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New York City, New York

If I really had the umbrellaphobia that I’ve claimed to, today would have been the ultimate nightmare. Today was the million umbrella march in New York City, with thousands of tourists converging on the streets of the city in a downpour. Like I had said yesterday, this is one of the wettest June’s the city has ever seen, and today was a constant reminder of that trend. There wasn’t a moment of variation from constant rain.

So you get the point. It was rainy. But that didn’t keep me indoors. No. My completely soaked clothes, which will probably be completely soaked even at this time tomorrow, are spread across chairs in my hostel room. I failed to wake up at 5:55 this morning to head to Rockefeller Center for SNL tickets (for multiple reasons: one, I was dead tired; two, my cell phone is still on CST, so didn’t go off until 6:55). Instead, I slept til 9:30, took my time getting ready and headed to the subway. I didn’t have anything planned for today, which was okay since they probably would have been spoiled by the rain anyway. So I caught the C train to about the northern corner of Central Park, wandered through the park where everyone was out for their Saturday morning jogs, just south of the Jaqueline Kennedy Onassis Reservoir. Across the park, I visited the Guggenheim Museum, which is under heavy renovation, and as an effect, was only about half-filled with art. Many people visit the museum, however, for the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed building in which it is housed — and it was certainly worth the $5 I paid to get in (student discount). There were some great Cezzane pieces and a temporary display on Suprematist-founder Kazimir Malevich, which was pretty interesting. Unfortunately, though, the exhibitions that bookmark the Malevich one would have been quite more interesting to me, the first an installation on Matthew Barney’s Cremaster film (he’s Bjork’s odd arty husband); the following exhibition being the classics of modern art, From Picasso to Pollack.

With the small display, I didn’t spend much time at the Guggenheim and moved on down Fifth Avenue to the Metropolitan Museum of Contemporary Art. I guess I wasn’t much in the mood for museums, even though it was a perfect day to spend indoors, so I just stuck my head inside and left.

It was about a mile’s walk through Central Park, hard-copy version of The Onion in hand, back down into the heart of Fifth Avenue and commercial New York, when the rain really started coming down. To avoid the rain for a while, I ducked into a Thai restaurant for lunch, having the Ponang Curry with chicken — very delicious. It was a bit more expensive than I had counted — around sixteen dollars for the whole meal — because the lunch menu I had ordered from was only available on weekdays.

I hurried through the rain from the restaurant back into the TKTS line, hoping for a quick line today, in order to get a ticket for another Broadway production tonight. The second choice on yesterday’s list was Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of Puccini’s La Boheme. Luhrmann, of course, is the extremely talented brainstem behind Moulin Rouge and the update of Romeo and Juliet. His adaptation updates Puccini’s classic opera to the romantic Paris of the 1950s, starring a cast of the best vocally trained singers in the world, and is presented at Broadway Theatre. My playbill says “expect the unexpected.”

So I stood in line, umbrella-less, until some really cute and kind old ladies, four of them, got to talking with me and I offered to hold the umbrella for one of them. I ended up holding it for the hour and a half to two hours that it took us to get through the line. We also got acquainted with a family ahead of us in line, a couple about my parents’ age and their two cute daughters. =)

After we got through the line and I got my ticket to the opera, I ended up spending the rest of the afternoon with the mom and two daughters from the TKTS line. It was pouring and I had no agenda and even worse, had no incentive to make a decision about where to go to next, so I used them as a scapegoat to stay out in the rain and to make the decisions for me. With me in tow, we went to Grand Central Station, the Chrysler Building, the Grand Hyatt, and a bit on the subway, but most enjoyable was getting soaked in the rain and splashing in the puddles.

When we split ways, at the Times Square Subway station, I wanted to give them one of my personal cards — my non-existent personal cards — so they could be in touch, but I had nothing. Not even a dry thing to write on, so they went their way, I stumbled towards the hostel. About a half a block away, the older daughter came running up behind me asking if she could get my website or whatever, and I was thrilled to give it to her.

Later, after the plays, they were thinking about going to the Observation Deck of the Empire State Building, so I said I may bump into them there, or if not, maybe in Greenwich Village or Chinatown or Little Italy or Ohio some other time. Who knows?

I ended up wearing my suit again tonight, thinking it even more appropriate since I was going to an opera and all. And that was a good decision, I think, as most of the people at the opera were pretty high-brow, even the two gay men in front of me who kept kissing each other.

The opera itself was fantastic. I had some issues with wanting to just enjoy the music, but having never seen La Boheme I had no idea what the story was, so I kinda had to follow along with the supertitles as well. Like I mentioned, Luhrmann updated the story to fit with the bohemian movement of the 1950s in Paris — sort of the same situation as his Moulin Rouge. But to make this distinction work full-circle, in addition to the set design and wardrobe (which were amazing, by the way), they updated the supertitles to reflect the vernacular of the time as well. An example is where the music says the Italian word for “carriage,” they project “Rolls Royce.” Fancy threads are called “Dior.” The set was very monochrome with perfect shouts of color, like the red-backlit “L’amour” sign that lights up just once. The singing was phenomenal, from a cast of relatively young vocalists (20-somethings). It was a terrific experience.

Afterwards, I briskly walked from the 53rd Street theater all the way to the Empire State Building in the high-30s area. The building was illuminated brilliantly at the top spires, but the upper-most levels were hidden by a thick cloud of fog; the very reason I was informed that they were closed and I couldn’t go up to the observation deck or even inside. I figured the girls had probably already gotten the same message, so I just admired the building for a while, talked on my cell phone with Sarah and Laura a while, and then headed back towards the hostel.

But on my way, across the street, I spotted the girls and their parents heading towards the ESB, so I crossed the street and presented myself and the bad news about the closing. It was all taken in stride, and we decided to work our way up Fifth Avenue — a part I hadn’t seen yet and really didn’t need to. There wasn’t really much worthy of mentioning until we got to the edge of Rockefeller Center and saw St. Patrick’s Cathedral and finally the statue I had been looking all over for from the introduction into Conan O’Brien’s show. It was beautiful. We looked around the Rockefeller Plaza, where they were setting up to film a segment called “Camp Rockefeller” for the Today Show, I think. On our way back to Broadway to find some “dessert” we passed the completely dark Radio City Music Hall. Back on Broadway, we finally settled on Planet Hollywood, where I got a phenomenal chocolate milkshake (with grenadine as per my instructions) and the girls got some late night snacks. It was nearly 1:30 a.m. by the time we got out of there and they caught a cab back to their hotel and I wandered back to my place.

Another brilliant day, thanks to some lovely people — my favorite thing about this trip so far: the people. Tomorrow I’m planning on doing the areas of Manhattan south of 34th Street, including the areas of Greenwich Village, Soho, Tribeca, Chinatown, Little Italy, and so on. Well, as much as I can, anyway. It will mostly be aimless wandering, so hopefully the weather will cooperate, but that’s not in the forecast.

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