I went into the city for the first time since being commissioned for a freelance project in New Jersey over three weeks ago. I hadn’t been away from New York for that length of time since I was in my 20’s. Take it from me pallies, that was a long time ago.
I was worried that something might have changed. That suddenly, New York and I weren’t an item anymore. I was afraid of long, awkward silences and uncomfortable truths that might be revealed. Working close to home has its charms. It affords some important things that cannot be had when I work in the city. Sometimes, shiny toys lose their luster when you don’t play with them for a while. From a distance, you begin to wonder what you ever saw in them in the first place. Sometimes, you have a change of heart.
I timidly walked out of the subway at 50th Street and Broadway.
It was like seeing an old friend you’ve been worried sick about. Hello, 7th Avenue! Did you miss me! (Yes, she did.) My feet missed the sidewalks. My senses missed the disharmony. It was the first time I noticed how odd the mounted NYPD look strolling up an Avenue.
I saw David Mamet’s Race. Full disclosure: I think Mamet is a great writer and am predisposed to liking his stuff before the house lights dim. I sat next to a black couple and I suppose the fact that I squirmed in my seat over the racial issues that were addressed is an indication of how expertly constructed the dramatic arc of the story was. And it was surprisingly funny. The entire cast is killer, especially James Spader.
Race is at the Barrymore, which was built in 1928 and has a rich past. At the same theater in 1992, I saw Jessica Lange struggle (and fail) to play Blanche DuBois in A Streetcar Named Desire. She couldn’t keep up with Alec Baldwin’s Stanley Kowalski. He wiped the stage with her. In 1948, on the exact same floorboards, the play was premiered with Marlon Brando as Kowalski. I love history stuff like that.
I walked into the subway to catch a downtown train. Someone was playing a trumpet. I threw $1 into his case. Subway stations have perfect acoustics for horn instruments. There’s just enough echo. He was so talented. A great musician. He played a rich, soulful rendition of Erroll Garner’s Misty and then a version of Johnny Mercer’s Laura that broke my stupid, stupid heart. And I felt at home again.
And you see Laura
On a train that is passing through.