Wednesday, November 13, 2013

48 Hours in The Big Apple

As I am positive that you must be tired of me constantly writing about economics and the stock market, I vow to write nothing of the two in today’s blog. You may rest assured though that we are watching the market closely as it continues to move higher. By any definition, this has been an extraordinary year but, as promised, I will not discuss that today.

Last weekend, I attended what was to be your typical stock market seminar in New York, sponsored by a nationally known mutual fund company. Since I love New York but can only handle a few days there at a time, I thought I would make a quick trip up and back to attend this conference. One of my great loves has always been The Broadway Theatre. As a child, I was lucky enough to actually see Mary Martin in “South Pacific” on Broadway, and have been a huge fan of Broadway musicals ever since. I have seen so many and although most of them are just light-hearted entertainment, I have been lucky enough to see some of the great ones. For me, no trip to New York is complete without seeing at least one show.

I arrived at LaGuardia Airport around 3:00 p.m. on Thursday and had just enough time to get to the hotel, unpack, and get to the theatre to see the newly debuted “Motown The Musical”. Going in, I really did not know much about this show but because I have loved Motown music since high school, I knew I had to see it. Buying a ticket from a scalper, I was fortunate enough to end up in the very first row and able to hear the singers perform without amplification. It was quite an amazing show and I highly recommend it.

I cannot tell you how many memories this show brought back for me. To hear the music of The Temptations, The Four Tops, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder and Marvin Gaye was quite a welcomed blast from the past. And to witness the house almost come down when Michael Jackson and The Jackson 5 sang along with the Supremes was quite a sight to see. While I found the script a tad weak and mostly uninspiring, the music alone made up for this lack of substance as I found myself singing and dancing in my seat in no time.

Early the next morning, I attended the seminar, which incidentally was held in the Metropolitan Opera House in New York City. Anyone who knows me understands that attending an event such as this is the only way you’ll ever find me at the Met. But as much as I do not like the opera, the significance of the venue was not lost on me. Even sitting in the 5th balcony was very special.

As expected, the seminar was as interesting as can be when listening to presidents speak about their companies. After the morning break there was entertainment scheduled, although the performers were not revealed to us ahead of time. Believe it or not, over the next couple of hours I saw two incredible singers. The first was Katharine McPhee, who you may know as a runner-up on American Idol who later went on to star in the TV series “Smash”. As I expected, she was quite extraordinary. Next up was Melissa Etheridge and her band. Melissa of course has had a number of hits and was quite entertaining as well. The biggest highlight for me though was getting to personally meet both of these talented performers. I can assure you from the hug I received that Katharine McPhee, who is about 5’8”, desperately needs to eat a cheeseburger.

This seminar has always been known for its special late afternoon entertainment, and since Celine Dion and her full orchestra performed last year, I knew I would not be disappointed. And boy was I right! After a few more hours of discussing stocks and bonds, the surprise musical guest was finally revealed. Unbelievably, they paraded out Barbra Streisand and her entire orchestra.

A few years ago, tickets to see her on tour were approximately $1,500 each, so to think I would ever see Barbra Streisand perform for FREE was a dream I never could have imagined. Although I may not agree with her politics and find her to be painfully outspoken, there are few, if any, performers that can match her talent. To actually see Barbra Streisand in the Metropolitan Opera House was an event that I will never forget – and did I mention it was free?

After the event was over, I hustled back down to Broadway again in time to see “Jersey Boys” from the fourth row. This was actually the tenth time I have seen “Jersey Boys” – four times in Las Vegas, three times in Atlanta, and now three times in New York. For those around my age, the music is just as good and relatable as “Motown the Musical” but the storyline in “Jersey Boys” is much, much better. And believe me, there is no bigger thrill than witnessing the actor playing Frankie Valli sing “Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You”. Even though I had already seen the show nine times, I was again completely amazed by the cast, the characters, and the overwhelming talent. I have seen a lot of live performances over the years and in my opinion you won’t see any greater talent than on the Broadway stage, especially in New York.

I was lucky enough to see the Phantom of the Opera when it first opened on Broadway in 1990 and I will never forget sitting in the audience when Michael Crawford and Sarah Brightman actually shook the theatre with their incredible voices. Although the theatres are small in New York, the floors uneven, the bathrooms inadequate, and virtually everything about the district old and decayed, the uniqueness of sitting in this 500 seat theatre should be experienced by all. You will never see such talent so up close and personal anywhere else in the world.

As to not waste a single minute, I got up early on Saturday morning and was at the Metropolitan Museum of Art when it opened. I never tire of walking through the Impressionism collection at the Met Museum. I am a big admirer of Renoir and am always amazed by how vibrant and beautiful the colors of these paintings still are after 125 years. I was also fortunate enough to check out some of the other great artists like Rembrandt and Van Gogh. However, to me, nothing compares to the revolutionary impact of the Impressionists. I often think to myself, why don’t we have any artists like Renoir or Monet today? Perhaps we do, and we’ll just have to wait 100 years to find out who they are.

As I took a cab directly from the Metropolitan Museum of Art to LaGuardia for my 3:00 p.m. return flight, I realized I had been in New York for exactly 48 hours and not a minute was wasted during that brief but unbelievable time. Although culture and my name are rarely (actually never) used in the same sentence, this weekend was quite extraordinary, by any definition.

While none of the above has anything to do with economics, the stock market, or even taxation, I just thought you may be interested in hearing of a weekend that would rival even that of the rich and the famous. While I do not fall into that category yet, it sure felt like it for 48 hours!

Best regards,

Joe Rollins