Manhattan 19, 20, 21, 22 August

19 August

I was jolted awake well before dawn by the noise of garbage trucks and dumpsters crashing up from 57th Street to my 15th floor room. I managed to get a couple more fitful hours sleep before giving up and getting some coffee. It’s a day off in the city today with no real plans other than getting in the gym and seeing what follows. I got in the lift, held my card up to the reader and hit the fitness centre button. Nothing except a red light flashing on the reader indicating the room-key card was in-op. Suddenly the lift jolted into action delivering me up one floor. I exited thinking I would walk down the emergency exit stairway back to floor 15, get the spare key from my room then try the fitness floor again. Of course it never occurred to me ’til this very moment as I’m typing this, that if the key didn’t work in the lift that it probably wouldn’t work for my room. Anyway, opened the stairwell door and walked down one flight to my floor only to find the door locked. I was locked out and unable to re-enter the hotel all the way down 15 floors to the ground where mercifully there was an exit that wasn’t locked. Two unsettling incidents to begin my day. Things began looking up after that, I did manage to get to the gym after being informed that the key-card was unnecessary for that particular floor. Thanks. A good rooftop gym overlooking Central Park, well equipped and under populated except for Jim Cox and Guy Fletcher. When I finally got around to getting out of the hotel it was 3 o’clock, 91 degrees, who knows what humidity and I was very hungry. I walked down 7th for a while and spotted an inviting Irish pub with food, Smithwick’s and Bushnell’s… cooled my heels for an hour and partook of all three. Too hot for walking, I meandered my way back via Broadway to the hotel and grabbed a nap. A good showing of the band turned out for a couple of pints later in the evening at another Irish pub. It was an early night for me, in bed with my book by 10.

20 August

The problem with going to bed early of course is waking up early. Up around 5 and tried to get back to sleep without much luck. Lots of coffee and a trip to the rooftop gym left me knackered. Also fighting off a scratchy throat, tickle in the sinus and that spaced out thing that happens when you’re getting sick. We’ll see. It all added up to a quiet day prior to turning up at The Beacon. Opened in 1929 as a movie theatre it also operated as a vaudeville house. Now world famous as a relatively intimate theatre with a capacity of 2,700+, it’s a fantastic place to see shows up close. I’d forgotten how cramped the backstage areas are, not unlike most theatres of that era. More than 7 floors of steep stairs leading to narrow landings and two or three small rooms with window box air conditioners at each landing. There is one old fashioned lift complete with operator and accordion gate, if you’re willing to wait for it. Most times it’s just easier to walk. We all got our fair share of exercise. Again, catering leaves much to be desired and I only picked at it. Everyone on their toes for tonight’s show, it is New York after all. Well played, well received and over before we knew it. Whatever this head cold is going to turn into, it had me looking forward to crawling back to the hotel and calling it a day.

21 August

Another early morning and I was glad that this little bug hadn’t progressed into something more. It’s still floating around but I was feeling better than I’d expected. Had a couple of coffees and decided the best thing I could do was drag myself back up to that rooftop gym and see how far I could push it. Managed to get 35 minutes of aerobics and another 40 minutes of weights and felt pretty good about that. Still a bit of a sore throat so I opted to go back to the room and cool it ’til lobby call. Not feeling all that good through sound check and opted out of dinner, found a quiet room with a window box AC unit and laid down ’til time for the show. Music and footlights are great healers and once on stage felt fine notwithstanding the occasional sneeze. Another sold-out evening at The Beacon, great audience, great show. A small after-show gathering in the basement of the theatre, several boxes of NY pizza. Having skipped dinner, a couple of slices tasted awfully good. By the end of the night I was very tired, stuffed up, sore throat, achy. I don’t think a bed ever felt better.

22 August

After a solid 8-hours rest, I carefully put my feet on the floor to find I was still in one piece, upright and feeling a little better. Another day off today and I met up with my old pal Rocky Schnaars this afternoon. Rocky for many years was a top recording engineer in Nashville having learned his trade at Philadelphia’s Sigma Sound studio on those great Philly r&b records. He engineered most of the records I produced in the ‘80s and ‘90s. Rocky and his wife have lived in the city for a number of years now. We walked through Central Park to the Metropolitan Museum of Art where we took in a current exhibit of rock and roll musical instruments that included guitars belonging to Elvis, Buddy Holly, The Everly’s, Chuck Berry, Muddy Waters, The Beatles and more… keyboards, drums… a bit of everything. Legendary stuff. Speaking of legendary items we also saw Leonardo DaVinci’s unfinished St. Jerome. Some bits only sketched, others fleshed out a little more. The figure of St. Jerome is eerily translucent, skeletal and bluish veined, clearly waiting the final layer. To me it’s absolutely perfect and moving in it’s unfinished state. We also took a spin through the American Wing with it’s Frank Lloyd Wright and Tiffany exhibits. So much more to see, it’s simply too much to take in on one afternoon nor should it be absorbed that way. Years of traveling and going to museums has taught me it’s better to enjoy them in small bites rather than trying to digest the whole thing. Rocky and I took a cab to Victor’s Cafe the wonderful Cuban restaurant on 52nd St. where we were joined by Alisa Schnaars and Glenn Worf who also used to work with Rocky in Nashville. Lots of rum was devoured along with ropa vieja and sea bass. After dinner fond farewells were bid as the Schnaars’ headed home on the train and Glenn and I walked to the bar at The Warwick Hotel. I’d spent three weeks at The Warwick in November of 1972 while playing The Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway with Neil Diamond.. Just as we were approaching the Warwick, the skies opened up and a torrential rain poured down. Glenn and I slunk into the bar like soaked rats, perched on a couple of stools and had a drink in that inviting, dark, mahogany bar. Good memories of The Warwick going back 47 years. The deluge over we walked back to our hotel and called it a night.

Richard Bennett