View from the Juliette Balcony (Grand Midway Hotel, Windber, PA, 2oo9) -by David J
Sitting on the candle-lit Juliette balcony with Damien playing through the tapestry of character studies that is his ‘Hobos Opera’. Looking down at the railroad and casting my mind back to the previous night, when peering out from the same crows nest, I saw John Cassady, tortured son of Neal, lying prostrate with his old silver head next to the tracks in an eerie echo of his father’s demise and was struck by the notion of John being Crucified on those tracks, nailed to the light of his father’s legend, living forever in the long shadow of Dean Moriarty. Snapping back to the here and now of Damien’s troubadour spell, I glance through the window and down the haunted hall where an appreciative seated throng has assembled, gathered in by the glow of song. The stars! The stars! The stars!
The Midway Hotel was owned and run by the Timko family for decades. Many of the old photos they shared with us recount stories of musicians in great jubilee. Here we see on the hotel balconies musicians from earlier ages greeting us with their song. This building seems to have always been a magical bohemian wanderland.
A MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM
The Juliette Balcony, named by David J., was re-built by George Sporay for the Midway’s Shakespeare production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The character Titania, Queen of the Fairies, stood up here as she spoke to her husband Oberon. The character Nick Bottom climbed up here as well delivering his famed waking speech, Bottom’s Dream. The entire perch is soaked in enchantment. Looking over the beautiful park it is possibly the best view in Windber.
The new Hanging Gardens of Babylon Starter Kit… Enchantment abounds!
The balcony title ‘Juliet’ is obviously a reference to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The private space has since gone on to become a romantic escape for many hotel guests…
Camping out here with Margaret and Discovering Sita Sings the Blues
No matter how we tried, poet Margaret Bashaar and I simply could not escape Windber one evening to make Kelly Macabre Noir’s art opening in Pittsburgh. It was crazy. Our trials included missed trains and flat tires on the hwy… (Thank you for the roadside assistance, angels.) Surely the Universe must have had some other plans for us, we kept imagining, and surely it would deliver. Eventually back in the Windber, surrounded by the roar of thousands of motorcycles from Thunder in the Valley, Margaret and I turned to pizza and alcohol and indulging in the discussion of art, wondering what golden key would still turn to unlock and open this failed night into something more glorious and wondrous.
I was also texting with Kelly, our good bud whose art opening we were missing. Amid her events there, Kelly text back: “The universe knows what its doing. There are paths you are meant to go down and paths you are not. …I understand where you’re coming from. I work a lot, and very hard. I never get to do the things I want to do. I’m constantly being pulled in 12 directions and everyone needs some thing from me but I never do anything for myself and its infuriating. But I have to keep standing back and really looking at the bigger picture. We live pretty cool fucking lives. We chose art, and art’s not easy. In fact, its torture. And that’s why I understand you and where you’re coming from.” I really like Kelly.
Margaret and I sat in the hotel bar with the door open and the sound of endless motorcycles coming in with the wind and an occasional stranger peeking in. I was questioning the business model for the future of independent film distribution when Margaret suggested checking out independent filmmaker Nina Paley’s blog and “free” feature film ‘Sita Sings the Blues’, an animated musical based on Paley’s personal interpretation of the ancient Hindu epic ‘Ramayana’ with music by Annette Hanshaw. This became the charming radical diamond the Universe had install to insert in our evening. And what a breath of fresh air! Loved it! By night’s end, for the Summer Solstice super moon, I climbed out on the hotel’s second floor Juliet Balcony and set up camp. I slept out there under the enchanted massive sky. There was a single star way up above. I imagined reaching it.
Marriage proposal on the Juliette Balcony -by Kevin Bean
It was a cold December evening. Snow was gently drifting down, filling the air with twinkling lights. Mallory and I were out to eat at a nearby restaurant celebrating her birthday, with plans to see the Christmas decorations at the Midway afterwards. As she blew out the candle on her dessert, I asked if she has made a wish. Her eyes met mine as she smiled and said, “Yes.” I met her gaze and simply said, “The night is still young.” Somehow, some way, I knew her wish and I intended to fulfill it. Bundled up, we hurried to the car, stepping carefully so as not to fall, and drove to the hotel. We swooshed and crunched our way through the snow- both freshly fallen and days built, gingerly traversing the tracks and into the building.
I couldn’t take my eyes off of her. The way the snow rested upon her blond hair and lashes made her look like an angel. My guardian angel. My salvation. As we walked through the building, hand in hand, I knew that all other nights prior had led to this one. I could see them stretching back, one after the other. Each instance creating this time, this night.
When we reached the Juliet balcony, I opened the window and stepped out first to clear a space in the snow for us to stand. Reaching back, I helped Mallory out into our own private space. Though we were standing in full view of the street, there was no one else on earth but the two of us. I turned to her and kissed her gently, letting the snow fall upon us and around us, filling the night with enchantment. The lights Blair had put around the balcony reflected off of the snowflakes, filling the air with diamonds. Heart pounding, mouth dry, kneeling down, I brought forth another.
“Mallory, will you marry me?” I asked hopefully. It was an honest question- we really hadn’t been together all that long. She had never been more beautiful, more angelic. She looked back at me, hands pressed against her mouth, fogged breath squeezing through her fingers and said, “Are you fucking kidding me?!” That’s my girl.
“Is that a yes?” I replied, laughing.
I had taken her to the Midway on our first date, letting it’s enchantment seep into our very bones, and there was nowhere else in the world I wanted to be for this moment. Our moment.