Friday, July 07, 2006

New York gems

Have you all noticed nobody ever asks "how is your autumn going?", or "how is your winter going?" or "how is your spring going?" Instead we are always asked, and we always ask "how is your summer going so far?" Of course it couldn't possibly mean that the rest of the year we have nothing of interest to report or to enjoy, only that we are trying to stick it out in the sweltering heat as valiantly, interestingly and excitingly as we possibly can. Do we all detect a gleam of sympathy in the eyes of friends who are told we are staying in the city and holding the fort? Well, consider the honest and wholehearted opinion of this mother who in all her children's young years was parked in the mountains for the whole duration of the summer, having a reasonably good time but praying it would end soon.
There is no event, show, exhibit, concert, dinner, movie, long walk, day trip, you name it, my husband and I, or my friends and I don't avail ourselves of in the summer in New York. In fact every year we end up with the same wonderful problem: we didn't have time to do a fraction of what we were hoping to do. I have chosen to share a few very recent only-in-New-York stories, with some classical landmarks as venues: Lincoln Center, the 104 bus, Starbucks, Cirque du Soleil. You will soon see why i never get bored in NYC, in the summer or any other season.

Lincoln Center snob: a good friend who owns a private box at the Metropolitan Opera invited me to a dress rehearsal of Rigoletto. As always, I took my oversize thermos tea mug with me. Helen assured me it would be no trouble, she does it all the time. During the intermission, I took my mug to the bar for a refill. The waiter took a tiny paper cup and proceeded to pour boiling water on a fresh tea bag he placed in my mug, carefully counting after each shot: 1, 2, 3, .... 6. Then he says: "hmm, $3.00 a cup, 6 cups, total 18 dollars. You owe me 18 dollars".
Now, please tell me if I did the right thing: At first I was stunned, as was everyone around me, and I asked him if he feels perfectly comfortable with this reasoning, and his answer was, yes, quite. Then I said I never in my life paid this price for a cup of tea, even a large cup of tea, even at four stars hotels, but he held his ground. I poured off the whole content of the mug right in front of him, and he seemed to find that solution equitable. The rest of the show was great, thank you very much.

Bead bug on the 104: that's my bus, which runs down Broadway all the way to 42nd street and ends up at the UN. As always the bus was crowded and my long bead necklace caught on to one of the passengers' backpack zipper. Without thinking twice, a passenger, comfortably seated and busy with his laptop, dressed in his business suit, abandons his laptop on his seat and lunges to the floor, on all fours, with me, doggedly picking up the precious glass beads, haranguing fellow passengers to pick up what just rolled at their feet, swaying with each jerk of the bus. Pretty soon, half the bus was engaged in the bead hunt, under the direction of my business companion. He seemed to have found, at least for a few minutes, a project infinitely more rewarding than his big deals. Finally, as he was nearing his stop, he triumphantly opened his large palm and poured its contents into a secure pocket of my bag, and it seemed to me, amazingly, that if we didn't recover all the beads, we came pretty darn close.
Well, if he conducts his deals with the same zeal, efficiency and thoroughness as he conducted this hunt, I would hire him anytime. Thank you, and bless you, stranger! I hope G-d soon sends me a partner like you!

Starbucks: While seated at a Starbucks table the other day, sipping my ice coffee, I saw 3 ladies come in, carefully dressed in faded but elegant clothes, no doubt impeccably preserved relics of a more prosperous and more youthful time. They seated themselves at a nearby table. I had expected them to call out their orders, but instead they asked one of the store helpers if it was at all possible to lower the shades near their tables, as the heat was a bit too much for them. Surprised but obliging, the young man did as he was asked, and we were soon all plunged in a cozy semi darkness. Then one of them again asked the young man if he would be so kind as to give them three empty cups. Perplexed, he obliged again. Amused and touched, I watched them as they filled their glasses with whatever accessories were displayed on the counter: ice water and milk. Then each one whipped out a ziplock bag and filled it with sugar packets, napkins and straws. Then they chatted animatedly for about half an hour, after which they all got up to leave, courteously and profusely thanking their host and waving their good-byes.
Take heart, dear friends: we will be old, one day. More power to them, for wanting at all costs (excuse the pun) to be part of the scene. A little cheating was excusable when one considered their ardent desire not to crumple up after their time of glory had passed. who knows, maybe it was only beginning!

Cirque du Soleil: I try my utmost not to miss any of the shows that come to town, and this one, "Corteo", is fascinating. Fellinesque, the New Yorker Magazine qualified this wonderful fantasy. Not even seeing is believing. These triple-jointed people do NOT look like the other circus freaks: they are lean and beautiful, and they perform the most extraordinary stunts without even breaking a sweat. None of those grotesque pectorals or calves on any of them. They couldn't possibly have a mother, none of them, I tell myself each time I watch them, with a lurch of my heart, leaping into the vacuum, landing in a great tumult of good cheer and laughter. And that's the other incredible characteristic: their infinite charm and humor. And the haunting music, and those rasping voices all their own. This year the addition of a dwarf couple in their cast adds a poignant dimension, grace and dignity to their already beautiful show. Oh, and make absolutely sure to come on time, so you don't miss the opening pillow fight, which is nothing short of spectacular, and hilarious.
Au revoir, et merci, Cirque du Soleil. Until next year, I will be wondering what beautiful treats you are hatching for us. G-d be with you and keep you safe!

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