Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Boeing, Boeing!

God I love New York. Every time I walk down a NY City sidewalk, I feel ever so lucky to be fortunate enough to live in this great city - even more so when I'm on my way to or from a Broadway show.

Tonight I had a half-price ticket to see an hysterical comedy called "Boeing, Boeing!"at the Longacre Theater on W. 48th Street in midtown. It was my friend Lin Sue who told me I had to see it. The play originally opened in Paris in 1960 and is listed in Guinness as the longest running French play in history.

For those of you "Ally McBeal" fans, the leading male character in this play is actor Greg Germann. He was great; but it was his counterpart, actor Mark Rylance, who stole the show as Robert Lambert, the meek Wisconsinite who is astounded by his friend's "international harem" in Paris.

The play is about Bernard, a guy living in Paris who has three fiancees--one German, an Italian, and a New Yorker--all of whom are air hostesses and don't know the others exist. His French maid, the sarcastic Bertha (Christine Baranski), helps him keep their schedules organized. Of course, havoc ensues when the timetables change and all hostesses end up in the fancy Paris apartment at the same time. I laughed so hard at Mark's blatantly out-of-character antics that I cried. And the intense, passionate German gal (Missi Pyle) who falls in love with her antithesis, the mild-mannered Robert, was unbearably funny with her extreme melodramatic acts.

Oh, and the woman sitting to my left asked me before the show if I'd ever seen "Mad Men" on AMC. "Oh my God!" I told her, "I just met the creator of that show in a book shop!" She was all ears when I mentioned that tidbit! I didn't realize that Matt Weiner was recently featured in the New York Times until she told me about the article. And I shook hands with the guy just two days ago!

I've seen some really good shows this year. My favorites were "The 39 Steps," a Hitchcock mystery-turned-comedy, "Young Frankenstein," and tonight's "Boeing, Boeing!" All very funny. The Hitchcock play was fantastic, as the entire play was done by just four actors, each of whom could switch hats in a heartbeat to play a different role on the fly. With incredible talent, they carried their own props on and off stage as part of the act. Turning "The 39 Steps" into a true comedy is not only original--it's pure genius. For that show and tonight's as well, I had the best seat in the house - mezzanine front row center, where one can see the entire stage!

My brother Dave was in town in August for "Young Frankenstein." The lead male was played by Roger Bart, former pharmacist George from "Desperate Housewives." However, it was Igor (Christopher Fitzgerald) who stole that show.

Also this year, I got to see "Curtains," with David Hyde Pierce, a play about a play where one of the crew is murdered. It was fun, but it didn't hold a candle to Mr. Pierce's performance in "Spamalot" in late 2005.

How lucky I am to have all of this wonderful entertainment just a few subway stops from home. As I was coming home tonight on the 3 train, I nearly cried when I thought about moving away from NY a second time.

I'm telling you, once you've lived here, no place else is good enough. I have never in my life lived in another place where just walking down the street made me feel so alive and happy to be. And I love my wonderful apartment with its huge arch window and great landlord. How often does that happen? To me, never.

Maybe I can get my Masters degree in computer forensics and come back. But if I come back to NYC for a third time, it'll take a stampede of wild horses to drag me away again. I swear it: I am not done with New York yet, and I don't think I'll ever be finished with it.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

More Than Just a Celebrity Sighting Today

Today I went into the City to get my Manhattan fix. From 14th St & 7th Ave, I walked to do some shopping at 6th & 18th, then up to 23rd, and over to Madison Square Park. It was a beautiful blue-sky day, about 60 degrees. I'd forgotten that there was an art exhibit in the park - but was reminded quickly when I saw several tree houses perched above me. (Actually, I didn't know it was an "art" exhibit until I Googled it just now - turns out that tree houses, not unlike scaffolding waterfalls, can be art too.)

I was done with my shopping but not done with the City, so I walked up Madison Ave and decided to stop in at one of my favorite places - the Astro Gem shop at 34th St. I did a little Christmas shopping there and then wandered up the block to the antique book store that I've been dying to go into for months. Every time I've been past it in the past it was closed.

I walked in and a charismatic, good-looking guy immediately caught my attention - he was telling the nice, curly-haired Croatian book store attendant a story. How easily I got pulled in. The customer doing the talking was like a magnet - the kind of guy that everyone gravitates to at a party. He was telling a story about a buddy of his who used his own hole puncher to get free coffee at Starbucks with those wallet-sized 'club' cards that you get punched every time you purchase a coffee.

It seems his buddy had punched a card himself and presented it to the barista gal at a Starbucks as payment for his coffee. Apparently he'd gotten away with his scheme in the past. But the young gal wasn't buying it. She took one look at the card and said, "You punched all of these today." How could she tell? Customer Guy explained it - there were bits of paper still attached to each hole on the back of the card. "You know, like hanging chads," he said, and I had to laugh as I recalled that fiasco from the last election.

But the girl absolutely refused to give his buddy a free coffee because she suspected he'd cheated on his card. My two new friends in the book store both felt that she should've given him the free coffee because Starbucks is a multi-million dollar corporation. To me, it was more like stealing. But, after reflecting, it occurred to me that they did have a point. What's the big deal over one lousy cup of coffee? Customer Guy's point of the story was that this coffee shop girl was on a power trip.

"That's just like my experience at the post office yesterday," I told the guys. I explained that I was mailing a box of books in a used box that still had some 'Bath and Body Works' printing on the box. But I'd taken a magic marker and marked through the writing because the post office has some new rule about marking out everything pre-printed on a box. My marker was low on ink, but I managed to mark through everything before I left home for my walk to the P.O.

Nonetheless, the woman at counter wouldn't take my box. I said, "But I marked through the writing." She looked at the box and started reading aloud, " Bath and Body Works, 1-800- . . . ." I was like, "Ok, ok. But, come on, I marked through it." She said nope.

I tried again, "But I walked all the way here from home, can't you please take it this time so I don't have to go all the way home and come back? See, I marked through everything!" (like a good little customer).

Not only did she refuse to mail my package but she claimed there were no magic markers at the post office. (Right, and chickens don't lay eggs.) There was absolutely no reason for her to refuse my package. I'd clearly done my due dilligence and marked through all the printing on the box. I just hadn't done it well enough for this disgruntled postal worker who is obviously a control freak.

As I told the guys in the book store, I waited five minutes at the other end of the post office, then I simply walked over to another window and gave the box to a different postal employee to mail. The girl didn't look twice at it, much less make any remarks about my poor marking job.

Mr. Customer sided with me, saying, "It's all about power and control," and proceeded to tell us another story about a time he was a student living in Spain.

We talked for a little while longer. Eventually we were done telling our 'power trip' stories. I was anxious to browse the wonderful old books. I was looking at these cool antique maps when I overheard Mr. Customer say something to Book Store Guy about his "show." I kept browsing. A bit later, I turned around and asked him "What show do you do?" He told me, "Mad Men on AMC." I'd never heard of it, I told him. I said there are only a few shows on TV that I really like to watch, like Law & Order. He told me that his show is about a 1960's ad agency in NY. And, as I recall, he mentioned something about it winning a couple of Emmys.

Then he asked me, "You ever watch The Sopranos?"

"Oh, of course!" I told him, "I love The Sopranos." He said that he'd done several of those episodes too. I told him I thought that was cool (of course).

I assumed he was a writer. Nice guy. Extremely engaging. Great talker and story teller. He introduced himself as Matt, we shook hands, and he left the store with a smile and a wave to both me and Book Store Guy. After Matt walked out, I turned around and told Book Store Guy, "See - that's what I love about New York! You meet so many interesting people," and he agreed.

He and I chatted later. Turns out he has a PhD and teaches Philosophy at Fordham. But he only makes $20,000 a year! Man, those are poverty wages for NY. That's why he lives in a s----y studio apartment and has to do the book store job on the side, he told me. Meanwhile, high school teachers start at $50K, and his ex-girlfriend, who is a jewelry buyer for some NY company, makes $160K a year. To buy jewelry. How unfair is that? She's in her 20's making $160,000 for a job that Book Store Guy said, ". . . would be like me going into Versace to pick out suits."

I had a great day. But here's the cool part. This evening I decided to Google Mad Men to find out if this guy Matt's name is listed as a writer.

Boy was I wrong. He's not a writer on the show, he's the creator of the show!

So, the attractive and outgoing Customer Guy with the great personality is actually a big TV producer by the name of Matthew Weiner! Here he is on the AMC web site, with that same genuine, engaging smile. There are more photos of him on IMDB. Wow! I shook hands with a television show producer today and didn't even know it at the time. That's another first for me. (If you live in New York, you get lots of those. How lucky I am.)

It's like the couple who looked at my apartment yesterday (which is up for rent now). She's an attorney, and her husband Chris works at Gracious Home, an awesome home decorating store chain here in NYC. Apparently, he has celebrity sightings all the time at work, his most recent being Goldie Hawn (which he failed to tell his wife for two whole weeks afterward, as if it was nothing. She, of course, had a cow when she found out. "Why didn't you tell me?!").

How cool is that. I love New York. :)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Law & Order in New York

Do these Law & Order episodes sound familiar to you? I'm sure I've seen them all myself:

- An SUV drives into a storefront, injuring several people

- A dead body is found in suitcase in a park in Yonkers

- A man is shot by live ammunition in civil war re-enactment

- A 21-year veteran police officer commits suicide after causing the death of a mentally ill man in Brooklyn who fell to his death after being tasered by police

You've seen these episodes, right?

Well, these aren't television episodes - these are actual events that were reported on the local news earlier this month in New York City. Maybe I've just been watching too much news on TV since I joined one of the 159,000 newly unemployed Americans last month. Or, maybe every night on the news is like another episode of NYPD Blue or Law & Order, and I just haven't been paying attention the past year. But it's all real.

And yesterday I saw an episode play out on a street corner in the heart of Brooklyn. It was mid-day and I was walking to the mall at Flatbush and Atlantic Avenue to buy groceries at the Pathmark. Waiting for the walk signal, I saw a black man chasing another, taller, better dressed black man on the sidewalk across the road from me. The smaller guy in the baseball cap grabbed the back of the other guy's sweater and tried to push him down. People were staring, and the big guy was yelling for the other to leave him alone. The little guy had a hard time taking down the larger man.

As I crossed the street, a hefty black woman headed toward the two who were scuffling. I couldn't tell who she was defending as she threw herself into the mix, yelling about "spraying" one of them. The guy on the ground was yelling to leave him alone, he didn't do nothin'. I wondered outloud, "Where are the cops?" To me, it looked like this guy was about to get beat up by the others. It appeared that maybe this guy had stolen something from the woman, and the little guy was helping her take him down.

When I got to the other side of the street, the smaller guy finally had the big guy on the ground and was emptying the victim's pockets. The woman was on him too, and she repeatedly threatened, "I'm goin' spray you. You know what dat is?" I felt sorry for the guy on the ground. I'm thinking that the pepper spray is about to come out and wondering if I need to call 911. Dozens of by-standers like myself stared on.

The big guy, arms pinned behind him, kept yelling for help, saying he'd done nothing. At this point, no one knew who the good guy was in this incident because no one had identified his or herself yet. I wasn't leaving until I knew - I kept waiting for the hand-cuffs to come out.

Momentarily, the loud-mouthed black woman with the bad grammar finally pulled out a pair of hand-cuffs. That's when I realized who the cops were in the scene, and I turned and walked away.

Five minutes later, while grocery shopping in the Pathmark, I saw an overweight guy shop-lift a Snapple off the shelf, saying to his friend, "You want sumthin' to drink?" He casually sauntered down the aisle with his drink. After a few sips, he put the lid back on, put the bottle on a different shelf, and they both walked nonchalantly out of the store.

I shook my head and kept on shopping.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

A Quick Thank-you to our Troops

It only takes a second to click this http://www.letssaythanks.com/ link and send a card to a soldier in Iraq!

Saturday, October 11, 2008

A Must-see Movie

Earlier today I was lamenting over losing tens of thousands of dollars in my retirement funds and other investments due to the Wall Street melt-down. It was a brief pity party, though, because my outlook changed after I popped in a Netflix movie called "God Grew Tired of Us." Trust me, once you've seen this movie, if you are an American with a roof over your head and a full belly when you go to bed at night, you'll begin to realize just how much more you have than many other people in this world.

The movie is nothing less than moving. The story is fantastic - it is about how the "Lost Boys" of the Sudan survived the long trek by foot across Africa to Ethiopia and later to the Kakuma refugee camp in Kenya to escape the civil war in 1992 - essentially to prevent getting shot for being Christian. Many watched their parents and siblings get shot. Many also watched half of their fellow refugees die of disease, starvation, and wild animal attacks during their journey.

These are young men who never knew electricity or running water. When someone in their clan got ill, it would take 20 men to carry that person the 75 miles to the nearest medical clinic. Their lives are community oriented, and they entertain themselves by singing, dancing, and laughing. It's touching how much they missed their families when the Lost Boys came to the states, and how their primary goal was to work hard to send money back home to help their community.

One of the interesting parts of the movie is when John Bul Dau, the lead Lost Boy in the movie, genuinely questions the purpose of the Christmas tree. Sure, it's a beautiful thing, he says, but he just doesn't understand the purpose behind it. In Africa, he explains, Christmas is about celebrating the birth of Jesus Christ. Whoa.

Very powerful stuff. With the economy in the shape it is right now, and all of us being stressed out, tense, and depressed over our finances, I can't think of a better time to watch this movie.

There is also a memoir, God Grew Tired of Us: A Memoir, written by John Bul Dau, who has made amazing strides to help the people in his homeland since coming to America in 2001. He now regularly appears at speaking engagements across the country. To find out more, visit http://www.johndaufoundation.org.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Celebrity Sighting at Union Square!

October 4, 2008

Today was a gorgeous, sunny fall day. Sweatshirt weather! I love it. I went online this morning to see if there were any street fairs going on. Sure enough, there was one on Park Ave South from 17th to 23rd Streets. I took the train (several trains, due to construction) to Union Square.

I love street fairs. I went up one side and down the other, looking for Christmas presents. I ended up with two pairs of reading glasses (just $7.50 each) and a $5 fanny pack for walking/jogging, plus a little something for my nephew Connor who likes to direct and star in his own movies.

Afterward, I was walking around the south end of Union Square, through the farmer's market, thinking "Man, it's really crowded." Passing between the vegetable stands, I saw a tall, good-looking, unshaven man heading toward me with his petite, unremarkable blonde wife and young child (I assumed) in a stroller. He was on his cell phone. I took a double-take because I thought I knew him. I wondered if we'd worked together or not. I memorized the face and kept walking.

Across the street in Filene's I couldn't stop thinking about that guy. Where do I know him from? Finally it dawned on me that he must be an actor. At Whole Foods I picked up the 40th anniversary edition of New York magazine and tucked it in my Filene's shopping bag. I thought and thought about it all the way home, but still I couldn't place the name of this actor.

At home I popped open my laptop, bound and determined to find this guy. I kept thinking, "Was he on CSI?" I could sort of picture him in a lab coat or uniform of some sort - in a serious role. I could even replay his facial expressions in my mind. (No doubt he appeared in Law & Order at some point, like every other NY actor.) I don't think I've watched a full episode of CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, so I really couldn't say.

I went to IMDB and looked through the dozens of photos of actors who'd been on CSI, but that got old quickly. The list was too long and the photo thumbnails too small.

My next Google search on "new york actors" took me right to - would you believe - an article called "The New York Actor" in the 40th anniversary edition of New York magazine! The magazine still sat on the end table next to the chair I was in.

I flipped through the slide show of photos, hoping to find my mystery man. The photos are interesting because they show many of these famous actors and actresses as they look in real life - without the makeup. Meryl Streep, S. Epatha Merkerson, Patti Lupone, Ellen Barkin (ugh!), James Earl Jones. . . and then, there on slide nine was the celebrity I saw today!

It was Liev Schreiber.

And to think I was within 10 feet of him at the farmer's market today! Had I known about the magazine article, I could have figured it out on the R train on my way home.

A little research on IMDB led me to believe that the woman he was with at Union Square today, who walked directly to my right with her stroller, was none other than Naomi Watts, who last year had a baby with Liev. Now, the woman I saw with the stroller was not the least bit attractive. But after Googling "naomi watts no makeup," I can confirm it was in fact her. Right there at the farmer's market in Union Square - an event I've attended at least a dozen Saturdays in the past year.

It's about time I had another celebrity sighting! Not counting the Susan G. Komen race for the cure three weeks ago, it had been ages since I saw a celebrity on a NY city sidewalk. I live in NYC, for crying out loud! I should be bumping into Sarah Jessica Parker at the Pearl River Mart or Cynthia Nixon at Filene's on the upper west side. I should be rubbing elbows with more famous people! Hmph.

(Photo courtesy of New York magazine.)

Friday, October 03, 2008

Calling all Women!

It's national breast cancer awareness month, and if you are reading this, you can help in this battle.

Last night there was a blurb on the news about an "Army of Women" that is seeking 1,000,000 volunteers to help researchers in the battle against breast cancer. I went to the web site at www.armyofwomen.org and was registered by the time the news show ended. It's easy to sign up, and you have nothing to fear.

The movement was started by Dr. Susan Love in partnership with the Avon Foundation, and its mission is to find the cause for breast cancer:

We can be the generation that eliminates breast cancer by identifying what causes this disease and stopping it before it starts. This is your chance to be part of the research that will end breast cancer. Sign up for your sister, mother, daughter, granddaughter, best friend, and the woman you met last week.

Ladies, get involved now! Then invite 20 of your friends. Last night, the number of women who had registered totaled 30,000. Today, just 24 hours later, that number is over 107,000! We're 10% of the way there. Let's be the generation that puts a stop to breast cancer.

Oh yeah, and you can purchase a cool pendant for just $5.00 too. :) Or, make a tax-deductible donation in support of the cause.