Friday, June 12, 2009

NYC 2009

We travel to NYC so often that it always feels like home when we arrive. We’re so comfortable, in fact, that we rarely plan our trips in advance anymore, preferring instead to play things by ear once we’re there. Things were especially serendipitous this time around.

We had, of course, bought tickets in advance for Stacey Kent, since that was the main reason we were in New York; but the rest of our three-day stay was purely spontaneous. After checking into our recently renovated apartment-sized hotel room (with fabulous views of the Hudson River as well as the Chrysler Building!), we ran over to Broadway in hopes of buying tickets to two shows: the Tony-nominated comedy God of Carnage, starring Jeff Daniels, Hope Davis, Oscar-winner Marcia Gay Harden, and James Gandolfini (of Sopranos fame), and In the Heights, which won last year’s Tony for best musical. We lucked out and got excellent seats for both plays. We then returned to the hotel to get ready for our first night in the Big Apple.

Although Stacey Kent isn’t too well known in the U.S., the venue where she played certainly is. Birdland, the self-proclaimed “jazz corner of the world,” opened 60 years ago during the height of the postwar music renaissance. Originally named after the great saxophonist Charlie “Bird” Parker, the intimate club is located off of Broadway on West 44th St. We’ve gone to several jazz clubs in L.A., but none as famous as this. The walls were festooned with photos of past performers.

Stacey Kent, who sings mostly American standards and bossa nova, was wonderful: funny, charming, and clearly in love with her husband, who accompanies her on saxophone. She sang old as well as new songs and all within about four feet of where we were sitting. It was a magical evening, well worth the trip to NYC.

We woke-up to rain the next morning, but headed out anyway. En route from the train station the day before, we noticed a poster for the new Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Annex, featuring an exhibit on John Lennon. Only a blizzard could have kept me away! Just a short subway ride to Soho, the Annex is a much abbreviated version of Cleveland’s massive Hall of Fame. Still, we both thought it was effective at capturing the history of rock-n-roll and Tim was particularly impressed by the headphone technology that automatically played relevant music as we passed by the various displays. An entire room was dedicated to John’s life in NYC, including a bag filled with the clothes he wore when he was murdered. I signed Yoko Ono’s petition for gun control at the end of our tour.

After the Hall, we walked five blocks to Lombardi’s, our favorite NYC pizza joint. We then took the subway uptown to our hotel in Murray Hill, where we relaxed for the first time all week. At 7PM we braved the rain again and headed toward Broadway for God of Carnage. It was outrageous and amazingly well acted. But I wanted more plot. For me, the play was something of a cross between David Mamet (i.e., witty and funny) and Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe? (i.e., intense and full of interesting human dynamics). Not surprisingly, it won best play at Sunday night’s Tony awards.

The New York Times tipped us off to a mid-century design exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art (MOMA) on Saturday. As usual, the city was filled with tourists in town for the day. Luckily, the rain had stopped and it was a glorious afternoon. I had a very tasty pork chop for lunch at the MOMA cafe, but Tim held out for street food: an 8-inch sausage dog that would have made a normal person sick. Gag!

At 6PM, we met our friend Stuart for drinks at a bar that’s so exclusive it doesn’t have a name (!) and ended up seeing Tom Hanks’ son Colin, the priest in TV's Mad Men and star of the recent film The Great Buck Howard. We then made our way over to the Richard Rogers theater for In the Heights. The play, which is set in Washington Heights (where my mom grew-up), was fun, but a little too derivative of West Side Story. I did enjoy the Spanglish dialog, though, and even Tim understood the raunchier bits.

We flew home the next day in plenty of time to see the Tonys that night on TV. As we were watching, I couldn’t help but wish we were still in New York even though I was glad to be home.

1 comment:

Ginny said...

Wow! The Shelburne really has been slicked up since my last visit. How are the rates?