To be fair, the first line wasn’t actually a line; It was a failed attempt to get into a line.
My first half-assed attempt to see Shakespeare in the Park, a free all-star show that happens every summer at the Delacorte, began with me pushing back my alarm clock from 6am to 7:00 to 7:3o.
This was already a bad sign, as was my pausing to download an episode of a show I’d missed the night before, instead of leaving right away.
I hadn’t packed anything, I was taking my time–the time I spent looking up tips about standing in line could have easily been spent actually going to the line.
As it is, I arrived at Central Park off the B/C train at 8:30, which seemed early to a post-collegian like myself, but was casually laughed off by the outliers in the park, who scoffed at my sense of punctuality, citing the 2am sleep-overs in line who had been sleeping there waiting since the night before.
I tried to follow my dad’s mantra and turn it in to something positive determining to go the next day at 5am to guarantee a seat.
But then, I was carrying around a large padded-foldable chair that wasn’t quite portable and actually was kind of pain in the ass.
And then I wandered around the Upper West Side trying to find lunch-for-breakfast at 9am carrying that chair, in order to try not to have a wasted trip.
And they undercooked my chicken sandwich so I had to send it back.
But at least I got a free chicken sandwich.
Though I felt like kind of a dick.
With my plans for the evening canceled due to lack of show, I ended up early to meet Zephyr to show him the new cut of my thesis.
Zephyr was the star of my thesis, an enthusiastic high-school/home-school kid who seems to say things like “Awesome” and “Totally, man” after every possible thing you could say, something he attributes to a mix of a California lifestyle and some positive parenting.
Considering that I had him play a depressed-suicidal 13 year-old, a part which he’s already received raves for, you can tell the kid’s talent as an actor.
He liked the cut, a new one that I had been too terrified to watch, but I was surprised when after the cut he seemed to just stick around.
It was not that I minded–as I said, I had no plans–just that I didn’t know what I could do to entertain him.
He was an upbeat, positive California-kid–in my mind he should be out surfing or skateboarding or making fun of people with some floppy posse out on the streets of the UES or Coney Island. What did a debbie-downer like me have to offer him?
We walked around Tisch a bit. We said hi to teachers. We figured out how to download some movies off YouTube, which I taught Zephyr so that he could use it for the filmmaking class he was going to take it.
I kept asking Zephyr questions about what he was doing, when eventually after the fourth-or-fifth “not much”, I realized that actually, Zephyr didn’t have anything to do.
So, I did what I could for him and myself: I treated him like a friend.
We went to the Calexico cart on Wooster and got rolled quesadillas which we ate sitting on the sidewalk dipping in chipotle “crack” sauce.
We went to the High Line, stretching down 10th avenue, a mix of metal, flowers, long-grass and the brick-tops of buildings in West Chelsea and the Meatpacking District.
I tried to convince him of the merits of karaokeing.
And of course, as part of any long conversation, I told him my terrible stories about girls and the confusion/depression in my dealing with the fairer sex.
I half-think I scarred him for life with those stories, but I’ll be damned if I didn’t feel pretty good.
And he just kept on saying “Sweet,man” after everything so I assume he’s not too scarred.
Or at least, I’d like to think so.
It occured to me as I was falling asleep, too late from a Karaoke session with Rob and Andy Roehm, that I had therapy during the time I was supposed to be waiting in line that I would wither miss or miss the show.
Thoughts beamed into my head, like headlines shining in my eyes, disturbing the forward motion of my sleep.
Groggy, I texted Zephyr with directions and askance if he could my place at around 8:30am and a promise that we would split the tickets and see the show together.
He said yes, but I almsot slapped myself going to sleep and thought less of it: Would he really show up when prompted 8 hours in advance the night before to come wait in line in the middle of nowhere, a 17 year-old no-less?
But he did. He was early in fact.
My therapist pointed out to me, after I’d left Zephyr there with my cumbersome chair and some night-old KFC Snackers, that this was the sort of behavior that I’d been lacking in some of my friends.
I had been trying to see the High Line for weeks, but couldn’t get anyone to come.
I’d had people ditch me for the theater after plans with less than an hour’s notice leaving me with money spent on tickets I just gave away.
I regularly ate lunch alone, having given up even asking people, expecting no response, or a “no” response.
I told my therapist that even though I’d gotten in line at 5am, it had been a good morning.
So the line, this time, redux.
I get there at 5am or 5:15 to be specific. 5:15’s important since I end up finding people who were there at 5:40 and were in danger of not getting tickets.
I also ending up finding myself trying to ask one of these people out.
What happens is that on the line for Shakespeare in the Park, a long set of chairs-and-blankets leaned against a rail, there are two informal indicators of one’s ability to purchase tickets:
The Rock of Certainty and The Rock Of Hope.
The Rock of Certainty, as it sounds, is a large rocky protrusion from a hill which, if you are seated in front of it on the line, guarantees you more-or-less a ticket for the show.
The Rock of Hope was more of a last-resort, an outlying rock much farther than The Rock of Certainty, a rock after which if you were seated, there was no hope.
I went to go see this Rock to see how many people there were on line, when I came across a water fountain, a welcome site, blocked off by a blanketful of adolescents.
“Pardon me,” I asked. “I was just looking to get some water.”
A blond girl with curly hair and a long, simple black dress spoke for the group.
“Sorry.” she said. “We thought we had made some room.” And they repositioned themselves, to let me through.
“I was just looking for the Rock of Hope.” I told them. “Any idea where it is?”
“I thought that was it.” The same girl said.
“Nope.” I told her. “That’s the Rock of Certainty.”
“Yeah, Rock of Hope’s way over that way. I’m on a quest for it.”
“Well, let us know when you find it.” She told me.
“Alright.” I said, with the air of a man consumed by a quest.
But when I did find way on the way back, I ended up walking with the girl in black dress, who ended up being named Leah.
“So… y’all in high school or something?” I asked.
“No.” She laughed dismissively. “I just graduated college. We’re all in college or out of it and we came all the way down here from Long Island. Got in round 5:40.”
“Jeez.” I said. “Didn’t even know the trains ran that late from Long Island. Or, um, that early.”
She laughed again.
“Yeah, well we do it every year.” She told me. “Or we try to.”
It was around this point that I realized that I was talking to a cute self-assured girl, waiting in line for Shakespeare in the Park, who obviously shared interests with me. I had been making her laugh.
It was perfect.
It was a story we could tell our children.
“So, uh, are you walking to the bathroom?” I asked. “Not to get too personal.”
She laughed again.
“Yep.” She said. “Where you sitting?”
“Here.” I pointed, stopping in front of my chair.
I searched for my next move.
“Um, want some chocolate or something? I gave it to the people next to me in line and they’re like alive and not poisoned or anything.”
A bad movie: the people next to me in line were passed out grungily in their chairs.
“I’m ok on the chocolate.” She said. “But I’ll catch you on the way back.”
And she headed off to the bathroom.
As I waited, I attempted to play it cool.
Which means I couldn’t myself from anxiously peering glances over my New Yorker, pretending to try to look to see if she was coming every 2 to 2-3 seconds.
Unfortunately, that meant when she actually did come by she must have thought I was busy and said “See you at the show” before heading back to her group.
“I feel like I fucked that up.” I told the person next to me in line, a black hatted hipster.
“Well, you know.” He said. “What happened was cool. It was a cool thing. It could have been a really awesome thing. But it was a cool thing. And you should appreciate that.”
“So I should let it go?” I asked him.
“You shouldn’t try to force it.” He said. “You shouldn’t try to do anything that would be uncomfortable for you or her.”
“Would be it creepy to go back there and offer chocolate to those kids she was with?”
“Creepy is your word, not mine. It might be uncomfortable.”
“Maybe I should just wait for her at the end of the line.”
“Whatever you are comfortable with.”
And I did contented, psyched.
Again I tried to mask my enthusiasm, half-looking like I was waiting to see how many people would get tickets. When she finally did come by with her groups, she assumed this and said that while she thought it was a cool idea, they didn’t have the patience.
“You should try that cafe over there.” I told her, pointing at the Danny Meyer snack-stand that had opened up at the theater, a place called Public Fare, a play-on-words on the theater company.
She said it looked good but they’d had enough time in the park and I told her that I’d see them (her) at the show.
And they left.
Home now, I feel like Jeffrey Lewis in that song of his The Chelsea Hotel Oral Sex Song, where he finds a pretty young woman outside the Chelsea Hotel referencing Leonard Cohen and talks to her a little and connects, but doesn’t get her number or say goodbye.
And then he sings about how he’s depressed about it for the rest of the song.
I have a lot in common with Jeffrey Lewis.
A last note:
The food I got while waiting on line was delicious.
Even though I’d brought the aforementioned KFC snackers for Zephyr and me, they weren’t necessary. Danny Meyer’s place in Central Park, Public Fare, defies every convention of park food (terrible, overpriced, inconvenient) and serves up something that’s better than even his famed Shake Shack.
I got Zephyr the breakfast “Egg and Cheddar BLT”, which he claimed was excellent (though suspect, considering Zephyr). As for myself, I got the “Organic Chicken Salad Sandwich” along with the Roasted Baby Carrots served with Pine Nuts, Coriander and Feta. Both of my dishes were just excellent. I usually don’t like Chicken Salad, but this seemed to redefine the dish, replacing a usually mushy, processed, ambiguous mass, with delicious pieces of cold, roasted chicken with crunchy green beans, radishes and celery with a light, seemingly homemade mayo. The salad was, if anything, even better: a mix of salty and sweet flavors, with orange and yellow carrots that seemed to melt through my teeth with only a little resistance, giving way to the tanginess of the Feta and the light dressing it had on it.
What’s more was the price: the dishes at Public Fare actually seem to be cheaper than if you were to get them anywhere else outside the park, like at the sandwich shop Lenny’s, while being simultaneously of a much higher-quality. Gelato is served along with fresh, dark iced tea and homemade corn-nuts for that theater-going feel.
It’s worth going out to the Delacorte alone.
An 8-hour line and some non-quite heartbreak are optional, but not necessary, at all.
Organic Chicken Salad Sandwich- $6.50, Roasted Baby Carrots with Feta, Pine Nuts and Coriander- $4.50, Gelato (Il Labatorio-made)- $4.00
Delacorte Theater, Central Park (81st and Central Park West Entrance)
BC to 81st St (Northmost exit)