Friday, August 19, 2011

I Love a Parade – Never too Old for Ragtime

            Well today was my last day in America.  Not exactly the best intro to a blog post, but I’ll run with it.  Throughout the day it seemed as if America was trying to show me all the good things that were produced as a result of America’s creation.  Some of the attempts were successful.  Most of them failed miserably.  Let me tell you why.

            After getting in the car at about 11:30, my family hit the road for what would be a five-hour drive to New York City.  Along the way, my family decided to pull over for lunch.  With hunger feeding our eagerness we decided to enter the one restaurant none of us had entered in probably a few solid years… McDonalds.  McDonalds and my family do not have the greatest of relationships.  My dad is a runner/doctor so dislikes it for health reasons.  My mom is slowly becoming an organic farmer and possibly a hippie as well meaning she hates it for the unhealthiness and big corporate America.  My brother, a doctor in training, hates it because… I’m sure he has a good reason.  This of course finishes with me who hates McDonalds because… you guessed it is so unhealthy.  Well this McDonalds was no different.  Combined with an Express Mart, this little McDonalds had the added annoyances of being crowded due to it its dual purpose and being very unclean.  Grabbing a ten-piece chicken McNugget, some fries, and a shake, I quickly grabbed a seat and made the best cushion I could out of the billions of germs and trucker farts, which covered my chair.  My family quickly joined me and we devoured our mystery meat and hydrogenated potato starch.  After dumping the several wrappers and cardboard containers, my family returned to the car and we were off on our merry, but somewhat greased up way.

            A few hours went by and we arrived at our temporary lodgings, the New York Athletic Club, a somewhat private hotel with great rooms, indoor spa, track, fencing arena, wrestling rings, and a pool.  After some debating, my family figured out a plan.  My brother was set on working out before dinner so in an effort to kill time my parents went down to the cocktail lounge for drinks.  I joined them shortly afterwards and found them sitting on either side of a large window with a seat set in the middle for me.  From there we were able to watch the scurrying people as they went about their daily lives.  As I watched them, I smiled.  I could not help it.  All of those people running by, all those unique stories waiting to be heard.  I found myself wondering about what these nameless people’s stories might be.  How does the bearded man in scruffy jeans view the world?  What about the lady in the floral frock, what is her tale?  This is why I believe people like coming to the big cities.  They are curious, not just about writing their own unique story, but they are also hoping to sit down and hear a few as well.

            Now before I go any further, you are all probably wondering why this post is named “I Love a Parade.”  Allow me to explain. My family, myself included, are what I like to call freelance critics.  We will be out shopping, eating dinner, whatever, then spot a unique individual in need of either some guidance or a mirror.  And we never actually go up and talk to the target person, we just sit and keep our thoughts to ourselves, which probably keeps us from spending too much time in our local hospital.  Today was no different.  My father, mother, and I sat and waited for my brother for an hour or more and we could not have been more amused.  For the lady in the white and pink-stripped top with black bra, “Gee I wonder what color her bra is?  Do you know?”  When the man wearing two baseball caps walked by, “When one hat just isn’t enough.”  My dad had a rather good one when a lady in a short black skirt walked by, “Her skirt is just like a good speech, long enough to cover the issues, but short enough to still be interesting.”  My favorite was the fifty something man with balding head except for Einstein hair going from ear to ear in the back, green torn vest, white T-shirt, and short jean shorts.  “Do you not own a mirror!?!”  There were several others and it was so much fun just to hang with my parents as we indulged in other peoples lack of fashion sense.

            Eventually my brother joined us and we went out to dinner eventually stumbling onto an adorable little restaurant called Nino’s.  After being seated by our waiter an elderly gentleman walked to our table and asked us to name a song we would like him to play.  He introduced himself as the restaurant’s piano man and I offered one of my favorites Fur Elise by Beethoven.  After visiting a few more tables he sat down to the piano.  Tonight I heard a level of skill on the piano that I have not heard in quite sometime if ever.  This man played with a vigor, a real joy all his own giving familiar tunes a little kick leaving his own mark on each song.  He eventually returned to our table to see if we had liked the tunes and even handed us a CD of his work.  That is when we finally found out who our mysterious piano man was, Irving Fields, a professional piano player going on 96 years.  We gladly paid for the CD, he even signed it, and thanked him for the wonderful music.  Seeing we were so enamored with his style, he offered to play us another song.  My mother requested a few more pieces of Ragtime jazz and as if he had read her mind he sat down and played a full version of Scott Joplin’s most famous song, “The Entertainer.”  When he finished the restaurant offered their gratitude with a healthy applause, which I’m sure he accepted with humble graces like he had accepted ours.

            After arriving back at our hotel, my family hugged and went to our rooms.  There I readied myself for bed I sat down to write which brings us to where we are now.  So what did I think of my last full day in America?  I would say it started out bumpy, being locked in a car and suffering through hydrogenated potato starch, but ended on a high note with good food, great memories, and awesome music.  After experiencing all this, I feel the best way to end the day is to raise a glass and say, “May the good times roll on.”