Wednesday, February 20, 2008

New York State of Mind

Yes, it's a Billy Joel song, and it always gets stuck in my head when I visit here.

Lots of good things here, like the bagels for breakfast, theater, and museums.

This morning, two of the staff at the bagel shop were vying for the favors of my daughter. The first guy refused to take her order until she went with him to get a free cookie at the other end of the counter. He promised that every time she comes in, if she remembers his name, she gets another cookie. She has a great memory anyway, but with a cookie at stake, I imagine that information is well ingrained now!

Last night we went to an off-Broadway show called "Speech & Debate" at a new theater starting up under the auspices of the Roundabout Theatre Company. The Roundabout Underground's Black Box Theatre is literally that, a box-shaped room, four stories below ground level. It seats 62 people in regular chairs, so it's a pretty intimate experience.

Anyway, for those who know my family, you know that the title alone was enough to hook us in. My wife and I met in high school as members of the speech and debate team, and her mother was one of our coaches. So all three of us went to the play last night with high expectations.

The play is the first effort of Stephen Karam, a young writer who really gets the sound of his youthful characters. You feel like you're listening to real high school students, rather than just scripted characters. Not sure how well that would translate to a bigger theater/audience, but it this setting it worked well. The show has its rough edges and slow parts, but all in all, it worked well. We got luck with this one, as the run ends this coming weekend after being extended twice. We just happened to be in town this week (because it's school vacation, and we wanted to see another play here), so when I saw this play listed, I knew we had to see it.

And we've already spent one full day at the American Museum of Natural History, of course. Mostly we were on the fourth floor again, looking at the dinosaur fossils and tracing the course of vertebrate evolution. Next visit we plan to spend more time in the hall of human origins, which is another point of interest for us.

Yesterday found us walking down Broadway through Times Square during daylight hours, ducking into various stores to keep warm. Asa result, my wife has a stylish new purse, and my daughter has some new toys (and we rode the indoor ferris wheel at the big Toys R Us). Oh, and we have some M&Ms from M&Ms World. Perhaps the most intriguing thing to me was that as we got to the top of the ferris wheel, I could see into the meeting room or boardroom at the top of the front corner of the store. About two dozen people in business dress were having a meeting or conference call or something in a big fishbowl, all glass, all around, with a huge flat-panel TV facing away from me, so I couldn't see their PowerPoint presentation. It all seemed rather incongruous in a toy store, but it's a reminder that this is business. Big business, at that.

And lastly, although it is generally a good thing that they seem to have gotten the crack dealers off the streets of New York, it concerns me that they've just moved inside into some of the stores. For example, there's an outfit called Dale and Thomas Popcorn that is definitely selling addictive substances from their storefront. Luckily, it does not have to be purchased in the 6.5-gallon tub, although that would greatly reduce the price per dose. Darned tasty, that.


Laura E. Goodin said...

As you know, I grew up only two hours (by road) from New York City, so it was a frequent destination for school trips -- museums and plays, mostly, along with one memorable day when my high school band marched in the St. Patrick's Day parade. What I remember most vividly from these trips was how desolate, monochromatically dirty, and scary New York was. This persisted through the seventies and into the 80s.

Imagine my shock when, starting in, oh, the mid-90s or so, New York started to be clean and bright and, well, not exactly welcoming, New Yorkers will never really be welcoming, but at least a lot less stressful a place to be. Giuliani may have been a scary fascist mini-dictator, but you couldn't argue that he cleaned New York up. At what price to the poor and homeless, I'm not sure. (Where did they go? Jersey?) But I can't deny that the city works better now. Maybe that brings more jobs and there are fewer homeless??

Chard said...

There are definitely some homeless folks here. Leaving the subway last night after midnight, there were several people bedded down on cardboard sheets in the passage from the station to the stairway. But I haven't seen a lot of them during the day or evening.

More on the subway and such when I get a chance to write.