The Big Apple

In 2015, I invited my niece, nephew, and great-niece from Detroit, all 15 years of age, to spend a week with their uncle in Baltimore for their “summer vacay” in order to see another part of the country for an extended period of time and to, perhaps, broaden their horizons. Unfortunately, my nephew was unable to travel due to summer high school football commitments. Aw, man… :v( Despite his absence, I managed to put together a very busy and exciting itinerary (sound familiar?) that included: theme park, aquarium, museum, movies, shopping mall, bookstore, dinners w/relatives, dining out, Liberty Bell, Philly Zoo, AND NYC field trip. More about NYC later… :v). As far as the logistics involving the girls’ transportation to/from Baltimore – a 530-mile 8-hour drive – their parents and I agreed that we’d rendezvous at the halfway point along the Pennsylvania Turnpike. So on Sunday, July 26th, and Saturday, August 1st, we met at Exit 28, Cranberry, PA, to drop off/ pick up extremely valuable and cherished “packages”! Once the eagle safely landed in Baltimore that Sunday, it was off to the races non-stop! The girls had better buckle up… and they certainly did!! Even though summer vacations aren’t meant to be very face-paced, the girls’ youthful exuberance and anxious anticipation got them through each day physically; they slept quite well at night! While developing their itinerary months earlier, I really wanted to do something special that would leave an indelible impression on their young minds forever. And that’s when I thought about The Big Apple! Let’s see… a matinee Broadway play perhaps, uhm… something exciting at the historical Apollo Theater maybe, uhm… and definitely a Jazz show (of course!). Since weekday matinees occur only on Wednesdays, that day became the NYC field trip day. It turns out that the highly-popular and critically-acclaimed play, “The Lion King”, was running on Broadway, as well as ‘live’ tapings of “Amateur Night at the Apollo” during that week. As far as a concert, since the girls had never been exposed to straightahead Jazz before, trying to capture their attention span for 75 minutes while listening to my kind of Jazz, albeit great music, may have been a bridge too far. So I opted, instead, for Earl Klugh, the great acoustic guitarist and fellow native Detroiter, whose quintet was appearing at Blue Note that same week. Thus, Wednesday, July 29th, turned out to be magical (for the girls too)!!! After making the three-hour jaunt from Baltimore and finally having to pay for scarce parking (talk about highway robbery!), the girls got their first taste of riding a NYC subway… to Times Square. Having never watched the popular 1994 movie, I found “The Lion King” theatrical performance quite fascinating, as well as a wonderful storyline. The girls had made it to the big leagues – Broadway! Afterward, we dined at Applebees right around the corner. Next, we headed uptown via subway to historic Harlem to the Apollo Theatre for a “live” taping of Amateur Night at the Apollo. While walking through the lobby, you are extremely impressed by the photos of past and present Black performers who got their start there and made it big. Before the “live” taping actually began, there were a few warm-up acts and other entertainment, helping to get the crowd very excited and in a fun mood. Then several contestants walked on stage one by one, first rubbing the historic tree stump, and performed their acts. Unfortunately, some of them got booed off the stage; and there’s NOTHING quite like an animated and boisterous Apollo crowd! After a few hours, the “live” taping was over. We then caught the “A” train downtown to 4th Street, walked up the steps, and arrived on time at the Blue Note for Earl Klugh’s 10:30 P.M. set. He and his group, including an alto saxophone player, delivered an outstanding set of his numerous hits over the past 40 years, when he burst on the scene in 1976, at the start of the Jazz Fusion era. We had great seats right up front in the very intimate, cozy Jazz venue. Following the show, the girls and I had a chance to briefly chat with Mr. Klugh upstairs and pose for a photo with him. After returning safely back to Baltimore, the girls resumed their very exciting itinerary until they packed up, with new experiences behind them, horizons broadened, and a few things to brag about to their friends… After I once again rendezvoused with my sister and brother-in-law that Saturday afternoon, I was later told that the girls slept in the car all the way home, for over four hours. Uhm, I wonder why… :v)

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