In the spring of '87, my father signed over an airline voucher he'd received in compensation for getting bumped off a flight. He handed it to me and said, "It expires next month -- see what you can do." I stared at this piece of paper that could take me anywhere in continental USA. I was 21 years old. Where to go, where to go...?
I contemplated all manner of silliness and sought advice from friends and even an Enlgish professor of mine. Taos, New Mexico was one potential destination, for reasons that now escape me. So was Miami (yes, even prairie boys in the wilds of Winnipeg were enamoured with the sockless wardrobe of Mssrs. Crockett & Tubbs). But in the end, I did the right thing, and flew to NYC.
I had asked my English Prof friend if NYC wasn't pretty much like Toronto, only a lot larger. That earned me an amused giggle, which he quickly stifled. "Oh," said he, "there's really nothing to compare New York to."
My choice of shelter is about as emblematic as any of my other experiences during that visit. I scored a tiny private room at the West Side Y, just a stone's throw away from Lincoln Center on the one side and Central Park on the other. My first night there, it seemed like I was the only tennant who hand't come equipped with a musical instrument. Every seat in the orchestra had a representative; as I readied myself for sleep, I heard scales and bits of score being played by everything from piccolos to tubas. I felt like my bed was in the middle of an orchestra pit during pre-show warm-up, and I loved it.
You've caught me reminiscing, thanks to this Drawn! entry on the Carlton Arms Hotel. When I disembarked at LaGuardia and started plugging quarters into the phone, I had a number of inexpensive establishments tell me there was no room at the inn, including the Carlton Arms. Judging from the pictures on the site, the Arms would have been in the infancy of its current incarnation, which was just as well. Gives me something to look forward to, for my next visit.