As long as we’re in New York visiting colleges, I might as well check some things off my bucket list. My list was simple: 1) Chinese food in Chinatown, 2) Italian food in Little Italy, 3) a Broadway musical, and 4) the Statue of Liberty. The first two we nailed early (Chinatown) and often (Little Italy). The latter two we secured before we even left home by purchasing tickets online.
We had a difficult time narrowing down the Broadway musical but eventually agreed on Les Misérables at the Imperial Theatre. Neither of us had seen it before in any form. It was a great choice. We were very high up (nose-bleed section), but the view of the stage was perfect. And from up here, we could examine the architectural details of the grand old theater.
The theater staff provided entertainment before the show. Our seating area was ruled by Ms. Marilyn, a strict disciplinarian. “No feet on the chairs,” she shouted to the high school group midway up. “Don’t climb over the seats,” she directed at a young man attempting to get into a row without disturbing the people sitting on the aisle end. “No, to your left – your other left!” “You’re in E! A, B, C, D, then your row.” She must get tired of saying the same things over and over again every night. As the evening wore on, she smiled more readily because her charges had all settled down. No one dared misbehave, and we were all mesmerized by the performance anyway.
I guess I had never really thought about what it must take to sing your heart out every night for years, and keep it fresh for every audience. The cast and orchestra were fantastic.
On the way out, Ms. Marilyn entered our lives again, and directed us to take the back entrance out of the theater. That, of course, put us in a different spot on the street and it took us some time to find an entrance to the subway. We have been taking the subway everywhere, and I felt we had “mastered” it especially since we used it during last year’s visit, too. What a fool. I had no idea that the subways got tricky at night because they conduct track maintenance. Trains get diverted to other platforms, some line changes require you to first go west in order to go east, and some lines stop running altogether. What had been a straightforward route to get to the theater turned into a five-change return. Thank God that someone adopted us.
It seems God sends me an Angel whenever I need one. Angela (her actual name) appeared out of nowhere and asked if she could help us. We must have looked confused. That would not be surprising, because were confused. As she walked with us, she kept up an animated conversation about college, her past desire to come to Hawai‘i for school, her parents, her boyfriend, and her expertise at riding the subway because she lives here. All the while, she guided us through the multiple changes in the route back to our East Broadway stop. Who says New Yorkers are aloof? What a sweetheart.
Midweek we went to the Statue of Liberty (actually, Liberty Enlightening the World). It’s one of our National Monuments, and is free. But the ferry ride out to the island is $25. We boarded at Battery Park on the southern tip of Manhattan: us and 443 of our closest friends. Funny, how everyone seemed to hush as we got close to Lady Liberty. It was nice to see everyone respecting what she meant to us. I could give you facts and statistics about the statue, but you can find out all you want to know on Wikipedia.
There’s a small extra charge if you want to walk up to the crown but you need a reservation for that. While my daughter had bought the pass to the crown for both of us, I begged off because my calves were complaining, and I had already done it back in 1979 when I came to NY with a friend. So my daughter went alone.
As I waited for her, I rested in the sun, and contemplated the opportunities she has as a citizen of the United States, just starting life on her own.
The people we met up with last night most likely understood that better than most. They had immigrated from Russia in 1994. Their daughter was born here. She and my daughter met at a summer camp and had kept in touch. Now I was meeting all three for dinner and a performance at New York’s City Center.
Over dinner, they shared stories of life in Russia, including the salary system in Russia that did not reward doctors much differently from laborers. They routinely drove to Moscow a couple hours away, to buy the sausages and other food produced in their own region; the socialist system had “distributed it.” We talked American politics. They said most Russian immigrants are deeply conservative, shying away from anything remotely labeled Socialist. At the same time, they expressed as much dismay over our current Presidential race as anyone else with whom I’ve talked. It was a lively discussion.
And then we went to a Flamenco Festival at New York City Center. Flamenco? Yup. They had gotten hooked some years before, and invited us to come along. I have to say that Flamenco is not something I’d ordinarily go to see, but hey, this is New York and I’m here to learn. It was broadening. My impressions of Flamenco going in were limited to the dances and perhaps the guitars providing the music. What I learned is that it also includes singers (sort of loud singing/vocalizing), finger snapping, and the art of hand-clapping in a 12-beat (!) rhythm. As I watched the dancers perform, I mentally compared it to tap. The flamenco “tap” is a deeply resonating stomp, but just as fast as the light-footed tap. My feet hurt just watching them. Flamenco is rooted in the Andalusian music of Spain with its mix of Romani, Jews, Moors, Andalusians and Castilians. We saw Farruquito, “from the Farruco dynasty, the first family of Gypsy flamenco dance.” The show was stunning. Or maybe I should say I was stunned by how much I liked it.
As I review what I did and saw in New York, I have to say that the unplanned, unexpected events had more flavor than the simple things on my bucket list. Part of “living full out” is getting out of my comfort zone, going with what life brings me, and capitalizing on it. Bring on the next city!
For more posts related to this trip, see also:
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