We didn’t love our time at Grandma’s for the food, the Christmas presents (usually clothing), or even the Polish music. We loved being loved by her. I’m sure we recognized the feeling, even if we didn’t know how rare it is in life.

At one point during the show, Sarah crossed through the dividing curtain and bumped into a tall black man. “I just need to go to the other side of the stage,” she said. “OK,” he replied. About that same time, Leon’s manager Bill Dustin reported that rapper 50 Cent had walked by. “Hey,” Bill said. “Hi,” Fiddy said. Leon was furious that Bill hadn’t told everyone sooner. Sarah: “I thought he was a security guard.”

In August 1987, before he left for college, Chris Champion and I decided we’d drive to Atlantic City and sleep under the boardwalk. We had no plan beyond that. It seemed like something 18 year-old best friends should do: odyssey, iconic quest, scatter oats and all that.

I was born September 11, 1969, at 3:36 PM. I didn’t breathe right away, so one of the delivery nurses baptized me…A few years ago, someone approached me after church: “We weren’t sure you were going to make it; look at you now!” She’d been there when I emerged stubbornly, four decades earlier, in the hospital just across the street from the church where I was now a cantor.

The first time I walked into Players of Utica was May, 1994. The group performed in a former church on Oxford Rd. in New Hartford, NY, where they’d been located since 1962. I remember a ramshackle building, peeling blue paint on the outside, entering through the downstairs and going up to get to the theater. The floors groaned, the stairs creaked, it smelled like a hundred years of must. I found it absolutely charming.