We shared the same bed in the back room of my grandparent’s home when my parents went away to play. I remember it well because my brother and I were bookends to my sister as my grandmother always placed her in the middle so that the young woman wouldn’t fall out of the bed. My parents scheduled their playtime once a month in which they spent alone time out of town. We had no clue where they were and honestly didn’t care because we were consumed by grandma’s good cooking that was always made with love, granddad’s wisdom and story telling, and a backyard that was canvas for what ever we could conjure up in our young minds. Playtime weekends would always end with a doorbell on Sunday evening/night followed by the familiar voice of my father greeting his parents. After grown up conversation was finished he would round us up to say our goodbyes and then we would head home.
I recall returning home from my grandparent’s house one weekend after my parents went away to play…to find a new picture hanging over the fireplace. The picture captured a black woman with a short haircut in a white dress whose body was shaped like the letter “S.”
We asked mom who is this? And why is she hanging over the fireplace? She told us the woman in the picture goes by the name of Judith Jamison and she is a famous dancer who plays a big part in Alvin Ailey’s dance company. She said this past weekend she saw dances she choreographed in New York City and it was incredible (then she began to dance around our living room and we laughed). After her imitation of a dance she pulled out a VHS tape that read Alvin Ailey on the cover and told us we could watch it later…
All I know is that when later came…we watch the heck out of that tape!!! Thinking back on that time…I truly believe what made that Alvin Ailey VHS so captivating is I had never seen African Americans dance that way. Sure I had seen Michael Jackson, James Brown, Tina Turner, Janet Jackson, and others get busy but this was TOTALLY different. This was my introduction to modern dance and I was a bit mesmorized. I think the shock came from my young brain thinking my people only danced like Michael Jackson and James Brown…when I thought of ballet and modern dance, I didn’t think of African Americans but my mom continuously challenged and released all limitations in our minds dealing with African American people. In a world where it seemed that we are constantly limited…on the east side of Cleveland my mother chose to show us the only limitation were in our minds. She’s a facts only type of woman and never taught us anything without backing it up. African Americans in modern dance was one of the many cultured lessons she taught us and showed us about through this Alvin Ailey VHS.
Over the last 4 years I started implementing my own playtime…
Although I don’t have a playmate…it hasn’t stopped me from traveling around the world alone and with friends to discover what life has to offer through culture, inspiration, hope, and education.
In March I found myself at Mardi Gras with one my best friends “Stevona” aka Stevie who lives in New Orleans. While perusing the NOLA streets for delicious food and catching beads at several parades...she asked me if I was down to go see Alvin Ailey with her in New York in June…My response was “I’m wit it!”
Last Monday she arrived in DC and on Tuesday morning we journeyed to New York City and experienced one of the best times of our lives! We traveled to New York via the Bolt Bus, which happened to break down about an hour and fifteen minutes into our trip. The driver hopped on the speaker and simply said, “Well, there's summin wrong wit dis bus!” Me and Stevie looked at each other and immediately started laughing! Not because the bus broke down…but because the man said it like your inner city uncle would. After a semi-long wait we pulled off on the same bus just to pull over again about an hour outside of New York to wait for a new bus to arrive.
When we arrived in New York, we took the A train to Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast in Brooklyn and checked in. We were greeted by Erica the innkeeper who was so welcoming and just plain cool. She led us to our place of lodging and then invited us back down for Tea Time at 4pm in the lobby. We had tea and spoke with Erica about the history of the property and life and before we knew it…it was time to get dressed...so we did exactly that and hopped an Uber car to the Lincoln Center.
As we were walking towards the venue an older African American man stopped us and asked “Are you going to see Ailey tonight?” When we told him that we were...his face was filled with excitement and he raved about how great it is and how he was glad that we were going to see it and how young black people need to see this! His excitement reminded me of my mother dancing around the living room when I was a child before letting us watch the VHS. It’s proof that all art inspires and moves our hearts to a happy place.
After conversing with the gentlemen we walked inside of the David H. Koch Theater and witnessed the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater entertain a sold out audience for two hours. IT WAS PHENOMENAL! It’s really hard to express how great it was. It was interesting to see “Revelations” live in person after seeing it on the VHS so many years ago. The dancing and music that accompanied of course were familiar but the energy created in that room was undeniable. There was so much inspiration in every dance presented that evening.
After the show we headed to meet up with my good friend Bill who picked out a restaurant in the city called “il Buco Alimentari & Vineria,” for us to have dinner at. Bill invited his twin brother Chris and Stevona invited her good friend Hollins to join us. Upon arrival...Bill spoke about how excited he was for us to indulge in this incredible food and that we did!
Over crispy artichokes, carrots, kale, crispy polenta, the best pasta I've ever had in my life, and the incredibly flavored roasted short rib...we toasted to new friends and enjoyed great conversation and laughter. It's days like these that you don't want to see come to an end!
I've been blessed to experience days like last Tuesday several times over the past four years. As I reflect on my playtime around the globe...these incredible times don't happen by coincidence. It is your job to curate your playtime and make sure it's filled with pleasure and a great time so you can return home and back to work fulfilled!
To guarantee my playtime is fulfilling...I make sure it includes these three non-negotiables:
1.) Great Company
2.) Great Cuisine
3.) Great Adventure
This trifecta captures the art of playtime!
Even when traveling alone I always seem to find great company when I'm seeking great cuisine or something to get into.
So what do you need to guarantee that your playtime is successful?
Where are you spending your playtime this summer?
Something to ponder...
Aaron "Ab" Abernathy