My mother and I are the best of friends, but I guess our friendship was inevitable. After all, she’s 16 years older than me so we basically grew up together, figuring out life through a series of misadventures, experiences, laughter and tears. She would be the first to tell you that she was imperfect as a single mother, making a number of mistakes when it came to me and my two younger brothers. But when I became an adult and, eventually, a mother, I saw her through different eyes. I realized what an amazing woman she was to raise my brothers and me on her own. She faced trials but persevered while maintaining a resilient faith and a beautiful, strong spirit. She is truly my hero and I love her dearly!
We may not resemble each other physically (I take after my father’s side of the family), but we definitely share the same goofy, sweet nature. She’s my biggest supporter and cheerleader but won’t hesitate to call me out when I’m wrong. And whenever we’re together, we never run out of things to talk and laugh about.
So when we planned our recent trip to New York City, I knew we’d have an absolute blast! The trip had been years in the making — actually 10 years after we first saw The Color Purple Broadway premiere. When she told me last year that the musical would be revived starring Cynthia Erivo, Danielle Brooks and Jennifer Hudson, we started putting plans in motion and finally scheduled our trip for March 23-26 (1 1/2 weeks after my mother’s 64th birthday)!
Upon our arrival at JFK Airport on Wednesday, March 23, we caught a cab and made our way to the Jacobs Theatre for the 2 pm matinée of The Color Purple. Our excitement was palpable as we entered the theater, which was the perfect venue for the production. We had excellent seats in the Mezzanine but the theater was so intimate that, actually, there weren’t any “bad” seats in the house. And the performances…oh, my goodness, I could go on and on about the performances! The entire cast was amazing but Cynthia Erivo as Celie was truly a revelation! She sang as if each note were her last, pulling so much heart and emotion from the depths of her petite, powerhouse frame! Tears, goose bumps and laughter rippled throughout the theater! It wasn’t just a musical but a spiritual revival for the entire audience. What a fantastic way to begin our trip!
Following the play we had an early dinner at Junior’s (which was de-lish), then we shopped at Macy’s (who would ever think that Macy’s could take over a whole city block?!). We walked around Times Square (but not too long; some of those folks looked cray-cray!) and then footed the 10 blocks to our hotel.
On Thursday, March 24, we awoke bright and early to catch a cab to attend the taping of The Chew. After we waited in the crisp morning air for about an hour, we were escorted inside. On our way to the audience lounge, my mother and I were approached by an associate producer. He complimented us on our bubbly personalities and began asking general questions (“Where are you from? What do you have planned during your visit?”). Before we knew it, he asked if we would be interested in being featured in a segment. We, of course, said yes. After meeting with the producer, I was selected to appear in the segment and was extremely nervous (almost nauseous, actually). I started freaking out a bit and then my mom looked at me and said, “This is a chance of a lifetime. You’re
gonna do it!”
I was asked to be in a segment with one of the show’s co-hosts, Daphne Oz. We would be racing remote control cars to determine which ingredient would be added to complete Carla’s dish. My car was labeled “chili sauce” and Daphne’s car was labeled “yogurt.” Well, it was a close race, but “yogurt” won out! It went by so quickly but it was a fun experience, and the whole crew was extremely nice.
We were famished after we left the studio so we walked a few blocks for breakfast at a diner. As I shoveled a forkful of scrambled eggs into my mouth, who walked in but Paul Shaffer! I squealed, called his name, and waved like we were long-lost friends. He came right over, sat down and spoke with my mother and me, and even took a photo. He couldn’t have been nicer!
Following breakfast we headed to NBC Studios at Rockefeller Plaza for an informative and
cool tour. It was amazing to see the sets for Saturday Night Live, NBC Nightly News with Lester Holt, and Late Night with Seth Meyer up close and personal. I was secretly hoping we could have seen and/or gotten tickets to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon but that’s one of the hottest shows in town (well, after Hamilton, I guess) and wasn’t meant to be.
Following our tour, we walked to the Rockefeller Center, Tiffany’s, Central Park and the Fashion Institute Museum. We then took the subway to Canal Street/China Town for some souvenir shopping. We were surprised by the kindness and patience extended by the New Yorkers who assisted with our questions about subway stops. The subway booth attendants weren’t quite as nice, though. 🙂 While riding the subway, we even saw some break dancers perform on the train, which was pretty cool!
Rain was in the forecast for Friday, March 25, but that didn’t stop us from reporting to The Today Show at 6 am. Although we were in line early, we didn’t arrive quite early enough to find a “prime” spot in front of the cameras, but we were directly across from the door where the hosts exited to come out to the plaza. After about an hour or so, Matt Lauer and Tamron Hall walked through the door and approached the crowd. It was if they were moving in slow motion as they walked towards my mother and me, shook our hands and said hello. Tamron was absolutely exquisite and Matt had kind eyes.
After we left The Today Show, we headed back to the hotel and awaited a phone call from our cousins, Johnny and Netta, from New Jersey who were going to show us around the city.
When our cousins arrived, we went to the Empire State Building for spectacular and stunning views of the city. We then grabbed a quick bite at a hot dog stand and proceeded down the sidewalk. My gaze turned to the right when I saw (drumroll, please) Lupita Nyong’o exit a black sedan! I was literally shaking as I reached for my phone to snap a picture. Unfortunately I wasn’t quick enough and my photo only captured the backs of her entourage, but I will forever hold the vision of Lupita in my memory! 🙂
We also visited the 9/11 Memorial, which was heart-wrenchingly moving; The New York Public Library (I just had to see the staircase Carrie ascended in her fabulous wedding gown in the Sex in the City movie); Grand Central Terminal (we also checked out the speakeasy bar, Campbell Apartment); and then headed to the BB King Blues Club & Grill for an early dinner. We were thrilled to be joined by our other cousin, Jeremy, and his lovely partner, Alex (who bore an uncanny resemblance to Carolyn Bessett-Kennedy). Jeremy is a producer and host/correspondent for OMGossip. And, as a pop culture junkie, I barraged him with questions and inside information about various celebrities. I was in heaven! It was a perfect ending to a glorious day.
Saturday, March 26, was our last day in New York, but we couldn’t say farewell without visiting Harlem. We took pictures at the historic Apollo Theater and walked down Lenox Avenue. We tried to grab a quick lunch at Sylvia’s but the wait was too long, so we did some vendor shopping then took the subway back to midtown. After a quick slice of pizza, our cousins took us across the beautiful GW Bridge, and then we spent some time (albeit brief) with our other relatives, John, his wife Miriam, and their beautiful family. After that, we jetted to the LaGuardia Airport.
What a whirlwind! Everyone was so impressed that my mother and I accomplished so much during our short visit. But there was still so much we wanted to do and see so that means … we’ll just have to return to New York! And on the next girls’ trip, I’ll definitely bring my daughter Shelby.
So much has changed since my mother and I went to New York 10 years ago — I’m now in my 40s, my mother is in her 60s, and my daughter, who was an infant at the time, is almost 12 years old. God-willing we won’t wait another 10 years before we venture back to the Big Apple, and there will be many more fun adventures in store for us. I’m just so thankful that the Lord granted us with this wonderful opportunity.
As Cynthia Erivo so beautifully and profoundly sang in the final scene of The Color Purple: “I don’t think us feel old at all. I think this is the youngest us ever felt. Amen.”