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: Off Broadway
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
When I arrive at Washington Square Park I ask around and find out the fair doesn’t start until May so I wander a little and take some pictures of the goings on today, so I will let the pictures do the talking for me and after a while I decide to walk up to Union Square. I know there is vendors there almost every week and even in April of last year some of the braver souls came out when I took Mark and Sharon on a cold day during their first day in New York, I’m praying luck will be with me.
When I get their the market and the art show is in full swing, loads of people come here on Wednesday , Saturday and Sunday to buy produce & plants, meats and cheeses, and everything in between. I find myself walking amidst the artists sitting with their work, hoping for a sale. It makes me feel very wretched that I can no longer claim to be one of them. I know that it’s my fault I stopped painting, I always blamed it on other people and circumstances. But as someone once said “A real artist needs only his bread and his art.” Yes in modern times you need much more than that, but the bare bones of that saying ring very true for me anyway, so while I can only use writing as a lame partial excuse for not painting, the fact is that the nights I don’t write I could paint but I don’t. I haven’t painted a thing since 2007. Why? you ask. Because I let the canvas beat me into submission. I grew more and more unhappy with a painting that still sits on my easel mocking me. It became an all or nothing game of Russian roulette between me and the painting and in the end I died. There was no smoking gun, just an unfinished canvas and ten years of work lying dormant…unseen like some hibernating bear it sleeps, waking years later like Rumplestiltskin to find an art world changed.
The artist Mark Rothko said that eventually black would swallow red, swallow all color until nothing was left. He believed that artists should starve, that fame is what kills them. When they become a commodity, a pastiche of themselves, they seek a way out. For Jackson Pollack it was whisky and a Oldsmobile convertible. For me it was Malibu Rum and Coke and an online video game called “World of Warcraft.” In the game I could fight and die but I came back to life and fought again to win. Every time my characters gained another level, another skill, an achievement of any kind, it was like I was winning at life. Soon it became more fun to play with others online than to face the canvas alone, and see who would blink first. So now I know …I did.
This is all revealed to me as I walk through the artists stalls practically reeling with the weight of the realization I’ve just made about myself and my art. Eventually I walk into the regular vendors space and as I come around a bend I see the exact T-shirts I wanted and the girl selling them from last year is back! This is a kind of salvation for me now as I had no idea they sold here and am overjoyed to find the shirts I want, but there is just one small problem. I’ve got no cash and they don’t take debit cards. But luckily the girl tells me that a permanent newspaper vendor set up here actually has a debit machine and he is on the other side of the fair. So I take a long walk back to the artists area and wait my turn to get some dough, and I noticed that there’s many signs up protesting something, so I stop at an artists booth to get the lowdown. It seems that our illustrious Mayor wants to start limiting the number of artists to eighteen who can show and that there will be a fee for the day and that it’s on a first come first serve basis, anyone else will be turned away! I walk back to the girl and pick out the shirts I want marvelling at the stupidity of the people in our local government. The very thing that makes New York special is the very thing they want to attack and destroy or alter in some way and make it less attractive to tourists and the local population, and then when the Union Square market closes down because they took all the good out of it they will sit and blame others for the loss, never admitting it was they who ruined it in the first place. I hope it doesn’t come to that but it’s an old story, around here on Long Island, local politics have made the suburbs a boring place. Where kids get into trouble because all the venues for fun were closed down leaving the kids nothing to do but invent their own fun on the street. I go down into the Union Square subway station and take it back uptown to the theater district.
It doesn’t take long to get back to the theater and needing a sit down and a drink of some kind I go searching for a local bar where I can sit and relax till the show, but this is a tourist section and there’s only loud sports bars and tourists traps, not what I need right now. So I wind up in another French restaurant calles Pergola des Artistes near the theater, it is crowded and I sit at the bar wishing for a drink and an appetizer but finding nothing small and “tapas-like” which I really would have preferred. I order Fillet of Sole Menuiere and French Onion soup to start with a glass of Cotes du Rhone and watch the action in front of me. The woman behind the counter is Marie Ponsolle, she and her husband Jacques opened the place in 1962 and struggled with all sorts of problems including a plumbing and electrical problems, water damage from a flood in the basement and from a fire on the floors above causing flooding to their restaurant below to put it out, and even a holdup the first week they opened! Now their son Christian runs the place but Marie runs the bar where I sit and with a watchful eye and a loud voice she makes sure the bills are tallied correctly and that the waiters are working hard. I find her a little off-putting and when my soup arrives I tell her it is good but I’ve had better actually. It was murky and greasy and seemed to me to include the sediment on the bottom of the pot. When my fish arrives it is indeed a huge portion the size of a dinner plate with some basic vegetables on the side that were undercooked and un-inspired, the fish was tasty enough but I have no point of reference so I don’t know this dish. I eat about half and ask for the rest to be wrapped up, the play starts in about twenty minutes and I pay the tab and walk briskly for the theater wishing I had gotten a hot dog of a cart instead. I mean why should you pay 50 bucks for heartburn when you could get it for around $5. I walk past others on their way to food and shows and arrive at the theater and take my seat.
The stage is set up just like Rothko’s studio, bare wood floors dirty and paint splattered, canvasses on the walls, stacked up some painted others stark white and waiting. There are tables and ladders, spot lights and a big wooden Adirondack chair across from a huge red canvas hanging from a gargantuan moveable A-frame easel. The actor is already seated in that chair contemplating the canvas before the show starts. It is to say the least an unexpected and un-nerving start to the play…he is motionless. When the lights go down he gets up and lights a cigarette and looks at the canvas, he walks toward it and touches it almost with the reverence a man might touch his wifes nude body while she sleeps. Quietly a young man enters through the door stage right, wearing a brown suit and shoes, looking earnest and eager he has come to apply for the job of studio assistant. Rothko lays down the law of employment, he’s not here to be his friend, his father, or his mentor.
The dialogue between them throughout the play is often raw and un-pleasant, Rothko’s contempt for people in general is very evident and he laces into his assistant many times and mocks his opinions after asking for them. But still he tries to draw his assistant, who is also a painter into the real meaning of art. Rothko talks about Nietzsche, Byron, and Socrates. He tells the young man to become civilised. during the show they actually take canvasses down off the huge easel and put up new ones. They actually finish stapling one on the floor and setting the corners and after placing it up on the easel they both cover it in red primer, Rothko working above, the assistant below whose white t-shirt gets covered in splattered paint! (Later we find out the t-shirt will be signed by both men and offered to raise money for AIDS after the show)
In a pivotal scene the young assistant (who has spent two years with Rothko) finally tells his employer off, giving a long soliloquy about Rothko’s self-absorption and mis-trust, and finally telling him that he (Rothko) doesn’t believe anyone is good enough to own his art or even view his art. He thinks he is fired but Rothko says it’s the first time he really said what he thinks and respects him for it. In real life Rothko, after seeing in the Four Seasons restaurant in the Seagrams building is distraught. He will not have his work in a place where such pretentious people, will pay too much money for mediocre food and look at each other assessing their worth and comparing their status. Rothko gave back the $35,000 dollar commission and continued to paint his unique vision but in his later years fell in into ill-health, an aneurism made him unable to work high up and he was forced to paint smaller canvasses. Then also ignoring his physician’s advice to quit smoking and drinking he became more depressed. Rothko was growing increasingly unhappy with the art world, and feeling betrayed by the younger artists who he felt had learned so much from people like him, finally took his own life in Feb 1970, slicing his wrists to his elbows in his studio, which was now his home after he and his wife separated. He was found by his young assistant Oliver Steindecker on the floor near the slop sink.
The play ends as it started with dramatic music being played on the phonograph while Rothko who has just dis-missed his assistant telling him to get with his friends and start something new, get with them and “do the work” he says holding his face and looking into his eyes the only fatherly advice he gives him. He looks at the canvas alone as the light dims but the red of the canvas glows with an inner fire out of the black like the burning coals of a furnace. The crowd erupts into explosive applause with many hoots and shouts of “Bravo” and the actors appear and bow before us and then leave the stage. I make my way downstairs and go outside and wait a long time for the actors to come out, Eddie Redmayne comes out first and I tell him how good the show was, he is very pleased with the attention but after finishing with us rushes to embrace a young girl and guy who waited patiently for us to be done with him. They are obviously friends and possibly fellow actors enjoying a friends big break, indeed I find out later that Redmayne was interviewed on Charlie Rose, a late night serious talk show. Next Alfred Molina comes out and I tell him that I’m a painter trying to come out of a two-year block and that he has helped me quite a bit tonight. We all take turns taking pictures with him and when all are done he gets into his limo and off he goes, he’s got to be exhausted, two shows in one day. I am too but I stop to help an old woman who attended the show find the bus stop before turning back to go down 8th Ave and Penn Station once again. The wind has died down so I am warm enough in my denim and scarf as I walk the streets and find myself standing before the big board with 40 minutes to kill before my train. So, naturally I go to Tracks for a wash up and a cold glass of Harp on tap. It’s been a wonderful day followed by a profound evening, art changes you, it should change you. With gods help and a little luck I hope to be able to say I have been changed in this way many times before Rothko’s black finally comes. I settle into my bar stool and lean back sipping my cold brew…lost in thought.
It’s a cool breezy Spring day, typical for this time of year on Long Island, one that finds me sheltering from the wind in the stairwell of the Long Island Railroad Station platform. My train is seven minutes late and I’m getting a late start to my adventures today. The morning found me scrambling to find an in-between coat to wear (which I don’t seem to own) so like many others I’m a little underdressed. Today I’m going in to New York City for a walkabout and to see “Red” an off broadway play about the artist Mark Rothko, particularly about the relationship between Rothko and his young assistant during the time leading up to the completion of the commission for the Four Season’s restaurant in the Seagrams Building in New York.
He was a tortured man who left an indelible mark on art and the rave reviews it got in London promise this should be a real experience. I have put some study into Rothko and his work but find myself unable to paint color field paintings in his style, I can’t contain my energy and violence, and sexual desire to paint dozens of glazes to achieve the pulsating glow of his master works. But I have also stood transfixed and stared at them in museums until the colors changed before my eyes. This is my birthday present to myself, it’s just 10 days away and so far no one has mentioned it to me, needless to say I’m a little hurt by this since I put so much thought into others gifts and parties. But as I’ll be turning 48 I’m not really sure I care to celebrate, I’m not where I wanted to be at this point in my life, only a windfall of money could solve some of the problems and put into place the things I feel are lacking in life.
A few weeks ago Anthony Bourdain was in Provence, France filming his Emmy Award winning Travel Channel show “No Reservations” and while dinning al-fresco with his guide he said “everybody in some childlike way craves a life of simplicity, where they have a garden, a beautiful sun, where they can walk into a small town and everybody will know them and wave”. This about sums up how I feel about France and although his guide Ann said laughingly that in his little movie there is no “sweat” and here is considerable work and sweat. The fact is that rural France was a hard place to live always, a rocky terrain not suited to vineyards and the growing of vegetables or livestock, but somehow they made it work. Today of course they survive on the tourist trade to a large extent and what makes downtown unbearable for the indigenous population is also what keeps many people employed, and since I started buying France magazine, I am beginning to be drawn into the desire to see the small towns and villages and less drawn to Paris itself…maybe it’s the thought of being an ex-pat in the future when I’m older and more settled or the thought of being in a town where everybody would wave to me as I make my daily rounds. The guide Ann was very appealing to me, mid 50’s with a full head of long grey hair and very stocky, she has a very provincial earthy appeal and a great personality, I guess you know you’re getting older when you start fantasizing about older women than yourself and less about the young girls in the seat in front of me. They are chattering away like magpies about everything and giggle incessantly as they talk about school, work , and friends. I can see the face and chest of the girl facing me through the opening in the top of the seat for the hand-grip. What a clean fresh face with a dazzling smile and perfect hair, she wears a peace sign necklace which rests on her chest, I muse on the thought that a child of the 90’s could hardly know what a peace sign entails, I mean she wasn’t even born yet. Heck, I thought that guys with long hair in army jackets were veterans back from the war who couldn’t stand having short hair cuts, at five years old the Summer of Love was as unknown to me as the student protests and the realities of the war. In back of me a young couple talk in hushed tones and also giggle as they hunch over a new computer phone and app away the time doing God only knows to their friends to cause such quiet hilarity. Oh to be young and in love. We descend into the tunnels and my ears pressurize and I yawn to pop them, soon the streets of N.Y.C.
I come up into Penn Station and make my way to the 8th Ave subway line, my first goal is to get to the theater and pick up my ticket for tonight, then lunch. The station is hopping as usual with tourists, workers, and people heading for a show like myself, I weave by the crowds like a motorcycle does through a traffic jam on the freeway and go upstairs to the uptown branch, but I don’t have to wait long as I approach the turnstile I hear a train come in and I hop on easily for the short ride to 42nd St station. It’s an easy walk up to ground level and up the 3 blocks to the theater, the wind is making me a little cold but the sun is out and the full spectrum of sound and color hits you as Time Square looms all around you like a giant robot encircling you with its arms and looking down on us all, its glowing eyes flashing and head spinning. I find the theater and see a line down the block for the matinée of Red in about an hour, a good sign I think as I pick up my ticket and turn around to go to my brunch destination for today.
Marseille is a NYC landmark combining French, Italian and Greek influences, and has been in Hell’s Kitchen for 9 years, I have always wanted to eat here but never got around to it. I go inside to get a table but it is packed and loud so I ask to be seated outside and am glad I did, the sun is warming now so I order two items, Soupe au pistou, a garlic vegetable soup I’ve never had and a scramble of eggs with Merguez, a spicy mediterranean lamb sausage with creme fraiche, potatoes rosti, and greens. I also order a decaf cafe au lait which is served in a bowl! This is about as traditional French as it gets. I receive a complementary plate of sliced rye and grain bread with mini carrot muffins and a small plate with jam and 1 pat of butter, I begin to tuck into this and hold my coffee bowl with both hands and smile into the hot creamy beverage as I take my first sip. If I close my eyes I could be in Paris or Marseilles, except of course for the English being spoken around me
When my soup comes it is a pleasure for the eyes, lots of colorful vegetables with beans and macaroni in a clear vegetable broth with thin slices of garlic and grated cheese, it is very good and just what I need right now. It’s all I could do to not gobble it up like a dog, dunking my bread and licking the bowl! When my plate has been cleared I wait for my eggs and I am not disappointed, the fluffy mound of eggs topped with creme fraiche and chopped tomato and crunchy onion is wonderful, if you read my post “The Case for Scrambled Eggs” then you know how much I enjoy real scrambled eggs and these were no exception.
They are soft and savory with the spicy Merguez sausage being balanced out by the sweet creme, the potatoes however were very greasy and decadent in a bad sort of way but the field greens were in a delicate vinaigrette that I still can’t seem to duplicate at home, altogether a fantastic meal. It’s a little hot in the direct sun but as I sip my coffee I think that this is the most relaxed I’ve been in a long time. Next tp me an upscale couple sits sipping bloody mary’s and eating goat cheese and asparagus tarts with field greens and lamb sausage, it too smells great. I pay the check after letting my food go down a little and walk back up to 42nd street station and take the subway downtown to the village, I am looking for some t-shirts to send to Mark and Sharon in England that I saw last year when I didn’t have the money to buy them. I hope the street fair in is full swing as I descend the stairs and hear the familiar rush of wheels on track as I zip through the turnstile and walk for the train doors.
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.
A mild warm day for us, it’s a little overcast but not raining yet. We have three days of rain coming tomorrow but you know what they say about April showers…I’m going to see the play Waiting for Godot by Samuel Beckett; starring Nathan Lane! This is my birthday gift to myself and as such I also will be going to the Village for an early dinner. I board the train and we set off noisily, it’s full of sports fans and families with kids. A young mom with a cute little boy turns down an offer from two young fellas to sit down. A classy move on their part but she declines citing the boy would not keep his seat andshe stands by the door with him in her arms so he can get the best view as we speed along to Penn Station on an express. I think moms are the real heros of our world, I mean to take a kid to New York by yourself especially one that’s not trained yet is a heck of a job even with a husband along to help. The trees are budding as I look out the opposite door from mom, the Cherry trees are flowering now, you can smell them for miles when your outside, soon they will be replaced by the Dogwoods in a few weeks. A panhandler smelling of booze asks me for some change, he spends all day skimming from people to get his next drink or hit and moves down the car looking for sympathetic faces. It’s a shame people live like this in our world. A week ago I was entertaining relatives from England staying in the city, we had a ball, I miss them and can’t wait to see them again.
Soon we arrive at Penn Station and I’ve got plenty of time so I go to my favorite watering hole in the city, Tracks. There I grab a Harp and visit the loo before getting on the subway, the bar is not crowded at this time so I really enjoy my cold draught without the dinn of the usual crowds that will fill the place later. I finish my beer and head down to the subway station, weaving through the mass of people as I do so and get on the subway to W. 3rd St, when I get off I begin to wander passing some of the places I took my relatives to a week ago. I find a trendy looking Indian place called Cafe Spice near University Place, but it’s not open yet so I read the menu in the window and take note for next time. (just a footnote, I looked on Menupages.com and people said it was pretentious and the staff were lacking as was the food so I guess I won’t be trying it.) Moving back towards Washington Square Park I approach the open side where people can still gather during the rennovation to sit and read, eat, a bunch are listening to a Chinese drum team. They sit on the ground and twirl these sticks in time to a captain, it’s very impressive I think as I pass a man holding a book and decide to take a closer look, his name is Robert Fogelnest and he is selling his book “The Streets of Greenwich Village, A Self Guided Walking Tour” it’s only twelve dollars and has a street by street listing of all the prominent residents, it’s not so much a tour as a book you can carry with you as you walk scanning for building numbers to see where people lived years ago. It’s a real hardcore Villageaphile kind of read but for me it’s right up my alley, so I buy it and tell him the most fun I had was taking relatives through the Village, guiding them around and how I wish I could get paid for it. He looks at me and says “You can, it’s easy” He pulls out his wallet and shows me his official tour guide card, and tells me how you go about studying for and passing the test for tour guide licensing and where to get a job making a decent salary doing what I now know I love.
Like the time I chronicled in my story Duffy Concert Part 1 & 2 that I met a man who led me to start writing, here now I feel the next part of the puzzle has come. This man has shown me the way out of the job I hate without the loss of too much of my current income, of course you make that up on tips and taking private tours in your off hours from the regular bus tours and such as are offering employment. He says to me you spend your day with happy people on vacation from all over the world. He says Greenwich Village is the beating heart of the city, and by God he is right…it’s all right here. It’s a revelation to me, I thank him and shake his hand and begin digesting this new information, suddenly I see the city now differently, I have to slow down take more notes and find out about everything in New York, I can’t just cater to my own interests, I have to find the city all over again as a whole entity and it’s history and it’s future. But before I do this for a living I have to lose weight and get some foot problems taken care of too.
Having said that I still can’t help feeling like a door has been opened for me, I wander around the village taking notes, I stop to aid a woman who needs help carrying groceries at the Marketplace, she was in the process of calling her old friend to get out of the car across the street to come over and help her but I volunteered. I follow her into the store and carry three of the packages into the car for her. She thanks me and I continue my walk passing beautiful beds of flowers, early spring is a great time for me and the birds who are starting courtship rituals andI couldn’t agree more, it’s time to find a nice girl- not easy but nothing is!
I eventually find myself sitting down outside of Gus’s Place,192 Bleeker at MacDougal. My choice of eatery for today and one that I have been looking forward to for a while. This is a Village fixture that closed and re-opened in a new location to the delight of many, a little tricky to find since there are so many places right on top of each other here. It has a 5 star rating for food with only a 3 star rating for price and considered by some to be the most authentic old Greek village food experience in New York City, which is good cause that’s what I’m looking for today. I have to watch my spending so I order 2 small tapas, grilled octopus with EVOO, onion and capers, and Fava beans with tomato and onion, and a glass of Greek red to wash it down.
While I sit and wait I watch as tourists and residents move about, there are so many people out today because of the nice weather. I notice a man standing in the street to get a good picture of his friends at the table nearby, he almost gets run over by the occasional car that passes these Village streets. My food arrives and boy it is good, the Octopus is seared tender and the Fava beans are meaty and savory, but the olive oil is outstanding. I wanted the small fried fish but they are not in season yet so I’ll have to wait till next time, and that’s OK anyway-I gotta cut down on calories. I finish my food and head up to the Union Square market to see what’s good today, I stop first and take a photo of a young couple in New York for the first time who were posing individually so I offer to help, and they pose together so the MacDougal St sign is in the pic.
Funny but I am striving now to make myself available to people like this, I’ve always been kinda shy but now I have to break free of that if I’m to tour with folks one on one. The market is always interesting, a young Rasta looking dude quietly says to me “Hey man I got green all fresh all natural” as I pass, sorry it just gives me a headache I think as I walk along the crowded market, there are artists and photographers selling prints, produce of all kinds from upstate New York are there, cheese vendors, meats, jams, breads, pastries, flowers and plants for apartment dwellers. There are so many things to see it would take all day to sample everything so I go below to get away and wait for the subway, the 6 train is jammed there is a problem as many workers in vests are in the track area and on the platforms. So I take the 5 express to 42nd St. I go up top and walk back to Sofitel to pick up the umbrella that my mom left behind last week. The concierge provides me with it and goes back to his job a picture of class with a little snobbery just under the radar I think as I leave but he was nice enough.
I continue but I actually have to hit an ATM because right now I don’t have the money for a cab, but decide to just keep walking anyway to save money I can do it. The hustle of 8th Ave is impressive as buses, taxis, black cars, all vie for position like ponys at the starting gates. Suddenly they burst forth as soon as the light turns green with much honking of horns and gunning of motors. It’s a long walk and when I get to 54th St I have to walk a little further to find an ATM inside of one of the many Ray’s Pizza locations. They all claim to be the original but God only knows the truth! I’ve got bags of time so now I need a drink and to rest before the show, I walk down 54th St and try a bar but it’s noisy so I leave before they even approach me. Instead I see a sign that looks promising…Dillons on the other side of the street, I walk across to have a few drinks and relax before the show.
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.