Day Three of our New York Adventure didn’t leave a lot of free time for the kids. The morning started with the performance at The Cathedral of St. John the Divine followed by the solo performances of Jimmy and Rachel at the Marriott Marquis. The kids then had a few hours of seminars ranging from vocal techniques to combo instrumentation.
While the kids were busy with their seminars, the adults had free rein to do as we wished. Some remained at or close by the Marriott. Others – such as myself – chose to take advantage of the opportunity and went exploring.
Once the kids were finished with their seminar stuff we took the bus to the Hammerstein Ballroom to unload the equipment. During the trip I asked Maggie about the seminars. She rolled her eyes. She was unhappy and more than a little jealous when I told her what I did with my free time.
After we unloaded at the ballroom we had one sightseeing opportunity left for the day – a trip to Madame Tussauds New York. Visiting the wax museum sounded like a great idea when it first came up. After a long day, however, the kids were feeling tired and were already looking forward to the pizza party and dance back at the Hammerstein.
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Day Four of our New York Adventure was the day the kids had been looking forward to all year – the day of the Finale National Show Choir Championships. It was another early start for what was a harried morning. The kids had to make it a quick breakfast in order to get packed up and get everyone’s luggage loaded on the bus inside of an hour. Naturally, there was a hiccup or two but we managed to get on the road in time.
Elegance performed their show at 9:20. Summit Sound performed theirs at 11:55. In between and after the shows we had time to grab some food across the street. The bulk of the afternoon was then spent watching other show choirs.
Throughout the day we spoke to parents and students from other schools and heard their stories of their horrible experiences. Several show choirs arrived at their hotels only to find that management from the Finale group had not made their reservations. One group had their equipment stolen from their trailer. Other groups told us about their money being ripped off. Accusations of embezzlement circulated all while the performances were going on.
The general attitude in the building was one of frustration. The Dwenger kids were not immune to the feeling.
Abby, Maggie, Elaine, and I were standing outside the ballroom to get away from the crowd inside.
“Well, what do you guys think of your chances to perform in the finals?” I asked.
They simultaneously answered my question. The consensus was along the lines of “Screw that!”
Maggie said, “I’m ready to go. I wanna go to Times Square like we were supposed to and do some shopping.” Abby and Elaine were both cool with that.
After a few hours of killing time and watching one group after another load up their buses to leave, word finally started to spread that we, too, were going to be leaving soon. The overriding question among the kids was about shopping at Times Square. The energy level in the group lifted dramatically when we were told that we would be going there.
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The buses parked and let us out on 43rd St. at 7th Ave. Elise handed out crude maps of Times Square showing the stores and restaurants in the area. We had roughly one hour to experience everything Times Square had to offer.
The first thing we did after getting off the buses was split up into groups led by one or two adult chaperones. Abby, who was feeling bad about spending more time with her friends than with Maggie and me, had promised to spend the day with us. Maggie and Elaine weren’t particular about who went with us. They just wanted to get a group to quit wasting precious shopping time. Abby had other ideas.
Abby brought a posse of ten girls over to be in our group. My jaw nearly hit my chest when I saw the size of the group I had to look over. I looked around at the other assembling groups and saw groups with six or seven kids. I looked back at mine and saw thirteen. Thirteen girls, all but two of them freshmen. I started shaking from my toes to my pate.
“Abby,” I said to my loving goddaughter, “this is too many girls. I can’t do this.”
“But I told them we could all go together,” Abby pleaded.
“Sweetheart, I’m sorry. That street is shoulder-to-shoulder right now. I can’t keep track of this many girls,” I explained.
“Please? I promised them!” I could feel my defenses weakening looking into her pleading brown eyes. That’s when Maggie stepped in.
“Abby. No. This is too many people. There are other groups with only a few people in them,” Maggie told her sister. “Some of these girls need to go to another group.”
“But I promised them,” Abby begged.
“I don’t care. We’re wasting time arguing about this. Decide so we can go.”
Abby looked at her friends with a look I had witnessed many, many times. This was getting ugly fast. That’s when Mrs. Schafer stepped in.
“Alright , girls. This group is too big,” Mrs. Schafer started. “Some of you need to join us so we can all go shopping. Start deciding or I’ll just pick four of you myself.”
Abby didn’t like this at all. She threw her arms up, turned around in a huff and started to walk off. “This is so not –“
I reached out and grabbed her by her jacket before she could finish, stopping her in her tracks. She didn’t resist. I pulled her back into a hug.
“Abby, we don’t need this right now, okay?” I told her.
“But how am I supposed to decide –“ she began to say.
“Abby, I know you want to take all of your friends but it’s just too many. You’re going to have to explain it to them.”
She kept her head down as she nodded. My heart was breaking for her. I pulled in for another hug.
“I love you,” I whispered as I squeezed her tight.
“I love you, too,” she replied, squeezing me just as hard.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
The mass of people on 7th Ave. was crazy huge. Maggie was going crazy, urging me to get the group going. I pulled the group together to formulate our plan.
“Where are we going?” I asked them.
“To the Disney Store and Forever 21,” Maggie replied.
“Is that okay with everyone?” I asked.
The girls all nodded enthusiastically, except for Elaine. She didn’t appear to give a shit.
“Okay then. Maggie, do you know where to go?”
“Yep,” she answered.
“Okay. Maggie, you take the lead. The rest of you girls hold hands starting with Maggie up front. Elaine, you take the rear and I’ll be behind you. Everyone okay with that?” They all nodded. “Alright, Maggie. Let’s go!”
Maggie led our human chain of nine girls and one godfather through the sea of humanity that was Times Square. She darted across the street then up the two-and-a-half towards the neighboring stores. Our little chain held strong against the pushing and prodding of people trying to get around or through us. Several times we blocked people trying to get into or out of stores and restaurants. I apologized to as many of them as I could. One haughty woman expressed how rude we were. I upped the rude factor with a disdainful “Sorry. Don’t give a fuck.” Elaine seemed to appreciate that.
Once inside Forever 21 we did a time check. The girls agreed to spend twenty minutes looking around then would come back to the front door where I would be waiting. And with that they were gone. I moseyed over to the front entrance and joined Mr. Schafer who was waiting on his group to come back. We made some idle chit chat.
“You know, the crazy thing is we have one of these stores in Fort Wayne,” Mr. Schafer told me.
“Do what?” I asked. I couldn’t believe me ears.
“Yeah, at Glenbrook. Maria shops there all the time,” he added.
I shook my head. “You’ve gotta be shitting me.”
“That’s what I said when the girls told me we were coming here.”
“All of the unique places to go and they come to a store they can visit back home,” I said.
“They’re girls,” he said in finishing. “Speaking of which…” His daughter and her friends were headed our way. They were empty-handed. Pointing this out to me, Mr. Schafer said, “Go figure.” He gathered his group, wished me well with mine, then led them out the door.
Pretty soon my group of girls returned. Empty-handed, as well.
“Didn’t find anything you liked?” I asked.
“Oh no, I did, but everything was too pricey,” Maggie replied. “I can probably get it for less back home.”
“Yeah, about that. Word on the street is we have one of these stores back home,” I posited.
“Yeah, we do.” Maggie didn’t appear to have any issue with that.
“So why come here when you had all of these other unique stores to visit?”
“This one has three floors. Ours back home has just one,” Maggie answered.
Maggie’s answer floored me. Just once, though. Not three times.
I looked around at the other girls. “Did the extra two floors really make that big of a difference?”
They all responded in the positive, except for Elaine who just shrugged her shoulders in indifference.
Thank God for girls like Elaine, I thought. There’s still hope for this world.