Book of Mormon: hell of a play in a hell of a town

When you get sidetracked from journal keeping (or blogging, if you prefer) for more than a few days, I’ve found it gets really easy to lose track of what you were going to write next. If you’re anything like me, however, while your fingers are idle from the keyboard, your mind is still going 90 mph. When there’s not enough time sometimes to sit down and write, I have 3 or 4 ideas for new postings all at once. Where to start?! So today I’ll finish up “our week of living in New York as though we really lived there.” The highlight of the trip turned out to be not only having real face-time with our Pittsburgh friend who took the Amtrak to join us a few days, but going to our first play on Broadway. And what a play it was!

Being from Utah where about 60% of the current population are members of the Latter Day Saints (Mormon), of course we were curious about all the hoopla surrounding Book Of Mormon. broadway book of mormonFrom the reaction of the people in the audience near me, there’s no wonder why they sell out so often–even after running more than two years. Book of Mormon is all the things you’ve no doubt heard already:  subversive, offensive, and, well–okay–at times inappropriate. Yes, it’s all those things, but much much more. I can sum it up in one word: Hilarious! I was laughing so hard throughout the whole two hours and 30 minutes that the rest of the world and its problems fell away. That said, the coarser aspects–the jokes about female circumcision, and sex with babies as “nature’s remedy for healing HIV,” gave me pause, and make Ugandans look pretty stupid, and I wonder how an African visitor to this country might react. In spite of my own rather bawdy sense of humor, several times my better nature stood aside to ask my baser self, “Why are you laughing?!” I’m happy to say that by the end of the play, I felt the Ugandans came out okay after all. By then they had vindicated themselves by revealing their intelligence in the  staging of a musical production for the benefit of visiting Church Elders. Not only did they understand the metaphoric content they took from Missionary Cunningham’s version (he was cornered into making up stories his own since he’d never actually read the Book of Mormon himself) but that they were perfectly able to take the best from those, and other influences from the west seeking to influence them, and improve themselves. The message I took from that–indeed there’s a line in the play that says it–it doesn’t matter where the stories came from. What does matter is the good that can come from that message. Lastly, I confess to something many of you who know me well may already have guessed, and I do this at the risk of giving some of the plot away. I love it when one of the insecure, overweight (read unacceptable as one of the “cool” people), nerds of the world turn out to be the real heroes. I confess that I (almost) fell in love with Arnold.

Other highlights, as briefly as I can make them, but you know me and my wordiness!  Eating ethnic: Indian food for dinner in Jackson Heights at the Jackson Cafe. Delicious pakoras, tandoor chicken served with rice and curried bindi (okra). Sorry, no picture. We had an Ethiopian lunch one day, which we’ve sorely missed since leaving Las Vegas. Wasn’t sure about going to Hells Kitchen in Midtown Manhattan as I remembered it from the 1970s as a not-so-great part of town. Today the area is, according to Wikipedia “gentrifying.” That seems like an apt description to me. The streets were clean, people were busy with few or no loiterers about. I didn’t feel nervous at all as I might have forty years ago. I noticed this Citi Bike system outside the restaurant (Meskerem’s), and couldn’t figure out what all the fuss was about. Seemed like a great idea to us. And regardless of what that lady said on the news, it didn’t make the neighborhood look disgusting at all to me.

citibikes

Lunch was a shared summer salad of tomatoes, cucumbers, and green peppers with a light vinaigrette dressing on a serving of injera, which is a flatbread made with teff flour (which is gluten-free) mixed with water and allowed to ferment for several days, then baked into crepe-like bread on a flat clay grill. The fermenting gives it its spongy texture and slightly sour taste. We ordered the vegetarian assortment  shown here, also shared, making it a very inexpensive and tasty meals for New York City (less than $20 for the two of us). It’s eaten with the hand, so we felt right at home, since we eat like that when we go to India. I sent my compliments to the chef as I’ve never tasted a better injera in any city I’ve ever eaten it.

ethiopean lunch

Finally, besides the upscale (window) shopping at Bergdorf-Goodman‘s (we were looking for Barney’s) and Tiffany, our museumless, more or less seat-o-the-pants city tour with our friend, we also ogled the store artwork in the Lego Store at Rockefeller Center. If you have even one creative bone in your body, you’ll not wonder that Legos have been around such a long time–since the l940’s–I believe. I’m not sure whether this is a snake or a dragon, but whatever it is, it’s a marvel in design. It winds itself in and out of the whole store ceiling. I can’t imagine how many hours it took to make, or how many people it took to do it.

lego snake

The Book of Mormon off Broadway will no doubt make it to a theater near you. I hope you’ll be able to see it some day, and if you’re close enough to travel on Amtrak in hours, as our friend was, I’d say it’s worth a weekend excursion. Once you see it, and you decide you either like it or hate it, I hope you won’t hold my unorthodox sense of humor against me. Really, I wouldn’t hurt a fly!  And while I might enjoy poking fun at some the weirder aspects of religious practice, I’d never ridicule the religion itself.  :smile:

what new york is . . . and isn’t . . . for me

We’ve been home for more than a week already, and finally I’m sitting down to reflect on our week in New York. We booked the trip originally to help our daughter with her obligation as home and cat owner while she was in Paris on a combination academic conference/vacation. Now don’t laugh. I turned down many potentially inspiring trips with Hubby the years that one of my three cats at the time required medication and attention I didn’t want to burden my friends and neighbors with. I had the luxury of staying home; our daughter doesn’t. What we got in return was a whole week in the city without expensive hotel bills, living like New Yorkers do, taking advantage of all the cultural offerings, the parks, the food . . . !

And yes, that included the subways. Usually when we’re visiting, I’m about five feet behind Hubby and daughter every time we go out, working hard just to keep up with them. I never know exactly where we are, or how we got there, until we’re there, much like being a child again. This trip, I was right there alongside him so I could see for myself how he knew which train to take–which platform we needed to be on–and the wisdom of waiting for the Express rather than taking the local. By the end of the week I was beginning–but not quite there yet–to feel a little like a native New Yorker. That means I stopped gawking at the artistic tile work on some of the walls, taking pictures, staring at people. I even managed to scan my Metro card with one swipe (most of the time). Walking outside on the street, I practiced the art of focusing on the sidewalk (instead of everywhere else), looking neither right nor left, with a slight scowl on my face and plowing straight ahead. I acted as if I knew exactly where I was going and in a big hurry to get there. Even though I wasn’t–except when we had to be someplace at a certain time–(like the play we went to)–more on that later. When you ride the subway, it’s good to close your eyes and let your head hang to one side, stirring only when the train stops. If you can understand the accent of the subway announcer you can keep your eyes closed all the way. It’s even more effective if you let your head touch other people and then open your eyes quickly as if you’re startled. Then close them again and let your head dangle on your chest some more.

But every now and then, I did look up and let a smile creep onto my face. In spite of myself I even made eye contact now and then, occasionally making a small remark to someone nearby. That taught me something too. That New Yorkers are very often from someplace else too! That makes them a lot like me, and with one exception we got along very well indeed (that story will come in a later story). We got on so well that by the time we left I was feeling as though, like Hubby has always felt since he grew up in a crowded big city while I grew up with cows and hogs, that it might be fun to live in a high rise (no yard work) in a big city. Especially one with great public transportation and every ethnic food you can think of plus some you’ve never heard of, and not all that expensive either. Our daughter lives in Forest Hills. You can shop for just about anything you’d want or need within a few blocks. It took me less than five minutes to walk to the ice cream shop for a gelato after lunch one day.

Thinking back on some of my favorite travel memories, I’m always reminded of that billboard I read more than 40 years ago riding the Staten Island Ferry during my first visit to New York (1968), “Remember that YOU may be one of our visitors best memories on New York.” These are a couple of people encounters I’ll always remember fondly: the greeter at Tiffany on Fifth Avenue who told us what to see (the Ziegfeld Collection and the stunning jewelry worn in the The Great Gatsby movie) and the female sales clerk who taught me a little about purchasing a diamond, knowing (I’m sure) I had no means of buying any at that store (!) and made my day by insisting I try on one of the terribly impressive emerald cut diamond (about 5 carats) that only cost $36,850. And whoever said that New Yorkers aren’t friendly? At the Empire State Building there was the information clerk who was so friendly we chatted comfortably for at least 15-20 minutes (always stepping aside when other visitors needed her attention of course). By the time I left I’d not only gotten a recommend for a new and far cheaper version of skin care product than the one I was currently using, but I knew her age and how many years she had to work before retirement. And even though my friend ML, who had joined us from Pittsburgh and I failed to find the high end store Barney’s we wanted directions for, we found Bergdorf-Goodman instead, and had a wonderful time checking out the (excessively) expensive shoes. Readers, I had no idea there are people in the world who don’t blink an eye at spending thousands of dollars on a single pair of shoes. And here I was feeling all guilty that I’ve had to spend more than $100 for my shoes since chemotherapy and RA have left quite an impact on my feet!

There were “action comic” shoes, “jeweled little bits of nothing strap-wrapped shoes,” even “I wanna tower so tall over men that the heels have to be bowed for balance” shoes.

action comic shoes bg double high shoes bgexotic shoe bg

Like women everywhere, we were soon attracted to the 50% off shoe display in the corner. (Not a single pair did I see for $100.)The ones I singled out varied in price between $650 and $1800 (remember  that’s at 50% off). We found some spiked heels we called secret service shoes because they had not just super high-heels, but literally had black plastic spikes (like track shoe cleats) all over the heel as well as the inset strap. If you worked at secret service and a bad guy (read: terrorist) grabs you from the back or the front you have lethal weapons on both feet for that crotch or buttock kick!  (Sort of like the one of the left below.) And I’ll bet Wonder Woman would have killed for shoes like the one on the right.

   shoes from bergdorf goodman 1ouch shoes bg

The first pair of sandals look like the perfect shoe for the woman who really prefers going barefoot, but doesn’t because “what if there’s dog poo?” The others are very much like those I bought to wear with my saree for my wedding in Pittsburgh (1969).

i kinda feel like bare feet but don't want to step in dog poolike my wedding shoesI paid less than $10 for them at a shoe store near my apartment in Shadyside. Last, but not least, this pair sums up my dilemma every time I purchase shoes of any kind, the “I can’t decide which color I like best shoe.” Remember when the choices were limited to black, white, and sometimes red or black patent?

colorful shoes bgI have many more experiences and people to talk about from our trip, but I’ll hold those until next time. Meanwhile, my new feelings for New York (and big cities in general) are best summed up in these words I stole from a letter written by Anaïs Nin to her lover Henry Miller.

It is the suitable scene for my ever heightened life. I love the proportions, the amplitude, the brilliance, the polish, the solidity. I look up at Radio City insolently and love it. It is all great, and Babylonian. Broadway at night. Cellophane. The newness. The vitality. True, it is only physical. But it’s inspiring. Just bring your own contents, and you create a sparkle of the highest power. I’m not moved, not speechless. I stand straight, tough, and I meet the impact. I feel the glow and the dancing in everything. The radio music in the taxis, scientific magic, which can all be used lyrically.

 

snowbound!

snow

Today is Friday, it’s January 11, 2013, and we’re about as snowbound as we’ve ever been in the seven years we’ve lived in Utah. We should have paid more attention to the weather predicting turtle who lives nearby here in the shadows of Mount Olympus. According to local news sources, this season’s is the biggest snowfall accumulation in the valley since 1993.  E.T. (Extra Tortoise), 69, is a 17-inch-diameter desert tortoise, rescued by Tosh Kano in 1988 through the State Division of Wildlife Resources during the construction of the Tuacahn Amphitheater. She warned us this was likely to happen back in October. Kano was the public works director for Salt Lake County at the time, and over the years he noticed a correlation between E.T.’s appetite and winter conditions. He was so certain about her ability to predict winter severity that he based his yearly order for road salt according to E.T.’s “predictions.”

Kano said that normally she stops eating in September to prepare for her six-month hibernation, but this year she was eating  kale, mustard greens, parsley, and carrots until mid-October, so he knew something was different. Those are considered “super foods” in a turtle’s diet, thus he knew she was storing up fat for a long and hard winter. Other signs were noted as well. Acorns were bigger this year and there were more of them as well as more 100 degree+ days over the summer. I remember we were forced to take our neighborhood walks long after sundown because of the heat. Then we forgot about tortoises and  went on to Italy, extended our summer for several more weeks.   (In case you’d like to see E.T. and her owner yourself, to this KSL Utah channel 5 television site.)

trevi fountain

It seems like a long time ago looking back now, but this picture proves we really did enjoy a warm interlude at Trevi Fountain in Rome this fall. Ahhh, it looks so sunny and warm. Legend has it that if visitors toss a coin into the fountain they will return to Rome. Should we hear E.T. is eating like a pig again this September, I may have to reconsider my swearing off airline travel if. I’m pretty sure that’s the quickest way to get to Italy, which sounds very appealing now.  :grin:.

For today though, we continue to look out the window to see if it’s still snowing . . . yup! it is, and is expected continue all day. The nearly two-feet snow cake on the back deck may come close to swallowing that yardstick Hubby left in it (above photo) if it doesn’t let up. Did I mention the basement furnace broke down last Sunday? It’s working hard at the moment, but it’s an old old unit we’ll be replacing next week just in case.

I’ll be back with more news in a few days. That is, if we don’t freeze first. Does anybody know how to build igloos? Cháo for now!