With respect to Socrates, my unexamined life is not worth living. The front room is the face we show everyone but we hide our true self in the back room.
I do not like a lot of musicals. No, that is not entirely true. I do like quite a few musicals. However, there are few I would see live. I am not hankering to see a Broadway musical.
That said, last night my bride and I went into NYC and saw a musical.
We have been trying to find ways to get out of the apartment and not get stuck in a winter’s rut. I don’t believe we suffer from SAD but when it gets cold and dark we just want to stay in. So once a month we schedule an event.
Towards the end of December, I happened upon an ad for the musical Cabaret with Emma Stone. There were a number of things at play. We didn’t have a January event, we had just seen Birdman, I had seen Ms. Stone belt out some fun lip syncs on The Tonight Show, and of course… Alan Cumming.
I was sad not to have seen Cumming in his original Tony award-winning performance back in 1998, and then his first revival in 2003. Now that he was back doing this role as the Master of Ceremonies, the role that will most likely be on the first line of his obituary, I had toyed with the idea of seeing him. Though not seriously, since it was after all, a musical.
Suddenly, I was looking at Ms. Stone’s face in the ad, seeing how she would only be in the performance until the end of January and was already receiving decent early buzz and I guess I called out to my wife, my partner in crime, and asked if she had any interest in seeing Cabaret. She wasn’t familiar with the musical, had heard the name Alan Cumming and knew of Stone from Birdman.
No matter, I was immediately seeing if there were any seats left in mid-January. My first five dates were all sold out. It wasn’t looking good. A few more dates had obscured view seats. Having lived through obscured view seating during a West End run of Follies in 1988 I knew it would simply not do.
Another couple of dates and front mezzanine opened up on a Thursday. I was ordering the tickets as I called out to her making sure it was okay to do this. It was strange and I didn’t feel 100 percent right about this. It was all done impulsively, almost in an anxious state.
Then as I prepared to pay, the tickets timed out and I had to start over. In a frenzy I went through the same date and it was no longer available so I searched again. Somehow, the following Thursday had front mezz available. I ordered, paid and was in such a rush, forgot to indicate my address was not a stand-alone address and without an apartment number the tickets may not arrive.
For the next two weeks, I wondered what the next course might be if they did not arrive. After two weeks they did indeed arrive and so we started planning.
When we go into the city I prefer to take the following day off work, so there’s no pressure to be alert after the heady evening’s excess. After taking ill the previous week, I decided not to ask for the Friday off.
We decided to meet near the theater and have dinner first. We previously scouted parking and restaurants near Studio 54 Theater a couple days earlier and settled on The Three Monkeys a few establishments down from the theater. She likes monkeys and we both like pub food so it was an easy choice.
I drove in and parked in the lot right next to the theater. A biting cold met us on the street, she approaching from refuge of a nearby Starbucks, and so ducked into the pub-sports bar.
Rum and coke for the lady, her favorite drink, and the drink I first heard her order on our initial non-date/date, bringing back so much warmth, so many memories.
Since meeting almost 4 years ago, we have had a lot of memorable New York nights. As nice as where we live is there will always be something special about New York.
I had a Guinness. In case anyone had any doubts.
The pub food was formidable. We started with a delicious flatbread pizza topped with chorizo, onion, potato, and peppers. Yeah it was as good as it sounds. And all the bread comes from Amy’s Bread, a NY classic soft quality bread.
As we wolfed down pizza, the large screens showed Tom Brady’s becapped head nodding and saying things like “I have no idea how this could have happened” and “the equipment guys know how I like my footballs and once I select them before the game I don’t give it another thought”. She wanted to know about the 12th ball. The 1 out of 12 that was deemed NFL-acceptable. Then she said, “He’s lying.” I told her if he’s lying then he’s a good liar since he appears poised, relaxed, patient and professional about it all. I listened to him and wanted to believe him. She said, “It’s his eyes. Watch his eyes. He keeps blinking. That’s how I know.” Then we watched his performance and saw him blinking and then giggled at what looked like his straining, trying hard not to blink and instead looking like the poor deer in the headlights.
Then her attention turned over to the other screen where English football was playing. “I like this better.” I told we didn’t have cable right now but if she’d like we could get the British Sky channel and watch all the football, all the time. She said she only like the idea of football, and teams like Manchester United and Liverpool, but does not like watching sports all that much. It is charming little details like these that come out when we are in the city. We learn even more about each other despite living every day with each other, spending the majority of our days with each other.
I order another Guinness and we get the Southern fried chicken wings with three dipping sauces. They are alright but the chorizo flatbread raised the bar pretty high.
When we had arrived it was virtually empty. That all changed when happy hour arrived. Swarms of young suited men and business-dressed women filled the front breezeway and bar area. We had bellied up as we did on our first meeting and it feels familiar now. The other stools around us immediately became activated with sociability, raising the volume and pushing us closer to each other, engaged in our own nighttime environment.
A new bartender came on. I was wary as the previous two Guinni had been excellent pours and was concerned a new guy could ruin what good karma we had going on. For example, I had been using the same special Guinness glass for the same drinks. When I asked to keep my glass for the third round, he, at least 15 years younger than me, told me Guinness tastes better in a new glass. I sighed and said I understood and wanted the same glass just the same. He reluctantly complied.
My wife said, “A third one? Okay. I’m driving.” This is funny since she does not drive. I reassured her I wouldn’t be getting behind the wheel for another 5 hours at least and that’s what I have been drinking water for as well.
At this point, I was concerned about breaking the seal, since if I use the bathroom now, I usually will have started a chain reaction of frequent trips at 15 minute intervals. She sat, enthralled with my scatological conversation starter. I regaled her further with stories from my NYC residential bar hopping days how I could go all night, 5 Guinni deep and not have to use the bathroom.
You know what? She just really likes me is all.
Our third and final meal was selected. Sliders. Lamb, Meatball Parmesan and Bacon cheese. Sans tomatoes they were so tiny yet packed with flavor and fillingness. She chooses the lamb slider and I’m glad she did. I was going to choose the veggie slider at a last ditch effort not to destroy my gastrointestinal tract with carnivorous delights. Even though she was full, stuffed, done I wanted her to choose a slider out of several choices. Needless to say, I gave her most of the bites of the lamb. And with Amy’s Bread, it was heavenly.
By around 7pm, the place was packed. Young people pressed against our stools and standing in a subway cluster formation. It was time to go.
Though I tip well, around 20 percent, since I pay for subjective experience with rules I make up as I go along, the tip would be much less this time. Out of the four drinks, only hers was happy hour special, and the attitude Junior Professor Guinness gave were huge detractors. So, tough luck chum.
Having received a notice in the mail the theater would open an hour before curtains, we briefly braved the cold with a quick walk round the block and then entered Studio 54 Theater, making our way upstairs where all around had been transformed into a Berlin cabaret, namely the fictional Kit Kat Club…
END OF PART ONE