It turns out an alternative answer to the old joke is “Seventh Avenue at 57th Street.”
But it was not the stage or even a seat at a show the young woman sought in her first visit to to Carnegie Hall, just the administrative offices -- like those of any arts institution, except the framed posters on the wall were a bit more prestigious.
She sat a large shoebox on Mr. Stein's desk. “I was told on the phone you were still accepting materials for the archives?”
“Yes,” Stein answered as he lifted the box's lid to peer inside. “But we've gotten a very good response from patrons over the last couple of years. We appreciate it all, but some things we already have plenty of... Oh, my.”
He had carefully moved a silk handkerchief to reveal a performance program he had never seen in such good condition. “This is...”
“Symphonic Dances from West Side Story,” the woman finished his thought. “World premiere.”
“You were there?” Stein puzzled.
“No,” she smiled. “I was born towards the end of '61, when the movie came out. This is my mother's.”
“She loved 'West Side Story,'” she continued. “Saw it during the Broadway run, and it was her favorite. So, when the concert came about, she had to go.”
“Well, I can tell this meant a lot to her.” Stein gently opened the program. “That's Leonard Bernstein's signature,” he marvelled.
“Yeah, she had quite a story about getting that.”
“I'd like to hear it,” Stein replied.
“She... just passed,” the woman said, her glad tone fading.
“Oh, I'm so sorry...”
“She also got the conductor to sign it,” she added, trying to restore the mood.
Stein glanced down, “Yes, Lukas Foss, I see it.”
“Mom wanted you to have it,” she said. “She read in the paper a couple of years ago that you were looking for materials for the archives. And when the cancer had gone too far, she made sure everything Carnegie Hall went into the box, especially that program. And I promised to bring it to you, so here I am.”
“Are you sure you want to leave all this with us?” Stein asked, carefully returning the program to the box and closing the lid.
“Yes,” she responded. “That concert was Dad's wedding gift to Mom. Then, nine months later, I come along, in labor while she's at 'West Side Story' at the movies – and she made sure she stayed to the end. It's why my name is Maria.
“I don't need that souvenir,” she added, beaming, “I am a souvenir.”
- - -
Entry for LJ Idol: Season 10, Second Chance Idol Week 3; Topic: Getting to Carnegie Hall. Inspired by the story that around 1986, despite all the memorabilia around the building, the Hall did not have an official archive, and it appealed to fans and patrons to help complete its collection as it approached its centennial.