Archive for the ‘Wanderings’ category

Shakespeare in the Parking Lot – Julius Caesar

August 8, 2010

For the past few years, the only theater I’ve been going to has been Shakespeare. The rest of Broadway just doesn’t appeal to me: plays based on TV shows, on movies, and revivals of earlier plays seem to dominate the main theaters. The off-Broadway scene is filled with stuff that I find unappealing, even offensive in their deliberate crassness (but I guess that’s exactly what they are shooting for, and achieving, and getting…the lack of my patronage). I guess I’m becoming more and more of a stick in the mud and just don’t have the patience for those that want to try it.

But Shakespeare is still playing here and there and I really enjoy seeing it. The stories are timeless, the language difficult to parse until you get into the swing of it, and the prices are great.

Yesterday, I went to “Shakespeare in the Parking Lot”, not to be confused with the celebrity-driven Shakespeare in the Park. And you wouldn’t confuse them if were you there. The Parking Lot version has…well, it’s a parking lot in the Lower East Side. They have some chairs, but I took my own and so did a lot of others. They spread some blankets to let a few people sit on “less uncomfortable” asphalt. And the show is “in the round”, where actors came and went from the very cheap stage from four separate directions. The only props were a dressmaker’s dummy, yardsticks for swords, a letter opener for a dagger, and red ribbons to symbolize blood.

Oh, and a kazoo. The first Shakespeare I’ve seen with a kazoo. And it was properly used. I really liked it. And I’m thankful to the cast that is was used only at the first and even then was sparingly used. It really gave a good touch to the scene, though.

The play was Julius Caesar and it was free to attend (Huzzah!). It had a twist, though. They changed the scene from Rome in 44BC to…a school education board election. I guess still in 44BC and including swords and assassinations. But the beauty of it was that the text was pure Shakespeare. They didn’t change the lines, although they probably deleted a whole bunch of stuff that I didn’t miss. They also changed the gender of a bunch of the characters. For example, Marcus Antonius was played by a female (Ivory Aquino, who might be this). And nicely played, too. She hardly had any lines besides the “Friends, Romans, countryman…” speech; but it’s a long, long one and she handled it very well (although I always viewed the line “And Brutus is an honorable man” as pure sarcasm, but perhaps I’m wrong in that or that this is just an interpretation).

My favorite performance was that of Cassius, played by another woman, Selene Beretta. She did really well and I thoroughly enjoyed her work. I’m going to cheap out and not cite the others, but I really did enjoy all of their work and just don’t have the patience or the time to detail all the stuff I loved (among others: Hamilton Clancy’s performance as Julius Caesar, his humorous introduction to the play, the original music, the soothsayer/poet’s performance, the off-stage chanting, the seriousness of Mark Jeter’s Brutus, the creative use of that dressmaker dummy…). Okay, I started something I shouldn’t have because the cast was excellent and I know I’m forgetting bits and pieces I wanted to remember and cite (…the opening scene with the cobbler weaseling his way out of a confrontation…the assassination scene done so well in the round…the lackadaisical performance of the servant). Okay, I’m bad at this. All in all, well done.

However, I do admit that open air Shakespeare is hurt by motorcycles passing by in the neighborhood. And strangely enhanced by having a couple of officers in a police car watching for a while. They didn’t seem to be there for the murder, though.

I have to admit that I really don’t understand the reason for staging the play as if it were a school board election. It really was mentioned only at the very beginning, but the contents didn’t allude to an election after about four minutes into the play. From what I read on Oobr.com, they used it as a way to let them cast more women in the play. I don’t think it was necessary. In fact, I thought the females held their own as the characters without the need for the backstory.

It’s playing for another week. The Drilling Company puts it on.

-H

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Ankling to the King Tut Exhibit

August 1, 2010

No pictures this time. Hey, I barely have any description as there was a prohibition on pictures and it was too dark to sneak one anyway. Plus, I didn’t have anything to write notes with.

I was wandering through Times Square and was offered a handout by a young lady. I declined it (politely – those people have a tough job and get either ignored or rejected most of the time), but then about two steps later I reversed and went back and got the pamphlet.

The pamplet indicated that the King Tut exhibit is in its last days. It’ll be a long, long time before it’s back. And it had a $5 off coupon on it. How could I resist?

I’ve heard bits and pieces about the exhibit, but no one has mentioned going to it. I’ve been thinking I ought to go and wondered why it seemed pretty low profile. I remember the last exhibit of it, back in the 70s(?), and it made all the magazines and all. I was nowhere near NYC or other cities on its tour at the time so never saw it.

The exhibit is on 44th Street between 7th Ave and 8th Ave. It’s hard to miss, but I guess I have missed it recently.

I went in and, being a cheap guy, I immediately asked how much it was (even before getting to the ticket counter – there was a long line). It turns out that the admission is $29.50 plus tax, plus a few doo-dads they throw at you. The first was a 3-D movie. No thanks. The second was an audio tour featuring the voice of Omar Sharif. Yeah, not a problem. The charge for that, $7. After my coupon, it was about $34 total.

When you go in, they have a 90 second intro film. Not bad, but I had to wait about four minutes for it to open up. It seems that they use the film to space out the traffic. Fine by me. After the film, a second set of doors is opened and you enter the exhibit rooms. There are about 4 or 6 of them (I wasn’t counting at the time).

The exhibit starts off very slowly and oddly. There are only about 130 items shown, and I think less than half of them come from the tomb. The others come from other tombs and excavations. Lots of stuff had only minor links to Tut; they were primarily about his father and some relatives.

You’re guided from room to room and Omar’s voice gives much better info on the exhibits than the written materials on the exhibits. However, there are only about 22 or so items he talks about. The rest of the exhibits seemed too small to merit any sort of lengthy discussion.

In about the second room, there’s a sarcophogas. For a moment, I thought it was the one that I’ve seen pictures of a million times…but it wasn’t it. Instead, it was of a relative and was just gold-gilded. Still, pretty cool, but nothing that was like what I was hoping to see. (I really should have done the research and known what I was going to be looking at.)

As I went from one room to the next, I got a couple of interesting feelings about the exhibit. First, the old scam that P.T. Barnum did of “This way to the Egress” kept coming to mind. At the hallway to the next room was always a sign saying “King Tut” and an arrow. ‘Come further in and see the real thing’ it seemed to say. The other feeling was much more positive as the quality of the exhibits kept going up. In about the second to the last room, I saw three items that basically made the visit worthwhile just by themselves. First was a gold box that was beautifully done. Really nicely detailed. Second, a ‘pectoral’ pendant for the chest of Tut. Wow. It had some nice shiny stones in it that really made it fantastic. I guess I like shiny stones more than gold at times.

Finally, there was the small sarcophagas that held Tut’s liver, about a foot long or so. The liver wasn’t in there, though. But the casket was just fantastic. There were some other pieces I also liked (the gold dagger that was in his linen cloths), but these three items were the best in the whole exhibit as far as I was concerned.

I also enjoyed the film of Howard Carter from the original opening of the tomb. It was running on a continuous loop of about 3 or 4 minutes duration.

The final room held what I guess is supposed to be the gemstone of the exhibit: a mummified body without the wrapping. The room was jammed with people and I wondered who it was. There was a film loop on Tut’s unwrapping and DNA testing. But an early sign at the beginning of the exhibit said that Tut’s body was still in Egypt. Who was it? Turns out, it was a replica of Tut.

I guess that bummed me out a little. I really don’t like the exhbitions of bodies (I refuse to go the The Body exhibit that has dozens of actual human bodies turned into plastic freak-like exhibits doing things that the person probably never did in their life like holding an American football in a Heisman-like pose), but it seems bizarre to show a replica at the same time that you are showing some good film of the actual body.

I sort of surprised myself though. I kept thinking about the P.T. Barnum line and when I saw the replica, it just seemed a relief that I could now see the Egress. I went through to the next room, turned in my audio device, and then had my senses assaulted by the required gift shop crud. I didn’t even slow down for it.

Was it worth it? Barely. At least for me. I later was talking with a neighbor and she said that her niece had come to NYC to see the exhibit and had been thrilled at the content. I’ll only say that you might want to check it out a little more before going to it. But, then again, the exhibit is almost over and who knows when it will come back again…

-H

Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week in New York City 2008

September 7, 2008

Well, it’s September, it’s NYC, and the supermodels are wandering about. It must be Fashion Week.

I have to admit that I’m not particularly thrilled by the whole concept of Fashion Week, but I figure that the well-dressed must have some place to go to; so why not wander around Bryant Park for a week or so.

Yesterday, I wandered by there and found the set ups in place with all the requisite security and people with clipboards noting who to let in. I haven’t checked, but I guarantee that Famous Ankles isn’t on the “send him right on in” list. Last year, I did spend a few minutes waiting around looking for models, but it left me feeling a little…absurd. I hadn’t planned on doing anything for Fashion Week this year, but had taken two pictures of the initial setup. Here’s the better of the two. (Note, it’s Saturday morning around 9am and there’s nary a supermodel in sight.)

So, today I was coming back from Church and I saw crowds gathering. I had my camera and thought that maybe, just maybe, there would be something to see. I didn’t really expect anything. New Yorkers are very much gawkers and it was only noonish.

I was wrong. There was something to see! There was a protest. A pretty fun protest. A pretty weird protest against pretty people wearing fur. I love the sign: Vanity Sucks. If they didn’t have all these very pretty girls passing out literature on their behalf (and, yes, they were very pretty girls) I might have taken them a little more seriously.

That’s not true, either. I don’t take people in bunny suits seriously. Although I do like the simulated blood. (I see dead rabbits. They’re everywhere!)

They were really protesting DKNY. The group, NYC Animal Rights, was nice and loud; and had obviously put a lot of work into their preparations. Good for them. I love a good incoherent protest. It makes me feel all nice and warm. (I don’t know if they’re associated with PETA or acting with PETA or what-not.)

And they were pretty incoherent/unreasonable on so very many levels. I thought I had a picture of my favorite protest sign, but didn’t catch it. It said “Real designers don’t kill animals.” That sort of statement just boggles my mind. I kept going back and thinking of designers that aren’t fashion-oriented. For example, the designers of the skinning knives and stuff like that. Yeah, it’s a reach, but my mind was just rocked by the idea that this group only thinks of design in fashion terms.

And, of course, I kept thinking of leather belts, shoes, etc. that all but the most diehard of the animal rights people still use. And, mostly, why the writer of that particular sign would imagine there’s a connection between fashion design and non-cruelty towards animals. But, I also just kept thinking that the members of the group were being…well, fashionable in their protest. Nice costumes. Protesting against cruelty (where or where is the group in favor of cruelty I always ask). Situating themselves very well for drawing attention. And they had about 10 or 15 very attractive young women passing out literature. I remember thinking they were very nicely dressed.

I admit that I have never watched an episode of Project Runway. It’s just not something that I have an interest in watching although I know people who swear it is actually an intellectual endeavor that shows how people are forced to extend their creative juices in all sorts of interesting directions, fashionwise. But I promise I’d probably watch if they were to have an episode where the cast had to slaughter, skin, tan, and sew the skins of animals into clothing for supermodels (or just ordinary models).

Lastly, I have to admit having an urge at the sight of them and their protest. I wanted to break out into song. You know, of course, that there’s only one appropriate song. Yep, it’s “Kill the Wabbit” from Merrie Melodies’ “What’s Opera, Doc?”. 

Yeah, it would have been way too over the top and let them interpret it as a threat or something rather than a meat-eater’s humorous poke at their protest.  (What do you wanna bet they wouldn’t have shown any sense of humor at it?)

-H

2008 Pakistan Day Parade in New York City

August 24, 2008

On my way to Church on Sunday, I discovered that Madison Avenue had up the barricades for a parade. I hadn’t looked to see if any were scheduled, so I didn’t know who it was. I talked with a cop and he told me it was the Pakistan Day Parade and would be held at noon.

That made me pretty happy. The Pakistan Day Parade is one of my favorites and last year’s post on it is actually one of the most popular posts I have on this blog.

So, when I left Church, I didn’t bother going home, but showed up on Madison and 38th at about 11:30. I talked with another cop and he said it would be at noon.

And then I got disappointed. Noon came and went. The parade route had cars going north on it unimpeded by the police officers stationed at every corner. I could hear the bands warming up! I figured it was actually a late start or maybe a 12:30 parade. Finally, another cop walked by and I asked and he told me 1pm. It wasn’t worth leaving at that point and I did want to see the parade. So, I waited. Amazingly, at 12:45 I was the only person on my block waiting for the parade. A number of obviously Pakistani people went by (you could recognize them because they all seemed to have flags) but they were heading to the block or two north of me close to the very beginning of the parade.

Promptly at 1pm, the parade started. My block had a few more people, but not many. I looked in vain for the family that I had seen last year and the man who had proved to be the biggest hit of the parade. No luck.

First, came the cops on horses and then the dignitaries came. There was a bunch of ’em.

This year’s parade was a lot more political than last year’s. Well, it is an election year. I’ve seen this same limo for the candidate before.

There were a couple of marching bands, but the Pakistanis really like to come in floats and virtually every one I saw was jammed. The guy at the front right of the float below was one of the parade highlights. You can’t see the movements, but he was very animated and having fun.

Like most national day parades, there were flags everywhere. As usual, most of the flags were of the originating country, but there were a lot of American flags, too. SM&B Construction’s float had a visual that I really liked.

I didn’t understand the next float. It had the name of Dr. Muhammad M. Haque from the Department of Immigration. I don’t know if it was a float he sponsored or one he is memorialized on. I presume the latter.

The next float was pretty cool. It was a celebration of the American International School System in Pakistan and noted how there are schools throughout Pakistan that use American connections and techniques and supplies to further their education. I gotta support that.

My personal highlight of the parade is something new this year: beauty queens. They are a staple of most parades, but I don’t recall seeing any in other parades so closely associated with Islam. All beauty queens are automatically pictured in Famous Ankles. So here you go, thanks to Wholesale Building Supply.

Last year’s parade was a pretty quiet affair. This year, lots and lots of music. I wouldn’t say this was the loudest, but it was one of the best. One of the DJ’s at the back was dancing in time with the music and it was pretty well done.

Finally, there was this next float. Apparently, it is a limo service.

Okay, why is this one of my favorite parades? It doesn’t even have the “big flag” and only a couple of beauty queens; what’s so great? The answer last year was the “Dad” character and the fact that the entire parade; the whole parade; from beginning to end was about 18 minutes long. This is a town where a two-hour parade is typical and I’ve left one parade after more than four hours while it was still going on!

This year’s parade was much longer than last year’s. It hit the 29 minute mark. Well done and a happy 61st independence day for Pakistan.

-H

Street Sights in Greenwich Village

August 18, 2008

I always think of Greenwich Village as this picturesque place that’s very quiet and expensive. I generally call it “Ozzie and Harriet-land” because it is so gentrified and mainstream (well, mostly) and has lost the fabled counterculture/beatnick/starving artist sort of feel.

And this post pretty much falls right into that category. Look at the terrific sights and architecture and try to think of it as flophouses.

Not a flophouse, this next place (on 10th Street) just had a porch that I thought was great.

I guess if you’re in a place like Greenwich Village, even Ralph Lauren has to find a spot for a (fake) horse. I couldn’t resist the picture.

The next picture is Bethune Street. It’s just a little street with great architecture and a lotta trees.

The is next picture is one of those views that I like to think of as “pure NYC”. There are only small rowhouses, but this is the sort of sight you see all over Greenwich Village and so many other parts of New York. But I also think of the concrete canyons as “pure NYC” views, too. And Central Park. And a row of little stores about 10 feet wide each. Face it, NYC is too big and too…everything…to be easily classified. Yet each is a pure look at the place. Yeah, I know, I know. I’ll stop with the lyricism.

Another great street, but with a name that has put it on a zillion posters: Gay Street. It is spectacularly nice and really small. It is only a hundred yards or so long, but the curve in it is pretty cool and the buildings on it are very nice.

A final picture of that day’s wanderings (at least for this post). A sidewalk view of a number of row houses somewhere in the Village. I can’t remember the location, but I’d like to point out one thing in all of these pictures: no people. They were taken around 9am on a Saturday morning. That’s not too early; but the streets were pretty empty. I hadn’t realized that none of the pictures had anyone in them until I was writing the post, but it does help point out that NYC isn’t always hustle-bustle.

Okay, in the last picture that might be a person way, way down there, but remember that I didn’t take or select these pictures to exclude people; the streets were just pretty empty.

-H

Thomas Jefferson Park in Spanish Harlem

August 17, 2008

I’ve done a fair amount of blogging about my trip through Spanish Harlem / El Barrio / East Harlem. I don’t know quite how many posts I got out of it (six?). But, I do know that I’ve written a fair amount for just a few hours of wandering. And I didn’t even talk to anyone! And the place was mostly empty of people!

But that wasn’t true of Thomas Jefferson Park. It had a few people in it, although I wouldn’t call it a big crowd. Nevertheless, after finding so few people in Spanish Harlem itself, the light crowds were a welcome sight. The park is located on 114th Street or so and First Avenue.

When I first wandered in, the thing I noted was a lot of picnic tables and some sort of organized sporting event that was being prepared. It was on a large running track and included quite a few people. It was a health fair and event called “Run for Life” put on by a local health plan group called MetroPlus.

But the thing I really noticed was the pool. Wow, they had a huge, huge pool. It was pretty deserted, but probably because it was near noon and the sun was at the max.

But, like I said, there was other exercising going on. The below was a Church-group called the “Union Baptist Church Warriors.”

The sign for the event said it was an all-day event. I presume the light turnout was due to the heat and time of day.

Well, whatever the reason for the light crowds, it wasn’t for the lack of a pleasant area.

One last thing about the park: it had public barbeque areas! That’s rare. But the fact that you have to have a permit isn’t all that unexpected.

-H

St. Vincent’s Hospital in Greenwich Village

August 16, 2008

Smack in the middle of Greenwich Village is St. Vincent’s Hospital. The only way I know of the place is from endless reruns of Law & Order and, of course, from my infrequent wanderings of NYC that have taken me past it a number of times. As hospitals go, I’m sure it’s terrific and all; but I’ve never had anyone mention it to me in conversation. Like I said, just in Law & Order.

It’s on 7th Avenue around 12th Street, but there are offshoots of it all over the place. In honesty, it looks pretty ordinary. So ordinary, that I’ve never bothered to post on it. Just another building…

But that’s before I found a historical marker (I know, I know; the grammar I learned so long ago says “an historical” is more proper, but I think the use of “a” is now the standard). I’m a sucker for historical markers as any reader knows. I just luv ’em.

It surprised me. The marker says that Edna St. Vincent Millay (a famous American poet from the early 20th Century) was actually named for the hospital. I always thought (or would have thought had I considered the idea at any length) that “St. Vincent” in her name was a maiden name. Instead it was her middle name(s?). The plaque states that the name came because Edna’s uncle was saved by the hospital.

You know, I don’t ever recall reading any of her poetry.  So, I did a little looking.  If you wish, here they are.  I can’t say it is can’t-miss-reading…but then my taste in poetry has never extended much beyond the high school reading of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner by Coleridge (wow, I had forgotten how long it was!) and some Shakespearean sonnets.

-H