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Weekend marks 22 years of harmony in the Big Apple

May 06, 2007|By KATE COLEMAN

I can't believe it's been a decade since I wrote a column for this newspaper about an annual gathering of friends. At that point, it had been happening for a dozen years.

Time certainly flies. And we - the women who for 22 years have come together for a weekend in northern New Jersey and gone to see a Broadway show - certainly have had fun.

The grand finale of our wonderful tradition took place a few weeks ago.

This year we met midweek - a time frame that suited Sheri and Carl, our recently retired and moving-to-a-Delaware-beach-town hosts - and their eight houseguests.

The connections are deep. Twins Mary and Nancy have known each other longer than they can remember. They went to high school in Virginia with Winnie and with Beth, who joins us from California. They all met Sheri and Joan at college in Delaware, and I know them because a few of them dated my "wasbund." (I credit jazz singer Ren Marie for that term, which is so much nicer than "ex.")

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Others who have become regulars are Sheri's local friends who filled vacant seats when somebody couldn't make it.

We can't get rid of them - nor do we want to.

Some years, we've taken the ferry to Manhattan, enjoying the ride and the view of the New York skyline. In spring 2002, we saw the twin shafts of light that beamed in memory of those who had died the previous September.

We've noshed on hot dogs in Central Park, cannolis at Balducci's in Greenwich Village and gourmet goodies at Zabar's, the Upper West Side's "epicurean emporium."

Some, dubbed "the saints," have attended a post-show Mass at St. Patrick's Cathedral before dinner. Others, "the sinners," have traveled to the 65th floor of Rockefeller Center for refreshment at the posh Rainbow Grill, enjoying its panoramic view of the metropolis.

I always marvel at the aplomb of the Central Park carriage horses and the steeds of the mounted policemen. City dogs are fun to see, and people-watching in Manhattan often is as entertaining as the musicals on the theater stages.

In last month's installment, nine of us squeezed into Mary's mammoth SUV, and Sheri drove - calm as those horses - navigating the George Washington bridge, Riverside Drive and the dazzling chaos of Times Square and the theater district.

Another Nancy, Sheri's former neighbor who flew in from her new home in Denver, marveled at the number of simultaneous conversations taking place. None was exclusive: Comments were passed as easily as pretzels from the front seats to the "way back" and vice versa.

This year we saw "The Drowsy Chaperone," winner of five Tonys. T-shirts we had made two years ago for our "20th Anniversary Tour" are printed with a roster of performances from our first two decades.

The play certainly is "the thing" that draws us to the Big Apple, but the best part of the show often takes place after the final curtain.

Once at a restaurant with a view of the Brooklyn Bridge, we sang with an Irishman, waved napkins and tambourines over our heads and clapped to a blaring tarantella at an Italian eatery. (For the record: I did NOT dance on the table.)

This year we observed our ritual in the private dining room, the "urban farmhouse," at the back of Palma, a beautiful, tiny restaurant in the Village. The simple and somehow rustic-in-the-middle-of-the-city room was lovely with fresh flowers and candlelight. The food - from incredible olives to tiramisu - was appropriately served family style.

Despite time and distance, our connection has continued and grown stronger as we've celebrated and supported each other in good times and hard times. In life.

We toasted our friendship, and we sang again. In harmony, of course.

Kate Coleman writes a monthly Lifestyle column and covers the Maryland Symphony Orchestra for The Herald-Mail.

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