Saturday, April 7, 2012

Big Apple Flashbacks

My son being in New York this weekend has me flashing back to some of the amazing times I spent in the city, so today's Saturday Shout Outs! are taking a little different form. Beginning as a part time chaperone on a Friends United Meeting United Nation Seminar experience in 1978 and ending with a trip from Wesley Memorial UMC in 2005, I spent many years taking hundreds of teenagers to NYC.  With help from a few readers and lots of old files, I would like to share with you today some of my favorite memories from those trips.  Some of these stories I have shared before here on the blog. For even more stories, click here to read about some of my earliest trips with New Garden Friends Meeting,  click here to see my live retro blog of the 1998 trip we made  from FUMC-Kissimmee, here to read about our 2003 trip from Wesley Memorial,  and here to read the legendary stories of Mike Mercadante and Charles Freedle (from Springfield Friends Meeting) in the Big Apple!  Here we go:
  1. On one of the earliest UN Seminars (1978 or '79) we were discussing the concept of bringing peace to the Middle East.  Due to a scheduling conflict, the representative for the Palestine Liberation Organization (the PLO was a radical Arab group) and the representative from Israel were, for a few moments, in the same room.  We almost got to see what war looked like up close and personal...
  2. On the ferry out to the Statue of Liberty in 1982 a group of us turned our Paul Newman look-alike leader Wallace Sills into an instant celebrity with Asian tourists.  That's also the same place where Alan Brown and I sat on Liberty Island watching mentally defective seagulls crash into the rocks off the island while diving for fish.  That inspired another Brown/Jones unreleased classic song, Watching the Seagulls Crash!
  3. Over the years we saw many of the greatest shows that Broadway had to offer, including Les Miserables, Phantom of the Opera, The Sound of Music, Cats, A Chorus Line and Rent.  We also saw lesser known shows like Shenandoah, Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Movin' Out!, Good Vibrations, The Scarlet Pimpernel, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, Beauty and the Beast and Once Upon A Mattress.  And with the exception of Cats they were all wonderful...
  4. We also saw the Radio City Music Hall Christmas Spectacular a number of times.  Almost every person who sends me their memories of these trips mentions the living nativity in that show, complete with live animals- including camels.  Very moving and truly spectacular!
  5. The food was always memorable, whether it was eating at pizza places, Chinatown, tiny deli/stores or from street corner carts like we did in the early years, or dining at Mama Leone'sCarmine's or Ollie's Noodles like we did later on.  We also often had meals at Planet HollywoodThe Hard Rock Cafe or The All-Star Cafe.  And The Stage Deli.  Biggest sandwiches in history!  For my favorite food-related story, check out the Chinatown Chicken Head.
  6. One year a group of us went for ice cream late at night to the only place we knew was open, the Howard Johnson's Restaurant on 7th Ave.  While there we encountered a homeless man who asked us for money, and we bought him some food. When we left the restaurant he followed us back to our hotel, where he walked in with us.  Turned out that his plan was just follow us in and then find a hall to sleep in to avoid the cold.  Obviously the folks at the Milford Plaza would not allow this. Another time we were walking along in sub-zero temps and came across a man playing a saxophone on the street- with no shoes.  One of our students remarked "he could get a job if he wanted to."  I pointed out that losing his toes to frostbite was probably NOT his choice.  New York was a great lesson in the desperation of the homeless.
  7. On my last trip in 2005 the group from Wesley Memorial UMC was waiting at LaGuardia airport.  I convinced them we were waiting on a shuttle bus or van, when in fact I had pre-arranged limos.  When they pulled up and the kids saw my name on the signs (see picture) they went nuts! 
  8. When we first started going to NYC, Times Square was a terrible place full of hookers and drug dealers.  By 2005 it was one of the safest, most tourist friendly places in the city.  Walking to the Virgin Megastore (and sticking those "Virgin: $9.99" sale stickers on each other) became a very late night tradition.  That and cheesecake at the Celebrity Deli located in our hotel.
  9. Speaking of hotels, from the late 1980's on we stayed at the Milford Plaza (The Lullaby of Broadway) in the heart of theTheater District- 45th & 8th.  But before that I also had groups at the Hotel Tudor (42nd & 2nd) and the Madison Towers (38th & Madison).  The Towers had phones in the bathrooms (that's me on that very phone in 1982, pictured), which we thought was the ultimate in luxury...
  10. So many random moments from so many trips.  Losing Jennifer Johns.  Meeting the cast of Saved By the Bell.  Touring the NBC Studios and seeing Julius (Dr.J) Erving and Studio 8H, home of SNL.  Teresa Reep in her banana yellow jacket and Jill Souther doing NYC on crutches. The scarf.  Heather Beggs crying her way through Les Miz.  The late Randy Cockerham making us laugh at Mama Leone's.  The random man who got in our group picture at the UN.  Lisa Jewett & Stephanie Greife riding the ferris wheel in Toys'R'Us.  Pole dancing on the subway with Amber Herrick. Watching Tim Harding and Jeff Byrd carry a keyboard across Manhattan.  Doing the Carl Shuffle. Watching the faces of students as they see Times Square, the Empire State Building and the Statue of Liberty for the first time.  And of course, thinking that Jacob Lupfer had just been arrested for buying illegal Hard Rock Cafe t-shirts as presents for his family.  Good times...
There are so many more memories, including mission projects handing out sandwiches to the poorest of the poor in the depths of Grand Central Station, worshiping at 15th Street Friends Meeting, and ice skating at 30 Rock. But I guess I have to stop for now.  Come back tomorrow and share in an Easter tradition here on "I'd Laugh..."

Because of Jesus,


  1. Anonymous4/07/2012

    I was on the 1982 trip. It was so wonderful to see in person all of the sights and places I had seen so often on TV and in the movies. The UN Seminar changed my world-view forever. Thank you so much, Carl, for sharing the opportunity to experience NYC with so many. - Kim

    1. Thanks Kim! Glad the trip was a memorable one for you. But you have left me with a major question...Kim who? :)

  2. Anonymous4/07/2012

    I remember making deals with street vendors for fake Oakley sunglasses and Rolex watches. My watch was dead before I ever got home!

    1. Yes we did make many a deal on those trips, often buying in bulk from people selling down at Battery Park. "1 for $5, 2 for $10!" If we had all of that money back we could afford to go again!

  3. Anonymous4/07/2012

    Best. Trip. Ever. -Keri

  4. I never experienced an NYC trip with you, but I feel like Todd showed me the city in CJ fashion. We stayed at the Milford Plaza, saw Les Miserables, ate at Carmines, etc. Todd also refers to the Carl Shuffle every time we visit. :)

    I've been praying for Will during his trip and for the trip you will share together one day soon.

    Have a wonderful week! --Kristin

    1. Thanks so much, Kristin! Will got back late last night and had a wonderful trip. But there is still plenty for us to experience together. He didn't even get any cheesecake! Hope you have a wonderful week as well!


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