Category Archives: theater

Lame Adventure 434: Encounters with Heroes and Orifices on the Street in the City

Back in the day, when I was a relatively young buck-ette barely into my thirties I was gainlessly employed as a wage slave in broadcast news. One of my more memorable colleagues during those years of indentured servitude was Ernestine Frobish*. Ernestine was a classic jaded New Yorker, sixteen years my senior. Not many people called Ernestine her first name. She was Frobish. Her natural disposition was sour, but once you got to know her, she was pleasant and witty. Every so often she would share a pearl of Froboshian wisdom. My favorite gem:

Frobish: If someone’s an asshole at seven, odds are good they’ll be an asshole at seventy.

Hold onto that pearl.

Fast forward to the present, about a week ago. After I’m cut loose from The Grind, located in Tribeca, I hightail over to the East Village where I’m meeting my bud, Milton, to see an off-Broadway play.

Makers of Ambien beware: Ingmar Bergman's masterpiece reimagined as a 3 1/2 hour play.

Makers of Ambien beware: Ingmar Bergman’s masterpiece reimagined as a 3 1/2 hour play.

Whether I take the subway or hotfoot my way east, it will take the same amount of time to reach the theater. It was an off day from my spin bike riding. I welcomed power walking through rush hour pedestrian traffic.

I am so fleet of foot!

I am so fleet of foot!

As I am deftly weaving my way through the throng, I make unintentional shoulder contact with a woman thirty-five years my junior and thirty-five pounds my senior. The g-force of the impact is so significant I bounce off her. I am  airborne. My feet are off the ground. I am one with the pigeons!

"Dream on sister, you're not one of us."

“Dream on sister, you’re not one of us.”

Alas, I am not of avian descent. The street is packed with stores, all with plate glass windows that will shatter if a human flies into one at warp speed — my exact destiny. Fortunately, instead of crash landing through a storefront and marring both the display and my facial structure, two millennials of Japanese descent come to my rescue. This miracle couple catches me ensuring that I make a soft landing on my feet as opposed to a thunderously loud and very painful Fred Flintstone-style imprint though exploding glass. The woman who made the initial contact with my shoulder apologizes profusely. I, in turn, thank my saviors. It was a very civil and polite exchange to an event that lasted seconds, felt surreal and ended happily for all involved.

Ten minutes later, I join Milton completely forgetting about my flying episode moments earlier. I am fixated on his blue wristband, a wristband needed to gain entry into the theater, matching his blue water bottle cap. Life proceeds as usual.

Color coordinated Milton.

Color coordinated Milton.

On Sunday, there was the People’s Climate March. It was heavily promoted on the subway, in the news and even on trees in my neighborhood.

Upper West Side tree doing its part for the Peoples Climate March.

Upper West Side tree doing its part for the People’s Climate March.

I wanted to participate as a show of support because I believe that global warming is an even greater threat to human survival than terrorism. On the other hand, if I were held hostage and about to be decapitated, I would revise that thinking in a nanosecond. I had an ushering gig on PCM day so I could not participate in the march. The play I ushered was Bootycandy, an outrageous assembly of skits about being black and gay. I enjoyed that ushering gig immensely. And I felt guilty about that considering that the planet is dying.

The theater, Playwrights Horizons, is located on 42nd Street, which was directly along the route of the march. Times Square is always crowded, but it was even more crowded with an additional 310,000 people marching in the middle of it.

People and puppets marching.

People and puppets marching.

I knew that 42nd Street would be a zoo so I left my sanctum sanctorum earlier than usual. After exiting the subway, I walked down the busy avenue at half-speed, consciously avoiding bouncing off any oncoming shoulders or tripping over tots in strollers. As I passed a seemingly innocuous woman about my age, over fifty and under death, walking with a man, probably her husband, she gave me the hairy eyeball.

Seemingly Innocuous Woman: Look at her! Where does she think she’s going, that [insert c-bomb]!

She called me the word that rhymes with punt. I didn’t make contact with her, but she was spewing venom at me? Why, did she suffer Tourette syndrome? For a flash, I irrationally wondered if she might be heading to my play. She wasn’t. I concluded that she was a bitter bat with no filter. I remembered Frobish’s pearl of wisdom and looked on the bright side: I didn’t attend second grade with that asshole, and hopefully, I won’t encounter her again when she’s seventy.

*Yes, this is a Lame Adventures name.

Lame Adventure 427: Can we complain?

About two months ago I saw the Broadway play Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill with my friend, Milton. He stood in line at the crack of dawn to snag a pair of terrific $40 rush ticket seats that were very close to the stage. These seats were so incredible that when Audra MacDonald, who transformed herself into Billie Holiday, took her bow at the end of the show, Milton threw caution to the wind and committed a cardinal sin of theater going: he snapped a shot with his iPhone. You’re not supposed to sneak pictures inside a theater, but more and more people are doing that these days with the proliferation of smart phones.

When everyone was applauding, Milton snapped this shot.

When everyone was applauding, Milton snapped this shot.

As we were waiting for Lady Day to start, I noticed that Joan Rivers was sitting across from us toward the back of the theater. Normally, Milton is the one with the celebrity spotting radar. He was very impressed that I noticed Joan. I was stunned because I hardly ever notice anyone. My natural inclination is to observe urban wildlife, bags stuck in trees, gum blots on the sidewalk or clouds. But sometimes, even when I attempt to photograph those sights, I get it wrong.

"Hey, this isn't the clouds above!"

Unintended selfie.

Fluffy clouds I was intending to take.

Fluffy clouds I was intending to take first.

As the crowd was exiting the theater at the end of Lady Day, a guy shouted:

Guy: Joan Rivers!

That alert prompted everyone to recognize her. She was besieged like metal to magnet. Milton was surprised that I didn’t join the masses that were photographing her, but I was on a Billie Holiday high. Later, I regretted not taking a picture. How often do I get to see a living comedy legend?

This past weekend, I volunteer ushered a very entertaining play at Second Stage Theater written by Laura Eason and directed by David Schwimmer called Sex with Strangers. When the house manager emailed the volunteers about accepting requests to usher this production, I leaped headfirst through my computer screen to get a slot, somewhat inspired by the thought provoking title.

There are four ushering slots per performance, three in the front of the house and one in the back, where I was assigned. The back can be a no man’s land if the box balcony is not busy, and there were only four people sitting in that section. They were offered a free upgrade to better seats, but three were content to stay in their assigned seats. I thought that was odd because they didn’t look brain damaged. Two explained to me that they like sitting in a section that was essentially all to themselves because they wanted to spread out. Extra legroom took priority over a better view.

As I was watching audience members file into the theater, my usually defective celebrity spotting radar activated for the only celebrity I can recognize: Joan Rivers. Yes, Joan and I were in the same theater at the same time once again. The play’s 3 pm Sunday curtain was delayed due to technical difficulties, something that can happen on occasion in live theater. Audience members were offered free wine at the concession stand. This induced a slight stampede.

Before heading to the concession stand, Joan glad-handed the ushers working in the front of the house, oblivious to the one working in the back. She went to the concession stand where she graciously mingled and took selfies with audience members. I snuck a few crummy shots of her from my post with my iPhone.

The best of my crummy Joan shots.

The best of my crummy Joan shots.

After the play ended and the audience had left, I was working clean up towards the front of the house when Joan returned with her entourage via the back of the house. She was meeting the cast, Anna Gunn and Billy Magnussen, back stage. And, once again, I got to miss meeting Joan.

Having the thrill of seeing this living comedy legend twice in two months, I have concluded that she is a celebrity who sincerely welcomes meeting with the public. I think that’s very stand up of her. If I have a third opportunity to be in the right place at the right time to see her again, and I probably have a better shot at winning the Triple Crown riding a saw horse, I’ll refrain from blurting, “Joan Rivers!” But, if she were on board, I would love to take a selfie with her.

Lame Adventure 426: Am I Being Tested?

I admit that I will never be mistaken for someone who is conducting a passionate love affair with their day job. What I do is label tile, an occupation that is equal to tossing years of one’s life off a cliff, but I make an effort to consciously label tile accurately. Labeling tile is an honest, and at times, a stupid living. A recent example of stupid: I received a delivery of tile samples where I discovered I was missing two tiles. I notified the vendor that I needed two more pieces of three-inch square tile, one in the color, Latte Matte, and the other in Steel Grey Matte. Pictured below is what the vendor sent me in the follow-up delivery.

The story of my life in three tiles.

The story of my life in three tiles.

One of the many reasons why I enjoy living in New York so much is that I love the culture. It’s everywhere including in the street.

It's those krazy klowns: Kim and Kanye!

It’s those krazy klowns: Kim and Kanye!

But I also love the theater. Last week, my friend, Milton, treated me to the current Broadway revival of the musical Cabaret playing at Studio 54 starring Alan Cumming and Michelle Williams. This was my Christmas present. When Milton purchased the tickets in 2013, the best seats available were for this performance in July. We’re two patient people who were fine with celebrating our Christmas in July. For those of you who appreciate feedback about shows (the rest of you skip to the next paragraph): this is a terrific revival of a brilliant musical. We were both entirely in our bliss. Alan Cumming has been playing the role of the Emcee off and on since 1993. He was born to play this seductive character. Milton noted that for a guy who is not very handsome, Alan Cumming is so charismatic in that role, he becomes the sexiest guy in the world. This revival is a first for Michelle Williams who had never appeared on the Broadway stage before. She’s cast as Sally Bowles, a role I had only seen on film played extraordinarily by Liza Minnelli. Michelle plays Sally as someone sincere but with minimal talent. Her Sally is infinitely heartbreaking. When Liza powerfully belts the title song, Cabaret, in the film, I recall feeling uplifted. When Michelle’s Sally sings it earnestly on stage, I had the impression that she’s thinking that she’s going to follow the lead of the friend who died “from too much pills and liquor”. She was so vulnerable. We thought she did a fine job in that pivotal role. It’s a shame that she did not score a Tony award nomination. We thought she got robbed. It was a great night of theater in New York City.

Usually, Milton and I find ways to get discounts on our theater ticket purchases. One way is to subscribe to a theater company’s season. One of the theater companies we subscribe to is the Public Theater. Recently, we had to order all of our tickets for the 2014-2015 season. We got great seats at great prices on all the dates we wanted. I had the tickets mailed to my apartment. Imagine my dismay when I opened my mailbox to find our tickets in this envelope. My friend, Coco, suggested it could double as a skateboard ramp.

Special delivery.

Special delivery.

It rained buckets that day, but if my letter carrier had a beef with Mother Nature, was it necessary to direct the hostility on our theater tickets? This person had to shove our ticket envelope into my letterbox, and then they rolled and plunged two catalogs and that week’s issue of The New Yorker on top of the envelope. This took concentration and force. I told Milton that I sniffed the envelope and was relieved that it did not noticeably smell like urine.

There are days when I don’t feel like labeling tile samples, but I’m not going to take a hammer, smash them to smithereens, and send them off for display. By doing my job relatively whole assed, I can afford to attend the theater. As for my letter carrier, I’m unsure what to think other than I’m irked.



I wish he or she would invest in another way to express hostility, preferably far away from my mail, possibly at a more appropriate place like an active volcano. Occasionally, I have to junk discontinued tile samples. Maybe I should offer them to my letter carrier to throw when feeling rage.

At least our tickets are smiling.

Our tickets are smiling.

Lame Adventure 419: The B Word

The b word I have in mind is birthday. Mine occurred on Sunday. This is the first birthday in forever that I am physically fit. On December 30th, I stopped eating like a starving hog and started riding a spin bike for 40 minutes four days a week. I’ve been a barnacle to my diet and exercise routine. As a result, I’ve shed a dozen pounds, went down a pant size and rediscovered my waistline. When I glimpse myself naked in the mirror my immediate thought is no longer:

Me: Ugh, I’ve gotta do something about that.

Now that I’ve returned to being lean, I wonder:

Me: Why are you still single?

Another dividend of de-flabbing is that I have much more energy and I feel much less cranky. On Saturday, I was walking down my block when I encountered a squirrel. We made meaningful eye contact. I dug my hand into my pocket. The squirrel looked hopeful. I took out my iPhone. The squirrel realized that I was a useless source for treats, scampered under a shrub and dug out a snack from its stash. The critter then hopped onto a ledge and struck a pose.

Last critter photographed at 54.

Last cute critter photograph at 54.

I snapped a shot. A woman approached:

Woman: What’s he eating?

The Old Me: How the hell do I know? Do I look like a squirrel-ologist?

Now that I’m mellow I’ve muted my snark. If she was lesbian and we had chemistry, this could have been a brilliant way to meet: bonding over a charming rodent nibbling God-knows-what.

As for my birthday, I’m not big on celebrating, but I appreciate low-key acknowledgment. My friends and family know that I’m not into gifts. My bud, Coco, once remarked in sheer exasperation:

Coco: You’re the hardest person in the world to get a black tee shirt for.

I welcome cards and my annual birthday cake at The Grind. This year, I wanted a pie, specifically an apple pie. My boss, Elspeth, opened her wallet, and my colleague, Godsend, ordered the exact pie I craved: crumb topped from Billy’s Bakery. Billy’s is known for their cakes, but note this fellow pie enthusiasts: Billy’s crumb topped apple pie is superb.

Birthday pie.

Birthday pie.

My birthday wouldn’t be complete without attending the theater with Milton. This weekend, we saw two plays on Broadway. As I power slept on Saturday he rose at daybreak to wait in line for $29 rush seat tickets to The Velocity of Autumn, a one act play starring Estelle Parsons and Stephen Spinella.

Pre-theater crowd waiting to enter.

Pre-theater crowd waiting to enter.

It’s a very moving, unsentimental story about a middle age son trying to talk his elderly mother out of blowing up her Brooklyn brownstone with one hundred Molotov cocktails she has scattered throughout her home in defiance of his siblings demand that she enter assisted living. It is not a comedy, but it is packed with hilarious jokes. It strikes many chords about aging whether you’re 85 or 55.

86-year-old Estelle Parsons delivered a knockout performance as the mother. She was nominated for the Best Actress Tony award last week. Ticket sales were slow so the producers closed the show on Sunday. Because time was running out to see it, Milton hightailed to the Booth Theatre’s box office in pursuit of the cheap seats. He scored third row orchestra, but was warned that they were partial view, proving the new adage that skinflints can’t be choosers. When we got to our row C seats that hugged the theater’s wall, Milton gasped in terror:

Milton: What an angle!



Fortunately, when the curtain lifted, the view was good. Milton declared:

Milton: I would gladly pay $29 to see every show on Broadway from this seat.

Stephen Spinella and Estelle Parson at curtain call.

Stephen Spinella and Estelle Parsons at curtain call.

On Sunday, my birthday proper, we saw Of Mice and Men starring James Franco and Chris O’Dowd. We bought those tickets in January. The theater was packed with young women, many probably attending a Broadway play for the first time. But they behaved. No one screamed or threw her underwear at the leading men.

Pre-theater crowd entering the Longacre Theater.

Pre-theater crowd outside the Longacre Theater.

Ben Brantley of the New York Times gave this inspired revival a bitchy review. He ridiculously compared James Franco to Yosemite Sam. Milton said that for film stars that had never performed on Broadway, both gave very solid performances. We thought it was entertaining. Furthermore, Milton never once complained about having to climb 51 stairs up to the balcony.

First pigeon photograph at 55.

First crummy pigeon photograph at 55.

This year is off to a great start.

Lame Adventure 418: Stair Crazy

My friend, Milton, is trying to come to grips with having to climb 79 steps to see the Broadway play, The Realistic Joneses, from the balcony of the Lyceum Theatre next month. Looking as if he’d just seen Donald Trump pre-elaborate comb over, he groused:

Milton: That’s like climbing five flights.

When Milton mentioned five flights that struck a chord with me. I have climbed up and down five flights every day over the course of the nearly ten years I have been employed at The Grind. During any given work day I scamper up and down those stairs several times. When I left on Friday night with my colleague, Godsend, we counted the steps. They numbered 84. That’s a heart attack waiting to happen for those that do not ride a clothes rack that doubles as a spin bike.

Excluding weekends, vacation time and holidays, I whipped out my abacus and calculated that I easily climb 50,000 steps every year at my place of employ. Multiply that by ten years and the total is half a million steps. And that’s a conservative estimate. But why stop with the stairs I climb while at The Grind? What about the stairs I climb on my way there, leaving my sanctum sanctorum (a third floor walk-up: 34 steps) and entering the 72nd Street subway station (26 steps), then exiting the Franklin Street subway station (26 more steps)? Coupled with doubling those numbers for my return trip, that adds another 40,000 steps to the equation. In essence, over the course of the past ten years, I have climbed at least 900,000 work-related steps. In reality, the number is probably much closer to a million steps. Too bad I’m not paid a dollar per step.

Downtown 72nd Street subway station staircase I have climbed down countful (considering the nature of this post) times.

Downtown 72nd Street subway station staircase I have climbed down countful (considering the nature of this post) times.

Then, I turned my focus to my third floor walk-up apartment, where I have resided close to 31 years. I calculated that I have easily climbed up and down over three million sanctum sanctorum-related steps these past three decades.

Some of the less than magic carpeted stairs in my sanctum sanctorum.

Some of the less than magic carpeted stairs in my sanctum sanctorum.

What about my childhood? My childhood home had three levels and my room was on the top floor. There were approximately eighteen steps in that climb, a climb I made numerous times over the course of twenty-one years. The conservative estimate is a million steps climbed. Impressive for a slacker.

As for when I was an undergraduate Film student at NYU(seless), my dorm room was on the fourth floor. I took the stairs, so let’s toss in another 40,000 steps scaled there. I recall that I rode an elevator to get to most of my classes. That’s about all I remember from my illustrious film school education and probably explains why I make my living labeling tile today.

When I worked a completely thankless job for eleven years in broadcast news, my office was on the sixth floor. I would ride the elevator up but walk the six flights down when I took my lunch break and left for the day. I never thought to count those steps possibly because my attention was focused on how much I hated working in broadcast news. Today, my friend, Coco, lives on the top floor of a six-floor walkup. I asked her to count the stairs to her lair.

Coco: There are 80 lovely steps. I pray there is never a fire.

Over the course of those eleven years I worked in broadcast news, often six-day weeks, I climbed down approximately 80 stairs twice a day. If I worked a five-day week, factoring in three weeks vacation and time off (we always had to work holidays in news) that would be at least 440,000 steps climbed over eleven miserable years. The figure probably well exceeds 500,000 steps considering how many weekends I had to work.

In conclusion I have calculated that over the course of my entire life thus far, I have climbed the following steps:

Childhood Home 21 years (excluding from birth to age two): 1 million

College dorm room 1 year: 40,000

Manhattan apartment 31 years: 3 million

Miserable broadcast news job 11 years: 500,000

The Grind (including commute) 10 years: 1 million

Miscellaneous: 2 million*

Example of miscellaneous steps: steps leading into off-Broadway theater bathroom.

Example of miscellaneous steps: steps leading into off-Broadway theater bathroom.

*Figure pulled completely out of thin air.

It seems that I have climbed in the vicinity of 8 million steps in the course of my life. This achievement reminds me that the staircase is a great design wonder like the wheel or the shoebox, coincidentally another name for my apartment. Possibly after Milton reads this post he’ll feel less grumpy about having to climb 158 steps (79 up and 79 down) when we see that hit comedy play. Or, this will further remind him about how much he resents the theater’s lack of another great invention: the escalator.

Lame Adventure 417: Theater Karma

As much as I love theater, I hate the ticket prices. But, it is my passion so I try to see as many plays as I can for bottom dollar. Volunteer ushering off-Broadway plays has allowed me to see three of the last five Pulitzer prize winning shows for free. Unfortunately, Broadway does not allow volunteer ushers. About a week ago, Milton, sent me an email asking about The Realistic Joneses a 95 minute hit comedy written by Will Eno playing on Broadway at the Lyceum Theatre. The poster features a dead squirrel lying atop a mailbox.

Eye catching poster.

Eye catching poster.

Milton wrote:

Milton: Are you interested in this?

Is grass green, is the pope Catholic, does New York stink in summer? Sign us up! Because we are both of modest means, we agreed that we would settle for balcony seats to the tune of $39 each. We’re not wild about seeing it from the proximity of Canada, but at least we’re getting to see it. The ticket seller asked:

Ticket seller: Can you handle climbing seventy-nine steps?

Me (thinking): Is this a test, should I be insulted, can she not see that I am the icon of fitness for my age demographic?

Me (answering): Yes, absolutely!

As soon as I spoke I imagined Milton screaming:

Milton: I’ve got to walk up seventy-nine fuckin’ steps?

We’re not seeing it for another month, so he has four weeks to prepare himself mentally and physically for this challenge.

As I walked past the Cort Theater, where a revival of Martin McDonagh’s The Cripple of Inishmaan starring Daniel Radcliffe, was in previews, I noticed a sign on the door announcing the $37 rush ticket policy.

Head turning sign.

Head turning sign.

I asked the ticket seller how soon one should get in line for rush tickets for weekend performances.

Ticket seller: I’d say an hour would be fine. No one is aware of the rush policy yet. The sign was just posted today.

When that play was staged in London, where it also starred Radcliffe, it was a huge hit. The run sold out. Word travels fast in New York. I had seen this play five years ago off-Broadway for free when I ushered it. I loved it. It is a black comedy set in 1934 Inishmaan, an island in Ireland, where nothing much happens. Even the gossip is dull. One day a film crew arrives. That causes tremendous excitement, but no one is more excited than Billy, the cripple in the title, whose favorite pastimes are reading and staring at cows. It’s a tale packed with idiocy, cruelty, redemption and a lot of wit. It’s a guaranteed crowd pleaser.

I had a feeling that it would get rave reviews here and then I learned that it was opening this weekend, on Sunday. Once the raves pour in, getting weekend rush tickets might require getting in line several hours in advance. The weekends are when I power sleep. So Milton took sleep deprivation upon himself and got into the rush line this past Saturday at 8:52 in the morning waiting for the box office to open at 10 am. At 10:09 am, while I was deep in REM sleep, he emailed me that we got tickets to that evening’s final preview performance at 8 pm.

Cort marquee.

Cort marquee.

Our seats were in the center orchestra, row AA. That’s directly in front of the stage. We could almost eat the styrofoam painted to look like Inishmaan’s sea wall.

We resisted biting into the stage. We figured it does not taste like chicken.

We resisted biting into the stage. We figured it does not taste like chicken.

I asked Milton what he thought the seats behind us cost.

Milton: $400.

As for the play itself, the story was as wonderful as I remembered. The supporting cast was brilliant. The way one actress repeatedly delivers the three-word line, “Not a word” blew what remains of Milton’s mind. Daniel Radcliffe was a far prettier Billy than Aaron Monaghan, who I thought was perfect in the role five years ago. Milton was impressed with Radcliffe’s gay male following in attendance, but he thought that Radcliffe was the weak link in the production. Yet, his star power guarantees box office sales. He is adequate in the role. To his credit, he doesn’t chew the scenery. Overall, we were entertained.

When we were leaving the theater, a woman who probably paid ten times what we paid for her ticket, found my iPhone. Unbeknownst to me, it had slipped out of my pocket and she noticed. Afterward, at a pub, the bartender bought us our second round of suds. Overall, it was an excellent night. The play opened on Sunday to the rave reviews I anticipated.

Bring on that dead squirrel!

Lame Adventure 415: Head Games with Head Colds

This week I’ve been gradually recovering from a cold named Colossus. If it were a movie it would be in IMAX 3D. My most special effect is a thundering phlegm-filled cough that strikes fear in every subway rider standing in my soggy, heavy breathing presence. I have wondered what germy New Yorker passed this monster onto me. How I wish I had deflected that pass. I recall my blood running cold when a store clerk suffering stage four sniffles rubbed her nose as she handed me my change. But that was a few weeks before I fell ill. When I returned home from that encounter, I played it safe: I bathed in bleach.

My concentration has had lapses. I’m more focused on sneezing, wheezing, hacking and hoping one day my ears will unclog. Then I can once again savor my fellow commuter’s iPod leaking tinny percussive sounds. Sounds played by a small orchestra. Possibly an orchestra comprised of a herd of hamsters bred with minute opposable thumbs that have discovered the triangle.

My thoughts are all over the place. When I was in the vitamin and health section of my market trying to remember what I needed while coughing that was when my thoughts left the building. It was as if The Head Thought declared:

The Head Thought: I don’t know about you guys, but I’m out of here.

Apparently, all of my other thoughts followed that charismatic thinker. So I completely blanked on getting cough drops. Now thoughtless, I impulsively picked up a box of green tea that has done zilch to silence my cough.

Product placement.

Product placement.

The next time I went to the store I repeatedly said to myself “get cough drops” like a mantra. I got the cough drops. I brought them home. I placed them on my table and then my thoughts apparently went on spring break because I forgot to take the cough drops with me when I went out. If there were a medical procedure where I could have a package of cough drops sewn discreetly into my body, if it was covered by my insurance and did not cause too big a bulge, I’d seriously consider it. If there could be room for a pack of tissues and lip balm, better yet.

I responded to the email from a House Manager at a theater company who scheduled me to usher an off-Broadway play on May 17th by declaring, “Thank you for scheduling me to usher on March 17th.” That matter has since been resolved. I assured him that “I am on top of my game this 2004 theater season”. I suspect that he is now completely convinced that I’m senile.

When I was returning home from doing my laundry last night I saw a fireplace mantle strategically placed over a city trash can on the street corner. I continued walking, certain that my flake-filled head had imagined this. Then, I walked back. Here’s proof that I remain somewhat lucid in my delirium. But maybe not the greatest picture taker while holding a laundry bag. At least I wasn’t coughing.

"Hon, what should we do with this old mantle? do you think one of the kids would want it or should I just throw it out on West End Avenue?"

“Hon, what should we do with this old mantle? Do you think one of the kids would want it or should I just throw it out on West End Avenue?”

Lame Adventure 401: Regaining Track of Time

Even though the iPhone is the greatest invention this side of stretch fabric and its close second, indoor plumbing, one or two of you amongst my anemic swarm of followers, may have noticed that I loosened my death-grip on technology during my recent hiatus in California. While I was freeloading off my sister, Dovima, and brother-in-law, Herb (with a silent h), I entered sloth mode and completely lost track of time. It was one of those vacations where I barely knew what day of the week it was, but every day was Massive Eating Day. I liberally scarfed copious amounts of artery clogging foodstuffs I normally avoid.

Half this cookie platter is now sculpted onto my hips.

Half this cookie platter is now sculpted onto my hips.

I primarily perused my iPhone while parked in the living room. I checked email and fielded texts. But I limited my web searching only to matters of extreme urgency such as where James Brown is buried. My discussions with Herb were consistently deep as our thoughts strayed in the direction of Soul Brother No. 1 who, some of you may recall, bought his rainbow on Christmas Day 2006 (possibly from scarfing copious amounts of artery clogging foodstuffs). For almost seven years the Godfather of Soul has been temporarily buried in his daughter’s back yard providing a new twist to saying, “Dad lives with me.”

My flight west was just the way I like it: uneventful. A millennial of the female persuasion with a pelvis no wider than my wrist sat next to me. She was so svelte that whenever she got up, I barely noticed that she had slipped out of her seat and slithered past my knees. Inside my head I called her “Houdini”. According to my grand powers of perception inside her head she referred to me as “Immobile Obstacle My Mother’s Age”.

My flight east was the red eye. It was almost uneventful until someone cut a silent fart so lethal I thought I was succumbing to the effects of a poison gas attack. There’s been a longtime ban on smoking in planes. If any government official promotes a law prohibiting flatulence in a confined space, that candidate owns my vote. In fact, I might even do the unthinkable and give a campaign contribution.

I adopted Thurber, the family dog’s mantra, as my own.



"Let's boycott bed making. Too  much exertion."

“Let’s boycott bed making. Too much exertion.”

"It's been a hard day's night and I've been sleeping like a dog."

“It’s been a hard day’s night and I’ve been sleeping like a dog.”

"I'm Fred the fish; I'm 8 and a year older than Thurber. Show me some love!"

“I’m Fred the fish; I’m 8 and a year older than Thurber. Show me some love!”

"I'd like to show you my dinner dish, Fred."

“I’d like to show you my dinner dish, Fred.”

"What! More gifts to open? I thought we were Jewish!"

“What! More gifts to open? I thought we were Jewish!”

A few times I was motivated to rise and go to a place other than the kitchen. This included visiting the Napa Valley to quaff Pinot Noir with Bat Pat, my best friend from college. I highly recommend Etude vineyard’s 2010 private reserve. Unfortunately, this is a Pinot Noir that is not available on their web site. Consider it a good excuse to visit them. We also ventured over to Artesa Winery, a vineyard located high on a hilltop with lovely views, not necessarily apparent in these crummy images I took with my phone.

Artesa's peeing fountains when we arrived.

Artesa’s peeing fountains when we arrived.

Artesa's peed out fountains at dusk when we left.

Artesa’s peed out fountains at dusk when we left.

Bat Pat's office wild life, Cisco and Rosie with a message for Thurber and Fred: "We're pushing 35. Perch on that!"

Bat Pat’s office wild life, Cisco and Rosie with a message for Thurber and Fred: “We’re pushing 35. Perch on that!”

Dovima roused me out of my food coma to see a San Francisco institution: Beach Blanket Babylon.

Precious BBB front cabaret ducat.

Precious BBB front cabaret ducat.

This is a madcap cabaret show that has been running at Club Fugazi in Baghdad by the Bay’s North Beach district since 1974. The section of Green Street where this, the longest running musical revue in the country is staged, has been renamed Beach Blanket Babylon Boulevard.

I am not making that up.

I am not making that up.

The line for BBB extending almost to a legendary eatery, Capp's Corner.

The line for BBB extending almost to a legendary eatery, Capp’s Corner.

The jokes are updated almost hourly to reflect the news of the day. Aside from the irreverent humor, its other trademark is the outrageous headwear the performers don with the assistance of a hydraulic lift and some strategically located stagehands. The grand finale includes a diva doffing a version of San Francisco atop her head; a chapeau outfitted with all the city’s landmarks that looks about half a football field wide and three stories tall give or take an inch.

The bar across the street from BBB calling out my name.

The bar across the street from BBB calling out my name.

BBB is utterly ridiculous, and the narrative makes little sense, but it is crowd-pleasing fun. I’m surprised that it took me nearly forty years to get around to seeing it. Even though I’ve been a New Yorker my entire adult life, this show is an energetic reminder that I was born and raised in a city that is a loud and proud anything goes type of place. As I reflect, San Francisco was the perfect training ground for a life lived in Gotham City. Even though New York owns (or has trampled) my mind, as the Tony Bennett song goes, especially when one is foggy on the schmaltzy lyrics, San Francisco forever owns a piece of my heart.

And possibly owning a piece of my future heart attack: looking up a typical San Francisco hill.

And possibly owning a piece of my heart attack: looking up a typical San Francisco hill.

Now I’m here on my East Coast home turf where I got a chilly and prickly Big Apple  welcome back.

Yeah, yeah, welcome back and watch your step: Christmas is kaput for 2013.

Yeah, yeah, welcome back and watch your step: Christmas is kaput for 2013. Get over it.

Lame Adventure 393: Cheap Special Thrills

It is no secret that I have been riding on the fast track to get rich slow my entire life. Recently, when I had the opportunity to purchase one of the two last row coffin corner partial view $20 tickets to the hit musical, Fun Home, currently staged at the Public Theater, I pounced. I reasoned:

Me (reasoning): Better to see some of this show than none.

Below, is an image of my irresistible view.

This equipment console sure makes a better door than window.

This equipment console makes a much better door than window.

I could see about a third of the stage. The woman sitting next to me, who paid the $45 membership rate price, had a full view, but was not happy. She also felt sympathy for me. An Alpha New Yorker, she complained to someone. I figured that when the show would start, I would stand for the 105-minute duration. But the woman’s complaining reaped results. Shortly before the play began, an usher informed everyone in the back row that we could have better seats. I was moved to the center of the seventh row as if I paid full price for my ticket. I thought:

Me (thinking): Sweet! This is a great day!

Then my iPhone vibrated in my pocket and I was gob smacked back to reality. I had an alert from the New York Times announcing that Lou Reed had died. Even though he was 71 and had liver disease, I felt sucker punched. Lou was one of the reasons why I moved to New York City in 1982. He was one of my heroes when I was growing up in San Francisco. He was cool, he was smart, he was talented, he had attitude and he was a Brooklyn born New Yorker. He was the real deal.

My sitting in the cheap seats has a connection to him. When I was a high school senior attending Our Lady of Perpetual Misery School or, Our Lady of PMS, Lou was on tour promoting his latest album, Rock & Roll Heart. He was playing in the East Bay at the Berkeley Community Theatre on November 30, 1976. I told my best friend and  fellow Lou-fan, a girl named Faith, that we had to see him. We agreed that we would sit in the $4.50 seats. We deemed the $6.50 seat price too steep. We were sitting so far away at this sold out show it was as if we were watching Lou sing from another galaxy. I brought my super 8 mm Minolta movie camera with me. Somewhere in my father’s house today is a reel of silent, anything but super, super 8 mm film of a gnat-sized Lou Reed performing.

The Minolta super 8 mm movie camera that filmed Lou Reed in concert.

The Minolta super 8 mm movie camera that filmed Lou Reed in concert.

Fast-forward 35 years to October 15, 2011. Milton and I are attending a screening at the New York Film Festival of a documentary film called Pina directed by Wim Wenders. As I approach Milton at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, he is giddy with excitement. Milton recognized Lou standing outside the theater. Quick thinking Milton, whipped out his iPhone and immediately took a photograph.

That's Lou Reed's foot and Milton's finger.

That’s Lou Reed’s foot and Milton’s finger.

Then, he took more images finger obscuring-free.

Lou in long shot just standing on Broadway talking to a friend.

Lou in long shot just standing on Broadway outside Alice Tully Hall talking to a friend.

Lou closer.

Lou maybe confiding, “Don’t look, but there’s a guy with an iPhone breathing down my neck.”

I was very happy that Milton took the pictures, and we were both amazed when it turned out that Lou was sitting in our row just a few seats away from us. Lou probably felt like he was being stalked. Lou made a quick escape before the Q&A ended, but when we were leaving, we saw him again in the theater lobby talking to Wim Wenders. Milton took more pictures and Lou, to his credit, did not file a restraining order.

"Wim, I cannot escape that guy with an iPhone. Help me, please!"

“Wim, I cannot escape that guy with the iPhone. I’m begging you, help me, please!”

One of the many great things about living in New York City is that you never know when you might run into a legend on the street. Unfortunately, there is now one less legend around town to glimpse by chance. Embedded below is the title song from Rock & Roll Heart that I heard Lou sing live back in the day.

Lame Adventure 374: Disappearing Act

Over the years I have seen many plays and musicals with Milton. Nothing is better than seeing theater magic with one’s dearest friend and fellow theater whore. But every so often, we draw the short straw and see a dud. That is exactly what happened the other night when we attended the Lincoln Center Theater production of Nikolai and the Others.

Nice cover.

Nice cover. When can we go home?

Since we’re members of LCT, we get the discount ticket price, $40. Non-members pay $85. When we see theatrical gems like South Pacific for pennies on the dollar, we gloat, but when we see the theatrical equivalent of a sedative, we snore.  Or at least I did.

The play was set in the Connecticut countryside in 1948 where several prominent Russian artists living in the US have gathered for a languid talk-filled weekend. They talk, they eat, they talk more and I sleep. George Balanchine and Igor Stravinsky are two of the characters. They’re collaborating on adapting “Orpheus” into a ballet. We even see a small preview of that ballet as imagined as a work-in-progress dance by the playwright Richard Nelson and the director, David Cromer. I regain consciousness for that dance segment, but when intermission finally arrives a fortnight later, I blurt:

Me: I feel like I’m being held hostage!

Milton blurts back:

Milton: If you want to leave right now, I’m completely okay with it!

Was I content with attending only $20 worth of this production? Even though I completely lost consciousness through approximately $18.47 worth of my ticket’s price, I have a natural aversion to walking out on shows that cost me my hard earned shekels. I reason that I can survive sitting though another hour of this yak-fest, but if we left early, I can also get a jump on cleaning my bathroom, a project that would be so much more stimulating. Milton senses my ambivalence about what to do. He turns Ninja and goes for the kill.

Milton:  What if you only have one hour of life left? Would you really want to spend it watching this?

What a horrible way to go, literally bored to death. I know I hate this play, but maybe there’s a pleasant surprise in the second act, maybe there’s a live animal on stage. Last month, when we saw the flaccid Broadway adaptation of Breakfast at Tiffany’s there was a cat actor playing the cat called Cat. Milton observed about the cat that played Cat:

Milton: The cat was the only actor on stage that I liked.

Me: The cat’s what got me through it.

We later learned that we were actually watching the cat understudy for it did not look like either cat in our Playbill, Moo or Vito Vincent.

Mystery understudy cat at our performance?

Mystery understudy cat at our performance?

Back to our more recent situation with Nikolai, Milton reads his Playbill. His eyes widen in horror.

Milton: Oh, my! We just saw the short act. It runs another hour and a half after intermission!

Less than five minutes later, Milton and I are out on the street breathing in the cool night air. We embrace our liberty. Milton declares for all to hear on upper Broadway:

Milton: I much prefer breathing, walking, moving, anything to having to watch any more of that!

Me: Why was it even staged? It’s not very theatrical.

Milton: Michael Cerveris [the actor who played Balanchine] must have an expensive mortgage. Were you awake for any of it? Every time I looked over at you, you looked asleep.

Me: I enjoyed watching the actress that played the ballet dancer Maria Tallchief.

Milton: You liked her? How could you? She was so thin! All I saw when I looked at her were bones. Bones sticking out everywhere! Ugh! Eat a sandwich, please!

Me:  Date-wise, yes, I prefer women I’m not going to cut myself on, but I thought the dance sequence was good. Did you at least like the guy?

Milton: Yes, I did. He was beautiful. What buns on him!

Me: If you were so fixated on his ass, we could have stayed.

Milton: Those buns of fun weren’t enough to keep me in my seat.

When I return home, I finally read Ben Brantley’s review in the New York Times. This is my favorite passage:

“”Nikolai and the Others,” … cannot be recommended to people of limited patience. Honesty compels me to mention that there were an appreciable number of empty seats after intermission and that the elderly fellow behind me, who stayed on, snored heartily through most of the second act.”

Can of Red Bull atop trash can outside my building when I returned home. I would have needed at least three to retain some semblance of consciousness during that play.

Can of Red Bull atop trash can outside my building when I returned home. Every Nikolai audience member should receive a complimentary one with their Playbill.