I <3 NY

Let me just start by saying how absolutely delighted I was that I got to see this current production of Spring Awakening. I’d actually first read about it during its initial run in Los Angeles and it sounded amazing. When I heard it was moving to Broadway for a limited run, I planned to get tix to go along with tickets to Hamilton – only to discover SA was scheduled to close a week before my arrival in NYC in January. Well, they extended the show by a couple of weeks – not only did I get to see it, I got my tix for half-price at TKTS.

Now the show was not without its flaws – having seen the roadshow of the original production back in 2009, I was so enamored of the music that I didn’t cast too critical an eye on the story itself which is a bit overwrought (though I suppose that this is an accurate interpretation of how teenagers view their own lives…) – but I noticed it this time. Also, I think they pared down a couple of the musical numbers – which I can understand, given that half the cast is deaf, but it was a bit of a disappointment for me.

With all that being said, I thought this particular imagining of the show was masterful. Pairing deaf and hearing actors who performed using voice and ASL was astonishing from a technical perspective but also added another layer to the story’s portrayal of the difficult and awkward transition from child to grown-up – especially for adolescents seen by parents and teachers as not measuring up or being different. The use of a pair of performers in the roles of both Wendla and Moritz – a deaf actor taking the lead, while a hearing counterpart also appeared on stage to sing and deliver lines vocally not so much as an interpreter but as an alter ego to the character – was really quite extraordinary.

Suffice it to say, this was a wonderful evening at the theater. And almost as wonderful? My Jewish deli fix post-theater at Sarge’s. Pastrami delicious as always and the matzoh ball soup saved me from the near hypothermia I’d suffered on the walk their…

Tuesday morning I headed back to TKTS at South Street Seaport – again, took advantage of the 11AM opening time AND the fact that they sell matinee tix the day before the performance rather than day of in Times Square. Got a great seat for Arthur Miller’s “A View from the Bridge,” featuring jug-eared dreamboat Russell Tovey. Rowr…

Headed back uptown, including a blustery walk along the Highline, for lunch with my dear friend Ralph. Returned to Porteño, an Argentinian place we’d been before (and which was the shortest walk from his office) and had a delicious plate of empanadas, followed by a chicken cutlet for me and a flank steak for him. And we kept the conversation light – starting off with the lead poisoning of the entire population of Flint, MI and ending up comparing notes on various friends and family battling cancer. We did manage to avoid comparing notes on our aching joints and other maladies associated with aging – though I’m sure that’ll be next… But I had a lovely time. As much as I love NYC in and of itself, some of my dearest friends live here and I’m always so happy to see them.

Speaking of friends, dinner that evening was with Michael and Justin at Artisanal Fromagerie (warning: site will autoplay audio, which is annoying AF; scroll down to stop it) where we had charcuterie and fondue and cheesecake and some really sensational wine. It was a perfect meal on this frigid night. Afterwards, caught up with my friend Dawna – she’s my theater buddy for this trip and had flown in that afternoon. We found a great little cocktail lounge right up the street from my hotel called The Raines Law Room. Super yummy cocktails as we regaled each other with our latest stories and plotted our plan of attack for shows.

Wednesday we met up at 11AM for Swedish meatballs at Smorgas Chef at Scandinavia House. It’s Restaurant Week here, so the prix fixe lunch was a reasonable $28. Then, off to Broadway! “Misery” for Dawna, “A View from the Bridge” for me. Had a bit of lie-down that afternoon, a snack downstairs at the hotel, then back to Broadway for the raison d’être for the trip: “Hamilton”!

I really enjoyed the show – smart, funny and rather brilliantly performed. My criticism? The love story component felt a little tacked on – but maybe that was because I found the political storyline, particularly in Act II, to be so engaging.

Dinner nearby, a brisk walk home and another day in NYC came to a close. Tomorrow, back to South Street Seaport TKTS to pick out another show to see Thursday night. Fingers crossed for “Fun Home”…

New York, New York!

Sunday morning flight from SFO to JFK. Seems simple enough – save for the fact that BART doesn’t start running to the airport until 830AM, meaning no way to make a 920AM flight. Which is bullshit. But whatever. And let’s be honest – as easy as BART is, it’s certainly a lot more pleasant to take a Lyft.

Anyway, this was my first time flying out of Terminal 2 – and it’s pretty darn gorgeous! I was a little disappointed that security lines really weren’t any better designed than other terminals, given that the T2 re-do was done in the post-9/11 era (Never Forget™) – but the line moved relatively quickly, so no major complaints.

I had a pass for the Admirals Club, AA’s lounge, so made myself at home. It was pretty nice and very quiet. Helped myself to a bagel and cream cheese and as much free water as I could drink! A pleasant respite before boarding my on-time flight on Virgin.

Of course, the other problem with traveling Sunday is that it’s mostly leisure travelers, i.e. rubes. It’s really amazing (by which I mean infuriating) how a handful of nincompoops who don’t how to board an aircraft can bring the proceedings to a complete halt. But other than that, flight was uneventful – the absolute best adjective for any commercial airline flight.

Took the Airtrain to catch the E into Manhattan. As I alit from the train, I noticed someone, presumably wrapping up their own stay in NYC, had placed their MetroCard on top of the trash can. I helped myself to this karmic good deed – thank you, kind fellow traveler – and not only did I save the $1.00 new card fee, there was still $5.59 left on the card! Certainly a good omen for the trip.

No express E trains plus re-routing to F tracks in Manhattan meant for a longer-than-usual trip, but it was fine (well, other than the aroma of vomit wafting in from the next car. City living!). Besides being the cheapest (and really just about the easiest) way into to the city, starting off a week in NYC on the subway is great because it reminds of two things I love about this city: everyone (for the most part) looks good and not everybody is white. “Melting pot” may be a cliché but it’s such a refreshing change from the homogeneity of SF.

Checked into the Pod 39 and was given an upgrade from the miniscule room I’d booked to one that is merely tiny. Hooray! But seriously, I’ve stayed here several times and it’s great – comfy bed, spotlessly clean, great location and (during off-season in January) extraordinarily well-priced. I’m paying about $80 a night for a nice place a couple of blocks from Grand Central. It’s an amazing deal.

Dinner up the street at Le Relais de Venise, the NYC outpost of a Parisian chain that offers only one thing on their menu – steak frites along with a salad for $28.75. Decent wine for $8 a glass is also on offer. The steak was pretty good – tender and tasty – and the secret sauce (which I understand is chicken liver based) certainly made the whole meal delicious. It’s by no means a prime, aged piece of beef – but it’s price-to-value ratio is second to none. Oh, and that portion in the photo? Yes, it looks rather petite – but that’s only the first serving. You’re served sliced steak and fries – but the other half of your steak is kept warm by the waitress, who serves you when you’ve finished the first half, along with another helping of hot frites.

I skipped dessert (which I of course regretted when I saw the next table getting theirs), but I figure I’ll be getting plenty to eat this week, so why gild the lily..? Back to the hotel for a fitful night’s sleep, thanks to my still being on CA time.

Slept in a bit, but was up and at ‘em by about 930. Weather forecast repeatedly referred to the weather as “bitterly cold” – and they were not wrong! But no snow, so it’s all good. Stopped down the street at a very small bagel place, where I ran into a traditional New Yorker – a lady occupying a four top and making sure no one else could sit there by putting her coat on one chair, and two different bags on the others. I kinda wished someone had asked to share (the place was packed) so I could’ve heard her response of, “Go fuck yourself.” As for me, I squeezed in at a less threatening table…

Was down at South Street Seaport TKTS before they opened at 11 and was fourth in line. The benefit of this location versus Times Square location (other than the obvious one of not being in Times Square) is that they open at 11AM rather than 3PM, meaning I could get my ticket and have the rest of the day free. Happily got my first choice – the Deaf West production of “Spring Awakening.”

With the rest of the afternoon to kill, I made my usual stop at Moscot to check out new glasses – decided on another pair of Lemtosh – though I’ll have to order online, since my insurance benefit doesn’t kick in until Feb 1.

Next, I decided to check if Ben Sherman over in Soho was having a sale – I’ve gotten some good bargains on previous trips to NYC in January. WELL. Everything in the store – EVERYTHING – was at least 60% off OR MORE. Granted, the assortment, while large, was a bit picked over in terms of sizes, but I managed to pick up half a dozen button-front shirts, a couple pairs of chinos and a smart jacket – and all for a song!

Shopping had me all worn out, so had a bowl of ramen at Mr. Taka. It was decent – though as far as $15 bowls of ramen are concerned, I’ve had better.

And now, back in my little room, having a lie-down before theater. Really looking forward to an evening of teen angst and ASL!