As moment #4 alluded, some of my favorite things about living here was when I got to experience something typical, like the Rockefeller Tree Lighting or a Yankee game, but with “insider” privileges. A chance to peek behind the curtain at the great and powerful Gotham. One of my best good friend’s office overlooked Broadway, for example, so he got to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade go by every year in the warmth of central heat. Opportunities like that are just, well, really freakin’ cool.
My first few years here I attended Church for All Nations, a small, young, rockin’ place of worship. The bass player in the church’s band was also a bass player by profession. It was a new concept for me to understand you can get paid for your artistic talent, the fact that it could go beyond hobby status, beyond what you just happen to enjoy in your off time. I know this isn’t limited to New York, but per capita your chances of rubbing elbows with the artistically gifted here are high.
Some time before I left Atlanta for NYC in 2003 I saw a touring production of RENT in Peachtree Street’s Fox Theatre. It quickly became my favorite Broadway show, squeaking by previous title-holder Les Miserables. So when I got to the city, home of the real Broadway, seeing RENT quickly shot to the the top of my to-do list.
And coolest of all cools, the aforementioned bass player, Steve, also happened to be the resident bass player in RENT. He opened with the show in 1996 and closed with it in 2008. For each show, one every Tuesday through Friday and two on Saturdays and Sundays, he got a few tickets to dole out as he pleased. And one night in 2004 my friend Gregg and I got to attend as his guests.
I sat in the audience once again feeling connected, set apart from the other patrons around me. After the show I got to go backstage and take a peek behind this curtain. It was cramped, dirty, old and graffiti’ed with inside jokes and salutations left by years and years of changing cast members. I stood in the middle of the reverberating set and looked out over an empty theater. The cast was rushing around, anxious to leave and start their own night of fun, breezing right by me as I stood gaping at their celebrity and nonchalance. To them it was just another day at work. To me it was cool enough knowing we were all going to the same place – back out into the city.