Living in NYC, from a Californian’s Perspective

Next week will be my five-month mark of living in New York City, and although I’ve already been here this long, there are some things I just still can’t get used to:

  • This city is obsessed with plastic bags.  Coming from Los Angeles, where plastic shopping bags have been outlawed, it is still a strange feeling for me to be offered plastic bags.  The phrase “paper or plastic” has been removed from my vocabulary.  The weirdest part, though, is when I go to buy something small like a soda.  I still get asked if I want a bag to carry my 20 oz bottle of soda!  It’s also weird when you get food delivered, and your food comes in a bag that is inside of another bag.
  • The trusty Trader Joes Wine Shop on 14th Street.

    You can’t buy liquor or wine at a grocery store.  As I’ve learned, this is very common in New England and along the East Coast.  If you ask any native Californian where is the best place to buy a bottle of Chardonnay or a handle of vodka, they will send you to the grocery store, most likely Pavilions or Ralphs.  Fortunately, Trader Joes, which serves as a mecca of cheap wine in California, has their very own wine shop in Manhattan.  Just imagine walking into a store that looks like Trader Joes, has all the cute chalk drawings and Hawaiian-themed decore, but the shelves are stocked from wall to wall with wine, wine, and more wine.  The best part is that two doors down, there is a real life, honest to goodness Trader Joes.

  • Times Square really is hell on Earth.  Most people think of the cute and bustling
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    The 2009 Broadway production of Guys and Dolls.

    depictions from Guys and Dolls or the Rhapsody in Blue segment in Fantasia 2000: a diverse group of people dressed in a coordinated color scheme, moving in a well-choreographed hurry.  This is not the case.  Trying to walk down 7th Avenue is like trying to drive on the 405 Freeway during rush hour traffic–except worse because you have to contend with people hawking bus tours and tickets to Broadway shows, being groped by a man in an Elmo costume, and lost tourists who just stop walking.  I usually end up making a detour around Times Square if I have to get anywhere in midtown, just to cut that stress out of my life.

Despite all of these strange occurrences, there is so much I love about New York City.  I love the subway system (as long as it doesn’t suddenly stop running from Manhattan to Queens, where I live, as it is sometimes prone to do).  I always tell people that there is something for everyone in New York.  It’s like that line from the musical Company, “If you don’t like it there, they got every subway you can name to take ya where ya like it better.”

A Little Update

Hi all,

It’s been a busy week.  On Monday, I began rehearsals for the play I am working on.  There isn’t so much for me to do, but it is great just to be a part of a professional production in New York City.  The cast is really inspirational, and I think I have made some great friends in the stage management crew.

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Chili and a burrito in a jar. Photo by Jaymie Bellous.

On Tuesday, I had a day off from rehearsal, so I cooked up some lunches and dinners to last me through my busy upcoming week.  I learned from this article how to pack salads and other meals into mason jars, where they can be preserved for several days.  It’s a great way to save money too because you buy a bag of groceries and use up every last morsel of food in a meal, rather than letting that leftover half of a carrot waste away in your fridge.  My meals included a Super Food Burrito in a Jar, Sweet Potato Chili with Kale, and a vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie based on this recipe and this recipe.

After that, I saw the Broadway revival of Pippin starring Patina Miller.  An overall really great production with some spectacular circus feats.  Rachel Bay Jones completely stole the show as Catherine, the quirky and spastic ingenue in the second act.  Her performance reminded me of a comedy legend like Carol Burnett or Amy Poehler.  While many of the Broadway regulars in the cast dazzled with splashy circus tricks, Jones is the lone member of the cast that does not partake in the illusions and gymnastics.  Her comedic prowess cuts through the flashy effects, leaving a lasting impression.

And finishing off my week of theatre-going, I saw the new play Stage Kiss at playwrights horizons last night.  But that is worthy of it’s own post–coming soon!

Kinky Boots

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The complimentary pin for winners. Photo by Jaymie Bellous.

I really don’t want to jinx it, but I tend to have great luck with winning lottery tickets to Broadway shows but not with getting rush tickets.  As of now, I am three-for-three.  Last year, I won lottery tickets to Newsies; this past fall, I won one seat to Matilda; and today, I won the lottery for Kinky Boots.

This 2013 winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical (among many others) was based on the 2005 film of the same name.  Following the plot of the film closely, Kinky Boots tells the story of Charlie, a young man who inherits a struggling shoe factory from his father.  The factory produces sensible men’s loafer shoes, and as Charlie soon learns, the factory produces the shoes even when there are no buyers.  One day after visiting his fiancée in London, Charlie attempts to help a woman, who is being harassed by a couple of hoodlums.  Charlie underestimates her self-defense abilities and ends up accidentally getting knocked out when he tries to help.

Cut to a vibrant bar, where Lola is the starring act in a drag show.  When she steps off stage, she greets Charlie, whom she brought back to the bar to rest.  Charlie, the shoe connoisseur, notices the broken heel on one of Lola’s boots and begins to hatch a brilliant plan.  The drag queens at the bar perform in women’s boots that could not possibly hold up the weight of a man’s body.  Why not create a heel designed to support the body of a drag queen?  In an endeavor to save his father’s factory, Charlie switches from making plain, leather shoes to extravagant and colorful stiletto boots that will stomp down the runways of Milan.

Billy Porter as Lola with the cast of Kinky Boots. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Kinky Boots takes the audience on a roller coaster of emotions, from the exuberant joy over the prototypes of their new kinky boots to the painful apologies that come after accepting those we’ve judged.  You see, on the surface, Kinky Boots has the parts that make up your typical Broadway musical: flashy and ornate costumes, music that makes you want to dance in the aisles, and well-known source material. 

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The marquee of the Al Hirschfield Theatre. Photo by Jaymie Bellous

  Yet behind all of the sequins and eye shadow, the strongest scenes in Kinky Boots are the ones that tug hard on the heartstrings.  Tony Award-winner Billy Porter, who stars as Lola, ignites these moving scenes with unabashed honesty and vulnerability.  Those tears won’t last for long, though, with Porter on stage.  In the next moment, the audience will no doubt erupt with laughter from a Lola one-liner.

Jerry Mitchell’s direction and choreography were innovative and fanciful, featuring the actors performing acrobatic tricks on tread mills in the first act’s finale.  Harvey Fierstein’s riveting kept this viewer at the edge of his seat, and Fierstein’s script provides the actors with the right material to make their performances honest and grounded.  Kinky Boots features a rocking score by Cyndi Lauper with standouts like the seductive tango number “What A Woman Wants” and the inspiring finale that had the audience clapping along, “Raise You Up/Just Be.”