Monday, December 21, 2009

It's a small world after all.

I’m going to start this out of sequence. Yesterday we went and saw Avatar with a bunch of friends that are generally the crowd I hung out with in college, with the addition of wives, sons, a sister and friend. Honestly, I had low expectations for the movie.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand it’s all new 3-D technology and I understand it’s from my favorite director, the man who can do no wrong – James Cameron. My hesitance to embrace that this was going to be the movie to change all movies was the plot. I didn’t like District 9 because adding alien trappings to a story that was essentially Apartheid or any number of similar stories about man’s inhumanity to anyone or anything that is inconvenient doesn’t make it good.

Avatar looked to be a story about Eastern Europeans pushing American Indians off their land and having no respect for their beliefs- with alien trappings. Plus, the thought of aliens fighting off superior technology with bows and arrows brought back memories of Ewoks and I just couldn’t sit through that again. And really, since we already know the Avatars are plugged into the installation, how is the hero of the story going to be the hero when all they have to do is unplug him? How is that going to make sense?

But this is James Cameron! It has to be good right?

And it was. Yeah, there are a couple hiccups and I was generally not impressed with a lot in the first half an hour. There was one line that we know Cameron must have thought was funny but was so bad the entire theater gave a collective groan. It pulled you right out of the movie for about thirty seconds it was so stupid.

Then it becomes movie of the decade. I want to go and watch it again right now. Wendy and I will be going up in the next couple of days (if we can find the time) to see it again. The 3-D was also pretty cool but I don’t think it’s essential. We’ll make the hour drive to see it in a 3-D capable theatre but I’ll be happy to see it again even in 2-D when it comes out on DVD.

I’d love to tell you more, but I don’t want to spoil anything. I could literally name three book titles, just the titles alone, and ruin the ending for you. Just know, my fears were all handled very intelligently.

What are doing sitting here still reading? I just told you it was movie of the decade! Tell your boss you’re sick, leave work and head to your nearest theater!

So, back to NY. We had a painless flight into NY, spent a couple of days with Wendy’s brother Jimmy, his wife Laurie and their three kids. Jimmy and Laurie are always amazing. We love spending time with them a great deal. The kids on the other hand change every time we’re there. The first time we visited them I found them so adorable, and Wendy so good with them that I changed my mind about not having kids and if Wendy wanted some I would be willing to discuss it. The second time we were there, Ava was going through a nightmare stage and I adopted my previous stance. The third time we saw them they were so playful and cute I wanted to steal them. The next time we saw them Alex’s favorite word was “NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!” It was actually hilarious, startling and disturbing all at the same time. This time they were adorable again.

Laurie and I combined skills and the Turkey came out great.

We headed into NY proper and Wendy changed my mind about American cities. I have always hated them but I now realize that was because I mostly saw the cheaper sections of town for Magic Tournaments or just drove through them on the way to somewhere else and all it looked like was miles and miles of concrete and ugly buildings. Wendy showed me some amazing places including Central Park where we sat and had a couple nine dollar glasses of wine at “The Boathouse” and watched people renting boats and rowing around in the lake. It got packed on the terrace we were sitting at and a couple came and quietly stood behind our table waiting for it and we let them know we were leaving in like five minutes. I got up, put on my jacket and this tiny, ancient woman walks over and plops herself in my seat. Wendy hadn’t even moved yet!

“Excuse me, but we have been waiting for this table. See us standing right here?”

“Well I was waiting over there.”

What was the guy going to do; punch an old lady?

Wendy says “I’m so sorry; I’d tell her to leave but I have no power here.”

The little old lady hunkers down and grabs the arms of the chair. Wendy laughs, finishes her wine and we leave.

A few minutes later the couple found a better table with a better view and in the sun so it all turned out okay but we couldn’t believe it. How rude.

We had dinner with Max and Colette one night and the next day went to not one, but two Broadway shows. Wendy has always wanted to show me “Wicked” (A retelling of the Wizard of Oz from the wicked witch’s point of view) and “Avenue Q” (I’ll explain later) but our schedule was so tight we couldn’t do one a day, we had to dedicate a day solely to shows. On the walk there I decided I had to have a NY dirty water hot dog. So I did. Honestly, the ones in the gas stations here in Vermont are better. A half an hour later Wendy is getting hungry and needs a pretzel to tide her over so I get another hot dog, hoping for better results.

Nope. Still awful.

So we head into Wicked and it is in a very fancy, wall to wall carpeting, massive, high-class building. Everything is beautiful. The seats are soft as a dove’s ass. (You know what I have discovered? I am horrible at similes.) The show starts and it is beautiful. The sound is perfect. And something bad is happening in my stomach.

Like two dogs fighting in a bag, my stomach is lurching back and forth. What a great show this is! Oh my God, this actress was born to play Glinda. And her voice! Now, when I hork in the middle of all this (which is an indeterminate time from now) how am I going to do this? Into the leather jacket I love so much? Wendy’s purse? Where can I get a bag around here?

Finally the dogs feel like they are reaching a conclusion to their fight and would like to be released from their bag. I excuse myself past five people, make my way to the bathroom and let them out. Excellent. I timed that just right.

I make my way back to my seat and Wendy grabs my arm, pulls me close and whispers “Are you okay?”

“I am now.”

The play was what people go to Broadway for. The singing was fantastic, the storyline amazing and clever and funny and the sets beyond magnificent. It was an emotional wonderful experience that I will never forget. It was so well done, explained so many things and added so much to the original story that I will never watch “Wizard of Oz” the same way again.

I had a realization in the middle of it though.

Being a dancer is not a good career choice. Do you watch “So you think you can dance?” One season had on a girl who was mesmerizing she was so good. We saw her on “Glee” the other night in a big dance number. Yeah, she was dancer 24, the one far to the left of center. We imagined bigger things for her, but then, what bigger things are there for you as a dancer? On “So you think you can dance” they also have professional performers come on and sing. They usually have backup dancers. Can you see the conversation back stage?

“That’s right honey, this is what you’re competing for: To be slinky scantily dressed chick number five for some no talent rapper singing about bitches and whores. You’re competing to be us. Good luck with your little show.”

So I’m watching the monkeys cavorting and dancing on stage and I’m thinking “They’re on stage, in the hottest musical on Broadway right now. Do they use that in bars to get women?”

Guy: “Yeah, I’m on Broadway.”

Girl: “Really? That’s amazing! Which show?”

Guy: “Wicked.”

Girl: “Oh my God, I love that show! Oh my God, I can’t believe I’m talking to you! What part do you play.”

Guy: “I’m flying monkey number three.

Yeah. Not so impressive.

We rushed over to “Cara Mia” an Italian place Wendy loves, fifteen minutes late for our reservation but it’s no problem. We have forty-five minutes to eat and then it’s off to “Avenue Q.” Oddly, I can’t find anything Italian that I want on the menu (and I love Italian food) so I just get a steak. Wendy isn’t that hungry so she just has a salad, some calamari and we share some stuffed mushrooms.

Everything was not only delicious, it was inexpensive. By far the most inexpensive place we have eaten in NY with very nice atmosphere, service and great food.

We then rush over to see Avenue Q which has just moved off-Broadway. And so begins a much different experience than Wicked. They have five different shows in this theater and the walls, floor and ceiling are cement with a few posters up. It’s like going to a cheap movie theatre. A nice surprise is seeing that “The Toxic Avenger" has been made into a play. Seriously, you have to be kidding me. (Only old comic buff geeks like me will catch that reference.) There’s a bar though so I get some cheap nine dollar plastic cups of wine and we find our seats. Seated next to us are two older lesbians each holding a bud light in each hand; because a beer apiece just isn’t enough to make it to intermission? We find them fascinating and we exchange quick greetings and “Where you from” and “Wow you came prepared.”

“We have four more ordered for intermission. They’ll bring them right to us!” And as if on cue a waiter arrives moving through the crowd asking if anyone wants anything from the bar before the curtain goes up.

How do I explain Avenue Q? It’s an adult puppet show with the people running the puppets standing onstage with them. It also has characters that are not puppets. It’s a musical comedy about living in the poorer section of town, having a worthless degree and wondering what your purpose in life is after college. It has songs with themes like “My life sucks”, “The internet is for porn” and “Make as much noise as you can when having sex.” It also has full frontal puppet nudity and a puppet sex scene that had the crowd in tears everyone was laughing so hard.

It was irreverent, hilarious, brilliant and the music was fantastic. We chatted with the lesbians some more and found out that while they had the look of a couple, they weren’t actually lesbians but sisters and one of them was married. Pretty sure the other one was a lesbian. (The boots, overalls, flannel shirt and buzz-cut haircut led me to think that.) They really liked us and asked what we were doing after the show. We lied and told them we were heading to bed, still jet-lagged from the trip. They were going bar hopping. We just wanted to get in out of the cold at a cozy quiet bar next to our hotel and have a glass of wine and talk about the two shows we had just seen.

We make our way there and the host starts to make conversation with us since we’re sitting near the front.

Him: “So, where you from?”

“Vermont. We’re heading back up there tomorrow.”

“Really? I’m from Vermont too. What part?”

And I’m thinking – “Right buddy. Sure you’re from Vermont.”


“No way! I am too! Do you know Judy Vaill?”

Wendy and I stare at each other in disbelief.

“Yeah, she was English teacher twenty years ago and I worked with her for five years as the school’s computer tech.”

“How about Frankie Dunleavy?”

“Yeah, I did a presentation on Spain for her class about three years ago. We love her.”

Small world huh?


  1. Is this Alex?

  2. Avatar was became my wife's favorite movie.

    Bobby Young

  3. Haven't seen Avatar yet, but you're absolutely right about Wicked; it's a fantastic show! I love the chance meeting with the Vermont person. I had one a little like that, once. One of my favorite senior residents during my training was a New Yorker, who went back to Manhattan after graduation. Years later, I was wasting time wandering in Manhattan, marveling at the prices of apartments, and he walked out of the door I was standing in front of. The only person in the world I knew in Manhattan, and we just ran into each other. It was nice to see him, anyway...