Culture in New York

September 22, 2001

Last night we went to the opera to see "The Flying Dutchman." It was a great experience. Since we are on the economy plan we were in the 4th tier (balcony) we were close to the middle, in the second row. We had a spectacular view of the orchestra. The lights dimmed, people hushed, the overture started… Our first opera began. The lead woman was extraordinary. Her voice and acting came out and touched us both. The male leads were, I'm sure, very good singers, but didn't project the same emotion. Most of the audience was great, except, of course, the few beside us. The woman on one side was loudly chewing her gum, sounding remarkably like a cow. The woman on the other side tut-tuting and looking at her watch the whole time. The man next to her loudly, and rudely we felt, shushing everyone when they started to clap when they weren't "supposed" to. The sets were a bit distracting in their abstractness, left over apparently from the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, but the music rang true. There was a chorus of off-stage voices we got to see as they were standing at the edge of our row. The lead girl was literally taken aback by the applause for her and the bunch of roses thrown on stage. She was positively giddy. All in all, a great night.

This night's activities have reminded us of so many things we have done over the last weeks that we have not gotten to share with you because of the world stopping last week. So, here's some highlights:

Last Friday we went to see "The Producers" on Broadway. Tiffany's mom had heard Matthew Broderick on the radio and she thought it might be a good time to get seats to the usually sold-out show as people were not getting into the city. Sure enough, we got in. Nathan Lane was, sadly, not performing but it was a great show none the less. Although some people there probably felt guilty for laughing and being entertained, it was most likely the best thing for the soul. After the curtain call and with the audience already standing from the ovation, the cast sang "God Bless America" joined by all.

A few weeks ago we luckily called in time to get seats at the legendary jazz club The Village Vanguard. Wynton Marsallis was playing and, as anyone who knows jazz will testify, Wynton is one of the greats. He stood right behind Alex as the band came out, introducing each with a fanfare on his horn. They played three songs in the one-and-a-half-hour show, but what songs they were! Some of the greatest solos we will probably ever see/hear. As Alex says, "it was food for the soul". As Tiffany says, "it makes you smile from the pit of your stomach, all over your tapping body". One of the true highlights so far.

On the jazz note, back in June we saw tenor sax great Phoroah Sanders at Joe's Pub. He played an amazing version of Coltrane's My Favorite Things. The whole evening was like sitting around a campfire under the desert stars while this wise man told stories of exotic lands on his horn.

We went to one of the last nights of New York’s Summer Stage in Central Park. Free performances during the summer. They are all performed rain or shine, and we got the rain. The opening act was an artist called "the Cowboy Poet". He’s a real cowboy, brought up on the range, herding cattle and the like. He just starts talking and telling stories and before you know it he’s speaking in rhyming poetry. Great poems, and stories. A real treat. Towards the end of his show the heavens started to open up. The umbrellas started opening and papers went over heads, but no one left. Then came Steve Earle. Mostly known for his singing, here he was reading from a newly released book of short stories. He said we were all "certifiable" because we were sitting in the rain just to see him. His voice is wonderful to listen to and the stories left you wanting more. Alex bought a book and had him sign it. He had mentioned Toluca Lake in one of his stories so we told him Tiffany had come from there.

We also saw "The Seagull" at Shakespeare in the park, as we wrote about in "A Night in the Park". To us, the camping out was the real adventure & the play was a bonus at the end. The play was fairly good. With so much talent you almost didn’t know where on stage to look. Some of the casting was a bit odd (ages didn’t match up) and a couple performances seemed weaker compared to the other talent but it was great to be a part of one of the greatest events of the summer.

This week we went to a small play called War Music. Set in the Trojan/Greek War it was three women playing different parts and at times narrating. What courage must it take to stand up there with no sets, no props in just plain clothes? Just you and your acting… so naked and raw. It was amazing. There's no way to "get" a play like that with just one viewing. We both want to read the play. It inspired Alex's poem War Music.

We found out about that play from one of the actresses who talked with us last weekend at an open-mic/spoken-word/musical performance at Riverside Park. Alex wrote a poem about the events of last week (Heart Stones) and read it at the event. [to read more of Alex's poems go to our 9/11 page.]

We've done other New York things as well. Before Tiffany started working we took advantage of a free weekday and rented a rowboat in Central Park. We packed a lunch and ate it in the middle of the lake. So much fun! We also walked across the Brooklyn Bridge. A spectacular construction job and view of New York. We spent the day in a park at the Brooklyn waterfront, watching people, writing and reading. We saw a group making an independent Indian movie under the bridge. Under there and on the way back on the bridge we took photos of New York City, as one is wont to do. Only later did we realize that the Twin Towers were front and center. We talked about going up to the top that night, but when we got back to New York City and ate dinner we were so tired we decided we'd do it later…

There is so much to do in this city and if we ever stop to think about it we get overwhelmed. We don't want to get "settled" and stop noticing all the amazing things here and, above all, taking advantage of them. This is our New York Moment.

Until our next report, this is correspondents Kurtz & Hill signing off…

Good night, peace.


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