Sunday, July 25, 2010
Walking to work Wednesday morning I followed a pair of bloody footprints for three blocks. They started in the street, made a wide u-turn where it looked like the person had gotten out of a car and skirted another before running onto the sidewalk. A small pool of blood had dried where the person had stood before continuing toward Columbia Presbyterian Hospital. The footprints were small and far apart, as if the person had been running, and surrounded by splatters of blood. There was so much blood that it looked like the person's feet had been dipped in a bucket of paint. The footprints continued clear and distinct for three blocks, disappeared in front of the Chinese restaurant (where they had already been wiped clean), and started again where the person had crossed the street. The footprints continued in front of The Armory, where they ran back into the street and along the sidewalk. They ended in another bloody pool across the street from one of Presby's research buildings. Then they disappeared. What had happened to the person? Had he or she been picked up by a car and brought one block farther to the ER? I doubted that the person had collapsed at that spot-- the pool of blood didn't look large enough. I traced the footprints back and forth, not understanding my morbid fascination. Others did the same. A woman wearing mint green scrubs turned and said to me, must have been a bad night. I agreed, something terrible must have happened for the person to have been dropped off alone and so far from the hospital. I hoped the person had made it and received the proper care. The footprints registered urgency and panic, emotions I imagined to be similar to living in a war zone.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
I have been visiting the Metropolitan Rooftop Garden often this summer. Not only does it have one of the best views of the midtown skyline, but it allows me to pretend to be a tourist. I like to imagine that I am seeing these wonders for the first time. It helps me look at them from a fresh angle. The excitement of the real tourists helps, and the Met museum was full of them last night. People had converged on the museum for the same reason as I: to take advantage of its super mega powerhouse air conditioning. In the American court, two Chinese girls chased their brother past the Tiffany stained glass. In the balcony bar, a middle aged woman sat carefully hiding her boredom from her date, both of them groping for conversation. In the medieval armor section, a young English woman giggled at King Henry the VIII's ample cod piece. And in the rooftop garden (I couldn't resist a visit, despite the heat and humidity), a French couple argued while Central Park and midtown bloomed behind them. All the world's a stage, and the Met provided plenty of actors last night.
Several days ago, I jumped on the "A" line bound for Columbus Circle. The heat and humidity had been unbearable for days. In the street, people were unsmiling, drained of energy and walking slowly. The heat wave had taken a toll on everyone, including (apparently) the subway conductor. At each stop, she snarled the name of the station across the intercom. Her voice, nasal and full of pressure from the force of her anger, blasted into the car. People rolled their eyes and covered their ears. At W145th St., someone held the door for a companion. The conductor's voice entered the car and slapped the face of everyone inside. The door-holder sat down sheepishly. I got off at the next stop, happy to wait for the next train in the amplified heat of the subway tunnel. I had not heard Ms. Smiley for a long time (see previous blog posts), but was pretty sure that I had just encountered her evil twin. I wonder if they are one and the same, but if not I much prefer Ms. Smiley's artificial sunshine to the caustic Evil Twin.
This summer's fare at Shakespeare in the Park includes the Merchant of Venice, with Al Pacino in the role of Shylock. I usually obtain standby tickets for Shakespeare, which allows me to avoid the early line (which can start to form as early as 10:00PM the night before). People in the standby line usually arrive around 5:00PM and tickets are distributed until 8:00 PM. But given Al's popularity, standby was a bust this year. So I set my alarm for 5:30 AM, rose with a nervous flutter in my stomach (even at this hour, tickets are not guaranteed), and arrived in Central Park at 6:19 ( I checked my watch. I wanted to remember this moment. I vowed it would never happen again). Hundreds of people had arrived before me. Poochini and I took our place in line near The Rock of Hope (those in front of The Rock have a 50-50 chance of getting a ticket, those behind have a 50-50 chance of *not* getting a ticket). We waited all morning, through intermittent rain showers and blistering heat. We chatted with our neighbors. The silent (competitive?) girl next to me softened with time, done in by the elements. By 11:00, she was bringing Poochini water. Tickets were handed out at 1:00, and we had mixed luck. We received vouchers and were told that we had a 99.9% chance of getting tickets if we returned at 6:00. Freshly showered and sans Pooch, I duly returned at that time. I waited until 8:00, when I received one little ticket, far off to stage right and four rows from the back. I triumphantly grabbed the ticket, found my seat, and plopped down, exhausted. The woman next to me beamed and said in an Irish broag, "Can you believe I got my ticket through the internet lottery? It's the second time I've tried, and I got an email this afternoon that I could just drop by and pick up two tickets. I didn't need two, so I turned one in. Glad you could use it." Though happy to have a ticket, I had difficulty summoning a thank you. I blame it on heat stroke, but the honest reason is because she had gotten her ticket the easy way, while sitting in air conditioning. Nonetheless, waiting in the god-awful Shakespeare line is a New York institution. Al stole the show, and like many things in New York, was well worth the inconvenience.
On Central Park's Great Lawn a father and his two year old boy were playing. The father grabbed the boy by both ankles and swung him in circles, fast like a helicopter blade. Then he slowed down and let the boy come to rest gently on the grass. The boy got to his feet, took two drunken steps, and collapsed in a riot of giggles. He stood again, collapsed again, and kept trying until the dizziness had passed. By this point, the father was lying on the grass, arms behind his head, enjoying the show. The boy grabbed his father's two big feet in his pudgy hands and tried to spin him in circles. The boy managed to lift the father's legs, but the man's heavy body remained safely rooted to the ground. The father wiggled his arms and head as if being spun in a circle and the boy collapsed again in giggles. Then the father scooped the boy in his arms, smothered him in kisses, and swung him onto his shoulders. The two walked off, happy on this hot and humid Sunday afternoon.
Monday, July 12, 2010
At a recent matinee performance of the NYC Ballet I sat next to four little girls with bows in their hair and dressed in ruffled dresses. We sat high up in the fourth ring, two rows from the very back. The girls sat on the edges of their seats and dangled their paten leather shoes above the floor. It was Darcy Kistler's final performance. Darcy had been a soloist for the NYC Ballet for almost thirty years. She was the last "Balanchine" ballerina, having studied with the great master during his days there. She had grown up in Riverside, California, thirty minutes away from Rialto where I grew up. She and I had both began dancing in the same studio: Vera Lynn's dance studio in San Bernardino. We had both climbed the steep stair case leading to the studio, which for me was always a magical space. We had both stood at the barre in the cavernous studio, still the prototype for all subsequent studios for me. Vera Lynn could be a stern task master, and emphasized technique. Darcy rocketed to stardom and my muscles have retained the technique Vera Lynn imposed on them. These days, though it takes effort, I still have a natural ballet turn-out. After returning to ballet training two years ago, my front leg is inching towards my nose when I do a forward grande battement. I can still almost do a standing split. So, given our connection, I had to see Darcy's last performance. The four little girls next to me seemed equally excited. The performance started with a Balanchine piece. The girls sat with folded arms, tolerating the Balanchine. But next came an exerpt from Midsummer Night's Dream and they went into rapture. They squealed with delight when Bottom wiggled his, well, bottom at the audience. They giggled with glee when Titania fell lasciviously into Bottom's arms, who looked at the audience, mystified by his luck that such a heavenly creature would fall for him. They leaned forward, entranced by the entire piece. When it was over they leapt to their feet in a standing ovation. "Bravo! Brava!" they squealed over and over, clapping with all their might. Impressed that they knew to use the feminine form brava at such a tender age, I turned to the Russian woman on my other side and said, "They like that one, don't they?" She smiled good-naturedly. Truth be told, all the women in that row, young and old, had been entranced by the romance between Bottom and Titania. And Darcy had given a brava farewell performance, worthy of Vera Lynn's approval.
Friday, July 2, 2010
Last Thursday I bought standing room tickets to American Ballet Theatre's Swan Lake. The tickets were far at the back of Dress Circle, where the overhead balcony obscures the stage and only the bottom quarter of it can be seen. I didn't care. The crystal chandeliers, the gilding and the red velvet, of Lincoln Center stir up the excitement of childhood, when going to to the theatre felt like entering a world of glamour and beauty. When the lights dimmed and it seemed like no one could see, I kicked off my shoes. I leaned low against the velvet covered bar that serves as an arm rest for those in standing room. My only company was a tall elderly man. As I contorted myself to see the stage, the man slowly sank to his knees. He was so tall that his elbows easily reached the arm rest. He supported his chin with his hands, absorbed in the performance. He was alone, had come out of love for the ballet. No wife had dragged him to sit begrudgingly by her side, where he would nod off by scene two. I wondered, where are the other men still able to be entranced by art?