Walking and looking
Easter brings plenty of people into New York City, even though Good Friday is not a public holiday and Easter Monday is begrudgingly given as a non-religious day off. We hadn’t bargained for the crowds wanting to go to everything we wanted to go.
A cruise around Manhattan Island would be nice, we thought, and so did half a million other people who booked out the ferry while we stood in the queue. Okay, we’ll book for tomorrow and it the meantime we’ll look over a clapped out, long-docked aircraft carrier called Intrepid with clapped out, non flying aircraft on the deck. So did another half million people. We gave that up too, but instead found the beginning what is called the High Line, where you can walk through Chelsea and the meatpacking district along an elevated disused railway that has been converted into delightful public space. My brother Brett told me about it. It goes for nearly three miles and, notwithstanding the crowd dodging, gives a unique view between buildings and down onto city roadways.
The walk finishes at the famous Whitney Museum where there was an exhibition of contemporary American art. After another queue, but helped by our passes to cut in, we wandered around five levels of art meant to confront, outrage, insult and stimulate. This it certainly did, but I wouldn’t want any of it hanging at home. One ‘exhibit’ invited viewers to don virtual reality gear and witness, with a Hebrew prayer being chanted in the background, a man in a city street being attacked and having his head bashed in, first with a baseball bat and then an iron bar to finish. It was totally real and totally ghastly, with running blood and brains. I’ll bet some of the viewers would have thrown up during the course of the day. No doubt the vomit would have been preserved as another highly prized piece of art.
At this point, having walked about four miles, my legs were going numb, but that didn’t stop us from marching on to the Chelsea Markets where the people who couldn’t fit into other attractions had gathered. In order to rest we sat at a bar and drank ginger beer, the best I’d ever tasted, along with bacon and maple popcorn – also delicious.
A cab ride brought us to Broadway for dinner at Sardi’s, where actors are supposed to hang out waiting for casting calls. None seemed to be there that night, although around the walls were drawings of their famous faces. The whole place felt steeped in theatrical history. That also went for my scallops, in this case steeped in green vegetable snippets and historic – on the scallop stale-time scale. The joy of the dinner was not improved when I emptied a glass of Pinot Gris into Michelle’s lap as I tried to liven up my boring story about Melbourne scallop fishing with a grand gesture. She took it well, I must say, but I now fear delayed consequences. Another sphincter-clenching, tip-heavy bill behind us and we were in the magical midst of Broadway, where Bette Midler was selling out with ‘Hello Dolly’, the Phantom was into its umpteenth production and audiences were paying thousands of dollars to see the latest musical ‘Hamilton’.
Our friends had bought tickets for Tennessee Williams The Glass Menagerie at the old Belasco Theatre. The four person cast included Joe Mantello, Maddison Ferris, Finn Wittrock and Sally Field – who is a great dramatic theatre actress. Our seats were in the front row of the upper circle where the stage view is reduced by the brass railing bar and my body was hampered by rampaging jetlag and leg disconnect. I missed much of the first half through irresistible bouts of sleep, thankfully interrupted by Michelle’s elbow. But I recovered for the second half which was wonderfully engaging. The set was quite sparse, with only a table and chairs, plus an open kitchen cabinet. The most specular moment came when it started to rain – on stage. Real raindrops pelted down and made puddles on the stage floor. The actors splashed about, probably relishing in the disbelief of the audience. Having said that, this was a wonderful play, funny and sad at the same time, beautifully acted.