Come From Away comes to New York, March 2017

Saturday, March 11, 2016

We were finally on our way to New York for the long-anticipated opening on Broadway of Come From Away. That the show was now going to play in New York was fitting, based as it is on events set in motion by September 11, 2001.

The groundwork had been laid years before. In 2011, there was a 10 year reunion in Gandar, Newfoundland of the townsfolk with the “plane people”, the 38 planeloads of passengers and crew diverted there precipitously when US airspace was shut down after the fall of the Twin Towers. The rural area, home to about 10,000 people, played host for 5 days to nearly 7000 people and animals on board US-bound planes who suddenly found themselves “on the edge of the world”.

Attending the 10 year anniversary was a young Canadian playwriting couple, Irene Sankoff and David Hein, who ended up staying a month, interviewing plane people and locals.

Accolades for Broadway-bound musical "Come From Away"

Our involvement dated back to summer of 2015, when Come From Away was launched to accolades and sold out houses at La Jolla Playhouse. This foray into backing a Broadway musical was our equivalent to doubling down, hoping to make back our investments in prior ventures (chronicled here https://aperturephotoarts.com/stumbles-on-the-great-white-way/ ). We were older and we hoped, wiser, at least better prepared. For starters, we had seen this show, multiple times, in more than one venue. We both found ourselves leaping to our feet within seconds of the final curtain, along with the entire audience, in a display I’ve rarely seen anywhere. We loved the story and the Celtic-influenced music, even the book drawn from the same source material, The Day the World Came to Town.

We were encouraged by the enthusiastic receptions and reviews the show had garnered in San Diego and Seattle (La Jolla Playhouse and Seattle Repertory Theater co-produced the show in 2015), and in Washington D.C. and Toronto in the 2016 run-ups to Broadway.

The musicians are integrated into the action on stage in “Come From Away”.

Perhaps appropriately, I found myself drawn en route to two movies set in the entertainment world, La La Land and Cafe SocietyLa La Land is a movie musical, a tribute to the golden age of movie musical, à la Ginger Rogers and Fred Astaire. An aspiring actress (Emma Stone) and a jazz musician and aspiring club owner (Ryan Gosling) share dreams and sing and dance their way through Hollywood as they dream of their big breaks.

Cafe Society, a 2016 Woody Allen film, is also set in Hollywood. An appealing Jesse Eisenberg is a young man from New York, working for his wheeling-dealing, always on the phone, studio head honcho uncle played by Steve Carell. He falls for his uncle’s secretary, played by the intriguing Kristen Stewart.

Two movies and traveling east landed us at JFK by late afternoon, where Steve’s sister Sarah picked us up. We caught up over an early dinner at a beautiful Thai restaurant in Brooklyn, Samui. A ginger caipirinha with a bite was the perfect cocktail start to a week of vacation. We shared a mix of dishes, including a mango salad and a salmon panang curry.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

was a very cold morning, so cold we were not tempted to take a walk around the block when we arrived early for our brunch rendezvous with Sarah and Aaron in Soho, at The Dutch.

Aaron had just finished an overnight shift at his midtown firehouse and would head back for another shift without the benefit of any sleep after having brunch with us.

I ordered the hot fried chicken with honey sweetened biscuits and coleslaw, knowing food at the opening night pre-and post-parties might be hard to come by.

Sarah and Aaron know their brunch spots! The Dutch in Soho, with take-you-through-opening-night-until-the after-party fried chicken!  Even the waiter looks happy.

Afterwards, we had to scare up a pair of black pants for Steve. Somehow, he had packed what he thought were black pants, but to me, they clearly were brown and not a good pairing with his blue-black jacket and shirt (Issey Miyake souvenirs from Japan). Luckily, Seven for all Mankind came through, completing alterations within an hour. I thought we were going to get away without our customary shoe or boot purchases, as we came up empty-handed at Ottiva. But, around the corner at sister store Avitto (the inverse of Ottiva), we found new additions to our shoe wardrobes. Blame it on advancing age and expanding feet!

There was just enough time for a quick visit to the New York City Fire Museum, which occupies a 1904 Beaux-Arts triple bay fire house on Spring Street near SOHO. One room is devoted to the 9/11 tragedy in which 343 New York area firefighters lost their lives. One article in the room was donated by Aaron’s firehouse, the crumpled, metal banner which formerly identified their firetruck.

All too soon it was time to return to the hotel and dress up for opening night. I devoted more than the usual amount of time to selecting an outfit for this occasion. I might have been influenced by articles I had read recently about the symbolism ascribed to the apparel choices of First Ladies, but I found myself reaching for a few pieces with Canada connections. My outfit was built on a foundation of a sleeveless wraparound Jason Wu little black dress, found at Ina in New York the prior year, paired with a black ribboned bolero by a Canadian designer, Alison Sheri, a souvenir from a visit in summer of 2015 to Waterston, in Glacier National Park. To keep the neck from being too plunging, I secured it with a pewter pin, a souvenir from our honeymoon in Nova Scotia in 1989. The finishing touches were a tiny black leather Prada bag (completely flat when empty, so easy to pack), and the highest heels I own, blue black patent Christian Louboutin pumps. Needless to say, we Uber’d to the pre-party at Sardi’s.

Sardi’s, in the theater district, is a Broadway institution, decorated with caricatures of celebrities which line the walls.  In the place of honor now, front and center, is Hamilton himself, Lin-Manuel Miranda. A standard for pre-and post-theatre dining, it is also where the idea for the Tony Awards was born.

The pre-party was upstairs, which was subdivided for the various Come From Away pre-parties. Our section was quite constrained physically, so cramped for space, the restaurant could rightfully have been called Sardine’s. Of course, it is a long-time entertainment world favorite, and is adorned with caricatures of stars of stage and screen. Currently occupying the place of honor, front and center, is Hamilton creator, Lin-Manuel Miranda. Thankfully, it also had the virtue of being only a block walk to the theater, albeit a remarkably cold and windy block.

Upstairs in the sardine section of Sardi’s, Steve with some lovely San Diegans who came from away for opening night of “Come From Away”, Lucille and Jennifer.

What to say of opening night itself? It’s difficult to objectively judge, as the audience tends to be heavily skewed to those with skin in the game (family and friends of the cast and creatives, investors, theatrical professionals).

Only minutes until curtain on opening night of “Come From Away”! Tony voter and Broadway producer Gail and CFA director Chris Ashley (who would go on to win his first Tony Award for best director for CFA 3 months later!).

The reception was thunderous, with many of the actual people on whom the characters in the play are based joining the cast on stage. I did speak to a few people who had never seen the show before and they were very complementary.

“Come From Away” cast and their real life  counterparts, many from Gandar, Newfoundland, take the stage on opening night to a thunderous reaction.

We joined Jennifer and Lucille in their Uber to make our way over to beautiful Gotham Hall for the after-party. We nearly froze trying to connect with the car and might have been warmer walking.

We probably didn’t stay long enough to have the full after-party experience, judging by the pictures I saw afterwards of the cast out on the dance floor. We did enjoy the Newfoundland band, but after a few rounds of Screech-based cocktails, were ready to call it a night.

The best nightcap of all was in the Ludlow’s quiet-at-that-hour lobby, with my feet out of the heels and up, a glass of champagne in hand to celebrate a favorable review from the New York Times, as well as “Critic’s Pick” designation. Ralph had warned me earlier in the evening that this wasn’t the type of show Ben Brantley typically favored, so to have the imprimatur of the NYT on top of numerous other favorable reviews was a wonderful end to a very full day.

Monday, March 13, 2017

I had a 10 AM appointment downtown, way downtown, in the Financial District, to rouse me out of bed earlier than likely would have been my wont after the preceding evening’s festivities. At least I was smart enough not to schedule it even earlier. My destination was ILC, to apply for a visa to visit Russian in the summer. Up to this point, we hadn’t had a lot of time to look around our Lower East Side neighborhood, but it was very clear within a few blocks that we were not in the West Village or any of our usual haunts. This neighborhood is definitely grittier, although it is dotted with definite signs of gentrification, including interesting boutiques, coffee shops, and restaurants. There is graffiti on seemingly on every surface. Some streets were buzzing with a lot of activity for nine in the morning, with trucks unloading restaurant supplies and pallets of materials being ferried to construction sites. We passed by Chinatown, with the boundaries demarcated by statues of Confucius, among other notables.

I’ve heard rodents can be an issue in New York? (Downtown construction site)

My destination building forms one leg of a triangular plaza with Louise Nevelson sculptures. ILS itself is an elevator ride up a scaffolded building housing a Jersey Mike’s Subs, Duane Reade, and Western Union on the street level.

My quest for a visa to visit Russia in the summer took me to Louise Nevelson Plaza, the first public space in NYC to be named for an artist. The Russian-born artist died in 1988 at the age of 88.

I learned that my diligence in filling out my Russian visa application on line back in November was most unfortunate, as it had been too long and they couldn’t locate my application in the computer. But for an additional $30, this could be rectified on the spot. By this time, this sounded like, if not a bargain, at least peace of mind.

An hour later, having surrounded my passport and fervently hoping that wasn’t a mistake, I reconnected with Steve at a local coffee shop and we walked through South Street seaport, admiring the views across the water.

South Street Seaport, at the foot of Manhattan, under the Brooklyn Bridge, with the Manhattan bridge beyond.

Birds at the South Street Seaport

South Street Seaport

One of the newer Financial District tourist attractions is the addition of a statue of a defiant little girl, placed in juxtaposition with the Wall Street bull. This was attracting quite a crowd, taking turns taking pictures of each other.

The Wall Street Bull (Charging Bull by Arturo Di Modica, 1989) is said by its creator to symbolize prosperity and strength. He has objected publicly to placement of “Fearless Girl” in apposition to “Charging Bull”.

“Fearless Girl” was commissioned by State Street Global Advisors and created by Kristen Visbal. It was installed the day before International Women’s Day (March 7), a week before our arrival, and had been generating headlines and attracting crowds.

Striking the “Fearless Girl” pose…her stance brings to mind another young and memorable New York star, Matilda! (below)

Matilda the Musical

 

The installation of “Fearless Girl” was intended initially to be temporary,  to mark the 1-year anniversary of State Street Global Advisors “Gender Diversity Index” fund that “invests in U.S. large-capitalization companies that rank among the highest in their sector in achieving gender diversity across senior leadership”.  I learned from Wikipedia that the statue’s plaque read “Know the power of women in leadership. SHE makes a difference,” with SHE referring to both the gender of the subject and the fund’s NASDAQ ticker symbol. I say read, because the plaque was subsequently removed amid objections to the corporate connection.   The statue has generated both criticism and admiration.  Initially slated for a 1 week installation, this was subsequently extended to a month and later a year.  Interestingly, the initial installation of “Charging Bull” was a permit-less, surreptitious, middle of the night guerrilla art move by the artist, in the aftermath of the 1987 stock market crash.  It was the public response which led to its permanent installation.  There are calls and petitions to make “Fearless Girl” permanent as well.

At this writing, 8 months later, the statue has generated interesting repercussions, especially in light of a fall filled with discussion of sexual politics and gender and power imbalances, discrimination and assault, beginning with Harvey Weinstein in October and continuing this week with Matt Lauer.  This included the temporary (hours) placement of a urinating dog sculpture at the foot of “Fearless Girl” by another NY artist, Alex Gardega, who was subsequently struck and killed by a subway train in October. October also saw State Street, the firm behind the commissioning of “Fearless Girl”, settling $5 million worth of suits addressing financial gender and racial disparities in salaries paid to executives.

Downtown is full of surprises:

Tai chi on a snappy NY morning, way downtown.

Searching for a restroom, we ducked into a downtown building, which had a stupendous zodiac symbol ceiling surprise.

While we were downtown, we revisted historic neo-Gothic style Trinity Church, dating back to 1846.

One can pay respects to Founding Father Alexander Hamilton in the Trinity Church Cemetery.

Instead of taking advantage of our proximity to the Museum of the American Indian and the Museum of Jewish Heritage, both of which we have visited before, Steve voted for heading north to longtime favorite City Bakery, and the Rubin Museum of Tibetan Art.

A favorite place for a quick lunch of mouth-watering salads, not to mention the pretzel croissant and the hot chocolate!

Stairs at the Rubin Museum of Art in NYC

 

Steve’s composite of an interesting 2016 video installation artwork at the Rubin Museum, called Khandroma, directed by Stephan Crasneanscki, showing kaleidoscopic imagery of prayer wheels and flags in motion.

We passed multiple stores for which we developed a need as we passed them, first into Paragon Sports for snow boots for the forecasted nor’easter, into Leisure Pro for new wetsuit booties and into Adorama for computer bits and pieces. The coming storm was also a good excuse to acquire a new WR (weather resistant) 23 lens, which I put to good use the rest of the week.

By the time we made it back south to IFC for a French supernatural thriller called Personal Shopper, starring Kristen Stewart, we were laden with bulging bags. The French do creepy thrillers par excellence and this was no exception.

The night before the big snowstorm, near IFC in NYC

We finished an over 9 mile on foot day at forever favorite Arturo’s on Houston, with a delicious sausage, eggplant and broccoli rabe pizza. It was almost illicit, it was so good.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

The much ballyhooed nor’easter arrived overnight. In the middle of the night, I peered out at the terrace when I couldn’t sleep.

We finally have a terrace in NYC, and it’s too cold outside to consider using it! Our snow-covered terrace at the Ludlow on the Lower East Side.

The streets of Manhattan were transformed, a blanket of white, the streets virtually empty of cars, only a few determined souls struggling along on the sidewalks.

Nothing like a huge snowstorm to empty Manhattan’s streets…for a few hours (Union Square, NYC)

I had noticed the prior night that Neruda was showing every morning at 10:40 AM at IFC. This was a film I had been wanting to see for months.

Snow-buried bench in NYC

Normally, IFC would be an easy walk. It was definitely more of an exercise to get there on foot, with the addition of a foot of snow. Steve elected to remain in the hotel, writing.

NYC snowstorm

The transformative effect of snow…buried garbage bags.

Stepping out of the hotel, the first few steps, with a cutting wind and stinging pelts of flying snow, made my quest seem like not such a good idea. However, once I crossed over Houston, there was some protection by the buildings from the gusts and I made better progress, arriving in the middle of the previews.

We visited one of Neruda’s houses-turned-museums in Santiago in 2015, and periodically, I attempt to further my Spanish by reading his love poems. In Cuba in 2015, I picked up a recording of a lecture he gave while visiting Cuba. The actor portraying the poet really captured his cadence and vocal timbre while reading his poetry in the film.

Houston Street in downtown Manhattan, transformed with a white coat of snow, no cars on the street.

Arriving back at the hotel after a slow, snowy walk, I found Steve working on his laptop in the lobby of the hotel. We had lunch in the covered patio, with avocado-tomato toast for me, with a side of haricots verts Asiatique and a lamb burger for Steve.

The comfortable lobby of the Ludlow, on the Lower East Side.

Another movie we had been wanting to see was showing just around the corner, at the Landmark Sunshine theater on Houston. In fact, this corridor along Houston was strategically perfect for a movie buff, especially on a snowy day when it was harder than usual to get very far afield. The film in question was Jim Jarmusch’s new film, called Paterson. Steve’s doctor father admitted his patients to a hospital in Paterson, and Paterson Falls was one of the first local landmarks his parents insisted on taking us to when I first met them in the late 1980s. The protagonist, played by lanky Adam Driver, is a bus driver for New Jersey Transit, writing poetry on his breaks. (Yes, two films about poets in one day!)

NYC snowstorm March 2017

Winter haiku

Over the years, traveling back east once or twice a year to visit my sister and Steve’s parents and sisters, we would often spend a few days in Manhattan and a few days with the in-laws in Wayne, in northern New Jersey. Wayne isn’t serviced by train and parking being what it is in Manhattan, taking the NJ Transit bus from Port of Authority on 42cd street was often the easiest and most direct way to travel to and from their house to the city.

Another of the main characters in Paterson was a bulldog, making me think we had to recommend the film to Sarah and Aaron, devoted parents to Chopstick, an American bulldog. In fact, they were both off work that day, Sarah’s school closed for a snow day, and watched it at home that very same day.

Neither rain nor snow…will keep determined theatre goers from their seats (Times Square, NYC)

Snowman building after big snowstorm in Times Square, NYC

Times Square…family friendly!

We had tickets for the 7 pm performance of The Great Comet, based on a 70 page snippet of War and Peace, part of my ongoing preparation for the trip to Russia this summer. Steve wanted to walk and shoot en route to the theater district, although it was bitterly cold by then. This was how I managed to walk over 9 miles, essentially the same distance as the day before, through snow of varying depths and degrees of slush versus compaction. The Muck boots acquired the prior day (on sale at Paragon Sports) had by this time proven themselves, keeping feet warm, dry and comfortable enough to maneuver around the snow-bound city with impunity.

New York Costumes during snowstorm

The Great Comet was a spectacle, written and composed by Dave Malloy. The story was a tad thin, essentially an ill-fated infatuation which ruins lives, but provided ample material for very imaginative staging, recreating a Russian cafe atmosphere, with the performers circling the audience, sometimes feet away, sometimes behind, free-wheeling through the theater. We had received notice in advance that the headliner, Josh Groban, as Pierre, would not be appearing that night. This gave us the opportunity to trade in our tickets for another date (not really an option for us), or to obtain a refund at intermission if we were disappointed after the first act. I gather we should have been disappointed by the absence of Groban, but I actually learned from the program that he is a multi-platinum recording artist. Neither Steve nor I were at all familiar with his music. The understudy, Scott Stangland, played the role in an earlier, pre-Broadway incarnations of the play, previously known as Natasha, Pierre and the Great Comet of 1812, and he was terrific. Denée Benton was adorable and incandescent as the impetuous and confused Natasha. We were in the front row of the mezzanine, selected with an eye to being in a good position to see the overview of the proceedings. We had performers literally a hand’s width away and were well positioned to receive, at various points, a warm pierogi, a love letter (“Hey there, Enjoying the show? I hope so. I’m certainly enjoying the view. xoxo) and later, The Great Comet embellished plastic eggs, which we employed as castanet equivalents.

The Great Comet was great entertainment, a swirl of dancers, musicians and actors intermixed with the audience in a Russian supper club setting; we had a good overview from above; here, the musicians receive well-deserved accolades.

We finished our day with pierogi equivalents, at East Village favorite, Dumpling Man.

East Village grating, night.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017 was another bitterly cold and overcast grey day, with slush in the streets. The famous Katz’s Deli is kitty-corner across the street from the hotel. When I stopped in the prior day, even in the midst of the snow storm, it was packed, so there must be something to its enduring mystique. Time to try it!

Katz’s deli was forever immortalized in “When Harry Met Sally”, as in “I’ll have what she’s having…”

The sandwiches are big, priced on the order of $20 each. They are big enough to split. We went for the classic, the pastrami sandwich, and opted for a reuben as well. Being married to the Reuben King, this is an area of ongoing scientific investigation for me. We take our reubens pretty seriously. For one of Steve’s birthdays, I ordered the reuben kit from Zingermann’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan.

The savory sensations start even when you order, with the counterman slicing up a few samples to try while he assembles your sandwich.

This is the site immortalized by the “I’ll have what she’s having” scene from When Harry Met Sally. The actual table is marked by a sign suspended from the ceiling. There is a brass plaque on the sidewalk outside, denoting Katz’s incredible longevity, in business since 1888! This “relic of Jewish immigrant culture” (per the WSJ) does a creditable pastrami sandwich and the reuben was good, too! (Note to self: next time, split a sandwich and try the matzo ball soup).

A very satisfying sandwich…pastrami at Katz’s Deli on the Lower East Side.

An inevitable comparison arose in our minds: Katz’s pastrami vs. Schwartz’s smoked meat? It turns out, we are not the first to consider this question. We found ourselves standing in lines and being drawn back repeatedly to Schwartz’s for their smoked meat sandwiches during our July trip to Montréal, our first. We liked Katz’s product, but we both thought it wouldn’t actually call us back to this corner of the LES. If we were in the neighborhood and hungry, yes…but for us, no question, we preferred Montréal-styled smoked meat, à la Schwartz’s. Which leads to a question, what is smoked meat, exactly, and how does it differ from pastrami? This question is addressed, at some length and in detail, in an excellent article on seriouseats.com. It seems to boil down to the source of the meat, with most pastrami being made from naval plate, and smoked meat being made from brisket. The other major difference is the spice rub, with sugar often incorporated in preparation of pastrami, along with black pepper and coriander, but not for smoked meat. The article also details how labor intensive these processes are. For example, Schwartz’s marinates raw brisket with their spice mix for 10-12 days (!), followed by 8-9 hours of smoking, then finished by 3 hours of steaming before being hand sliced!

We were on our way to Prada on Broadway, where I have had good luck during their winter sales, when we were sidetracked by side by side men’s and women’s branches of Ina. I did find a fringed black capelet by Thakoon, an additional 25% off after being marked down twice already! Suddenly, we were short on time, just over one half hour to get ourselves north to the theater district for the 2 pm matinee of Dear Evan Hansen. We decide the subway will likely beat waiting for an Uber.

Ben Platt was remarkable as beyond-awkward, Asberger-spectrum adolescent Evan Hansen, a boy without friends (except for a frenemy, a “family friend”, memorably played by Will Roland, as Jared). His life becomes inadvertently intertwined with another family’s. The structure reminded of a film I loved at the recent Sedona Film Festival, “Frantz”, in which a German family, grieving the loss of their son in WW I, is comforted by a mysterious visitor, a soldier from France. In the same way, a family mourning the loss of a troubled son, finds comfort in the company of Evan Hansen, who purports to have been a friend.

The play makes interesting use of social media as a driver of behavior. Its exploration of dark themes of connection, isolation, and loneliness, in an affecting and appealing manner, is a real achievement. The music and lyrics, by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul (also responsible for La La Land) advanced the story effectively. At this writing, it appears the 9.5 million dollar production is a bona fide hit, and on course to recoup in a timely fashion.

It wasn’t quite dark when Dear Evan Hansen let out, leaving us a window to walk north to Columbus Circle and perennial favorite, always interesting MAD, the Museum of Art and Design. This visit was no exception, with San Diegans Toza Radakovich and Arline Fisch represented in shows on exhibit.  One floor was devoted to a show of influential West coast ceramic artist, Peter Voulkos. He is credited with taking ceramic art in new directions and never previously achieved scale.

Clarissa had made dinner reservations for all of us at a new NY outpost of a Japanese chain of 13 noodle restaurants, TsuruTonTan Udon Noodle Brasserie, on E. 16th St, right off Union Square Park. It occupies the former home of Union Square Cafe in Greenwich Village. Each dining area is beautifully backed by a tableaux evoking Japanese handicrafts, including a scene wrought with rope evoking Hokusai’s Great wave. As the name indicates, udon is the star here-these wheat noodles are made on site. Tsuru stands for the sound of noodle slurping, with Ton and Tan standing in for the sounds of kneading and shaping, vs. cutting udon noodles.

It ended up being 3 of us for dinner, Clarissa staying home sick, and her husband Jason meeting up with us. We enjoyed our cocktails with a Japanese twist, Jason having the intensely green Matcha on the Moon, with a Yusu liquor Tokyo mule for me. We shared some small starters, the smashed cucumber salad and brussel sprouts in grated sesame sauce. I opted for the Tsuruton curry deluxe, served in an enormous bowl with pork tonkatsu, beef shavings and shrimp tempura, and also enjoyed sampling Steve’s sweeter sukiyaki selection. It was oh so savory and satisfying, albeit very filling, that we elected to waddle home.

Passing by Angelika Film Center on the way home, I popped in to see when the next showing of Elle was, another film I had really been wanting to see in recent months. It was then 9 pm, and the next show was at 9:30! Must have been meant to be! Steve continued on to the hotel a few blocks away and I took in the film while digesting my udon.

A few months before, I read a profile of the film’s star, Isabelle Huppert, in the NYT, which made me determined to see both of the films mentioned, in which the actress plays vastly different characters. We had seen one of these Isabelle Huppert films in recent months, Things to Come (L’Avenir, or The Future en français), in Sedona, in which she portrays a philosophy professor at a cross-roads after her husband leaves her.

Elle is a compelling, shocking, difficult to categorize thriller, with a black comedic edge. It opens with a brutal rape scene, with Huppert’s Michèle responding to the violence in a contained and surprising way that forecasts only how unexpectedly this story will unfold. Sadly, this was the last showing of my own private snow-bound NY film festival. As Jason pointed out, at the south end of Ludlow St, on which we were staying, was yet another arthouse cinema, a newer offering, the Metrograph, which would have been a perfect complement to this trifecta, but alas…next time!

Thursday, March 16, 2017

was still cold but brilliantly sunny. All of New York bundled up and poured outside to soak up the sun, after 2 days of snow, overcast and slush.

We started our day 2 doors down from the hotel at Ludlow Coffee Supply, with avocado toast and banana bread with our coffees.

Iconic! The Flatiron Building in NYC

We finally made it to Prada, but alas, nothing was marked down. We walked north toward the Flatiron District toward our lunch rendezvous with Sally, a new friend we met in Takamatsu at Isamu Noguchi’s studio in Japan in November. She and her architect husband Wids and Steve and I were the only English speaking visitors that morning, so were paired up for a guided tour of the evocative spaces. This being in the immediate aftermath of the election, we bonded over our shared love of great design and despair at the country’s direction. Sally is also a francophile, being a former French teacher, and a Paris regular…evidement, we found a lot in common!

For lunch, I had suggested Cosme, which I had been wanting to try. As it turned out, Sally had also been wanting to try it, so we were on the same wavelength there. It is the first NYC outpost of Mexican chef Enrique Olvera, whose offerings at Pujol in Mexico City made us swoon on our MOPA trip 3 years ago. It was surprisingly easy to obtain a lunch reservation a few days in advance. Sally and I sampled the spicy margaritas, and shared “poisoned” oysters. We all enjoyed the ayocote bean salad with radish and charred cucumber vinaigrette, as well as branzino a la talla and duck carnitas tacos. Everything was scrumptious, but the tacos were killer! We also shared a signature dessert, husk meringue and corn mousse, an unusual sweet and subtly savory offering.

To burn off our lunch, we walked north via the Highline, again bound for the theater district, this time to see Cate Blanchett in an adaptation of an early Chekhov “long play without a title”. More commonly known as Platonov, here it is called The Present, updated to post-perestroika Russia and mounted by the Sydney Theater company. This was another of Clarissa’s suggestions, more “research” in advance of our trip to Russia together this summer.

The incandescent Cate Blanchett starred as a general’s widow on the eve of her 40th birthday. This momentous birthday party brings together her suitors, their sons, her stepson, his friend and their former tutor, as well as their wives and girlfriends. Richard Roxburgh stars as Mikhail Platonov, a womanizer whose attentions to all of the women present at the weekend party wrecks havoc in all of their lives.

We had seen an al fresco, video-enhanced version of Platonov at the 2013 inaugural Without Walls festival of La Jolla Playhouse which was a trip, but found this version, an adaptation by Andrew Upton, Cate Blanchett’s husband, both surprisingly funny and supremely poignant.

We barely made it to Danji, for Korean small plates, before the kitchen closed. We were too late to do the tasting menu we had enjoyed before, so put together a “light” meal of beef sliders, kimchi trio, shrimp and scallion pancake, and butternut squash soup.

Friday, March 17, 2017

St. Patrick’s Day, still cold, but warmer, brilliantly sunny, with smaller piles of slush at each street corner. Steve abandoned the boots, but I still clung to these knee high security blankets one final day.

St. Patrick’s Day in NYC, near Bryant Park

We headed west from the hotel, to the new home, as of a year ago, of the ICP, International Center of Photography. It is virtually across the street from the New Museum, which we had passed before, but somehow we hadn’t seen it before. Surprisingly, this is the first museum we’ve visited this trip that is not a member of the North American Reciprocal Group and we actually had to pay for admission. Apparently, the ICP was in a rented space in its former home not far from Time Square. The café in front is a pleasant and sunny space for a coffee before heading into the galleries. The exhibits are heavy on video art. One room I found interesting was about the use by ISIS of propagandistic films and social media to attract recruits. Another was devoted to work exploring gender fluidity. Some of what appeared to be video installations actually were slideshows of the work of photographic artists who document elements of LGBT life.

For lunch, we found ourselves again walking north to the Flatiron District on the same trajectory as the prior day. We were meeting San Diego friends who are New York part-timers, Mel and Gail, for lunch at Le Coq Rico, exactly one block south of yesterday’s lunch at Cosme.

We arrived a few minutes late, to find that Mel and Gail were delayed by St. Patrick’s Day traffic and we were the first to arrive.

Even the dining room pays homage to the chicken, which is revered here. Instead of paintings, there are panels filled with white fluffy feathers, and lone feathers are suspended from the ceiling.

Their three-course lunch for $38 offered several selections for starter, main course and dessert. Steve and Gail selected the deviled eggs starter, while Mel and I enjoyed the chicken liver salad. We all elected the quarter chicken (Brune Landaise, 110 days) with salad for a main course, and split between traditional French dessert offerings of l’ile flottante and baba au rhum.

The chef, Antoine Westermann, is from Alsace, and formerly helmed a 3 Michelin star restaurant in Strasbourg. He also owns restaurants in Paris, including the well known Mon Vieil Ami on the Ile Saint-Louis.

Walking north toward the theater district, the crowds became thicker and thicker, and more and more green punctuated the usual sea of black. Bryant Park was especially pretty, ringed by tall and beautiful buildings, with shafts of sunlight angling through the bare trees across the persistent snow.

Bryant Park in NYC in snow

Sportin’ a bit o’ St. Paddie’s Day green, Bryant Park in NYC

We visited Aaron in his firehouse, the “Pride of Midtown”, at 48th and Eighth Avenue. Only the day before, Aaron and his colleagues saved a family of four from a fire in their Upper West Side apartment, with Aaron personally pulling a 19-year-old girl through a window to safety. Arriving at the scene, they could hear her screaming, but the building itself was enshrouded by scaffolding, obscuring the source. Up on the ladder, her frantic fingers, between the air conditioner and the window, were their clue to the correct apartment. After yanking the air conditioner out, he was able to pull her to safety.

We had a few minutes to relax at the café inside Signature Theater before the 7:30 performance of Branden Jacobs-Jenkins’ Everybody, an interesting new piece also recommended by Clarissa. It proved to be a comical riff on a 15th century morality play, with characters representing Death, God, Everybody, Friendship, Stuff, Love, Kinship, among others. We had an additional, almost comical, element provided by an elderly couple seated behind us, who clearly just did not get this play. It began with what seemed at first to be the standard announcements, to turn off cell phones, unwrap candies and cough lozenges, etc, but much longer and funnier than usual, delivered by a cheerful woman in a staff T-shirt. Most of the audience caught on within a minute or two that her monologue was part of the show and were laughing merrily, while this couple fretted: “This is going on too long…this isn’t funny!”

I suspect the male half was the source of quiet snores I heard emanating from behind us later in the show, with the theater completely darkened, with disembodied voices in the dark discussing Everybody’s dream. That wasn’t all that disturbing, at least not compared to their later discussion, out loud, not even whispered, as to whether to go or not. At that point, I and others in the vicinity lost patience with them and they were roundly shushed.

Saturday, March 18, 2017

was a cold, sleety, monotonous overcast sky day. Sarah picked us up in her Element, which somehow swallowed up our swollen luggage entourage. The big suitcase had thickened in circumference, with the new foul weather boots and wetsuit booties, as well as the more fashionable footwear, requiring the expand-o-matic zipper to be deployed to encompass everything. We made our way to the firehouse, where Aaron was outside, in shorts despite the cold, defending a parking space in front of the house. We tried going to Ippudo, a steaming bowl of ramen seeming to be just what the day required, but the 1-1.5 hour wait was a no go, with our imminent airport departure on the afternoon’s horizon. So, Tanner Smith’s it was, with a nice band playing. Sadly, being the middle of the day and an airport to negotiate, we weren’t able to fully assess the “House of Cocktails”, but I can attest the brussel sprout hash was delicious, while Sarah enjoyed her shrimp-n-grits.

We had timed our lunch and return to JFK with enough time for a return to the Isamu Noguchi Museum. Visiting the Noguchi studio in Japan in November had reminded us how very long it had been since we had seen his New York workshop turned museum in Long Island City. It is certainly easier to visit the Noguchi Museum in New York, which has regular hours, while the Japanese outpost must be reserved in advance for particular time slots 3 days a week. They are both well worth the effort, both displaying the sensuous and tactile works in indoor and outdoor spaces of Noguchi’s creation. While it was nice to see the garden with residual snow, the extreme cold made it difficult to linger very long outdoors.

It was a great way to end a very eventful snowy and exceptionally cold and windy week. We had come for Come From Away’s official Broadway launch, and had been gratified by good reviews and reception. Over the week after opening night, there had been a veritable avalanche of press, thanks to Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attending one of the first regular performances, on Wednesday, bringing with him a roster of Canadian luminaries, as well (ironically) the First Daughter and U.N. Ambassador, Nikki Haley. We had scoped out the competition, and found it to be worthy, especially Dear Evan Hansen. Great theater, food and the company of friends and family, and no broken ankles, made for a great week in the Frozen Apple.

Transportation options were reduced during our  snow-bound March 2017 week in NYC!  Thanks to new Muck boots, we still logged many miles during the week!

 

 

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