Around Town

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! 

The One With the High Line

Occasionally I break out my fanny pack (just kidding) and white sneakers (kidding again) and pretend to be a tourist in my town. Come along with me as I walk the High Line, an old elevated train line now converted into a New York City park.

It opened in 1934 along the west side of Manhattan connecting a busy manufacturing district from Spring Street to 34th Street. The last train ran in 1980 and the elevated tracks sat unused for more than two decades. After a lot of red tape and design plans, the first section of the High Line opened as a park in 2009 with the rest of the park opening in stages until 2014.

I started at the southern end by taking the stairs up from 14th Street. The High Line is about three stories up.

Stairs leading up from the street level.

Stairs leading up from the street level.

As soon as I got to the park level, I was greeted by an abundance of trees and plants in bloom.

You can still see the old train tracks.

You can still see the old train tracks.



Many of the plants chosen were inspired by the “self-seeded” landscape that grew on the tracks during the 25 years after the trains stopped running.

The Highline feels like a cross between a park and a botanic garden.

The High Line feels like a cross between a park and a botanic garden.

The tracks were originally designed to travel through the center of blocks rather than over the avenue the way most elevated tracks run, so the buildings are very close and sometimes cantilevered over the tracks themselves. When the line was in operation, this neighborhood was industrial. There’s not much industry going on here now, but this has become a desirable (read: expensive) place to live and work. Such is the way of things! Many of these buildings are residences or office complexes.


A nice patch of green grass -- that you can't walk on.

A nice patch of green grass — that you can’t walk on.

There are plenty of areas to take a load off.

There are plenty of areas to take a break…

and lots of great views...

and lots of great skyline views…

and cityscapes...

and lots of cityscapes…

and lots of art installations.

and lots of art installations.

To walk the entire length of the High Line is about a half mile, but there are multiple entry/exit points along the way. There are also coffee stands and snack bars. Come early or late in the day as the midday sun can be punishing in the warm months. I bet it’s lovely at dusk just as the sun is setting across the Hudson River, which you can see from several points along the path.

Other Tourist in My Town posts.

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

The One With the Macaron

As if I needed an excuse to eat sweets, it was Macaron Day in NYC. It’s a wonderful day when bakeries around the city offer free macarons. Why do they do this? Ours is not to reason why. Free. Macarons. My co-workers and I shamelessly hit up two bakeries on Bleecker Street during our lunch break and immediately inhaled the cookies.

Quick side note: Maybe you’re thinking of macaroons, the flourless, coconutty blob, and wondering what’s the big deal. I wouldn’t get off my couch for macaroons. These are macarons.

Perfect macaron

Ours had little emojii on them.

Ours had little emojii on them.

Colorful macarons

A rainbow of macarons

Since we’re on Bleecker Street, I thought I’d take you for a little walk around the neighborhood. Bleecker runs east-west through the West Village in Manhattan. We only have time to walk a small section today. Let’s start at one of the macaron places, Bisous Ciao.

Bisous Ciao

Love the reflection of the cab and the buildings in the window.

John's Pizzeria

This is a well-known pizza place with a classic New York-style slice.

Forgotten NY says this about John’s:

Part of Bleecker Street’s charm is the presence of longstanding businesses who have been supported by residents for decades, instead of impersonal chain stores. John’s Pizza has been here since 1929, enough time to craft a recipe that is recognized by many as NYC’s best pizza, though that honor is largely subjective. Original owner John Sasso learned the craft from NYC’s first pizzaiolo, Gennaro Lombardi, whose pizza place can still be found on Spring Street.

Blind Tiger

Bleecker Street

Bleecker Street

The buildings in this area are fairly low profile, three or four stories tall.

Bleecker Street

Bleecker Street

I’d like to know where the M-E-N will be wearing these clothes in Manhattan.

Bleecker Street

I sense we're getting close to something important.

I sense we’re getting close to something important.

Ahh, Magnolia Bakery. Made famous on Sex and the City, Conan and others.

We’ve burned a lot of calories walking from the macaron place. I think we should stop in Magnolia and pick up a little something.

So many options.

So many options.

Magnolia 3

Let’s go with their signature cupcakes. I know cupcakes were so 2005, but I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.

Magnolia Bakery

The perfect beginning and end to a walk along Bleecker Street, if you ask me.

For more information about Bleecker Street, check out these sites:

Forgotten NY 

Ephemeral NY

Daytonian in Manahttan

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

The One With the Blizzard That Wasn’t

The snowpocalypse that meteorologists predicted for the New York City area earlier this week swung everyone into high gear. Subway and bus service (which normally operates 24/7 here) stopped running. Non-essential vehicles were banned from the streets. Schools called a snow day. The Starbucks in my neighborhood was closed.* Clearly the world was coming to an end.

We went to sleep expecting snow to accumulate about two inches per hour overnight and woke up to…about two inches total. It snowed throughout the day on Tuesday, but since the subway was closed, Reggie and I went out to play.

The footprints of the Abominable Snowman or Reggie? You be the judge.

The footprints of the Abominable Snowman or Reggie? You be the judge.

Oh, it's just Reggie.

Oh, it’s just Snow-Reggie.

It was a dark and stormy night.  It was odd to see the streets so empty. A little too Vanilla Sky for me.

It was a dark and stormy night.
It was odd to see the sidewalks so empty. A little too Vanilla Sky for me.


Cool snow patterns.

Cool snow patterns on this wrought iron fence

A subtle hint to carpe diem by shoveling the sidewalks?

A subtle hint to carpe diem by shoveling the sidewalks?

More cool snow patterns.

More cool snow patterns.

Those lumps of snow are buried cars.

Those lumps of snow are buried cars.

I *heart* snow.

I *heart* snow.


*Thankfully Starbucks opened about 11:00 a.m. I know. I was worried too.

Have a great weekend, everyone! 

A prompt from Mama Kat’s Pretty Much World Famous Writer’s Workshop.  The prompt I chose was, #2 “A photo journal entry…show us what winter looks like in your town.”