Read My New York Trip: Part I.
Wall of Waffles, Flowers Galore, and Sleep No More
Brunch in Midtown
WAFFLES, I texted my friend Joy. I need waffles. So we met at Petite Abeille in Midtown where lo and behold, an entire wall of waffle choices awaited. I got the plain Belgium with maple syrup and the omelette of the day with tomatoes, asparagus and goat cheese, as Joy and I discussed old friends and the travails of being an actress of a certain age.
Perfume & Blooms
I then stopped by Macy’s in Herald Square to check out the annual Macy's Flower Show. Appropriately installed in the fragrance department, every available nook and cranny was crammed with lavish arrangements of blooms. Each overhead display was matched thematically to a famous modern artist. Macy’s was absolutely packed with tourists taking snapshots, so after doing my touristy duty, I headed to Chelsea where I had tickets to the infamous Sleep No More at the McKittrick Hotel. I was accustomed to my HopStop app taking me to destinations via the most convenient subway routes, but after some time-consuming and tricky detours caused by train closures and inaccuracies the day before, I opted for a long walk.
The Mondrian display at Art In Bloom, Macy's Flower Show in NYC
Art in Bloom at Macy's in NYC, Herald Square
The Walk to Chelsea on my way to see Sleep No More
Sleep No More
I had previously avoided chances to see Sleep No More for the same irrational and obstinate reason that I refused to read the Harry Potter Books for so long. So many people told me that I just absolutely HAD to see it, I adopted a peculiarly contrarian attitude in response. Much as with the popular YA franchise, when I did finally break down to see what all the fuss was about, I was not disappointed.
Two actors in Punchdrunk's Sleep No More at the McKittrick Hotel
Described as “A really cool haunted house” by more than one acquaintance, I wondered how much of the substance of Shakespeare’s MacBeth would be rendered in the famously stylish installation piece that is Sleep No More. Quite a bit, as it turns out. Reports from friends had prepared me for the stunning and intricate art installation-cum-maze that makes up the set of Sleep No More, winding through 4 stories of the McKittrick Hotel. I was also prepared for the device of audience members being required to wear uniform, spooky white masks, lending an air of anonymity and just a little bit of menace to the proceedings. But I was astonished to discover that no one had mentioned the stunning physical performances of the players. Sleep No More is a dance piece. And the dance is incredible.
Once inside, you’re allowed to stay as long as you like, but the show’s closing time and one’s own personal energy limits dictate that you have to make some hard choices – you won’t see it all. While some patrons chose to explore the many rooms in intricate detail, I chose to chase the action of the play, often losing characters in the maze only to find them again, watching a violent, heartbreaking, beautiful story unfold – out of order, but still accurately evoking the characters and plot with startling clarity and grace.
After two hours of racing up and down stairs, plunging into dark rooms, searching for one thing and finding something completely unexpected, I decided my personal experience with Sleep No More needed to come to an end. I knew I would never see it all, I was (frankly) exhausted, and I was supposed to meet a friend for a late dinner. So I took my tired and sore feet, and schlepped back to the Lower East Side to meet Carolyn.
The Walk through Chelsea, Nighttime
We finally found each other, and some pasta, at Pepe Rosso. I had the gnocci with speck and spinach (yum) and the impossibly ebullient Carolyn had a salad. Despite a large age gap, Carolyn and I immediately clicked as kindred spirits a couple of years ago while working on a new play. Whenever we get together, we are suddenly transformed to two giggly high school girls, talking about our love lives and latest projects. We had an extremely attractive waiter, making the meal all the more pleasant. Carolyn was convinced he was flirting with us, but I’m pretty sure he just wanted the two squealing ladies, talking a-mile-a-minute right up until closing time, to get OUT. You know what? We’ll go with Carolyn’s version, it’s nicer.
Last Day – The Search for Chagall and Back to Austin
Chagall's "I and the Village" at the Museum of Modern Art
No Birthday, No Bjork
It’s always hard to decide what to do on the last day. I decided to go to MOMA, which I visited last time I was there, to check out the new Bjork exhibit. I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I figured it couldn’t fail to be interesting. Unfortunately, once I bought my ticket to the museum, I was told that I would have to get a separate “timed ticket” to see the special exhibit, and the earliest time was well after I would have to leave to make my flight. I contented myself by visiting my favorites, hoping that perhaps on this visit, MOMA had decided to exhibit their very famous (but never displayed, as near as I can tell) acquisition of Chagall’s Birthday. Sadly, no dice.
Still, it’s wonderful to see works by Picasso, Van Gogh, and Monet (amongst many others) in person. You get so much more from viewing these works in person than you could ever get by just looking at a print. I never knew how serious Monet was, how much joy Picasso felt, before I saw their work up close and personal at MOMA, and it will always be one of my favorite museums.
Picasso's Girl in a Mirror at the Museum of Modern Art
A Section of Monet's "Water Lillies" at the Museum of Modern Art
But put up “Birthday” once in a while, MOMA. If you don’t have room, then for the love of everything, lend it to another museum. Sorry, Chagall fan-rant over.
Back to Austin
The ride back to JFK was even more onerous than the ride from, as the car service I booked inexplicably decided to drive through all of residential Brooklyn rather than take the highways. Since it was a flat rate, I had to assume the driver must know something I didn’t. I’m not an expert on NY traffic. However, I may just take the subway and Air Trans next time.
My souvenir haul from this visit includes two Verrier Boutique framed prints and two greeting cards, one autographed art photo of Alan Cumming in Cabaret (proceeds benefitting Broadway Cares), one gray knit hat I bought at a sidewalk stand and received numerous compliments on, and the playing card that was my entrance ticket to Sleep No More. At the airport I added one NYC coffee mug, as I like to collect coffee mugs every time I travel. I love that all of my mugs are attached to special memories or places. It makes for a nice one-two punch of caffeine and happy memories to beat the morning blues.
Planning a trip yourself? Here are Vim’s tips for visiting New York City:
Book a non-stop flight. Any airline drama usually occurs at the connection, i.e. a connecting flight being canceled, delayed for hours, or taking off before your first flight arrives
Carry-On. Don’t ruin a short trip by risking the loss of your luggage by the airline.
Pack really comfortable shoes. You’ll be walking long distances and even the comfiest heels will not be comfortable for long. New Yorkers almost never wear heels, no matter what the movies might have you believe.
Check the bedbug registry before booking. You don’t want to bring those suckers back with you.
Or…if you’re a gambling type and you’re on a budget, use Priceline’s Express Deals for the best rate. You can still specify the area and star rating. Of course, once you are there, do a thorough sweep for bedbugs.
Bring a light-weight but roomy handbag. My recommendation is one large enough to stow a sweater or an impulse purchase in, with an over the shoulder strap. Faux leather is a good call. Leather will start to feel heavy before too long, and an over the shoulder strap will be more secure and eliminate the need to constantly adjust your bag while you’re walking.
Plan ahead, but keep it flexible. You can count on unexpected delays and your best laid plans ganning aglee, so try not to stress if things need to change at a moment’s notice. Prioritize one thing a day that you absolutely MUST do, and be flexible about the rest.