Read an Excerpt
Stories About New York
By Dan Barry
St. Martin's PressCopyright © 2009 Dan Barry
All rights reserved.
PART INew York, Starring New YorkNOVEMBER 26, 2003From an Alabama Sousaphone, a Fanfare for the CityThey deserved New York. Those who have willingly donned the maroon-and-gold uniforms of the Pinson Valley High School marching band, who have lived to the tweets of their director's whistle, who have played so much upbeat music that they can bring pep to "Avé Maria." Yes, these children of Alabama deserved to participate in that glorified commercial known as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.But none deserved New York more than their five sousaphone players, including Andrew Parsons, sixteen. His lot in band life is to lug around a heavy instrument that looks like a tuba straining to be a boa constrictor. While others frolic among the high notes, he and his four mates boomp-boomp-boomp in the low. Andrew likes that.Those boomps were an integral part of what won his band its brass ring: selection as one of the nine high school bands in this year's parade. Hundreds of practices followed, as did car washes, cookie dough sales, and other fund-raisers to pay for the 950-mile trip to New York.They left Alabama on Sunday evening, 261 students, parents, and teachers packed into five chartered buses. They breezed through Washington on Monday and got to their hotel near Newark Liberty International Airport around midnight. Andrew shared a two-bed room with three other boys; he slept on the floor.The band practiced its routine again in the hotel parking lot yesterday morning, somehow blending "Old Man River," "Jingle Bell Rock," and "Big Noise from Winnetka" into a toe-tapping medley. The band director, Jeff Caldwell, who stays up nights thinking about band precision, blew his whistle and told everyone that they looked and sounded great.Then the people from Pinson Valley piled onto the purring buses for a day trip to Manhattan. Like many around him, Andrew had never been to New York, although he had been to St. Louis once. He had his name tag around his neck and his camera in his pocket. He took a window seat, not far from where his parents sat.As the buses pulled out, Andrew set aside his performance anxieties--about remaining four paces behind the mellophone players and four ahead of the percussionists--to focus on Manhattan. The first stop was to be lunch at the South Street Seaport."Never heard of it," he said as Jersey whirred past. "What is it?"Over the next few days the Pinson Valley band will have the same New York experience as that of most of the other parade bands. Accommodations at a New Jersey hotel (it's cheaper); meals at Planet Hollywood and the ESPN Zone; Thanksgiving dinner on a chartered boat; a Broadway play; and visits to South Street, Times Square, and ground zero."I'd like to see where they were," he said of the twin towers.The buses hit congestion on the road to the Lincoln Tunnel, which meant that the Pinson Valley tour included protracted views of a McDonald's, a Taco Bell, and some auto junkyards. Andrew pointed at an industrial parking lot and said, "We have stuff like that in Birmingham."The buses inched along, eating away at Andrew's excellent adventure. "Is traffic always like this?" he asked. He was gently told yes.Then the lead bus pulled into a Wendy's restaurant parking lot, a stop that was not on an itinerary that had been months in the planning. Soon all five buses were in the lot, waiting for a woman whohad hustled inside. Andrew stared out the dusty window and asked whether they were already in New York. He was gently told no.Some students passed the time by wondering what they might have for lunch in the seaport's food court. Their meal coupons listed options that ranged from California rolls to Nathan's hot dogs. "What's souvlaki?" one of the students asked.The woman returned, and the five buses eased back into the congestion. But traffic quickly cleared up, and soon there appeared the Manhattan skyline across the Hudson River, dominated by the largest building that many of them had ever seen."Oh, wow!" said students and parents as cameras and video cameras clicked and recorded. Andrew was on the wrong side for this panorama, so he hurriedly handed his camera to his mother. Too late, though.At the Lincoln Tunnel toll, a few students puzzled over a sign that said camera use was prohibited inside the tunnel. "They don't want you to find a way to blow it up," Andrew explained.As the buses drove into the tunnel's dusk, a parent explained that they were traveling under the Hudson. Then came sunlight, and tall buildings, and quiet. Andrew Parsons, a sousaphone player from Alabama, had made it to the show.CITY LIGHTS: STORIES ABOUT NEW YORK. Copyright © 2007 by Dan Barry. Foreword copyright © by Alice McDermott. All rights reserved. Printed in the United States of America. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission except in the case of brief quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews. For information, address St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Avenue, New York, N. Y. 10010.
Excerpted from City Lights by Dan Barry. Copyright © 2009 Dan Barry. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.