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Saturday, April 22, 2017

what i did for love

A couple of months ago, we got a call from a friend about a good deal on tickets to New York and did we want to go there with her and her daughter, SWDNO's best friend.

Of course a seat sale to NYC is just an invitation to blow all the money you save on airfare on that city's wonders and delights. After convincing ourselves this was such a good deal we couldn't pass it up and pretending we had no idea how poor we would be afterwards, we agreed pretty readily.

The first time I went to New York, I was 18. In order to get there, I stuffed myself into a VW camper van with five other people, the majority of my family; my older sister had to be in Moncton. Our ultimate destination was Florida so we had only one day to spend in the Big Apple.

My brother was the only one brave (or foolhardy) enough to drive us into the heart of the beast. To a crowd of Newfoundlanders who hadn't even mastered the art of merging, the traffic in and around New York was like something out of Grand Theft Auto (a simile we wouldn't have used because it didn't exist back then).

It was a beautiful spring day which my brother and two younger sisters decided would be best spent navigating the NY subway system so they could visit a friend who worked at the Waldorf Astoria (!) but who lived in Brooklyn.

I was a weird teenager who actually liked hanging out with her parents, or at least would tolerate their presence because they wanted to see actual NYC - or more particularly Manhattan, and more specifically everything in walking distance of Times Square.

I remember walking around feeling like I had been there before, knowing the street names, having seen it all so many times in the movies and on TV. We went to the top of the Empire State Building. I bought a T-shirt declaring my undying love for NY.

Mostly, we just had time to wander around, jaws dropping, clutching our purses against the muggers.

I couldn't wait to get back.

It took me 32 years - I had to make Her Father take me there as a 50th birthday present because he was only interested in sunshine and beaches in the deep, dark winter of a Newfoundland spring. Technically, we went in the fall that time, but fall and spring are equally the best times to go to New York.

We saw Central Park, we went to the top of 30 Rock. We saw The Book of Mormon at highway robbery prices because of travel delays and poor planning, and because my husband didn't want to disappoint me.

Our next trip we took at Easter. We got to stroll on the Avenue, Fifth Avenue, with people in their Easter bonnets.

It was a blast. We saw Central Park, we went to the top of the Empire State, we saw Wicked and Beautiful. They were still pricey tickets but we didn't spend quite so much because we booked in advance.

For our most recent trip we were even smarter. I wanted to see everything so it didn't matter which show I went to, mostly. I was ready to take my chances at the half-price ticket booth in Times Square.

But after seeing a video of Jake Gyllenhaal sing "Finishing the Hat" from Sunday in the Park with George, I convinced Her Father that we absolutely needed to see it (it was a limited run). He gave me the tickets for my birthday.

We prudently booked it for the second night so there was no danger of Air Canada or United screwing us over (United and AC screwed us over the first time).

Sunday in the Park with George and Jake Gyllenhaal is about making art, putting it together. I am attempting to do that with this blog so it is really relevant to my life right now.  The production was first rate, the snacks were expensive.

The reason the snacks were so expensive is because they were all about art too.

I kept the Coke bottle/tin because I spent so much money on it I didn't feel I could buy any of the other cool art/souvenir t-shirts on sale (items in the background were not purchased at the theatre).

The sign over the bar was a quote from the play, the importance of balance between life and work.

George couldn't find room in his life for anyone unless they helped him with his art. He had room for a bare minimum of non-art (the sign says: More red, more blue, more beer). There is apparently always room for beer.

Art isn't easy but going to this play was because we pre-purchased the tickets.

I had to struggle to see art the first day we arrived, however. The day was cold and a bit damp; we were all exhausted and everyone wanted to have a nap. Our luggage had not arrived. I needed to figure out how to get discount tickets to whichever show was the best deal.

I finally decided that the only show I was willing to stay awake for was Groundhog Day. I loved the movie and I loved Tim Minchin, the man who wrote the music and lyrics.

Because my windbreaker/rain jacket was also refusing to come to America, I had to wrap myself up in my Tardis hoodie and brave the cold. It wasn't too bad while I was walking to Times Square but it was pretty bitter once I had to wait on line.  I got reasonably good seats at a good price, in a back row of the Orchestra section.

I also bought our friends tickets to see Cats; by some miracle, it was playing in the theatre right across the street from Groundhog Day so we made arrangements to meet on the street right before the shows.  Then I dragged my cold bones back for a two hour nap - had to set an alarm so we wouldn't sleep in.

We somehow managed to drag ourselves back out into the cold despite not having had enough sleep, an hour before showtime. Fortunately, I didn't have space in our checked bag for the thick cozy sweater I had packed in my carry-on so SWDNO had a warmer sweater than what she had worn on the plane.  Normally, I would not wear a Tardis to a Broadway show but I had no other options.

We arrived on 52nd street with 10 minutes to spare, gave our friends their tickets, and rushed to join the line filtering into the August Wilson Theatre across the way. I was just opening my purse to show I had no concealed fruit on my person when I noticed an impossible thing.

The tickets I held in my fist, the ones I had checked as per instruction before leaving the TKTS booth earlier that afternoon, were for Groundhog Day but not for April 7. They were for April 8!

This was impossible - first of all, the TKTS booth can only sell tickets for the day of the performance so they couldn't have sold me tickets for the following night. Secondly, I had tickets to see Jake in the Park on Saturday Night and I couldn't see Groundhog Day at the same time.

Panicking, I rushed to the ticket booth and gibbered at the guy behind the glass. He couldn't understand how it happened either so he went off to talk to the manager. When he finally came back, I waved my receipt at him to show further proof I wasn't scamming him.

He assured me that he would never distrust anyone in a Tardis so he took a big red Sharpie and wrote J105 and J106 on our tickets in big friendly letters.  When we got to our seats and saw that we were only 10 rows from the stage and right smack dab in the middle with two empty seats in front of us, we were in our glee.

At first I found it hard to pay attention we were so wound up in our good fortune at getting such good seats to such a good show. But the show was worth all the drama. It was clever, funny, musically interesting, full of creative staging, lightning fast costume changes, and delightful sleight of hand.

There was even a song all about me, Playing Nancy.

We laughed, we cried, it became a part of us.

Afterwards, we bought all the souvenirs we could afford. We will be twins in matching rodent shirts.

Later I tweeted the greatest compliment I could think of which was that I wanted to steal the ideas I was getting while watching the show.

Then a Broadway miracle occurred. Tim Minchin liked me. Twice.

I was verklempt.

After the reality of all this ticket and souvenir purchasing began to sink in, I started thinking about ways to economise. Plus my options for Sunday and Monday night Broadway shows were not as wide-ranging as I had hoped. None of the other shows I had high on my list were even on offer. Aladdin was too dear and practically sold out to boot.

So on Sunday, we rested. On Monday, Her Father decided to check out the musical rodent while SWDNO and I checked out a fantastic movie theatre showing Beauty and the Beast. I loved that musical as an animated film and enjoyed the live action almost as much. The theatre was worth the extra we paid for it too, with it's comfy reclining seats complete with foot rests, all adjusted with the touch of buttons; you wouldn't even know there was anyone in the seats in front of you because the tops of the seats in front were on level with the low wall at our feet.

At the end, I stood up to find my head was projected on the screen. We made hand puppets over the closing credits.

Afterwards, we went back to 52nd Street to hang out at the Groundhog Day stage door. My Cousin Debbie has a friend in the cast who had added us to the guest list or so we thought. But there was a miscommunication and the door guy didn't know who we were. He said he'd check but everyone else on the list were being let in and it looked like we weren't.

Someone else appeared who was there for Tari Kelly, our friend of a cousin friend. She came out to meet them and when someone called her by name, I grabbed my chance.

"I'm Cousin Debbie's cousin!" I cried. "We're not on the list."

She quickly sorted that out and we were in, standing on a Broadway stage looking out at the primo seats we had sat in only three nights before. Tari graciously took time away from her actual friends to show us around.

I have been in a few local productions at the Arts and Culture Centre so it was partly what I was expecting, but the compactness of it all was astounding. They have to get a lot of stuff into a very little space, a multitude of props and set pieces, on shelves, stuck in corners, hanging from the ceiling.

In my last show, I had trouble getting a couple of chairs on stage and a bar piece I had to maneuver was tricky to get locked on its mark. They have to wrangle so many moving pieces in that show and do it with such professionalism and grace I was in awe.

I couldn't have asked for a more fitting end to our stay in New York.

Although my bills have yet to come home to roost and I am wondering whether I will pay them with buttons or beach rocks, I don't think I have ever felt so satisfied with a trip in my life.

Art isn't easy and it sure ain't cheap, but it's worth it.

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