I guess it all started with a phone call.
I had been hanging out with one of my friends all day talking about the decomposition of his relationship, a subject that’s always difficult me, firstly because I lack any experience with such things and secondly because I resent that I lack experience in such things.
These days, wandering around New York City, my time more loosely structured, day-by-day, dreams or ideas or wishes pop into my head, unbidden and unwritten, that is if I fail to write them down.
It was about 4 o’clock when this one did: Play.
Play. I love theater, I feel like I’ve been going to see theater for longer than I’ve even been going to see films (though that can’t be true) and something in me enjoys it primally. While it’s true as my teacher Amos Poe says, that the difference between a movie and a play “is that you can leave a bad movie”, there’s something in me, maybe the lonely person in me, that admires the presence of a play, the actors on a stage the fact that real people are there.
Even if I resent drama sometimes (disclosure: I took Playwriting classes in school) in its simiilarities to a game of ping-pong, there’s no denying that it can hit you, send you reeling make you gasp with its immediacy in a way more difficult for film to do. Despite anything that fleabag Gertrude Stein might say, there still is a suspension of disbelief when you see a curtain rising, or a black-out between scenes. There’s faith there, in the storytelling, a need not to be shown things that rivals the goings on a chruch, synagogue or mosque.
But I ramble.
I called up Kent, a play-literate friend who’d just got finished apologizing for being uncommunicative, to see if he’d just go spur-of-the-moment. To my surprise, he said yes, but then an hour later, not to my surprise he said no.
But I still went up to Broadway, to check things out. I was booked through seeing movies in the evenings the next 6 days in a row and I wanted a break; I didn’t know when the next time would be that I could see a play, so I went up to Broadway and left the rest to fate.
But fate wasn’t forthcoming, my parents couldn’t see the play: my mother, then my father. Another friend committed and backed-out in rapid succession claiming a sudden desire to work 5 more hours into the evening on his movie. I was even turned away at the box offices of God of Carnage, Waiting for Godot and Exit The King (It wasn’t their fault; they were closed.)
But that’s when I found God.
Or at least food.
Wandering in the midtown area, I sought to do what I could do as a consolation prize: eat somewhere that I wouldn’t go ordinarily.
I decided on Flip, a burger-joint in the basement of Bloomingdale’s safely hidden away. I’d get a “South of the Birder Burger”, a turkey burger with pico de gallo and monterey jack cheese, with chips and guac on the side, but my feet had other plans.
They took me down old stomping grounds, 53rd St, where my nose and my mouth twitched simultaneously to realize that I was right by the legendary CART.
This was food, 6 dollars of deliciousness, Chicken and Rice and White Yoghurt Sauce and a smattering of that evil-Red Hot Sauce full of burning-burning and pain.
Or was it?
It was still light out. I knew the legendary CART didn’t come round till 8. And it was only 6:20. And these guys didn’t even have the right shirts. They were yellow, but they didn’t have the logo. And where were the guys with the Moses-beards? The accoutrements were all off. I stumbled backwards, googling furiously, with iPhone as divining rod, trying to determine the meaning of this.
I found, to my skepticism, that the real cart stayed on 53rd and 7th during these hours and after a prolonged conversation with the weary, but amused vendors there, I purchased my CART food and walked down the street, with food in my belly and new determination.
So what if they’d turned me away at the box office?
So what if my friends and parents both had ditched me?
So what if I had noone to see theater with but myself? I’d be changed by the experience but I’d talk to someone later. It was worth it, to make time, when I had time.
I went storming back to those box offices, waiting in ticket lines, cancellation lines, beaming, eating, drinking a free Coca Cola Zero someone was handing out on the street (doesn’t taste as good as Diet Coke).
And I was denied at all of them, though strangely, I saw Whoopi Goldberg going into God of Carnage.
What I meant to say to her was “Hey, Whoopi, got an extra ticket?”, but what I ended up saying was “Hey, you spoke at my commencement!”
“Cool.” she replied. “At least I hope you think so.”
But I ended up walking into something interesting, a Lincoln Center young-playwrights Lab performance: a play called “Stunning”.
The writer was Syrian-Jewish and the play was set in the Syrian-Jewish community in Midwood. Having known some of these sorts of people growing up, these self-absorbed jappy banshees, I found the first act of the play, where several of them discuss Tennis lessons pretty unbearable, only to find that its shallowness was a facade, constantly moving in reference to the world around it, much like the floating light fixtures that make up the stage.
But as the first act ended, I felt something missing, so I did something bold, or stupid, or needy, or what have you.
I turned to the person next to me, a much-older woman, another person alone, and said:
“Excuse me, I’m sorry. But can I ask you a favor? You see, I hardly ever go to theater alone. And I really like talking about the play. Would it be alright if I talk to you about it?”
“Of course.” She said.
“I don’t think I’ve ever hated the characters in a play more.” I told her.
And the conversation proceded from there.
After the play, she hurried out, before I could get more conversation in.
“Did you like it?” I asked after her.
“Yes.” She replied.
And then as she walked out:
“I’m Nicholas!” I said, probably a little too loudly.
“I’m Janie.” She replied, again with a smile.
And it was a nice moment.
And then I went home.