C.J.: New York City, January 23, 2008

09/24/2013 02:16 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017


I'm sitting at the top of the steps of the Met Museum on this late afternoon. The sun has dipped and so has the temperature. I finish my afternoon call to my sister Patti in Miami. Her speech, lately very slurred from her degenerative condition, is a little better today - I think in part because we've reduced her meds. From amidst the din of traffic and people, there suddenly arises a beautiful vocal rendition of "The Lion Sleeps Tonight," which resounds like a hymn throughout the museum plaza. I look around for some type of sound system and see the best one of all -- a solitary man without a microphone at the bottom of the steps. I approach him. "Sir, may I make a special request?" "If I know it," he replies. I tell him about Patti and then call her back. "Patti, here's a little treat for you!" I put the phone on speaker and C.J. breaks into an extended version of "Stand By Me." When he gets to the chorus he sings "And Patti. Patti stand... by me... Ooohhh stand... by me!" I hear her laughing and enjoying the song and the attention. When he finishes the song I put 10 dollars in his hat. He thanks me and is already into the next song. I stick around for a minute as more people leave the museum. Then C.J. and I shake hands and I start walking down Fifth Avenue. He belts out a heartfelt "Hit The Road, Jack" to me, to the museum crowd, to the gray New York City sky.