Manhattan 2005, part 6


A year ago last month, The New York Times invited me to try out as a copy editor. I filed these travel dispatches originally by e-mail. [part one | two | three | four | five | six | seven]


Hard to believe just one day left in New York.

I’d still like to hit Central Park, but I’m going to slip it in tomorrow morning, if I can mind the alarm clock.

My late start sends me by the nearest post office, then down to Times Square to buy a show ticket.

In the middle of the maelstrom, my phone rings. It’s the recruiter’s assistant from the other media company scheduling a phone interview in a week. At least they didn’t forget me.

I got several recommendations for Broadway shows from friends: “Wicked,” “The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.” I saw several other possibilities listed: “The Producers,” “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” “Doubt,” “Spamalot.”

Many were sold out for tonight, or just too expensive. But I figured I’d hit the box office to see what was available.

That turned out to be a good idea.

I went to the Richard Rodgers Theatre for a ticket to “Movin’ Out.” The cheap seats, $40, were sold out online, but maybe I could get a $70 seat and skip the TicketMa$ter fees. Luckily, there was one $40 seat, no fees. Sweet.

Ticket in hand, I headed to Fifth Avenue for a little culture. Mmm, irony.


I wander up and down Fifth Avenue, not bothering to hit the many many shops along the way. A few beautiful cathedrals stand out among the long rows of retailers. A commotion at 54th halts my trek, with fire trucks and police cars surrounding one corner, attracting more than a few gawkers.

I can’t find the Museum of Modern Art, so I pause to check my brochure again.

Walking back along a sidewalk surrounded by scaffolding, I hurry along in my brisk impatient way. My shoulder bag is already feeling like a ton.

I brush past another pedestrian, or more like, he runs into me, not looking where he’s going. He drops his glasses, but picks them up before they’re trampled, I think.

“Excuse me.”

He’s talking to me as we’re waiting at a crosswalk. He seems somewhat confused, not angry, not indignant. I kinda glare at him, then ignore him.

Half a block later, “Excuse me.” “Yes.” “You knocked my glasses out of my hand.” “You ran into me,” I say coldly, hurrying along, too busy to be bothered.

Yikes. I found someone who’s more lost than I am, and rather than offer up an apology, a simple mea culpa, I blow him off.

Sadly, I am more ready to live here than I suspected.

Later, I punched him in the gut repeatedly in a darkened alley.

I find the museum, and there’s a line. A long line. One that winds down the street and into a parking lot along winding barricades. Looks like everyone knows about free Fridays.

I step to the back of the line, grab my paper and shake off the ugliness of my being. The day’s top story is indeed the two reporters facing contempt for not naming their sources. But that’s already been eclipsed by the breaking news about Sandra Day O’Connor stepping down.

The dude behind me won’t stop yakking on his cell phone. The couple in front of me lets their buddy cut in. Annoyances all around.

They are short lived, as we head in after about 20 minutes. Looks like free Fridays actually mean free-for-all, because they’re not checking packs, they’re not doing much except herding us in.

Part of me wishes I had paid the 20 bucks and come earlier in the week. The crowds are sizeable, on all six floors. Sigh.

And I really should’ve checked my bag, because it wears on me quickly.


I head up to the sixth floor to see the Lee Friedlander photography exhibit. It is amusing, eye opening, barely worth the visit. But worth it.

In the next gallery is a Cezanne/Pizarro special exhibit. I like Impressionism, but it’s all I can do just to wander through. Normally, I’d study each one, read the card, listen to the audio guide. But amidst the hundreds of visitors, I can barely keep still. Ugh.

Down a floor, I wander some more. I see “The Starry Night” by Van Gogh (didn’t even know it was here), and it’s nice. Except for the people shooting photo after photo. Like I said, free-for-all. And I saw Wyeth’s “Clara’s World.” And a few Kandinskys. But on the whole, I’ve never been big on modern art.

I stop by the cafe for something to eat, not having gotten my hot dog on beforehand. The outdoor terrace is nice, looking out over the sculpture garden, with a decent view of the city. But the service is slow (like many places), the prices are sky high, the food mediocre. Love those tourist traps/museum cafes.

But with some food, now I can go on.

I’ve got to make curtain, so I move along, checking out each floor on my way down. Pollock, Picasso, the greats. And the lesser knowns. And the truly out there. I wish I knew art better, because much of it is lost on me. The Jasper Johns American flag. Et cetera.

A quick stop in the garden, then the gift shop, then back on the street.


I grab a dog and a Diet Coke. The hot dog is filling, but wholly unremarkable. I’m just eating everything in sight.

I hurry back to my apartment to drop off the bag.

More culture awaits.

Missed Saigon

You can thank me for not taking you to a Broadway show.

The last one I saw was “Les Miz,” and it was fantastic. This time, I picked something I thought I would enjoy, but I think many of you would be bored.

I got to the theater and headed to the second to last row in the upper upper balcony. Still, the view was decent. Certainly the crowd was rarin’ to go, hooting at the drummer’s warmup.

movinout.jpgFor those unfamiliar with “Movin’ Out,” it’s a collaboration featuring my enduring passion for Billy Joel’s music with my love of modern dance, all set to the undertold story of America’s involvement in Vietnam.

Yes, for those of you who thought “Uptown Girl” and “We Didn’t Start the Fire” would be better served as dance numbers choreographed by the legendary Twyla Tharp, have I got a show for you.

As I had read ahead of time, it was all strictly dance numbers, centered on five characters. A cover band handled all of the music. It was simply a dance concert with a familiar score and a loose plot woven throughout. Seriously, you would’ve walked out at intermission.

I thought it was all right, but even I thought it was almost too silly for Broadway. Remember, I’ve seen Billy Joel tour with Elton John, write and release a piano concerto CD, and have his entire discography (minus the concerto CD). It would’ve been better as “Movin’ Out — on Ice” simply because at least that would’ve made sense. And don’t be surprised if it does go on ice.

Plus, since each number was about three to four minutes, we had to clap pretty frequently. Annoying.

But, I’ve been to a Twyla Tharp performance, and I’ve stalked Billy’s work completely now. How’s that for obsessive compulsive?

Yeah, thank me now.

The out of downers

Following the show, I need a dessert fix. First, I hit the gaudiest biggest souvenir shop for the last-minute gathering of cheap goods. The store doesn’t fail me.

I stop at a trendy restaurant and grab the last outside sidewalk table for my cocktail and dessert. Pause. Longer pause. Great.

To occupy my time, a large bus is running in front of me. It’s waiting on its group to get out of “Wicked,” and soon they show with shopping bags with the show’s logo. They happily scarf down Domino’s on the bus, ready to head back to whatever town spit them up.

I can’t even get a menu.

Still, better to be outside then packed in the with the hipsters in the smoky atmosphere. Bus fumes are far more intoxicating.

After much delay, I get my port, I get my tart, and I get my check. The port was delicious, the peach tart was splendid, and the check was hefty.

Back in the apartment, it’s time for some packing, after I polish off my leftover flat steak plate. Geez, I’m hungry.

And I never even got a slice. Shame on me.


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