Sunday, November 8, 2009

Faster than a New York Minute

Round two for my vacation.... New York City baby! This was my second trip in as many years, so this time I skipped most of the really touristy things. I had done the Empire State Building, Brooklyn Bridge, Museums etc. 5 nights was all I had and the theme was pretty much shopping and shows.

Lets start of with the Accommodation..... I had hoped to find a smoking deal on Priceline or Hotwire or a friends and family rate through work contacts....... sadly there were no smoking deals to be had anywhere. No "deals" of any sort. Son of a Bitch. About three weeks out I started to freak out worried that I wouldn't be able to find somewhere in any way reasonable priced. So I book the YMCA Vanderbilt on 47th & 3rd. I had stayed at a YWCA on the Upper West Side last year and it was fine (they couldn't get me in this time).

It was okay. Cleanish. Quiet. Teeny tiny rooms. Cheap. Location was not great. About 6 blocks from the closest subway. Which for NYC is pretty crappy. Prefered the Westside. Highlight was a Fire Alarm at 1.30am, in the rain. But, ya know NYFD showed up..... can't really go wrong with that can ya! Did I mention it was under $100 per night. Which for a private room in New York is almost unheard of. And really, all you need is somewhere to lay your head right? Oh and there was a mobile Cupcake van super close by on the first day.

Shows. Shows. Shows.

So I saw a show a night (and two on Sunday). In my own very special brand of logic I thought spending $$$ on a show would stop me spending $$$ on anything else. Kind of made sense at the time. Oy Vey! I think it was the three pairs of shoes in under an hour that tipped me over the edge....

Can I tell you how amazing it was to see Carrie Fisher on stage in her fantastic one woman show Wishful Drinking. She talked about it all - her parents, her two marriages (to Paul Simon and a guy who was actually gay), drugs, alcohol, mental illness the elephant in the room that would be the close friend that dies in her bed, Star Wars, George Lucas. It was awesome and for a pop culture junkie like me.... amazingness. She is candid and honest about her life and I think whether she wants to be or not she is quite the inspiration.

Two quick highlights of a show that had me almost peeing my pants with laughter: first up when trying to put the whole Eddie Fisher (her dad) - Debbie Reynolds (her mom) and Elizabeth Taylor (the woman that Eddie left Debbie for) situation in context she captured it perfectly. Imagine her Dad is Brad, her mom is Jen and Liz is Angie. That's what it was. So true and so f*cking funny.

The other is this fantastic chart above. Whether this story is actually true or not is kind of irrelevant to me. It is comedic gold. When her 17 year old daughter wanted to date who I believe was Liz Taylor's step grandchild.... were they related? This amazing chart tried to explain the whole thing....I think the conclusion was that they are not related.

Hysterical show. See it while you can! There's even a bit of singing. And she does allow audience questions. But be prepared for the mocking if you ask something trite or silly!

A Steady Rain with Hugh Jackman and Daniel Craig was also very very good. A tense, powerful drama about the disintegration of two men's lives. The stage was pretty much bare except for 2 chairs - no other cast - and they weren't needed. The performances from both men were very strong. Hearing everybody's favourite Aussie export - Hugh Jackman - use that much profanity was kinda funny. Hopefully his kids have not seen this show!

There was one moment when Craig's character asks Jackman's wife to answer the phone and I totally thought there was another "cell phone incident" - but it was just a line from the play. Sadly - I would have really liked to have seen that. The only problem I have with seeing two such huge stars on stage was that it was a little hard to see them as their characters as opposed to Jackman & Craig. Ya know? But overall it was a whole lotta awesome.

And what is there to say about Jude Law in Hamlet. Sigh. I was pretty much a puddle on the floor as soon as the man hit the stage. I love Hamlet - studied it in school (who didn't). It was one play that I totally got and could write about really really well. The one time I got higher marks than Louise Milligan (class valedictorian, lead in the school play, student body president, part time model, your typically over achieving bitch....). Kinda pathetic that almost 20 years later I still remember her name. I have issues okay. Deal with it.

This was a decent production. Jude was most definitely the highlight of the whole thing. Some of the other cast were a little lacking for me - particularly Hamlet's father, Ophelia (Helena Bonham-Carter's Ophelia has pretty much ruined anyone else for me) and Gertrude. But really it was all about Jude. I had never really got the whole Jude Law fascination - while I appreciated the hawtness, I never really found him completely swoon-worthy.

But seeing him on stage - from the costume to his hand movements to the way he moved around the stage..... quiver. He brought the quiver. I could feel it all the way down. And I now get it. I understand the Jude Law. I totally understand why women everywhere would spread their dimpled thighs for this man. Lord knows I am now one of them. Sadly the couple next to me did not get it as after after snoozing through the first act, they left at the intermission. Silly middle aged British couple! Missing out on the tortured hawtness of Act 2.

Last year in NYC I saw one of the very last Broadway performances of RENT. I cried from start to finish. Actually I pretty much sobbed like a small child. It was a little embarrassing and I felt kinda bad for the people sitting next to me. I think I even apologised to them. This year my therapeutic Broadway experience was Next to Normal. Holy Mother, this show ripped my heart out and showed it to me...... It was so f*cking good. And sad. And amazing.

Who would have thought a show about a family struggling with mental illness would be the hottest ticket on Broadway? That is pretty much all I knew going in, but it is so much more than that. It is about family and loss and dysfunction and being a teenager and falling in love and rebellion.... So f*cking brilliant and amazing. So much my life (but not). And funny. So darkly funny. I was *this* close to buying the t-shirt that says "Valium is my favourite colour". I did buy the soundtrack and have listened to it repeatedly since I have been back. Amazing amazing amazing.

On a much lighter note, I had an equally awesome but much less tear filled time at Rock of Ages and The Toxic Avenger. Both were super fun and silly and funny and OMG - Tom Lenk. Love him. Follow him on twitter. Waited outside the stage door to see him. Wimped out and couldn't say a word to him. So pathetic am I. He was fantastic. Oh and as I teased before Constantine Maroulis totally looked right at me while singing one of the many power ballads...... sigh. He is so dreamy. From American Idol? You remember him? The show itself isn't about anything important. A small town girl, living in this lonely world....... falling in love with a city boy..... All set to awesome songs from my youth..... Journey, STYX, Bon Jovi, Whitesnake - amazing and funny and perfect. Fun fun fun!

Toxic Avenger was my foray into off-broadway. Fun fun fun. Another Idol alumni - Diana DeGarmo. She has a great voice. Is now super skinny. Not scary skinny, but a ton skinnier than when she was on Idol. Apart from the two leads, all the other characters were played by 3 other actors - it was a whole lotta fun times and silliness.

Shopping was pretty self-explanatory...... I bought a *few* things.... 5 pairs of shoes, 2 bags (way down from last years 5), dresses and tights and sweaters oh my! Century 21 is everyone's shopping mecca in NYC - but for me it was kinda meh. No decent shoes, only a few bags.... I was sad :(. Thankfully Filene's Basement and DSW were substantially more successful. He he he! Macy's also made me happy. Although I am still a little bitter about their customer care for Canadians who have a Macy's Card (story for another time). But the living breathing people at the store are pretty cool.

Other highlights most emphatically do NOT include Times Square which is a necessary evil of any trip to New York. It is important to go there at least once, to see the spectacle, the insanity, the masses of tourists (I know, I know, I am such a hypocrite) the blinding lights. Sadly the all important TKTS booth is slap bang in the middle of all the insanity that is Times Square. And all the Shows above were pretty much Times Square adjacent so I had no choice. The pic on the right is the famed Rockefeller Centre - complete with skating (a la any movie set in NYC in the winter!) I recall from last year the umbrellas and restaurants as opposed to the hot chocolate and ice. I also have a vague memory of arguing with my brother in one of said restaurants.....

I also spent a lot more time wandering through Central Park on a glorious Autumn day. Vancouver has Stanley Park - which is equally glorious - but very different. Central Park is manicured and structured..... my Stanley Park is wild and unkempt and easy to get lost in. Both are very different but incredibly beautiful in their own ways...... I wish we had these cute little cop "cars" in Stanley Park. That would be awesome....

I spent a lot of time wandering through the West Village, soaking it all in. That is totally and completely where I would wanna live if I could. So funky and cool. Food and clothes (I can't afford) and fun! Sigh. I have convinced myself that the Brownstone on the right is where SJP lives with her hubby and kids. I know it isn't, but whatev's. This is my fantasy.... I chose to believe that SJP is super crafty and spent hours and hours (with Cynthia Nixon and Kristen Davis) making these decorations and then put them up themselves. While ignoring any and all calls from Kim Catrall. He he he.
Oh and I saw Tim McGraw at the Today show. There were lots of chicks with Cowboy hats. Do they travel with them do you think? I highly doubt they were locals. Tim McGraw is one of those men who are super hawt until they take their hat off. It is not that I have a problem with a man losing his hair or being bald for that matter. It is just that I wasn't expecting the receding. And it is a little startling. And unexpected. And if I am being honest, just a titch disappointing. There is this guy I worked with for many many years. Always had a little crush. He always had a cap on. The first time I saw him sans hat, I think I gasped audibly. It was just so surprising. He was still a handsome hansome man. But the fire dimmed just a little - until he shaved his head and then the quiver returned with a vengence. Apparently I am just that shallow.

I found these awesome houses near NYU and Washington Square Park. They are 19th century stables that have been converted into houses. Love it. Cobblestoned streets, gates to stop mass traffic. So pretty. The original Whitney museum was also here. What I loved most was that there were two streets like this. One was very cultured and clean and poised (picture on the left and the centre one), the other was a little more unkempt and free spirited with overgrown gardens and a much more funky atmosphere. Guess which street was once an artist haven?

One definitive highlight of this trip was being able to go to a Kandinsky exhibit at the amazing Guggenheim. Last year their entire Kandinsky collection was off limits - which made me a little bitter. But after this experience, all is forgiven. Amazing amazing amazing. I have always been a fan of his work - so vibrant and bold and fantastic. And to see so much of it, all housed under one roof - I was giddy!

The hardcore security wouldn't let anyone take photos except for in the lobby - bastards. They were super strict about it. I managed to snap a few sneaky pics with my phone, but not too many. The Guggenheim is a stunning building. And they give everyone a headset which explains the key pieces you are looking at. I wish every museum/gallery would do that - at no extra charge.

So there you have it.....a far too long, but still very quick overview of my short trip to the Big Apple. I love New York. It is so full of life and is vibrant and exciting and beautiful. I can't wait to go back again!
I will leave you with this very important message from the Subway people (I am sure they have a more fancy name... but to me they will always be the Subway people)

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