Tuesday, July 29, 2008

The Not-So-Great White Way

As part of our recent invasion of NYC, KayJay and I were able to see The Smash Broadway Hit Musical, Wicked. And when I say "were able," I mean that we were part of the Fortunate Few allowed a spot in the pew at the Church of Stagecraft and Vocal Excellence.

Two-and-a-half hours before the show, our entourage of five was part of a crowd of well over 100 people waiting in a relatively ruly manner outside the theatre. We were waiting for the thrill of putting our names on index cards (notice...NOT flimsy pieces of scrap paper, but honest-to-goodness index cards!) and entering a lottery. The 13 winners of said lottery were to be given the honor of purchasing two of the worst seats in the house for only $26.25 each. Two hours before the show, cards were drawn and SWAWOSH's name was called, so I shoved cash into her hands as she rushed to the box office to buy two tickets on the front row.

For the uninitiated, let me explain why the front row is not the ideal place to view the best of Broadway: One, your knees are compressed against the orchestra pit wall. Two, when the special effects gurus use fake smoke to create That Special Atmosphere so desired for dream sequences, it spills off the stage and into your lungs. Three, some of those actors can really spit. (I felt like I was in the blue seats of a Shamu performance at Sea World.)

To be mostly honest, it was pretty interesting being close enough to see the microphones that were taped to the foreheads and off to one side enough to see the stagehand pick up a book that had been tossed into the wings and positioned just right so that when the mutant monkey-like beings made a surprise entrance through the stage floor Right In Front Of My Nose I think I peed a little.

But the whole experience taught me that there isn't really anything "magic" about Broadway (other than the way it can make money disappear from your bank account). Those people up on the stage had to work at memorizing their lines and learning their dance steps and keeping from injuring themselves when walking in those tight body suits. Each person on that stage had at one time been standing in line, hoping to be noticed...wanting to be given a chance to impress...just like ActorBoy and SWAWOSH are doing now.

There is hope. Keep trying. Never give up.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

NYC in the rearview mirror

When last we met, I was blathering on about a recent trip to NYC and I promised that the story would continue. Herewith then, are a few recollections:

Christine, hereafter referred to as She Who Absconded With Our Son's Heart (SWAWOSH, center, in red blouse) is a vibrant, cute-as-all-get-out singer with a voice that could power Newark. While ActorBoy was working, she served as our shepherd on our trek into The City Itself. She attended the same theatre school as ActorBoy (that's where they met and Fell In Love) and has an intimate and greatly-appreciated knowledge of every public rest room on the island.

We took a subway train from Queens to the heart of Manhattan. To start things off with the right amount of confusion, we had to go UPstairs to get on the subway. In Astoria-Queens, the subway isn't a subway at all, but an elevated train weaving through the buildings at the 2.5 floor level. I expected King Kong to appear and start playing with us at any moment. As you can see by the photo, ActorBoy and KayJay were overjoyed to be seeing each other for the first time in 13 months. This picture is also documentation of the cleanest and loneliest train we saw during the whole adventure.

When we met up with ActorBoy at his Russian Tea House doorman job, we were treated to a private excursion into the by-appointment-only second floor dining hall. Beautiful doesn't begin to describe it. Gawdy...yeah, I think gawdy might be a good start. What you are seeing to the left is a heeyooj glass bear juggling large golden balls. The flashes of orange in its midsection are fish. That's right, folks, this thing is an aquarium of the strangest order.


Our walk into Central Park brought my heart into my throat. We visited Bethesda Fountain, where parts of the movie version of Godspell were filmed. We walked on the same steps where the cast first sang "Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord." We stood under the outstretched wings of the statue where John the Baptist called them all to repentance. And this is all special to me, of course, because being part of a stage production of that show, in Fort Wayne, Indiana, is how Beloved and I met. None of this, however, is why my heart was in my throat. That happened when a rather large man with a rather large knife asked to see my wallet and all of its contents became his private property, according to nine-tenths of the law.

Yes, we did see some sights and behave like tourists: >We saw the Empire State Building from the sidewalk. (Do you know how much they want to charge for an elevator ride?!!?) >The Museum of Natural History's "suggested donation" for 5 of us to enter was over $70. (I suggested they be happy with 1/3 of that.) >Having won the nightly lottery, KayJay and I were allowed the privilege of spending $26.25 each for seats on the front row for Wicked, helping the orchestra turn the pages of their scores. >Perhaps the most unexpected guilty pleasure was Urban S'mores at Max Brenner: Chocolate by the Bald Man. I can understand chocolate by the pound or chocolate by the barrel, even...but "by the bald man?" What's that about?

With all of the walking that a vacation in NYC entails, we also needed to spend some time resting. Sometimes that was sitting by a fountain across from the Plaza Hotel (see picture), but we also spent most of Saturday just hanging out at the apartment playing Monkeyball Banana Blitz on Wii, and laughing our heads off (that's gotta hurt) with a round of Catchphrase...

Me: This is England; otherwise known as --
KayJay: France

Me: Oh, I'm gonna sing me a song among the hay bales and have me a good old time.
-Silence-
Me: Okay, this isn't a whore up, but a --
SWAWOSH: Ho-down!

And the moral of the story, boys and girls, is that you can travel and tourist it out the wazoo, but being with family beats it all--hands down.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Upon arrival...

The Roth Family Outing to NYC continues . . .

Our taxi dropped us off a block-and-a-half away from where our son, ActorBoy, was expecting to find us. Not to worry, though, we (Beloved, KayJay, and I) were joyfully reunited with him after a minimal amount of "Where are you?" on the cell phones -- no need for an Amber Alert.

ActorBoy's apartment in Queens is a nice, two-room affair with a tightly-spiraling staircase between the first-floor bedroom and the second floor kitchen/living closet. Now, when I say "spiraling staircase," don't let your mind drift off to scenes of opulent grandeur, a la some movie.
That ain't it.

Think more along the lines of an industrial, utilitarian saving-of-space in the back corner of an abandoned theatre...yeah...that's more like it. The 8-inch wide steps were only 8 inches wide at the outside edge. Close to the center pole, they came to a point that could pierce Kevlar. If you planned it just right, you could take one step near the center and slip directly to the ground floor without all that bothersome walking and standing upright of which we all grow so weary.
The apartment itself is quaintly decorated in the now-classic, neo-modern storage-box style. After a quick (47.3 seconds) tour of the facility, ActorBoy had to rush off to his paying gig as the doorman at The Russian Tea Room.
To Be Continued...

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

If you can make it there...

JUST got back from a week in New York City visiting our son, ActorBoy. Let me quickly relate the exhilarating experience of getting there...

Tuesday, July 1, 2008
This was the fastest trip through airport security I've ever experienced. This is attributable partly to the fact that we were there at 5:45 in the A.M. and partly that the carry-on screener had not had his second cup of caffeine. Evidence of this claim: KayJay absent-mindedly had left a tube of hand cream in her purse (NOT in a separate, quart-size ZipLocked bag -- GASP!) but still was whisked through security as fast as Las Vegas goes through marriage certificates.

This is the first time Beloved has flown since losing over 50 pounds. On the puddle-jumper flight to St. Louis, I feel like an oversized sardine in an undersized sardine tin, but Beloved is practically giddy at her ability to cross her legs or to put the seat-back tray down without it even coming close to her tummy.

Take-off was slightly interesting. After speeding down the runway at 90 mph for about a half-hour, I swear I heard the captain yell, "Faster, Barn! Peddle faster!"

My memories of the St. Louis airport from a Jamaican mission trip (Spring Break, 2007) revolve around a huge food court with barbecue beef and the best cheeseburger ever. The reality of our almost-three-hour layover today was a cold-molasses passage of time through an abandoned concourse and a Burger King where we shouted our order over the exhaust fan and paid for it by walking over to Cinnabon. The whole experience reminded me of a scene from a Western movie when the hero is waiting for Black Bart to show up. He slams down a shot of Red Eye, walks into the street, and all you can see is a stray dog and a tuft of tumbleweed.

I'm talkin' Deserted Airport...freaky.