the presidents and their spouses of Wiley College, NYU, Oakwood and Paul Quinn.

I made my way to the back of the room where I found my friend Seth Pickens seated with his friend, the lovely Isis Jones, and Mr. Henry Goodgame. Seth, Isis and I chatted it up, took pictures, and since it was nearing 9, I headed back downstairs to meet Jordan.

45 minutes passed before Jordan called to say that trains had been delayed. At that point, I was too Maker's and Cokes in. Then, Jordan breezed through the revolving door and he had a Bass Ale. Brown University.

To our surprise, Freddie Jackson walked through the couches and seats in the bar. I called out to him and he came over to my brother and I. We talked for about five minutes and Freddy went on his way. Amazing.

After we finished our drinks and settled up, Jordan and I walked upstairs. As we were going upstairs, Editor in Chief of Ebony Magazine and President and CEO of Johnson Publishing Co., Linda Johnson Rice was walking downstairs. We talked to her for a brief minute and continued on upstairs.

We schmoozed, picked up gift bags, and took pictures...lots of pictures. I walked up to Dr. Michael Lomax, UNCF president and I asked him why he was shown so many times at the Oscar telecast, and he replied, "why wouldn't they show me?" He also informed me that he first attended the Oscars when he was 12. We talked for a good while and then parted ways. One thing that we talked about was, "It's Hard Out Here for A Pimp", which we both agreed, Dr. Lomax and I, that it was simply a song, and should be looked at in that way and no other. After parting ways, I looked to my right, and saw Donovan McNabb. Ray flagged him down, and we got a picture.

We moved on to the dessert after party where people were hobnobbing and backslapping. It was a good time indeed.

Eventually, Ray and I headed downstairs to the bar, where my family had gathered and commandeered an entire section near the fireplace. Ray regaled my family with stories of New York living, and everyone was having a very good time when a man from the UNCF, Mr. Michael Jenkins, walked up and told my aunt that Jennifer Holliday wanted to meet her, and wondered if we had room for her up where we were sitting. Ms. Holliday was with the president of Paine College, Dr. Shirley Lewis. We continued our lively conversations and eventually, we closed the bar down. Paine's president, Dr. Lewis, informed me that Morehouse and Paine were founded in the same building, a fact that I was unaware of.

Jordan, Ray and I headed out to get another drink and a bite to eat. We went to the Stone Rose at the Time Warner Center, but the bar was closed.

So we settled on Pastis. After eating everyone headed home.

FRIDAY

My brother crashed at my hotel and the next morning, when I woke him up for the free breakfast that Embassy Suites provides, he decided to sleep through it.

Later that morning, we set out on the city again. With my coat buttoned all the way up, Jordan and I walked to Canal Street again because he had another audition. When we got off the elevator, there, in the flesh was the beautiful and enchanting Carmen de Lavallade. I couldn't remember her name at the time, but I told her how much of a thrill it was to see her. No one else even looked up, the schmucks.

After the audition, Jordan went back to Brooklyn and I headed uptown to meet Ray for lunch. It was so hot that I got the idea to check my coat at my parents hotel at 53rd and 7th. Ray suggested that I take the train the 20 blocks to his job, but I protested, saying that it was such a nice day that I didn't mind walking. Well, I walked right through Times Square like the novice that I am, which prolonged the walk. I forgotten that 7th becomes something else and changes while going south. I learned that quickly though. Times Square on a sunny Friday or a cold Tuesday is a circus, so imagine a record high day of 73 degrees...

Eventually I made it to Macy's, where Ray is a buyer. Now when I say Macy's, I mean the mothership. The biggest store in the world, yeah that one. My legs hurt just walking the street below it. Ray was resplendent in a gray suit, blue gingham large print French cuffed shirt and paisley tie. Clean pally. We walked to a restaurant in Chelsea called Spice. Thai is my new thing, or rather spring rolls. And this place did not disappoint. How the two of us had 3 courses and drinks for $27 is beyond me, but we were definitely full. We hopped a cab back to Macy's, and I headed uptown on the 1 to see Columbia. I was standing in the train for the first few stops, trying to seem like I'd done this before, and I had pre-9/11 during the glorious summer of 2001. But things were different now. Eventually I found a seat near where I was standing. I noticed Ipods everywhere. I asked the woman next to me who was knitting, which stop Columbia was. She said 116th and asked why I was headed up there. I told her that I was visiting Columbia because I'd applied to J school there. She told me good luck and said, "It's a horrible field."

I thanked her and at 116th, I jumped out of the train and bounded up the stairs to come out right at the main gate of Columbia. I was short of breath because I've wanted to visit Columbia my whole life. It was crazy. I looked at the campus map and saw that the Journalism School was exactly 42 feet behind me, so I turned around and walked toward the main quad and then into the J School building. I spoke to a few students and took a personally impromptu tour. Then I walked out of the building, looked at Pulitzer's statue, and looked out on the main quad that I'd seen in my favorite movies; Ghostbusters, Hannah and Her Sisters, Hitch. I was truly mesmerized. I sat there and took it all in, then called my friend Seth, who is a Divinity student at nearby Union Theological Seminary.



Seth met me at the gate and we walked down Broadway a few blocks before arriving at a restaurant where he had tonic and water and I had a Budweiser Select. Later I visited his dorm and walked back to the 116th train stop where I caught the 1 train going downtown to pick up my coat at the Sheraton New York, and then catch a cab to Park Slope for dinner at Blue Ribbon. There I ate with my sister, my brother, his girlfriend, my parents, my aunt, my cousins and two family friends. We had a wonderful time, and the spicy Hanger steak was cooked to perfection.

After dinner, my sister, brother and his girlfriend walked down the street and had a nightcap at a bar called Lobo. There we met up with one of Marjon's friends, and a good time was had by all. I liked Lobo because it was a cowboy/westerned themed bar replete with cowhide on the seats and the walls.

After drinks, I took a car back to the hotel and retired for the evening.

SATURDAY

I woke up and had yet another free breakfast. Excellent again. The plans for the day were to go The Color Purple's 2PM show. We had to be there, according to Dad, at 1:30.

I hadn't spent anytime with my classmate James yet, and he came from his newly purchased home in the Bronx to pick me up from the hotel so that we could get a bite to eat before the show.

He took me back by Rugby for one mo' gain and then we ate at Dallas BBQ on the corner of 23rd and 8th. AMAZING. We had a frozen Long Island Iced Tea that came in a glass big enough for a fish to swim in. I also ordered the half order of chicken wings. The wings were like the size of a small child's arm. They were huge. New York, what a town. Well...we finished everything around 1:25 and we were 30 blocks from where I needed to be. James and I jumped in his car, and he made it happen and got me there at 1:45. I gave my name at WILL CALL and picked up my tickets. I had great seats, 10 rows from the stage, Orchestra level. Right before the curtain lifted, my sister came in and set next to me.



The Color Purple was amazing. I will not give it away, I will simply say, you need to go and see it.

During the show's finale, I was trying to get the attention of the man who played Mister's father, Lou Myers, the same man who once played Mr. Gaines on 'A Different World.' I was close enough for him to hear me yell Lou, and he looked my way, and pointed and smiled, and pointed and smiled back. Then he gave me the universal 'ok' sign, as did I and we both laughed. Fortunately my sister witnessed this and can corrobarate this story.

After the show was family time. During this time period, I'd lost my phone in one of my shopping bags.

Later in the evening, we said our final goodbyes to our parents, as my brother, his girlfriend and I split a cab downtown as she went to Balthazar and we went back to the hotel.

My brother and I were watching tv and having some drinks when my friend Ray, called and asked what we were doing. I told him we were chilling, and in for the night. He insisted that I come out, and before I knew it, he was knocking on the door of Suite 427.

Jordan stayed as Ray and I left for a club called Bed which was located off of 27th between 10th and 11th. When we walked on the street between 10th and 11th, the scene was like ancient Rome. There were people EVERYWHERE. It was crazy. We couldn't get into the club because they weren't letting any more guys in at the time. Right when we walked up, my main man Geoff Bennett walked out of the club. We chilled outside and caught up and just people watched. It was very entertaining and absolutely free to just watch people. While out there we saw too drunk girls staggering, over-dressed and under-dressed people and even a few famous faces. We saw one of Run's daughters (the one who interned at Phat Farm), one of the judges from America's Next Top Model (the short, portly one with the glasses) and we saw Diddy outside of the club Home. Later, our friends Sam and Angelo came out of the club and we were all in the street together, hanging out and taking in the sights. Ray had us all in stitches all night, with his own unique brand of comedy.

Eventually, it was time for me to leave due to the fact that I had yet to pack and it was approaching 3AM. Angelo, dutifuly and like a true stand up cat, stood in the street and hailed me a cab. He's definitely a new part of the fam.

I got back to the Embassy Suites, packed and went to sleep.

SUNDAY

Free breakfast again. Check out was smooth. As I was eating breakfast, I noticed a Bank of American right next door. I'd been going to random ATMs, and there was a BOA right there...I was a bit steamed, but it was cool.

EPILOGUE

I had a great trip and accomplished what I came to town to do; visit with my family, visit NYU and Columbia, visit NYC and visit my friends. Great trip, no complaints.

I know this is a bit of a departure from my usual entries, but I had to do it.

I'm Joe and that's how I see it.

4 Comments:

At Wednesday, March 15, 2006 8:11:00 PM , Anonymous the killa cal said...

Classic entry man.....

every word....

 
At Thursday, March 16, 2006 1:28:00 PM , Anonymous Gen said...

Wow, what a GREAT trip...you seem to have a great life!

BTW, good luck with Columbia.

Gen


P.S. No need for the disclaimer at the end, it's your blog, you can write about whatever you want. :)

 
At Thursday, March 16, 2006 6:32:00 PM , Anonymous ray jones said...

It was great seeing you Joey, it was the best of times and you didn't even tell it all.

 
At Friday, March 17, 2006 4:22:00 PM , Anonymous Wayne D said...

Joe,

I might have a freelance opportunity for you. Holler at ya boy.

 

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