In the fall of 1973 I was working at Tacoma’s Union Station for Amtrak. I was selected to travel to Silver Springs, Maryland (just outside of Washington, D.C.) for computer training. There were about fifteen of us from across the US. There were several people from Chicago and a bunch from Tampa. I think I was the only one from the West Coast. We had classes all day and we gathered at our hotel for dinner and drinks in the evening. After a week of training we were sent to the new call center in Philadelphia for a few days to experience how the new reservation computer system would work. In Philadelphia we had more of a chance to explore and we visited a couple of museums, saw the Liberty Bell, Betsy Ross’s home, and the historic battleship from the Spanish-American War, the USS Olympia.
As our training drew to a close, we discussed the possibilities of traveling to New York City. Schedules only worked for two of us. I was fast friends with several people in the group, and the last person I would have picked to visit New York with was Alan. He almost always wore a suit and although he was a little stuffy, I thought we would be compatible.
We took the Amtrak to New York. Alan and I talked about what we would like to do. Almost everything worked out. If my wife Peggy had been with me it would have been magical. With Alan, not so much . . . but. We walked around just to feel the joy of being in New York. We visited Macy’s Department Store, where I bought a bottle of Chanel #9 for Peggy. We really only had two disappointments. The first was the Park Plaza Hotel near Central Park. They had no rooms. We settled for the Waldorf-Astoria, if you can really call the Waldorf as settling. I don’t remember the room, but I can still see the elegant, heavily dark stained doors that just screamed class. The second disappointment was Diahann Carroll. She was booked in the lounge, and we wanted to go, but we couldn’t be in two places at once. We had plans.
On the streets we talked to people. I had always heard that New Yorker’s were rude. No so. A policeman asked where we were from. I replied, “Tacoma, Washington.” He smiled and shook his head and my hand. “I was stationed at Fort Lewis! Welcome to New York.”
Traffic seemed like a Yellow Cab tsunami. It looked like every Yellow Cab in the world was driving by on the streets of New York. We check the papers and our concierge.
Dinner was at La Fondue, “THE” latest restaurant. Neither of us had ever had fondue before. After dinner we went to the theatre for Pippin, “THE” play to see on Broadway. Pippin had just opened in 1972. Bob Fosse directed the original Broadway production and contributed to the libretto. The lead character was John Rubinstein, whom I had seen with dancers from the musical performing on the Johnny Carson show. The Lead Player was performed by Ben Vereen. Vereen won a Tony for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical. Bob Fosse (“glad hands” started here) won the Tony for Best Direction of a Musical and Best Choreography. We didn’t have front row tickets, but we had great seats. Stephen Schwartz won the Tony for Best Original Score. I still break into song sometimes with “Magic to Do,” and “Corner of the Sky.” Peg and I did have front row seats at the Fifth Avenue to see Schwartz being interviewed and playing the piano. And later we had front row seats for Schwartz’ Wicked at the Paramount.
I think both Alan and I were walking on air after seeing the musical. We hopped a cab and visited the New York Playboy Club . . . complete with a great comedy show and bunnies serving us drinks. I had two rum drinks served in a tall “tiki” gray mug. I brought the mugs home. They lasted a couple of years. Back at the Waldorf we could hear a little bit of Dianne Carroll singing, but bed was calling and I had a early flight for home.
Peggy and the kids met me at the airport. I think Peg’s bottle of Chanel No. 9 lasted for years. It was always her favorite. My memories of New York have remained with me for years as well. So far, we have been content to watch Broadway musicals in Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, B.C., and Tacoma. We have magic to do here all the time in our own little corner of the sky.