Monday, August 8, 2011

The Great Mobile Manhattan Slumber Party (Part 1)

NYC  (July 30th- August 3rd)

The minute I stepped into the Megabus line at Boston’s South Station, I had one of those moments…

You know, when your former life begins to bleed into the path of your travels before you even reach your destination? When you’re standing in a line, about to board a bus, and the guy in front of you turns around—and—
                        --oh, shit—
                                 it’s that guy you had the most ill-fated third date with
                                 in your life...?

And in that moment of recognition, as your eyes connect-- every bad NYC date you ever went on comes at you like a specter or a disturbed friend. In some park of your former selves, your 23-year-old NYC (pre-Iowa) existence sits naively on the swing right next to it. 

Our first date had been so promising. We went on a No Pants subway date:

I only have photographic evidence because a photographer from Caja4 was like “here, hold this sign.” (according to google Caja4 is either an anti-aging blog or a Spanish radio channel).
We were two of 1,200 pantied participants at Improv Everywhere’s 2009 No Pants Subway ride—who casually removed our pants and rode the subway all the way to a giant no-pants party in Union Square.  

At the time, I was a regular Improv Everywhere agent:
With my friend Chris Becker  in 2009.  Two of 2000  invisible dog walkers around Brooklyn Heights.
But of my rogues gallery of bad NYC dates, the one that followed our wonderful No Pants Subway date is at the top. Buy me a drink and I may pour my heart out. Let’s just say it ended on no-texting terms and several bad comic sketches.

Now on the Megabus, he sat on the top and I sat on the bottom.

By the time, we’d traveled from the uppermost part of Manhattan, and into the heart of  the big apple…
(Compliments of google images)

Obligatory Times Square shot.
I was ready to let go.

The last thing you should ever do when returning to NYC, is reflect on the number of bad dates you’ve had there.

I went straight from the bus to my friend Kacey's daily habitat:

The container store:

Where I switched out of my megabus accoutrements in the restroom  and transformed into:
A new New Yorker.
Kacey finished catering to NYC's OCD and pushing plastic boxes, and together we wandered the city--

Past cool buildings:

and irreverent bars:

After a brief respite at a secret park in Manhattan (217 E 51st street)-- featuring a waterfall...

( no photographs allowed)
we made our way  to the Upper West Side.

Ever ask yourself--
What if a free flowin' psychadelic performance scene with live-in musicians, artists and poets occupied a massive rent-controlled luxury apartment on the Upper West Side?

They do!

Kacey introduced me to them that evening through their weekly potluck / experimental musician showcase “papacookie” (titled in honor of original residents, musician Jonathan’s grandfather, "papa" and grandmother, "cookie"). 

Their kitchen alone captures the spirit of the apartment:

(note amongst other things, the music stand)
Their collection of cookbooks includes Kafka’s long lost masterpiece:

(Microwave Gourmet Healthstyle Cookbook)
Jonathan, an accordion player, pianist and composer, refers to their household as a “perversion of luxury.”

Their gilded front gates.
At "papacookie," beneath the  peeling ceiling (paint scraps dangling), surrounded by candelabras and massive panoramic windows, I listened to:

A cello played by a drumstick, snare drums by a cello bow...

An electric guitar poet.

A trumpet and piano duo. (That evening, playing the trumpet into the carpet was a popular choice.)

And 15 minutes of synchronized balloon playing (by the experimental group Hag). Their commitment to the balloon-playing alone, made it  more than hot air and noise.

Later over a Sixpoint beer, Hag's trumpeteer, Brad, explained to me how his group learns the language of each others' sounds and improvisationally make phrases.  How it's more than playing, they “get inside each other’s music.”

At papacookie, the best seat is the windowsill:

Kacey Stamats-
(photo by papacookie resident photographer, Richard Daniel Bergeron)
The sound of the city is more an addition to the music, than an interruption.  

And the residents were more than welcoming. That night, I ended up crashing on their living room floor on a set of couch cushions. Richard, photographer of the above image, made me breakfast the next day.

My trip to NYC was clearly not your typical NYC tourist fare:

(Though I can tell you the most affordable view of the Statue of Liberty is a free ferry ride on the Staten Island ferry.)
During my time in NYC:

*I revisited the best of my internships:

New Dramatists:
New Dramatist's flag: "Dedicated to the Playwright." Located at 424 W 44th street- a library of their current resident and alumni's  plays  is open to the public M-F, 10 am- 6 pm.
I rode a highly acclaimed dilapidated  elevator (mentioned in a NY Time's theater review) and met up with my former intern mentor (from my days at Rattlestick Playwright Theater), Lou Moreno. He's now the Artistic Director at Intar, a 45 year old theater company committed to works by latino writers.
Lou gave me a tour of their new equity approved theater space—built this year by the company's own hands, in defiance of a drop in funding.  

*I ate A LOT of Thai food. Iowa City only has two Thai restaurants (neither compare to NYC's). My new favorite discovery: Cafétasia in Greenwich Village. They not only have delicious pad thai—their $10 lunch special includes an appetizer, entrée and drink.

My leftovers:

*I attended a puppet party in the Magical Garden (a community garden on the Lower East Side). 
Gretchen Van Lente and her puppet doppleganger. 
This was part of a free Punch Puppet Slam through Drama of Works.

 Take that, puppet!

The puppets sang more than Sesame Street songs, they sang what might as well be the mantra of my trip: “I don’t know what I’m looking for, but I’m looking and finding more.”   And I thought: "that’s right, profound puppet wolf. Sing it!"

*I entered the trenches (okay, a bar), and battled towards gender parity in the theater through attending a Women in Theater Cocktail party (an upbeat networking event).

*And I helped celebrate my director friend Gavin's birthday party at the Astoria Beer Garden.

Gavin of St. Fortune’s Theater Company delivering a State of the Union address on his life.
 The next day, guided by a physical theater specialist, I got in touch with my liver and endocrine glands during a a multi-modal training session through Sanctuary Playwrights Theater’s innovative NextStage program. 

In the Theaterlab space we used for Tuesday night’s training,  channeling my pancreas.  
The following evening, I took Artistic Director Bob Jude Ferrante up on his challenge-- to begin developing a new play for Sanctuary by running my own workshop with several members of the NextStage acting company.

And I wrote:

*At my friend artist Chris Becker’s West Village apartment, attended by my temporary livingroomate, Theo.

Surrounded by Chris Becker's meticulously hand-drawn artwork. (See more here.)
*With my friend, non-fiction writer, Emily Herzlin on her Upper West Side rooftop.
Emily is working on a memoir about her love of Synge and her travels to the Aran Islands. (her travel blog:
*And in spacious public spaces. My favorite: The David Rubenstein Atrium at Lincoln Center:

But despite spats of productivity, there were plenty of times that I stopped and smelled the flowers:

(Or in my uncoordinated case, fell in them.)

STAY TUNED FOR: NYC Part II (falling in flowers)

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