Sunday in New York City

I love going to New York City. I especially love going to the theater in New York City. With that in mind, this morning I convinced Helaine and Steffie to come to New York with me. The fact that it was raining and chilly didn’t make things easy. Not only doesn’t Helaine love New York City, she especially dislikes going to New York City and fighting the weather.

It rained all the way in – all 100 or so miles. We got to Manhattan just before 11:00 AM, and plopped the car in a garage on 45th Street. As we waited for the attendant to give me the ticket, a man walked up to me and asked if I remembered him. Oh God – it’s my continuing nightmare. I never remember anyone… and this was no exception. And then, he reminded me. He was Eddie Luisi, the floor manager from Good Morning America. I had worked with him many times at TV2, GMA’s old studio on the Upper West Side. Together with Patty, his partner in crime on the studio floor, I had been guided effortlessly through the shows. He had moved, with the show, to the Times Square studio.

I’m not sure if I can explain how important and reassuring good direction and cues from the person with the headset is. Least it to say, they’re lucky to have him. Filling in at GMA was something I genuinely enjoyed and looked forward to. Working with a full crew (a luxury no longer afforded to those of us in local television) added to the fun.

We left the garage and headed to TKTS in Duffy Square. Duffy Square is actually a ‘square within a square’ on the northern end of Times Square. TKTS is run by New York’s Theater Development Fund and it’s where Broadway shows dump their unsold tickets. At TKTS, the day of a show, you can buy Broadway tickets for half price, plus a small surcharge. Considering the price of show tickets, it’s a pretty good deal. We’ve never gotten bad seats from TKTS – most theaters are small enough that bad seats don’t exist.

Of course today buying at TKTS meant standing, in the rain, in Duffy Square. The rain actually kept the crowds down, so our wait in line was under a half hour.

We decided on tickets for “Sly Fox” playing at the Ethel Barrymore Theater on 47th Street. As with too much on Broadway, this was a revival. The original incarnation opened on Broadway in 1976.

I fished the money from my wallet (cash only at TKTS) and we were on our way. The show started at 3:00 PM, but first there was shopping to be done.

Getting around Manhattan isn’t all that difficult, if you’re willing to take the subway. I’ve done it my whole life and find it easy and convenient. Now, in the post-token, Metrocard era, I took out my Visa card, and bought a 6 rides for the price of 5 ticket. Total cost: $10.

We hopped on a downtown “R” train at 49th Street. The trip to Canal Street on the Lower East Side couldn’t have taken more than 10-15 minutes with no change of trains. There were plenty of seats and the train was reasonably clean.

The rain had tapered off to occasional sprinkles as we emerged from the subway. Steffie pointed the way and we began to walk. At this point Helaine and I were along for the ride. Steffie wanted some things, but we were just window shopping. Sure, if I saw a particularly interesting computer book (they sell them at half price) or a spectacular watch (my collection of knock off watches is nearly complete, I’m afraid), I’d buy. Mostly, I’d be taking photos.

As Steffie has pointed out on numerous occasions, I’ve taken pictures on Canal Street dozens of times. There’s little left for me to shoot. She’s correct. I shoot anyway. It’s a disease – there’s little I can do.

Steffie bought a bag, hat and shoes. Helaine and I chaperoned. We were done with time to spare.

By the way… if someone asks what the next hot thing is, based on my quick perusal of Canal Street, I’d have to say ‘electric bubble guns.’

We plopped down the nearest subway stairs and found ourselves on a line that wasn’t going to our destination in Times Square. No problem – transfers are free. We rode north to 14th Street, got off and began to follow the signs from the numbered train we were on (“6”) to a lettered line (“N”). This was an IRT to BMT transfer, but using those terms only goes to show my age.

As we started to make our way through the mezzanine level, I noticed a crowd had formed. It looked like people were taking photos. I assumed there was an underground performer attracting the attention. The subways are loaded with musicians.

As we approached, there was no performer to be seen, but everyone seemed to have a camera.

I asked a women with a ‘prosumer’ Canon camcorder what was going on and she said it was a protest of pending rules from the Transit Authority. When I was a kid, it was illegal to take pictures in the subway. Later, that rule was eliminated. Now, in post-9/11 New York City, reinstatement is being considered. Will the subways be any safer if tourists from Dubuque (or, I suppose Dubai) can’t document the trip? I can’t say.

I moved to the edge of the passageway to get shots of the other photographers getting shots. Two New York City police officers asked me what was going on! What kind of protest is it when those you are protesting against don’t know why you’re there?

A few minutes later, we were back at 49th Street. It was much too early to go to the theater so we went to Starbucks to take advantage of a gift card Steffie had received (from us, actually). Starbucks is probably the world’s most popular coffee shop, but not because of me. I find their coffee much too strong, often to the point of tasting bitter.

Helaine and Steffie had one of Starbucks specialty drinks, and after finishing Helaine realized there might be a problem. She’s lactose intolerant (as opposed to me who is just plain intolerant) and was now worried this drink was full of diary products! We searched for a drugstore.

While Helaine and Steffie went inside, I sat back and took some pictures of a street preacher. Armed with a microphone and portable PA, he paced the wide sidewalk on this section of Broadway, speaking to everyone but getting little positive response… actually, little response of any type.

By the time we got to the theater, it was nearly time for the curtain. I knew “Sly Fox” starred Richard Dreyfuss, but it wasn’t until we got to the theater and looked at the Playbill that we realized this show was loaded with ‘names.’