David and I spent this past weekend in New York City, where we got to watch a workshop production of “Fun Home: The Musical,” which is based on our friend Alison’s 2006 graphic memoir about her closeted gay father’s suicide and her own coming out as a lesbian. The show is still being tweaked, and the final production may be quite different from the performance we saw. So all I’ll say about it this. That it was fascinating to see how the producers translated the book’s multi-layered structure and nonlinear chronology to the stage. That the cast was incredible. And that it is very strange to watch an actor portraying someone you know in real life.
The whole experience naturally got me thinking about how we turn life into art, and bring art into life. New York City is a great place for this, because it’s so packed with people who are doing both those things, and very often in public. Walk around town with this mindset, and the abundance of free drama, art and entertainment is staggering. Most of it is even intentional.
Our walk from the bus to our hotel took us through the Avenue of the Americas street fair. We didn’t buy anything. But lots of the wares sure were pretty.
On Saturday night, we went to dinner and the show with my aunt — a great evening all around.
The next morning, we walked out of our hotel to discover a bit of unplanned drama. Thick grey smoke, rank with the smell of electric things burning, billowed from two manholes at the corner of St. Mark’s Place and 3rd Avenue. Firefighters, police officers, and passers-by stood around and watched. The occasional pops and sparks and smoke rings were mesmerizing. Fortunately, no one was hurt.
We walked west to Washington Square Park,
where we paused to listen to a little piano music.
Sitting in the sun beside the fountain, we watched a crew from Dr. Playground retrieve the lime-green shoe a toddler had dropped through the grate.
On Waverly Place, we enjoyed an over-the-top, fantasy feast, courtesy of Babbo.
Continuing through Greenwich Village,
we admired the streetscape…
…and took in some local history.
Then we headed over to the High Line.
I would have been happy to have spent the rest of the day there, just listening to the snatches of passing conversations, trying to fill in the blanks or, in lots of cases, identify the language.
But we didn’t have all day. For one thing, we had to eat, which we did at Bombay Talkie. Our waiter was eager to chat. He told us about economics and religion in his native Nepal, his college courses in criminal justice, his brother’s life as a monk back home, his hopes for the future. “When I tell my professor I want to go into law enforcement, he says I’m too skinny to be a police officer,” our waiter told us. “I want to tell him the police commissioner for the city of New York is also skinny.” We wished him good luck, and he thanked us as if our words had the weight of coins.
Back on the High Line, the sensory stimuli kept stimulating, almost too much to take in.
We strolled the High Line to its end, and then walked around the rail yards to catch our ride back to Providence. We were ready to sit down and rest our senses. But as we waited for our bus, the weekend offered one last aesthetic gesture, cast by the sun through the chain-link fence on the back of one of another departing visitor.