Around Town

The One With the Dancers in Three Acts

Act I

During my morning commute, a company herd gaggle troupe of dancers boarded my subway car. They were young and lithe, wearing leotards, tights, and Jennifer Beale-esque tops that hung off one shoulder. The girls had their hair wound into buns. The boys were broad with postures that would make a finishing school teacher proud. Each of them carried a duffle bag from the Joffrey Ballet School. Inside the bags were probably pointe shoes and rock rosin and bandages. They were headed uptown for a practice session.

With them was a young woman, slightly older, who was their chaperone. She reminded them that their cell phones didn’t work on the subway and to get off the train at Seventy-Sixth Street.

Woman: Which stop do you get off at?

Dancers, in unison: Seventy-Sixth Street.

A burly man sitting next to me: Young people, this train doesn’t stop at Seventy-Sixth Street. It’s Seventy-Second Street.

Woman: Oh, thank you! Did you hear that? It’s Seventy-Second Street.

Dancers, in unison: Seventy-Second Street.

Burly man: Don’t want no one getting lost.

He eyed them all for a moment, making an astute assessment.

Burly man: Young people, are you going to Lincoln Center?

Woman: Yes. How did you know?

Burly man: You want to be getting off at Sixty-Sixth Street, young people. That’s Lincoln Center.

Woman: Sixty-Sixth? I’m so glad we ran into you!

Burly man: Yeah.

By the time I got off the train, the dancers were buzzing about the day ahead of them—a day of creating art, filling the space with graceful sequences, expressing themselves through movement—while I would be staring at a computer screen until the repeated clicking of the mouse caused my wrist to ache.

Act II

When I was a girl, I wanted to dance with Gene Kelly. It didn’t matter that he was well past his dancing years, or that I was only three-feet tall, or that I didn’t know a tap shoe from a pointe shoe. I decided I needed to be prepared for our eventual opus.

I convinced my mother to register me for tap dancing class, though I suspect she was well aware I would not be the next Ginger Rogers. “Are you sure you want to dance? Maybe you’d enjoy karate?” I didn’t know much about karate, but I knew Gene Kelly would not be at the local dojo.

Off to dance class I went once a week. I liked the sound the taps made as I walked across the stage. The music was fun. My teacher was kind with the patience of a saint. I had three pairs of leg warmers. We held a recital in which my group performed under bright spotlights in largely unflattering costumes, but included a snazzy boater hat like the one Gene wore in An American in Paris (below).

I was, and I won’t sugarcoat this, a terrible, and I mean terrible, dancer. (If I’m being honest, things haven’t improved since.) In my mind, I was Cyd Charisse or Leslie Caron. In reality, I looked not unlike a chicken being chased around a coop.

I stuck with dance for another year, tripping my more graceful classmates, uninhibited by my Elaine Benes moves, until I moved to other interests. I never did dance with Gene Kelly. Maybe he was at the dojo after all.

Gene Kelly_Leslie Caron

Gene Kelly and Leslie Caron


Nothing made ballroom dancer and instructor Adrianne Haslet-Davis feel as alive as dancing. “When I’m dancing, I don’t feel the need to be doing anything else. My joy is complete.” When she lost her left leg below her knee in the April 2013 bombing at the Boston Marathon, she vowed that she would dance again. About six months later, she did just that. With the help of MIT prostheticist Hugh Herr, she regained her dancing feet. Here, she performs in front of a live audience at TedX Boston.

Do you like to dance?

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

The One With the Creepy Clowns

Some neighborhoods decorate for Christmas with twinkly lights and charming wreaths. Not mine.

But Halloween? Hold onto your goblins. The spookier, the better. It’s like the Monsters, Inc. motto: We scare because we care.

Let’s take a walk around my neighborhood into the ghoulish and the macabre.




Disturbing clowns seem to be all the rage this year. This gives me the creeps.


More clowns. The clown heads light up and spin around. *shudder*


Skeleton 1: So, Marty, how’s it hanging? You look like you’re wasting away to nothing.

Skeleton 2: My FitBit is on its last legs. I’m dying to get a new one. It’s hard to get in so many steps per day.

Skeleton 1: I hear you. You know Larry? Trying to cheat the system as usual. He’s got a new way to increase his steps…






Another clown!


After all the gruesome, let’s end on a sweet note.


Happy Halloween! 

The One With the Shakedown

It’s difficult to live in New York City for any length of time without being on the receiving end of a shakedown. I had a few doozies when I first moved to the city, but since then I’ve honed my Spidey-sense. I thought I’d long passed the point of being bribed by deliverymen, plumbers, contractors, and the like. Oh, was I wrong.

This time, the culprit was a charitable organization. You can see how a person could be fooled by that. The charity was coming to pick up a desk I wanted to donate. I made an appointment through the organization’s website. I entered a special note: No elevator in building. Fifth-floor walk-up.

The day before, I received a voicemail from a guy at the charity to confirm the appointment. No mention of a specific arrival time or restrictions. In late afternoon the drivers arrived and I buzzed them in the building. They came trudging up the stairs, mopping their brows and complaining about the climb. This kind of complaining is like a dentist being annoyed over having to fill a patient’s cavity. I was so glad they showed up at all and I’d finally get the desk cleared out that I missed the first clue. This is NYC and walk-ups are not uncommon. These guys move furniture all day long. For a living.

Now let’s go to the actual conversation.

Guy #1(We’ll call him Henry): Whoo-wee! There’s no elevator in this building? This is crazy.

Me, trying to keep it light: It’s a good workout.

Guy #2 (We’ll call him Johnny): You think I can sit for a minute? I gotta catch my breath.

Henry: We got a bit of a problem here, ma’am. He shakes his head in sympathy. My boss says we can’t move anything from higher than the third floor.

Johnny takes a bandana from his pocket and wipes his face.

Me, my heart sinking: What? it doesn’t say that on the website. I even wrote it in the special notes.

Johnny looks at the print-out of my information: Yep. It says that right here…No elevator in building. Fifth-floor walk-up.

Me: So, if that’s a problem, why wasn’t I told yesterday when the appointment was confirmed?

Henry and Johnny both shrug.

Johnny reviews the print-out again: Looks like you made this appointment….

Me and Johnny simultaneously: Two months ago.

Johnny: I bet you need to get this desk out of here. He taps Henry on the shoulder. I hate to leave you in a situation, but if I tell my boss we took this desk, we could get in trouble.

Henry: Lots of trouble.

Like a babe in the woods, it’s slowly dawning on me.

Johnny: But, look, I want to help you out. We’ll do you a favor; you do us a favor.

There are only two choices in a shakedown:

  1. Pay up to get your 80-pound desk moved four flights of stairs and into the home of someone who could really use it.
  2. Don’t pay up and take a hammer to your desk (thereby freaking your dog out) so you can move it downstairs piece by piece to leave it on the curb for trash day.

Me: Fine. Just move it.

Henry, jumping up with new found energy: All right! I’ll go get my hand truck.

I could have told him from experience that the hand truck wouldn’t be of any use. The turns in the stairwell are too narrow. But he had to learn that on his own. Thirty minutes later, they decide, instead of lifting the desk and carrying it down the stairs—admittedly a difficult proposition, but they are movers, FFS!—they decide to slide the desk down on its top. By the time it reached the moving truck, the desk was scratched and battered, doubtful anyone could use it unless it had a fresh coat of paint and missing screws reattached.

But I went back into my apartment, my wallet a bit lighter, and I did a little happy dance in all that extra space.

Have you ever been on the receiving end of a shakedown? 

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

The One With the Tourists

The New York City subway has a much different feel on the weekends than during standard commuting hours. Belligerent, jaded locals cede the trains to tourists, which is fun on several levels: A. Tourists are generally nicer. B. They try so hard to “blend in.” (Note to tourists: Wearing your backpack on your front is a dead giveaway.) C. They congregate in groups around subway maps trying to figure out how to go cross town. (Short answer: walk.)

It was on a 2 train through Midtown Manhattan one recent Saturday afternoon that we broke through the fourth wall. Most of the passengers were tourists, with a few locals like me sprinkled in for good measure. They were busy staring at me reading a book. I could almost hear one woman whisper. “Look, Harold, there’s one now. It’s rarely seen on the weekends. I think they call it Homo Brooklynius. Put your fanny pack away. You might scare it.”

NYC Subway

A man took the open seat next to me. He was a bit disheveled. There was a hole in his orange shirt and his basketball shorts were two sizes too big. He was rocking formerly white tube socks with sandals. In short, he was a few ticks beyond “eccentric,” but he seemed content, smiling at nothing in particular.

At the next stop a guitar player boarded the train. There is a direct relationship between the number of tourists on the subway and the number of buskers trying to get money entertain them. As soon as the doors closed, he turned up his amplifier to butcher sing a classic Temptations song. He smartly zeroed in on a young woman a few yards away.

“I got sunshine for the girl in the green shirt. When it’s cold outside, I got the girl in the green shirt.”

She looked around to make sure he was talking about her in the same way I would look around if someone pointed in my direction and said, “You’ve just won a million dollars.” Then, in a spirit of if-you-can’t-beat-em-join-em, she started clapping. Our busker kept singing to her. The eccentric guy next to me swayed in time to the music.

So she began dancing. Of course she did.

“What can make me feel this way? Everybody! The girl in the green shirt!”

“Today is my birthday!” she shouted. Of course it was.

Everyone starting clapping while the busker pulled the Beatles card. “Today is your birthday.”

“it is! It’s my birthday!”

The eccentric guy reached into the pocket of his oversized basketball shorts and pulled out a can of Budweiser. He held it high as if to toast the girl in the green shirt and the busker. Then he popped the top with a satisfying whhushhh and took a long swig.

Another woman across the train caught my eye, her mouth hanging open just a bit, and shook her head slowly. She knew it and I knew it. This would never happen during commuting hours.

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

The One With the Bard

I am trying to win the lottery. This is folly. I do not usually have a right-place-right-time kind of aura. Okay, there was the time I played tennis with NPH, but other than that, no. Luckily this is not like Portia’s lottery. If I don’t win, I won’t be cast out of NYC. But if I win? I’ll be spending the evening with a guy named William in a horrible storm. One might even call it a Tempest.

Every summer The Public Theater stages one of Shakespeare’s plays in Central Park’s Delacorte Theater. They call it (wait for it) Shakespeare in the Park.

What’s past is prologue. ~William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Shakespeare in the Park started in 1962 as a way to make Shakespeare, and theater in general, accessible to all. It’s f-r-e-e. Hence the lottery.

There are several ways to get tickets.

Option A: The Lazy Method. You enter online for a virtual drawing. Easy = everyone does it = you have to be very fortunate. We’ve already established this is not me. I refer you to paragraph one of this post.

Option B: The I-Have-All-Day Method. Line up at the theater; distribution is at noon until they run out of tickets. People begin lining up hours before. Sorry, William, I only do that for Bono.

Option C: The Bingo Method. This involves a trip to The Public Theater’s main location in Nolita. You drop a slip of paper into a canister and wait anxiously while names are plucked one by one. There are no set number of tickets available each day. This is where I wait now with my evening’s fate hanging in the balance.

We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life is rounded with a sleep. ~William Shakespeare, The Tempest

The theater interns (or possibly volunteers) begin with the obligatory spinning of the canister. A few dozen of us are milling about, hoping that the odds will ever be in our favor.

“It’s good karma to be happy for the winners,” one of the interns says as he calls the first name. “Richard Mayweather.”

Richard pops out of the crowd like Drew Carey has just called his name on The Price Is Right. The rest of us clap politely to bring forth positive vibes. One woman shouts, “Yay, Richard!”  So we get into it. Each time a name is called we hoot and holler.

Then…my name is called! I’m so excited I nearly brake into a jog. I’m mentally preparing my acceptance speech, but the intern just hands me a voucher for two tickets as he moves onto the next name. (I would like to think that I broke my cycle of karmic near-misses, but as it turns out, everyone’s name was called today.)

Your tale, sir, would cure deafness. ~William Shakespeare, The Tempest

Over the years, Shakespeare in the Park has drawn big names to the stage: Meryl Streep in The Taming of the Shrew, Kevin Kline in Much Ado About Nothing (among others), Anne Hathaway in Twelfth Night, and John Lithgow as King Lear to name a few. Tonight, I’m seeing Sam Waterston as Prospero (formerly of Law & Order) and Jesse Tyler Ferguson as the jester (Modern Family).

Lovely long shot of the seating and stage. This is from a previous season's performance.

Lovely long shot of the seating and stage. This is from a previous season’s performance.

Shakespeare in the Park

All this star power is exciting, but I find the theater itself the most enchanting aspect of Shakespeare in the Park. The Delacorte is a small — maybe a few hundred people — outdoor theater in Central Park. I love that I can feel the soft breeze and hear the leaves on nearby trees rustle. The sky isn’t completely dark when the show begins. Soon, though, the mosquitoes are buzzing around the stage footlights and we wonder how the actors can keep their concentration. When Ferdinand says, “Hark, there is a noise from above,” and a helicopter flies overhead, we can’t help but laugh. Even Ferdinand breaks character and chuckles.

A shaky shot of the stage during intermission.

A shaky shot of the stage during intermission.

There’s something about experiencing a Shakespeare play live, especially in this setting. You’re miraculously transported from an urban jungle and washed up on a small island after a terrible storm.

Have you seen any plays recently? Shakespeare? 

Have a great weekend, everyone!