I slept well, got the blog up and made my way out about 10am. I was meeting a friend for lunch and wasn’t too hungry for some reason so just decided to wait until we were meeting about Noon to eat.
I took the 119 bus from Jersey City into Midtown. It stops at the Port Authority Bus Terminal in Times Square, and this is the first thing you see upon exiting. I think people forget “times” in Times Square refers to the newspaper.
This is a huge building covering a large chunk between 40th and 42th Streets on 8th Ave; that’s 41st St there running underneath it. It has 223 departure gates and serves about 8000 buses a day. It’s six levels total, underneath linked to the huge subway station at 42nd St.
My goal for the morning was the New York Public Library. I’d stopped by it last year but it was too early in the morning – like about 9:30 when it opens at 10am – and I didn’t feel like waiting so figured I’d come back at some point. Now was the time; I headed towards it along 41st St.
A nice surprise when I got here: an exhibit on the 50th anniversary of Stonewall. Also one on Walt Whitman, both free. I’m not big on poetry so skipped the latter but was very interested in the first.
The exhibit was divided into 4 sections, one on each wall of 2 hallways across from each other: Resistance, Bars, In print, Love. All of it was very interesting, much of it from the library’s own archives; I decided to go easy on photos.
The Resistance section started with what it was like for those very brave activists pre-Stonewall who put themselves in danger just for being public about their sexuality. In order to appear as harmless and “normal” as possible, they intentionally dressed very conservatively, hiding “behind masks of propriety in order to critique their oppression.” After Stonewall, Pride marches attracted thousands who felt emboldened to express themselves more freely, encouraged also by the counterculture environment at the time which included a broader sexual revolution for everyone.
I left around 1pm. I was meeting my friend Del’Esa, who lived in Sacramento until January 2018 when she moved to Brooklyn. I met up with her when I was here last summer and was looking forward to seeing her again. We had originally planned on meeting at Noon. Her errands delayed her; she texted me while I was in the library that it would be closer to 1pm, which was fine since I didn’t know about the exhibit when I started out.
Another iconic intersection that I love, at the northeast corner of the library. Del’Esa was delayed again and we didn’t meet up until closer to 2pm, so I hung out on 5th Ave until we met at a little place called Valerie that was quite charming.
I forgot to take photos of the inside, we so quickly got caught up in conversation. It was a pretty classy place with a decent menu. Since it was so late and I had 6:30pm dinner reservations, we went with various small plates to share. But boy was I hungry by that time.
From here we went back to 42nd Street and took the 7 subway line to it’s end at 34th St. Del’Esa had arranged for tickets for us to visit The Vessel, a unique piece of interactive art which is a centerpiece of a huge new development known as Hudson Yards. It’s free, but maximum capacity is 700 people so entrances are timed.
The start of the High Line is at Hudson Yards as well. I’d gone here briefly last year, but from the other side where it ends at 12th St. This was an elevated railroad track that had been out of use since the 80s. Nature had taken it’s course and a wide range of wild vegetation had taken over, creating a natural elevated park of sorts. Michael Bloomberg becomes mayor in 2002 and reverses previous policy which favored demolition of such areas over preseervation. This opened the door for other groups to get involved; the first section of this was opened in 2009 (very long story short). The Hudson Yards development is 26 acres; earliest sections completed in 2016.
I had never heard of Pantone colors but Del’Esa, being a fashionista, knew all about it. There’s a Color of the Year? No clue. Google it if you care :0
We left here about 5:30 and took the subway back to 42nd St.
Del’Esa and I parted at the 42nd St subway station with loose plans to see each other again today. I was returning to Becco for dinner and had 6:30 reservations. I checked on early seating but no dice, which was not a surprise, so I hung out at a cute little place a block away on 47th.
I had an iced ginger latte with a ton of fresh ginger at the bottom. Very original, very tasty.
I came back to try another round of the chef’s pasta specials. I was seated in a back section I hadn’t even noticed the other day, but had the same waiter. He remembered me!
I was excited to see Wicked again. I’d read the book back in 2002 and was fascinated by the story, being a huge fan of the Wizard of Oz. Written by Gregory Maguire, it’s subtitle is “The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.” The book is very political, very dark, not an easy read. I was skeptical when I heard it was being made into a musical and for years had no interest in it. In May of 2010, Jon and I saw it at the Orpheum in San Francisco. This was just a few months after Michael died; I was a mess during “For Good.” I loved it outside of that and bought the soundtrack and have listened to it countless times since. I was listening to it driving back from the Bay Area a couple of months back and realized I should see it again while I’m here. When I really liked the show I get more out of it the 2nd time and this definitely qualified. (I’ve seen Les Miserables 4x, that’s how much I loved that!)
And I also knew that seeing it on Broadway is different. In general, the quality of the performers here are better than those on tour. And, the quality of the sets is different. Wicked has been playing at the Gershwin Theater on 51st St since it opened October 30, 2003. When that’s your home, you get to do things with the stage that wouldn’t translate well for a touring production.
Let’s just say: I was not disappointed. When I opened the playbill and saw that the understudy was playing Elphaba I admit to being concerned. I needn’t be. If I hadn’t known, I would never have guessed she was the understudy. She pulled it off brilliantly.
And seeing the song Defying Gravity on the original stage was breathtaking. “Everyone deserves a chance to fly.” For a glimpse, check out this clip from the 2004 Tony Awards. That’s original cast Idina Menzel and Kristin Chenowith. Idina won the Best Actress in a Musical that year. It was nominated for Best Musical, but was beat out by Avenue Q. (Forgive the quality of Idina’s voice in the clip; I understand she had an asthma attack just a few minutes before this performance; given that, it’s awesome…)
On my way out I came across the Junior’s on 49th. Fate I call that.
It was an 8pm show; with dessert and a delayed bus, I didn’t get back until almost 1am.
Today I leave Manhattan to do a little exploring in Queens and Brooklyn before my 8pm tickets for Book of Mormon. Beyond that, it’s pretty unstructured so will see what I come across.