Wednesday, September 26, 2012

#27 The 5 Senses Make No Sense At All Here

I have been trying to come to some universal understanding of what this place is like. Truly gifted writers have tackled this city, I do not presume, but I have gotten a sense of the place, and it has been rolling around in my mind and must be expressed.
SIGHT: There is a rhythm, a dance, a sense of movement, when you watch the people walk here. The masses mostly co-exist on the sidewalks. A single person threads oneself around, next to and in front of a myriad of people within a half a block of walking. Of course, the pace exponentially increases in the rush hour time frame, but with all the tourists on the streets, when you are in the TimesSquare area, it is madness most of the time. They stop mid-block and consult their maps, walk 4 abreast, and decide at odd times to pull out the camera and shoot something. Now I love tourists. I talk to them a lot, but they are clueless to the proper way to walk. Then there is the skill of crossing a street. NY'rs know how to look down the street. No one ever obeys the "DoNotWalk Sign" flashing across the street. We look to the left or right (most streets are OneWay), and if no car is seen within 20 feet, we go! I watch people cross the most busy streets all the time, gaging the speed of traffic and their need for speed. Another thing I have noticed is that people walk looking down. I do that because I love to find money and jewelry that has been dropped, but I think most walk to watch the shoes in front of them and mentally plan their next 30 feet of attack. Sort of like skiing down a field of moguls (bumps in the snow). You need watch the terrain, to get there safely. Luckily, the people here don't have to watch out for dog messes. They are very good at being responsible pooper people, but you always have to look out for those steel grates in the rain. They are damn slippery. I fell on my butt a few times on those babies. Last thing about sight is the joy of looking up. I know the joke about how to tell a tourist, but really, the tops of these buildings are amazing to see. Sometimes I find a good corner, nestle in and make myself invisible and just look at the skyline. Architecture here is so interesting, the old buildings in the Bowery to the new ones in MidTown. Sometimes, we go on building much fun to blend feet and eyes. Mention must be made of the dead bicycles, umbrellas and gloves that litter the streets and lamp posts. I should have done a book of photos. Oh, well. Last: Fireflys! Nuf said.
HEARING: When I was living on the 20th Floor (that much missed apartment owned by BitchFaceLandLord), I would leave the windows open to soak in all the sound. Of course the sirens, trucks and traffic were 24/7, but you could also hear people laughing (mostly the drunks) and the dogs barking all the way up there. Friends from Cali and elsewhere sometimes needed to resort to ear plugs to sleep, but not me. I need to add a note about the local drivers complete disregard to the scream of the siren. If you were in an ambulance and bleeding profusely, you would die on the way to the hospital, because NO ONE moves over. It's terrible, but luckily I have not had to worry about that personally.
So, sounds...the next of course must be the languages. Not one day goes by when I didn't hear a language that I think I have never heard before...and I've been lots of places. Makes no difference in what part of town you are lingering, the profusion of languages is so exciting. In SF you can hear some diversity, but in front of The Plaza Hotel, it is like the Tower of Babel is reborn. A lady just came up to me in Buckies and asked if I spoke Spanish, because she needed some help. Sorry, Senora, but I only got a C in HS Spanish. I was hoping to improve my skill by living in far off Inwood, where the Dominicans roll off Spanish on the stoops and the "Beisbol" fields, but alas, I'm still at the "Donde esta la biblioteca?" stage. While I'm thinking about Inwood, the park here is filled with the music of birds, even late at night. That's pretty strange to me, but I'll take it anyway I can. The other major sound in my neighborhood (or specifically, my apartment) is the music. I have a famous neighbor, and I think she subleases her apartment to musical geniuses: one plays the piano, the other sings soprano. I have listened to their practicing and enjoyed it as much as going to Carnegie Hall. Really, beautiful, and I have no way to tell them other than to yell out the window, and I have resisted that so far. I assume there are 2 different people, but that Diva I mentioned (if I tell you her name, I'd have to kill you) could be gifted in both arts. I will never know. Last but not least, the sounds on the Subway are awful and hurt the ears. The sounds on the Subway platforms are another story. I most remember the 3 elderly men singing harmony one afternoon. No one but me walking by and no hat out for money. They were singing for fun. It was magical. Oh, I forgot the sound of thunder. I love listening to it, while inside, warm and toasty, but have been caught outside and right in the down pour. Scary when you count the seconds from lightening to thunder and you only get to 1.
TOUCH: Walking is a contact sport here in New York. You are constantly bumping into people. Sometimes, if you are in a good frame of mind, you will say "excuse me" but more often that not, it will go unnoticed and just be part of the scramble. The touch factor in the Subway is beyond ridiculous. Rush Hour is almost as bad as Tokyo, but I have never seen a uniformed attendant push bodies in the car with white gloved hands. I have seen people half in /half out of the car door and the train is starting to move, because they can't maneuver in either direction. Then there is the "Subway Grind"an obscene act I have thankfully not observed. I have tumbled over as the train lurches and fallen into various people's laps, but I'll not talk about that, children may be reading. While still in the Subway, mention must be made of the heat in the Summer, just god-awful. A person could die down there, and I have no idea why there aren't statistics about such fatalities. Now, in the Winter that heat is a joy, so I'll just shut up, now. I'll call exhaustion at the end of the day a factor of touch. Tired feet and sore backs have made me really glad there is an elevator at the end of my train ride. Man this city can tire you out! It's a good feeling, I suppose. I do like that I average 5 to 6 miles a day on the pedometer, but thank goodness a few hours sleep restores my weary body. I'm not as young as my friends here, but I keep up with them (except for the drinking). Don't forget when I wrote about touching thousands at the Pride Parade. I must have High 5'vd the entire right side of that event. Best of the best...I think I hurt myself. Can a person get Parade Wrist Sprain?
SMELL: Let's think about the nice smells first: Central Park, the flowers on Park Avenue, restaurants around dinner time, the bakeries in the early morning come to mind, as you would expect. I will add the horses in Times Square. I love them, and I will admit to loving the horse droppings that sometimes follow them. They remind me of Camp. I saw some silly teenage girls go absolutely bonkers when they encountered horse manure. It gave me a good giggle (or should I say horse laugh). Sometimes the man hole covers smell like the entire city will blow up from a gas explosion, but I get out of those neighborhoods fast. Greasy food carts and the nut vendors smell terrible, but the WORST smell and one that really can't be described adequately are the homeless dudes on the subway who haven't bathed or seen a bathroom in weeks. If you see an empty Subway car, be wary, it probably is occupied by one of those dudes, who is passed out or perhaps dead. Do Not Enter!
TASTE: Best not to consider taste unless you have paid for it. There are some wonderful things to eat here. I'd need an entire post to get into that, but highlights would be real bagels and real pizza. I am fond of $1 pizza in Times Square from a place called OZ Pizza. I am perhaps biased on that score. I have mastered the art of folding pizza and walking down 8th Avenue in a great hurry. What an accomplishment. Doesn't make the pizza taste better, but it does separate you from the riff raff. Bagels must be eaten slowly. Real bagels are cooked twice and are so heavy you could break your toe if you dropped one. They lighten up with the liberal application of cream cheese and lox if you have the bucks. Not to leave out the corned beef sandwich, but I must, as that also is a long story. Always remember to wash your hands before eating. Lots of germs here. I don''t follow my own advice, because I'm usually so hungry I forget, but perhaps sometimes.
THE 6TH SENSE: There is a sixth sense, you ask? Of course there is and it has nothing to do with seeing dead people. It's ESP. It's the intuition and raw instinct that helps a person to get along here: knowing where not to walk late at night, the feeling of danger when coming around a corner that leads you to go to the middle of the street and avoid dark places. It also is a good force and necessary to enjoy all the above mentioned 5: the sense of joy when standing in the presence of the talent you discover, even the sense of boredom while you wait in a RushLine for hours to see a show, the sense of joy at being witness to the greatness of my Divas. There is also a 6th sense about picking a show to see off off Broadway. Sometimes that is a bonanza.
My instincts have proven to be excellent these past 2 years, and for that, I have a sense of gratitude.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

#26 Monday Night Theater Notes From a FanGirl

Word of warning, the following will be old news to NewYorkers, and you should go back to doing whatever it was you were doing before you were so rudely interrupted. That's all.

While I lived in California, I would suffer the most pathetic pangs of jealousy, when I read of the events that went on Monday nights in NYC. Why, you ask? That's when the hard working theater people, step out of their regular lives and play. Perhaps play isn't the right word...sing for the joy of singing, is closer to the truth. They find gigs in the many tiny clubs and cabarets peppered around this city and jam, sometimes with friends for fun, sometimes alone to push a CD or a fund raising project, sometimes to get noticed by producers and casting gurus, but always, these things are on Monday nights...their day off.
One of the reasons I wanted to be a real resident of NYC was so that I could go to these marvelous Mondays. Small clubs like Rockwood in The East Village, Le Poison Rouge just off Washington Square, The Duplex in The West Village, The Metropolitan Room in Chelsea, also, the biggies like Birdland in Hell's Kitchen and Feinstein's on Park Avenue...they all are booked on Monday nights.
The newest venue for such delights is 54 Below. The old site of the infamous "downstairs" area of Studio 54, the hang out and playing field in the late 70's, of the In Crowd, led by Liza(with a Z), Andy Warhol, Halston, Diane von Furstenberg and the Glitterati of all culture in New York. But I digress. Now, the basement where they would all go and do unmentionable acts and nasty drugs has been turned into a stunning nightclub/cabaret. Broadway elite are headlined every night, but Mondays remain special. Last Monday proved to be the zenith of this fangirl's imagination..
Two of the Divas (you know I always use the word Diva with respect and reverence), who are at the top of my list are Julia Murney and Eden Espinosa. Please don't ask me to give you a detailed ranking of my would tire out your eyes; there are many, and I love them, and they know it because I follow them whenever they open up their mouths to sing (or act). So, back to my point, Julia and Eden were performing on the same evening, and I was in fangirl heaven.
Julia has been on my radar for many years. She was in Lennon, is my favorite Eva Peron, has been a GreenGirlWitch, but her most glorious part was in a special show called The Wild Party. It should have gone to Broadway, because her role and performance was guaranteed to win her a Tony, but alas....
Still, she remains a beloved member of the theater community. We are all just waiting for her to get that next staring role. She sings all over the country, is in shows here and there, is very busy and how lucky was I to be in NYC when she announced that she was to do a new solo act.
So at 7:30, looking elegant and surrounded by a star studded group of musicians, her enormous & loyal fanbase and family cheering on in the audience, she sang heavenly songs and told her best stories. Oh, I forgot to say that she is wickedly funny. You learn a lot when Julia tells stories, like how she and Sara Bareilles both tried out for this summer's Into The Woods, or that Barry Manilow got a box of lyrics from Johnny Mercer's estate and wrote some damn good songs from them, or how Paul McCartney has a ribald view of a certain singer's itchy boobs. I will not go further.
My favorite of the songs she sang that night was Autumn Leaves. It is about love and loss and is so full of sadness. She is a great actress of music. She ended the evening with a sassy version of Bobbie Gentry/Riba's, Fancy. Why not go out with a song about a successful whore? We were all on our feet. Add the High 5 and "Happy Belated Birthday" I got from her, as she exited the stage, and I would say that was a wonderful evening......but it was only half over. Eden was on at 9:30.
So, my friend Taryn left me to sit alone at the beautifully located table close to the stage, and what do you know, but the Matre'd had a very nice gentleman join me for Part 2 of Diva Monday. Turns out he, Mark Nadler, is in an event at Carnegie Hall that Eden is doing in October to raise $$ for an Educational organization called Art-Start, and he himself is musical royalty (here's proof I don't lie, I only embellish: ). So we have a great conversation, and I match him name for name in that game theater people play, and then I become aware of the change in the room. Julia's audience was elegant and serious. Eden's gathering was decidedly more mid twenties and sassy (translation, it was filled with hip theater people, many of which you even see on TV). The room was electric and ready to play. Just a different vibe and they wanted their girl...and in she strode, wearing red and full of fun.
The evening was to be a homage to Eva Cassidy. She died at 33 from GodDamn skin cancer, but left some music that seasoned singers try for 60 years to generate. Her genre was a blend of jazz, blues, folk gospel and country. She was huge in England and Europe. Serious music people know her. Look at her website:
Anyway, back to my blog....Eden has loved Eva's music since her Dad introduced her to the LPs, and she is well suited to the genre, but she did mix in other songs in her set. She did a version of Fever that was combustible and had the audience fanning themselves with their napkins, I kid you not! Her rendition of  EC's Fields of Gold and I know You By Heart had me in tears...sitting in a nightclub at a table with a celebrity and I am bawling. Things really fell apart when she ended the set, sitting on her knees and with as much soul as I have ever heard, sang the Cassidy version of Over The Rainbow. NOTHING like Judy sang...all feeling and sad and you just wanted to rip your heart out. I must say, Eden did Eva proud. I heard that version of OTR once before when Kendra and Teal sang it in SF. I didn't know where it came from, now I do. I feel lucky to have heard it twice. You can find it here: Eva's  Kendra & Teal's 
Eden was full of fun. Sassed her friend Celisse Henderson, who is way high up on my Diva List, and she knows it. Also, she had some notes to young singers about the medicinal value of Maker's Mark on the rocks. She did a wonderful show that we all were sorry to see come to an end, but afterwards, I did enjoy talking to some of the celebs in the audience. Well, celebs to me, actors and singers I have grown to love from the SF and the NYC Stage Doors I loiter around. It's a mutual admiration society.
Well, that's Monday Night Theater Notes from where I stand. Long winded, to be sure, but full of love.
I will miss this part of NYC. It can't be replaced by road shows of popular musicals. It's really where it all happens in this wonderful city. 18 more days.....sob.