Joy was all around us and within us as Nancy and I visited New York City, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia, Washington, DC, Philadephia, Pennsylvania and finally Des Moines, Iowa in September and October 2019 as part of my USA book tour.
For those who have read my recently published memoir, you will know that our life together began at the top of a steep stairway in Washington, DC in 1977. From that chance encounter upon this stairway our lives became intertwined in many marvelous ways. We decided to re-visit some of the special places that meant so much to us during our early days together and also discover some amazing new sites as well.
3333 Connecticut Avenue, Washington DC
“Where Joe Met Nancy”
42 years ago
Our jolly holiday began in New York City where we were delighted to find so many free exhibitions and lectures at the New York City Library for the Performing Arts at Lincoln Centre. Over two days we toured an exhibition in honour of the famed broadway producer / director (Fiddler on the Roof, West Side Story, Zorba, Phantom of the Opera, Cabaret and more) Harold Prince. We also toured an exhibition commemorating 75 years of the dance archives at this library and then capped off our visit with a free concert in honour of the legendary broadway soprano Barbara Cook.
New York City Views with Our Son Max and My Sister Leah
We also toured the beautifully designed Rubin Museum that includes middle eastern and other art works with spiritual themes. This museum was new to us and left us filled with much beauty and appreciation for art that speaks to the soul as well as the eye.
Whilst in New York City, I delivered the first of four programmes and book signings as part of my USA book tour. For this programme, I was intereviewed by the former President of BizBash and founding president of the New York City chapter of the International Live Events Association, Richard Aaron, at New York University. The students asked excellent questions and I thorougly enjoyed meeting them. Earlier in the same day I was video taped in an interview with the well regarded NYU professor Dianne Devitt of Experiential Consulting.
My interview at New York University
Following our visit to New York City we flew to Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia where I had the pleasure of serving as the closing speaker for the International Festivals and Events association’s 64th annual Conference, Exhibition and Retreat. I was able to see many old friends and meet many new ones at this excellent programme that featured the best educational sessions I have seen in many years.
One of the great highlights of my visit to Colonial Williamsburg was my reunion with three former George Washington University graduate students. Two of these students each drove nine hours to join Nancy and me for a wonderful luncheon and followed by my speech.
Our next stop was Washington, DC and we travelled by AMTRAK train from Newport News, Virginia to the historic Union Station on Capitol Hill. The train journey was easy and pleasant and the moment we arrived and stepped into the stately Union Station I had goose bumps as I had not visited Washington, DC in over two decades.
I also visited my former office in the Watergate office building. This is where our firm, The Wonder Company, enjoyed its greatest success. The space is now occupied by the National Trust of the United States (a very noble succesor tenant). I even walked out unto my own private balcony to once again view the Washington monument.
We also returned to the site on the Duke Ellington Bridge where I proposed to Nancy. I remember telling her that if she did not accept my proposal I might jump!
My former office and balcony at the Watergate Office Building and the Bridge where I proposed to Nancy 42 years ago
One of the highlights of our visit to Washington, DC was my talk at the George Washington University, where I had earned my masters and doctorate degrees and taught for many years. A large and enthusiastic audience of faculty, students and friends were in attendance and I felt a huge lump in my throat as I began my talk. Seated in the front row was a wonderful woman who 42 years ago I had been hired by her parents t0 look after her and her brother for one year as their “male Mary Poppins”. We had not seen one another in over 40 years!
During our visit to the nation’s capital, we visited with lots of wonderful friends whom we had also not seen in many years. Each reunion brought back a flood of special memories and often tears of great joy and happiness.
One of the greatest highlights of our visit to Washington, DC was our hald day visit to the relatively new National Museum of African American History and Culture. As we toured this massive and well designed exhibition, I realised how much of this history had been carefully expunged from my school text books and how grateful I was to finally learn the rest of the story thanks to the talented curators of this museum.
Upon departing Washington, DC ,we travelled again by train to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and spent most of the day touring the National Museum of Jewish History and their special exhibition about US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I was delighted to see that the museum was positioned between the place where the U.S. Declaration of Independence had been signed, the U.S. Constitution Centre and the famous Liberty Bell (that was rung on the day the Declaration was signed).
US Supreme Court Chief Jusctice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and me
Our final stop was my wife’s hometown of Des Moines, Iowa. Here we visited with family and friends (some who flew or drove from great distances into Des Moines to see Nancy) and I delivered my final speech for CLE Productions at the River Center. Over 80 people attended this talk at an early morning hour and I was delighted to meet so many leaders of the events industry in the capital city of Iowa.
Our great nephew
Upon starting this stroll up memory lane I had many trepidations because I was worried that the maxim ” you can never truly go home again” might be correct. However, I found in each destination we visited a warm and enthusiastic welcome and each city had greatly improved in physical beauty since my last visit. I was also pleased to see so many friends and family in good health and good cheer.
Our stroll up memory lane was indeed memorable and has placed within my heart a permanent warm feeling that I shall cherish all the remaining days of my life.