Tag Archives: new york

A Night of Queens

June 11th brought with it a windfall of invitations to some very New York events. Apparently, it was a night fit for a queen or, more accurately, queens. I had to choose between an event at the NYPL with Queen Noor of Jordan, an evening of theater seeing MARY STUART at the Broadhurst Theater or a gala benefit for amFAR hosted by a different sort of queen, “Lady Bunny.”

Despite the unique appeal of each event, I had to choose just one. I went with MARY STUART,

Harriet Walter and Janet McTeer

Harriet Walter and Janet McTeer

because I can’t pass up a good Elizabethan drama. I arrived in Times Square directly from work and was still emailing from my Blackberry. Since I had enough time to spare, I took advantage of the new lawn chairs in the middle of Broadway and finished up the last of my emails sitting on a lawn chair right in the middle of the square.

By the time MARY STUART started, my exhaustion hit and despite the intriguing story line, it was a struggle for me to stay awake at first. But then I hit a point (and a second wind) where I was swept away in the language, the rhythm, lyrical dialogue and powerhouse acting of Janet McTeer (as Mary Stuart) and Harriet Walter (as Queen Elizabeth). They truly deserve the title of theater royalty.

Earlier this theater season I saw another member of theater royalty when actor Frank Langella starred in A MAN FOR ALL SEASONS. Though I am a fan of Langella’s work, SEASONS didn’t stir my emotions the way MARY STUART did. SEASONS gave us a portrait of a complicated and multi-layered man, something we’re used to seeing so much in theater that now it’s a bit old and overplayed. MARY on the other hand, was fluid, intriguing and dynamic. Perhaps this is because we don’t see many women on stage represented as complicated and multi-layered, especially during the time period of MARY.

The big second act rain/rebirth scene left me feeling like I’d witnessed one of those moments in live theater that people talk about for decades; it felt like a privilege. It also perfectly illustrates what I love about live theater: it’s a moment shared intimately by the actors and the audience. It only happens once, and, though it’s played out again and again, night after night, it’s always different. The audience gasps when the mists of rain suddenly come down and I wonder if that same reaction happens nightly. I wonder if rhythms in the character’s big monologues change, if the energy is different, how the theater smells (always a combination of upholstery and women’s perfume), if someone dropped a line, changed the order, missed their mark or is so caught up in the scene, they almost forget to breathe. Such elements can rearrange the molecules of a production leaving a mark like DNA, one that can never be duplicated — it’s there and it’s gone in an instant.

But no matter which night you go and which performance you see, the words are intact, the meaning translated; the audience moved. Just like the moment the rain appears on stage (whether you are surprised or not at its appearance), I gasp when I think of the singularity of what I’ve witnessed and how it can never be completely captured in that way and on that stage again. I suppose that also holds true for any of the other events I could have attended that evening, but MARY STUART captured my spirit. And in witnessing that performance, my very molecules were rearranged.
–Downtown

Janet McTeer as Mary Stuart

Janet McTeer as Mary Stuart

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SnOw-Bama 3 of 3

Central Park, New York, NY       January 20, 2009

Central Park, New York, NY January 20, 2009

A new day dawns as the sun sets over Central Park on the day the 44th President of the United States was sworn into office.

The Borscht Belt

New York has always been known as a melting pot, but sometimes it feels more like a clash of cultures: China takes over Italy (only two real streets of Little Italy remain), Korea sits on the west side of town while India holds it’s own on a few blocks of the east side. And the hipsters have turned most of Greenpoint, Brooklyn into their own personal campus, leaving the Polish to venture farther down the line to parts that have yet to be gentrified and hipsterized. Think this doesn’t exist? Well, let me introduce you to Poland via the G train (Nassau Street stop, to Norman Avenue). This interesting stretch of neighborhood has become my daytime (and sometimes nighttime) home away from home due to my new office location. Coming up out of the subway you’d swear you’re in Eastern Europe. The sights, the smells, the signs. EVERYTHING is written in Polish first, English second. The letter “Y” replaces “I” in most of the words, take for instance the “SYrena Bakery.” And, the name for Laundromat? Well, I’ll just let some of my photos do the talking.

Say that five times fast.

Say that five times fast.

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It’s interesting to work in the middle of a cultural enclave that is still so untouched, but I know it won’t be for long. Each week it seems one more 20-something in skinny jeans, wearing American Apparel tee shirts and a pair of converse are added into the mix. But, by far the most ironic thing about life in “Little Polska” happened when I called to complain about my vegetarian borscht simply being beet juice with the meat physically removed from the soup, the man answering the phone said in a thick Polish accent with a biting tone, ” we’re not promising you ‘designer’ borscht, it tastes like it tastes. What do you think this is, the Upper West Side?”

Btw, gotta love a neighborhood whose restaurants list sauerkraut under vegetables on their menu. -Downtown

A Good Man is Hard to Find

I was on the phone with my sister the other night/early morning, a weekend ritual we have to check in and make sure the other got home safely. We both had fun with our respective friends, and just enough to drink that we were feeling a little confessional. “I’m on J-Date!” My sister blurted out as I was kicking my heels off by my front door, complaining about the lack of tall men in New York. “I’m 22 and I’m on J-Date,” she said again, for emphasis. “Well, I’m on Match.com again,” I told her, laughing. “This online dating is so weird,” said my slightly more uptown sister, “like you can take people on virtual dates in chat rooms called ‘Sunset Beach’ or ‘Wine Tasting,’ or ‘Lounge Lizard.’ Ewwww!”

“I tried J-Date, for about five minutes,” I confessed, “but no one was taller than 5’6″ on that site.”

Side note: yes, dear Uptown, J-Date is a Jewish dating site. However, the sister and I, having grown up in a predominantly Jewish neighborhood, find it odd that the average Roman Catholic doesn’t celebrate
Passover or Yom Kipper.

“I don’t get it,” said my confused sister, “we live in a city populated with men. I pass hundreds on the street every day. Why do I feel the need to turn to a website for dating?”

“It’s simple, you live in Chelsea, I live in the Union Square/West Village area. 95 percent of the men around us are searching for love … within their own sex.”

Long pauses filled the void in conversation as we both pondered this notion, until it hit me. Carrie Bradshaw killed it for us. Before Darren Starr and Sex & the City, New York was considered the place to meet men, good-looking men, wealthy men, smart men, talented me, straight men, gay men, cosmopolitan men. Now, everyone from here to Kazakhstan knows that 20-something and 30-something straight, non-asshole men in New York are a rarity. And if you do find one, you marry him, no questions asked. Which leaves even more slim pickings for the rest of us. So where did all of the men go? My theory? They never made it to New York. One episode of Sex & the City had their feet planted firmly in the Midwestern crop soil. I think the stereotype of “we” women (via SATC ) scared them off.

And I don’t believe it’s just SATC. I think it was Friends and Will & Grace that didn’t help either. You can be the redheaded neurotic girl with the gay husband, the clean freak, the loopy, hippy-dippy girlfriend, the high maintenance one, or the drunk, gold-digger, but apparently you can’t be all of them, all at once. Pick a character and stick with it. Can you imagine these poor boys from all over the world coming here expecting what they see on TV? Giant apartments, movie stars, an endless supply of cash, clothes, etc. And the reality is usually very far from it. Yes, people have money, big apartments and yes, there are movie stars, but they don’t live near your 400 sq. foot studio walk-up in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

I ran this theory by my sister, who agreed, but added a caveat: “A good man is hard to find,” she said, ” but in this city you hear more men saying that than women.”

-Downtown

Lilac Season

Can you smell it? Past the garbage, grit, perfume and people, the air is filled with the fragrance of lilacs at almost every flower stall you pass. It’s the beginning of lilac season in New York. This is my favorite time of spring, as the buds peek through the tree branches, dogwoods emerge in Central Park, people linger outside later and those beautiful wild-looking purple branches beg to be rescued from their buckets. I love flowers, but don’t typically spend the money on them, that is, until the lilacs are in bloom. Then, I buy bunches weekly, during their brief season.

Lilacs greet me every morning from the bud vase on my nightstand, on my living room coffee table and again, in an antique vase on my kitchen table. Even when they begin to die, the delicate little flowers fall softly, flecks of purple dotting the table. Fallen blooms can be picked up with the sweep a finger. Even now as I inhale, the light sweet fragrance reminds me the promise of summer and endless days spent outdoors, surrounded by flowers of all kinds, aren’t too far behind.

— Downtown