A blonde WASP, a brunette Jew and a bald woman of unknown religious affiliation in a wool cap walk into a bar in New York City and…….hang out with one of the handsome young stars of a Broadway play. You didn’t see that one coming did you?
Blonde recently went on a quick trip to New York City with a longtime friend (Jew with hair, aka Renee) and her friend (bald woman in cap, aka Sue) to take in a sight or two, eat to excess, enrich the city’s cab drivers and see the play Picnic on Broadway.
Used to traveling with her sister Blonde had lost the knack of planning travel with other kids so became the one who just says she doesn’t want to do what others pick but has no useful input of her own. Fortunately, Renee is a forgiving type and a planner who masterfully handled all of the details and largely ignored Blonde’s confused and petulant responses to a variety of suggestions. Now Blonde is going to take credit for the trip and the planning that went into it! (Let Renee start her own damned travel blog if she wants to do it.)
Blonde was traveling to NYC by train from Boston and Renee and Sue were flying in from the Washington D.C. area. If this had been a segment of The Amazing Race Blonde would have been the winner by about 7 hours. However, it wasn’t, it was merely a nasty storm on the east coast that grounded flights for hours. Trains were unaffected and able to get you to yet another city with horrifyingly bad weather right on schedule.
Blonde had dinner plans with a local friend for the first evening so was blithely unaffected by Renee and Sue being stranded somewhere on the tarmac in a n’oreaster. Blonde’s friend had selected the restaurant ABC Kitchen.
The beginning was inauspicious, at best, as it was a $25 cab ride in a sleet storm from Blonde’s hotel and the cab driver kept insisting (as he drove Blonde in loops through New Jersey) that she’d given him the wrong address. She hadn’t. Finally a friend and some wine later and things were looking better.
Although when our server described a baked cheese appetizer with truffle oil for $45 and said we could share the “boeuf bourguignon” for two for a mere $150, we grew alarmed. We knew boeuf was off the list of possibilities so did what Blonde’s parents had taught her to do – read the menu from right to left.
The result was excellent – truly some of the best food ever. We shared a kale salad with lemon, serrano and mint ($14). They even divided the salad onto two plates in the kitchen and didn’t sneer at us or charge extra for that courtesy. Was this really New York? For our entrees we each had our own pizza and they were tasty, the ingredients super-fresh and the price a very reasonable $17 each. Of course they were groovy whole wheat pizzas – we aren’t talking Domino’s in a box here. Blonde’s had prosciutto and dates on it and the other had goat cheese, spinach and herbs. As is often the case when we dine the wine cost exceeded the food cost. All of it had been of exceptional quality and in a setting which, though busy, was quiet enough that we could actually speak to each other without megaphones – a rarity in New York restaurants.
Blonde bumbled back to the hotel only to encounter Renee and Sue who had arrived minutes earlier and were not in the same well-fed inebriated state as Blonde. Maybe that’s why Blonde ended up sleeping in the crappiest possible location in the room – head down in the trash can. Just speculating….
The next day Renee managed to herd us off to the Metropolitan Museum of Art to see the exhibition “Extravagant Inventions: The Princely Furniture of the Roentgens“. Yes, it sounds deadly boring but it was fascinating! The pieces are gorgeous with detailed marquetry pictures and a seemingly unending assortment of mechanical wonders that hide multiple drawers and compartments, changing the functionality of the piece and confusing the hell out of us. If you click on the link above there are videos you can watch that give a sense of how clever this father and son team from the 1740s to the early 1800s really was. You can also have a few giggles that the chap doing the demo is wearing large white gloves.
Photography – even without flash – was expressly forbidden and aggressively enforced at the exhibit. Apparently they didn’t realize that such a rule is the same as issuing a dare to Blonde who immediately and surreptitiously snapped lopsided poorly lit photos with her iPhone.
Just realized my pictures are so bad that if you want to see the exhibit click on the link above to the Met!
Note about the Met: The suggested contribution (or words to that effect) is $25 per adult. However, you can pay whatever you want. If you’re going to spend the day there you might want to cough up the whole amount but for our hour we each decided to pay $10 apiece.
Finally we’d been to a museum, eaten quite a few meals and were happily perched in our seats at the Roundabout Theater waiting to see the play Picnic. I guess this is where I should confess that my friend Renee is the proud (trust me, that doesn’t even begin to describe it) aunt of Ben Rappaport who is in the play.
Truthfully I wasn’t sure what to expect with the play because I knew it was set in the 1950s and thought it might seem dated. In some ways it did – clothes, women’s options, etc. – but the decisions, emotions and desires are still very current and relatable. There are actually actors other than Ben in the play and they include Ellyn Burstyn, Maggie Grace (who the others recognized from some of those Liam Neeson Taken movies) and Reed Birney who recently had an article about him in the New York Times. Ben’s no slacker, he starred in the NBC Comedy Outsourced and was in a movie this past summer with Tommy Lee Jones and Meryl Streep. Plus he’s Renee’s nephew – did I mention that?
I didn’t get my ticket for so much as a nickel off so I’m willing to give an honest opinion of the play. Ben was the only person worth watching. OK, that isn’t true but he is what I think is the best thing to say about an actor, so good it never occurs to you that he’s acting. The play held my attention every minute (virtually impossible), all of the acting was excellent and the ending got me to think briefly about something other than myself. There are some good scenes that give you huge emotional flinches and there aren’t any Kardashians anywhere around. Clearly I didn’t miss my calling as a theater critic but I would actually see this play a second time (for free) to catch nuances I may have missed by staring intently at Ben the whole time.
Afterwards Ben had kindly arranged for his frothing-at-the-mouth aunt and her two co-cougars to come backstage and see his dressing room. It looked like a dark bedroom with bunk beds and a make-up counter that might have been in your great Aunt Etta’s home. No flashing lights and stars on the doors. We were thrilled anyway.
And then Ben – in what may have been his most impressive acting ever – went out for a late dinner and drinks with us and acted like he enjoyed it and enjoyed meeting us! Can you imagine? And the poor guy had been up since something like 4:30 a.m. and hadn’t seen his very cute, nice girlfriend Megan in a while. I think Renee should be prouder of that than the whole acting thing but whatever! (Sorry about Megan girls, they’ve been a couple a long time and you don’t stand a chance.)
After this everything else was anti-climatic so you will be spared but if you find yourself in NYC between now and February 24th you can see the play and the exhibition at the Met ends on January 27th.
It was great to see friends, meet Ben and Megan and do the whole New York thing but it was also great to sit in the “quiet car” on the train (you can’t speak loudly or use cell phones) and head back to smaller, less in-your-face Boston. There’s a reason for the cliche of New York being a nice place to visit but you wouldn’t want to live there!