It has not been a very happy year so far and it shows no sign of getting better any time soon. I know I’ve been off the radar for two years now and I can’t seem to get back on the horse. I am putting a link that will tell the tale for me in the hopes of getting some help. Here it is http://www.gofundme.com/bm047c
I never thought it come to this but desperate times call for desperate measures. Thanks for reading, and to any who used my work for term papers and such. I hope you got good grades.
Category Archives: Eugene O’Neil
It has not been a very happy year so far and it shows no sign of getting better any time soon. I know I’ve been off the radar for two years now and I can’t seem to get back on the horse. I am putting a link that will tell the tale for me in the hopes of getting some help. Here it is http://www.gofundme.com/bm047c
Well today marks the third year of my writing this blog and finds me staying at home instead of heading into New York. The nor-easter that has come out of nowhere has shut down my plans to see Rasputina tonight at the Highline Ballroom, it would have been nice to finish the year exactly the way it started back in Feb. But with snow, high winds, and a cold biting rain coming down I just can’t face the prospect of standing outside waiting for the doors to open. Tomorrow is supposed to be really nice and sunny in the fifties as well as all next week, this is a freak storm so doom on me I guess. I will make the best of it by writing and painting and later I will be making a beef stew over noodles for dinner. I have been thinking much about my writing this year and about the changes that I might want to make to it. In some ways when I look at the body of work I’ve written I am disgusted by the amateurish style of some stories. While on the other hand there are some passages that I am genuinely proud of and see as readable in magazines. I expect the best from myself and get discouraged when I don’t measure up to my expectations, but with only one college course in English to my credit I think on balance-I write well.
The tough reality is that the only way to get better is to write and study writing, and maybe also to read, but without more schooling I feel like I’m never going to make it as a writer. I need to take classes at the Gotham Writers Workshop in NY and beside the fact that I don’t have the money, I also can’t make it from my job in Suffolk all the way to Midtown by the time class starts. I would be an aggravated, sweating, stressed out mess with a headache by the time I got to class. I’m not one for taking online classes either, my brother is pursuing an online degree and I find too many distractions would keep me unfocused. Personally, I don’t know how he does it, but he is doing very well!
I am however starting to feel as though I have to change, this blog is not a blog in the usual sense, it is not a few short paragraphs written hastily each day, but a blog of short stories for readers. If you read my about me page I call it “a selfish venture” and indicate that it is at it’s core an open diary. While that is true I find myself wishing I had more fans and more comments. I see with an app added to my page that people from all over the world are visiting, some multiple times. I can even extrapolate that a few high school or college students might be hijacking my words for school papers, why else would I see people logging on from the same place over and over again sometimes a few hours or minutes apart? I don’t care as long as no one is getting paid for it, but it’s a shame that kids are so lazy these days. The change I think I have to make is to write more to an audience and less to myself, while I thought I was doing that already I think now that some stories are too cookie cutter too much the same basic story I wrote the last time. The fact is that not every trip is that interesting or noteworthy, some trips cool stuff happens and I’m cooking on all burners and others I’m too absorbed in what I’m doing to gather all the stimuli around me. It’s a tightrope but I have to try and do it better in the future, if I ever want to get published I must walk that line.
So tonight I will start writing a new piece about the city trip I took last week, and an editorial about this whole Occupy Wall St movement that’s so controversial and so confusing. I must again give thanks to the people that got me here. Thanks to Professor Wigetow for your teaching and for believing in my potential, to W.B. Wilkins whom I owe this blog to for giving me the key to being a good writer, hopefully I will use it to unlock all the right doors, to J.R.R. Tolkien for the obvious, to Jack Kerouac for teaching me to write in the moment, to William Burroughs for showing me the way to color my words, to Anthony Bourdain for infusing my imagination with his words and especially for turning me on to Graham Greene, to Graham Greene for igniting my desire to be a better writer and for creating some of the most unforgettable characters ever, to Maureen for being my friend and my number one fan, to my mom Alyce for teaching me my A B C’s while still in the crib, sometimes it’s the little things that matter most. No matter what happens I will keep writing and keep painting and strive as I have all my life to do something with nothing, I will keep hoping, planning, wishing, praying and insisting that life can be what you want it to be with a ton of hard work and a little luck. The work is hard, it’s the luck part that I find is so much harder.
Long Island N.Y. 2011
It’s a beautiful day as I rise early and find myself sitting on the train heading for New York City for a re-do of the Greenwich Village/Soho self-guided tour I did last year, tomorrow is Memorial Day and a barbeque will keep me busy half the day so today is just for me. I saw this morning before I left that my French “Haricot Vert” string beans have poked their heads up out of the ground, as well as some “Babette” carrots, in a week I will be planting Heirloom tomatoes as well as Thai basil and some Mervielle lettuces, a diverse group of plantings this year. This is a quiet car filled with perhaps sleepy people like myself ( I had one too many glasses of wine last night) who probably needed a few more hours of shut-eye, just the rhythmic pattern of the wheels on the track to hear. But soon the relative quiet is broken by a guy who gets a call on his cell phone. He loudly tells the person on the other end that he’s “out pretty far” (we just passed Mineola next we’ll be out of Nassau County and into Queens County) and he won’t get there till about 10:00 o’clock. I’m guessing that he would consider my little town close to the “bush” and the East End of Long Island; with its farms and vineyards a step back in time. We pass a big brick building with faded lettering you can just make out Rull Coal & Ice, it’s funny to think that before modern refrigerators, people used ice boxes and that company delivered blocks of ice that slowly melted into a drip pan under the fridge that had to be emptied periodically, and heating with coal too was a sooty mess until the modern oil burner was available to everyone, we take for granted our modern conveniences like refrigeration and electric stoves.
Lately, I have been voraciously reading a series of books written by Peter Mayle documenting the transition with his wife from bustling Londoners to country bumpkins in Provence, France. The first book “A Year in Provence” is a funny look into the purchase of a 200-year-old farm-house and the trials and joys of restoring it and the property to the glory of a working farm while they learn about how things are done in a place very different from London or New York. I highly recommend these books. The fame it brought him in France with several more books like Toujours Provence, French Lessons, Encore Provence, etc is immeasurable and he has also written a few fictional novels set in places like Provence, Paris, Spain, etc which I haven’t read yet. The latest one involves the heist of a cache of wine and is a chase /action read, a good “caper” book. So I have a new hero to worship, a man who lives the life I would love and has made a fortune doing what he loves to do.
Speaking of hero’s my old pal Anthony Bourdain got himself in a little hot water with his Republican fans on a talk show called Anderson Cooper where he refered to the Tea Party members as a “bunch of angry white men” and compared them to the prejudiced men of the sixties who opposed Martin Luther King and his followers. The reaction from fans was that about seven people said they wouldn’t watch the show anymore or participate in the discussions. Well that’s funny because at least one of them called himself “usedtowatch” and had only posted once! Which means he never participated in the first place and that was his first and final post! This particular group seems to want to go back to the way things were when good ol Georgie W was in the White House and the Republicans had control for eight more years of war for profit, a tanking economy, and people losing their homes and jobs while the fat cats just grew more wealthy. So I wouldn’t worry Tony (not that you are) you don’t need them anyway.
I get out at Penn Station and go down to the subway station, it’s amazing how few people are around compared to other days. I take a quick glance at the subway map and that’s where the best laid plans of mice and men start to go astray. It was supposed to be easy just take the subway up to 42nd st and then take the 7 over to the 456 line and take it down to West 4th street. But I got my signals crossed and was leading myself to the Lower East Side again instead of the West Side. I get out at Spring St and realize my mistake, in my overconfidence and slightly hungover tiredness I have given myself a chore to walk over to my starting point on the other side of Manhattan! So I begin my walk and while I do I stop to read menus posted for today in restaurant window’s. It being Sunday many places are offering brunch, and as I read one to the other I begin to notice that no matter what the cusine, brunch consists of the same food no matter where you go! The humble omelette, French toast, bacon and eggs (any style), Granola with fruit, hot oatmeal and coffee or tea is the food du jour of today with no variation or anything to make it interesting or different. I could easily make any of this at home with my eyes closed standing on one foot! Well… maybe with one eye open. I really get mad at myself when I find that I’m all the way down on Canal St going in the wrong direction! Now I have to pull out the map and get my bearings again, I turn the map so I can see exactly where I am and decide to try for Thompson St as that will be the most direct route.
I walk along in the warm sun cursing myself for screwing up and quickly realize that it will be hot, I’m starting to think I should just go back home, I mean I’m just not on my game today. I remember Peter Mayle’s references to the unbearable heat of August in Provence, a time when many leave the region for cooler points north and those that stay do little or nothing! I zig zag keeping to the shaded sides of the streets like Tony Bourdain did in Provence Episode of “No Reservations” until I come to Thompson St and take it north to Washington Square Park. I see the fountain is in full operation shooting water high in the sky turning off I walk to Macdougal Street to find food. I have had nothing all day except for decaf coffee and I need to eat, maybe a good breakfast at home was the way to go, but dad was up and I can’t abide morning news at max volume. I like my mornings quiet and thoughtful.
I feel at home on this street, it has been the subject of many a story of mine as walk down looking over at the Cafe Reggio, all tables taken out front so I continue on walking past Meskerem, the Eithiopian place where I had a lunch years ago. I walk a little further and see an unexpected sight, the old Minetta Tavern that closed down over a year ago is all clean and polished and the door is open! I quickly cross the street to find it offering a brunch and open for business! I walk in and am immediately greeted by two people at once and as I look around I feel as if I stepped back in time. Black and white alternating floor tiles harken back to my parents days and then some, good wood all around on the bar and wainscot , walls covered in hand drawn portraits of the stars who ate here in a bygone era. My waiter a nice middle-aged man takes my order of decaf coffee and suggests the special, a omelette with goat cheese, chanterelle mushrooms and asparagus served with frites and leaves me to make a decision, so when he comes back I decide to order the special and add an appetizer of duck hash. Then I go to the loo for a wash up and put myself right for my meal. When I emerge from the bathroom a man in a smart suit says brightly “Just in time sir your food has just been laid out for you.” So I thank him and sit down to tuck in, the duck hash is beautiful big pieces of meat and redskin potatoes fried till golden in a little duck fat with a confit of onion. My omelette is small but delicious with bright green asparagus cut in small pieces easy to chew with chewy chanterelles and goat cheese my new favorite thing and a huge mass of frites, honestly I would have rather had a field green salad instead of fries but that would be extra. My waiter comes over and asks if I’m enjoying my meal and I look up and say ” The only thing that would do this justice is a glass of house red.” He nods and gets me a glass and a small pour to try, now this has never happened to me before. I swirl and sniff and taste, it is good enough for me so he pours me a glass and I happily sip away washing down mouthfuls of food while listening to the man in the nice suit tell two staff about his humble beginnings, I can’t hear everything he says above the music which is an awesome mix of Parisian Cafe, old American standards and more modern rock. But he talks about going to chef school, spending time in France and coming to New York.
Indeed he speaks French with a cute blonde bartender in her late twenties as he moves about the room checking on me as well. When I’m about half done he comes over and picking up my wine glass gently he apologizes but says he has to take it away, when I ask why he tells me that due to a stupid law they can’t serve alcohol before noon, but he promises to bring it back full and free as soon as the clock strikes 12:00. He tells me that the waiter didn’t know that which I find hard to believe, but I won’t argue with a man who is promising free wine. I pick at my food and wait the ten minutes nessesary to get my wine back which he laughingly brings with a smile, somehow I think they were just treating me special because I came in so stressed, sweaty and having a bad day that they wanted to do something nice without making it obvious. I ask the waiter about the history of the place and he tells me a little the rest I found myself.
Minetta Tavern was opened in the 1937 and was named after the Minetta Brook that ran southwest from 23rd St to the Hudson River. The original owner retired in 2008 so the restaurant entrepreneur Keith McNally along with Executive Chefs Lee Hanson and Riad Nasr who have worked together on three of New York city’s best, Pastis, Balthazar, and Schiller”s then decided to partner on this new venture and after closing for complete overhaul of the guts of the place re-opened in 2009 to rave reviews. They kept the original pictures on the walls and the old boxing murals in the back dinning area and restored it to its original look from long ago, now you can feel the spirits of Eugene O’Neill, Ernest Hemingway, Dylan Thomas, and the famous Bohemian Joe Gould, with a little Frank Sinatra thrown in from the days when it was Italian all the way. Now it is considered a French Bistro, Italian influenced Steakhouse featuring the famous Black Label Burger a sinfully delicious burger made with prime cuts and dry aged beef coming in at $26, and a Cotes du Boeuf for two at $104 served with marrow bones and salad to mention a few. The staff is great and treat me well, right now I’m the only one here but now that it’s after noon people start to come in and sit down while others make reservations for tonight. I love it here, it just goes to show me again that good things come from bad starts. I’ve had a good time in a small space and can go home happy with my discovery.
I stop the guy in the suit and say to him “Your one of those famous people from the food industry aren’t you?” He laughs and says not really. “What’s your name?” I ask extending my hand. “Arnold Grossman” he says shaking my hand and asks me for my name. I tell him about myself and my work on WordPress and he is suitably impressed so I give him my web address for WP and he thanks me saying he will check it out. My waiter comes over and asks me if I want dessert but I decline and ask for more wine instead, wishing only to write and keep the moment alive as more and more people come. They are so busy at night, they are turning people away and reservations are hard to come by, but my waiter assures me if I arrive at 5:30 sharp when they start dinner service he can get me a table. This is a trendy place where it’s possible to meet celebs almost any night, a place to see and be seen. I have to come back cleaned up and better dressed for dinner I think as I sit and write and finish my wine. I am sooo happy I came here, this is the life for me! I pay my tab and leave refreshed and relaxed.
I walk down to Washington Square Park and take some video of the fountain and the musicians, people are everywhere enjoying the sun. Some are laying out in bathing suits and others just sit and read or talk, people jog or pedal past you as your eyes take in the swirl of colors around you and you see a pretty face, an old black man, a toddler with daddy, a serious hipster looking for someone while on their cell phone. The stories they all must have to tell about themselves boggle the mind and bring out the journalist in me. Who are they?, Why are they here?, What do they want from life? I begin to wander in the general direction of my starting point, the wine is working on me just a little, just enough to feel light and fluffy like a piece of Angel Food cake that has been dusted with crack. I’m kidding of course, by roundabout ways I come to find Warehouse Wine and Spirits featuring the most extensive selection of French wine I have ever seen. It’s mind boggling really as I wander around reading labels and checking prices. I soon find myself talking to the owner who came from Nimes in the south of France at 19 and although he goes back for visits he has made his life here. I tell him of my love for Paris and France in general and my desire to travel to Provence, he too knows Peter Mayle’s books very well. I say “I wish I had $1000 to spend and a team of mules to take it home!” and he says to me that “People come from as far away as Florida with a U-Haul to stock up because my prices are so good.” He bids me a “Merci” and goes about his work in the busy store, I get a business card to take with me. I will be back…soon. Now all I need is a wine cellar and I’ll be all set. I walk a few more streets and find a kitchen store called the Broadway Panhandler filled with an amazing array of pots and pans and every tool a chef could want, I look at copper pots that delight me with their shine and depress me with their prices, I can see why they chain them to the wall. I enjoy wandering around in the cool space and look at everything. I almost buy some nice cheese plates but decide that I don’t want to carry them home so I buy a cheese knife with a phony wine cork handle to take home. I always liked souveniers, it’s the kid in me I guess.
Leaving the store I need a loo so I walk down to the Au Bon Pain, a chain of coffee, pastry, soup and sandwich shops that we have all over and after a wash I get a decaf and a little lemon tartlette and sink into a comfy chair by the window and read the latest Village Voice and watch the world go by. I read an article about the life and death of Coney Island, such a tragic and sordid history for a parcel of land so dear to so many. There’s a movie or a play there somewhere I just know it…I wish I had more time and money and was also a better writer, there is something deep and artsy and powerful to be made. I just don’t know how to go about it…yet.
I’m a little tired now, it’s 2:45 and I think I should head back home. The sun is hot as I walk up to 14th st and I stop to buy a small coconut ice, a rare treat as these vendors usually are found only in Brooklyn or so I’m told by a friend. Then moving through the crowds in Union Square market I make my way down to the subway and wait for a local train, it’s stuffy and hot so I wait for a second train when the first one comes in loaded like a sardine can. The next one comes a few minutes later and I get on, at least I can sit down on this one! I get off on 33rd St and move topside. Soon I am walking past vendors of every description, selling everything from Cd’s to fresh mangos on a stick to cold water and sugared nuts hot out of the pan, and let me tell you they are doing a heck of a business today I can hardly get past the squeeze of people and get to my destination. I squint in the glare of a late afternoon sun as a young guy gets an airbrushed tatoo on his bicep-something to show off at school next week I guess, but it will rub off with time. The entrance to Penn Station is a welcome sight and I descend into it’s cool air and see my old watering hole Tracks in the distance, it’s familiar blue logo pulsating as I walk toward it. I decide to skip a beer as I have only sixteen minutes to get to my train, so instead I walk down to a new Papaya King I spotted earlier this morning. It’s where I can get a simple good thing. A 20 oz papaya juice drink, cold, fresh and frothy… it’s just what I need right now. So I walk down through growing mobs heading home to track 17 and find an express train, only two stops till mine. I sit and write on the train as we move along, stopping at Jamaica Station I see the airtrain leaving for Kennedy Airport and wonder when I’ll be boarding a plane for England or France again. It all seems like a dream now, being so far away and so free.
In these quiet moments always think great thoughts about rising above my bad habits, and turning over a new leaf. But in my day to day life it’s not so easy, to be so many things to so many people wears on me and I turn to food and wine for comfort and enjoyment and escape. Unfortunately I have been a bit of an ogre lately at home, work has been like a funeral procession where the mourners are all angry and just had it with everything too, and sometimes I bring that home with me. Except of course the owner who is happy to be alive and doing so well in a bad economy. But if you ask for a rise there’s no surprise their giving none away. My Mom is always saying be happy you have a job and there is no doubt that being unemployed would be hell right now. So I have to keep looking and working on my angles for getting out and doing something else, in the meantime I have much to do and little time. Today might have been screwed up and hot but I made some more contacts, people who will know my name and what I do, I’ll make sure of that.
I might complain often and some might say too much. But in my busy world the time lapse between these trips of mine feel like a year apart, I know that sounds strage to some folks but it’s the way time moves for me. On balance I had a good time today. Despite all the foulups I made the most of things. A trip back in time, a coconut ice and cool fruit juice…
At the end of the day that’s all you can hope for.
A cool foggy Saturday morning in May, I’m sitting in a nearly empty LIRR train on my way to Penn Station to see Eugene O’Neil’s Desire Under The Elms and I can’t resist going back to Prune for what I’m sure will be a fantastic brunch. I have to be careful to avoid a lot of walking, my left foot hurts on the instep, it feels like a pull but it might require a trip to the foot doctor. So of course favoring my left foot has messed up my right foot too so I’ll be using mass transit a lot more than I like, so it’s a subway tour for me I’m afraid. That’s okay as I need more experience on the subway and with the rain expected today It”ll be okay to be low and dry! When I arrive I do go topside to check the weather, I guess I’ll always feel a little stifled by being underground too long. I see that there is no change so I go back down and head for the 1,2,3 subway line to take me to 42nd St where I can take the 7 across to the 4,5,6 downtown. Sound confusing?, it can be for newbies but I know my way around a little and double check to make sure I’m right before I wind up in nowhere land. The subway stations are hot and stuffy today and I notice mostly young people are riding today, a few families but mostly students and workers.
I stop to help an old man with directions, he’s going to the Yankee game so I help him navigate a little since the young police officer trying to help him didn’t seem to know which subways he should take to get there. I whip out my New York traveler book to show the subway map and we figure it out. Later, the young policeman asks to see the guide again and I strike up a conversation with him about my plans to become a tour guide while I wait for my train. I’m excited about this and can’t help sharing it, maybe he will remember me and someday I might need his help. I have to start making friends and contacts here now, I will need them in the future if I’m going to be successful. I ride down to Spring St where I’ll get my bearings again and maybe buy a hat from a street vendor. I have overshot Prune by a few blocks so I have to walk up and over a little , I find a little butcher shop called the Albanese Meat Market, in the window is a paper clipping showing the shop was once filmed for a documentary called The Last Butcher in Little Italy on IFC (the Independent Film Channel) and is located on Elizabeth Street. I resolve to go back for Memorial Day weekend when I will have a three day holiday and get a real good steak for grilling from this shop before it’s gone too.
My feet feel good So I enjoy my walk to Prune, it’s about 11:00 am and it’s already packed so I wind up at the bar where I sat last time, some kind of karma I guess. To my left a young Asian girl takes photos of the bartender, while waiting for her food. When it arrives I see that she has ordered eggs benedict, she examines it closely lifting the toasted English muffin off the plate peering underneath like she’s searching for something. “What are you looking for? I ask quizzically. (Yes I am nosey!) She says blushingly that she was “trying to see if she could pick it up” She resigns herself to eat it with knife and fork and puts a giant piece in her mouth, not bad for a little girl.
I sip my strong coffee and watch the bartender work till my food comes, I ordered stewed chic peas with tomatoes and Panko covered poached eggs with a side of hand made lamb sausage, it comes with toasted flat bread points and it is super! I will duplicate this at home for dinner, it would be a nice protein rich meal.
I finish my meal with a second cup of coffee while a young Asian couple moves into the space vacated by the girl from out of town who by the way took pictures of her plate before she ate it! The young couple orders, oatmeal with fruit for her and deep fried oyster omelet for him, both get drinks too. I think they are on date judging by the conversation, they question each other about ordinary things between mouthfuls of food. I talk with the bartender while he makes Bloody Mary’s like there’s no tomorrow. But I’m done and the crowd outside tells me it’s time to move on and give someone else a chance. I love this place, I will be back soon but right now I walk slowly trying not to aggravate my feet, I walk up a few blocks and over an avenue or two. I take note of places and things like never before, getting a greater feel as I do for where I am and how to get from place to place. I gravitate down to the Washington Arch by way of Greene St and pass by Edward Hoppers old apartment continuing up to the 1,2,3, line of the subway which I descend into and take back up to the theater district and get off at 42nd St. I walk to the box office and get my ticket and ask about a good bar nearby, the man behind the window tells me to go to the place on the corner. But after walking down there I decide not to go in, too dark and stodgy looking. I can’t see inside and I find a better spot at Smith’s Bar, a landmark and a place I’ve never been before.
So I go in and find a seat at the bar which is almost empty and order a rum and coke from the cute Spanish waitress. While she makes my drink I head to the loo for a wash-up and when I go back to my seat my drink is ready and I sit down and read The Village Voice and sip my cocktail and relax. This is one of those perfect times when everything is just right, I feel at home here, like I belong in Manhattan at least at this moment and I enjoy every minute. I’ve got about an hour and a half to wait till I have to leave for the show, so I read the articles and soon my peace is broken by an older couple who just sat down asking the waitress about the best places to find New York pizza, They are only two seats away and no one seems to have a clue even though they live here! I guess I’ll have to step in and help these folks, all in a days work for “The Guide Boheme” I guess. I introduce myself and we begin a conversation.
I put my two cents in on their question after the waitress and shift manager can’t give them an answer and suggest they go to one of the many Famous Rays locations, it’s about as New York as any pizza I’ve had and they are all over the city. They are from Florida so we talk about the differences in pizza between New York and everywhere else and we touch upon my memories of Vero Beach, how cheap a great breakfast was in Florida and how beautiful and clear the water was there in the gentle surf. They are well travelled and we talk about Georgia and the places they found there for good eats and drinks, I also tell them about my road trip down south years ago to Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia when I thought a truck stop was fine dinning and beer was the drink of choice. I take the time to write down menupages.com for them so they can find what they want in food and check menus and prices when they get back to their hotel. I talk about the Village and Cafe Reggiro and the renovation going on in Washington Square Park, but am surprised to find them asking if it’s safe to go down there at night. So I assure them that they will be fine, dozens of people will be out eating and drinking till the small hours, sitting in open cafes and on sidewalks out side bars and restaurants enjoying tapas, bar food, pretzels, and even three course meals! I tell them to just take a taxi back, don’t walk unfamiliar streets in the dark. They both thank me for my time and leave …so now I polish off my drink and walk back to the theater.
The St. James is a nice old theater with beautifully upholstered carpets with matching seats, I don’t have to wait long for the lights to go down and the production to start. The stage is set with boulders, lots of them and I mean lots! They hang from the ceiling by ropes, piled up like walls and used as camouflage to hide clever hydraulics that will silently raise and lower props. There is a small house also hanging from the ceiling with ropes that got to be three inches thick! A stove and table with chairs is stage right, that will lower into the floor to allow the house to be lowered, stage left is a raised platform that is used to simulate the farms slaughterhouse and later will represent the bedroom in the upstairs of the house. a hidden pathway behind the rocks in back of the stage is used to simulate travel and the out of doors, and center stage is used for most of the scenes. It is an absorbing production, brilliantly staged and very passionately acted. Set in New England in 1850, it’s the story of the Cabot family. The father Brian Dennehy (Ephraim) gives an outstanding performance as a man who is consumed by his possessions and all that he considers his. Carla Gugino (Abbie) is exceptional as the young woman he marries determined to have her own possessions at any cost. Pablo Schrieber (Eben) puts in a commanding performance as the son(from Ephraims second wife) who fights for what he believes is his inheritance from his dead mother. Boris McGiver (Peter) and Daniel Stewart Sherman (Simeon) play the brutish brothers who work hard in the fields of the farm but dream of the gold fields of California where they imagine gold lies atop the ground like rocks do on the farm. I won’t give the plot away to any who might read the play or see the show but it’s sufficient to say that like many of O’Neil’s works it’s about loss and longing and the burdens of life. I can’t help thinking that he longed for what I long for, a more perfect world where love, loyalty, and honor take precedence over hate, greed, and betrayal. The sad events of O’Neil’s life reflect the all too grim reality of many people throughout history, what a shame but then again it fueled a string of fascinating literary works by Eugene that might not have been written any other way but the hard road he walked. Many critics have called the production pretentious and overstated, and sharply criticised the lack of Elm trees in favor of rocks. The fact is that this was written as a play but it’s really a movie, so it’s impossible to not have platforms rise and fall and houses that lift out of the way. It has been made into a movie once or twice but still I think the play was brilliantly acted by the three main characters and the brothers who are gone early in the play give us all they got while on stage and should be commended for what they do with limited roles and not too many lines. It is a great performance and the crowd roars at the finish like it’s the Super Bowl!
I wait outside with others all eager to meet the cast and get an autograph, we wait for a half hour before they all come out one by one. I stop Daniel as he was just going to leave figuring that no one would want his autograph. I hold out my program and say “Not so fast bud you guys rocked the first part of that show”! causing a round of applause by others waiting with me and he blushingly signed away, obviously happy at the recognition. Next Boris comes out and gets a round of applause too and signs many autographs, I tell him that Daniel was gonna just walk by and he says “Well he’s not too bright you see” causing all of us to laugh at his obvious co-worker joke but at the same time I see it as the characters still alive and could imagine Peter and Simeon talking like that about each other. Next is the man himself Brian Dennehy, big and imposing, familiar yet larger than life. He signs for many and poses for pix very patiently before he leaves and then Carla and Pablo come out together, she is petite and gorgeous and Pablo is strong and cool as they too wade through the crowd who surround them with questions and beg for photos and signatures. I leave while others are still talking and taking photos and start walking back to Penn Station, but after a few blocks I realize I’m walking the wrong way!
I turn around and as I come back I find Pablo and Carla together going someplace, it couldn’t be a restaurant because Pablo carried a plastic container with heath salad and dressing out of the theater with him so he’s got his dinner, could this be a romance I wonder as I walk by noticing they recognize me from before as they pass. Good for them I think as I walk down the busy street, the weather is hot and dry now a perfect day for walking. But soon I see a strange sight, Brian Dennehy is standing out in the middle of the street trying to get a cab. He’s got two small bags, one he’s carrying and one pull behind and he’s looking lost or something. I walk up to him and say “Hey Brian I see you have just as much trouble getting a cab as the rest of us.” He looks at me and says “This is bull***t, I’ve been trying for twenty minutes!” So we begin walking along together and he says “I can’t understand this, doesn’t anyone want to be out in this beautiful weather.” We wait for more cabs to pass still striking out, he asks me if I’m needing a cab too and I stupidly say no, I should have said yes and hung out with him. I mean I don’t know where he was going but it would have been cool to share a cab and maybe wind up having a cold beer together and talk about acting, movies, and TV. But then again he was probably on his way to a lie down before the next performance tonight at eight so he says that if this keeps up he’s going back to the theater and walks off. I look at the retreating figure and am a little worried for him, he is just a few years younger than my father but he’s been around so he will be okay I think as I turn and head towards Penn again. I was thinking about staying in the city but I’ve got a pork bracciole that’s thawed that I eaither cook and eat tonight or chuck out, it’s been thawed for days. So I decide to leave the city early, and as I walk with the crowds listening to the conversations of people around me. There are a few goggle eyed tourists from parts unknown who say to each other things like…”How do these people stand all the crowds and noise?” or “I could never live here, but I’m glad I saw it!”
I group of younger people are talking over a destination and saying over and over…”She said it was right here! Right here by the garden.” now I don’t know what they mean but then one of them says “The Stage Door Deli, she said it’s right by here.” I look up as I approach the intersection leaving them behind arguing about it, while I wait for the light to change I look up and as a truck moves out of the way I see it in the distance on the right hand side of the street. I walk back half a block and say to the group “Your looking for the Stage Door Deli right?” “Uh yeah.” a girl says just slightly worried at the stranger talking to her. I point down the street and tell em “It’s right there on the right hand side of the street, the Garden is opposite, you can’t see it from here but it’s there…trust me.” They thank me and I walk off happy to have helped again. I feel it now, it’s my destiny to be an ambassador of New York City, to help out-of-towners find their way and to change peoples opinion about New Yorkers. I go down the escalator to the station and help another couple find New Jersey Transit before getting to the LIRR area. I’ve got six minutes to grab a cold Stella Artois and go down to the track area, easy as 123.
I sit and sip my cold one bemused as a couple in their mid thirties smooch in the seat in front of me and talk about the musical Jersey Boys to each other and to someone on the other end of the cell phone, it must have been one hell of a show to arouse so much passion. They really need to get a room, jealous you think…well you might be right. But I’d say right now I’m way more envious of Pablo Schreiber than of this guy in front of me. But also way more jealous of O’Neil’s ability to imagine fictional lives than I am at this point in my writing career, and if I’m ever going to be published I’ll need to have that mastered. I sit and ponder the problem while the couple in front of me have finally run out of steam and sit quietly.
Another cold windy day in late February, I’m standing in the platform waiting room of the Long Island Railroad trying to warm up with some coffee as I wait for my train. I wish I had the sense to bring some tissues or a pocket handkerchief as I slowly get rid of a head cold that had me home sick in bed three days ago. I look over at a woman in her mid-fifties but decide not to ask her for tissues, strangely though we strike up a conversation anyway, chatting about the trains and I take the opportunity to pitch the Electronic Cigarette to her ( a new way to enjoy nicotine without the cancer risks) that I have started to sell as a side income. So far only my Dad has bought one and that was a major triumph for me, to get him to come aboard after a heart attack and two strokes is probably too little too late but at least I tried. Still, many people who I thought would jump at it haven’t as of yet. Maybe their waiting for the stimulus check that will make all the difference in our lives, anyone who believes that stand on your head!
We sit down to continue our conversation across from each other and Virginia tells me she is a licensed massage therapist and practices living life to the fullest. We talk about diet and health, the care of older family members and an Indian way of life called Ayurveda, a balanced approach to life and health, and the idea of eating in reverse, having dinner for breakfast and breakfast for dinner. She is very interesting but I don’t know if I could stomach dinner in the morning. All too soon we arrive at Jamaica Station and Virginia gets off to go to work, I wish her well and were off again on a bumpy ride while a man behind me snores like a buzz saw. I’m going in today to see Mourning Becomes Electra, my second Eugene O’Neill play and at four hours long with two intermissions it promises to be an experience. If I feel up to it I’ll go to the Village afterwards for dinner, I am dying to try a Greek place I read about on Menu Pages dot com, right now we are hurtling through the tunnel at break neck speed making writing impossible…
I make it topside after the usual cattle drive to get upstairs and on the surface again, it’s cold and I’m glad of the grey sweater my mom got me for xmas. I have it on under my overcoat on top of a longsleeve knit shirt and I’m still chilly, I can’t imagine how the homeless people survive the winter. I start walking to the theater district in the cold sunshine – it’s a beautiful day, people jostle each other as they cross the streets and vie for position at the street corners waiting for the lights to change. Suddenly an old Asian woman stops me and hands me an envelope with an address on it, she can only speak a few words but she can’t find this doctors office. I look at the numbers, she’s on the right street but I don’t see it either, I wave her to follow me and I see that the entrance is actually around the corner on a side street! I direct her to go upstairs with a pat on the shoulder for good luck, she thanks me and goes inside to get the elevator. That woman never would have found that entrance without help, so I feel good now. I made a difference for someone today, I just hope she’s not too sick.
I continue on my way but now I’m getting a little lost, I thought it was on a certain street and it isn’t there, I went to this theatre once at night ( which is documented in my post Mouth To Mouth) in the rain and now I feel stupid because I obviously transposed the numbers in my head and my subscription letter doesn’t have the address on it. I didn’t follow my own advice from a previous post to always know where your going and have phone numbers and addresses in pocket. So now I wander, I stop in a theater store selling theater district souvenir’s and they tell me to go to 43 rd St but it’s not there. I’m starting to panic, if I don’t find it soon I will have to wait till the 7:00 pm performance, I don’t want to have to kill six hours, but after a while I stop in the Lyceum Theater box office and am helped by Jennifer, a thirty-something cute woman who makes two calls for me and gives me directions how to get there from her, I promise her a drink in the future and off I go, I’ve got thirty minutes before the show starts.
Thankfully, I’ve got strong legs and I make the 3 city blocks and 4 Avenues over in about twenty minutes, I’m in now and take my seat in the next to last row. This is good for me in this small theater which seats about 250 people, the set is once again minimal but effective. There are black crepe curtains that hang over the walls and the rear of the stage which cover gilt framed portraits of the deceased family members from the past. The center stage has a few wicker chairs and a desk, while the back center stage has double doors with Roman columns on either side in between the aforementioned portraits. There are exitways stage left and right which allow the actors to give the illusion of movement, by exiting and then reappearing through the doors, this gives the actors the ability to appear to be going inside the house and back outside, the use of back lighting and also colored lights give this a Kabuki feel as well as the suspension of dis-belief when they walk in the aisle’s behind and on either side of us to add to the feeling of distance travelled.
The large cast is very good and hats off to the players who only have a few lines, they do an excellent job. But the stellar performance of Jena Malone as Livinia is what you’re paying for here. She is stretched tight as a drum in this demanding role, she has the most lines and is on stage for most of the production. The role of Christine, played by Lili Taylor is also moving and demanding, she is brilliant. This must be exhausting for all of them to do this twice a day. But I think special mention should also be given to Joseph Cross as Orin, the battle scarred brother to Livinia who’s love for his mother borders on obsession. This play is O’Neill’s re-imagining of The Oresteia, a Greek tragedy written by Aeschylus, but I can easily see a recurrence of themes from his Long Days Journey into Night and Moon For The Misbegotten. The loveless marriage, clinging mother,the price children pay when duty to a parent has them taking the place of a disappointing spouse. This story clearly shows how love taken to obsessive lengths can lead to hate and possession and ultimately destroy the things we meant to preserve. I leave the show a little tired, like many O’Neill plays it’s not uplifting, and four hours is long to sit in one place. I wait in the lobby and manage to get an autograph from Joseph Cross and then from Jena Malone, I spend a few moments talking with her about the production and her performance, she is off qiuckly to eat and rest, she’s got to do this all again in two and a half hours! I begin to walk back to Penn station now, I walk in a zig-zag fashion down unfamiliar streets stopping to look at shops and to see menus in the windows of restaurants. But I’m really not feeling a sit down meal, I need a nap and a shower and a change of clothes before I do that so I walk to Penn to save cab fare and descend to find quick eats before boarding my train. I’ve been on a cheese-steak kick lately so I try the new sandwich place Charley’s for a three cheese meaty surprise on a soft roll with a beer, it’s fast food but not too bad I think as we start moving out of the station. I regret not being able to eat dinner in the village but it’s been a long winter, and I’ve been sick so I’ll treat myself another time. I wonder when I will get to see another Eugene O’Neill play and which one will be revived, I munch my sandwich and speculate about the tragedy of his life that made the writing of Mourning Becomes Electra possible as we cruise slowly down the tracks in the fading light of day.