It was not a time for rejoicing. The television showed that the wreckage was still smoldering, and the body count was rising. But we had tickets for the New York City Opera, our children were there, and we wanted to show support--for them, for the people of the city, for the country. Rudy Giuliani said we should go about our business. Candide said we should make our garden grow. So Duffy dropped us at the train in Providence on Friday, and off we went. It was an ordinary train, even though the engine is sleek, but it's a quiet, pleasant and scenic ride, and you can relax and get work done. To my dismay (no refund for Farklempt) it was on time.
New York is different. The street outside Penn Station
was empty, lined with state police cars from end to end, with local and
state police everywhere.
People are nicer to each other. At the taxi queue, people chat and offer to share a cab. The hovel is the same, however. For some reason bin Laden does not see it as a target. We had lunch at Flor de Mayo (that's the month of May in Spanish, not the salad dressing)--a wonderful ceviche mixto, some spicy green rice, slices of baked potato with an egg topping and peanut sauce, a good avocado salad, and a half carafe of cheap white wine. $20 for lunch. We did a bit of shopping in the neighborhood, and returned to the hovel.
At night, we cabbed down to Neal and Andy's apartment in Chelsea, and Marjorie met us there. As we exited the cab onto the street, the smell of the burning rubble was in the air. Perhaps those who live in the area have accommodated to it; for us, it was unnerving. Andy has become a great chef. We had a coffee table full of mezze: hummus, olives, apricots, Pyrennées cheese with nuts, with a good Chianti (As Hannibal Lecter said, "We had them with a good kee-ant-ee.") We lit candles, made kiddush, and made hamotzi with the Zomic hallah that we brought. There followed a wonderful dinner of asparagus with a red pepper coulis, marinated and grilled tofu with herbs that was particularly delicious, jicama and orange salad, avocado and tomato salad, and a rice pilaf. The wine was brought by Marjorie, a blockbuster zin from a small California Vineyard, Lambord. For dessert, a chocolate mousse cake, engraved by Hot & Crusty for Neal's birthday.
So, we've all lost so much in the past week, innocence, security, trust, omnipotence, and money. But we have wonderful children who love us and like being with us, a big (8 lb. and growing, says the mid-wife) grandchild nearly arrived, and, despite aches and pains, our health.
Saturday morning, breakfast from Lenny's (the best
bagels in NYC--better than H&H)--7 bagels, lox, and chive cheese for
$8. Carol went to B'nai Jeshurun, and I did some work. Then we took the
subway to Times Square. We had called by cell phone on the train on the
way down to see if we could get seats for "Urinetown--The Musical," the
off-Broadway show that became a hit and is now on Broadway. We got fabulous
seats. Times Square, the theatre district, and 6th Avenue were all empty.
There were people here on a Saturday night at 2 AM in the middle of a Saturday
We went into Pink, the snooty store that sells shirts for $150 each and asked to use the bathroom. "I'm sorry, we don't have a bathroom," said the pert blonde Marymount College grad.
"Where do you pee?" I asked. She was befuddled.
"Well, if we can't pee here," I snarled, "We're going to Urinetown!"
The show was fabulous. Bare and primitive sets--just a rotating wall, really, with a four-piece band. It was very Brechtian, dark, looking at the underbelly of life, full of irony, with a policeman who steps out of character to remind you that it's only a play, while the subject matter gets darker and more morbid. It's a sendup of all the clichés of Broadway musicals, such as the tableaux of Les Mis and the finger-snapping of the Jets in West Side Story. It's about corruption and greed, power and helplessness, virtue and faith, hope and despair, and, of course, about urine. At times, I thought it was an allegory for the recent disaster. But then you couldn't tell who were the Mujahadeen, and who were the Imperialists, who were the victims, who were the heroes. In the end, there were none. In the end, it's total despair, Urinetown for all. And it's funny. It is darkly, perversely funny. It's cathartic. I mean figuratively. There were no stars, just John Cullum, who had a major role in Northern Exposure for several seasons, and a cast of character actors, many of whom could steal the show.
After the theatre, we went around the corner to Osteria al Doge on W. 44th St. It was early enough that I didn't mind the banquettes. It was "Venetian" cuisine, very good Italian. We had a fabulous gazpacho, superb tuna carpaccio, a stupendous vitello tonnato (one of the great dishes of the world--cold thin-sliced veal covered with a puréed tuna sauce with gherkins), and we split a wonderful mushroom thin-crust pizza. The wine was an inexpensive Antinori Santa Christina. It was the first time in a long time that the two of us have polished off a full bottle of wine. For dessert, an apple tart, cappuccino and espresso.
Then, on to the New York City Opera for a
new production of The Mikado, directed by Jonathan Miller, set in
the 20's in England. Not a word or any part of the plot is changed. "If
you want to know who we are, We are gentlemen of Japan," remains intact.
It works! A sendup of British Imperialism, classism, and racism are as
pertinent in 1920 England as it is in America today. It was a stellar cast,
with Robert Troxell as a Nathan Lane-Rudy Vallee Nanki-Poo, David Evitts
as Poo-Bah, Angela Turner-Wilson as Yum-Yum, Jennifer Dudley as Pitti-Sing,
Kevin Burdette as Pish-Tush. But the patter man, David Suart, a Brit himself,
commanded the stage at all times. He mugged, he scowled, he cringed, he
cavorted. I've never seen better. What never? No, never. What never?????
The conductor was a cute boychik, fresh from his Bar Mitzvah, Gerald Steichen.
We exited the opera into Lincoln Plaza, in time to
catch the last scene of the Metropolitan Opera Gala to raise money for
the victims of the WTC Disaster. Seats inside began at $500, but they set
up folding chairs in the plaza so people could watch the performance on
a huge-screen TV. It was Act III of Rigoletto. Now, we saw Rigoletto for
the umpteenth time this past year, and I declared that I had had enough
of this opera for twenty years. The plaza lies directly under one of the
takeoff routes from Kennedy, and every few minutes a plane would fly overhead,
rather low. Everyone, and I mean everyone, looked up anxiously every time.
But sitting there, listening to Levine conduct this hackneyed melodrama,
listening to Verdi's stunning music, watching the grief of an old man's
curse come back to haunt him, it made the tears flow.
We subwayed home and bought the Times to read in bed.
Sunday morning, some pickled salmon in sour cream
and onion sauce from Murray's on a toasted bagel, some good coffee, and
we were off to the City Opera once more. This time it was Wagner's Flying
Dutchman--Der fliegende Holländer. It was a new production, and
it was brilliant. One of the finest productions of any opera I've every
seen. It was a real bladder buster--performed without intermission for
two and a half hours, but it held your attention every second. The set
was spare and powerful, the action decisive and meaningful. Mark Delavan
gave the performance of his life as the Dutchman. Susan B. Anthony (yes,
that is her name) was wonderful as Senta, and just about everyone was great:
Kevin Langan as Captain Daland, Scott Piper as the Steersman, and Carl
Tanner as Erik. George Manahan conducted an orchestra that gave everything
it had. And the chorus was brilliant. The confrontation between the Norwegian
ship and the Ghost Ship was one of the most dramatic moments in opera that
I have every seen.
Steuermann, lasst die wacht!
Folks, why spend $150 for old hat at the Met, when you can see brilliant productions like these at the City Opera for half the price in great seats.
We took the Acela Express home--Carol had a two-for-one
special. The bullet train was a bb gun. They are getting a letter from
Farklempt. Through the windows of the train, we could see the New York
Skyline, so different now, with the sun setting over a clouded city.
And so we fiddled while Rome burned. No, that's not the right way to close. When Reagan was shot, the local TV station came to our home and interviewed me live, discussing the alarming events of the day with the newscaster, Larry Estepa. Larry asked me, "Dr. Ingall, what can we do to stem the rising tide of violence in the world today?"
I was stunned by his question, thought for ten seconds of dead air time, and answered, "I don't know, Larry."
"You don't?" he asked, with an even more astonished look on his face, "Well, then, thank you very much, psychiatrist Dr. Michael Ingall, live with our Newscam."
A minute later, I thought of what I should have said, and I say it now: we should support the arts. Of course, it's more than that, but without the arts to ennoble us, to help us heal, all the guns and money and politics won't mean a thing.