Labor Day Weekend in New York

Wanting to get out of the Philly for the annual Budweiser noisefest, I hopped on an Amtrak train to New York city on Saturday morning. Sitting in the Quiet Car, I noticed that the couple across the aisle from me were talking, not loudly but nearly constantly, during the whole trip; in fact she had her back to me most of the time as she flirted with what I assumed was her boyfriend.

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A Gentleman's Guide marquee at the Walter Kerr Theatre.A Gentleman's Guide marquee at the Walter Kerr Theatre.

A Gentleman’s Guide marquee at the Walter Kerr Theatre.

Anyway, once the train dropped me off at Penn Station, it being a pleasant day, I walked the eight blocks or so to the Bryant Park Hotel. As I was checking in, I noticed that the desk clerk had given me two keys for my room. “Just in case,” she smiled. Was she winking at me? 

After checking in, I headed to the TKTS booth on Duffy Square to see what shows were available for that afternoon. Walking up Sixth Avenue, I thought the couple in front of me looked familiar. Yes, indeed; it was the couple who had sat across the aisle from me on the train. What are the odds?

At the TKTS booth I bought a ticket for A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder, which turned out to be immensely entertaining. One of those rare musicals that actually gets better in the second act, it features two bravura performances, and lots of fairly lowbrow humor, such as an actual spitting contest at a dinner party.

That evening I set out to find a nice restaurant using Yelp, but the first place it directed me to was closed. As I started to search for another place, I looked up, and directly across the street was Calle Dao, a small Cuban/Chinese fusion place. It looked interesting and wasn’t too busy, so I gave it a try. Nice place, friendly service, good food; who could ask for anything more?

While the weather had been pleasant on Saturday, Sunday turned out to be much more humid, so that put the kibosh on my walking plans for the day. I spent most of the morning in my hotel room, which wasn’t a bad place to be, all things considered. Free wi-fi, after all.

In the afternoon I had a front row seat for the next to last performance of On the Town. The performances were uniformly excellent, especially ballerina Misty Copeland, but the material turned out to be a bit dated.

“A bit?!” exclaimed the woman seated next to me when I voiced that opinion during intermission. It turned out she was there primarily to see Ms. Copeland.

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The Bryant Park Hotel, right across the street from Bryant Park.The Bryant Park Hotel, right across the street from Bryant Park.

The Bryant Park Hotel, right across the street from Bryant Park.

I continued: “I admit that I know very little about dance, but I do question the parts where the audience was applauding. When she walked across the outstretched hands of the line of dancers, and then did some sort of a double flip, I thought that was the most difficult thing she did, but it didn’t earn any applause. It was the showy bits where the audience was applauding.” My next door seat companion seemed to agree with me.

She also said that she was expecting better choreography. When I thought about it, I think I know what she meant: I’ve seen some of those dance moves before, going all the way back to the 1960s. Happily, my companion seemed to thoroughly enjoy the big dance in the second act.

That evening the weather had settled a bit, and I enjoyed a stroll along the avenue, Fifth Avenue, where it seemed that a bus was dropping off loads of people on nearly every other block. Shades of Sondheim. And another hundred people just got off of the bus!

As I was riding the train back to Philly on Monday morning, I had to ask myself why, since I had enjoyed myself so much, did it take a deafening music fest on the Parkway to goad me into a New York trip? I didn’t have a good answer.

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