Working On My Startup

I have been working on my startup idea. I have been making excellent progress. First I converted some code for mashing up RSS feeds into an ASP.NET HTTP Handler so it acts more as a proxy service and a web service. The original code only saved combined and  filtered feeds to a file. Today I created a more generic ASP.NET HTTP Handler which can convert XML data formats into JSON data formats and vice versa.

The domain name I want is available. I have to do some research on the most affordable Windows dedicated hosting. I will probably need a dedicated server to add a response header to Internet Information Services. One of the key aspects of my service is that it will offer a solution to the Cross-Origin Resource Sharing problem that you run into when trying to use an external API. I have ordered a book on Cross-Origin Resource Sharing to make sure that I fully understand this technology.

I still have to work on the user management aspect of this project. Prospective clients need to be able to sign up for the service and obtain an access key. They will need a simple control panel to see their access counts and to block IP addresses. This kind of basic database management system is my specialty but to make things more interesting I will use the built-in Personalization database offered by ASP.NET.

Part of the reason I am doing this project is to learn how to create the necessary infrastructure to offer a web service. This could prove useful for future projects. I might also be able to offer my web developer services to clients who need a lot of help with their Cross-Origin Resource Sharing problems. In the past, I have seen how even a crummy little side project can lead you to a major client. So there are lots of ways this project could benefit me even if my startup never succeeds.

Posted in ASP.NET, General, Programming | Leave a comment

Planning A Startup

My freelance web development work has pretty much dried up. I am currently selling stuff on eBay to reduce the clutter in my house and make a little extra money. You can check out the stuff I’m selling at http://www.ebay.com/sch/rrobbins/m.html?_nkw=&_armrs=1 So far I have only sold four items.

So I have decided to create my own startup. I have found the perfect opportunity. Yahoo! Pipes has discontinued their very useful service. I only discovered this when I investigated why my AJAX demo pages were not working. Yahoo! did not bother to inform their users when they discontinued their service so I didn’t have a chance to save my pipes. Fortunately I was able to get all of my AJAX examples working again except for the RSS feed one.

I have tried various replacements for Yahoo! Pipes but none of them did exactly what I need or they are too expensive. This gave me the idea to create my own alternative to Yahoo! Pipes. And since I’m not supplementing my income I figured I might as well offer this as a service.

This is an excellent idea for a startup because it is well within my technical expertise. One of the big problems with some startups is that they tackle problems which they don’t know how to solve or they underestimate the technical requirements. Fortunately, I am quite familiar with web services and the technical problems which Yahoo! Pipes helped to solve. I don’t plan to be too ambitious with this startup. I will only offer this service to programmers and other technical users. I won’t have the slick consumer interface that Yahoo! Pipes had.  I will also only promote this service well enough to give me enough customers to supplement my income. Too many customers could create a serious customer support problem. It could also create increased costs for the bandwidth.

Like any technical problem, creating this startup service should be approached step by step. My first step will be to create something to fix my own AJAX example for consuming a RSS feed using client side JavaScript. The next step will be to generate unique access keys for users. Then I need to limit the access rates. A database will be needed to handle all that. Then I’ll probably need a way to block IP addresses to handle abuse of the service. Finally I will need a dedicated web server to host my service. I will  probably name my startup WWD Pipes.

I’m confident that my startup will be mildly successful because it is not too ambitious. It fulfills a real need and the general concept is relatively simple to implement.

Posted in Business, General, Programming | Leave a comment

Working On The Web Site

I have not written about my freelance work in a long time. Business has really dried up. I am down to just one client who is not giving me much work. While things are slow I have been working on my web site. I deleted lots of old web pages and some folders which were no longer needed. This makes the web site less cluttered.

I also discovered that Yahoo! Pipes has been shut down. This broke most of my AJAX examples. I am currently working on fixing all the AJAX examples. I had to install a PHP script on my server to act as a simple proxy to solve the Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) issue.

I made some improvements to the YouTube Favorites Backup page. This page now sends me emails when it encounters an error. I was getting thousands of emails which indicates that this web page is really popular. I added some code to ensure users enter a valid playlist URL and I improved the error messages. I still have to work on the YouTube Subscriptions Backup page because the Google API changed and now it is much more difficult to get that information.

I am currently upgrading a complex Drupal 6 web site to Drupal 7. Drupal 6 has reached its end of life and security updates will no longer be released for that version. This has probably created a lot of work upgrading Drupal sites and I intend to cash in on that as soon as I have enough expertise.

Posted in General, JavaScript, Programming, Web | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Philadelphia Bus Trip

Today I went on a bus trip to Philadelphia with Sherry Ault Tours. Ordinarily I have to drive myself to Philadelphia since it is not a popular destination, but the Philadelphia Flower Show is one of the few exceptions for bus tours. However, I did not go to the flower show. I spent the day on my own.

I spent almost a month preparing for this trip. Although I thought I had researched Philadelphia very thoroughly, I still discovered several more significant things about the city. Even though I have explored the fringe theater scene, I was surprised to discover an underground arts scene in the Callowhill neighborhood. In that neighborhood you can find the Underground Arts concert venue and performance space for some really wacky underground art and music, the Vox Populi gallery which also has a performance space, The Trestle Inn dive bar with go go dancers, and PhilaMOCA: Philadelphia Mausoleum of Contemporary Art an art space that supports independent films. That is an impressive number of performance spaces to which you would have to add the Painted Bride Art Center which has existed for years. This makes me wonder why the Philadelphia underground art scenes is so very extensive. It may be because all the creatives and bohemians are being priced out of New York City. This might explain how the FringeArts became a permanent institution.

I also came across a WeWork office space in the Northern Liberties neighborhood which may be the home of many startups and tech companies. I’m very interested in the Philadelphia tech scene since this offers the best path for me to move to the big city. And finally, I learned that the Chestnut Hill area might make for a good weekend getaway just like my trip to the Manayunk neighborhood. Chestnut Hill seems to have enough shopping and good restaurants to justify a special trip to explore this Philadelphia neighborhood which is far from Center City.

But I didn’t visit any far flung neighborhoods on this trip since I had to stick around Center City. My main objective was to check out a new Philadelphia attraction, the One Liberty Observation Deck. I bought a ticket online for 12:00 p.m. Noon. But since the bus arrived at the Philadelphia Convention Center at 10:00 a.m. I spent two hours walking around the downtown area to take photos for my custom travel guide. First I located St. Stephen’s Church which is the home of the Lantern Theater Company. Then I located the Time restaurant on Sansom Street because it hosts a few readings and other literary events. I have begun to investigate Philadelphia’s literary scene.

After that I continued along Sansom Street and came across Philadelphia’s French Quarter. At least, I saw a street sign indicating the French Quarter. However, the only French establishment on this street was the Sofitel Hotel, which hardly makes for much of a “French Quarter”! I walked very far west on Sansom Street to locate the Long In The Tooth record store which is right across from the InterAct Theater Company. I overlooked this place on my last trip to Philadelphia even though I walked right pass it. My final photo quest was the Drake Hotel because the InterAct Theater Company will be moving to this location. I found the entrance to the Proscenium Theatre at The Drake. The InterAct Theater Company interests me because they run PlayPenn, the most significant organization in Pennsylvania devoted to new play development and playwright training.

I was surprised that it took me two hours to walk several blocks to take all these photos, but in fact I had to hustle to make it to the One Liberty skyscraper in time for my timed ticket. It was annoyingly difficult to find my way to the One Liberty Observation Deck within the Shops At Liberty Place. Basically the entrance is on the second floor and there are signs but it seemed ridiculously confusing to find the entrance to the observation deck. The elevator to the observation deck played a video to keep you entertained during the short ride in the elevator, just like the Top Of The Rock in New York City. But I have to admit that the view was really awesome. You get a great view of Philadelphia’s major skyscrapers like the Comcast Center, BNY Mellon Center, and the Liberty Two Office Tower. I also saw the progress on the Comcast Innovation and Technology Center skyscraper which is still being built. There were great views in all four directions. This was particularly fascinating for me because I have been studying the geography of the city. Seeing the city from above really clarifies the location of many buildings. I took lots of photos which I will pour over later.

One Liberty Observation Deck

One Liberty Observation Deck

Having accomplished my mission, I proceeded to do some shopping. First I went back to the Long In The Tooth record store and bought a CD, Protection by the band Massive Attack. I don’t know if I will like this album. I picked it almost at random. I only listen to music on my smartphone. I have virtually my entire CD collection copied to my smartphone and that keeps me entertained on long bus trips.  Next I went to Barnes & Noble on Rittenhouse Square where I spent a lot of time deciding on a book to buy on the Theater shelf. I finally settled for Mr. Burns by Anne Washburn since that was on my wish list. And finally I went to f.y.e. on Broad Street to buy a DVD. They had a foreign film section. I headed straight for that since foreign film DVDs are not offered at the f.y.e. store in our Lycoming Mall. I bought a Japanese movie, Zebraman by Takashi Miike which looks like it would be strange enough to suit my tastes. Although the price sticker was for $24.95, the DVD rang up for only $2.97 so I got this DVD at a bargain price. Sweet! This was a brand new shrink wrapped DVD, not an used disc.

One Liberty Observation Deck View

One Liberty Observation Deck View

After all that shopping I was getting pretty hungry so I went to the Reading Terminal Market for lunch. Unfortunately, the Reading Terminal Market was packed. It was like a madhouse in there! I didn’t see any place where I could sit down to eat. Every table at every restaurant was taken and you could hardly walk through the aisles due to the crush of people. So I left the Reading Terminal Market and had lunch at Kabuki Sushi which is only a block away. I ordered the Kabuki Roll and coffee bubble tea. I only had chopsticks for eating the sushi but I used my old trick of not separating my sticks and used them like wooden pliers. This was the first time I tried bubble tea, which contains tapioca balls. I ate my sushi in only fifteen minutes. I was out of there in no time.

My final goal on this trip was to try the Philadelphia subway system. Philadelphia’s subway system only has two lines. I used the Market-Frankford Line to get to Old City without walking. Unfortunately, this proved to be a very nerve wracking experience which I’m not likely to repeat. First I had to walk all the way to the Dilworth Park transportation entrance to get to an east bound platform for the Market-Frankford Line. I found several new fare vending machines but none of them were working yet. I had to pay the exact fare to the man in the ticket booth, $2.25, since he could not sell tokens or give change. Then I had a very difficult time finding the east bound platform for the Market-Frankford Line. The signage was not very helpful. The Philadelphia subway appears to be quite dilapidated and full of very hostile homeless people. It did not seem like a safe place to be. Overall, the experience was frustrating and very ghetto. Eventually I walked back to the Philadelphia Convention Center rather than repeat that experience.

Linode

Linode

I did not spend much time in Old City because I’ve explored that area thoroughly on previous trips. I did locate the Corn Exchange Bank building which is now occupied by a technology company, Linode. I was pleased to find huge banners on the building proudly proclaiming the company’s presence. This makes for great photos for my notes. Linode is a private server provider of Linux servers in the cloud. This is definitely something I might find interesting. The only other thing I wanted to photograph was the historical marker for The Barrymores on Arch Street and Sixth Street. I’ve recently read a biography of the Barrymores, a famous acting family originating from Philadelphia. The Philadelphia theater awards are named The Barrymore Awards so I figured I should know more about them. Unfortunately the Barrymores actually spent very little time in the city after becoming actors / actresses and they were not particularly faithful to their home town. I also managed to pick up a copy of the Spanish language newspaper, Al Dia, because I am learning Spanish. Yes, my interests are too varied. I am only learning Spanish very slowly. But it may come in handy for my trip to Los Angeles which will be my major vacation this year.

I got back to the Philadelphia Convention Center by 3:00 p.m. so I tried the Reading Terminal Market again and managed to snag a seat at Pearl’s Oyster Bar where I had the Lobster Mac and Cheese which was really good. Pearl’s Oyster Bar has become one of my favorites because they have plenty of seats at their long counter and the food is really good.

This trip to Philadelphia was mostly successful. I really expanded my knowledge of the city and got many great photos to use for my custom travel guide. You can find all the photos I took on this trip on my Flickr album. Philadelphia is like the Paris of Pennsylvania. My interest in the city has grown now that I’ve discovered its extensive underground art scene. For example, I discovered that one of the local theater actresses has appeared in various independent films made in Philadelphia so there must be a community of filmmakers in the city.

This year I plan to explore the Wilkes-Barre / Scranton metropolitan region more extensively because my older brother has moved there. I also plan to make an overnight trip to Philadelphia to see a show by the InterAct Theater Company. I also want to explore the Fishtown and Northern Liberties neighborhoods and maybe even spend a weekend in the Chestnut Hill neighborhood.

Posted in Theater, Travel, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shawnee Playhouse Produced My One Act Play “Errant Souls”

I have finally achieved a major goal, an actual production of one of my plays! I wasn’t actually expecting my play to be performed. I was expecting a staged reading. But I guess the staged reading was part of the initial selection process. The winning plays were then given a full production much later. A production is a bigger deal than a staged reading. A staged reading is just actors sitting around a table reading the script, with the script in hand. But for this performance the actors were not holding scripts. They were all off book and the one act plays were given minimal sets and props. And the plays will be performed on the weekends for three whole weeks, which is six performances. A staged reading is usually not repeated.

On the drive out to Shawnee on Delaware I listened to a CD of Murder Ballads by Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. This put me in the right mood because the songs were very dramatic and tragic. I arrived an hour early so I had a meal at Gem and Keystone Brewpub, a restaurant so close to the theater you could walk to it. I ordered a Sausage Sandwich topped with sour red cabbage slaw with a large helping of french fries and a Pepsi. I only mentioned this because it made the trip seem more like a special occasion. The brewpub is part of the upscale summer vacationer establishment in the Poconos. The Shawnee Inn and Golf Resort is the big resort in the area.

Unfortunately I don’t think my play worked at all on stage. It seemed horribly silly and pretentious. I think I used too much elevated language in an attempt to express wonder and this does not work unless it is spoken in utter sincerity. My play was the most ambitious one of the lot and it may have been too ambitious for what is essentially community theater. There were six other one act plays performed during the evening and they were all farces or comedies. I stayed to watch all six plays. I liked The Birthday Room by Rich Strack, and Absolution Green by Paul Kodiak was pretty good and well done. I almost forgot to mention that I was invited on stage by the lead actor in my play to receive a certificate. That was slightly awkward.

The Shawnee Playhouse was actually much nicer than I expected. It is one of the last summer resort theaters which used to be an important training ground for show biz folk. Moss Hart’s autobiography “One Act” describes the sort of amateur theatrical productions that were done by the social directors of summer resorts. The playhouse even had a fireplace which is one of the rustic aspects of a summer resort playhouse.

So what is next for my playwriting career? Today I received a postcard from the Actors Theatre of Louisville notifying me that my ten minute play was received for the 2016 National Ten-Minute Play Contest. This isn’t terribly exciting news since it just means I made it in before the 500 play limit. But the National Ten-Minute Play Contest is a big deal since the play they select will be considered for the Humana Festival of New American Plays and be published in their annual book. I submitted the ten minute version of my play “The Shaman” which is now a longer one act play. Eventually I will make it even longer for submission to the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center’s National Playwrights Conference which is a major opportunity. “The Shaman” is practically a rewrite of “Errant Souls” but with a focus on how the visionary artist is like a shaman and how this relates to theater. This play will be my most important work so I have cleverly created ever longer versions of the script to send out to the most important playwriting competitions.

Posted in Theater, Travel, Writing | Leave a comment

The Best Minds of My Generation Are Writing Code

Allen Ginsberg’s famous poem Howl begins:

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked,
dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix,
Angel-headed hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection
to the starry dynamo in the machinery of night,

The best minds of my generation have been consumed by the IT industry. The best minds of my generation are busy making profound changes to the world. Here is a chilling thought. For several decades now, the best minds have been working feverishly to advance the computer industry. There has probably been no other human enterprise in the history of mankind which has consumed so much intellect and creativity. And the results have been astounding! The computer industry has transformed our world with some of the most significant advances in the history of mankind. Virtually all of humanity is connected online now. It is becoming increasingly easy to search through the vast store of human knowledge to make connections and collective efforts can be made to solve the toughest problems. Entire industries have been made obsolete by web applications. And frightening possibilities for mass surveillance have appeared.

The IT industry has an insatiable demand for talent. A lot of bright people have been sucked into this vast enterprise. I have to wonder if this isn’t a waste. What might some of these bright young people be doing if they were not writing code? Few professions pay better than computer programming. Maybe some of best minds of my generation would be writing poetry or plays. I always say, “Write code, not poetry. It pays better.”

Posted in General, Programming, Writing | Leave a comment

New York City Theater

On the second day of my weekend trip to New York City I saw two plays. My interest in the theater is growing more intense and New York City is a major source of inspiration. The major goal of this trip was to see “The Humans” at the Roundabout Theatre Company. “The Humans” was written by a playwright who grew up in Scranton,  Stephen Karam. In fact, both Scranton and Danville are mentioned in the play. I knew that because I read the script I bought on my previous trip.

I started my day with breakfast at the Theatre Row Diner. I knew this place was inexpensive and it is obviously associated with the theater. It is located near the Port Authority Bus Terminal. I ordered two scrambled eggs with sausage, wheat toast, and fried potatoes. This meal cost me less than $10.00 which is pretty cheap for New York City. I had to return to my hotel to clean my teeth because unfortunately I sometimes get a lot of food particles caught between two molars which can be painful. For this reason I always bring a floss brush with me.

After that annoying diversion I got to work on a major photography mission. I had a long list of establishments to photograph for my notes. This might not seem a worthwhile activity but I did find my custom travel guide extremely useful on this trip and I visit New York City often enough to justify this major project. During the course of creating my notes I often come across many interesting details about the city. For example, the first establishment I located was the Ensemble Studio Theatre which was actually not far from my hotel. This theater has a reputation for developing new plays. Next I found the Irish Arts Center which will be moving into a new building in the near future. Some places I photographed just for the hell of it, like Tout Va Bien, the French restaurant I ate at on a previous trip. I proceeded to Circle In The Square, a theater which is hidden away in the Paramount Plaza building. Some of the high rise buildings on Broadway actually have theaters within the building. It is very easy to overlook these theaters since there is no exterior evidence of their existence except for some signs. I also located the New York City Center which is a Moorish Revival theater located farther uptown than I usually go. I then found two public sculptures, Robert Indiana’s LOVE and HOPE sculptures. I wasn’t sure if there were actually two different sculptures but I did manage to find them both. I also came across many other interesting things to photograph since I was in an unfamiliar section of the city but I will have to identify what I saw later.

Once I had found everything on my list, I wanted to head on down to Greenwich Village to locate the Off-Off-Broadway theater I was going to in the evening. I also had a list of other establishments to photograph in Greenwich Village. I took the 1 train from the 50th Street Station to 14th Street where I had to transfer to the 2 train to reach Christopher Street. Once I was on Christopher Street I managed to find my way to Waverly Place and located the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. This theater is very nondescript so it is hard to tell if you are at the right place. Basically it is just a red door with the word “Theater” over the door. A small message board is the only clue that this is the right place and it only read “Rattlestick”. So I took a photo of the door and then went off to locate more theaters in the area. I found the Lucille Lortel Theater and the Barrow Street Theatre.

Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre

Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre

I then walked towards Washington Park and managed to find John Barrymore’s apartment building. I’m going to be reading a biography of the Barrymores so I thought it would be cool to at least stand outside the legendary John Barrymore’s apartment building. This site was also made famous by the Paul Rudnick play “I Hate Hamlet”. He was inspired to write that play while living here and learning of the apartment’s association with John Barrymore. Playwrights are obsessed with John Barrymore’s ghost. Another play I’ve seen and read was Jason Miller’s “Barrymore’s Ghost”.

I then proceeded to Washington Park which was just down the street. I took lots of photos of the Washington Arch. There was a man playing the piano in front of the Washington Arch so I took lots of photos of him since he could not stop playing to beg for payment. I left the park to take a decent photo of The Players Theatre on MacDougal Street since they are constantly sending me spam. Along the way I saw the Provincetown Playhouse and Caffe Reggio. I did want to do some shopping in Greenwich Village but the stores I wanted to visit did not open until 11:00 a.m. so I had to wander around a bit until then. Eventually I decided to stop in at Caffe Reggio for a coffee since it was ridiculous to just photograph establishments without actually entering any of them. I ordered a cannoli and a cappuccino with whipped cream. The cannoli was good but it proved to be pretty messy to eat. I was glad I checked this place out because the decor was very unusual and bohemian.

After hanging out around Christopher Park and Sheridan Square for awhile, 11:00 a.m. finally rolled around so I went to Three Lives & Company, a nearby bookstore. I was undecided about which book to buy but eventually I settled for The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow since I’m going to explore Chicago some day. I then went to Bleecker Street Records where I bought a DVD, the Ramones Musicladen. This was a PAL DVD but I did not realize that until much later. Although it was only 12:15 p.m. by then, I took a 3 train uptown to ensure that I would be in the Times Square area by 2:00 p.m. I remember that the 3 train was extremely crowded and I was unable to hold onto anything so only the press of other people kept me on my feet. I got off at 42nd Street because the 3 train does not stop at the 50th Street Station. During the long walk to my hotel I took lots of photos of establishments in Hell’s Kitchen to add to my collection.

I dropped my purchases off at the hotel and then walked along West 49th Street towards Broadway. I came across a Susquehanna Trailways bus parked along West 49th Street. I bet that bus was doing a New York City tour which I could not go on because it was all booked up. I located the Laura Pels Theatre in order to take some photos but I was too early so I wandered around Times Square to take more photos of various Broadway theaters. I never get tired of wasting time that way! I should mention that I saw some heavily armed NYPD soldiers guarding Times Square due to the recent terrorist threats. One thing that I came across that particularly amused me was a sign that read “Super Natural Visions $10”. This must have been for psychic readings. I’m very familiar with supernatural visions but I don’t believe in psychics. An extreme form of creativity can seem supernatural if you manage to reach the deepest part of the psyche where you encounter that which is unfamiliar to the conscious mind. So it seemed very ironic to advertise this on Broadway.

Laura Pels Theatre

Laura Pels Theatre

At 2:00 p.m. it was finally time for the major goal of my trip, seeing the play “The Humans” by Stephen Karam. This show came to my attention because even the brief description mentions Pennsylvania. After learning that the playwright was originally from Scranton I became even more interested. Stephen Karam was apparently involved with the Scranton Public Theatre before moving on to bigger things. Eventually he moved to New York City and became a fairly successful playwright. It is great to find someone from the region living the dream! I’ve read in The Hollywood Reporter that this play will migrate to Broadway. Getting a play on Broadway is every playwright’s dream. It is exceedingly unlikely to ever happen so this is like winning the state lottery. I am really jealous, but it is encouraging in a way to see someone achieve this.

I have to admit that the title is not specific enough. What play isn’t about the humans? But I loved this play since it is the sort of subtle tragedy I prefer. By subtle tragedy I mean that you are not overwhelmed by the tragedy, but it is present to the same degree that tragedy is present in real life. People deal with tragedy without getting too emotional about it, even if they do feel deep grief in private. One of the things I love about theater is that it gives a voice to this silent grief and allows some eloquent expression of grief. Much of the tragedy in this play is very familiar; illness, losing a job, dementia, and economic hardship.

Both Scranton and Danville are mentioned during the course of the play. This alone is enough to thrill me since I have been exploring both of those cities. Danville is much closer to Williamsport and is considered to be within the area. As a matter of fact, I was driven through Danville by the Susquehanna Trailways bus on the way to New York City although we did not stop to pick anybody up there. Scranton is served by Martz Trailways which runs many buses to New York City. Of course, I wouldn’t like a play just for mentioning some familiar places. I would like this play without that.

The stage set was designed to represent a duplex apartment so there were two floors. This sort of thing would be hard to reproduce in community theater. I was a bit shocked by the unprotected edge of the upper floor since an actor could easily walk off the stage and fall to the lower stage. I half expected the character in the wheelchair suffering from dementia to start rolling towards the edge of the stage. It would have been horrifying to see her crash onto the stage below!

The play was your basic kitchen sink drama. There is a lot of criticism of this form of social realism but I don’t think such criticism is justified. You can’t very well write about royalty these days. Nobody could relate to the court intrigues of kings and queens. I suppose you could treat celebrities as royalty but writing plays about their lives would seem like tabloid exploitation. Elevating the tragedy of the common man is the only option. I’m inclined to view the failed artist as a tragic figure but this can seem self-centered.

I think I heard some people in the audience speaking Russian and this surprised me because the language barrier should prevent you from enjoying a play unless you are fairly proficient in the language.

At the end of the play, a few actors remained on stage and asked for donations to the Broadway Cares charity. I forgot to mention that the Laura Pels Theatre is below street level. After the show I was ready for diner. I was going to eat at Zuni’s in Hell’s Kitchen but I discovered that this restaurant had closed permanently. Instead I had to backtrack to Restaurant Row on West 46th Street where I decided to try the Brazil Brazil Restaurant. I ordered the Camarão no Coco, sautéed shrimps with mushrooms and herbs, coconut milk served in a fresh coconut shell, sautéed broccoli and rice. I also ordered a drink, a caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail. I can’t find the actual name of the drink online but it was something like Limonada de Janeiro. This meal was very expensive, $55.00 with the tip, but at least the food was pretty good. I just hate paying a lot for a crappy meal.

Brazil Restaurant

Brazil Restaurant

I returned to my hotel to drop off the theater program, i.e. Playbill, and left at 5:45 p.m. to reach Greenwich Village for the final goal of my trip, a play at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater at 8:00 p.m. The first thing I did in Greenwich Village was to retrace my steps to the Three Lives & Company bookstore where I bought a copy of “The Village” by John Strausbaugh. This book is a history of bohemians in Greenwich Village so what better place to buy it than in Greenwich Village itself? I saw this book on my previous visit to the book store earlier in the day and regretted not buying it. I then had to wait in a park for a long time for the show to begin. Fortunately it was chilly but not real cold. I played solitaire on my smartphone.

The play I saw at the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater was The Bachelors by Caroline V. McGraw. This show wasn’t actually produced by the Rattlestick Playwrights Theater. It was a production of Lesser America, a theater company which must have rented this theater. Everyone in the theater seemed to be in the line for the bathrooms and the show started 10 minutes late. This play had a lot of physical action with liquids being drunk and spewed back out. I was sitting in the front row so this was a bit alarming. The audience was mostly young people but there were two gentlemen sitting behind me speaking in such a thick Southern redneck accent that I thought it was a joke at first. They were sort of comical talking about trying to get into Bubba Shrimp after the show.

The play was about three bachelors and their sorry love lives. I’m not sure why a female playwright would write a play on bachelors since she could hardly sympathize with such characters. The behavior of each bachelor did seem slightly strange and overly forlorn. One bachelor had his girlfriend break up with him after she discovered she had cancer. She wanted to experience life to the fullest during the time she had left to her. Another bachelor was fired after touching a stripper on a business trip. And the last bachelor had a naked girl in the attic but unfortunately she did not appear in the play. The play ends with a door mysteriously opening like an invitation to life’s party. At least that was my interpretation. I thought it was a very abrupt ending and it caught me by surprise. A door opens. Oh, that is the end of the play? But I did enjoy the play. It seemed like something that talented college students would create to celebrate their lifestyle.

I took the 3 train back uptown again but instead of walking back to the Christopher Street Station I walked to the closer 14th Street Station to avoid making a transfer. I still had to get off at the 42nd Street / Times Square station. I walked though Times Square again before heading into the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood.

That was the end of my successful trip but there are a few details about my departure which I need to record. Finding my way to Gate 2 in the Port Authority Bus Terminal was a little difficult. There was a kiosk like a giant touch pad that provided directions. I had to go down one level and then go down a concourse to reach the stairs to go down another level. Going down two escalators took me to Greyhound Gates 60 to 85 so that was a mistake. There are several Hudson News convenience stores in the Port Authority Bus Terminal where you can buy overpriced snacks and drinks. I bought a bag of pretzels and a candy bar for breakfast plus a bottle of orange juice and a Sprite. I must have spent $10 for all of that! I should bring my own snacks in my luggage on future trips. I did bring two bottles of orange juice and a bottle of Sparkling Ice to ensure I had something to drink. My hotel room had a small refrigerator which was empty so I was able to keep them cool in that.

In conclusion, this trip was a big success. I learned how to make a more extensive trip to New York City without spending too much money. It would still be more economical to make day trips using Susquehanna Trailways tours. Also I rarely have an extended weekend to make the trip worthwhile.

Posted in General, Theater, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

New York City Overnight Trip

This weekend I made my first overnight trip to New York City making all the arrangements myself. An overnight trip is far more expensive than a day trip, but I had to make this type of trip to see the play I wanted to see. I learned a lot about this alternative way of traveling to New York City. It should prove useful for the future. Actually there was nothing terribly different about this trip. I just used the regularly scheduled Susquehanna Trailways bus service to New York City instead of going on a special tour. However there were a few changes in the procedure which are worth noting. I should mention that I left on a Friday and this was possible because Pennsylvania has not passed the state budget. My hours have been reduced at work so I have extended weekends. This gives me the opportunity to make worthwhile weekend trips.

I was able to order my bus tickets online and print them out at home. Although these tickets have a bar code and a QR code, it was still necessary to hand the bus driver the printed tickets. This is important to note because although I had images of the tickets in my notes on my smartphone as a backup, that would not have sufficed since the bus driver cannot scan the tickets. I had to switch buses at Lehighton, a small city near Jim Thorpe. There isn’t a proper bus station in Lehighton. The buses just park in front of a small park. When you need to transfer to another bus, hand the driver both tickets when boarding the first bus. My luggage was transferred from one bus to the other. I saw the Church Street Station in Hazleton and the Easton Bus Terminal. It was interesting to be driven through those cities because I have not explored them yet as part of my grand tour of Pennsylvania. The bathroom in the Easton Bus Terminal is a single occupant bathroom, although I did not learn that until my return trip. It took five or six hours to ride the bus to New York City because the regular bus service stops at a lot of cities on the way and does not take a very direct route. Therefore it is important to note when and where you could take a bathroom break.

The bus took me to the Port Authority Bus Terminal. This was the first time I’ve been inside the Port Authority Bus Terminal, even though I’ve seen the exterior many times. Finding my way around the interior was another learning experience. Susquehanna Trailways appears to always use Gate 2 which is on a lower level. I didn’t really exit through the terminal. Instead I found my way to the streets by cutting across the bus lane.

I had booked two nights at the Skyline Hotel. This is the same hotel that Susquehanna Trailways uses on its overnight New York City trips so I knew it was affordable and a quality hotel. Plus it is in the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood so I knew where it was located. There are actually some other inexpensive hotels right next to the Port Authority Bus Terminal which I may try on a future trip. As it was, I had to drag my luggage for seven blocks! Fortunately that was not too bad and only took me 15 minutes. I saved money by not taking a taxi. I added a help topic on Tenth Avenue to my notes and really improved my knowledge of the Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood. I also took a lot of photos to improve my notes. Hell’s Kitchen is to the west of the Theater District so I’m always straying into it.

Skyline Hotel

Skyline Hotel

After checking in at the hotel, room 737, my first priority was to have lunch since I had not eaten anything during that six hour bus ride. I found my way to the Obao restaurant on 9th Avenue. This Thai restaurant was highly recommended online and their prices were comparatively low. I ordered two appetizers and a glass of Thai Iced Tea for less than $25.00. The crispy pork belly was insanely delicious! The spare rib on sugarcane skewer was also extremely delicious, especially if dipped in the peanut sauce. Even the Thai Iced Tea was better than expected. It tasted like a Starbucks frappuccino only not as sweet. Obao will definitely be my first pick for an inexpensive restaurant on all future trips!

My second goal was the obligatory visit to the Drama Book Shop where I splurged on five books:

  1. Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom by Jennifer Haley
  2. Philadelphia, Here I Come! by Brian Friel
  3. Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks
  4. Clown Bar by Adam Szymkowicz
  5. Dancing At Lughnasa by Brian Friel

These books were all thin actor’s editions or single plays so they didn’t take much room in my luggage although I could have carried more than the usual amount of purchases home. I bought the Topdog/Underdog by Suzan-Lori Parks script in order to participate in the online conversation at the Reddit Play Club. Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom by Jennifer Haley was actually the play I was going to see that evening.

The Drama Book Shop Sign

The Drama Book Shop Sign

I returned to my hotel room to drop off my books. That is what I like about having a hotel room. On a day trip I would have had to carry those books everywhere for the rest of my trip. My next destination was the Whitney Museum of American Art. I had to rush through the museum on my last trip to New York City so I decided to kill some time by revisiting the place at my leisure. I only had to repeat the subway ride from my previous trip. I did add $20 value to my Metro card to last me for this two day overnight trip. While I was in the Meatpacking District near 14th Street, I managed to locate Google’s New York office and the Chelsea Markets. As before, the key to getting oriented to find the Whitney Museum of American Art was to locate the High Line and follow it downtown. I was a bit early for my 3:00 p.m. timed ticket so I sat on a chair outside the museum. They conveniently had some chairs arranged on the patio. Once inside the museum I made sure to visit all the floors which had art exhibits and I ventured out on all the terraces to take photos of the New York City skyline. The terraces of their new building are a major part of this new attraction. There is a lot of interesting architecture in view including a large water tower. Nevertheless I only spent an hour there.

Whitney Museum of American Art View

Whitney Museum of American Art View

From the Whitney Museum of American Art I walked east to Union Square Park in order to take the N train downtown to Tribeca. But along the way I came across The New School which has completed their new building. I remember seeing a conceptual drawing of this new building but I never realized it was built so now I must update my notes.  I needed to be in Tribeca to see a play at 7:00 p.m. In order to make this expensive trip as worthwhile as possible, I bought tickets for three shows. I could see two shows on Saturday by attending an afternoon matinee. Since I usually make day trips this was a rare chance to see an evening performance at the smaller theaters. Actually I would have picked something on Broadway but the ticket prices were outrageous. At their most expensive, Broadway tickets used to be $150 for a good seat at a hot show but now a ticket can cost as much as $375! I could not afford to see three plays at that price. So I choose two Off-Off-Broadway plays for a more reasonable ticket price. On this trip I was able to check out two Off-Off-Broadway theaters which I frequently hear about.

This evening’s show was Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom at The Flea Theater. This play was written by Jennifer Haley, a Los Angeles based playwright I had already come across while planning my trip to Los Angeles. I’m still planning that future trip. Unfortunately I arrived in Trebeca very early so I had to kill some time by drinking a coffee at a Starbucks. I needed some coffee to keep me awake for the play. It is not that I find these plays boring, but getting up early to make a bus trip to New York City is very tiring and I immediately want to sleep upon entering a dark theater. It is so tempting! While drinking my coffee I noticed a wireless charging powermat. You just plug your device into a Duracell Powermat ring and place the ring over a powermat. Your device then begins charging. I was able to charge my smartphone a bit while I was drinking my coffee! But I was still too early for the play so I went to a Pret a Manger food chain store and selected some gourmet items for a meal. I’ve never been to a Pret a Manger before and it seemed a better option than a fast food place like McDonald’s or Burger King which I passed. I had a slim chicken Caesar with bacon, a smoked ham and egg salad sandwich, some honey banana yogurt, and a lemon and lime soda. That meal cost me less than $20.00 and took a good while to eat. I also used the rest room before I left. I had to enter a four digit number to enter the single occupant rest room. This is worth noting because I have Pret a Manger food chain stores in my notes as having public rest rooms but this seems less than ideal.

The Flea Theater

The Flea Theater

The highlight of the evening was the play at the Flea Theater. The Flea Theater seems to have become a fairly famous theater even though it looks like a tiny community theater. For example, the current edition of American Theatre magazine has an article on director Niegel Smith, the artistic director for The Flea Theater. Another peculiar example of the Flea Theater’s fame is that this play was directed by the film director, Joel Schumacher. Joel Schumacher was the film director for The Lost Boys and Batman Forever. Why would such a big time film director want to direct a play for a storefront theater? Anyway, this was the New York premiere of Neighborhood 3: Requisition of Doom.

The play was pretty interesting if you are a nerd. It is sort of inspired by text-based adventure games for the PC or online role playing games. The computer game, Neighborhood 3, uses GPS maps based on your real neighborhood and eventually the game play spills over into real life. The characters begin to kill their parents who are represented as zombies in the game. I would have thought this a dumb idea for a play but the trick is in the execution of course. You can write a decent play based on popular culture as long as it is well written, but I would avoid doing so because the concept might get your play dismissed out of hand. There were very few stage props and the stage set itself was very minimal with just a backdrop that curved upwards from the floor. It basically looked like a cheap community theater production. However, the acting was definitely better than average. I thought the play was an excellent example of theater finally beginning to acknowledge contemporary life which is heavily influenced by technology. The theater will have to deal with our addiction to technology to accurately reflect contemporary life and to appeal to a contemporary audience. You mostly see this in the use of cell phones in new plays. Characters are always on their cell phones in some plays just like real life people are always on their cell phones. Personally I am not always on my cell phone so I don’t create characters with the habit. One of the things that got a big laugh in this play was the actor’s AFK performance (away from keyboard). He swayed in place like a Second Life avatar and the hip audience roared with laughter over this clever reference to that ridiculous action.

After the play I took the subway back uptown to my hotel. I made sure to visit Times Square first since I can never resist seeing that spectacle at night. This was really just a half a day in New York City since I arrived at approximately 1:00 p.m. But since I was able to stay until late at night I managed to fit in a typical day trip’s worth of activities. I still treat every trip to New York City as a special occasion to be enjoyed as fully as possible.

Posted in General, Theater, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Drama As A Form Of Literature

I don’t think the theater community does enough to promote drama as a form of literature. The conventional wisdom is that plays are written to be performed on a stage and not read. While it is true that you should prefer to see a play performed on stage, you should not be discouraged from reading a play. Personally I love to read plays because I am rarely disappointed by a play. In order for any play to be published, it had to be worthy of being performed since nobody publishes plays which were never produced. This generally ensures that any play you read will be intelligible and entertaining. You certainly have no guarantee that any novel you read will be intelligible or entertaining! Since most plays don’t run longer than two hours you are also ensured that reading a play will not take more than a single day or a few hours. Compare that to a Dostoevsky novel which may require you to invest a week into the reading of it.

I was reading plays long before I was able to go the theater to see them performed onstage. I only began to attend shows at the theater because I wanted to see some of the plays I’ve read performed live right in front of me. So the theater isn’t doing itself any favors if it discourages people from reading plays. Readers of drama are sure to become your future audience.

Unfortunately there are only a few publishers devoted to publishing plays; Samuel French, Broadway Play Publishing, Playscripts, Inc, Smith and Kraus Publishers, and Theatre Communications Group. The market for plays is assumed to be actors looking for monologues to perform for auditions. Smith and Kraus publishes collections of monologues and many of their books are labeled “Plays for Actors”. We need to encourage the general public to read plays, not just actors. Many plays are only published as cheap looking “acting editions” without even an attempt at cover art. Personally I don’t care for that because cover art can be inspiring.

Recently I’ve read the book, The Philadelphia Connection: Conversations with Playwrights, by B. J. Burton. I was surprised that I’ve never heard of any of these playwrights even though I try to follow the Philadelphia theater scene. Actually this isn’t too surprising. Obviously I can’t get down to Philadelphia very often. And none of these playwrights has had their work published in a very prominent format. I was able to buy a few of their plays from Playscripts, Inc (in acting editions) but it was expensive.  The Philadelphia Connection book really needs a companion anthology, a collection of the plays mentioned in the interviews.

There are a few other reasons I prefer drama over other forms of literature. Take poetry for instance. Modern poetry is often unintelligible. Poetry critics are so severe that a poet can only survive by being totally opaque. You can’t criticize a poem if you can’t decipher it. I don’t mind being mystified by a poem but it has gotten to the point where you can barely read the poem. A lot of poems are just jumbles of words that don’t appear to be trying to say anything at all. What has been sacrificed is eloquence and a heightened use of language. Fortunately you can still find eloquence and a heightened use of language in plays. Even contemporary plays can be more poetic than modern poetry and of course Shakespeare is the most eloquent poet of them all.

So what can the theater community do to promote the reading of plays? Some theaters are more devoted to playwrights than others and they are doing some things right. The Signature Theatre Company actually has a book store in their theater building where you can buy the published plays of the playwrights they are featuring this season. It is not just a table with some books on sale, but an actual store. A theater could also create a play library in their lobby so patrons could look through some books before the show begins. Playwrights Horizons is just up the street from the Signature Theatre Company and I think they actually publish the original plays they are producing using print-on-demand technology. Theaters could also create drama reading clubs and writer groups to increase the literary activity in their community.

Posted in books, General, Theater | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Cabaret at the Mary L. Welch Theatre

Last night I saw the musical Cabaret at the Mary L. Welch Theatre on the Lycoming College campus. This was the second time I’ve seen this musical, since it was performed by the Community Theatre League in June 2006. I keep track of all the plays I’ve seen and this makes 130. I’ve seen 130 plays or musicals performed on stage.

It only cost $10.00 to see this musical which seems like quite a bargain after trying to find affordable shows in New York City. I tried to get a seat for Wicked but all the seats were more than $200. I’m sorry, but nothing the theater could do is worth $200! Fortunately I have three tickets for my overnight trip to New York City next week. I’m going to see The Humans by Stephen Karam at the Roundabout Theatre Company. I’m basically making this expensive trip just to see this play because the playwright grew up in Scranton. I read the play and he even mentions Danville in the course of the play. But I will also check out The Flea Theater and the Rattlestick Playwrights Theatre which are Off-Off Broadway theaters that are frequently mentioned in the theater community. Since this will be an overnight trip I can see shows in the evening.

I have not been to the Mary L. Welch Theatre in a long time. You can order tickets online now. I enjoy the ambiance of a college theater since it reminds me of auditorium events from my school days. The show had some technical difficulties with what sounded like microphone plosives occurring for the entire night, even during songs. All of the actors wore mikes which might have been a bad idea. There was a hilarious accident when a pineapple fell though the bottom of a paper bag and the actor had to pick it up. He had to hide the pineapple behind the paper bag to continue the screen. Then when the other actor wondered aloud what he had for her, everyone laughed since we all knew what was in the bag.

Fortunately I won’t have long to wait until I see even more theater. You might think I’m obsessed with theater right now, but it is not exactly the theater that has me entranced. I would say I’m drawn to a grandeur that theater might achieve, but which isn’t necessarily always there. After my trip to New York City I won’t be seeing any more plays until January when my short play will be staged at the Shawnee Playhouse in the Poconos. That has been my major source of encouragement.

Posted in General | Leave a comment

New York City Again

I virtually repeated my trip to New York City from last week. I really wanted to see the play The Humans by Stephen Karam so I tried to find another bus trip to New York City. Susquehanna Trailways’ tours to NYC are sold out for November and December so I tried Sherry Ault Tours, an independent bus trip organizer, and she had a cancellation for her NYC bus trip. Unfortunately the show I wanted to see was sold out for its matinee performance on November 7, 2015 so I had to go see another play. I plan to make yet another trip to New York City this month so that I can finally see the play, The Humans by Stephen Karam. What I will have to do is take a regular Susquehanna Trailways bus to New York City’s Port Authority Bus Terminal and then stay overnight for two nights. I have already booked everything for that trip. Depending upon how well it goes, that might prove to be a great option for getting into the city more often. But it will be more expensive that way.

Fortunately no trip to New York City is wasted, not when you’re researched the city as extensively as I have, so I was still able to pack a lot of activities into this trip. The bus left us off on 6th Avenue, the Avenue of the Americas, close to Radio City Music Hall. So the first thing I did was take some photos of the Museum of Modern Art entrance because I’ve never taken any photos of it. I didn’t actually want to visit MoMA because I’ve been there and done that. Then I located  The Netherlands Club of New York which is housed in the same building as Woman’s National Republican Club and took photos of the exterior. Let me explain. The Netherlands has very little cultural presence in New York City. But they do have this private club to promote Dutch culture. I need a decent photo of the Woman’s National Republican Club for my notes. This may seem like a waste of time but I sometimes get requests by publishers wanting to use some of my photos from Flickr, particularly when I take a photo of an obscure establishment for which no decent photos exist online.

My next step was to repeat the subway ride from my previous trip, taking the 1 train down to Houston Street. Everything was exactly the same for this subway ride so I won’t repeat my previous description. I was able to quickly find Bleecker Street and this time I did not get lost because I had detailed notes on the entire street. I added a topic to my notes on Bleecker Street with every single cross street listed. I found photos of establishments on every street corner and used Google Street View to do a virtual walk through of the route. This worked perfectly! I was able to find my way to the Off-Broadway theaters I wanted to locate. I even took photos on many street corners to update my notes. For example, I see that the “Welcome to Greenwich Village” sign is gone from the intersection of Bleecker Street and Macdougal Street. I can tell from my notes that I got on Bleecker Street at 6th Avenue after walking north on 6th Avenue from the 1 Broadway – Seventh Avenue Local’s Houston Street station.

Anyway, I was able to find the Lynn Redgrave Theater on Bleecker Street. This is the home of Culture Project, a theater company which does political plays. Then I came to the Sheen Center, a relatively new performing arts and culture center associated with the Catholic Archdiocese of New York. I only discovered this place while doing my research on Bleecker Street. Various fringe theater companies could potentially use this performance space so it was worthwhile to locate it. When I reached the end of Bleecker Street at the Bowery I came across something completely unexpected, a beautiful mural of Joey Ramone right across from where CBGB used to exist. I would have made the trip down to Lower Manhattan just to see this! Next I found the Bouwerie Lane Theatre on Bond Street but the building is now an art gallery and had no theater signs. Further up Bond Street I located Gene Frankel Theatre. There was a large flatbed truck stuck in the street right in front of the building, but eventually it managed to get around a double parked car so I could get a decent photo of this theater. This is what I intended to do last week but I got lost. Mission accomplished!

Joey Ramone Mural

Joey Ramone Mural

I had two more places to locate now that I was in the area. First I wanted to see a literary landmark, the Nuyorican Poets Café in the East Village. Then I wanted to visit the Housing Works bookstore. I walked a long ways along Houston Street to reach Avenue C in the East Village. I took a lot of photos of Houston Street because I’m working on a new help topic devoted to this street. I already did have a list of the cross streets in my notes and that was really useful. There is a lot of construction going on along Houston Street which shows up in my photos. But I think this construction has been going on forever because I remember seeing it years ago when I was in the neighborhood. I had no trouble finding Nuyorican Poets Café. Even though this is primarily a community cultural center devoted to poetry and literary events, there have been plays done there. I fact, I bought a book, Action: The Nuyorican Poets Café Theater Festival by Miguel Algarin and Lois Griffith.

Nuyorican Poets Cafe

Nuyorican Poets Cafe

Next I walked west on the other side of Houston Street to reach Housing Works Bookstore Cafe near where Houston Street crosses Broadway. This used book store is very popular in New York City and often features readings by famous authors. For example, Neil Gaiman and his wife Amanda Palmer did a book signing there and I used a few photos from that in my notes. I had trouble finding their bookshelf for Theatre but eventually I located it in the back of the store along the wall to the right of the cafe. I found two plays to buy; Cloud 9 by Caryl Churchill and Albertine In Five Times by Michel Tremplay. These two books cost me $13.34 which is a bit expensive for used books, but the money goes to a good cause.

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe

My next goal was to head back uptown to buy more plays at the Drama Book Shop. I made the mistake of taking a 6 train uptown and it was ridiculously crowded as usual. We were packed in like sardines! At this point, I should mention that it was really hot in the subways. I was dressed for chilly weather but it must have been 60 degrees Fahrenheit all day. I was frequently sweltering in my light jacket with a light sweater underneath. Ordinarily I would need my winter coat for early November. Thanks global warming! I got off at the Grand Central Terminal on 42nd Street and walked west and south to 40th Street. I felt a bit rushed at the Drama Book Shop but I managed to find two books I wanted to buy; Humana Festival 2009: The Complete Plays and In the Heart of America and Other Plays by Naomi Wallace. As I was paying for these books, the sales clerk made a curious comment about the Humana Festival 2009. Something about how one of the playwrights was rarely published. This really surprised me because that was precisely why I bought this book! It features a play by Alex Dremann, a Philadelphia playwright who has nothing published except a 10 minute play in this book. But I didn’t quite catch the name of the playwright and he may have meant Charles L. Mee, a playwright well known for making his work available online for rewrites. There was also a play by Naomi Wallace in this book which I did not expect.

I was in a rush to get out of the book store because I had a play to see at 2:00 p.m. Fortunately the theater was only a few blocks away but I felt I had to run to get there in time. Actually I was a bit early so I could use the restroom and get a drink from their water fountain. I was powerfully thirsty after sweltering in my warm clothing! The play I saw was Night Is A Room by Naomi Wallace at the Signature Theater on 42nd Street. I was not familiar with Naomi Wallace’s work but the ticket was only $25.00 and that is a bargain for Off Broadway. The Signature Theater has a book store and they were selling In the Heart of America and Other Plays by Naomi Wallace but I’d just bought that. There was a long line at the cafe so I could not get anything to drink. As I said, I used the water fountain near the restroom.

Night Is A Room was the greatest motherfucking play I’ve ever seen, because it was literally a mother fucking play, a play about incest. The play was about a man who leaves his hot wife to shack up with his frumpy mother. The audience members sitting next to me where really shocked by this play. I just didn’t buy it. The male actor, Bill Heck, was very handsome, like a movie star. He has been in a few movies. His wife, played by Dagmara Dominczyk, is smoking hot. However, the role of Doré was played by Ann Dowd and she looked like an ugly, middle-aged housewife gone to seed. So I just could not buy a handsome man leaving his beautiful wife for this lumpy housewife. Even great acting could not sell this to me. I almost think this was an acting exercise, see if you can convince the audience that you are attracted to this hideous woman. It was a very impressive effort but there was no way he could be attracted to her! So it was really shocking when Marcus french kisses Doré. I mean they really went at it with what should have been a very hot display of public affection. But I was just like, ew, gross! Now, I don’t know if this was bad casting. The drama would have been more intense if the mother had been old, but still attractive, like Ethel Barrymore. Then I could have accepted Marcus’ attraction for his mother. But maybe they wanted an actress who looks very motherly in order to increase the shock value. I almost forgot to mention that some soft yellow lights set to light the actors horizontally almost gave the impression of sunset, an interesting and beautiful effect.

After the play I went to Brazil Grill where I ordered a Passion Fruit Cosmopolitan drink and the Camarão Bahíana; sautéed shrimp, onions, bell peppers and garlic sauce. This meal cost me $50.00 with the tip. I think it was outrageously expensive for what it was. Basically I just got six jumbo shrimp with some rice to ladle the sauce onto. I will never eat there again! I should mention that this restaurant was actually recommended in my Playbill for Night Is A Room.

My final goal for this trip was to visit the Whitney Museum of American Art, which moved into a new building at the end of the High Line. You can buy a timed ticket for this museum online so I bought a ticket for 5:30 p.m. This proved to be too close to the time I needed to be at the pickup spot for the bus, 6:45 p.m. I would need at least a half hour to get back uptown and walk a few blocks to 6th Avenue and West 51st Street. I took a C Eighth Avenue Local train at the 50th Street station to get downtown and got off at the 14th Street station. From there it was short walk to the Whitney Museum of American Art but it was very dark out so I just got lucky in that I headed in the right direction. I really just needed to look for the High Line. I had to rush through the exhibits but I did go outside onto the terraces where you can enjoy great views of the city. Since it was early in the night the city was all lit up and the views were spectacular. I took a few photos but unfortunately my camera does not take good photos in low light so none of my photos from the terrace are any good.

In conclusion, this was another successful trip to New York City and demonstrates how important careful planning is when you have a limited amount of time in the city. You need to get around very efficiently if you want to pack in a lot of activities. Although my exploration of Lower Manhattan may seem a bit pointless, it lays the groundwork for future trips when I may need to arrive on time at an obscure Off Broadway theater.

Posted in General, Theater, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Jackery Mobile Battery Chargers

On my recent trip to New York City I tried the Jackery Mini, a portable device charger. When you have to spend four hours on a bus, you depend on your mobile devices to keep you entertained. I usually have my cell phone with me. It is capable of playing music stored on a SD card so I can use it in a pinch. But I rely more on my smartphone which also has a microSD card filled with MP3s. I can listen to music for hours on end since a lot of my music collection is stored on the microSD card. However, since I also store my travel notes on my smartphone I tend to have it turned on while I’m exploring the city. So occasionally I will run down the battery. A portable device charger ensures that this will not be a problem.

You don’t have any access to an electrical outlet on a bus and you don’t want to sit somewhere during your trip and wait an hour for your device to charge. On a day trip I don’t have a hotel room so I can’t charge my devices in my room. A portable device charger is very handy for these kinds of trips. The Jackery Mini is only half the size of the portable device charger I was using but it appears to be just as powerful. I was able to recharge my smartphone in just 40 minutes.

I also take my Amazon Kindle on my bus trips. All of these mobile devices use the same Micro USB Charging Port so I only need one cable.

Posted in General, Travel | Tagged | Leave a comment

Halloween In New York City

I spent Halloween in New York City. This was a typical trip to New York City since I didn’t do anything related to Halloween. As usual, I used Susquehanna Trailways to make this trip since that is still the most economical option. It had been over a year since my last trip to NYC so there were a few changes, mostly more skyscrapers.

The first thing I did on the trip was walk down to 42nd Street and then I walked east. This took me pass some sights I’ve missed on previous trips since I don’t usually go too far east of midtown. I got some great photos of the Grand Central Terminal, the MetLife Building, and the Chrysler Building. Then I came across some new landmarks for me like the Daily News Building, Tudor City, and finally the United Nations. From the United Nations I walked north to find Dag Hammarskjold Plaza and the Japan Society building. This walk served to improve my knowledge of Manhattan’s geography since it illustrates how 42nd Street theaters, Bryant Park, the Grand Central Terminal, the Chrysler Building, and the United Nations are all among the same street.

Grand Central Terminal

Grand Central Terminal

After that I walked north to 51st Street and then west to St. Patrick’s Cathedral. I was looking for the Netherlands Club of New York but I got distracted by St. Patrick’s Cathedral and the Atlas stature. I think I took some of my best photos of the Atlas stature including an extreme close-up. While I was in the area, I also photographed Radio City Music Hall, Rockefeller Center including the gold stature of Prometheus in the sunken plaza (which was converted into an ice skating rink already), the Top of the Rock observation deck entrance, and the Time Life plaza which I’ve recently seen in the film, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) starring Ben Stiller. At this point I used my extensive research on New York City to good effect. I needed a bathroom and I knew that one of the best places to find a restroom is on the lower concourse of the Rockefeller Center. They have quite a few shops down there. It is like a shopping mall. The men’s restroom was very crowded since this is not a big secret.

Although I had a matinee show to see at 2:00 p.m. it was only noon so I decided to use the subway to head downtown and locate a few Off-Broadway theaters in NoHo, North of Houston. This turned out to be a mistake since I got hopelessly lost downtown. But first I should mention that I took the 1 Broadway – Seventh Avenue Local at 50th Street. This station is located in a sunken plaza. There was a lot of construction in the sunken plaza as the Mars 2112 restaurant is long gone. This is right across from the Winter Garden theater which is now showing School Of Rock and not Rocky. The 1 Broadway did not go all the way downtown due to some construction. I had to transfer to a 2 Seventh Avenue Express train and got off at Houston Street.

It was at Houston Street that I got lost and wandered into Greenwich Village. So now I will try to figure out where I went wrong. Let’s see, I walked towards Greenwich Street. That was the wrong direction! Then I found the Cherry Lane Theater to the north. I found Bleecker Street which was encouraging because some of my targets were on that street, but again I went in the wrong direction. I walked north on Bleecker Street until I came across Abingdon Square Park. This was interesting because I’ve read a play by Maria Irene Fornes entitled Abingdon Square, so I did want to visit this park. After that I walked even further north to find Chelsea Market. At this point I was panicking so I found the nearest subway on 8th Avenue and took an E train back uptown to 42nd Street (Times Square). Unfortunately my custom travel guide was not handy in this situation since the Google Maps I embedded in my topic pages did not show enough of the streets in the neighborhood to orient myself. What I will have to do is add some larger maps and some topics on the major cross streets like the Bowery and Houston Street. Then I’ll also need some notes on how to find the nearest subway station.

The play I saw was Travels with My Aunt at the Clurman, one of the six theaters of Theater Row. I wasn’t particularly interested in this show but I was curious about Theater Row which I’ve walked pass on many other trips. I discovered that these six theaters do not have individual entrances onto the street. Instead you have to enter the lobby with the ticket window and wait there for the shows to start. Then you are let in. I had to go downstairs to reach the Clurman theater. So these six theaters are not actually in a row. That is an illusion created by the neon signs outside! This show was put on by the Keen Company, one of the eleven resident theaters of Theater Row.

Travels with My Aunt was a comedy based on a novel by Graham Greene. The show featured four actors all dressed in identical costumes. They took turns playing the hero and all the other characters. It was slightly confusing. I thought it was an annoying example of actor virtuosity. Without costume changes or clearly defined roles, the illusion of the story was totally lost. Having four identically dressed actors randomly assuming one role was particularly annoying. At least the role of Aunt Augusta was consistently played by one actor in high camp, but he was wearing a suit and would sometimes become the dull Henry. I love travel and the story was about travel so I could appreciate that aspect of the play. I almost fell asleep during the performance but that is because I had to get up at 4:00 a.m. to catch the 5:30 a.m. bus to New York City. Once you enter a darkened theater you just want to sleep if you got up that early. This has been a problem on previous trips.

The Drama Book Shop

The Drama Book Shop

After the show I rushed to the Drama Book Shop to do some shopping. I had a long shopping list of plays to find. Unfortunately I only found three things on my list; Pocatello by Samuel D. Hunter, The Humans by Stephen Karam, and I Hate Hamlet by Paul Rudnick. Samuel D. Hunter is a great playwright. His play, The Whale, is one of the great contemporary tragedies. I Hate Hamlet interested me because one of the characters is the ghost of John Barrymore. The Barrymore awards in the Philadelphia theater community were named in honor of John Barrymore. I should buy a biography of John Barrymore. I keep a list of all the plays I’ve seen and apparently I’ve seen I Hate Hamlet but I don’t remember a thing about it. Stephen Karam grew up in Scranton PA and has become a successful playwright in New York City. He must be the most successful playwright to have come from Scranton since Jason Miller. The Humans is actually playing at the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre and I could have seen it on this trip since there was a Saturday afternoon matinee. Unfortunately, I neglected to check the Roundabout Theatre Company web site when searching for a play to see. However, I did walk pass the Harold and Miriam Steinberg Center for Theatre and took several photos of the theater windows advertising this play.

Roundabout Theatre Company

Roundabout Theatre Company

When I left the Drama Book Shop my next goal was to have some dinner. I wanted to try some Brazilian cuisine so I walked to  West 46th Street which is known as Little Brazil Street since there are a few Brazilian restaurants along this street. If you are into international travel, you will love the international restaurant scene in New York City which at least allows you to sample the cuisine of any country you are interested in, except the Netherlands, since there is no genuine Dutch restaurant in NYC. I selected Ipanema Restaurant for dinner but they had moved so it was a little hard to find. Fortunately they did not move far but the exterior was different. I ordered the Bitoque, aged angus steak in garlic and wine sauce topped with fried egg with fried potatoes. I saw a photo of this dish online and it looked delicious. It was delicious but more expensive than the online menu listed price. I also had a half glass of red wine but they did not let me pick the wine. Ipanema Restaurant is a nice restaurant with many well-dressed waiters who seemed to always be on the prowl to pounce at the first sign of an empty plate or used utensil. The service was almost too attentive, like having five bored waiters serving you.

After dinner I did my usual routine of wandering around Times Square and the theater district until it was time to get on the bus home. I thought about the play I’m writing. This play will be one of the most important plays I intend to write. It has a great concept and only I can write this play. I don’t have a good title for it yet, but it is essentially the shaman play since it will be about how I think shamanism relates to the psyche, the theater, and creativity. It is a fantastic concept and should be very interesting as long as I write it well. It is really hard to predict how it will be received though. Maybe I should be careful what I wish for, since this play might do better than I expect! It is important to remember that the American theater is not a monolithic institution. There are hundreds of theaters which are under individual artistic direction. So it is a mistake to be too pessimistic.

I have a few more details to record. First, I forgot to mention that I went to Kinokuniya Bookstore across from Bryant Park and bought a Blu-Ray DVD, The Ballad Of Narayama. The Susquehanna Trailways bus left us off at 49th Street and 8th Avenue near the Eugene O’Neill Theatre which is still showing The Book of Mormon.

Posted in General, Theater, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Final Day In Philadelphia

Sunday was my last day in Philadelphia for this trip. On previous trips, I high tailed it out of Philadelphia early Sunday morning to beat the traffic on the Schuylkill Expressway but I was determined to get the maximum number of hours in the city on this trip. This was a very expensive trip and I wanted to get my money’s worth.

The first thing I did was check out of the hotel at 8:00 a.m. I took my luggage to my car in the underground garage but I did not leave. I repeated my routine from the previous morning and walked along Race Street to Chinatown. I spent considerable more time exploring Chinatown which was practically deserted. I photographed as many establishments as I could given the early morning lighting. I can’t get a good photo with the sun shining right into the lens. After awhile I walked to Walnut Street and found the Forrest Theater and the Walnut Street Theater which I photographed extensively. Then I walked to Washington Square to photograph the Tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier. None of this was necessary since I’ve taken photos of these sights on previous trips but I had to kill time until the Reading Terminal Market opened at 9:00 a.m.

At Reading Terminal Market I decided to have breakfast at Pearl’s Oyster Bar instead of at the Down Home Diner. Pearl’s Oyster Bar was crowded but I managed to get a seat at the long counter. I ordered the Creme Brule French Toast, although it may have been named a little different, which featured vanilla custard brioche, berry compote, creme anglaise, Pennsylvania maple syrup, berries, and fresh whipped cream. It was really delicious! All of their breakfast menu items looked scrumptious with large portions. Fortunately I was very hungry and was able to eat all of my french toast.

Reading Terminal Market

Reading Terminal Market

After breakfast I walked along the Avenue of the Arts yet again and made my way to the Rosenbach Museum And Library which was to be my last museum to see in Philadelphia. Unfortunately they did not open until noon so I had to go to Rittenhouse Square to sit around on park benches for an hour. I did take many photos of the park in bright sunshine. Eventually I was able to return to Rosenbach Museum And Library which had a few tourists already waiting to get.

Rittenhouse Square

Rittenhouse Square

Rosenbach Museum And Library proved to be a worthwhile conclusion to my cultural trip. The Rosenbach brothers were collectors and dealers of rare books so their museum was a treasure trove of rare books. First I went on a tour of the town house which is filled with antiques, bookcases, and objects of art. I saw the the manuscript and typescript for Under Milk Wood by Dylan Thomas. I also saw a drawing by William Blake, The Number of the Beast is 666. This was the biggest thrill for me since I am intrigued by this visionary artist and poet. I’ve read several biographies of William Blake and he is frequently referenced in the books I read on psychedelics and altered states of consciousness. The Rosenbach Museum And Library also has a recreation of Marianne Moore’s living room just as she lived in it, but unfortunately that was closed for renovations.

Rosenbach Museum And Library

Rosenbach Museum And Library

Before I left I saw the Down the Rabbit Hole special exhibit, Celebrating 150 Years of Alice in Wonderland, which included a pop-up display of the original manuscript.

I walked back to my hotel and managed to make my way out of the underground parking garage. I navigated the Schuylkill Expressway without incident but it was very crowded and slow going. On Interstate 80 in the Poconos it actually began snowing. It was like a blizzard even though the sun was still shining. That was quite unexpected!

My trip to Philadelphia was a great success! It was quite the cultural experience. I bought a lot of books which will take me years to read. I haven’t even read books I bought on previous trips to Philadelphia. Was it really necessary to travel that far for a great cultural experience? Williamsport has three theaters, which is a lot for a city this size, but the quality of their productions leaves a lot to be desired. The Community Arts Center never books anything with even the slightest cultural value. The Community Theatre League has been filling their season with comedies and musicals. The Lycoming College Theatre Department is doing Cabaret in November so I suppose that will be worthwhile. I just wish this region saw Philadelphia as a cultural resource so there would be more bus trips to the big city. Driving down there myself is a big hassle.

My next exciting adventure will be a trip to New York City on Halloween. I have not decided on what to do there, but it will probably be more theater.

Posted in General, Theater, Travel | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Philadelphia Theater Trip – Antigone

The goals for my second day in Philadelphia were the Barnes Foundation museum, the Eastern State Penitentiary, and the Wilma Theater. But first I had to have breakfast. I was starving since I did not eat diner the previous night. I walked along Race Street to the Reading Terminal Market. Before I reached the market, I passed the Hahnemann University Hospital which had a huge mural and the Church of Scientology. I had breakfast at the Down Home Diner in the Reading Terminal Market. I ordered the Country Scram, barnyard fresh eggs scrambled with salt-cured ham, onions and mushrooms. I did not think it was very good. Maybe that is why I was the only person having breakfast there. I also had a cup of coffee because I was suffering from caffeine withdrawal.

I had a ticket for the Barnes Foundation museum which I bought online but it was for 10:30 a.m. so I had to find something to do until then. I decided to walk around Center City and attempt to locate a few more theaters which are not located on Broad Street. First I looked for the Interact Theatre Company which I read about often in The Philadelphia Connection: Conversations with Playwrights because this theater encourages new work. I did walk pass the Joseph Fox Bookshop and that was the only book store I resisted during my trip because I did not want to carry a package into the Barnes Foundation museum. Eventually I had to cut short my search for theaters in order to make it to the Barnes Foundation on time. The Barnes Foundation museum is now located on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway with the rest of the museums. There was a huge controversy about moving the Barnes Collection. It was against the wishes of Albert C. Barnes. There is a book about the controversy which I own but I have not read it yet. The Barnes Collection is a great museum of modern art with works by Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, Manet, Degas, Seurat, Prendergrast, Titian and Picasso. I even saw a few paintings by the metaphysical painter Giorgio de Chirico, one of my favorite artists. If you love modern art, you definitely need to visit the Barnes Foundation museum.  I wish I had seen the collection in its original home but it slipped my mind since the museum was then located on the outskirts of the city.

I used a museum map to make sure I went into every room of the museum. The organization of the art work was curious, since there were Japanese art placed next to modern art placed next to African artwork. After I was sure I saw everything I made my way to the Lower Level to use the restroom and visit the museum store. I bought a massive book, Masterworks of the Barnes, for $45.00 because they did not have a smaller guide book to the museum. But I did see a lot of great paintings that I would want to know more about. I did not use an audio guide during my visit.

Barnes Foundation

Barnes Foundation

I had to return to my hotel with that book since it was too heavy to carry around. In fact, I took all the books I had bought and put them in my car in the garage. I could buy as many books as I liked since they did not have to fit in my luggage! It did take me quite a while to locate my car since I was not sure which level I parked in.

Before proceeding to the Eastern State Penitentiary, I went to the see some public art which was located very close to my hotel. I found the sculpture, Freedom by Zenos Frudakis, outside the Philadelphia Performing Arts: A String Theory Charter School, whatever that is. I then walked a very long way to the Eastern State Penitentiary. I could have used my car, but I really didn’t want to navigate the streets of Philadelphia any more than I had to. Also, I’ve watched many episodes of Parking Wars so I know what hell is in store for you if the Philadelphia Parking Authority tickets your car.

The Eastern State Penitentiary is a very creepy, old prison, which exists in a state of partial ruin. It is popular during the Halloween season for haunted tours. A prison is not my idea of a fun tourist attraction but this place was genuinely spooky and gothic. I had to use an audio device for the tour since it was part of the deal, but it was a self-guided tour. Actor Steve Buscemi narrated the audio tour. I walked through many cell blocks and saw many cells filled with debris. I saw Al Capone’s cell which had some furniture and creature comforts. This attraction didn’t really fit the cultural focus of my trip but it was very interesting.

Eastern State Penitentiary

Eastern State Penitentiary

Across the street from the Eastern State Penitentiary I found the Bookhaven book store where I went on a mad buying binge. I bought five books:

  1. The Dog Problem and The Black Monk by David Rabe
  2. Sexual Perversity in Chicago and The Duck Variations by David Mamet
  3. A Life In The Theater by David Mamet
  4. The Bostonians by Henry James
  5. Two Trains Running by August Wilson

All of those books are plays except for the Henry James novel. Drama is my favorite form of literature.

I walked all the way back to my hotel which was an extremely long way to walk. I had to remove my socks and massage my feet after all that walking. I took an aspirin to keep going. When I was ready to go back out, my immediate goal was to resume the search for some more theaters. But first I had lunch at Cafe Cret on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. I ordered a Cuban sandwich (toasted), a Yogurt Parfait, and a medium café au lait. This proved to be a big meal but I was very hungry so I ate it all. I went back to Sansom Street and managed to find the Liberti Church where Azuka Theatre should have been but I found no sign of any theater posters around the church. I walked to Rittenhouse Square and took a few photos in the park before finding the Plays and Players Theatre, a major goal since 1812 Productions uses that theater and it was one of the original Little Theaters in America. Philadelphia playwright George Kelly based his slapstick comedy The Torch Bearers on this theater.

I then went back to Rittenhouse Square and entered the Barnes and Nobles book store there. I bought three more theater books:

  1. Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar
  2. Race by David Mamet
  3. How I Did It: Establishing A Playwriting Career

Disgraced was the play I saw the previous evening. Race was the first play I saw on Broadway. And How I Did It: Establishing A Playwriting Career is obviously of great interest to me since I am writing plays. This entire trip was a reward for finally resuming my writing. I finally finished the play I began for the online playwriting course I took with the instructor Brooke Berman, although I only made it an one act play, and I wrote a 10 minute version of my shaman play for submission to the Humana Festival of New American Plays. Eventually that play must be longer because I think it will be my most significant work.

From Rittenhouse Square I walked north to Logan Square and then back to my hotel. For two hours I copied photos from my camera to my laptop and went online to check my email and update a few social media web sites with my news. This evening was the much anticipated highlight of my trip, the performance of Antigone at the Wilma Theater.

The Wilma Theater

The Wilma Theater

I was eager to see the Wilma Theater since it has a reputation for avante garde performances. The lobby had a wall of black and white photos of past shows. I’ve always liked theater photos which usually seem highly suggestive. The Wilma Theater’s photos were particularly intriguing. During this trip I got the great idea of creating some fake theater posters for my plays. I could use my graphic design knowledge to create a typical poster of a fantasy show. Unfortunately any performance of one of my plays may have to remain a fantasy. I snagged as many theater brochures as I could to add to my research of Philadelphia theater.

Antigone by Sophocles was directed by a Greek director, Theodoros Terzopoulos. I thought it was the greatest performance I have ever seen in the theater! Of course, it was the only avante-garde performance I’ve ever seen. The show seemed very profound and mysterious to me. It was very symbolic so I was able to give everything a grander interpretation than a more conventional staging would indicate. The actors used very precise body movements so their performance resembled modern dance. Maybe a fan of modern dance would have found it more hackneyed, but it seemed very strange to me. The only thing I could compare it to is Steven Berkoff’s Oscar Wilde’s Salome which I’ve seen on DVD. Some of the slow motion action was similar. The Greek Chorus kept up a physically demanding exhalation, like a prolonged gasp of horror. And the leader of the Greek Chorus stood stock still under a hanging knife, chanting furiously. It was all very surreal.

The actor playing Creon was sitting right in front of me before the play began. I was sitting in row B so I was often very close to the actors. Part of row A was used as Antigone’s tomb. Creon was played by a Greek actor, Antonis Miriagos, and he was very intense. He was the most expressive actor in the cast. However, all of his lines were in Greek and you had to read subtitles projected above the stage to understand him. The lines in English were spoken to make every syllable distinct so it sounded very harsh and overly punctuated.

This play was virtually a ritual. The Philly.com review claims Antigone invokes a theatrical netherworld which is an excellent description. It was like a glimpse into a eerie netherworld where the tragedy was being mourned for eternity. I think you have to be familiar with the story to appreciate this play because the highly stylized performance does not allow you to get the story from the action. There was an onstage narrator to provide some of the background information.

Wilma Theater’s Antigone made quite an impression upon me. It was really dreamlike and offered the profound mystery I seek in the theater. I’m tempted to steal from it for my shaman play which needs a good attempt at performing a ritual. The desperate chanting by a mysterious and tragic figure was great. It is always thrilling when something supernatural is brought onto the stage, like a ghost, to haunt the audience.

So my second day in Philadelphia was an outstanding cultural experience. I saw all the great artwork of the Barnes Collection and the great artistry of the Wilma Theater.

Posted in General, Theater, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Philadelphia Theater Trip – Disgraced

Philadelphia is the cultural capital of Pennsylvania. I had an extended weekend so I decided to make a long overdue trip to Philadelphia to experience some world class theater. It has been three years since I last visited Philadelphia and there have been some major changes to the city. The night before I left, I finished reading The Philadelphia Connection: Conversations with Playwrights by Betty Jane Burton. This is a collection of interviews with Philadelphia’s playwrights. I figured it would be a good introduction to the movers and shakers of the Philadelphia theater scene. The cover features a great photo of the Avenue of the Arts (aka Broad Street) which is the Broadway of Philadelphia.

I usually drive down to Philadelphia which takes four hours. I usually stay overnight since I don’t want to drive four hours twice in one day. Since I had Friday off I was able to spend two nights in Philadelphia. I did encounter a traffic jam on Interstate 80 near the Milton Travel Plaza due to a traffic accident. Other than that the trip went very smoothly. I stayed at the Sheraton Philadelphia Downtown Hotel. On previous trips I preferred the Holiday Inn Historic District hotel but it has become more expensive. That hotel is also located further away from the Avenue of the Arts where all the theaters are and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway where all the museums are located. I parked in the underground parking garage of the Sheraton, parking level 2 section 6F. I took a ticket but in fact you use a room key when you leave, not the ticket. There was a separate elevator from the garage to the lobby of the hotel. It let me out right next to the concierge desk. I’m describing everything in case I want to use this hotel in the future. My room was on the 9th floor. The nice thing about a road trip is that you can bring as much luggage as you like in your car and bring back as much stuff as you like. But I packed light since I was only going to be in town for a few days.

After dropping off my bags in my room, my first goal was to visit the Rodin Museum. This museum has been on my to do list for a long time. The Rodin Museum is a fairly small museum filled with bronze statues by Auguste Rodin. I’ve seen his work in New York City (at the Museum of Modern Art), in Washington DC at the Hirshorn Museum Sculpture Garden and even in Paris when I came across the Monument to Balzac. However I did not visit the Musée Rodin. I paid $10.00 to visit this museum but you could actually pay what you wanted. I waited around until noon for a guided tour. There were a lot of young art students wandering around the galleries drawing the sculptures. The students may have been from the University of the Arts which had a lot of campus buildings in Center City.

Rodin Museum

Rodin Museum

I found the Book Corner near the Barnes Foundation museum. This used book store is run by the Friends of the Free Library of Philadelphia. I bought a copy of the Dramatists Sourcebook, 25th Edition. I didn’t really need this book since I have a newer edition, but I wanted to make this trip a dedicated theater excursion. I returned to my hotel to drop off the book and to drink a little water. Then I headed back out to walk down the Avenue of the Arts so I could take photos of all the theaters on Broad Street. This was also my first opportunity to see the new Dilsworth Park which has replaced the Dilsworth Plaza on the west side of City Hall. Philadelphia has completely redesigned this area and it was one of the big changes I wanted to check out. The most striking change was the clear glass headhouses that serve as the entrances to SEPTA transit lines. I walked into the City Hall courtyard and discovered some SEPTA Broad Street Line entrances there for the city office workers. I never knew those existed.

I didn’t really need to photograph everything along Broad Street since I’ve done that on previous trips to Philadelphia but I figured I might get better photos on these bright October days. I particularly wanted to get a lot of photos of the Suzanne Roberts Theatre and the Wilma Theater where I was going to see shows.

My next goal was to explore Chinatown and have lunch at a Chinese restaurant. Philadelphia has the only Chinatown in Pennsylvania. After seeing San Francisco’s Chinatown earlier this year, I was more interested in the one in my home state. I had lunch at Sakura Mandarin on Race Street which seems to be popular with the local Chinese. I ordered the Seafood Delight which was vegetables and seafood in a sauce. It was very hot and I thought it was pretty good. I was glad it came with a fork and spoon because I was worried I would have to use chopsticks. I still have not learned how to eat with chopsticks! I also drank a glass of ice water and some tea because I was dying of thirst.

Next I walked all the way down Race Street trying to find the Race Street Pier but first I encountered Elfreth’s Alley, the cobblestone lane of Colonial houses. I stopped to wander down the lane with the other tourists since I was there. Actually before that I walked pass the new Metroclub Condominiums, a very modern building with a rounded facade and the United States Mint which I should add to my notes. My main interest in this part of the city was the new FringeArts building across from the Race Street Pier. FringeArts is the Philadelphia Fringe Festival which seems to have become a permanent institution with activities year round. My second trip to Philadelphia way back in 2002 was just to see the Philly Fringe Festival. There is also a restaurant, La Peg, located in the FringeArts building but I wasn’t hungry after eating in Chinatown. I got a great view of the Benjamin Franklin Bridge from the Race Street Pier. This was the second big change to the city that I wanted to see. The FringeArts building and the Race Street Pier did not exist three years ago. Please note that I had walked clear across Center City at this point.

Fringe Arts

Fringe Arts

I walked a little bit in Old City and found the Arden Theatre Company and The Book Trader. I did stop in at the Book Trader because I cannot resist a bookstore. I bought two books of plays to continue my theater focus for the trip. I bought The Miser and Other Plays by Moliere and The Complete Plays of Joe Orton.

As I headed back toward City Hall, I passed and photographed the Benjamin Franklin Museum, the Ritz movie theater, the National Museum of American Jewish History, and finally Independence Park where I did slow down to take photos of Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell through the window of its building. I did not actually get in line to see the Liberty Bell. Eventually I walked all the way back to Broad Street where I took even more photos of the cultural establishments concentrated along this street. By this time I had sore feet so I returned to my hotel to rest until the evening’s big event.

On Friday evening, my first night in Philadelphia for this trip, I saw the play Disgraced by Ayad Akhtar. This play won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 2013. The Pulitzer Prize is probably the major award for a serious play. The play was put on by the Philadelphia Theatre Company at the Suzanne Roberts Theatre. I’ve been to this theater before on July 9 , 2011 to see the one man show Long Story Short by Colin Quinn.

Suzanne Roberts Theatre

Suzanne Roberts Theatre

The theater was half empty for this play. I was the only person sitting in my row and all the rows behind me were completely empty. I was seated in the mezzanine, or balcony, so I was looking down at the stage from a distance. This seat was cheaper, only $36.00. I thought the set design was very impressive. It looked exactly like a fancy New York City apartment with a small patio. The play was a realistic drama about young professionals, including a Muslim lawyer who hates Islam. He gets in trouble with his law firm for appearing to defend an imam arrested for contributing to a terrorist group.

I did not go anywhere for diner after the show. I did buy a bottle of coke from the vending machine in my hotel. I really like vending machines in hotels. They are better than minibars in your room with outrageously expensive items. I did have to swipe my credit card to buy the soft drink since the vending machine would not accept coins or bills. I also had to pay for an hour of Internet time to check my email and post some photos of social media web sites.

In conclusion this was a good half day in Philadelphia. I had visited an art museum and saw a play. This satisfied my need for a little culture but tomorrow would be even better.

Posted in General, Theater, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scranton, The Electric City

Yesterday I made my fourth trip to Scranton, the third trip devoted to exploring the city. I was very undecided about making this trip but it was a beautiful day so I’m glad I got out of the house. I only had four items on my itinerary.

Driving to Scranton from Williamsport is actually very easy but it does take two hours. On the return trip my GPS device was not working right away but I managed to find my way out of the city and back onto Interstate 81 South without the slightest problem.

My first goal for the trip was to go on the ten mile trolley excursion run by the Electric City Trolley Museum. I visited this museum before but did not get to ride a trolley. Scranton actually gets its nickname, the Electric City, from the nation’s first streetcars powered exclusively by electricity. Getting to the Electric City Trolley Museum was a little difficult because I parked at the Casey Garage, only $5 on the weekends, and the Mall at Steamtown’s bridge to Steamtown was closed. I had to walk all the way down Lackawana Avenue and then up South Bridge Avenue, cutting across the railroad tracks to reach Cliff Street. But I did arrive in time for the first trolley ride of the day at 10:30.

Electric City Trolley Excursion

Electric City Trolley Excursion

I almost forgot to mention that I passed the Scranton Enterprise Center on Lackawana Avenue. One of my other goals was to take some photos of the Scranton Enterprise Center. The Scranton Enterprise Center is an incubator for businesses like Internet startups. As a computer programmer and web developer, I am very interested in Internet startups in my region. Scranton also has a co-working space called Coalwork.

Scranton Enterprise Center

Scranton Enterprise Center

The trolley excursion was a lot of fun. It was a five mile run out to the PNC Field, a baseball park in Moosic, PA just south of Scranton. We passed an abandoned coal mine and a waterfall along the route. But the most interesting thing on the ride was a mile long tunnel. Going through the tunnel was just like riding the subway in a big city.

After the trolley got back to Steamtown I spent a little time viewing the exhibits in the museum and then walked across the bridge to the Mall at Steamtown. I went to the Library Express store, a book store run by the local library, and bought a copy of Lord Of The Flies by William Golding. I wasn’t particularly interested in reading this classic but they had a poor selection of books. On the way back to Casey Garage I bought a copy of the Times-Tribune and picked up a free copy of the Electric City, a weekly entertainment tabloid. Buying a copy of the local newspaper was also one of my goals on this trip.

Next I tried to locate a bar, Banshee Pub, but it looks like they went out of business. I found a bar named Tequila where Banshee Pub was supposed to be. The bar was closed so I went to Carl Von Luger Steak & Seafood for lunch. This restaurant is located in the Scranton Parking Authority garage and seems to be one of the nicer restaurants in town. I ordered a bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich with potato salad instead of home fries. This sandwich was the best BLT I’ve ever had and it was an affordable lunch, under $15.00.

After lunch I had nothing else in mind so I wandered around a bit taking photos of landmark buildings which I’ve seen before. I did get a lot of great photos because the lighting conditions were excellent. The sun was shining bright and there were no clouds. Eventually I walked all the way to Nay Aug Park on the east side of town. It was a mistake to walk because it was all uphill. I did pass the Geisinger Community Medical Center on Mulberry Street and it had changed immensely since my previous trip on September 29, 2012. The building was now all white and much larger than it had been. Hospitals and universities are always expanding. I’ve often compared them to empires that eventually overwhelm the community.

Nay Aug Park also seemed to have changed a bit with more signs and maps of the park everywhere. Before I went to the park I stopped in at the Everhart Museum. They had free admittance so it did not cost me anything to visit the museum. The Everhart Museum is small, but pretty nice for a small city. It has natural history exhibits, anthropological exhibits, Dorflinger Glass, and some artwork. The most striking painting was a portrait by  Adolf Konrad. You are not allowed to take photos in the museum so I memorized this artist’s name with the mnemonic; combine Adolf Hitler with Joseph Conrad to get the Heart of Darkness. Adolf Konrad was the “Painter Laureate of Newark NJ” but I cannot find any photos of this particular painting online.

There was a wedding being held in Nay Aug Park, or at least wedding photos were being taken, so the David Wenzel Tree House was open for the wedding party. I found my way to the Nay Aug Gorge which is a very scenic waterfall located in the park.

Rie Rie Overlook

Rie Rie Overlook

After a long walk back downtown I found the Lackawanna Historical Society in the Catlin House on the University of Scranton campus but they were closed. I also passed the McDade Center for Literary and Performing Arts and noticed that the University of Scranton Players were doing The Baltimore Waltz by Paula Vogel.

That reminds me that my next big trip will be to Philadelphia from Friday to Sunday. This will be a dedicated theater trip. On Friday evening I will see the play Disgraced at the Philadelphia Theatre Company and on Saturday evening I will see Antigone at the Wilma Theater. I am particularly interested in going to the Wilma Theater because they present work by avante-garde theater artists. Unfortunately, nobody in my area appreciates Philadelphia as a cultural resource for great theater so I have to arrange these trips myself. Recently I have discovered a great book on Philadelphia playwrights, The Philadelphia Connection: Conversations with Playwrights, by B.J. Burton. A book of interviews is quite boring if you are not interested in the subject, but this book provides invaluable insight into the Philadelphia theater community. Philadelphia actually does a lot to encourage playwrights and new play development with its PlayPenn Conference. But I’ve never heard of a single playwright interviewed in this book which says something about the fame of playwrights. Even if you follow the theater, you are unlikely to become familiar with the work of regional playwrights.

My trip to Philadelphia will be an overnight trip with two nights at a hotel. This will make the trip very expensive but I’m not going to drive down there for four hours and then head right back home for another four hour drive. I also plan to visit the Rodin Museum and the Barnes Collection while I am in the city.

Posted in General, Travel | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Monterey

The final day of my tour was spent on a drive down the Pacific Coast Highway to Monterey. We traveled south on the California State Route 1 (aka the Pacific Coast Highway). Our first stop was Pigeon Point Light Station, a state historic park, where there was a large light house. I got my first look at the Pacific Ocean and the Pacific Coast. I really like the ocean. It has a certain grandeur and suggests voyages, travel, and adventure on the high seas. Our next stop was Davenport, a small town along the highway. It was not much more than a bus stop with a cafe, a bakery, and a few other buildings. I walked across the highway and climbed down a small cliff for a terrific view of the beach with waves from the Pacific Ocean crashing on the shore. I bought something to drink in the general store and used the restroom. I showed the tour guide my Clipper card but she did not seem to be familiar with them. I think she was from Washington state.

Pigeon Point Light Station

Pigeon Point Light Station

The scenery along the highway was quite unusual to me. It was all very different from the scenery in Pennsylvania. I saw lots of deep gorges, large farms, a few ranches, cypress trees, and pampas grass.

When we arrived in Monterey, we stopped at Old Fisherman’s Wharf. I thought Fisherman’s Wharf and Cannery Row where the same thing but this was a separate collection of gift shops and restaurants along a wharf. I only had a crab cocktail and a glass of coke for lunch because I only wanted a light lunch. I saw a pelican right outside the window of the restaurant so I got up to take a photo of him. Several of the gift shops sold John Steinbeck books so I bought a copy of Sweet Tuesday. Before the trip I read his novel Cannery Row and watched the movie. That was fairly recently. I took lots of photos of the yachts tied up in the harbor and found a few seagulls to photograph too.

After driving through Cannery Row we proceeded to the 17 Mile Drive which actually took a lot of time on the trip since we made many stops. First we stopped at a beach where everyone was encouraged to dip their toes in the ocean. I walked out onto the beach and got close to the waves but I didn’t want wet feet for the rest of the trip. Next we stopped at Bird Rock, a large rock in the ocean where many birds and sea lions were resting. At this point it occurred to me to buy a textbook on Marine Biology since there was some mention of this branch of biology. Biology is the only branch of science which I find easy to understand. A physics textbook would be over my head.

Bird Rock

Bird Rock

After that we stopped at the Lone Cypress for a photo shoot. There is a set of wooden viewing platforms for a good view of this single tree, just like we have in some state parks at home. And finally we stopped for 20 minutes at the Pebble Beach Golf Course. One of the other passengers pointed out a golfer to me. Apparently he is a famous golf pro. I will have to identify him later from the name on his golf bag. There were many impressive mansions in Pebble Beach and the Del Monte Forest had impressive stands of Monterey Pine. And finally we drove through Carmel California and saw the Mission San Carlos. There were television crews there because Father Serra has been made a saint by the Pope.

Finally we returned to Cannery Row where I was given an hour to take photos and do some shopping before our final diner at Cooper’s Pub. I took lots of photos of the Cannery Row Monument, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Pacific Biological Laboratories, and everything else I laid eyes on. I bought another book by John Steinbeck, Travels With Charley, because that is actually a famous travel book. It would be a shame not to buy that travel book while I was actually traveling.

Cannery Row Monument

Cannery Row Monument

For diner at Cooper’s Pub I had soup (clam chowder), a very large pork chop which took me a long time to chew, and coffee cake with ice cream for desert, very delicious.

On the long drive back to San Francisco we took a different route and drove through Silicon Valley along Highway 101. It was very dark out by then so I could not see many technology company headquarters except for Evernote. The sunset was spectacular and the light lingered for far longer than I expected.

So I was on a bus all day but got to see a lot of the countryside and a wide variety of scenery. It is probably very boring for a resident but everything was quite exotic to me. I can’t think of any movies that really capture that scenery.

On the trip home I bought a copy of the authorized biography, Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. This was a thick book but I could not resist buying an iconic book on one of the technology giants. I read almost 100 pages on the plane and in the airport waiting areas. I was already familiar with the basic story of Apple Computer’s early days from reading other books. But having finally seen a little bit of California and Silicon Valley it was more compelling and inspiring. I feel like writing some software to reinvent the world!

Posted in General, Travel | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Napa Valley Wine Train

Day three of my Collette tour of San Francisco was dominated by a ride on the Napa Valley Wine Train. But first I had breakfast at Bin 55, one of the restaurants in San Francisco Marriott Marquis. I almost got charged for breakfast which would have been over $38.00! This was one of the meals that should have been included with my tour. I made sure to straighten that out after the price gouging I suffered the day before.

We drove over the Bay Bridge on the way to Napa Valley. I saw the old span of the bridge which was being demolished. We stopped briefly on Treasure Island to take some photos of the San Francisco skyline across the bay, but the morning was a bit foggy. The bus driver also slowed down at the spot where you can look down at the Bay Bridge so I got some good photos there. I had to shoot through the bus window but you can’t see any evidence of that in my photos. It was very grey and dismal but I can fix that a little using Photoshop.

Bay Bridge Highway

Bay Bridge Highway

The landscape of Northern California is very interesting to me because the vegetation is quite different from the East Coast. The hills in California are mostly tan with dead grasses but there are also some dull green trees. There are many palm trees and eucalyptus trees which are very exotic to me. I think we also went through Sonoma Valley with vast vineyards. It is hard to describe the scenery since I don’t know the names for California plants and geography. But I saw California coastal prairies which are grasslands. I saw what looked like a dusty ranch from the Old West, vast farmlands with nothing but dry brush visible. I find vast prairie lands a little frightening since it seems like you are a very long way from the slightest sign of human habitation. I can just imagine the endless trek you would face if you were abandoned out there.

Napa Valley

Napa Valley

The Napa Valley Wine Train was a long and relaxing ride. Our tour group was the last to board the train. The train passed the back yards of trailer homes on the way out of Napa. These were distinctively California trailer homes which looked like the 1950s style of mobile home with attachments that obscure their origins. Then we began to pass many vineyards.  I could even see bunches of grapes on some vines. Some vineyards had fancy houses, rustic cottages, or elaborate ranch houses but it was basically lonely stretches of vast farmlands. We got to taste some wine, only a half a glass of a red or white wine, and enjoyed appetizers. For lunch I had the soup du jour which was lobster bisque, mustard rubbed pork tenderloin, and crème brûlée for desert. The food was gourmet quality just like on the Tioga Central Railroad of Wellsboro. This reminds me that I’ve been reading some of the travel books by Paul Theroux. He is famous for writing about train travel. I’m currently reading The Great Railway Bazaar so this train ride was a small taste of what he describes.

We drove over the Golden Gate Bridge on the way back, through the tunnel on the Marin County side which is called the Waldo Tunnel, located on U.S. Route 101 between the Golden Gate Bridge and Sausalito. I remember that we did drive through Sausalito again because I saw the house boats and the yachts again.

I finally had an evening free to do something on my own in the city. I took a BART train to the Mission District. This was the first chance I got to use my Clipper card which finally registered the added value I put on my card. Once I reached the Mission District I walked along 24th Street to the Modern Times Bookstore where I bought two books; The Dramatists Guild Resource Directory for 2012 and Torch Song Trilogy by Harvey Fierstein. I was particularly keen on finding theater books because I’ve recently completed an one act play which I started while attending the Primary Stages online playwriting class. I’m through writing ten minute plays. I think I will only write more substantial works like one act plays. I plan to write the definitive shaman play next.

Modern Times Bookstore Collective

Modern Times Bookstore Collective

There are three more major cities in the United States I want to visit; Boston, Chicago, and Los Angeles. I have already begun to gather notes on Chicago and Los Angeles. I think Los Angeles might be my next destination because I’m more excited about seeing Hollywood than anything else. While San Francisco’s technology companies provided the inspiration for my trip to Northern California, playwriting will provide the inspiration for a trip to Los Angeles. Writing plays is closely related to writing other types of scripts for film and television. Personally I think writing a screenplay on spec is a stupid pipe dream, but there is a lot of crossover with the playwright community. Anyway, I already have an association with First Stage in Los Angeles because I paid them to do a reading of one of my short plays.

I wanted to fully explore the Mission District but since I had such limited time on my own I only walked along 24th Street. However, I did see many Latino murals, two other bookstores; Adobe Books and Alley Cat Books, Mixcoatl Arts and Crafts, and Precita Eyes.

Anyway, after that quick trip to the Mission District I went back to my hotel and then walked to North Beach. I really wanted to visit City Lights Bookstore again. I bought two books there; The Playwright At Work and The Chickencoop Chinaman / The Year of the Dragon: Two Plays by Frank Chin, a San Francisco playwright. The performing arts books are located in the basement where it was so hot that I was dripping with sweat while I examined every single theater book they had, trying to decide on the best ones to purchase.

I had diner at a good seafood restaurant, Caffe Sport on Green Street. This is a Sicilian restaurant although most of the waiters seemed to be Latinos. The interior was filled with painted furniture and woodcarvings, an eclectic, kitsch-filled setting according to Google.  I had a glass of white wine. There was a house sauce for bread dipping which I mistook for soup so I ate it all without using bread. I think I ordered Cioppinno al’ Antonio, stewed seafood in white garlic sauce. There were shrimp, crab claws and one crab leg, mussels, clams, calamari (squid body rings like rubber bands), and baby octopus which I avoided eating because they are also rubbery and tasteless. This was a great meal and didn’t leave me feeling too full. It was great to be out and about the city late at night. I saw the strip clubs on Broadway which is the center of nightlife in San Francisco. The Transamerica Pyramid was not lit up as much as I expected but the Sentinel Building was floodlit so I tried to take many photos of that. Unfortunately my camera does not take good photos in low lighting or at night. Everything tends to look blurred.

After finally getting some time on my own to wander around the city I was more satisfied with the trip.

Posted in General, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Muir Woods and Sausalito

The second day of the tour began with breakfast at Boudin Bakery. It was a buffet breakfast. I had orange juice, coffee, sausage, scrambled eggs, pineapple, and sourdough bread. After breakfast I had time to see the small museum and watched bread being made. I also walked outside a bit and took photos of the Musée Mécanique entrance, the Red and White Fleet ships, the Franciscan Crab Restaurant, Alito’s, and Fisherman’s Grotto.

Then we began a bus tour of the city which did take me to some places I did not get to see on my previous trip. First we drove past the Maritime Museum and Ghirardelli Square. The we drove through the Presidio to reach the Golden Gate Bridge. We drove through some tunnels on both sides of the Golden Gate Bridge during the trip. The bus drove over the Golden Gate Bridge and we parked at Vista Point. We were given time to take photos of the bridge and to walk out onto the bridge but there wasn’t enough time to walk clear across it. Fortunately I did that on my previous trip so this was just a repeat.

After driving back over the Golden Gate Bridge we drove to the far west of the city to enter Golden Gate Park. This was more interesting to me because I never got this far west on my previous trip. I saw where the Sutro Baths were located and the Cliff House. I also got my first good look at the Pacific Ocean. In Golden Gate Park we drove pass the windmills, the bison paddock, and the beach chalet. I did not go that far west in the park on my previous trip. We stopped near the Music Concourse bandshell to use the restrooms. I saw some San Francisco Police Department cops on motorcycles ride up and down the steps to the bandshell. I’m not sure what they were doing; showing off for the tourists?, practicing their Dirty Harry chase skills? It seemed a little odd but I took some photos since everyone else felt free to take photos.

The bus then took us up the Twin Peaks where there was an excellent view of the city and the Sutro Tower. I don’t think you can get to the top of the peaks using public transportation so this was another unique benefit of the tour. I took some great photos of downtown San Francisco.

San Francisco Downtown from Twin Peaks

San Francisco Downtown from Twin Peaks

After the tour of the city was over a lot of the tour group took the option to see Muir Woods and Sausalito. We were dropped off at the Gray Line office near Fisherman’s Wharf. I had lunch at the nearby Hollywood Cafe while waiting for the 2:00 p.m. bus to Muir Woods. I had a Bacon, Lettuce, and Tomato sandwich with fries. The bus driver for the drive to Muir Woods acted as the tour guide. He was very outgoing and made a lot of jokes while driving and kept up a running commentary. He said he was from Honduras. The bus drove pass Ghirardelli Square and we went across the Golden Gate Bridge again and into Marin County.

Muir Woods didn’t offer much of a hike but the redwood trees were fantastic! The redwood trees, Sequoia, looked like giants compared to the second growth trees you see in Pennsylvania’s woods. Redwoods have existed since the Pleistocene and Jurassic geological epochs so the woods looked ancient. You almost expected to see dinosaurs. I took a lot of photos but some of them might be blurry because there wasn’t enough light. I made sure to look up to see just how tall these trees are. We had an hour and a half to explore the woods so I walked all the way to Bridge 4 and then walked back. So I saw the Founders Grove, the Cathedral Grove, and the Bohemian Grove. The gift shop did not have anything that I really wanted to but but I settled for a small book Muir Woods Meditations and a 3D bookmark.

Muir Woods

Muir Woods

Before heading back to San Francisco we stopped for an hour in Sausalito, a small village with many fancy boutiques. I ate a Three Scoop Sundae at Lappert’s Ice Cream. Then I went into a gift shop where I found some drugstore items for sale. I bought a Pepto Bismol Liquid 4 oz for $10.99 and Pepcid Complete Acid Reducer + Antacid with Dual Action, Cool Mint, 25 Chewable Tablets for $19.99. This was some serious price gouging! Amazon sells that small bottle of Pepto Bismol for only $4.57 and the Pepcid Complete Acid Reducer should be only $9.44. I was extremely pissed by these high prices and decided to forbid any further casual purchases during my trip. After that, I was a lot more cautious in how I spent my money. The store was probably Sausalito Drug Store at 701 Bridgeway. I can tell by their Yelp reviews that they have a history of ripping off tourists. Well they just got one more negative review!

Posted in General, Travel | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment