Recently while walking down Broadway I almost met my doom. If you live in this town long enough, the occasional near death experience is par for the course and seldom noteworthy. You might think to yourself, “Whoa! Close one,” and then wonder about lunch. But this happened to be a good one. It was morning and I was walking south on Broadway headed toward Spring Street. Doing the commutation shuffle: looking down, coffee in hand, up in my head and navigating on autopilot. I was vaguely aware of being in parallel lock-step with a woman walking next to me. We must have paced this way absently for about a block, tunneling under the ubiquitous scaffolds, when suddenly and without warning something massive passed centimeters in front of our noses at warp speed. It landed on the pavement with enough raw force that the resulting shockwave blew a Learning Annex kiosk over. Looking down, a 150 pound bag of dry concrete lay at our feet. Quikrete, actually. I turned to the random woman standing next to me and her face was probably a reflection of my own. Yikes. We didn’t swear or gasp or yell; perhaps the realization that if we were one half-step faster we’d have been flattened to the sidewalk was enough. After who knows how long standing there, we engaged in peculiar small talk. “That could have killed us,” she said. “I know,” I said.I became aware of another pedestrian screaming, and I realized a random guy who saw us almost get squashed was now loudly raging against the workers high up on the scaffolding above. “You ought to be sued! You almost killed those two people! I ought to call the police!” and so on. It was nice he cared, but it added a layer of intensity that was hard on the nerves. “I’m going to go,” said the woman. I agreed, and we both started walking again. We developed a block-long friendship, the kind I think unique to big cities. We talked about how weird it would have been to go out in that fashion. And it’s true, most of us probably don’t imagine meeting our Maker at the hands of a sloppily tossed bag of cement from the sky while ambling down Broadway. Anyway, our gallows camaraderie was short lived. At the corner of Broome, I turned to cross the street to work and bid her farewell. In return she said, “Be careful.” Which is certainly good advice.
Well, folks, the post-Thanksgiving holiday spirit madness is somehow already in fourth gear. If you happen to work in Manhattan, you are no doubt keenly aware of this as the streets are already completely clogged with frenzied shoppers. My office is on Broadway in Soho, which is second only to Rockefeller Center and Herald Square in terms of being Mayhem Central. Walking to work this time of year is a contact sport.Now I have a confession to make. The past few years, I have struggled to combat an inner-Grinchiness that surfaces in December. The causes of it aren’t unique, so I’ll spare you the psychoanalysis. My loving wife has worked hard to try and turn this Yule-moodiness around by making our apartment a happy, festive environment and, in spite of myself, it’s working. One of her latest favorite decorating sources is this online home & garden store, Terrain, and I know this because there are large boxes with their logo on it arriving at my apartment every day. I have to admit that if you’re going to do some holiday-specific shopping for your home, they have really great stuff. Natural decorations made from plants and organic materials and vaguely rustic, homespun kinds of decor. Much more creative and less lame than the usual cheesy gilded holiday fare. Makes it harder to be a crank when everything is so well put together.The other thing that’s fading my seasonal malaise is watching the wonderment in my two-year-old’s eyes as she experiences some of these things for the first time. It’s a cliché, but through her these things no longer seem contrived. That said, I’m not completely cured: check back with me after I attempt to wrangle a Fraser fir into my living room.
We used to go see Broadway shows with some regularity. Access to amazing theater is one of the great things about living here, but we really fell out of the habit after we had the kid. I thought about getting tickets to see Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Death of a Salesman last year, but I was asleep at the wheel and that show came and went and I lamented not having seen it. So when I saw they were reviving Mamet’s classic Glengarry Glen Ross with Al Pacino in October, I was determined not to miss it. Especially since Pacino won’t be reprising his original role as Ricky Roma, the young hotshot sales agent. This time he’ll be poor Shelley Levene, the washed-up and desperate salesman who’s past his prime. Great casting move, right?I just called American Express to see if they would hook it up for me and tickets to an evening performance are $305 a seat. That’s close to $640 for a couple after fees and everything, and that’s “preview pricing.” And that’s not for front row or anything, just middle of the house orchestra. Really?!? Am I the only one who is not OK with this? I love this play to death, but screw them on principle. Besides a corporate sponsor, who can possibly feel good or justified or pleased when shelling out that kind of dough for a friggin’ show? Whether it’s a ballgame, a play, a concert, whatever — when real fans can no longer justify the exorbitant costs of participation, there’s something grievously wrong with the system. So I’d like to call “BULLSHIT” on all of Broadway for a situation that’s totally out of hand. I guess I’ll always have the film adaptation, which is also a classic (and does not cost $640 to enjoy.)
Rant over! What do YOU think?