Monday, June 30, 2008

New York, Part One

$15: that’s all you need for a bus ride from Boston to New York City, and so we went. The Bolt Bus travels just four hours before dropping you just a few blocks from Broadway and Time Square, and as luck would have it, it deposited us – of all places – at the doorway of the hotel where our friend Kim lives while interning for DKNY. Kismet.

In just over 24 hours, we stuffed in more activities than I usually do in a week. Upon arrival, we picked up Kim and a gigantic slice of pizza, most of which I ended up wearing, and took a Liberty Cruise to see the statue in all her glory, passing by that strange absence on the ride there. Even if you’re not sure where the Twin Towers used to stand, you know you’re there when you reach the most silent part of one of the noisiest cities in the world. The first time I saw it, I didn’t have my bearings and was unsure what part of New York we were standing in, but as soon as we crossed the street to where the memorial now stands, I just. . . knew. No one was talking. Everyone moved slowly. Cars didn’t honk, people didn’t yell, no one shoved or catcalled or anything. They just – looked. Even passing it by boat, I felt the same thing.

After the tour came Saks Fifth Avenue, the only store I’ve ever seen whose shoe department literally has its own zip code. Prada, Jimmy Choo, Gucci, shoes shaped like fish, shoes in bright blue, shoes with tall heels and rich leather flats and women EVERYWHERE, pulling, pushing, trying on, discarding, debating, arguing, considering, purchasing madness. I just watched.

Then, Macy’s with its odd wooden escalators and a children’s department that is every person’s nightmare: children wailing, throwing clothes, mothers begging, making bargains, jamming hats on infants, pinching chubby little arms, exhausted fathers negotiating strollers through narrow aisles, insanity. I buy a hot pink dress.

It’s Pride Parade weekend. We pass transvestites in hot pink wigs and black miniskirts. Everyone’s wearing a rainbow.

Night falls. We enter the Eugene O’Neill theater, an intimate place. The set of Spring Awakening involves the audience; four rows of wooden schoolchairs sit on the actual stage, and we have tickets to sit there. I notice nervously that some of the chairs lack numbers, and Andrew points out the little bottles of water under the unmarked seats. Before I can really fathom that possibility, the actors march out in single file and those not singing sit beside us, all around us, on chairs behind us, stomping, singing, cursing, spitting, sweating – our friend Phoebe, who plays Anna in the production, takes the seat next to us and laughs when she sees we’ve purchased seats 111 and 113 right next to where her character is always placed. I squeeze her on the arm, completely overwhelmed to do anything else. After the show, she grabs us and pulls us through the side door for a tour backstage. I’m not sure what I’m expecting, but the alleys and rooms and byways and stairs are precariously narrow, the walls dingy, the light dim with bulbs out here and there and exposed pipes hanging low from the ceiling. We brush actors from the show and I don’t speak, entirely too afraid to say anything in case I say something stupid. “This is where we have birthday parties,” Phoebe says and points to a stale case of doughnuts and laughs. I can’t imagine living her life and am so glad for her that I have nothing adequate to say.

We eat and walk her towards her home, past a group of men who yell “titties titties titties” at every woman who walks by. Phoebe is unfazed. A tall young guy touches her shoulder and says “Phoebe Strole!” and kisses her face and says “Ohmigod I’m not a crazy fan I used to work with you don’t mind me I’m drunk woohoo!” and she walks away. “I’ve never seen him in my life,” she says.

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