Technical note: All photos and videos were taken using a Canon G1X.
April 4 is the Mattopian New Year. Given work on a Web project was progressing well, I decided to bump up my spring break by a couple days and guarantee my 19-season opening day streak would continue with the Mets' home opener at CitiField on April 5. The notion of an all-nighter occurred to me as a way to add a bit of adventure to the proceedings, save on the hotel bill, and make up for the otherwise lack of adventure thanks to an oft-delayed trip to a foreign destination and political hot zone (Israel).
The plane arrived in Newark around 1:10 in the morning of April 5. The entertainment factor began before I even left the airport. A transit guide gave me the low-down on how the trains worked, going from the airport to Newark Penn Station, then to New York Penn. "It's elementary, my dear Watson," he said to me as we walked over to a map.
Awesome. I love Sherlock Holmes!
Yes indeed, the game was afoot!
There was a slight layover at Newark Penn, awaiting the transfer to New York Penn, then there was a little snag involving closed passageways while taking the "back door" out of the train ramp. Some other people had followed me; one thanked me for "saving" them when we reached the main, mall-like concourse of Penn Station. A little overstated, but funny.
From then on, it was business as usual and things moved along like clockwork. An early morning gyro dinner at Westway Diner. Dropped off the primary luggage bag at the hotel (Fitzpatrick Grand Central) I'd be staying at the next night; they apologized for not being able to accommodate me right away. Under other circumstances, they would've let me claim a room, but they were booked solid. No problem. I knew what I was in for.
Yeah. I knew all right. But the 5 o'clock hour was rough. I walked over to Rockefeller Center and was perplexed when I saw this woman with a couple kids. One kid was dressed like SpongeBob SquarePants. They were hanging out by a hotdog stand, which was open and grillin' the dogs even at that unholy hour.
What the heck? Have I entered a Dali painting? It felt so surreal. I stood around for a few minutes, catching some shut-eye on my feet. Then I went over to a deli and grabbed a cup of java; they couldn't get the cappuccino option in their automatic coffee maker to work, so it was regular ol' joe.
Having spent some time relaxing in the back dining area of the deli, I returned to "30 Rock." There were even more people hanging out.
Good God! Could it be?! Is the real SpongeBob going to make an appearance at the Today Show?! No. It was just a bunch of nuts anxious to get their mugs on TV - and subject their children to the bizarre ritual of waking up early in order to get on television.
Anyway, here's the rundown of what happened next:
- I haven't watched the Today Show in years. I graduated to a mix of CNN and Fox a while back and haven't looked back. I'm appalled by the state of the show. It has devolved to an unrecognizable level of infotainment. Not a soul who had arrived so early in the wee hours had a clue about the news, if they could weed it out of all the clutter of peppy, feel-good crap. Octomom was the celebrity du jour. I left with a couple pix of Matt, Al, and the gang, and some behind-the-scenes video footage. And I left depressed. What a sad state of affairs.
- It was a beautiful day for Opening Day at CitiField. The Mets beat the Braves 1-0. The next morning, the New York Post proclaimed the Mets were undefeated with only 161 more games to go! Hilarious.
- I spent the first four nights having nightmares about the big Web project I launched before takeoff. It turned into a grueling, epic run to get the job done, so I was still mentally recovering from the intense workload.
- Enjoyed a nice little exhibit about Percy Shelley at the New York Pubic Library.
- Returned to one of my favorite spots, the Morgan Library, for free late hours on Friday. And I was delighted to hear photography in the original Morgan rooms is now allowed.
- On a whim, checked out the new production of Evita. I got a standing ticket; it was all that was available and it was all I wanted to spend. I wasn't a fan of the show at all, but it was a big new production of Andrew Lloyd Webber's classic, with Ricky Martin as Che and a personal favorite, Michael Cerveris, as Juan Peron. Hot damn! I was blown away. The show was immaculately staged, elegant lit, and the performances were terrific. Martin was better than expected and Elena Roger (from Argentina) was excellent as Eva. I finally "got" the show; I appreciated the significance of the story and thoroughly enjoyed the music.
- Easter mass with Cardinal Timothy Dolan. I'm not Catholic, but I know rock stars when I see them and Cardinal Dolan is a Catholic rock star. I'm wondering if he'll become pope some day. Anyway, I was part of the overflow crowd and was thrilled to hear him speak. He even made a joke that hit really close to home: He was asked if he was excited about having a full house for his service (3,000 or so tickets were all snapped up) and he said yes, but he was also disappointed because Timothy Tebow (former Bronco hero and new Jets backup quarterback) was preaching in Texas to a mass of some 25,000!
- The Easter Day parade was delightful craziness, as usual.
- Peter and the Starcatcher is a terrific tale that tells how Peter Pan got his start. It's all about the imagination and it's imaginatively staged with a great sense of humor (the source novel was co-written by humorist Dave Barry). Captain Hook, in particular, is hilarious.
- Bruce Springsteen performed a non-stop 3-hour set at Madison Square Garden. The E-Street Band sounded great and there were a couple salutes to the legendary Clarence Clemons. The new music from Wrecking Ball took on new resonance when performed live. While I had a rather crummy seat, I still stood through the entire set and I was disappointed when some around put their butts in their seats as soon as a slow song started. You don't do that at rock concerts, people! Impressive: Bruce came out on the floor, then cut throuh the general admission portion on a catwalk. He guzzled a fan's beer. Then he guzzled another one. And then he body-surfed back to the stage! Dude, I thought, you're gonna puke! But he did not. Boy I wish I was down on the floor, but as usual with Springsteen at the Garden, there were ticketing glitches and I was lucky to be in the house at all. A point of irritation: The guy sitting next to me was also at the Friday night show. So he saw both Springsteen concerts at the Garden. And he was seemingly transfixed with his frickin' smartphone and Facebook. Good God, man, put the feckin' phone away and live in the moment!
- Spent a day at MoMA. Highly enjoyed the Cindy Sherman exhibit.
- Became a member of the Frick. Great Matisse exhibit.
- Nice Titanic exhibit opened down at the South Street Seaport to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the naval catastrophe.
- Anything Goes was pleasant fun but hardly spectacular. It was cool to see Staphanie Block again (she was the Pirate Queen a couple years ago) and Joel Grey was fine, but the show really could've used some punching up. There are enough thematic elements there that would work well in a modern-day setting and thereby provide a sense of freshness, instead this time capsule production was one part silly, one part stale.
- After seeing Anything Goes, I lost interest in seeing Nice Work if You Can Get It and I wasn't particularly excited to see Once since it was based on a movie, albeit a very good one. Same for Newsies, which was not only based on a movie, but a Disney movie at that. I was, however, compelled to see Evita a second time. I know what I like.
- War Horse is an exceptionally-staged drama at the Lincoln Center. I had a fantastic second row aisle seat and it was stage in a semi-round setting; some characters came on stage right by me. I was impressed how the play retooled the source material, a children's book told from the first-person view of a horse. (Steven Spielberg would go on to take the material to an even more fully-realized level in his cinematic version; no, the play's not based on the movie.) Very good use of a carousel setup similar to the original production of Les Miserables, great traditional music that expounded on the emotional events on stage.
- Delighted with the progress at the Freedom Tower and quality of the 9/11 Memorial. Very well done. And it was exciting to see the area being rejuvenated and rising up to new glories. Only a couple weeks after my visit, the Freedom Tower would officially become the tallest building in Manhattan.
- On a lark, I went to see One Man, Two Guvnors and I was absolutely bowled over. The show is a frolicsome piece of work. While looking over the Playbill, I realized the star, James Corden, had a minor role in the new version of The Three Musketeers. I had reviewed the Blu-ray shortly before the trip and heard during the commentary track that Corden's a huge star in the UK. Yeah, he was funny in the movie. But... wow... he showed quite a lot of talent on stage. The show starts off a little bit before curtain time, with a skiffle band coming out to set the tone. Great, funny songs. This is Spinal Tap material; humorous parody songs that also actually work as enjoyable songs with a life of their own. Great show. Highly recommended. And, to top it off, Corden's a nice guy. He very graciously signed autographs and posed for pictures after the show.
- I confess: One night I had a nightmare about working on the Web site for the Evita production. How weird is that?
- Opening Day at Yankee Stadium was another beauty. They whooped the Angels 5-0 (two shut out home openers in one trip!).
- Last spring I saw Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark while it was still in its seemingly never-ending previews run. Yes. There were problems. The geek chorus made no sense; were they actually creating the Spider-Man character? And the whole bit with the Green Goblin getting crushed by a piano that fell off the top of the Chrysler Building was a head-scratcher. But, damn, Julie Taymor had a wild, vivid fever dream of a rock opera that pushed the boundaries of stale Broadway sensibilities. It was a mess, but it was an exciting mess. Then the cast CD was released. It's not a traditional Broadway cast recording; it's music "from" the show since Bono is featured on a couple tracks. (The show also includes a couple nice little inside jokes - Osborne's ring tone is Beautiful Day and Vertigo is the song featured in a night club scene.) Shortly after I saw the show, Taymor was fired. Then the show finally opened last summer. The way I see it, they settled for the easy way out. Yes, they took away the geek chorus all together. And they made it painfully clear what's going on with the gaggle of villains wreaking havoc on Manhattan and how the Green Goblin gets killed off by a falling piano. But they also took the band (featuring lead Spider-Man Reeve Carney's brother) off the stage and replaced the band with a faceless collection of musicians beneath the stage (they make an on-screen curtain call after the show). The show lost Taymor's crazy ambitions and settled for something much less than it could've and should've been.
I guess that sums up Spring Break 2012, basically. More or less.
As I commented during the Springsteen bit, I was annoyed with the guy enamored with his phone. But that was hardly an isolated incident. It happened at Evita. I was in the front row at Spider-Man, but I'm sure it happened there, too. And there was the pinhead at One Man, Two Guvnors who could barely take his eyes off his phone long enough to find his seat (meaning the theatre seat; I honestly don't think he could find his own ass if his life depended on it). C'mon. As soon as the intermission started, his phone was back in hand as he made his way out of the row and it was still firmly in hand when he returned.
Live in the moment, people! Then you might actually have something worthwhile to share/like/tweet afterward!