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Virginia Woolf is dead. Long live Virginia Woolf.

The other day I mentioned I’d been absent from this blog for the same reason as the last several times I went AWOL for a few months: I was cast in a play, and what a play it was: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf by Edward Albee. As Martha. My dream role.

That was last August.  Our performances were in late October, early November.  What a rocky road this production had!

I was the second actor cast as Martha, because the first actor backed out after the initial read-through, telling the director she wasn’t “comfortable” with the subject matter. Who the hell auditions for and ACCEPTS a role in a play without knowing what the play is about? And a world-famous play at that?  Apparently this woman did. So the director called me and I leaped at the chance.  I had been waiting until I was old enough to play Martha since I first read the play sometime in the 1980s.  I had big footsteps to fill.

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Uta Hagen, originator of the role of Martha — 1962

I was not the only cast member change, however. The original Nick didn’t like the original Martha, and he backed out. The original Honey also left because her parents’ home had been destroyed in the Houston flooding after Hurricane Harvey, and she needed to go down there to help them sort out their lives. Only the original George was left standing.

While our director auditioned for a new Nick and Honey, Edwin (playing George) and I began rehearsals. A few days later, Jamie (Honey) and Josh (Nick) joined us. And we were complete.

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Elizabeth Taylor as Martha in the 1965 film version

Then the real trouble began. Our director gave us strange line readings and odd blocking. He had us wandering randomly all over the stage with no real reason for the movement. He cut rehearsal short and left promptly at 9:30 or earlier every evening, often in the middle of a scene. And then would want to start the scene exactly where we left off when we returned the following evening, instead of at the beginning so we could build the emotion and energy again.

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Kathleen Turner as Martha in the 2007 revival

As actors, we became increasingly frustrated at these artificial restrictions and interruptions to our flow.  I mean, it wouldn’t kill anyone if we stayed an extra 10 minutes or so past the scheduled end of rehearsal to finish out a scene, would it?  And thus, the inevitable happened.

Woolf War I — the Bergen incident

One night, I arrived at rehearsal a little early.  Edwin and our director were already there, deep into a disagreement over the pronunciation of a word.  In the show, George delivers a monologue about his time in prep school when he went out with a group of young men, and one of the young men mishears the word “bourbon” and orders a “bergen” instead.  Edwin pronounced it with a hard G.  The director corrected him and said it should be a soft G instead.  Edwin disagreed and explained his reasoning (with the hard G, it sounds more like “bourbon” than with a soft G, and besides, everyone who’s ever done this play, including the original Broadway production, pronounced it with the hard G).  The director insisted.  I don’t know who raised his voice first, but voices were raised, and both men lost their tempers.  Much yelling ensued.  I bailed out the rehearsal room and literally hid in a corner until the argument was over.

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Imelda Staunton as Martha, 2017 London production

Sometime later, we were off book.  For those of you unfamiliar with the process, “off book” means we deliver lines from memory instead of reading from the script.   The first few days off book are always rough, and actors generally “call” for a line with some frequency — that means we’re asking the stage manager to give us our next line because we can’t come up with it on our own.

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Me as Martha; Josh as Nick

That’s the whole point, though: we ask for the line.  On purpose.  Unless you had our director.  At every pause, however minute, he jumped in and gave us our line, whether we asked for it or not.  We asked him repeatedly to let us struggle for it and call for it as needed.  He ignored us.  And thus occurred…

Woolf War II — Don’t give me a fucking line until I ask for it

Edwin, bless his heart, lost it one night after one too many unrequested lines given.  All four of us were fed up; Edwin was just the most vocal about it.  If I thought Woolf War I was bad, then this was bad times 10, because the director escalated it unnecessarily, yelling and screaming and tossing the script on the floor.  At one point, Edwin walked out and we all followed him down the hall as one of the producers was on the phone to the theatre’s artistic director about the argument.  I overheard him say, “Oh great, now the whole cast is leaving…”

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Clockwise from left:  Jamie as Honey; Josh as Nick; Edwin as George; me as Martha.  Yes, they’re all a foot taller than I am.

We didn’t leave.  We stopped at the end of the hall; we all took a few deep breaths; we talked to the producer for a little while who then mediated a conversation with the director; and then we went back to rehearsal. We finished out the night, the director left, and the cast went out for a drink.

That was the first time we had got together outside rehearsal: our first time to be able to talk as a group about our hopes and dreams and ideas and thoughts about this production without a member of the theatre staff within earshot.  It was an excellent bonding experience.

The next night our director didn’t show up.  We rehearsed anyway.  He didn’t show the rest of the week.  We rehearsed anyway.  A full week after Woolf War II, the artistic director told us the director wouldn’t be coming back and she would take over directing the show.

Directing ourselves

Well, that didn’t happen, exactly.  The artistic director came to a few rehearsals and gave us a few notes, but she was in the middle of auditioning, casting, and directing the show that would immediately follow ours, so we ended up directing ourselves for the most part.  Thank the theatre gods for Edwin and his extensive theatre training and background, not to mention his contacts throughout the Atlanta theatre community.  Several of his friends came to our rehearsals and provided guidance and direction and suggestions for improvement.  We fixed the weird blocking and changed the odd line readings.  On a personal level, I am especially grateful to Edwin’s friend Esther, who gave me invaluable advice and helped me through a few difficult spots with Martha’s character.

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Edwin, as George, laying down the law to Martha

Delayed opening

All this turmoil, unfortunately, resulted in the theatre’s decision to delay our opening by one week because we just weren’t ready.  Josh had gotten physically ill a couple of nights — we later discovered the water we had been drinking throughout every scene was, um, not good.  So he missed a couple of rehearsals due to illness. It’s a miracle the rest of us didn’t become ill.  Lines were still rough; the set wasn’t completely built and dressed; our costumes hadn’t been settled; the sound and light design was barely sketched out.  We did two previews to accommodate family and friends who were coming from out of town to view the show on its original opening weekend.  Those previews went really well and gave us hope for the following weekend and our actual opening.

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From left: Josh as Nick; Jamie as Honey; Edwin as George; and me

And then we went on

Opening weekend was almost anti-climactic after all the drama that preceded it.  We had very small houses, unfortunately, but we played our heart out every night.  You can read a review of our show here.

I’m not ashamed to say I think it’s the best work I’ve ever done.  My Martha was deeply deeply sad; she hurt people because she was hurt.  It was a challenge and a privilege to bring that out and present it to the audience.  I gave our patrons two acts that made them hate her, and one act that broke their heart.

The Sunday after our final performance, the cast went to the theatre one last time to strike the set, and then we went out to dinner.  I cried when we parted afterward.  I don’t usually get misty when a show ends, but this show was different.  My life is irrevocably altered; Jamie, Joshua, and Edwin are forever a part of me.

Goodbye, Martha, you poor misunderstood little girl. Playing you was an experience I’ll never forget.  Maybe someday I’ll get to be you again.  I’m willing if the universe is.

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tap*tap*tap — Is this thing on?

It’s been a while, and I have things to discuss. My plan is to start blogging again with some regularity. There are books to review, and yarn acquisitions to drool over, and a few finished projects to brag about, not to mention the two plays I’ve done since my last post.

But today I want to show you something else.

You may recall that I had bariatric surgery in December 2016. Behold the before (November 2016) and after (February 2018):

89 lbs. lost, and just a few more to go.

March 2018

Ignore the messy hair, please.

Spouse took that picture this morning.  Yes, that’s a pair of trousers that I used to wear to work.  All my large-size casual clothes have been donated to Goodwill, and the suitable-for-work clothes are on their way to Dress for Success, a charity that provides business clothes to women coming out of shelters.

Foodwise, I eat pretty much anything I want to, recognizing that some foods are going to make me feel bad.  Like potatoes and pasta. And donuts.  And pretty much anything made with white flour.  Whole grains or nothing, baby.  Although I confess that last weekend I allowed myself to be wrestled to the ground by Girl Scouts who then forced me to hand over money for Thin Mints and Samoas.

And now, the measurements:

March 18, 2017 May 7, 2017 October 27, 2017 March 11, 2018
Bust 43 42 37 37
Waist 40 39 33.5 30
Hip 45 43 37.5 36
Thigh 25 24 20 20
Calf 17 16.5 15.5 14.5
Upper arm 14 13 11.5 11.5
Neck 14.5 14.25 14 13.5

I’m currently at 128 lbs. with a goal of 125. If I don’t lose these last three lbs., I’m still good.

Because going from size 18 to size 6 is fucking awesome.

Weight Loss Progress

And it just keeps coming off.  As of the time of this writing (several days before the blog entry will be published), I’m down 44 lbs.

These two pictures were taken quite some time apart, as you can tell by the length of my hair.  The blue photo was taken at the beginning of my last major attempt at weight loss, in November 2014, so about two years before surgery.  The pink photo was taken March 31, 2017.  (Yes, I should have done photos right before surgery, but I didn’t.  We’ll have to make do with these and whatever candid or yarn-project-modeling photos I can find that were taken shortly before surgery.)


Front view.  I can see the beginnings of a waist again.  That makes me happy.  I still have the shirt and cropped pants I’m wearing in the blue photos.  I’ll do my best to wear them the next time we take a set of progress photos.

In clothing news, all but one of the items that had been banished to the upstairs closet because they didn’t fit have been retrieved.  Because now they fit.  The one item that doesn’t fit is a velvet dress suitable for holiday parties and dress-up occasions.  It’s still too tight.  Unfortunately, it’s doubtful that it will fit at the time the holiday parties and dress-up occasions roll around again, but at that time, it will be too loose.  Maybe I’ll ask my husband to take me out to a fancy dinner when it fits again, just to wear it one last time.  I’ve started weeding out the clothes that are now too large and too much trouble to have altered; they’re being sorted into piles to go to Goodwill, to bariatric support group clothing swaps, and to the business-appropriate clothing drive for women in shelters.

 

Don’t tell me to calm down

Don’t even think about it, because I will smack you upside the head so hard you’ll wish you never learned to speak.

Do you know what happened Wednesday?  After the nation learned that the Orange Narcissist will become our next President?  I’ll tell you what happened.

One of my friends posted this on Facebook:

Good lord, this is nerve-wracking.  List of reasons to be concerned:  I’m a woman, a bisexual, married to a trans person, and I have mental health issues.  Many of the people who mean the most to me in the world are POC, LGBT, or have mental illness or developmental or physical disabilities.  All of us struggle, but many of them struggle with poverty-level income and serious unmet healthcare needs.  Many more have healthcare thanks to one provision of ACA or another, which they could lose.  So very much is at stake.

She later hid the post from view and told me she’s pretty scared of everything right now.

Another friend told me his mother had been verbally accosted while shopping in a Tennessee Wal-Mart:  “We won!  Now all you fucking niggers have to go back to Africa!”

Still another friend, with a longstanding health issue, has been unemployed long-term and relies on her health plan through the Affordable Care Act to pay for lifesaving medication and the frequent doctor visits she requires. She’s so terrified the ACA will be repealed that she’s suicidal.

A fourth friend, also with a pre-existing medical condition, and who recently lost her job, is in the same predicament.

A fifth friend, Hispanic, married to an African-American, with three mixed-race children, worries how she is going to explain to her daughter what happened, and is frightened for her teenage sons’ safety.

Each of these wonderful beautiful vibrant people lives in a different part of the country.  Each of them lives in a “red” state.  Each of them is now afraid to be who they are in their own country.

Those of you who voted for the man?  This is what you have wrought.

He is a racist.
He is a xenophobe.
He is a sexist.
He is an Islamophobe.
He is a homophobe.
He is a self-confessed sexual predator.

That’s what you voted for.  That was what you wanted in a leader.

But wait.  There’s more. 

His vice-president thinks electrocution will shock gay people into being straight.

May the gods help us all.

R.I.P. XI Catch-up: Screen time

RIP 9 Peril on the Screen

How did I let two weeks go by without posting anything?  It’s amazing how quickly times runs past me these days.

The past couple of weeks, I’ve imbibed a few Perils On The Screen to quickly discuss.

longmireThe new season of Longmire came out on Netflix a couple of weeks ago.  This show was originally on some cable channel, got cancelled a couple of years ago, and Netflix picked it up to continue making new episodes.  It’s a contemporary Western that tells us the story of Walt Longmire, a widowed sheriff who, on top of investigating the murders that take place in his rural Wyoming county, deals with political maneuverings, shady businessmen, and tension with the neighboring Native American reservation.  Sheriff Longmire is played by Robert Taylor, an Australian actor with a pitch perfect American West accent; Katee Sackhoff plays one of his deputies; and Lou Diamond Phillips plays his best friend.  A host of other recurring characters and guest stars rotate through this well-acted series.  Highly recommended.

aftermathI watched the pilot of SyFy‘s new show, Aftermath, the other night.  Oh dear God, what a jumbled mess.  According to the show’s blurb, “When people start disappearing and disasters start to indicate the end of the world is at hand, the Copeland family – Karen, Josh, Dana, Brianna and Matt – must fight for their survival while piecing together clues on how to save what’s left of humanity.”  Mom (Karen, played by Anne Heche) is a badass ex-military pilot; Dad (Josh, played by James Tupper) is a wimpy academic; and the kids are one-dimensional.  To be generous, perhaps the idea was to plop the viewer right down in the middle of the apocalypse with the Copeland family, who themselves have little idea what’s going on, but this was done better in Cloverfield — and that movie had at least some exposition or background chatter (in the way of TV/radio snippets) that gave the viewer a vague idea of the circumstances.  I’ll give episode two a try, because it might get better.  But I don’t have much hope.

slitherLast night, spouse and I watched Slither, a worthy addition to the “Bad Movie Night” list.  It’s bad, but it’s fun bad, because it’s just so absurd AND it doesn’t take itself seriously.  A meteor crashes to Earth somewhere in North Carolina, a creepy crawly from that meteor takes over the body of a human being, and then multiplies itself in an effort to take over more humans.  Featuring Nathan Fillion, Elizabeth Banks, and Michael Rooker.  And a number of gross-out scenes, so if you’re sensitive to that, beware.  (I watched a couple of them through my fingers, but mainly turned my head and closed my eyes.)

maltese-falcomFinally, the 1941 classic The Maltese Falcon graced our flat-screen a few weeks ago.  Humphrey Bogart is at his snarling sardonic best as the world-weary private dick Sam Spade; Mary Astor is luminous and beguiling as the damsel in distress; and Peter Lorre plays as sniveling a criminal character as he can muster.  Great fun to watch, but set aside any modern feminist sensitivities when you do.

RIP 11Reviewed for R.I.P XI “Peril on the Screen” Challenge.  Click the badge to find out more about this annual event.

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On writing slumps and unintentional hiatuses

Blog Entry MemeHere’s a truth:  I really like the idea of structured blog posts — Finished Object Fridays, Work In Progress Wednesdays, and so forth — but that sort of restriction just doesn’t fit easily into my schedule. Working full time puts a cramp in my blogging style, don’tcha know; after a long day dealing with trainees, colleagues, and general government bureaucracy, I’m utterly exhausted by the time I get home from the office. It’s all I can do to change out of my business attire and collapse on the sofa with the remote and a bowl of popcorn.  Feed the dogs?  Oh, sheesh, do I have to?  All right, all right, stop yapping at me.  I’ll take care of you.

So what happens? When I have something to say, I have to find the time to say it on the weekends. On a writing day, I will often compose several blog entries over the course of several hours and schedule them to appear at various times throughout the next week or so. This is especially true for book reviews.

Sometimes, though, even that much discipline is beyond me, and nothing appears for weeks, sometimes months, at a time. Such is how it’s been ever since we had Mote put to sleep at the end of July.  On top of the grief, I’ve had at least three doctors’ appointments every month since June in an effort to alleviate a chronic, non-life-threatening-but-it’s-bothering-the-hell-out-of-me problem.  (Solution — surgery will be scheduled in the near future.)  I’m finally pulling myself out of the grief and ennui and general all-around tiredness enough to think about writing regularly again. With two finished projects to show off, one work in progress, a crap-ton of book reviews to write, plus the newest Rowan and Vogue Knitting magazines to discuss, there’s certainly plenty to write about. (Yes, faithful reader, I know: returning to reviewing knit magazines was a stated goal from 2014.  *sigh*  This slump has been both long-standing AND intermittent.)

No one out there is awaiting my next blog entry with bated breath, but that’s not the point.  This blog is a creative outlet that provides an opportunity to show off pretty things I made and occasionally pontificate on life, books, and the state of the world.  (I’m thrilled that a few folks  think it’s worth their time follow these shenanigans.  Thank you.  You all rock.)

All that to say, I’ve missed this.  And I’m going to do better.  As it happens, this long holiday weekend is a good time to set fingers to keyboard and get that writing mojo flowing.

Let the revels begin.

New York, Day 6

Baby Juice GlassesFriday was our last day. Our plane left in late afternoon, and hotel checkout wasn’t required until noon, so we dilly-dallied around in the morning, taking a subway ride down to 72nd Street to (a) find an ATM for our bank and (b) find breakfast.

Breakfast was at Utopia Restaurant on Amsterdam. It was delicious.  Please notice the tiny baby juice glasses. We were served juice in these itty bitty plastic tumblers everywhere we went for breakfast. They’re just so cute!  Then we wandered up and down the street for a while in search of our bank.  Turns out the ATM wasn’t at a bank branch at all, but inside a Duane Reade store.

These stores are ubiquitous in Manhattan. I had never heard of them before we arrived, but it seemed like every time we turned around, we saw one. They were quite handy, though. I had accidentally left my reading glasses at home, so Day 1 found us inside the store across the street from our hotel buying new reading glasses and bottled water for our long walk down to Times Square.  And we were in and out of the store for in-room snacks and more bottled water throughout the week.  (That Google image above is interactive, by the way.  You can move it around to see the neighborhood surrounding our hotel.)

Dinos Pack Themselves 1In case you were wondering, we left the dinosaurs back in the hotel room for this little excursion. They did most of the packing while we were gone. Very efficient, those dinosaurs.  We finished up what was left, and called the bellman to come take our luggage downstairs.

Did I mention that our hotel didn’t have an elevator?  And we were on the fourth floor?  Yes, Virginia, that does mean that every single day, after wearing ourselves to the bone walking around playing tourist, we had to drag our tired carcasses up four flights of stairs to our room.  Four narrow flights of stairs, at that.  It also means that the bellman was allowed the privilege of carrying both suitcases, one of them massive, up and down those narrow flights of stairs.  Don’t worry, he was tipped well.

Since our flight didn’t leave until 6:00 PM, we were going to check out but leave the luggage at the hotel while we wandered around some more, and then take Uber to the airport in mid-afternoon, but the bellman told us we could catch a bus just a couple of blocks up the street that would take us directly to our terminal, and we could use our subway transit passes to pay for it.  He checked the schedule for us, and the next bus to LaGuardia left in about 30 minutes.  After a brief consult — “Do you want to see anything else?”  “No, not really, I’m kind of tired of walking around and looking at stuff.” — we decided we were really tired of Manhattan and were ready to get started on our outbound trip.  So we dragged our luggage up to 106th Street and caught the bus.

Said bus took us through Harlem, right past the Apollo and other landmarks.  I didn’t have my camera or my phone out, so we didn’t catch any photos as we drove through.  Here’s another interactive Google image, though.

We got to the airport about five hours ahead of our flight, so we wandered around, ate lunch, read, played on our phones, and killed time chitchatting while we waited for our plane to board. The flight back to Atlanta was uneventful, as was picking up our car from long-term parking and making the Back to the Jungle 2short drive home. One of the advantages of living in a major metro area like the ATL is we’re less than 20 minutes away from the airport. Still, we were exhausted when we arrived at the house and went straight to bed.

The next morning, while we picked up the critters from the kennel (that was a shock to the wallet), the dinosaurs headed back into the jungle, there to await their next trip. So long, dinos; we’ll see you again soon, I hope.

People have asked me what was the best part of this trip.  Naturally, seeing all the things in person that I had only ever seen in photographs or movies or TV ranks really high, but truly, the best part was spending an entire week doing stuff with my husband and remembering that, not only do I love him, I really truly do like him.  Here’s to many more anniversary trips, honey.  I love you bunches.

New York, Day 5

Me in HarlemThursday was our last full day in New York. Being tired of waiting in lines for things, this was the day we planned to hit some of the little spots we wanted to see. First thing after breakfast, we took the subway to the nearest store of the chain that employs my husband. He wanted to take a look at how it was laid out for comparison’s sake, and he wanted to be able to tell his employees he saw the Big Apple version. Said store happened to be in Harlem.

Said store was really no different than spouse’s store.  I bought a little sunhat because we were going to be outdoors most of the day, and the top of my head was already sunburnt and tender from our long walk on Day 1 and the Statue of Liberty tour on Day 2.  Note to self: remember to take a hat next time you plan to play tourist outdoors.

Knitty CityWe headed back to the Upper West Side next, and found the yarn store.  Stop shaking your head.  Of course I had to visit a New York yarn store!  This was Knitty City on 79th Street, and it was a perfectly lovely shop, with a helpful and friendly staff.  The dinosaurs browsed while Kathi and I chatted; I wanted to buy local yarn, and she showed me several Project Bags 2options.  I walked away with two skeins of hand-dyed Chelsea Sock (Yellow, Chrysanthemum) from the local Nooch Fiber, which is 80% superwash Merino, 10% cashmere, and 10% nylon; and one skein of a MadTosh Merino Light colorway (Urban Flagstone) dyed exclusively for this shop.  Also in my cool shopping-cum-project bag was another project bag, and three pattern books (the Interpretations series, Volumes 1-3) from two designers (Joji Locatelli and Veera Välimäki) I’d never heard of but fell madly in love with their work.

InterpretationsThese books are chock full of elegant (in all meanings, but especially the scientific sense of “gracefully concise and simple”) designs for cardigans, pullovers, and accessories, with clean lines and uncomplicated silhouettes, with careful attention paid to details like cables or lace or colorwork, and all beautiful and eminently wearable. It looks like this is an annual series, so I’ll be keeping my eye out for Volume IV, which I expect will be released sometime in 2017.

Oh, before I forget, here are the yarn-browsing dinosaurs.

Dinos Buy Yarn 2

NYPL and MeNext on our list was the New York Public Library: specifically the Stephen A. Schwarzman branch.  The dinosaurs and I had a hankering to visit the lions, Patience and Fortitude.  By this time, spouse and I were getting pretty good at figuring out which trains and subway stops we needed, so we made our way to Bryant Park and had lunch al fresco.

Have I mentioned the weather was absolutely spectacular that entire week?  It was no different Thursday.  I thoroughly enjoyed sitting in the shade, eating a sandwich and fruit from one of the park vendors, watching the passersby, and enjoying the fragrance of the flowers.  The park was crowded like everywhere we’d been, but enjoyable nonetheless.  Even with the crowds, it was relaxing to sit and commune with a little bit of greenery in the midst of all that concrete and steel.

Dinos Visit the Lions 2

After we finished our meal, we wandered around the park and eventually made our way to the front of the library.  And there they were, the great stone lions.  These lions have fascinated me for ages.  I once read a fantasy/SF novel — can’t remember the name; in fact, the following tidbit is the only detail I remember of the novel — that took place in a devastated future New York, in which the lions had come to life and prowled the city, doing no harm, of course, but acting as protectors of the downtrodden and weak. So that’s how I think of them, always.

Spouse took my photo with Fortitude, on the north edge of the steps.  (Patience lives on the south edge.)  The dinos had their photo taken too.

Next stop was Tender Buttons, the button store on the Upper East Side that I told you about in this Work In Progress Wednesday post a couple of weeks ago.  Spouse is a tolerant man, but his tolerance extends only so far, and he’d already borne through an extended yarn shop visit this day; thus I didn’t spend nearly as much time in this little shop as I would have done had I been by myself.  I saw enough to know I want to go back there every time I need buttons.  Sadly, that’s not feasible.

Wall StreetOur last stop of the day (nyuk, nyuk, get it?) was Wall Street.  This was especially for spouse.  Long ago, in another life, before he took up retail management as a career, he worked for an investment firm where he guided his clients’ purchases of equities such as stocks, bonds, mutual funds, annuities, and so forth.  He doesn’t really miss that rat race but he has some fond memories.  That being the case, he wanted to make a pilgrimage to the New York Stock Exchange.  And here he is, in his Master of the Universe pose.

Master of the Universe 3

Isn’t he the cutest?   We saw the bull, too, because it would be un-American to go to Wall Street and not pay homage to the bull.

Bull on Wall Street 2

After all these adventures, we were plumb tuckered out and went back to the hotel to crash.  Later we realized we hadn’t taken ourselves out to a fancy dinner for our anniversary, so spouse found a little Italian restaurant within easy walking distance of the hotel, and that’s where we went.  La Piccola Cucina is tiny, maybe ten tables at most; the atmosphere was calm and soothing with lovely instrumental music playing at a just-right volume over the speakers; our server was attentive but not hovering; and the food was divine.

One more day for this New York adventure.  Stay tuned.

 

 

New York, Day 4

We spent our anniversary visiting the Museum of Modern Art.

The subway trip to MOMA was more involved than all the previous subway trips we had undertaken by ourselves. We had to change trains twice, I think, to get to the right stop.  And then we nearly walked right by the museum because the exterior didn’t look anything like what we expected.

Dinos and Degas

Dinos admire a Degas sketch.

First stop was the Degas exhibit, A Strange New Beauty.  Be advised that link will probably only be good through the end of the exhibit on July 24, 2016, so I’m going to steal the website copy that describes the exhibit:

Edgar Degas is best known as a painter and chronicler of the ballet, yet his work as a printmaker reveals the true extent of his restless experimentation. In the mid-1870s, Degas was introduced to the monotype process—drawing in ink on a metal plate that was then run through a press, typically resulting in a single print. Captivated by the monotype’s potential, he immersed in the technique with enormous enthusiasm, taking the medium to radical ends. He expanded the possibilities of drawing, created surfaces with a heightened sense of tactility, and invented new means for new subjects, from dancers in motion to the radiance of electric light, from women in intimate settings to meteorological effects in nature. The monotype also sparked a host of experiments for Degas, who often used the medium as a starting point from which an image could be reworked and revised. This process of repetition and transformation, mirroring and reversal, allowed Degas to extend his approach to the study of form. The profound impact of his work with monotype can be seen in his variations in different mediums of key motifs, revealing a new kind of artwork that was less about progress or completion than endless innovation.

The exhibition includes approximately 120 rarely seen monotypes—along with some 60 related paintings, drawings, pastels, sketchbooks, and prints—that show Degas at his most modern, capturing the spirit of urban life; depicting the body in new and daring ways; liberating mark-making from tradition; and boldly engaging the possibilities of abstraction.

I loved this exhibit’s insight into Degas’s process, working out his art in multiple forms and media before committing to paint and canvas.

Dinos View The Starry Night

Dinos admire “The Starry Night” while dino wrangler cries.

We then wandered through most of the permanent collection.  I had my eye out for The Starry Night, and when I finally saw it, hanging on a feature wall all by itself, I squealed:  “There it is, there it is!” and ran, I mean literally ran, to stand in front of it.  And I cried.  Of course, I knew I would because this has been my favorite painting for nearly 40 years; seeing it in person was an intensely emotional experience.

True confession: I got all misty again, just looking at the photo I took. Reproductions don’t do it justice. The actual painting is incredible: vibrant, glowing, pulsing with color. It’s alive. It positively sparkles.

Persistence of MemorySpouse had nearly the same reaction to his favorite painting, The Persistence of Memory.  It’s behind glass: you can just barely see spouse framing the photograph in the reflection, with the rest of the gallery behind him. “Persistence”‘s reputation looms so large, I was surprised at how tiny the actual painting is: barely larger than a standard sheet of typing paper.

MOMA Jaguar 3Spouse also fell in love with the 1961 Jaguar displayed in the sculpture gallery.

Yeah.  That’s an awfully pretty piece of machinery.  And it had its own guard making sure no one stepped over that perimeter line marked on the floor.

MOMA has so many artists whose works I admire but had only ever seen in books: Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Mark Rothko, Pablo Picasso, Mondrian, Monet, Modigliani, Rousseau, so much more…

I could have spent all day here, because there’s so much to see, but spouse can tolerate paintings and sculpture and modern design and multi-media exhibits for only just so long.  After three or four hours, he was done.  So we made our way back to Times Square because we had noticed a couple of other exhibits at the Discovery Museum down there that spouse wanted to see and to which our GoPass granted entry.

Dinos and Tai Chi ManThe first was Body Worlds, a fascinating display of anatomy, functionality, and the sheer beauty of the human form, stripped down, literally, to its barest essence.  I don’t recommend this exhibit if you’re squeamish about body parts or nudity, but if that doesn’t bother you and you’re at all curious in how all our moving parts work together, this is absolutely a must-see.  I’m posting only one photograph in case there are some squeamish readers.  Just scroll past quickly.  Or not.

We Come From the Land of the Ice and SnowThe second exhibit we saw, at the same museum, was Vikings.  Wow. The first thing to greet you when you walk through the door is a replica of a Viking longboat.  It’s spectacular. The rest of the exhibit is equally gorgeous: tools, clothing, jewelry, weapons — most of them the actual items, with just a few replicas because the originals are so precious or rare that they can’t be risked on public display — along with some interactive displays, like handling a replica sword, and lots of dioramas (I believe they were stills from The Vikings TV show on Discovery‘s sister channel, History) and information stations discussing religion, village life, exploration, all manner of cultural and sociological background.  It’s a niche exhibit, just right for a history and archaeology nerd like me.  Highly recommended.

As can be expected, we were exhausted by the end of the day and didn’t manage to go out for our fancy anniversary dinner that evening.  But we and the dinosaurs tried out several eating spots throughout the day.  Just a couple more pictures and we’ll call this one done.

There’s one more full day to tell you about.  Stay tuned.

New York, Day 3

Today the dinosaurs wanted to go to the Natural History Museum.  Luckily, we were in agreement with this agenda.

Metro Ticket 1

The object of all this intrigue.

But first, the rest of the subway story…

After breakfast, we headed down into the 103rd & Broadway station to catch the train.  As we went through the turnstile, we noticed our “friend” from yesterday doing the same fast-talking hustle-’em-through-the turnstile act with another couple.  Spouse told the couple as we walked by, “It’s a scam.  Walk away.”

“What?” they said, because they didn’t hear him over TicketScammerGuy’s patter.  Spouse repeated himself, louder.  “Oh! Thanks!”  They glare at TicketScammerGuy and walk away. TicketScammerGuy calls after us and threatens to shove his fist into spouse’s face.  We ignore him and start down the stairs to the train platform; then suddenly spouse turns around and walks straight to the station agent’s booth.  She’s facing the other way — her window opens into the “lobby” area, before patrons go through the turnstile.  He taps on the window until he gets her attention, and points out TicketScammerGuy , who by this time had taken up his position next to the MetroPass vending machine to await his next victim.

Dinos in TR Park (2)“He’s running a scam.”  Station agent looks puzzled.  Spouse describes him:  “That guy over there in the striped shirt and ball cap; he’s running a scam.” She looks over her shoulder in the direction spouse is pointing and enlightenment dawns.  I think she’s familiar with him.

“Thank you,” she says, and she set her jaw with a determined expression.  “We’ll take care of this.”

We never saw TicketScammerGuy again.

*cue ominous music*

Now, in reality we expect TicketScammerGuy took his show down the road to another subway stop, but it’s tempting to indulge in those New York City transit system stereotypes (read: Teamsters/union thugs/organized crime) (yes, I’ve seen too damn many film noir flicks) and think he was “taken care of” in a more, um, permanent fashion. Regardless of the true circumstances of his sudden absence, he no longer disturbed the patrons of the 103rd and Broadway station.

Hunting for Relatives Address 2Our subway stop for the American Museum of Natural History was at 79th Street, and then we walked a few blocks east, toward Central Park. (Sadly, this is the closest we got to spending time in Central Park during the whole week.)  The museum is nestled at the edge of Central Park, and we went through Theodore Roosevelt Park to get to the entrance.

I’ve mentioned the weather was perfect this whole week, yes?  Oh my gosh.  Mid-70s, mostly, with a hint of a breeze, and blue blue skies every day.  Just amazingly beautiful.

Once in the museum, we wandered around the Hall of Northwest Coast Indians for a while — indigenous textiles fascinate me; the woven capes and clothing were incredible; I only wish I could have touched them — then made our way to the café for a snack and a chance to take a thorough look at the map of the museum.

The dinos, of course, were looking for their relatives’ house.  According to the map, their relatives lived on the fourth floor; we decided to start there and work our way down.

Pictures galore follow.

Found Em 2

May we come in?

Not Much Room for Brains

So, cousin, not much room for brains, huh?

Natural History 5

This guy.  Not a good guy.

Natural History 4

I enter the picture unexpectedly.

Might Be Mom

Mom, is that you?

Natural History 3

Did you know these skeletons are usually plaster casts of the actual bones?  Because the fossilized bones themselves would be much too heavy to articulate and display.

Natural History 2

These creatures amaze me.

Family Tree

Found the family tree.

Natural History 13

More amazement.

Might Be Dad

Dad?

We also went into the special “Dinosaurs Among Us” exhibit, which tells the story of the latest innovation in evolutionary thinking: how dinosaurs became birds. It’s fascinating.  Look at these three photos together.

A quick stop for refreshment:

Dinos Stop for Refreshment

And then we headed downstairs and cruised the other floors.  True confession:  I bypassed several of the halls on each floor because my ankles were starting to hurt.  By the time we got back to the first floor, I was dog tired and my ankles were in agony, so I crashed out on the floor next to an outlet in one of the halls to charge my phone while spouse cruised the North American Mammals exhibit.  A passing security guard just grinned at me as I huddled up in the corner on the floor with my charger.

We had theater tickets that evening.  After taking a brief nap at the hotel, we changed into our theatre duds and hit the town once more.

Book of Mormon

Oh. My. Gosh.  The Book of Mormon might be the funniest thing I’ve seen in my life.  Definitely not family friendly, but side-splittingly hilarious.  The Eugene O’Neill Theatre is gorgeous;

Eugene O'Neill Theatre 3

the set was amazing;

Eugene O'Neill Theatre 4

and our seats were perfect. (Yes, we splurged.  Yes, it was worth it.)

And yes, there’s still more to come.