My daughter took me to see Present Laughter at the St. James Theatre in New York over Memorial Day weekend.
As some of you know, I was captivated by Coward when I was a young man – read everything there was to read by him and about him. I had plays, records, diaries, biographies, memoirs. You name it.
Coward even inspired me to smoke cigarettes. That was a bad idea. I switched to vape three years ago.
Through July 2, Kline stars in the lead role of Garry Essendine, one that Coward – AKA “The Master” – brought to life in all his self-absorbed glory in 1942.
But I am getting ahead of myself.
I spent an amazing long weekend in New York City with my equally amazing daughter, Taylor. What started out as a casual comment from Taylor – the fact that she had three days off and it would be great if I could finally come to see her – turned into an impromptu trip that I will cherish for the rest of my life.
I’m 53, and this was the first time I had ever been there.
There isn’t a good reason why I’d never been. I had entertained romantic thoughts of driving across the country when I was 18, taking jobs along the way and ultimately winding up in the Big Apple. Who didn’t at that age. But I know myself then as I know myself now – not much, mind you – but that trip wasn’t about to happen.
The ensuing decades enabled me to build up a solid repertoire of misconceptions about New York and New Yorkers. You know the stereotypes – like, watch it or you will surely get mugged in Times Square (holdover from the seedy 1970s) – or that New Yorkers are rude, impatient and always in a hurry. I know so many New Yorkers who are not those things at all. Why would it be different on their turf?
Billy Joel bragging about walking through Bedford-Stuyvesant alone in “You May Be Right” kind of worried me because that’s exactly where my daughter lives, although she doesn’t have a motorcycle and probably wouldn’t ride it in the rain if she did.
My imagination couldn’t quite make out what “The City” would really be like – the sights and sounds glamorized in movies and television – and the music – the litany of bright lights, big city stuff – the hustle and bustle – the “if-I-can-make-it-there-I’ll-make-it-anywhere,” mantra.
And the other New York, New York (On the Town) line, “The People ride in a hole in the ground,” made me wonder what the subways were all about.
Somehow, riding the London Underground and for that matter, the Los Angeles subway (Metro Red Line) made me think the subway experience in New York couldn’t be much different. How about the touring companies performing the myriad Broadway shows I caught at the now-defunct Shubert Theatre or the Music Center, or the Pantages Theatre in L.A. – could the Broadway experience really be much different?
And could a simple slice of pizza really be any better there?
And how was everything connected – the boroughs, the layout? The reality had to be different from my imagined version.
The thought of setting foot where the unspeakable tragedy of 911 happened was also a bit surreal, chilling, and profoundly sad.
And, finally, I was about to take it all in.
From the moment I got off the plane at JFK, I could feel the energy.
Over the next three days, Taylor and I relied on the trains and walked our asses of – and I am surprised at the sheer amount of ground we covered. Taylor gave me truly immersive experience, and with the exception of an excellent leisurely breakfast at place where she used to work, an outstanding French-American restaurant and café in Brooklyn called French Louie (where she reconnected with her friends and coworkers and I could feel the love), we relied on lighter, faster fare in the form of tuna melts from a bodega on her block in Bed-Stuy, a couple of slices of pizza on her block, bagels and an interesting culinary oddity from a place called Sushirrito – and more.
I am still a bit overwhelmed by the trip – and I wanted to get something down in this blog to get started, but I think this deserves multiple posts.
I think it’s fair to say that I will never be quite the same after this trip – and now, in the limited time I was there – I have been there, done that.
But I am struck with how well my daughter is doing up there, putting that College of Charleston communication degree to work, currently at an awesome advertising agency called SpotCo – specializing in theatre, and more specifically the branding of many leading productions.
Taylor has really gotten to know the lay of the land, has awesome roommates, and doesn’t appear to take any shit from anyone.
Thanks for the advice, kid – but I can’t help saying hello to strangers.
I will always remember our long weekend in “The City,” but spending time with Taylor was priceless!