NEW YORK DIARY
October 3—7, 2011
October 3, Monday
Monday morning commute, 7 Train to the N at Queensboro Plaza. In luck—an N Train pulling alongside us at the platform. Disembark to hear behind me two women screaming at each other. A well-dressed (which means expensive, conventional) 50ish white woman, blonde hair carefully parted, chin length, heavy set in her green coat, being held back by a man in a business suit as she growls/shrieks, red-faced, “You KICKED me…” and I see the man is also holding back at arm’s length a slender Asian woman, long-haired and hiply dressed, trying to look younger than she is, as she screams in thickly accented English, “You kick ME first,” and she goes to the N train, my car, where the green coat woman follows, and the kicking match continues. A tall, younger business suit and a short labor type separate the women, and the suit says, “Behave yourselves, you know better than this,” he repeats it and repeats it, and when they are still yelling, Miss O’ pulls out her loudest and most direct teacher voice, “You both need to STOP. NOW.” And for about a minute and a half, they do. And then they don’t. Flying through the tunnel now at full speed, they start the accusations again, the hipster first, and everyone has been thinking she is the nut job, including the woman beside me, and the green coat sneers, “Speak English,” and I turn to the woman beside me and say, “They’re both unhinged.” At 59th and Lex, the green coat says, “Let’s go,” and they leave together, and I see people move as if to stop them, and I say, “Let them GO. Let them wrestle it out on the platform.” The woman beside me says, “But…” and I said, “Why not?” And really, why not?
Evening: Paul at work has an extra ticket to see a free dress rehearsal of Robert Wilson’s The Threepenny Opera at BAM (Brooklyn Academy of Music) in German, with the Berliner Ensemble, did I want to go? So we have to scramble to finish up so we can leave by 6, get to BAM, realize we won’t be able to eat and the show is 3 hours long, but I’ve never seen Robert Wilson’s work, and now’s my chance, and nor have I seen The Threepenny Opera performed, so again, here’s my chance. On the ride there, a beggar is on the train, and something compels a bunch of us to give change to him, hard to explain why, but we do. We get to the Nevins stop, walk to the BAM Opera House, get our tickets, and it’s general admission, so I find us wonderful orchestra seats, because I’m good at strategy, and down the row from us Paul spies Mikael Baryshnikov sitting with Pedro Almodovar! Down two rows from them, on the aisle, is Robert Wilson himself. I hear behind me two older people—very old, a man and a woman, with different companions, talking separately about how they’d seen the American show with Lotte Lenya, how they’d loved it. Only in New York, that history. Robert Wilson himself introduces it, saying, slowly, carefully, “You may, if you are so inclined,” and he paused, “laugh,” just as the world’s tallest man sits directly in front of me. Still, the show is stunning—cold and creepy but so well-acted, so gorgeous. At intermission, I hear behind me the two older people again, first the man, “What is THIS? This isn’t Threepenny Opera, nothing I can see,” and the woman says, “What is THIS? I don’t like it.” I thought again, “Only in New York.”
October 4, Tuesday
Play lab night. After work I walk to Gramercy Park to Stellios’s place, taking a different street each time to work my way over to 3rd Ave and a bagel at this deli I like, and tonight it’s 31st Street. I love the walk across town because I get these great expanses of avenue to trounce down, not very crowded the farther east I go. As I near Lexington, passing the Jews for Jesus building, I hear a woman’s voice, “Miss? Excuse me?” She has a Southern accent—Carolina—and I turn. She’s a dark-haired, well-coiffed woman, great caramel skin, my age. “Do I know you?” she asks. I really look at her. “No,” I say simply, and she’s staring. “Do you work for Martha Stewart?” she asks, and I can’t help it, I burst out with a giggle, “No, I don’t,” and she says, “Wait! Last night, you were on a subway, going somewhere with a man, and you gave money to a beggar,” which I would never have remembered and I say, “YES!” and she says, “I only come here a few days each month—I work for Martha Stewart—I’m sorry if I’m keeping you—it’s just that I have never seen the same person in New York twice, not ever,” and I say, “New York is magic like that. It will happen all the time now.”
October 6, Thursday
I am missing my co-op board meeting because I’d forgotten I have a ticket to see Septimus and Clarissa by Ellen McLaughlin and the Ripe Theater Company—a stage adaptation of Virginia Woolf’s beautiful novel, Mrs. Dalloway, showing to great acclaim at Baruch College’s Performing Arts Center on E. 25th St. Sitting next to me is a pair of women my age, the one directly abutting me (roundish, big brown coif, black slacks, big purse) says, “Finally, I can have in intellectual night out on a full stomach,” and goes on, telling her companion not to bother seeing Follies, as it’s “fossilized people playing fossilized people and who wants to see that?” and I decided I hate her. She gestures to the stage area in front of us, alive in a preshow as people are seated—a gigantic wrought iron staircase, underneath of which a young man is nervously moving about; above which, in a framed out area of the blue wall a woman is standing in the window, in red satin—the simple stage has beautiful white Georgian doll houses on casters, white doorframes placed in iron bases on castors, and just as I’m thinking “How theatrical, how exquisite,” the black-slacked woman says, “The sets were so cheap, like this,” and her companion sighs, “This is, well, it’s not very…” and black slacks sighs, “What are you gonna do?” I am so sad that I will have to sit next to this sighing and stupid woman, when a palsied old gal in jaunty cap comes in with an usher, who points to her reserved seats in the center of my row (I’m third from the end), and the woman says, “I can’t get down there,” and I offer her my seat, “Shall you sit here and I’ll move in?” “You don’t mind?” she says, and “so kind,” she says and I say, “Glad to do it,” and mean it in both ways, and marvel at my luck. The show is emotionally full and devastating to me from the opening, where the ensemble spins and spins the giant staircase, Clarissa on top shining in her red satin and lost look, and Septimus grabbing onto whatever he can to hold on down below, and it keeps spinning and I am weeping. At intermission, the woman’s husband finally made it and the old gal asks me to switch back, but that is fine, because I’m fully in, and when black slacks retakes her seat she says, “Those women”—the lithe, expressive dancer actors who are breaking my heart with their connection and story-telling, dressed in perfect 1920s drop-waist satin—“are too fat to wear those dresses.” At the show’s end I am on my feet, I and about four others, as the woman wanly applauds, and I think, “This—life, London—this, theater, New York—” and am satisfied.
Nighttime ride home after the show: On the 7 across from me is a very solidly built Hispanic man, short, middle-aged, thick black hair, slicked back, a man who must do serious labor. He is reading. I notice his large gold watch, his white and pink horizontal striped polo shirt. His well-tended moustache is visible over the title of magazine: House Beautiful. It was then that I saw the small pompadour swirl in the front of his dark hair. The more one stares at a person, and really looks, the more one must reconsider everything.
October 8, Saturday
A glamorous day of laundry and cleaning, followed by meeting Ryan at 47th St and 9th Ave at 6 for coffee before seeing a show. That was the plan. So I leave at quarter to 5 so I can be a little early and walk around, and also because it’s a big construction weekend on the local Manhattan-bound track on the No. 7 line, meaning we have to go up to 61st/Woodside to go down, so we can get an express to Queensboro Plaza, where the train will stop, and we transfer to the N Train to Manhattan. But it takes 45 minutes to get to Queensboro Pl, which is only two stops from where I live. I cannot believe this. Then another 10 minutes to an N Train’s arrival, and THEN they decide to bypass my stop, 49th St., to make up lost time. SO I have to walk from Times Square station, which is madness on a Saturday, over to 9th Ave, calling Ryan on the ol’ cell phone, who got the theater wrong and it’s actually 13th St Rep down on, you guessed it, 13th St., so via cell we reconnect, but not before I pass the Fish Market on 41st and 9th Ave while they are breaking down for the evening, washing down the store, tossing the fish soaked ice out into the gutter of the avenue. Find Ryan at 44th and 8th, southeast side, where we hug and walk to 42nd up to Broadway and get the 3 Train down to 14th St and walk to 13th where we run into Guy (Alky actor friend) and his partner Mark! We greet—they are on their way to the West Village for dinner, and I love NY for this. Then into 13th St. Rep (where Miss O’ began her theater life in NYC but it’s too traumatic to revisit in this post) and we get our free tickets to see “The Accidental Pervert,” written and performed by a terrible actor but charming person, the funniest lines of which were the porno titles he was addicted to. After the show we head over to 5th Ave/University Place and find a lovely Mexican place where nachos and sangria make up for a multitude of sinful theater. The ride back home around midnight is mercifully uncomplicated, if packed. Walking home I am entranced by the ¾ moon and the bright single star (or planet), when I hear behind me, “Lisa?” and it's Kelly and her husband Adam, my back porch neighbors, coming home from work. She’s a swing in Mary Poppins and he is playing Simba in The Lion King. As Kelly says, “We’re living the dream,” and I tell them about the show I saw, the title of one of the pornos: “Cherrie Poppins.” We laugh, talk about the new park that’s come in beside us, here where we live.