Spanglish

Steffie’s away, I’m on vacation. So, Helaine and I went to the movies this afternoon. We saw the new Adam Sandler movie, Spanglish.

It was enjoyable, but not without some flaws.

The story, often told in narration, is based on a college entrance essay to Princeton. It is actually the story of two families. One, headed by Deborah and John Klasky (Tea Leone and Adam Sandler) is well off. The other, a mother and daughter, is headed by the Klasky’s housekeeper.

Adam Sandler has come into his own. This is a character he has developed over time, but for the first time played as a real grownup with a family, a business and the attendant responsibilities. His wife is neurotic, self centered, overbearing, out-of-touch with reality.

That Tea Leone plays it well, and funny, is a tribute to her skill, because I found the character less than likable.

The housekeeper, Flor, is played by Paz Vega. In real life as in the movie, she knew practically no English when the production began and learned as she went along. I thought that worked well.

In fact the best scene in the movie is an argument between Vega and Sandler which is simultaneously translated in both directions by her teenage daughter. This is one of those cases where perfect comedic timing made it happen.

Where the movie falls short is in the relationship between John and Flor. About halfway through the movie I realized, if this relationship was going to progress as it seemed it would, romantically, Tea Leone’s character would have to be hurt. I had trouble with that.

At 2:08, the movie was at least 20 minutes too long. The pre-show was a little too long as well. The movie was scheduled to begin at 3:45 but didn’t get going until after 4:00 PM because of commercials, announcements and coming attractions.

New York City Trip Report – Day 1

Click here, or on any photo to see my album of photos from this trip.

It’s inside my wedding ring – 11/26/83. Helaine and I were married, just outside Philadelphia. In the beginning, I used the ring for reference to remember the exact date. Now, I know. It has been 20 years!

The past few months have been sort of rough, especially with Ivy passing away. Helaine thought it would be better if we were away on Thanksgiving and our anniversary. I agreed.

I had asked for November 26th off way back in December of last year. It was the last day of the very important November ratings book. To their credit, my bosses allowed me to take the day off. Twenty years is a milestone.

Helaine thought it would be fun to go to New York City, get a hotel, see some shows, do a little shopping, maybe catch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade and come home.

We had never used Priceline, but some folks at work had had success with it. I looked for a 4-star hotel in the Times Square area and bid. My first bid was rejected, but there was a suggestion that ‘maybe’ I’d get it if I upped the amount. I did, but in retrospect, I don’t think my Priceline deal was that hot.

I called the hotel to make sure the room would have two king size beds (we were taking Stefanie). No problem, but it would be a rollaway bed at $50 per night! And, of course, at this time my Priceline bid was locked in and non-refundable.

Helaine set out to get show tickets. Stefanie and I have gone into Manhattan on numerous occasions, standing in line at TKTS in Duffy Square and buying half price theater tickets. This would be different.

Helaine found pretty good seats for Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, starring Polly Bergen and Mark Hamil and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof with Ashley Judd, Jason Patric and Ned Beatty.

Six Weeks was in previews but had been well received pre-Broadway. Cat had gotten very good reviews, especially for Ned Beatty. We ended up seeing neither play!

Six Weeks was lambasted by every reviewer I could find. This was the kind of awful play that critics take particular pride in crushing. It wasn’t long before we got a call from Telecharge saying the Thanksgiving performance had been canceled. Actually, the show closed.

Helaine set back to Telecharge and found Wonderful Town, a revival of a 1950’s show about 1930’s New York. I had been hearing radio commercials for this show and it hadn’t appealed to me. Still, there wasn’t much choice on Thanksgiving night, and I love the theater.

We set out for Manhattan on the morning of November 26. I had been up the night before writing a story for work and taking two tests for my courses at Mississippi State. Steffie got behind the wheel of the Explorer. Helaine got into the back and prayed for a safe journey.

Stefanie got a little highway time behind the wheel and taking us to Norwalk. We swapped seats and I took us the rest of the way into the city.

Traffic was unusually light, especially considering it was the day before Thanksgiving. I got in the wrong lane at a construction site in the Bronx and ended up having to double back though some side streets. Still, we made it to the Cross Bronx Expressway and West Side Highway without incident and breezed crosstown on 44th Street directly to the hotel.

The Millennium Broadway is an OK hotel in a great location. It is less than a block east of Times Square.

We knew parking wasn’t included and now we found out it was $45 per day! We were reminded again that a rollaway bed was $50. We headed upstairs to our room, 1716.

In most hotels a 17th floor room would provide you with a commanding view. Not here. The 17th floor is only barely above the roof lines of the smaller buildings in the area and provides no view of the street or anything farther than a few blocks away.

Our room was as small as any hotel room I’ve ever been in. The king size bed took up most of the space. There was a small desk, color TV, microscopic closet with a moderate sized safe, and a few smaller chairs. One entire wall was windows.

The bathroom was normal sized with incredible water pressure. I have never seen a bathroom sink that could puncture your hand with its water pressure before this one. Towels were moderate in size. The tub/shower had glass doors and was a decent size.

Helaine discovered the drain in the tub was stuck closed. I’m not sure how the housekeeper didn’t catch this. I tried to unstick it and it snapped off in my hand. I would later tell the front desk of this problem and it was repaired properly.

This being New York, we headed down to Canal Street. I’ve written about Canal Street before, so let it suffice to say, this is the place to go to get knock offs of all types.

There are a few very interesting points about Canal Street. First, how can the trademark/copyright holders not enforce their rights? Sales of Rolex, Movado, Luis Vuitton and a zillion other brands go on right in the open.

There is some ineffectual enforcement I believe, because from time-to-time, without warning, Nextel direct connect chirps will sound and black cloths will be quickly drawn over the display tables. In the small booths, metal rolldown doors will close. Essentially any visible evidence of knock off commerce will disappear.

The second interesting point has to do with the ethnic makeup of the business owners. Most shops seem to be run by ethnic Chinese. Canal Street skirts New York’s Chinatown. There are book sellers on tables set up curbside. These folks are Southwest Asian – either Indian, Pakistani, Sri Lankan or Bangladeshis. I’m not good enough to make finer distinctions. From time-to-time lone black men will move through the crowd pulling out watches in small display boxes. These men are all African, based on their accents.

If sales tax is collected on Canal Street or if any paperwork is kept, I’ve yet to see it!

Steffie bought a few watches and a head band. Helaine and I watched.

For our 20th anniversary dinner, Helaine made reservations at Rocco’s in the Flatiron District. Rocco’s is the scene of the reality show, “Restaurant.” We caught a cab after a few minutes of jockeying for the proper location and quickly moved uptown.

Our reservations were for 5:30, but we were early, so Steffie and Helaine popped into a local furniture store while I took some photos. From the Flatiron District the Empire State Building dominates the northern skyline.

In order to eat at Rocco’s you have to sign a bunch of waivers acknowledging that a TV show is being taped here and that you give up all rights to the production company. I signed, but am unsure how AFTRA (the performers union I belong to) would react to this.

It’s a moot point. I doubt I’ll be on the show.

Rocco’s is a nice Italian restaurant, undistinguished in most ways except for the camera crews running around, the cameras on the ceiling and the casting call fresh contingent of waiters and waitresses.

Helaine and Steffie had spaghetti and meatballs (the house specialty) while I had linguine with white clam sauce. Dinner was good, not great.

As we ended dinner, Helaine spotted Rocco’s mom. She is actually responsible for the spaghetti and meatballs. With the TV show she had become a minor celebrity. Pictures were taken, of course.

We headed uptown by cab toward the Music Box Theater and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. We got to the theater and heard the news: Ashley Judd was sick. She would not be performing tonight. Since she was the big star, refunds would be offered. Helaine and Steffie decided to pass on the understudy, and I went along. We weren’t alone. I believe most ticket holders walked.

There might be a back story here. Just the day before, in the New York Times, Ned Beatty had been less than kind toward Judd and Jason Patric. To paraphrase, they were working hard but didn’t have the chops that many unemployed Broadway actors had. It was not a glowing endorsement.

Since the show would be dark on Thanksgiving, taking Wednesday off would give Ashley two in a row and some time to get over what Beatty said. Was she sick? Was she pissed? I just don’t know. Ashley and I never did get together.

This left us without anything to do, but there was a possibility. We had heard the Thanksgiving Eve balloon inflation on the Upper West Side was very visual, so it was into a cab again.

Columbus Circle was already closed in anticipation of the parade, so we went far west and scooted up to the 70’s before cutting back to Central Park West. We followed a crowd to what we thought was the one block line to the balloons. Nope. Once we got to where the entrance should be, we found out there was another 2, maybe 3, block wait.

Too much. We headed back to the hotel.

In retrospect that was a great idea because Thanksgiving Day was going to be quite full and begin very early!

Click here, or on any photo to see my album of photos from this trip.