Wednesday, November 27, 2013

My Top 11 New York City Memories

An FUMC-Kissimmee crew loving life in NYC!
For many years the week before Thanksgiving meant one thing to me: New York City.  Beginning with my own high school United Nation Seminar experience on this week in 1976, I spent many of the next 20 years with groups of teenagers in NYC. In the later years of my ministry the trip often took place during Spring Break for school purposes. I would like to share with you today 11 of my favorite memories from those trips. Most of these stories I have shared before here on the blog; links to those posts are included. 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 shows like Shenandoah, Joseph & the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, Starlight Express, 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 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. For my favorite food-related story, check out the Chinatown Chicken Head.
  6. Several of the most memorable moments of our New York adventures were provided by the dynamic duo of Charles Freedle & Mike Mercadante from Springfield Friends Meeting. You can read 3 such tales by clicking here and checking out a great vintage post!
  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 in the heart of the Theater 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. In the early years we used to go worship on Sunday morning at 15th Street Friends Meeting or Marble Collegiate Church. At 15 Street the "silent worship" often turned in to a political debate. One year at Marble Collegiate (despite the preaching of the legendary Norman Vincent Peale) we had a guy sitting near us who snored so loudly we couldn't help but laugh. Shorty afterward, we started doing our own worship...
  11. Great stories from the Kissimmee years include the year we lost Jennifer Johns; the strange incident of the well-dressed African-American man photo-bombing our group picture at the UN; Angie Whalin carrying a gigantic stuffed animal all over town; Jacob Lupfer nearly being arrested for buying illegal t-shirts; Jerry Hanbery horrifying Teresa Reep on the stairs ou the Statue of Liberty; Jill Souther on crutches navigating NYC; and around 63 stories about Jocelyn Sessions! And who could forget the magical hot chocolate that started every day from Oh-La-La?  Great memories and great people!
There is so much more, including mission projects handing out sandwiches to the poorest of the poor in the depths of Grand Central Station and working in the coldest place anyone has ever been with Habitat for Humanity- but that's it for today! Great memories from some great years. But I will forever regret not staying just once for the Macy's Parade...maybe someday! Tomorrow's the big day! Enjoy and be blessed!!!

Because of Jesus,


  1. Anonymous11/27/2013

    Due, you guys took THE most awesome trips! If there is such a thing as reincarnation I want to come back as a member of your youth group. Great stuff! - Kevin in Alabama #RollTide

    1. Thanks Kevin- they were some pretty great trips! And after much consideration I published your otherwise very nice comment DESPITE the #RollTide! :)

  2. Replies
    1. Why thank you! That means a great deal coming from a writer of your stature, Teresa! :)

  3. Anonymous11/27/2013

    I have to say the memory that has stuck with me is having the guy sing That's Amore at Mama Leones. Jennifer Jones

    1. A classic for sure Jennifer! That was an awesome night...


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