Back to Work
I've largely been AWOL from this blog for months now, finding myself with little energy to write about politics at a time when we held the levers of power (on paper at least), and managed to still lose the war. It was and will be far easier I suspect to write once the right wing returns to power, with pledges to undo supposed massive corruption within the Obama administration and a promise to break apart the health care reform bill piece by piece. Even the Obama White House should be able to figure out how to beat back these efforts, at least out of self-preservation.
I decided to ease back into writing a little by penning something off topic: our first family vacation in over two years, since my father passed away in December 2008. In the two years since my dad's passing, a lot has happened in my life, and what was meaningful to me back in 2006-2008 hasn't been as meaningful in the two years since. When I was a senior manager for the State of California for over ten years, I willingly worked 55-70 hours a week without devoting enough time to family and friends, out of some sense of public service to a populace in California that loathes public employees. I was fortunate enough to have an opportunity to leave public service to go to work for a great company in the health care industry in the fall of 2009, but the first thing you encounter in moving from the public to the private sector is the sharp reduction in paid holidays and available time off. Thus, my first real opportunity since my dad's passing to get away with my family came just before Christmas through New Year's.
Since our daughter is an outstanding theater actress, especially in musical comedy, we've had a lot of fun visiting NYC every 2-3 years since 2001 to check out the latest Broadway shows. Because of events in our family, we hadn't been to Broadway since 2006 and the timing seemed right to go back again and rekindle our joy with live theater in NYC. Here are some general observations that might be of interest:
Shows to See - We usually go way overboard when we visit Manhattan on these trips, filling up our time with both evening and matinee shows when they are available. We tell ourselves every trip that we'll carve out more time for museums and other activities on the next trip, and then we never do. As for this trip, although we saw a dozen shows (our daughter saw more), I can heartily recommend amongst many The Merchant of Venice with Al Pacino, Time Stands Still with Laura Linney and a great cast, Next to Normal, Driving Miss Daisy with James Earl Jones and Vanessa Redgrave, and A Little Night Music with Bernadette Peters and Elaine Stritch. I passed on Billy Elliot, which was a mistake according to the rest of the family who absolutely loved the show. This is just a partial list, and some of these shows are closing this month because of commitments and the bad economy, but there are a number of good shows on Broadway and Off-Broadway at this time for all tastes that we still were not able to see, including Lombardi with Dan Lauria. When you have a chance to see some of these stars up close in the intimacy of a Broadway production, and when you're not sure if you'll get that chance again given the sands of time, you have to grab it. I can say that being 20-50 feet away from Pacino doing Shylock, and Jones and Redgrave doing Miss Daisy, and Laura Linney and that great cast in Time Stands Still is pretty thrilling, even for a jaded post-50 political cynic like me. Yes, some of the Broadway theaters are way uncomfortable in their seating and too warm (hello Broadhurst). But these opportunities don't come around too often either. Lastly, Spiderman was an empty vessel.
Restaurants - We try and go local when we visit NYC, and make an effort to stay away from the chain restaurants that are on Broadway or 7th Avenue (Olive Garden and TGIF). From this trip, I can recommend Cibo (see if Bist is manning the house or if Arturo is serving that day), Vice Versa, the SW 44 Ristorante, Angus McIndoe's, and the surprising Vintage Bar and Restaurant. Some of these are pricey, but some also are less expensive than you might think. If you want to grab a bite between shows and stay close to the theaters, there are a great many neighborhood restaurants in the area west of Broadway bounded by 8th and 9th Avenues that are only several blocks from the theaters, which is critical when the weather is challenging.
The Stars and the Little People - Yes, Al Pacino did come out and sign autographs, and Bernadette Peters, Laura Linney, David Hyde Pierce (La Bete), and Kelsey Grammer (La Cage) came out in very cold weather to sign and pose for pictures with fans. The casts from La Bete, Time Stands Still, and Next to Normal were especially gracious given the weather. You'll find that most of these folks up close are simply delightful, regardless of their previous success. Stars like Broadway because they get a chance for an immediate connection with the audience.
Our trip was great overall, until Delta Airlines destroyed our return home by having an equipment problem, and then seeming particularly unconcerned that their problem meant we'd miss our connecting flight through Atlanta, causing us to spend New Year's Eve in Atlanta instead of at home. I say this as a Delta Sky Miles member; we found ourselves treated as second class citizens even though we were part of their frequent flyer program. My general advice is that if using Delta, avoid having to rely upon any connection out of Atlanta and fly direct when possible. The whole experience with Delta made me appreciate Southwest even more.
Depending on your tastes, some of this may have bored you, and if it did, you have my apologies. I'm hoping that this may have interested some of you, and if you have stories to share and questions, please jump in. Regardless, let's hope there's plenty for us to talk about in 2011 with a hopefully aggressive White House.