Tag Archives: street theater

Lame Adventure 437: Back to the Birds

The New York Film Festival’s closing night feature hit another high note, Birdman or (the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), is a pitch black comedy directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Michael Keaton plays a Hollywood has-been best known as the comic book hero, Birdman, a character that brought him fame and fortune. He is determined to resurrect his sagging career and gain relevancy by adapting a Raymond Carver story for the Broadway stage, even though he is losing his mind to Birdman who has a stranglehold on his identity.

Milton and I doubt that Birdman will come anywhere near the crowd pleasing popularity of Gone Girl, which opened the festival, at the US box office. But Birdman is a beautifully shot and edited film with a great jazz drum score. Michael Keaton, whose own career hit its high mark when he started playing Batman twenty-five years ago (a role he quit before acting in the third film of the series), is terrific as a man who is losing his grip on reality as he directs and stars in a play that is hemorrhaging his life savings. It nails the New York theatrical community with falling props, insecure, egotistical actors and nasty, snobby critics. Adding to the authenticity, much of it is shot at the Saint James theater, where Milton and I have seen many Broadway plays through the years. It’s very entertaining with an ending that’s open to interpretation.

Birdman played eight times on closing night at the festival. Milton and I could not afford to pay the king’s ransom to attend the star-studded gala screening. Our screening at Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade theater did not rate an appearance by any of the stars. It was a venue with first come, first serve seating so loitering outside the press tent was not an option. Therefore, the closest we got to rubbernecking the likes of Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, Naomi Watts or Zach Galifianakis was this guy vacuuming the red carpet in anticipation of their arrival.

Vacuum-man.

Vacuum-man.

So, how does one follow up sixteen days of intensive film going in Lincoln Center? The first option is to enter withdrawal. The second it to head downtown, specifically to Greenwich Village to indulge in street theater.

Birdboy.

Birdboy.

As a longtime fan of pigeons, I was very excited to read last week in The New Yorker, that Tina Trachtenburg, also known as Mother Pigeon, an animal activist and artist, was conducting a pigeon “flashflock outstallation” in Washington Square Park on Saturday with a rain date on Sunday. Milton and I had tickets to two screenings on Saturday, so I was elated to see rain.

I was even more elated to see Mother Pigeon’s acrylic felt flock on Sunday.

Mother Pigeon's pigeon outstellation.

Mother Pigeon’s pigeon outstallation.

"Why aren't we in MoMA, Mother Pigeon?"

“Why aren’t we in MoMA, Mother Pigeon?”

Flock of feathered felt.

Flock of feathered felt.

She creates these whimsical creatures and gives each unique markings. She explains on her web site, “I like to make them all different because all pigeons are different.” As someone who is quite familiar with the many pigeons in my own midst, that is very true.

Mother Pigeon.

Mother Pigeon with the pigeons in her midst.

Yes, she even created one pecking at a slice of felt pizza.

Mother Pigeon pigeon pecking at pizza.

Mother Pigeon pigeon pecking at pizza.

As I was heading back uptown, I encountered life imitating art.

Mother Nature pigeon enjoying lunch.

Mother Nature pigeon pecking at pizza crust.

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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 428: Angry Bird in the Hood

New York is a city that is well known for skyscrapers, glass, steel, concrete and asphalt, but it is also a place with significant urban wildlife. And I’m not dwelling on a dream I recently had where I lifted the lid off a garbage can in front of my apartment building and a skunk leaped out directly at me. Why my subconscious was thinking about a big, furry, livid skunk springing from a normally peaceful trash receptacle to scare the kale out of me, I can’t say. But the odor of skunk is familiar in my neighborhood, the Upper West Side. When I snapped this shot of the San Remo building while doing my laundry last week, what is not evident in the image is that there was the acrid scent of skunk permeating the warm summer air. Luckily for me, the skunk responsible for the stink chose to remain invisible. It even resisted the urge to take a flying leap in front of my lens.

Clouds or skunk vapors behind the San Remo's towers?

Clouds or skunk vapor behind the San Remo’s towers?

However, the topic of airborne urban wildlife has been weighing heavy on my mind. When I enter my Tribeca-based office in the morning at The Grind, and see a pigeon perched on the sill outside my window, I welcome that feathered sight. A bird on the sill is comforting. Its tranquil presence gives me the impression that it could be a good day.

A pigeon of peaceful presence.

A pigeon of peaceful presence.

That was until bird Angry Bird started coming around and began monopolizing the sill.

Angry Bird looking to pick a fight.

Angry Bird looking to pick a fight.

If a pigeon can be bi-polar, this is that pigeon. Of all the sills in New York City, why has this lunatic bird chosen to perch on mine?

"I like it here!"

“I like it here!”

Angry Bird is a pigeon with some serious anger management issues that lives to ruffle feathers. Angry Bird hates sharing the sill and has a mean hook with its flapping right wing.

"Get off my sill!"

Feathers flying.

If you need further proof, witness Angry Bird in action.

For the past two months Angry Bird’s bullying has diverted all the pigeons that used to sit on the sill outside my window to perch on the railing across the way.

Not troubling trouble.

Not troubling trouble.

This proves to me that bird brains are highly under rated. Pigeons may not be eager to perform stupid pet tricks, but it’s evident that the ones in Tribeca have all gotten the memo to stay away from my sill. It’s obvious that no one wants to get bitch slapped with that wild right wing.

"We like to eat a lot but we're not gluttons for punishment."

“We’re not gluttons for punishment.” (Note: shot taken before Angry Bird moved into the hood.)

My friend, Coco, thinks that Angry Bird, with its orange beak and black and white markings, might be part seagull. I think she might be onto something, but I am not going to feed that avian terrorist a piece of fish to find out. Then, it will likely never leave my sill and I’ll find myself forever grousing about this feathered foe.

"I'm feeling right at home."

“Message to everyone: stay the hell away.”

Lame Adventure 385: Fashion Statement?

It’s been a busy summer over here in Lame Adventures-land. But, my fashion police friend, Coco, shattered my concentration from my current passion — I know everyone saw this one coming — studying spots, with this illustrated email.

Tag, you're it!

Tag, you’re it!

Yes, really tagged.

Yes, really tagged.

Coco: I normally would not take a picture of a stranger’s ass but did this chick just steal these pants?

Me: Really good question. How could she not know that thing’s there?

Coco: How embarrassing not to mention uncomfortable.

Me: Would only that store’s sensor activate? Or, when she bought them did the clerk fail to remove it and she decided to just flaunt it, the ultimate “I don’t give a shit” attitude?

Coco: I’m pretty sure it would trigger other store sensors. Although this idiot probably wouldn’t realize she was the one setting the alarm off. If the clerk failed to take it off, anyone with half a brain would take the pants back to the store in a bag and ask them to remove it. What an idiot. She doesn’t even have the sense to wear a shirt long enough to cover it.

Coco raises so many good points here. But she did not take it upon herself to ask a pertinent question to the wearer that could have solved this mystery:

Coco’s unasked question: Are you aware that you’re wearing a store security tag?

Upon further reflection, having a store security tag planted on one’s person might just be a way to attract attention, maybe make new friends? Or, if life could imitate the kind of chick flick that usually makes me retch copiously, it’s a way to meet one’s soul mate cute. It is possible that this person lost her receipt and was determined to wear these pants anyway. On the other hand, a two second Google search explains how to remove these types of tags. Possibly, she is truly absent-minded or just completely clueless, but I’m not convinced of that. In conclusion, I’m joining Team Coco. I vote: idiot.

What do you think, fellow Lame Adventurers?

Lame Adventure 250: They’re Taking It Off, They’re Taking It All Off!

My colleague, Rhonda, told me:

Rhonda: You have to check out the people playing strip poker in the window of that art gallery over on Walker Street.

These folks.

This reeked of Lame Adventures.

Me:  What gallery?  Where on Walker Street?

The gallery is Art in General at 79 Walker Street.  The exhibit, happening between 10:30 am and 6:00 pm (but when I saw it, it finished closer to 6:30) through Saturday, November 19th, is a performance piece created by Zefrey Throwell called I’ll Raise You One … A group of three men and four women sit in the window of the gallery facing the street and play strip poker.

Playing cards littering gallery floor.

Throwell in baseball cap.

If you stand outside the window long enough behind the cluster of predominantly very appreciative men enjoying this cheapest of thrills — the performance is free and by the game’s end everyone winds up stark naked.

Shirtless guy.

Shirtless woman.

Several games are played throughout the course of the day, so odds are good that one can walk by the gallery at anytime and see someone in a state of undress.

Skirtless woman.

Even if the spectators were not standing outside breathing heavily on the window, I’m confident that the predominantly male audience I watched it with after I left work would still be inclined to give it a standing O, and when they returned home, a sitting Wank.

Losing her shirt and almost everything else early on.

If Throwell’s name does not ring the Marina Abramovic gong inside anyone’s head, last summer he organized Ocularpation: Wall Street a site-specific street theater piece on Wall Street.  At 7 am on a seemingly ordinary Monday morning as the sleepy masses were coming into work, 50 average appearing people that seemed to blend in with everyone else, began to spontaneously strip.  For some artists their medium is paint, for others it’s sculpture, and apparently Throwell’s is nudity.  By 7:05 the NYPD had ended that show with an unnamed performance of their own, that I call Mass Arrests.  Throwell has been a participant in these performances himself; he was a hot dog vendor in Ocularpation and currently, one of the card players in I’ll Raise You One …  Last summer he explained the message in Ocularpation to Melena Ryzik of The New York Times:

“It was “an educational attempt,” he said, “to lend more transparency to Wall Street, a street which is so damn mysterious.” Drawing on the common fear of appearing in public naked, he hoped to create “an absurdist Freudian nightmare” of nude employment: “Wall Street, exposed,” as he put it.”

Hm.  Part of me thinks that this chap is a publicity seeker living out his voyeuristic fantasies and getting paid for it.  The rest of me thinks:

Me:  So what?  He’s not murdering anyone.

Although I was not wild about the leering members of the man-on-the-street audience that blatantly viewed the women as objects and barked at them to strip faster, there were many other people that were clearly surprised and/or amused by the novelty of the piece.  They tended to chuckle and move on.

Steam heaters.

Courtenay, a very helpful gallery worker overseeing the audience, the performance, and the possibility of a return engagement by the NYPD (two cops visited briefly but made no attempt to close the show), confided that this exhibit has repeat visitors “that have stood outside for a very long time.”  Earlier in the day, the crowd is less male.  Throwell also freely pimps out himself and the other men that have volunteered to sit at the table so who am I to judge or object?

Throwell in his birthday suit.

The players are pretty evenly divided by gender.  If you’re offended, walk away.  I wasn’t so I didn’t.

Growing audience outside gallery. Their next stop, the Met?

Courtenay added that everyone participating is a volunteer Throwell either invited or they were discovered through a casting call.

Fun times.

A total of 50 people are playing cards in a rotating cast.  He had to turn people away that were willing to play for payment in free lunch, snacks and beer.

Partial payment.

According to the gallery’s site:

“Transforming Art in General’s storefront Project Space into a stage, I’ll Raise You One… establishes a world of absurdity and purposelessness, allowing the casual onlooker to participate in a guilt-free voyeurism, while teasing out a different outlook on our personal interactions and day-to-day routines. In a world where money has taken supreme importance and all functions of life are commoditized, I’ll Raise You One… is a project where clothing, charisma and a good bluff are the only currency. Using the language of small stakes capitalism mixed with America’s favorite gambling pass-time, and the flirtatious teenage party game of strip poker, Throwell draws a fluxus parallel between what we consider winning and losing in the world today.”

At least no one looks like they're cold.

While watching the show and thinking about it afterward, this explanation did not occur to me at all.  At the end, after the players tossed the cards in the air for a final time, everyone appeared to be happy on both sides of the glass.

The top 2 players.

It seemed to me that this risqué band of exhibitionists simply served as a tonic to help the audience indulge in a silly escape from these troubling times for a few moments.  Hey, no harm in that.

The top 2 players minutes later. Game over!