Jen looked around. Nothing. It hadn’t worked. She was still sitting inside of Patsy’s car.
“I knew it couldn’t be that easy.” Jen sighed.
“Well, let’s keep going. If we drive through the night we’ll make it to NYC by morning.” Patsy said.
“Oh Patsy, I’m so sorry for troubling you like this.” Jen said
“Well? Its not everyday one meets a time traveler, its crazy, but there’s a song in here somewhere I’m sure. C’mon girl, buck up, we’ll get you back home.”
They drove on through the night and just as the sun was peaking out over the horizon, she glimpsed the silhouette of the NYC skyline over the Hudson, like a seismometer reading stretching over the orange sky. It was amazing how much had remained same. The Empire State building pierced through the morning fog, and her heart swelled in her chest, just as it always had whenever she saw her first glimpse of that greatest city in the world.
They drove through the Lincoln Tunnel and into the still sleepy morning of mid-town. Jen knew that the Lower East Side in the 1950’s had been a mostly tenement style neighborhood, and that Rockwood 2 wouldn’t be there for several more decades. But pop music was just starting to boom in 1951.
“I’m back in 1951. Where is the one place I would go if I had the chance? “ Jen thought to herself.
It suddenly dawned on her. If they were here they should go for it, to the epicenter of songwriting in the fifties: 1619 Broadway in mid-town. They were going to The Brill Building.
The Brill Building was essentially the hit factory of the world during the 1950’s and 60’s. It was an entire building filled with songwriters, pianos, recording studios, publishing houses, and soon to be world- renowned songwriters. In its heyday The Brill was responsible for 90% of the songs that made it to the radio. It was legendary, and Jen knew she and Patsy had to be a part of it.
“C’mon Patsy there’s somewhere we need to go!” Jen said. “You wanna be a singer? I’ll take to you the place where hits are made!”
They drove up to the front of the Brill Building at the corner of 51st and Broadway with its golden doors glimmering in the sunlight. Patsy stood and stared up at the tallest building she’d ever seen.
“I can’t even see the top of it!” Patsy exclaimed in awe. “It must go all the way to Heaven!”
They crossed the street and stepped through the golden gates, into the marble foyer with its grand multi-tiered ceiling, decorated like a wedding cake. They approached the elevator and were greeted by its operator.
“Good morning ladies. Which floor?” He asked.
“Three please” Patsy said, “Third time’s a charm!”
The operator closed the metal gate and they made their slow ascent to the 3rd floor. The door reopened and they were instantly met with a wall of sound. There were melodies on top of melodies, piano chords on top of piano chords. Notes were flying around their ears like tiny fireflies, here and gone too quickly to catch. As they walked down the hall, they spied into a tiny cubicle. Inside sat a bench, a piano and a chair. It was empty.
“Let’s go in!” Jen said.
“But what if we get caught?” asked Patsy
Jen winked at Patsy, “Life is full of what ifs,” she said.
Patsy smiled. Jen opened the door. They stepped inside and Patsy sat down at the piano. She edged the seat closer to the keys and played a few notes. Jen sat down at the chair beside her.
“Will you sing?” Jen asked
Patsy hesitated for just a second and then began to play. She opened with a four bar introduction and then began,
“Every honeybee fills with jealousy when they see you out with me, ”
It was one of her favorite songs: “Honeysuckle Rose” She’d heard so many singers perform it, but what she was witnessing in front of her was nothing like she’d ever heard. It was soulful, lush and rich like a piece of red velvet cake. Patsy was singing with every ounce of emotion inside of her. It echoed from the walls and filled up the cubicle to its bursting point. Jen cracked open the door and let the music escape like steam from a boiling kettle. It raced down the hallway, through the vents and cracks in the floor, out of the windows and down to the street.
The jive of the piano was rippling the ceiling. Out in the hallway, heads started to peek around the corners. People began to gather in the hall. Jen ran to the window. A crowd was slowly forming on the street below. Patsy’s voice whisked down Broadway, circled the stoplights, flew over the Empire State Building, swooped down into the tunnels of the subway and flooded the corridors of Grand Central Station. On Wall Street the rhythm of the piano wove in and out of ticker tapes machines and taxicabs, up and down the elevators and through the switchboard wires. New York City was for that moment lifted by the most glorious sound it had ever heard. And for just that moment, the whole city had stopped to listen.
Just then Jen remembered the golden rule of time travel. “Don’t interfere with destiny!” She looked around to see people lining up in every direction to find out who this singer was, to meet Patsy. Jen couldn’t let that happen. Not yet.
She’d been so selfish, so foolish! How could she have let Patsy sing in the one place where her talent would be most coveted? It wasn’t her time yet! If Patsy’s talent fell into the wrong hands her career might never materialize. Some of the greatest recordings ever made might never be.
“C’Mon, We’ve gotta get out of her!” Cried Jen.
She grabbed Patsy from the Piano and shoved them both through the crowd and out the door. Together they ran down the stairwell of the fire exit, through the main hall and out the golden doors. The crowd that had gathered on the street mobbed them upon their arrival. The Brill Building musicians were chasing after them.
“Head for the car!” Jen yelled.
They made it through the mob and into the car.
“C’Mon! We can’t let them get to you yet Patsy!”
Jen frantically started the car and sped down Broadway. She looked through the rearview mirror. The crowd was getting smaller and smaller as they drove father and farther away.
“What’s happening?” cried Patsy.
“Don’t be afraid” said Jen. “Everything is alright, but I think its time you live the life you were meant to, and time I start figuring this out on my own.”
They pulled up to Allen St to the future Rockwood Stage 2 and stepped out of the car to the sidewalk. Jen remembered the velvet curtains, and the venue she loved. She remembered the tall widows fogged from the inside. A sense of calm overcame her being so close to home. She wasn’t worried anymore. If this would be her fate, then she’d make the best of it. She’d give it her all no matter where she was or what life threw at her.
“Is what happened back there what’s in store for me?” Patsy asked.
“I can’t tell you what’s going to happen” Jen said. “All I can tell you is that its going to be al right. Just keep doing the thing that you love, and when the time is right it will all come together. The gifts you’ve been given will take you where ever you want to go.”
Jen turned to look at Patsy, but Patsy had vanished. She looked around, but Patsy was nowhere to be found. She realized at that moment that she’d been speaking to herself.
“My gifts will take me wherever I want to go,” Jen said to herself and smiled.
Just then it began to snow. She turned and saw Rockwood Stage 2 before her. She was back! It was Dec 30th! Monday! 8pm! She was home! At that very moment Ken Rockwood appeared.
“Where have you been?” Ken asked. “We’ve been looking all over for you!” You’re on in 5 minutes.
“Thanks Ken!” Jen said. She picked up her guitar and headed inside.
Jenna will be performing with her band on Monday, Dec 30th, 8pm, Rockwood Stage 2.