Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Travels: New York, the Bady House Concert #22

 
This was my first trip to New York, and the reason I went was to 1) perform for the Bady House Concert, an ongoing series of programs organized by my friend, storyteller Robin Bady, and 2) to hang out with this charming and wildly creative lady. This was concert #22, which means she's been planning, promoting, finding storytellers and opening her home for performances for almost two years. This program was focused on true personal ghost stories and I was on the bill with three tellers from New York. Robin usually has three local tellers and one from out of town, so her audiences hear a variety of storytelling styles and some newer voices get to be heard.

Her promotion of the concerts is really excellent. She uses Facebook, email lists and now has a website as well. The listeners on the evening I was there were attentive and appreciative, a real pleasure to tell to. I wove a new 30-minute performance from several pieces I've told before along with some new material, centering around the question of "have I really seen a ghost?" and experiences of family members, stories from other people, folklore, and my personal experiences.  A videographer filmed the evening, so I hope to be able to share clips of the video with you later.

It was not all work, of course! Flying into New York I looked down to see this below me. Wow.  That's a lot of city, and not nearly all of it.


Robin met me at the airport and we took the long way to her house. I enjoyed seeing the variety of neighborhoods and even though I expected it, the traffic and the volume of people on the streets was still a surprise. It's one thing to see it on TV, another to actually be in it. Noisy, vibrant, colorful fast best describes how it looked to me. Schoolbuses with the school's name in Hebrew on the side? New experience for me! Ethnic diversity is the name of the game in New York, something I think our Mountain State needs more of.

I had my first taste of bagels and lox too--I've had bagels and cream cheese before, but fresh New York bagels straight from the bakery, with good cream cheese (not that pasty Philadelphia brand I'm used to) and smoky, thin slices of salmon--heaven! I admit, I ate more of my share of them and only my inner, scolding voice stopped me from eating more. We talked, drank tea, ate bagels, and repeat. What a nice afternoon.

That first evening Robin and I ventured out to Ikea to get more folding chairs for the concert. I've never been to an Ikea store; there are none in West Virginia. I've seen their products of course and have ordered from them online but the store was another first for me. BIG! We found the chairs, but before that we did something else.

On my to-see list was the Statue of Liberty. Not to go on the tour, etc, but just to see it. Because, you see, my mother, who was English and married my Dad in England during World War II. She came to America on the Queen Mary with the first shipload of war brides, and they came into New York harbor and were processed through Ellis Island. I wanted to see that statue as my mother would have seen it. So Robin and I got on a ferry (which was free after 6pm!) and took a ride out into the harbor, all the way to Manhattan.

Before the ferry arrived, we chatted with a young man who was also waiting. He was holding a stuffed basketball pillow, and Robin immediately engaged him in conversation about it. His girlfriend (Carly, we learned, who we met later) almost killed him over buying it, he said. Forget your stereotypes about New Yorkers being unfriendly and not talking to you--everyone I met was friendly and helpful. We naturally got on to the topics of storytelling and ghost stories, and Carly told us about a haunted house her grandparents lived in. Stories are everywhere, we just need to listen to each other.

The ferry was fantastic. It was chilly and dark by the time we boarded which made it even better because the city all lit up was so pretty. We did not get as close to the "lady", as I called her, as I would have liked but I saw her and her flaming torch and friends, it is worth a trip to New York just to see her.



We also saw the Brooklyn Bridge all lit up,


and Manhattan with its high rises, glorious in the dark of night,


and an almost-full moon riding high above it all. 


The next day I went with Robin to a little event in a local park where she had agreed to tell stories for children.


Lots of great costumes. I really liked this Mary Poppins--she said her bag was an original carpetbag given to her by her grandmother.


even for pets.


Pumpkin painting, music, and lots more activities were on hand for the families of the neighborhood. I enjoyed seeing Robin in action. She truly is a talented teller with a gift for connecting with people.

We returned home for more bagels (yum!) and then Robin sent me off on the subway to another storytelling event, this one at the Provincetown Playhouse in Greenwich Village (more about this in tomorrow's post). Of course I got on the wrong train. You know that feeling you get when you're pretty sure you screwed up? When the guy said next stop was Coney Island, I got off because I knew that was the wrong direction. I'd like to see Coney Island one day, but it wasn't on the to-do for this trip! A friendly transit worker helped me figure out which train to get on, and I was off again, this time on the right track, literally.

BUT when I got off the train, the map I had didn't jive with where I was, because it was for a different subway stop. Oops. I got out my phone with its trusty (so I thought) GPS and started out confidently, only to find that it took around a (big) city block, a complete circle. I called Robin's and got some directions and started off again. After asking directions a few more times and walking a mile or so along Broadway, 5th Avenue (places I never thought I'd see), I crossed Washington Square Park.

The park was crowded with people. A man was playing a grand piano in one area,


in another were drummers, a lone violin player, and so many more musicians and people doing all kinds of different things. It was a lovely day and New Yorkers were enjoying their park. I later learned that Bob Dylan, the beat poets and many other icons of the 60's were park performers. I would have stayed longer and taken more photos but I was already late for the storytelling, so I pushed onward.


Copyright Susanna Holstein. All rights reserved. No Republication or Redistribution Allowed without attribution to Susanna Holstein.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I love, love, love Central Park in the spring. People of all ages and races singing, smiling, holding hands, blowing bubbles, drawing on the sidewalks, skipping, biking, jogging, rowing, walking their fancy dogs and posing for pictures. Lots of pretty flowers and trees from all over the world, and street musicians and gymnasts performing. It's like heaven. ---Amy Shinn

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