Summer this year did not begin for us until June 1. We had been in lockdown from March 13 and did not venture out except to pick up packages a few times a week from our concierge desk. There were also a couple of short walks for medical tests, which, in my case, were denied. Readers probably know that my wife was very ill with COVID for a good two really horrible weeks. My experience was comparatively mild though the taste/smell issues have lingered to this day.
So, when June 1 arrived, we were relatively healthy again and the city was beginning to “re-open” in stages. Governor Cuomo was, and remains, very cautious to avoid restarting the horrors that New York City in particular experienced. Good for him and us. Central Park, which has always been a key attraction for us, become an “essential fix.” We started walking every day and most times visited the park. I took my camera sometimes to record the evolution of re-opening as New Yorkers came out to recover. This post reflects a partial synthesis of what we have seen.
We start with July 4, when the city promised fireworks from the top of, among others, the Empire State Building of which we have a direct view from our 50th floor aerie. The result was an overblown dud, but given the circumstances, we were fortunate to see anything at all. Here, then, are a few shots of that experience:
There are quite a few animals in Central Park, although sightings are relatively rare. I suspect none of these will surprise you:
The Park attracts a diverse audience for diverse purposes. Various forms of relaxation abound, often leading to visitors nodding off:
There are, of course, many more active pursuits, some of which are surprisingly common, though not all:
And there are plenty of just plain “scenes” that capture the eye and the imagination:
Finally, saving the best for last, there are the birds. We have learned that, during the course of a year, the Park attracts some 200 species of birds. Many are “tropical” birds that traverse the United States when flying to and from feeding/nesting grounds in the far north and the tropics. These can be seen by astute observers during their stopovers in the woods, lakes and streams in this oasis within the metropolis. Some of them are so gloriously beautiful that we have become involuntary “birders,” that more than a bit obsessive clan of people you often see carrying long lenses and binoculars/note pads peering into the trees and bushes for the sight of something small and cautious or studying the waters for the stunning sight of the Great Egrets that fish there. There are predatory hawks and tiny thrushes. Happily, my wife has a very sharp eye for animals in the wild and I take an occasional nice photo, so, birders we have become, for better or worse. We have watched the stunning documentary entitled “Birders: The Central Park Effect,” available through Amazon Prime. As birthday presents this year, I now own the “Birds of Central Park,” a gorgeous book of bird photos, as well as “Seeing Central Park,” a beautiful guide to the varied and fascinating places of interest.
So with that background, here are some of the results of our partial summer in the Park:
On the last day of our break from NYC, reported in the prior post, Escape from Gotham, we drove north again to the Storm King Art Center which is near Cornwall, NY. It is described on its website as,
Storm King Art Center is a 500-acre outdoor museum located in New York’s Hudson Valley, where visitors experience large-scale sculpture and site-specific commissions under open sky. Since 1960, Storm King has been dedicated to stewarding the hills, meadows, and forests of its site and surrounding landscape. Building on the visionary thinking of its founders, Storm King supports artists and some of their most ambitious works. Changing exhibitions, programming, and seasons offer discoveries with every visit.
I can add nothing meaningful to that, so I won’t try. I don’t understand modern art and certainly did not grasp the concepts behind many of the pieces at Storm King. Trust this, though. Five hundred acres of rolling hills is a lot of acres and hills, so if you visit, be prepared to do a lot of walking and climbing. The terrain is beautiful if you are attracted to verdant hills and forest. The selection of photos below will give you an indication of what to expect but there is much more to Storm King than this.
Desperate to get my wife a break from work and to free ourselves of the mental taint of post-COVID recovery, NYC lockdown and semi-lockdown and so on, we located Troutbeck in Amenia, NY (Dutchess County) and decided to go for it.
The apparent advantages were that it was in New York State, less than two hours’ drive away, car rental was available in our neighborhood and it looked pastoral and quiet. Just what we needed. The plan was to drive up on Sunday and stay for three nights, return but keep the car for some closer-in day-trips for a couple of days. More on that in a later post.
Troutbeck had other elements that attracted us in the circumstance of the pandemic. In what could be a model for other businesses, the resort sent us a detailed set of instructions and rules governing arrival and our stay. For example only,
Signage will direct you to pull up to the Manor House front door where you will be met by our guest services agent. Please do not leave your car.
We will ask that you and your companion(s) please submit to a mandatory temperature check.
You will receive your sanitized guestroom key card and visual direction to your guestroom.
Please print the copy of your itinerary sent to you prior to your arrival. Our staff will not provide you with a printed version unless requested by you and, only once you have checked in.
We will confirm your itinerary and answer any initial questions you may have for us.
Luggage service is suspended temporarily. You may be invited to leave your luggage in a convenient location while you park your car, as directed.
Regarding dining, the “rules” were,
Led by Chef Gabe McMackin our exceptional culinary team will carefully plan all of your meals. Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner all feature the most exciting things we can find in the moment. Our field-to-fork approach is strongly influenced by both the abundance and the scarcity inherent in sourcing only what is seasonal and what is best. Such is the nature and the pleasure in living close to the land.
We are now offering indoor dining at 50% of our permitted full capacity. All tables are spaced at a minimum distance of 6ft between the next. Up to 10 guests of the same traveling party may be seated together. All public areas at Troutbeck are fitted with HEPA/UV air filtration. All tables are sanitized between seatings. None of our services are open to the public at this time.
Should you choose to dine indoors a face mask is required to and from your table. Our service staff will wear gloves and a facemask at all times. At no time will you be presented with a check or a printed menu. Please help us to plan your meals below. Be sure to state your dietary restrictions – especially allergies – but also particular likes and dislikes as our team will keep these in mind. We will send our menus to you for the weekend prior to your arrival.
We appreciated the clarity and detail; clearly, Troutbeck had thought through its re-opening in detail and with respect for the obvious health implications. Here are a few photos of the residential buildings, our room (standard double) and some of the common areas.
This is the perhaps the best place to also reveal some of the harsh realities of the early reopening of resorts/restaurants during the pandemic. We understood that changes might occur. Indeed, we did not receive the menu in advance and were surprised to learn that the dinner menu (priced at $75 per person) was the same for each night of our stay and included only four appetizers and four entrees. The first night I ordered “Roasted Pork Belly with White Nectarines” and “Smoked Beef Short Rib with Fingerling Potatoes, Spring Onions & Deciccio Broccoli.” Disclosure: I am not a foodie. That said, my wife liked the Nettle Cavatelli
and the deserts were delicious.
The Pork Belly was almost all fat:
and the Short Rib, with which I am very acquainted, appeared to be semi-tough flank steak. It certainly was not Short Rib:
I soldiered on. The next night, confronted with the identical menu, we both opted for the Steelhead Trout but asked that it be grilled rather than poached as stated on the menu. For those not familiar with this fish, it is more like salmon than trout. My wife’s fish came undercooked. The second try was better, but her appetite was ruined. I found multiple bones in mine and just placed them on the side of the plate without comment, but the waiter took notice on his own.
To Troutbeck’s great credit under the stressful conditions of reopening jitters and bad economics, and without our asking or complaining, the waiter removed the entire meal from our bill. We had a very nice and respectful discussion of the need for disclosure and the issues surrounding responsible reopening. When I explained that I planned to do a blog post, he asked that I send them a copy, which I will do. I hope they find it fair and balanced. I have tried.
The only other observation I will make is about breakfast. The advance notice explained that the culinary team would be planning the meals. In practice, this meant that breakfast was crafted in the kitchen and delivered all at once on a large tray.
No coffee while you wait. [Parenthetically, we are both coffee addicts but there were no coffee machines in the rooms or in the central areas of the lodge buildings (removed due to the pandemic). We tried once to order room service coffee, as proffered, but it took 75 minutes and 3 or 4 calls to get this done.] The food was plentiful and quite excellent. My only gripe was that the last day there was no meat; a large and ugly mushroom on a bed of spinach instead. As I revealed above, I am no foodie and this did not sit well. However, the bacon the first two days was crisp and plentiful, just the way I like it. There was fresh squeezed juice and homemade pastries every day.
The other good side of the dining experience was that we were able to eat outside each morning and evening, while appropriately separated from the few other guests.
But, enough about food. Let’s get to the really great parts of the Troutbeck experience. Yes, there is a nice swimming pool if you’re so inclined, but we were impressed by the “sitting areas” established around the property. These consist of reservation-only areas that include two Adirondack chairs, two hammocks and a fire pit, most of which overlook the stream that runs through the property.
Each area is well-separated from the others, so we never felt crowded.
We found that sitting by the burbling brook was delightfully stress-reducing. Lying in the hammock did nothing for my planned reading as it produced a powerful soporific effect in minutes.
Unfortunately, the proffered lunch that was delivered to our spot on the first day consisted of very greasy fried chicken that we thought was an odd choice in the circumstances.
We spent the last evening after dinner (elsewhere) at another of the sites; a waiter brings a pre-arranged beverage and lights the fire.
This was a very relaxing way to close out our stay.
Troutbeck is quite close to Amenia, NY, a very small town with little to see or do. The surrounding country is extremely lush, very hilly and mostly beautiful. Our day-drive took us to Rhinebeck for lunch at Pete’s Famous
and eventually to Hyde Park (FDR home closed) and then to the Vanderbilt mansion (also closed, but the grounds could be walked):
We recognize that our mixed experience at Troutbeck was not “normal,” although the staff was very pleasant in all interactions The grounds of the property are lovely and interesting.
We think in better times we’d have an even better experience. This is not to say that you should not go there now. Just do it with your eyes open and be generous in your reaction to what may be a few struggles for perfection. Preparation is nine-tenths of a good time. Bring some good instant coffee to make in the common room microwave and some snacks. You can get a small refrigerator for the room on request. We do expect we will return another time, by which time the pandemic, hopefully, will be behind us.
We have survived the coronavirus, with some difficulty, and are thrilled, sort of, that New York City is now, finally, in Phase 1 of “reopening.” Roughly two weeks ago (it seems more recent), we began to go out again for short walks. With the exception of a couple of medical visits, this was the first going-out since the pandemic and lockdown began in mid-March. By then, unbeknown to us, the die had been cast. I was infected sometime just before the lockdown and passed the infection to my wife. I will spare readers the grim details. We are both better. I had it easy. She, the opposite. Trust me on this one thing – if it isn’t obvious to you from the statistics, accept that this is disease is, as I have previously reported, mean as a junk yard dog.
Which brings me to the point of this post. The Governor of New York, Andrew Cuomo, a man both revered and despised by different people for reasons with which I am largely unacquainted, has held daily news briefings for more than 100 days and throughout that time has begged, demanded and cajoled New Yorkers to “be smart.” New York City in particular was the epicenter of COVID-19 in the United States, with a rapidly mounting hospitalization and death toll beginning in early March, threatening to overwhelm even the vast medical resources of the city.
The steep rise in cases and deaths continued until one fine day when it began to level off (“flattening the curve,” was the term applied), stayed more or less level and then began a slower decline to where it is now, with daily deaths attributed to COVID in the neighborhood of 35. The Governor has made clear that the reopening of the state and of New York City was strictly dependent upon the data. If there are upticks, restrictions will be swiftly re-imposed. “Be smart” about how you conduct yourself, he has repeatedly urged, and we will be fine. Each region of the state will be separately evaluated every day.
So, with that as background, we emerge from our “bunker” and begin to take walks of up to 2 miles, just in the neighborhood and sometimes into Central Park that is about a third-of-a-mile away. We try walking early, say at 8 or 9 am, on the theory that there will be fewer people on the street at that time, but this is not apparent when we’re out there. We also walk at noon and in the early evening. It’s the same. As the days progress, both pedestrian and automobile traffic noticeably increase everywhere we go. But in no sense is it crowded. It just seems that way. The psychology of the pandemic, I suppose. Open space feels cramped when every person you encounter is seen as the possible source of re-infection with a disease that could kill you.
As we progress through the two-week period, a couple of things change. Mask-wearing seems to be diminishing. It’s not a scientific determination, more of a gut judgment, but it feels quite accurate. At the beginning, the end of May, we estimated non-compliance was around 10 percent of people we saw. That seemed high and mildly concerning, but as we approached June 8, the official reopening of New York City, non-compliance rose to about 20 percent. Not a comfortable or encouraging situation. The infection rate is also creeping upward, slowly but inexorably upward according to daily reports from covidactnow.org. On May 3, the 7-day rolling average infection rate was .63 and on June 2 was .84. As long as that number is below 1.0, the total number of COVID cases will continue to decline, but the projections indicate a rate of .9 by June 9, now three days ago. We anxiously await updated numbers, but we are getting perilously close to the point at which the Governor has said he will order another lockdown. In a few more days we likely will begin to see the results of the massive protests that recently occurred throughout Manhattan and the boroughs.
The Governor now says that the key number to watch going forward is the “tested infection rate” that is holding in Manhattan at 1.2 percent based on about 50,000 statewide tests per day. Time will tell.
Non-compliance in the neighborhood is not limited to any group. It is young, old, bike riders, casual strollers, mothers with children, delivery personnel. “My mask protects you; your mask protects me” seems to be a hollow sentiment to those who shun masks or wear them under their chin. Smoking on the street is still seen. We try hard not to breathe exhaled smoke. Any breeze is always a welcome relief because we’ve been told that the virus does not remain concentrated in moving air.
Yesterday, our early evening walk took us to Columbus Circle where we observed, for the third time, a phalanx of police vehicles and Central Park West closed by metal railings, all to protect the Trump International Hotel. A large number of police were present as well. My inquiry as to why NYPD was set up to protect the private property of Donald Trump who does not live in this hotel (it’s just one of his branded commercial properties), an officer said they were expecting protesters. Since Trump can easily afford his own security for the businesses he continues to own while serving as president, I resent the use of city resources to provide security services for his properties.
Finally, a few nights ago, we came across a restaurant on Broadway that was open for business outdoors, with numerous tables occupied by un-masked dinners/drinkers. A large sign in front proclaimed “open.” I reported this to the mayor’s office and the city health department. We haven’t been back that way yet to see if it’s still violating the reopening rules. The fact that this happened so openly is not a good sign for the future of reopening. If that restaurant is not stopped, competing restaurants may decide to follow suit and the proverbial barn door will be open.
The data from states that have reopened incautiously is not encouraging. Virtually all of them have experienced significant spikes in infections following their reopenings. Today the Governor reported 23 states with spikes, of which 15 are experiencing their highest- ever infection rates. Their political leadership seems not to be concerned and under the sway of those who scream that their “rights” are being violated by lockdown orders. We truly live in insane times. I don’t know what else to say. Stay well if you can.
I can usually stretch to a month or more between haircuts and was already planning to do it again when the NYC lockdown order arrived. Having some room to spare, the issue of haircuts never even occurred to me. Like many others, I was focused on assuring we had enough toilet paper, paper towels and, oh yes, food. Haircuts were simply not on the agenda of lockdown concerns.
As it happened, my hair continued to grow. And grow. While many women and some men are comfortable with long hair on their necks, I am not one of them. As time passed, I became increasingly aware that the “mop” on my head was uncomfortable. It seemed to me that my head was warmer than usual. There is probably science to support that idea, but I was not interested in explanations. I wanted the hair gone.
Life is funny that way. When you don’t have enough of something important, or might not, like toilet paper, you get very serious about searching for sources until you’re sure you “have enough.” Conversely, there are some things, like hair, that when you have more than you need/want, you can’t rest until you get rid of it.
Sooo, I commenced to searching for hair cutting tools for men. I had never imagined I would want to cut my own hair, but each morning, as I looked at myself in the mirror, it became clear that emergency measures were in order.
Having not prepared for this situation, I did what I always do. Research. For more serious and long-term projects, I would normally turn to books but in this case that option seemed “off.” So, to learn what the tools are, where to buy them, how to use them, study, watch videos, process, think, process, prepare and …. go to YouTube. Done. Somewhat intimidating but not overwhelming. You can do this. Then, of course, turn to …. Amazon.
Now the reality begins to dawn. I am not alone. Tens of thousands, possibly hundreds of thousands or even millions of men who would ordinarily go to a barbershop or salon are now in the hunt for the same tools I need. And I am late to the party.
As usual, Amazon has a vast multitude of options but, in the annoying way that Amazon works in times of trouble, you can put them in your Cart only to find at checkout that the items are either “unavailable and we don’t know when they will become available” or “there is no vendor who can deliver this item to your location.” I waste a staggering amount of time studying the user comments (I will be writing about Amazon user comments in the near future) and ratings, unwittingly falling further and further behind the army of men conducting the same search. I fall back to Google searches for men’s haircutting tools. There are surprisingly few sites selling them. All are out of stock or the reviews/ratings are so despairing that I decline to take chances with my precious hair.
Finally, after many hours of searching, I find a recognizable brand name clipper set at a site whose name seems sufficiently familiar that I can trust it. The predicted delivery day is quite far in the future, but this is the reality of being slow out of the gate in a pandemic. I order.
Two days later, the first email arrives, informing me that due to demand and other factors, there may be a further delay of “8 to 14 days” from the original estimated time of delivery. I swallow hard but accept that this is the reality into which we have all arrived.
The next day, the next email arrives, informing me that due to demand and other factors, there may be a further delay of 8 to 14 days from the estimated time of delivery. And so on, every day or other day for a week, at which point I decide that delivery may never occur and demand a refund. Provided with no argument.
Back to … Amazon, the Jet.com, then …. Finally, it dawns on me that I have been seeing eBay in some of the Google searches. Now desperate, I go to eBay where, after many years’ absence, I have no account. Once that hurdle is overcome, I find a vendor offering exactly what I need. The vendor has great ratings from other buyers. Desperate times, etc. I order.
After only a few days’ time, the package arrives. Clippers (two!), various “combs” that control the length of the cut, hair clips, oil, brush, actual combs. Twenty-three pieces in all. I am “in business.”
Leaping ahead, after more “research” and overnight “processing” time, I line the bathroom floor with the last Sunday New York Times and proceed to cut my hair. Below, I have boldly gone where I have never gone before. The “before” and “after” photos speak for themselves. It is not a perfect haircut, but it will do for a first try. After two more of these, I will be ahead financially and by then, hopefully, the lockdown will be lifted sufficiently for a visit to a real barber.
Just when you least expect it and are sinking into the despair of self-isolation with a sick spouse and extreme personal vulnerability to the coronavirus, someone appears as if by magic to save the day. It’s not magic, of course; it’s human kindness and generosity at its best. I referred to her as an angel in an email and, with no prompting from me, my wife used the same terms. It must therefore be true.
The story is simple enough. My wife has come down with what appears to be COVID-19. We don’t know how it happened. We’ve taken all the precautions. Nonetheless, a doctor in a televisit said she thought it was COVID. It fits the symptoms list perfectly. Fortunately, so far, there are no breathing issues. But you may take my word for it – this virus is mean as a junk yard dog. Everything bad you’ve heard about it is true.
Anyway, my own vulnerability has led my wife to vehemently object to my leaving the apartment. Since she became ill six days ago, I have left only twice to pick up food deliveries and packages at the concierge desk and that was over her protest. When she started to need some things we had consumed, like ginger ale, I found that it is impossible to order online at CVS for delivery of items sold “only in store.” We then recalled that a few people in our building (700 apartments in two towers) have volunteered through the resident portal to help people like us. One of them was recent. I found her message and we began to communicate.
Skipping some of the details, she instantly agrees to trek to the CVS around the corner to buy whatever we need. Faced with imminent store closure (it’s Saturday night at 8 pm and the normal “open 24 hours” has apparently been suspended), she makes them stay open until she gets everything we asked for and delivers it to our door. She exhibits no impatience whatsoever as we text back and forth about the options/brands, etc. She wants us to have exactly what we want, not just what is convenient for her to grab and go. I am a bit overwhelmed.
This leads to a second trip the next day when we discover other needs. She texts me from the store to recommend an over-the-counter medication that may help my wife’s nausea (it did) after consulting with the pharmacist about it. She sends photos of various options so I can choose specifically what she should buy.
She patiently helps me struggle to reimburse her through her website (standby re that), but refuses to accept anything beyond the actual cost of the purchases. She says: “no way I’m taking anything other than exact amount. Grandpa, who stormed the front in Battle of Bulge, would be horrified and embarrassed if I were to dishonor family name during time of national crisis.”
Now, I know I’ve encountered someone very special. An angel in human disguise. In New York City. We exchange a bunch more emails and texts after I check out her website where she manages, as a hobby, a meditation/mindfulness training program for working people. My wife in particular is interested in this for her post-recovery work life. It turns out this new friend-by-text and I are both alums of Yale University (me, Yale College, she the Law School) and Harvard (me the law school, she the Business School). To respect her privacy, I will not identify her by name. Her resume is intimidating. I joke that I and members of my class often observe that we probably couldn’t get into Yale now and her background shows why. She finds this amusing. She has a sense of humor and an infectious positive attitude toward life. [Is it a pun to refer to “infectious positive attitude” during a pandemic?]
I explain that since there is an immutable rule of life that no good deed goes unpunished, there will be two consequences to her work as Good Samaritan for us: one is that my wife must make dinner for her when the lockdown ends and life returns to some semblance of normality. The other is that I will write about her in this blog.
This is a story that must be told and included in my tales of life in New York City. She demurs on the blog but we agree she will bring dessert of her choice to the dinner. She sends me a remarkable photo of a multi-color dessert cake she had baked and says, “be afraid.” Date to be determined but I am optimistic we will make this happen.
And, for sure, my wife and I will be made better by having known this generous, ebullient, kind-hearted person, an unexpected benefit from the pandemic. As I conclude this post at 7 pm, I hear the New Yorkers that have balconies applauding, banging pots and cheering for that other group of angels working in the Emergency Rooms and ICUs around the city. This happens every day and apparently has started a national “movement,” as well it should. Giants and angels come in all sizes and in many disguises. If you’re lucky enough, an angel will find you too. I hope so.
Everyone knows by now that all live music and dance performances on Broadway, jazz clubs, Lincoln Center and elsewhere in New York City are on indefinite pause. For those of us who can’t get enough of these extraordinary “gifts” of this city, this is a particularly dark time on top of the, obviously more serious, general lockdown that has necessarily been imposed.
But, thanks to human ingenuity and determination, all is not lost. Among the many arts institutions offering online streaming of past performances is the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. Every Thursday at 7:30 pm on the NYPO Facebook page, one can link to a truly amazing experience. Last night, for example, the NYPO showed a May 1994 performance conducted by Kurt Masur that was “attended” electronically by people all over the world. Three Beethoven masterpieces were performed: the “Leonore” Overture No. 3 by the orchestra, the Piano Concerto No. 1 (with Emanuel Ax on piano) and, finally and oh so remarkably, Symphony No. 5. You can see the performance at: https://www.facebook.com/nyphilharmonic/videos/525953654947771/ and also at https://nyphil.org/playson
In May 1994, Masur, then the music director of NYPO, was approaching 67 years of age and Ax was just 44. They “brought the house down.”
The program actually began with an introduction by Hugh Downs followed by an interview in present time, with Alec Baldwin engaging Ax from another location where he was holed up. The two artists from different disciplines shared some of their similar feelings of nervous tension experienced before performances, with Baldwin wisely noting that “I would never compare what I do to what you do.” It’s fair, I think, to say Ax is a “genial genius” whose talents were shortly on full display in his execution of the Piano Concerto.
Masur, the more mature of the two in 1994, is described in Wikipedia as “one of the last old-style maestros.” I am not qualified to comment on that but watching Masur conduct is an extraordinary sight. He speaks to the orchestra with his hands, of course, but also a lot with his eyes and facial expressions. He goes from an apparent passivity to what reminded me of lightning in a storm. His passion transfers to the musicians, each of whom is surely a virtuoso in his/her own right. He stood on the riser for all three pieces with no sheet music, an imposing presence at 6 feet 3 inches height and in full command of the music and the orchestra.
Again, I am not qualified to judge but Emanuel Ax’s performance of the Piano Concerto No. 1 is breathtaking to watch and hear. You can see him “talking” to himself as he blasts through some of the faster passages, fingers moving through muscle memory alone over dozens of notes in seconds. He too has no sheet music.
A unique aspect of these presentations is that there are multiple cameras that are regularly used by the unseen director to capture closeups of the musicians, lingering briefly and moving on to another section of the orchestra. Even from the best seats in the house, you could not see these details of what the musicians are doing at any time.
The concert closed with a remarkable performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5. The playing was preceded by a talk of a number of musicians who explained some of the features of the symphony that everyone experiences without actually understanding why. It was like auditing an advanced class in music theory and practice. The concert itself was supernatural, all the more so because of new insights gathered beforehand.
Finally, note that on April 3 the Philharmonic did a special presentation of Ravel’s Balero as a tribute to healthcare workers everywhere. Not only were the music and musicianship extraordinary, but the musicians were each playing from home using Zoom. You can see/hear it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D3UW218_zPo For a similar experience, by a flash-mob in Spain (2013 when public gatherings were still possible), see https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IsF53JpBMlk complete with cymbals and kettle drums.
How glorious it is that these masterpieces can be shared this way and enjoyed over and over. I can’t wait for the day when we can return to a live concert hall, theater or club to experience the unbelievable skill and creativity that will once again, one fine day, be on display.
Based on a ghastly experience last night at the St. James Theater showing of Frozen the Musical, I thought this guide might be useful, especially if it were forwarded far and wide to people who might actually need the information provided.
When buying tickets for a show, be sure you understand the seating, restroom and stairs/elevator situation in the theater you’re going to attend. Many New York theaters were built many years ago when people with physical limitations never attended shows or if they did, their interests were ignored in the design. Most of the older theaters have chosen not to spend the resources to update their facilities; apparently, the law does not require them to do so.
It is, therefore, common to find that tiny restrooms are not anywhere near your seats or indeed on the same level as your seats. This can be disconcerting during what are sometimes short breaks relative to the lines that form even at the men’s facilities. By way of example only, our balcony seats at the St. James involved a 77- step climb from the entry level, and the men’s room up there had two urinals. There are no elevators. The extent of the climb is not covered on the ticketing website, www.frozenthemusical.com but only in the Accessibility section of the website for the theater where no tickets may be purchased and that took some searching to find. https://www.jujamcyn.com/shows/frozen/
Note carefully whether your show has intermissions. Many Broadway shows run two hours or more without an intermission. This can be challenging for … well, you know.
When considering a show to see, think carefully about the likely makeup of the audience. Frozen’s website says it is “intended for ages 8+ and is not recommended for anyone under the age of 4. If you have already purchased a ticket for a child under 4, please contact Disney Theatrical Guest Services.” All well and good, but there were many children under 4 in the audience on Saturday night. However, candor compels me to note that by-and-large the children were better behaved than some of the “adults.” More on that later.
One of the consequences of a show like this is that many children need booster seats to see over the heads of adults in front of them. This was not so much as issue for most of the small kids, but once the “adults” saw what was happening, they too asked for booster cushions. This led to a cascading effect as people in higher rows were confronted with tall adults now even taller and they too asked for cushions. And so on.
Another consequence of such a show is that many audience members have seen the movie, know the story and react viscerally to events. This led to considerable hooting and hollering at various developments in the show. While audience enthusiasm should be encouraged, it can be disconcerting and overshadow what is happening on the stage. It seems more important to these guests to make noise than to hear what is happening next. Be prepared.
Now, for some rules of “adult behavior.” These are based on observed behavior at musicals, shows and even ballet performances at Lincoln Center.
Do not make out with your partner.
Do not lean on your partner, then shift your body far away, then later back, then ….
Do not talk to your partner when the show is underway. Save it for the break or the end.
Absent a genuine physical emergency, do not leave your seat for the restroom or bar while the show is underway. If you do, you should NOT return to the theater until the intermission.
Keep your shoes on and your feet on the floor. Do NOT put your bare feet on the seat.
During intermissions, do not sit in your seat obsessively taking selfies.
Last night, the young woman seated next to my wife did this during the break, taking photo after photo as she adjusted her hair, changed the tilt of her head, made “sexy” shapes of her mouth and so on. It was distracting and obnoxious.
Do NOT get out of your seat until the intermission.
Last night there was an unexpected break in the show, when a prop malfunctioned. An announcement was made but no directive to remain seated. Two stage staff struggled to fix the problem. Numerous “adults” now decided to go to the restroom or to the bar, then returned after the show started, struggling to return to their seats in the dark. The theater personnel should have prevented this, but regardless, act like an adult and have some respect for the other guests and for the performers.
Do NOT treat the theater as if you’re at a baseball game. This is not the venue for rustling plastic wrappers, sharing candy and nuts and slurping drinks.
The seats in many older theaters are quite narrow and there is little room between rows. Either check your coats or keep your coat and other belongings within the area of your seat.
DO NOT KEEP YOUR CELLPHONE ON DURING THE PERFORMANCE. DO NOT SNEAK PHOTOS OR RECORDINGS. DO NOT TEXT, EMAIL OR TALK. JUST DON’T.