Jake Walden's Hair-y Visit to New York
Story and photos by Jake Walden
We are excited to welcome Jake Walden,
a multi-talented singer/songwriter (who happens to be gay) from
Northern California as a guest blogger. Jake occasionally sends us dispatches during his travels. Click here to read about his adventures in Montana. Click here for Las Vegas. And here for Boulder. Seattle and Portland. Orefonia. Back home in Cotati.
Jake in New York City.
I walked into the elevator on the penthouse level alongside two interns both dressed as any 23 year-old intern at a giant NYC PR firm would be (queue "Devil Wears Prada"). They smiled. I pretended to be British and said, "Have a nice evening ladies" in an accent I'm sure doesn't. After the doors opened, like a true British gentleman, I swept my hands and let them exit. I was smiling like an idiot wondering what had come over me. What a dork. What balls. Maybe it's that feeling you get in that city, with the notion that each time you step out your door you can be whoever you choose. Some run to NYC, some run away. Everyone, it seems, is running.
Michael met me outside a fancy building next to the park. It was my last night of a six day stay in the area. The night before had brought me onstage at Rockwood Music Hall located on Allen Street at Houston in the Lower East Side, a kind of home for me in the city, the kind of place where a few dozen people can sit feet from the baby grand as people pass by the window and the smell of wood and comfort take over. Where after a confidence "altering" performance the week before, I needed to find "that place" and remember just what it is I can do with this music, these rare moments to sway a warm crowd into my world, only to leave them reflecting on theirs. And so many friends.
Michael and I walked towards the theater and decided to eat at a hole-in-the wall Mexican place before the big event I had waited my whole life to be a part of. Across from me two giant young women sat, laughing. One got out a camera to take the others picture realizing that the word, trash, on the garbage bin behind them would be on top of her head. There was even an arrow pointing down right to her. Why I didn't take a picture myself is beyond me. At this moment I realized they were speaking Danish, a language that once had burrowed itself into my mind while I was an exchange student in Denmark too many trips around the sun ago to say, and I couldn't breathe, suddenly translating my every thought and trying hard to hear theirs without staring. I'm sure in a million years they never thought that crazy guy in a vest next to them could understand every other other word they said.
As we approached the theater the tie dye and Birkenstocks appeared. We were here, on Broadway getting ready to see Hair, Tony winner, legend of my parents' time and precursor to immense revolution, honesty and celebration of spirit in our culture. We took our seats, me jumping up and down, the woman in front of me crying already having to tell me how she had seen the original. P.S., my friend Michael saw the original as well, in fact he is friends to this day with some of the 1968 cast members and the writer of the show (how we got our perfect house seats). Anyhow, this woman sang every song, and at times during the touching moments or love songs she would nestle her head in the nape of her husband's neck. It really touched me.
Five minutes before the show, Whoopi (yes, Goldberg) arrived and the theater buzzed. She sat a few rows in front of us and Michael and I just looked at each other. What could we say? Did we need to tell each other how serendipitous this was? As we spent days at his place, me recovering from too much travel, and he, sharing stories of his life and making me feel so welcome. Did we need to talk about how we had watched old Whoopi stand-up routines and relived every moment of "A Color Purple" declaring her out mutual hero and bona fide genius?
No. We just laughed, knowing that this week was meant to be. Music had brought us together, friendship brought me the chance to spend those days entrenched in the history of Broadway, politics and music Michael played and preached about these days. I felt so honored to know him and to share Hair which was so much like a dream, so perfect for so many reasons I still can't talk about it.
I walked the new High Line, a converted raised railway track running through the city now as a park. Later, I accidentally wandered into the famous Chelsea Hotel. I saw Time Square as I never had before, with sections of no cars, as if they were experimenting making it one of those pedestrian streets in the middle of Manhattan. To me it was just freaky, but I am no Bloomberg and certainly not a New Yorker, so what do I know? The tourists seem to like it.
Some say NYC can be a lonely place, and maybe it can. but to me, for a moment at least it felt like a dream, only it wasn't. It was my life, in the dawning of my own age of Aquarius. Let the sunshine in.