Friday, May 7, 2010

37 Hours in Manhattan

An appointment in the city forced me to rearrange my travel and managed, miraculously, to get me home last Monday night (despite rain in DC and New York – which can usually be counted upon to delay the Delta Shuttle by a matter of hours, but only cost me 15 minutes.) As a result, I sped from LaGuardia to lower Manhattan where I was able to meet Neil and some friends at Do Hwa, a Korean Barbecue joint that we’d been eager to twy, I mean, try.

I’ll dispense with the review in short order – I enjoyed my meal and would definitely go back – but make no mistake that the black lacquered tables and red accents create an ambience reminiscent of the Chinese restaurant in “Oh God! Book Two” (if that reference is too early-80s for you, imagine the one in the remake of Freaky Friday starring Jamie Lee Curtis and a pre-cocaine and lesbianism Lindsay Lohan.)

The conceit of the place is that, though you can order several Korean dishes right off the menu, the specialty is a Korean barbecue where they bring you a plate of raw meat and turn on a burner embedded into your table. You then get to spear, cook, and season/sauce your meat appropriately. It’s very “Melting Pot” (that tragic fondue place attached to shopping malls nationwide) – only New York-ified (which means “expensive.” ) Still, we enjoyed ourselves and would go back – though I’m still a little angry with myself for tipping twenty per cent when I had to prepare my meal myself. It’s kind of like going to the supermarket (except, here, 60 bucks buys you 10 ounces of meat instead of 10 pounds) and tipping the cashier on the way out.

Still, I was in New York. NEW YORK! On a weekday. It was like Christmas and my birthday all rolled into one!

I’m starting to reach critical mass with my job. If I don’t start saying no to all this travel, I’m going to end up right where I was when I began freelancing – too exhausted from the travel to prevent the enjoyment of my work from getting overshadowed by resentment. It’s gotten to the point where even the weekends are ruined by the awareness that my first act on Monday morning will be boarding an airplane.

I realized how much I missed New York on Tuesday, when Neil had spontaneously been offered tickets to a new musical on Broadway and I was actually able to go. On a weeknight. In NEW YORK!!!

“Everyday Rapture” is an almost-one-woman show, written and starring Sherie Rene Scott who has become almost famous as a musical theater actress. I say almost because the geographical limitations of Broadway have prevented most successful legit performers from attaining fame and those that have (Bernadette Peters, Kristen Chenoweth to name a few) often did so by supplementing a largely theatrical career with television and film.

I also say almost because, even among avid theatergoers, Sherie Rene Scott is largely known for either opening shows that don’t last terribly long, or replacing the actress who created a role in the original Broadway production.

That almost should be almost over, though, since her show is fantastic, is receiving a great deal of critical attention, and – in a season with limited new successful musicals, and even more limited roles for leading actresses, I’m betting she’s got three Tony noms coming her way (Leading Actress, Writing, Musical) and at least one win (Actress.) (EDITOR'S NOTE: This was written before Tony nominations were announced this week - two for three ain't bad.)

In a book co-written by Sherie, she tells a modified story of her life growing up half-Mennenite in Kansas and making her way to New York, to (semi-)stardom and to (semi- and then full) motherhood. (If you want to know what that means, see it. The music is largely an appropriation of standards, and the recurring leitmotif of religion (Judy Garland or Jesus Christ being the warring messiahs) set in a cabaret show writ large enough to play to a bigger house.

The arrangement of standards like “On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe” is winning, while Sherie mines humor from “You Made Me Love You” and pathos from a medley of songs from “Mister Rogers Neighborhood.” Her voice modulates to convey character from early childhood through the first blush of puberty; from late adolescence through adulthood. And what a voice it is – in fine form for 90 minutes, without intermission – the show is briskly paced yet, by the end, you realize she’s been singing flawlessly for an hour and a half.

Go now.

I’ve got no review on the restaurant we went to afterwards, unless you’d like me to comment on mini-bagels we toasted in our kitchen and washed down with Ben & Jerry’s (Milk & Cookies flavor – delish.)

Then it was on the road again: Lincoln, Omaha (you know, despite my restlessness with travelling, I actually enjoy Nebraska) then home again on Friday. We met a group of friends at Cabrito (right down the block from Do Hwa) for Mexican food. This is the second time we’ve been – we like it. It’s not too pricey, it’s always young and crowded and energetic, and the drinks are good.

By Saturday the temperature had risen to almost 90 degrees, so after our errands we packed some magazines, a blanket, and some towels and headed for Central Park, where we baked in the sun. The park is always a great place to people watch in early spring; the long winter has brought out the urge to emerge from hibernation and the masses come out in full force. Couples with children park strollers under the trees and let their kids run amok while cheap white wine makes them blissfully unaware. The men will talk about baseball or their jobs in law firms or Wall Street while peeling off shirts to reveal milky white chests and a layer of flab that doesn’t yet entirely obscure the bodies they had in college (but will by 38.) The ones that don’t are watching the 20 year old guys playing Frisbee a little too intently.

Their wives compare yoga classes and kindergartens, clad almost entirely in apparel from Lululemon. Nearly all of them are in better shape than they were ten years ago, in some sort of inverse proportionality to their husbands. From a distance, they are all candidates for Bravo’s next reality show, smacking of an irony borne from the unreality of it all.

Towards the center of the park are those Frisbee players. Along with baseball players, volleyball players, and football players. Or just players. Men in their 20s are surrounded by women of the same age – all engaged in routine rituals of relationships among people who slept together, are sleeping together or will soon sleep together – like some sort of active verb, a sexually active verb – being conjugated in real-time.

Everyone over the age of 30 is jealous. And is, in some way, watching them. And it is New York, so there is some regret, some wistfulness, some thing, in their eyes – even if they are perfectly happy – because they are not any longer young. And in New York (like LA, where I am headed yet again) to be young is to have promise, to have a future, to have freedom and fearlessness and adventure.

To be young is everything.

Wow – that was a little depressing right?

All right, let’s lighten it up, here. This ain’t meant to be Sartre.

Marcelene (speaking of young) met us in the park to regale us with stories from her job hunt, her man hunt, whatever hunts she’s been on lately. Joining her was a friend from high school and, initially I thought it was a friend she went to high school with – but I think she must have meant a friend who is still in high school. This girl was positively fetal. Asian, with long hair cavalierly contained under an oversize ball cap, she wore a denim skirt that wouldn’t have fit me as a wrist cuff and a t-shirt with an artist’s print, casually informing us she used to model for him. Seriously, she was so perfect a harbinger of a certain kind of New York sensibility that her name might has well have been Target Demo.

Needing a drink, Neil and I headed off to meet friends from our own century, only to arrive at the Frying Pan (26th and the West Side Highway) to find the entire complex of boats and piers completely overrun by an assortment of Manhattanites engaged in an everlasting frat party. Opting for our own kind, we made our way to Boxers, on 20th between Fifth and Sixth Avenues – ironically newly opened on the site of a sports bar that looked almost exactly the same 15 years ago. When you’ve been around long enough to see the same spaces recycled as the places they were, before they became everything else, you’ve been around too long.

And then, just as I got tired of all things young, I found something both young and old simultaneously. On the personal DVR player aboard my flight, I finished watching an episode of The Big Bang Theory and got up to go to the restroom. When I returned, I found I must have accidentally hit one of the keys, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s was just finishing the opening credits. Having never seen it, I allowed myself to get absorbed in the glamour and the style and the Mean Reds and all of it – with the impossibly beautiful Audrey Hepburn and George Peppard. It’s a shame so many romantic comedies today are so poorly written, because the film makes you long for a great love story that doesn’t end tragically; that reminds you that art illuminates and inspires. I loved it, from that first croissant all the way to a three-way hug involving a wet, nameless cat.

1 comment:

  1. Very fun read - thanks Eric! I enjoyed it!