Sunday, February 10, 2019


The Church of the Open Road gets some culture

It could be reasonably suggested that more culture exists in the average Petri dish or unattended vegetable drawer than exists within me.  That said, on rare occasion, I’ve made it to New York just to get a dose.

They say the neon lights are bright on Broadway.  And whoever they are, they’re right.

Our plan was to see Jeff Daniels in Aaron Sorkin’s new stage version of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”  And we did.  

Sorkin and Daniels teamed up to provide a 21st Century take on a 1930s circumstance that, sadly, is still all too prominent.  Had seeing “Mockingbird” been all we'd do in the city; the trip would have been a huge success.

But “Chicago” was continuing its decades-long run and Cuba Gooding Jr. would be featured for just a few more performances.  

The songs, the story, the choreography all made it unsurprising that – even on a cold Thursday evening in February – the show would again be a sellout.

The wild card Broadway show was “The Band’s Visit,” a lesser-known musical about an Egyptian “Police Band” visiting Israel to perform for some official opening but finds themselves stranded in a small Israeli village for the night after having boarded the wrong bus.  

A soulful café owner, a heart-broken kid waiting by the phone, a timid, self-conscious teen are matched with the uniformed Egyptians (all of whom play their instruments during the show) as both comic stories and painful relationships develop. 

 Of the three shows, it’s the one I’d want to see again.  (For Candi, it’d be “Mockingbird,” and I’ll gladly go with her.)

As a child of the west, I enjoy a good canyon.  A narrow one with limited, winding access.  One where history took place that most people fly over.

But canyons in New York City are quite a bit different.

They are straight-edge straight paved routes where the winter sun might make it to the bottom for twenty minutes on a clear day.

Were it not for the sirens wafting up from below, the traffic’s roar from atop the Empire State Building sounds surprisingly like the rushing current of a spring time, snow-melt filled Feather River back in northern California.  Almost soothing.

The City does a good job of setting aside some very pricy real estate for open space.  Central Park is grand as long as you don’t try to compare it to the Tetons.  And city blocks, here and there as set aside for sitting and chatting and having a cigar.  Very pleasant.

In this urban environment, I was delighted to catch glimpse of something natural going on in a rather unnatural place.

A few shout outs:  The Park Terrace Hotel on 40th Street is a four-years new construct walking distance to Times Square and the theater district. The staff is more than accommodating and delight in hearing about our day.  Across 40th is Bryant Park and the New York City public library – an architectural masterpiece that deserved our visit.

Astro Restaurant at 6th Avenue and 55th Street is a place I’ve stumbled into twice now.   I’ll go back next time for another pastrami on rye and some fries.

Fine & Rare offers enough choices in Bourbon and whiskey to make me more pro-choice than I already am.  Menu, presentation, preparation and service are outstanding – more than the average country boy might expect.  And the every-night live jazz featured this night a melodious songstress offering her take on the Great American Songbook – sometimes in French [pause for heart palpitations] – and a bass player who made me wish I’d practiced more as a kid.

The first time I’d visited the World Trade Center, several years ago, I must admit I shed tears at the two pools built on the footprints of the once-mighty twin towers.

This time, we took the additional step of visiting the profoundly moving museum assembled beneath where those towers stood.

Remnants of the foundation’s structure tell us something about the fallacy of foreverness…

… and the hulk of Ladder 3 reminds me not everyone who wears a badge or dons a uniform is a hero. Circumstance will determine who’s who.  New York City’s Fire Department(s) lost 343 souls in one day. Each a hero.  

More tears.

New York is a fabulous collection of contrasts: rich people and the down and out; soaring high rises and tiny historic chapels in their shadows; rushing traffic sounding like a wild river... 

...and from a distance, a still life of humanity’s greatest triumphs and greatest failures.

As we fly west, I wonder if I’ll ever be called back…

…and I revel at the open space beneath me.  From 36,000 feet, it feels more like home.

© 2019
Church of the Open Road Press

1 comment:

  1. That sounds like a fabulous trip. We were just talking at work last week about New York as one of our AAGs is there for a work trip. My thoughts were that while I don't enjoy large cities with copious amounts of people it would be interesting to fly in for a show or two and wander some museums. So this post resonates. Thank you.