June 8th, 2008

storyteller doll

Sleeping in the City that Doesn't

Usually, when I go to New York, I stay at my mother's house. That has several disadvantages, however. While the comfort level has improved since she finally replaced the mattress in the guest room (i.e. my old bedroom), the noise level has not. And, of course, there is the Mom drives me nuts factor.

But the single biggest factor that sometimes drives me to stay elsewhere is the sheer inconvenience of staying chez Mom. The Long Island Railroad runs only hourly on the weekends and then it's still nearly a mile to her house from the train station. So every so often I go up and stay in the city.

My favorite hotel experience there was at The Library Hotel. The gimmick there is that the rooms are themed by the Dewey Decimal system and each one has a large collection of books that match its theme. It's normally beyond my budget, but there was a mixup with another hotel and I got to stay at The Library at the rate I'd have paid for a boring chain. There's something inherently charming about being asked "fiction or nonfiction" when checking in. If I could afford it, I'd stay there regularly, choosing either room 900.006 (travel biography) or 800.005 (fairy tales). Room 800.006 (mysteries) is also a possibility.

More often, I deal with the expense by using the hotel points from a mixture of business travel and stays in cheaper places. The Doubletree Guest Suites in midtown has a perfect location for theatre going and is conducive to those times when I actually go to two shows in the same day. This trip involved a Hilton Garden Inn in Chelsea, which was simply what was available when making last minute plans. Since I was just there one night, the proximity to Penn Station was handy. I also thought of agedwiz and his "Out My Hotel Window" photo series when I looked out mine and saw The Empire State Building.

I've been thinking about getting a very compact digital camera that I can carry in my pocket. That view would have been a good reason for doing so.
storyteller doll

Seeing London from Brooklyn

As you may have deduced from the previous entry, I made a quick trip up to New York this weekend. I left Friday after work, spent the morning in Brooklyn and lower New York and headed back to midtown for lunch and a show. Which gave me enough time for a browse through Macy's and dinner before a train back to Washington and collapse from exhaustion.

Why Brooklyn? That's the borough I have spent the least time in. (Yes, I've spent more time on Staten Island as I have a relative who lives there.) When I read about The Telectroscope, I thought it would be fun to see. Of course, the whole Victorian idea about placing mirrors in a trans-Atlantic tunnel has been superseded by technology and it's pretty obvious that you're looking at a high speed video connection. The idea works as a interesting art project and was a good excuse to wander around Brooklyn Heights a bit.

I'd taken the subway down (complicated by track maintenance affecting the A and C trains and, I have to say, the New York transit system is not as user friendly as Washington's when it comes to explaining these outages and what to do about them). But I was right at the Brooklyn Bridge and I'd never actually been on the Brooklyn Bridge and it made sense to walk across it. Since I'm a bit phobic about bridges, that seems strange but it really isn't bad. The pedestrian walkway is actually in the middle of the bridge (above the vehicular traffic), so it's not like the one over the Mississippi near St. Louis where you see water under gratings below your feet at times. The traffic vibrations did make me uncomfortable reading the information plaques at each side of the bridge, however.

When you get to the Manhattan side, you have the lovely Municipal Building right in front of you. I decided to just do a bit of meandering around the area. Specifically, I was trying to remember which was the building my father had worked in. His building didn't stand out in and of itself, but how could I possibly have forgotten the Woolworth Building, which is right across the street from it? I guess it's been a long time since I've been anywhere below the Village.

Since I was there, I walked around Ground Zero, which is, frankly, more interesting for people watching than as a site. The tragedy was human and nothing about the site itself tells that story. And I find the vendors with their books of tragedy and little models of the World Trade Center to be creepy. I walked back to the subway and headed back uptown.
storyteller doll

Curtains

The major reason for my excursion to New York was seeing "Curtains," which is closing at the end of the month. I enjoyed the Kander and Ebb series at Signature Theatre so much, that I couldn't resist seeing this one on Broadway. Especially since touring dates have not yet been announced and it takes forever for touring companies to get to D.C., probably because they figure that everybody who already wanted to see any given show would have just gone to New York to do so.

It proved to be an excellent decision. I was hesitant about the "show within a show" bit (the story involves a murder during out of town tryouts of a musical). What I hadn't realized was the upside of having bits of a 1959 musical worked in, with the more traditional musical comedy style of song and dance. The score was delightful, the lyrics generally witty ("The Woman's Dead" had stuff like "The sky is blue / Her lips are too" and I can never resist things like rhyming "thataway" with "Piscataway"), and the choreography spectacular. David Hyde Pierce got a Tony for his performance, but I was as impressed by Debra Monk and Karen Ziemba (who were nominated and didn't win).

In addition to the production numbers, I have to mention two other songs. "Coffee Shop Nights" struck me as a gem of character illumination. And I have to wonder how much of "I Miss the Music" was Kander thinking of Fred Ebb's death.

I've been trying to thin my collection of recordings, but I plan to buy the CD of this cast album.

The trip was definitely worth it, despite the difficulties getting home. My train left New York almost half an hour late and had problems with the air conditioning. They held us a while at Philadelphia trying to repair it and finally transferred us to another train at Baltimore (the one that left NY an hour later). Then we were held there because of track problems which meant single tracking down to BWI (and possibly all the way to New Carrolton). So I got home about an hour and a half later than I expected to. Oh, well, I don't have anything I absolutely have to get done today.