bright lights, bigger city

A few posts ago, I was talking about the the parts of New York City that are nothing like what you see on TV or in the movies. To be fair, I should mention that there are other parts that are, well, every bit as cool as they look. Central Park is amazing. The Metropolitan Museum really does have hieroglyphics that may, who knows, be an ancient cartoon strip about a character named Sphinxie. Watching Good Morning, America before work and thinking, that’s just a short traffic-laden drive away, that’s kind of cool. And the city at Christmastime really was something to see — that tree at Rockefeller Center is gorgeous. Restaurants, shopping, the High Line, Grand Central Station, the Cloisters, it’s all right there on that one little densely-packed island.

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All you want is a dinkle… What you envy is a schwang… A thing through which you can tinkle…To play with or simply let hang.

The other really great thing is the theatre. I saw a slew of shows in the city years and years ago. But when you live out of town, going to a Broadway show is a whole rigamarole. Getting tickets that fit your travel schedule means you can’t take advantage of most good sales, or catch something in a limited run. When you’re across the state, you just don’t hear about a lot of great productions, off Broadway and on, and that’s probably for the best or I would have been even more pea green with envy than I was before. But being here, we can grab a great opportunity when it comes along, and I’m really excited about the shows we’re seeing.

My husband and brother-in-law have a subscription to MCC Theater at the Lucille Lortel Theatre on Christopher Street. If you’re a dork like me, the biggest thing that tickles you about that is that it’s where Joey sometimes had his shows on Friends, like the one where he fell for his leading lady before heading off to Blargon 7, or Freud! the Musical. But they actually do have a lot of great shows there — I went to one with them last fall that I really enjoyed and Dave has told me about others.

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The set for Waiting for Godot, pre-show. Unlike the jerkwad in the row in front of me, I didn’t use my phone to take pictures during the performance.

For Valentine’s Day we went to see Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan in Waiting for Godot. I mean, look: Godot is a weird play, and not entirely easy. You’re meant to chuckle but mostly to think, a lot. And it was an excellent performance, but I’m not going to lie: I spent the entire time in a bliss-filled haze of thinking, “THAT’S PATRICK STEWART. AND IAN MCKELLAN. PICARD AND GANDALF ARE LESS THAN THIRTY FEET AWAY FROM ME. ACTING. TOGETHER. THIS IS THE COOLEST THING EVER.” Don’t even get me started on when Patrick Stewart walked past me on the way to his car, later. It was transformative.

 

In early May, we’re going to see Daniel Radcliffe in The Cripple of Inishmaan. I think we’re going to enjoy it, as it’s gotten excellent reviews in London. It’s a dark comedy, and with Dave, the darker the better, really. And yes, I imagine there will be a similar part of me thinking, “HARRY POTTER!!!”, but this time it’s more about making up for a previously missed opportunity. I was desperate to see Equus when Radcliffe was in it in 2009, and I couldn’t make it happen. That’s still disappointing, since it’s such a great play and also starred the now-departed Richard Griffiths, but I at least we’ll be there this time around. And for Dave’s birthday, later that month, we’re going to the long-awaited revival of Hedwig and the Angry Itch, starring Neal Patrick Harris (go for Barney!). I can’t wait.

Years and years ago, I studied theatre and thought I wanted to spend my life working backstage. That didn’t work out, and it’s not something I want anymore. But living here and getting out to see shows, keeping on top of what’s coming up in venues small and large, gives me back a little bit of something that I once wanted very badly, even if in the most tangential of ways. So if nothing else, that alone makes up for all the stinky subways and the sun setting at two o’clock and the traffic, even the traffic, ten times over.

New York state of mind

300px-I_Love_New_York.svgI’ve been going to visit New York City for years, since my friend Amy moved there (or in the vicinity) ages ago. And I like the city. It can be fun. Living near it myself, now, there’s still a lot I enjoy. Last weekend, we saw Patrick Stewart and Ian McKellan in Waiting for Godot. It was, in a word, thrilling — just to be there, just to be able to be there. Exciting things happen in New York, and living close by means I can see them, when I want to.

Having said that,it’s a little silly the way Hollywood likes to treat NYC, at least when it comes to lighter fare. All too often the city is depicted as some kind of jolly Mary Poppins-esque wonderland. In reality, the subways are not well-lit and charming. The streets are not that clean. Sometimes there’s a smell. Well, all the time. There’s always construction, there’s always traffic, and the sun sets in mid-afternoon. I mean, sure, sometimes they show us the grittier side.  Taxi Driver is impeccably harsh, for example. Big shows Tom Hanks in that scary motel room. I’d also give good credit to Midnight Cowboy, Fame, and even Tootsie. But then there’s the brighter side of the street, apparently.

In When Harry Met Sally, everyone’s apartment is the size of the Met; it’s often adorably fall or the holidays, and the worst that can be said is that buying a Christmas tree for yourself is a fate worse than death. In The Object of My Affection,  a lovely Brooklyn brownstone is “slumming it”, and showing that you want to “escape the Hamptons” is proof you still have a soul. Serendipity started a run on not just old copies of Love in the Time of Cholera but also the restaurant from which the movie got its name, as long as you don’t dwell on how many times they’ve been closed down for rat infestations. I can excuse a movie like The Devil Wears Prada because it takes place entirely in the world of fashionistas, but all the other romcoms set in the Big Apple have the same, nauseating… sameness.  27 Dresses presents us with a city lacking any ethnicity whatsoever (except for one young boy, and they make sure you know it) and in 13 Going on 30, the sun always shines and there’s a photo shoot waiting to happen anywhere. Little Black Book, Maid in Manhattan, Made of Honor, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days, Sweet Home Alabama, Stepmom, and on and on. Everyone has an exciting job. Everyone has an unrealistically huge apartment. And the city is so damn picturesque you can barely resist packing up your worldly belongings and moving there immediately. The crowning achievement of Hollywood’s New York has got to be You’ve Got Mail, a movie that has charming baked right in with Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks in the lead roles. Here, New York is one giant street fair, filled with lovely (though possibly soon to be out of business) shops, literary parties, and friends singing Austrian folk songs together at Christmas.

There are a lot of great movies set in New York City. This list has some great examples to offer, culminating in Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. Another personal favorite of mine is The Royal Tenenbaums, which is set in an odd, strangely archaic present-day New York that remains, weirdly enough, entirely recognizable. And it must be confessed that I enjoy the fluffier offerings on their own merit, so to speak. But if you’ve never been to the city before and those are your entire frame of reference, just be warned that you won’t find the subway to be nearly as quaint as you’ve been led to expect.