Missing the Tour, Missing New York – Alison Fujito

While I was very glad to hear how
successful the East Coast PSO Tour was last week, I couldn’t help
feeling sad, too. I think this is the first Carnegie Hall concert I’ve
missed since I joined the PSO in 1987.

I’ve always brought my children on tours with me. I
feel strongly that very small children need to be with their Mommy, and
the PSO has been very generous in accommodating moms in the orchestra.

For
some reason, my children think that there is nothing more exciting than
waking up in a hotel room, and then getting on a bus and traveling
several hours to go to—another hotel room. Danny, my middle child, made
his first Carnegie Hall trip when he was 11 weeks old, not that he
remembers it, of course. He
remembers last year’s trip, though—I took all three children for a
magical horse-and-carriage ride through Central Park, followed by the
very first Taxi ride ever (I wanted to make sure that I had enough time
to practice before the concert and sound-check)! They ate Chinese
Take-out in the hotel room with my husband (who had just arrived from a
conference conveniently scheduled in New Jersey) while I went to
Carnegie Hall and practiced.


I
lived in Manhattan for 2 years when I was at Juilliard, so the yearly
PSO Carnegie Hall concert always feels like something of a homecoming
to me.

My
first year at Juilliard, there were no dorms, so we were all on our own
to find housing in New York City. My first housing arrangement lasted
exactly 2 weeks. Earlier
that summer, a pianist had told me that she and her violinist room-mate
were looking to share a huge one-bedroom apartment, there was tons of
space, it was furnished, and she promised that I could practice
whenever I wanted because she and her room-mate were never there. When
I got there, I discovered that it was a small apartment made much
smaller by her grand piano, which took up nearly the entire living
room. The pianist had a double bed, while my “bed” was a chair that
unfolded in thirds to lie flat on the floor. The room-mate slept under
the piano.


Unfortunately, it seemed they were always
home! Every
time I tried to practice, they were in the living room watching TV, so
I would take my music stand into the bathroom, put it in the bathtub,
close the door, and try to practice. Invariably, the pianist would
start banging on the bathroom door, complaining that she couldn’t hear
the TV.


I frantically checked the housing bulletin board at Juilliard. The only sign posted was, “Live-in babysitter needed.” As
I read further, the hours listed were actually compatible with my class
schedule, so I jotted down the phone number and went to the nearest pay
phone (yes, these were the days before everybody and his dog had their
own cell phones!). The lady who answered sounded
very nice, chatted with me for a few minutes, told me a little about
her two children, and then asked if I had time to come for an interview
that day. I glanced at my watch—2 hours til my next class. I had just enough time to get to West 84th and back. I glanced at my clothes, and my heart sank. I was definitely not dressed for an interview. I
had on a checked shirt and overalls, and my hair was in braids so that
it wouldn’t catch on my violin’s shoulder rest during orchestra
rehearsal. And there was no time to go back to The Cell – er, the
apartment – to change.


When
I rang the buzzer about half an hour later, the lady opened the door,
looked me up and down—and then, to my astonishment, said, “Would you
like to see your room?” Turns out, she was from the Midwest , too (I’m
originally from Illinois), and she was a plaid-shirt-and-overalls gal,
herself, not to mention a pretty good judge of character in that I got
along very, very well with her and with the children, and she and I are
still in touch. I usually call her when I’m in
town. I remember that Jordan, the oldest child, was a HUGE Terry
Bradshaw fan, and even dressed up as Terry Bradshaw for Hallowe’en. The
family didn’t have any Pittsburgh connections that I was aware of—must
have been foreshadowing for me!


Every
Sunday I took the BxM3 bus up to the Bronx to visit my grandparents,
who lived right across the street from Van Cortland Park. I learned how
to make my Grandma’s chicken soup (“Jewish antibiotics,” my Grandpa
called it), but never quite figured out her recipe for potted chicken. She
told me that she used an ingredient she called, “Petrushka,” (like the
ballet!), but my mother didn’t know what it was.If anbody reading this
knows what she meant, please let me know!

From
watching my Grandma, I learned the
Throw-In-A-Pinch-Of-This-And-Maybe-It-Could-Use-A-Little-More-Of-That
method of cooking (my mother never liked cooking, for some reason). My
Grandpa liked to cook eggs. He was the master of the omelette, but he
never called it that. He called them, “Pancake -style eggs.” In our
family, we always called them, “Eggs, Grandpa-style.”


My
Grandma passed away in 1992, but my Grandpa, who was born in December
of 1899, made it to the year 2000. We have pictures of him with my
older 2 kids, who called him “Great-Grandpa.”

My
aunt and uncle live in Brooklyn in a wonderful row-house they bought,
oh, I don’t know, 25 or 30 years ago, and renovated beautifully. I
always call them up when I’m in New York, and usually one or both of
them come to the concert, and we meet for dinner before. Last time, we
met in a wonderful Thai restaurant a block from Carnegie Hall. They
would have preferred my having dinner at their house, but they
understood how important it was that I practice before the concert!


Oh, well—there’s always next year—in New York!

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Jun 4