The story of my weekend in New York City pales in comparison to the news we received this week of the cancellation of All My Children and One Life to Live. Twitter and Facebook have been abuzz with heartbroken soap fans consoling each other and sharing memories since the news was announced. A part of me feels like it's silly to write about anything else right now.
But then it occurred to me that I went to New York because of a soap opera, to attend a fan luncheon for a soap opera actress, Jessica Leccia. I visited with friends I'd met from all over the world because of our shared love of soap operas and the people who make them.
What better way to celebrate this wonderful, truly life-changing genre than by telling the rest of my story?
During the weeks leading up to our weekend in New York City, Denise, Lynn and I had decided to stay an extra day so we could visit Peapack, the site of the Guiding Light location shoots. But when Sunday arrived we considered how much time we'd spend on the train getting to and from Peapack and the fact that we'd have another three hour train ride later than night to my home in Maryland, and we decided to spend that time in the city after all.
Denise and I walked to the Westway Diner (the same place we'd had dinner Friday night) to meet her friend, Bettie (@bettielaven), whom I'd met when I came to New York for the Venice event at the RF Lounge back in October. (Bettie was the one who had hailed a taxi to take me back to my hotel!) We were soon joined for a late brunch by Lynn and Lia (@giftofamber). By the time we finished, Jill had made enough progress on her work during the morning that she gave herself the afternoon off and came to meet us there.
It doesn't matter to me where we go when I'm walking with Jill in New York because I know wherever we end up will be new to me and there are so many fascinating things to see along the way. But Jill always asks, “Where do you want to go? Is there anything in particular you want to see?” And once again, I tell her, “I don't care, I only come to New York to see you!” She always laughs as though nothing could be more ridiculous. Why would anybody want to see her?
But as I'm hanging back from the others a little, stopping now and then to take a picture, I see how we are all just glad to be there with her. We answer her questions about our everyday lives and eagerly pick up little tidbits she happens to toss out about Guiding Light or people whose names we know well but have never met. She is quick to point out what each of us have in common with people she has known for years, famous or otherwise. Jill is fascinated by people and loves hearing their stories.
Jill took us to 48th Street where her husband, Tony, told her we'll find guitar stores. During my last visit in October, Jill & I had passed a store with beautiful guitars in the display window... electrics and acoustics, some new and some vintage... and I stopped dead in my tracks and just stared. It was Matt Umanov's Guitars. I'd seen their ads in Vintage Guitar magazine. We went inside and I did some more staring and I pointed out a Martin D-15 that was like mine.
I've been playing guitar since I was a teenager and used to play and sing for my church and other groups quite often. Not particularly well, and I don't play in public much anymore but it can be like therapy for me to take out my guitar and play even for a few minutes. I had told Jill a story about a guitar I'd bought for a song, literally. The original owner asked only that I teach him a song he'd heard me play and sing once. And on this day, Jill wanted to find a guitar store for me.
We stopped at Sam Ash and Jill told me to go on in and they'd wait there for a bit. So I did. I went through the store and up the stairs in the back where all the acoustic guitars were. Across the length of the showroom was a smaller room with the lights lowered and fine acoustic guitars lining the walls. Martins, Gibsons, some new, some vintage. I could have spent hours there.
I spotted a small bodied Gibson that I'm pretty sure was like one that had belonged to my dad's Uncle Floyd. It had come us when he died and my brother used it when he took guitar lessons. I took piano lessons, not guitar, but I remember spying on my brother's lessons as he was learning how to play that guitar, taught by a family friend. Unfortunately, the guitar was very old and too warped to play by the time I started learning and I never did play a Gibson L1.
The man working there handed me the guitar and I sat on a stool and started to play. In a few minutes Denise showed up and picked out another guitar and started to play, too. Then the others filtered in one by one. I played and sang a song I used to do for groups about where you go when you've come the end of your road. I played Jill a little bit of the song that bought me that old guitar I'd told her about. Bad allergies have lowered my vocal range considerably and I can't reach the high notes anymore so I spared them the misery of listening to the whole song!
Many thanks to Jason Jenkins, a very accomplished musician who showed us what guitar playing really sounds like and gave us a mini-lesson in the different types of wood used to make some of the guitars on display. And many thanks to Jill, Denise, Bettie and Lia who let me take up part of their afternoon indulging my musical fantasies!
From there we followed Jill to Grand Central Station, a place she said everybody should see. I agree. Jill, Denise & Lee stayed put at the top of the stairs, giving Lynn and I a little time to take a few pictures of that beautiful place we'd seen in so many movies. I turned at the bottom of the stairs to look up at the group and took a few pictures of them, too. Each of us from different backgrounds, different states and one from New Brunswick, Canada, I took a moment to smile at our diversity before we went downstairs to rest and warm up a bit with hot chocolate and cheesecake.
Throughout the afternoon I heard stories from each person in turn, about their life and the people they've met and the stories they wanted to tell in their writings. There in the Dining Concourse of Grand Central Station we heard about the time that Bettie met Eartha Kitt in a hotel lobby in London. It's a wonderful story, but I'll let her tell it. We heard more from Jill about Guiding Light and talked about Crystal Chappell and how she had been overlooked for an Emmy pre-nom. And we continued our conversation about writing and soaps and what might have been.
With just a couple of hours to go until time for us to get to Penn Station, Jill and I left the others to have dinner on our own and get caught up. I told her all the news about my husband and daughters and we talked about personal projects and hopes and dreams. I told her about going to see “Love, Loss and What I Wore” and about the growing urgency I feel about writing my book, a project I never really thought I could take on until Jill believed in me.
We didn't solve any great mysteries of the universe but when it was time to go I felt encouraged, challenged and hopeful and I hope she did, too.
I took a taxi back to the hotel to meet Denise and Lynn where we gathered our bags and went on to Penn Station to catch our train. Once we were aboard, Lynn proved that her claims of being able to sleep anywhere are valid. I think she was asleep before the train left the station. Meanwhile, Denise and I tweeted and talked all the way.
It was well after midnight when our train finally arrived in New Carrollton, having been delayed a bit along the way and I was delighted to see my husband waiting for us on the platform. I got my guests settled in Daughter #1's old room and headed for bed myself, telling them I'd try not to wake them up when I got Daughter #2 up at 5:30am to get ready for school (I always go back to bed for a couple more hours!).
The next morning I heard my guests laughing. It seems the view of the lamp in their bedroom gave these two lesbians the giggles. I can't imagine why....
I took Denise and Lynn to Historic Downtown Annapolis for a brief tour, pointing out my favorite views from the Severn River Bridge. I drove them around our little town, driving them past the statehouse and the Naval Academy's Gate One and telling them a bit about our history, then parked the car so we could walk around City Dock. I wish we'd had more time but at least they got a little taste of the place before we had to drop Denise off at BWI airport for her flight home. Lynn and I drove back to Annapolis so she could take a few more pictures and get some souvenirs before time to pick up Daughter #2 at school. Then the two of us took Lynn to the New Carrollton Amtrak station and waited with her until it was time for her train to leave. (I recommend you stop by Lynn's blog and see her pictures of Annaplis because she got some great shots.)
It was a remarkable weekend spent making memories with amazing friends. All because I watch soap operas and they do, too. Because it's not about the plot or the stunts, it's about relationships. That's why we care. Because we've watched those relationships grow and change over the years and when we find someone else who watches, too, we feel a connection with them because they've taken that journey with us.
We're all part of the family.
I'm ready for another family reunion.
How about you?
How about you?