Sunday, July 3, 2016

New York Day One

Friday July 1. An hour and a half to get from Toronto to Newark; two and a half hours to get from the Newark airport to the Upper East Side of Manhattan. By the time I got to my cousin’s, I was ready to go home.

At Penn Station, where the train from the airport arrives, I tried to get the subway but ended up bewildered, looking for the E train that was there on the map but not there in reality – and the subway was incredibly hot. So I walked out into the morass of New York, to make my way, with suitcase, east along impassable 34th Street to 3rd Avenue to get the bus uptown. Crowds on the street, massive, overwhelming crowds, muggy oppressive heat, and 3rd Avenue was gridlock. A nice lady – so New York! – chatted gaily, telling me about twelve blocks up, the street would clear. It took three-quarters of an hour for the bus to crawl 40 blocks uptown. At one point, the driver said over the P.A., “ 59th is next, if we can ever get there.” There was a black man or woman in a glittery turban stretched out asleep on the seat nearby, and a mother and daughter chattering in Parisian French who got off at Bloomingdale’s.

Voila, enfin – Cousin Ted’s at 77th and 3rd, where I have been staying since my Uncle Edgar, who lived at 94th and Central Park West, died in 1997. Ted has a weekend house in Northport where his spouse Henry lives, so this two-bedroom apartment is empty every weekend. Cousin Ted has worked for Sotheby’s, he knows about antiques, and he and Henry tour the world looking for antiquities and treasure. The apartment is jammed with priceless acquisitions – hundreds of pre-Colombian pottery and Chinese burial figures, petrified dinosaur eggs, 17th century British drinking glasses - though most of the collection is in Northport.

OMG, I am glad not to be out there. It has been heavy and threatening all day and finally the sky has exploded, a teeming rain with thunder. Trying to manoeuver around NYC in a bad rainstorm … the only thing worse is snow. Once when I was visiting and 7 months pregnant, my husband and I were desperate to get to the airport in a snowstorm, and when a cab finally stopped, a man nearly shoved me to the ground to get in first. And then the driver threatened to dump us in the middle of Central Park when he realized we were going to La Guardia and not to Kennedy.

Anyway, I’m safely here. There’s no wifi – no wifi! – so I am writing this in Word and will post when I go at some point to the little Italian café around the corner.
The narrowest skyscraper in the world.

I went up 3rd to Eli’s, a gourmet takeout place, which was a mistake – I bought staples and a few treats, cold soup, baked fish, milk and delicious bread – and a jar of organic peanut butter which turned out, when I got to the cash, to cost $12. I spent $63 on a few staples. But at home, the soup – cold carrot and lime – was superb, with a glass of the Pinot I bought at the wine store on the corner, and blueberries from the Puerto Rican fruit stand across the street. And now I’m sitting here waiting for the rain to stop, or at least die down, so I can go to the theatre.

10.30 p.m. Never have I been so grateful for a cab. I started walking after the play tonight, heading back to 3rd Avenue, but after much walking today decided I was tired and the Times Square area was too insane, so I stuck out my hand as a cab went by and he stopped. Miracle! Four minutes after I got in, the heavens opened, lightning, downpour. By the time I got out, I’d put on my rain poncho and opened my umbrella and then I ran the quarter block to Ted’s, but even so, I was soaked. Thank you, God - that cab was heaven sent. Times Square in a thunderstorm – let’s not even think about it.

What I do want to think about is the wonderful show I saw tonight: Fun Home, based on the graphic memoir by Alison Bechdel. A new genre continues to bloom – the autobiographical musical, done by the same team that did Carolyn or Change, the brilliant musical about Tony Kushner’s childhood. And this is a brilliant musical about Alison Bechdel’s. Deeply moving, the story of a sensitive young woman growing up in a family damaged by its big secret – that Dad, the father of 3 kids, is gay. And Alison is too. It’s tender, funny, beautifully directed and acted, and heartbreaking.

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