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Tuesday, 25 October 2016

New York State of Mind

A few days ago, I returned from a whirlwind trip to New York City. And when I say whirlwind, I really mean, whirlwind. I left on a Greyhound on Monday, October 17th at 7:00pm, arrived in New York on Tuesday, October 18th at 6:15am, wandered the city, and then left again on Wednesday, October 19th at 12:35am. Am I crazy? Yes! What was the reason for this trip?


That’s right. I went to New York for one day just to take in a Broadway show starring Josh Groban. And it was absolutely magical. Both the show and the experience in New York. This blog post, is simply about my New York experience. My review of The Great Comet will be a separate (but linked) post.

It’s been twelve years since I stepped foot in New York City, and I hope it isn’t that long before I visit again. I first visited in 2004 as part of a trip with my high school’s Arts department. For $500, plus spending money, 30 students in the Arts classes went to New York for four days. Two of those days were spent in transit to and from the city, so we really only had two full days to see the sights. In those two days, we went to the Metropolitan Museum, the Museum of Natural History, Central Park, Ellis Island, Liberty Island, the first 2 or 3 floors of the Guggenheim Museum, and saw RENT at the Nederlander. Because of all we were to see and do, there wasn’t a lot of time to see them, nor did we have a lot of down time. So, for this trip, I decided The Great Comet and finishing the Guggenheim would be the two big things I would do. The rest of my day would be spent wandering Central Park, and spending a couple of hours in the Central Library to do some writing. Oh, and to ride the subway. And it would all be done on my own time, if I had time to do them.

Turns out, I had time to do all of those things - even with the delay when I started walking in the wrong direction. When I got into town, I had breakfast at a Starbucks, because well, the coffee chain owns my soul, and because I didn't have to spend any “real money.” After breakfast, I started to head toward Grand Central Station to get the subway to the station nearest the Guggenheim... Or so I thought. Instead of finding myself at Grand Central, I found myself at the Circle Line. Oops! So, I sat at a table, and finished my tea by the Hudson River before making my way back along 42nd street to Grand Central. Along the way, I passed the library, and made note of where it was so I could find it easily. I also passed a Papyrus store, and couldn’t resist entering. I ended up finding a gift for a friend, as well as a birthday card. And a pair of small Moleskin notebooks for me.

42nd Street at 6:30am.
The Circle Line

Grand Central, as big as it is, wasn’t that hard to figure out. Actually, it was easier than I thought to find the train I needed to take me to the Guggenheim: Line 6, Uptown to Brooklyn. I could only go Uptown or Downtown, and since I was already downtown, I knew where I had to be. After waiting one train, I got on a subway car that was busy, but not as crowded as I’d expected it to be. The subway platform was hot, but the car itself wasn't bad. It also made me want to start singing, “Santa Fe” from RENT. Oh, and I adore the mosaics at each station; they’re beautiful.

Getting off at 86th and Lexington, I made my way over to the Guggenheim and waited about 20 minutes for it to open. It was a welcomed sight after twelve years. The city in its entirely was a welcomed sight after twelve years! Anyway, I went through the museum in about an hour, and being allowed to take pictures, took photos of all the pieces that piqued my interest in some way. The Guggenheim is a gorgeous place, a place I have always loved the design of. I love the way the gallery goes up in one, continuous circle, allowing natural light from the glass ceiling to enter.

Exterior of the Guggenheim

The glass roof of the Guggenheim

After the Guggenheim, I entered Central Park, and chowed down on some mozzarella sticks I bought from a food truck. I ate by the lake before taking a stroll through the park. I had intended on walking all the way through to the lower end of Central Park, but that was thwarted by a pair of sore feet. So, after briefly getting acquainted with a squirrel, I left the park at 72nd, and made my way back over to Lexington Avenue to catch the Line 6 train back to Grand Central. While on the train, I must have looked like I knew where I was going, because another tourist asked me if a particular line met with Line 6 at a certain station. I had no idea; I only knew Line 6 between Grand Central and 86th. However, I was flattered that I appeared to fit in with the New Yorkers around me. And, in some ways, I felt it. I consistently went through phases of, “I’m in New York!” and “I feel like I’m in just another city.” Maybe it’s because I’m not sixteen anymore, or maybe it’s because I’m more mature than I was twelve years ago… or because New York has been calling me to visit again for a few years, but I felt very at ease there, even when I realized I’d walked in the wrong direction and when I ventured into the subway. I sort of felt like I belonged. I think it may have solidified by desire to live in New York, even if only for a few months.

But, I digress. I got off the subway at Grand Central, and made my way to the library a couple short blocks away. I went up to the third floor and sat in the Catalog Room. I opened up my Chromebook and worked on some last minute NaNoWriMo preparations and did a little bit of writing. I’m regretting not simply wandering the library because there are some great spaces I missed, including the Children’s wing, which houses the real stuffed animals that inspired the Winnie The Pooh tales. Next time, and there will be a next time, I’m in New York, I will spend a lot more time in that library.

After a failed attempt to meet with a Twitter friend, I made my way toward the theatre, where I found a hotel lobby with a washroom and got changed and freshened up for the evening. Then came the most anxious part of the day. Waiting at the theatre for the show! I was early, as I tend to be, but had a lovely conversation with some fellow Grobanites (Josh Groban fans) who had come in from Indiana and Alabama for the show. Then, they let us in, and we found our seats. Mine was at a table for three and was on the lower portion of the stage. My particular seat was right beside the stairs descending into the audience. The other two seats at my table were taken by a couple from New York (who also had apartments in Atlanta and Vegas, but that’s besides the point), whom I got to chatting with. The show started, and right from the get-go, I was mesmerized. And not just by Josh. The show as a whole was breathtaking and magical.

The stage design.

Russian pierogies!!!

The Great Comet is essentially a 70 page excerpt from Tolstoy’s War and Peace. It follows the story of Natasha, (played by Broadway newcomer, Denée Benton) and her love affair with Anatole (Lucas Steele), as well as Pierre’s (Josh Groban, who was also making his Broadway debut) journey to find meaning in his life.

You can read my review of the show here: I'm Ready to Wake Up: Review of The Great Comet

Intermission came around, and I went to buy some merchandise. I bought a hooded zippered sweatshirt (which proved very helpful and warm for my bus ride home), and a t-shirt. When I got back to the table, the wife of the pair I was sitting with handed me the poster for the show. “This is for you,” she said. “For being so devoted to Josh to come all the way from Toronto just for this show.” I wanted so badly to give them something back, even if it was a cup of coffee, (as I knew how much that poster cost) but they refused. I nearly cried. Having something bought for me by a complete stranger simply because I was a fan of one the stars of the show and had travelled to see it… I hadn’t been expecting it. It’s a kindness I’ve never really experienced before. I’ve had friends cover me for things, or not worry about being paid back right away, but I’ve never had a complete stranger buy me anything before. And when I say I nearly cried, I lied. I did cry, but it wasn’t until the second act began and I could hide it by watching the show. I still get weepy thinking about it. It was overwhelming.

The show ended, much to my chagrin. But, it received a standing ovation which visibly humbled the cast. I was sad to see the show end; I wanted it to go on forever! But, alas, it came to an end, and upon wishing each other well, the couple and I went our separate ways. They went home, and I went to the stage door. I got Denée Benton’s autograph (she played Natasha), as well as Josh Groban’s. Then, I had to hightail it back to the Port Authority to line up for my bus ride home. I had to contain my emotions while waiting for the bus as well because everything that had happened - the joy of being in New York, the magic of The Great Comet, and the kindness of strangers - had, in many ways, and as silly as it sounds, renewed me in exactly the way I needed.

New York was calling me for a reason, and I strongly believe that reason was for spiritual renewal. New York is vibrant, it’s always on the go, and yet there is this strange peacefulness about it that I can’t properly explain. I believe I also needed the strong dose of energy and magic only a phenomenal theatre show can provide. I received that and so much more.

I am renewed. And it feels wonderful.