June 29, 2011

Come Along on My Trip to New York City This Past Historic Weekend

Last week we took a walk through my neighborhood's streets and woods. This week, join me on my visit to NYC this past historic, emotion-filled weekend.

I'd been reading about the exceptionally good season the Broadway theaters are having, and it reminded me that I haven't visited New York City in a long time. So, early last week I decided to go up for the weekend and see a few shows. I made an Amtrak reservation to head north on Friday afternoon and return Tuesday. I booked into the Hilton that's near the theater district and bought tickets to a couple of well reviewed shows, all without giving it a lot of thought.

My life in DC has been unusually filled with people and activities lately. Even though I have a couple good friends in New York, I decided to make this a solo, recharge-the-batteries weekend. (Sorry to miss you, Jim and Bonnie.)

Then, as has happened so often in my life, serendipity struck. Friday night the Republican-controlled NY Senate surprisingly passed the state's Gay Marriage law and Governor Cuomo signed it. As fate would have it, this legislative landmark coincided with NYC's Gay Pride weekend. And, in another coincidence, the plays I'd signed up for had a particular relevance to my life.

I want to comment on some of this later. For now, please check out these photo highlights of my weekend adventure in the Big Apple:

Here's the show I booked for Friday night:
In case you can't make out the show's name, it's The Mother F....r with the Hat, which won the Tony for best drama. I hadn't remembered from reading the reviews months ago that the plot involves a group of alcoholics, some in various stages of recovery, others not. I'll do a separate post later on this alcoholic's reflections on the issues raised by the play.

I hadn't been to NYC since the city opened much of Times Square to pedestrians. It's now crazier than ever:

But then I'm also crazier than ever:

Saturday, I spent a good chunk of the day on a walk that started at Union Square, which hosts a farmers market every Saturday. I continued on to Washington Square, where I lunched on things I'd picked up at the farmers market.

Then, on to Greenwich Village. Near midnight on Friday, Governor Cuomo signed the Gay Marriage law and the wild celebration in the Village of course centered around the Stonewall Inn, the gay bar where the Stonewall Riots began after a police raid in 1969. Those riots are typically viewed as the single most important event leading to the gay liberation movement and the struggle for gay and lesbian rights.

But by Saturday afternoon, all was quiet at Stonewall:

Little did I know when I bought the ticket that the play I selected for Saturday night -- the revival of The Normal Heart, Larry Kramer's play about the onset of the AIDS plague -- has a direct cause-and-effect link with the passage of the gay marriage legislation. More about that connection in a future post.

The next morning, after breakfast at the hotel it was "Sunday in the Park with John." A glorious day, a shady bench, the New York Times.... yes!

Central Park is an invaluable jewel.

Then it was time for the parade. NYC's Gay Pride parade is always held on the last Sunday in June. Friday night's passage of the Gay Marriage Law gave added special zest to this year's event. Serendipity again. The spot I picked to watch the parade turned out to be the site of the reviewing stand, and I got a good place right next to it.

Leading the parade -- a long-standing tradition -- were "Dykes on Bikes":

But they were soon followed by a huge contingent of people waving signs celebrating the Gay Marriage victory and thanking Governor Cuomo for his key role in its passage.

The group was led by Governor Cuomo, NYC Mayor Bloomberg, and some of the Republican senators who broke party ranks to support the legislation. Unfortunately, I got swept up in the celebratory cheers and forgot to take a photo of the politicians.

Fortunately, I'd brought along a back-up battery for my camera and ended up draining both batteries in shooting photos. Here are just a few:

And here's yours truly, appropriately positioned in front of the contingent from Sage, a group that provides services for GLBT seniors:

I left the parade after the 3pm minute-of-silence to remember all those who died of AIDS. The drag queens, who were the masters (?) of ceremonies, said they expected the parade to end sometime Monday morning.

On the way back to the hotel for my needed nap, I stopped off at the Times Square TKTS booth to see about a half-priced ticket for that night. I picked a winner:


I'd seen the original 1995 production of Terrence McNally's Master Class with Zoe Caldwell portraying Maria Callas as the retired diva conducting a "master class" for aspiring opera singers. Somehow I'd missed the show's revival last year at the Kennedy Center with Tyne Daly as Callas. (Daly does revivals well. She got a Tony Award for her portrayal of Mama Rose in a revival of Gypsy.) She was terrific as were the other singer/actors.

After Sunday's events, Monday naturally was much more low key. I spent several hours at MOMA (the Museum of Modern Art), one of my favorite art galleries (although I actually prefer DC's Phillips Gallery for its ambiance and modern art).

 Then a stroll down 5th Avenue to revisit St. Patrick's Cathedral and Rockefeller Center and do a little window (or doorway) shopping:

Back to TKTS to pick out a show for my last night in DC. Since I'd seen three Broadway dramas, I decided to get a ticket for an off-Broadway political-satire musical -- The Nusical Musical. It was OK (barely).

Tuesday morning before catching my 2pm train back to DC, I went for another walk in Central Park. As a sort of bookend for this photo journey, here's a picture I took Friday night of one of the many performers in Times Square:

And I came across him again on my Tuesday morning walk in the park. Another coincidence, seeing the same guy in NYC twice in four days.

A terrific trip. I love getting a NYC high but three or four days is enough. It's good to be home.
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