It was spring when I moved to New York City. As leaves unfurled on the trees and the city began to bloom, I also felt reborn. Almost every night found me working long shifts as a waitress in an attempt to rebuild my badly bruised finances, leaving no time for any musical pursuits. I was broke and perpetually exhausted, but I remained optimistic. After all, I was in New York, the city that never sleeps. On any given night, I could take in a Broadway show, hear live jazz, attend a gallery opening, or eat at a fabulous restaurant. Well, actually, I couldn’t really do any of those things.
Like most 20-something aspiring artists in New York City, I rarely had a night off and could scarcely afford my groceries, let alone nights out on the town. But I did have the good sense, on two or three occasions, to whip out my weary, overworked credit card and haul my weary, overworked ass over to Danny’s Skylight Room (a dingy, unassuming nightclub just off Times Square) to hear Blossom Dearie.
There, in Danny’s dark back room, Blossom cast a spell over a small, devoted audience. I sipped a watery Manhattan on the rocks as Blossom played piano with her trademark delicacy and finesse. Her crystalline voice rang sweet and true throughout her set. Afterward, she signed my copy of her self-titled 1957 Verve album and even posed for a picture. As I walked out of Danny’s Skylight Room into the balmy spring evening, all the springtime cliches rang true: I was light as a feather, daft as a daisy, a lark on the wing.
More than a few springs have passed since I moved to New York. And I suppose I’ve grown into my life here in New York City. These days, I’m waitressing less and singing more; I’m happy to say that affording groceries isn’t quite the challenge it used to be. But, unbelievably, sometimes I miss my first spring here in the Big Apple, when every day was ripe with possibility. I also miss Blossom Dearie, who died last year, and her enchanting performances at Danny’s Skylight Room (which is also gone, by the way).
This unusually cold January finds me holed up, hermit-like, at home. Everything seems to be stalled, including my optimism, and spring feels very, very far away. I sit in my Brooklyn living room and look at the gray sky, gray pavement, gray buildings, gray cars. I put on a Blossom Dearie record. Her voice, delicate and knowing, flirtatious and ironic, subtle and swinging, tells me that spring is on its way.
In just a few months, the first tentative, yet persistent, shoots of green will begin to assert themselves once again in Central Park. And if the daffodils have the courage to blossom in this rough-and-tumble metropolis year after year, then surely we can, too.