Yesterday I made my first bus trip to New York City for 2018. The main goal on this trip was to see The Seafarer at the Irish Repertory Theatre. But I also visited some minor museums and did some shopping.
The Susquehanna Trailways bus was plastered with vehicle wrap advertising for Lycoming College. I wish I had taken a photo of the bus but there wasn’t a good opportunity to do so. During the fast food stop at McDonald’s I was the last person to get on the bus and the escort had to come find me because it took so long to get my order and to finish eating. I didn’t even quite finish my coffee.
We arrived in New York City around 10:00 a.m. and were left off on 8th Avenue between West 50th Street and West 51st Street. My first objective was to visit the International Center of Photography Museum which is way downtown on the Lower East Side, on the Bowery. So I walked to Bryant Park and took an F train heading downtown to Second Avenue. I used an entrance in front of the Bank of America Tower instead of crossing the street to use the entrance right beside Bryant Park. Once I reached Second Avenue I quickly located the International Center of Photography Museum on the Bowery.
The International Center of Photography Museum was quite a disappointment. The interior looked nothing like the online photos suggested it would look like, so maybe they were photos of the old space. There were only two floors of exhibits at the International Center of Photography Museum and both of the exhibits were strictly political in nature; Then They Came For Us: Incarceration of Japanese Americans during World War II and Edmund Clark: The Day The Music Died, which documented America’s war on terror and incarceration of terrorists. This museum does not appear to have a permanent collection on exhibit so if you are not interested in the special exhibits you should not go. I only went to this museum because I have already seen all the major museums in New York City. Before leaving the area I went back to the Blondie mural and took some more photos of that since I used to be a huge Blondie fan.
International Center of Photography Museum
I returned to the Second Avenue F line station and took a train uptown to 23rd Street near Madison Square Park. My second goal on this trip was to visit the National Museum of Mathematics. I’m not a big math geek but I did spend a considerable amount of time improving my math skills in order to explore artificial intelligence. The National Museum of Mathematics was also a very disappointing minor museum. It is mostly geared towards kids so the place was crawling with children and all the exhibits were meant to be educational and participatory. This meant that every exhibit required you to figure out what you were supposed to do. It became quite frustrating since almost half of the exhibits did not even appear to be functional. Quite a few were out of order or didn’t seem to work as intended. There were only two floors of exhibits. There did seem to be a good selection of books and games in the gift shop but I was too irritated by this crap museum to buy anything.
National Museum of Mathematics
I located the Rizzoli Bookstore which had moved to Broadway near Madison Square Park. It took me quite a while to locate the Performing Arts shelves of books and the selection of plays wasn’t very good but I did find Hangman by Martin McDonagh. Martin McDonagh is one of my favorite playwrights. I appreciate his black comedy and this new play has received a lot of praise. I still had a lot of time before the play at the Irish Repertory Theatre started so I walked down to 14th Street and found the Namaste Bookshop. Namaste Bookshop is a New Age book store with a wide selection of books on spirituality. I found their section on shamanism which had a large number of books on the topic. It was hard for me to decide on which one to buy but eventually I settled for The Cosmic Serpent by Jeremy Narby since it seemed like the most scholarly book on shamanism. This store also had a massive display of crystals and statuettes making it a good source for New Age merchandise and supplies.
I had plenty of time to walk back up Sixth Avenue to West 22nd Street but I didn’t see much of interest along the way except for some cast-iron buildings which may be architecturally significant. I will have to do some research later on to identify those buildings. I walked to the Irish Repertory Theatre and took some photos of their sidewalk sign and the exterior. They were also advertising Woman and Scarecrow by Marina Carr. Now that is a show I would definitely like to see because I am a big fan of Marina Carr’s dark plays. Unfortunately I don’t think I can make it to New York City to see this play unless they extend it. Since I still had over an hour before the play began I found a nearby restaurant where I could have lunch. I chose Essen because this seemed to be more of a cafeteria style place than a sit down restaurant where you have to wait to be served. At Essen I just picked up a chicken and pasta cold salad, a large cookie, and a bottle of Starbucks iced coffee. I also considered going to a small pizza parlor but the large cookie made me feel pretty full.
The Seafarer at Irish Repertory Theatre
I went back to the Irish Repertory Theatre, got my ticket which was held at the box office, and sat in the lobby for over a half hour. I noticed that one gentleman there to see the play was wearing an ABC News jacket which suggests to me that some media company employees are supporters of Irish theater. As I was taking my seat I noticed that the Irish Repertory Theatre has a balcony section of seats. My seat was in the orchestra. It occurred to me that I didn’t really know the difference between balcony and orchestra seats but it is really quite simple. Balcony seats will put you in a balcony overlooking the stage from above while orchestra seats will be on the level of the stage, like where an orchestra would be. It is surprising that I did not know this but I guess I never really gave it much thought until that moment. The stage set was very elaborate and depicted a very messy Irish home with old prints and Catholic religious paintings on the walls. The piles of boxes and the big mess actually looks a lot like my living room which is a disaster. So the stage set looked extremely realistic to me and I always appreciate the illusion this creates. They were playing a nature tape of ocean sounds over the sound system and this practically put me right to sleep since it was like listening to a relaxation tape. I get up at 5:30 a.m. to make a bus trip to New York City and when I finally enter a quiet, darkened, air-conditioned theater after running around a bit, all I want to do is sleep. I really need to find someplace to get a cup of coffee before the play begins. As it was, I could barely keep awake for this play even though I wanted to drink in every minute of it.
The big draw for this play was the appearance of Matthew Broderick in a role. I probably would have gone to see this play anyway, since the Irish Repertory Theatre is now my favorite theater in New York City, but it was an extra thrill seeing Matthew Broderick on stage, in the flesh, only a few feet away from where I was sitting. Matthew Broderick played Mr. Lockhart, the sinister character who may be the devil. At times he displayed the proper menace, but at other times he seemed on his guard, as if the other rough characters were making him a little nervous. But I suppose that could be appropriate for a successful gentleman playing cards with a bunch of rowdy working people. He was a bit out of his element. Sharky was portrayed by the actor Andy Murray who had considerable stage presence himself. Although you might imagine a complete loser while reading the play, Sharky came across as somebody tough enough to face the devil.
The playwright Conor McPherson is one of the most successful Irish playwrights of the day. He does seem to have a gimmick in writing plays with a supernatural element, but his work still manages to have some literary qualities. However, I thought the literary value of The Seafarer was very slight, resting on the redemption of a man who doesn’t have much to live for or any direction in life. Otherwise the play would come perilously close to be purely of entertainment value as a tale of weird fiction. This brings up a point I was trying to make in a previous blog post. I expect a play to have some literary value. There is not much point in writing a play except as a stab at literary glory. And there is not much point in going to the theater to see a play unless it has some literary merit.
Once the play was over, I didn’t really have anything else planned but I now know my way around New York City well enough to kill some time in a productive fashion. I took an F line train back uptown and got off at 42nd Street, Bryant Park Station. After taking a few photos around Bryant Park I walked all the way to the Drama Book Shop where I bought three books; The Cherry Orchid by Anton Checkhov, translated by Stephen Karam, Speech & Debate by Stephen Karam, and Smart People by Lydia R. Diamond. I only got one stamp on my Acting Edition Club card because only the Samuel French playscript was an acting edition. After making that purchase I went to the Last Rites Gallery which is only a few blocks away. That was when I discovered that I forgot to put an extra camera battery in my pocket. I left all my extra camera batteries in my shoulder bag which I left on the bus. Fortunately I only took 97 photos on this trip so I did not need to replace the battery. At the Last Rites Gallery I saw the crochet artwork of Caitlin McCormack. But since this was the ever ghastly Last Rites Gallery, the crochet work was ghastly in nature too. This artist crocheted bat skeletons, snake skeletons, and human skeletons. It was a very clever concept executed quite well. I’ve made it a habit to visit Last Rites Gallery because you are guaranteed to discover something weird and morbid on its walls. Next I went to Shake Shack on 8th Avenue for a bite to eat before the long bus ride home. Going to Shake Shack proved to be a thoroughly miserable experience. The restaurant was super crowded. Although there was not a long line to get in, things were pretty crowded in the restaurant and there was no place for you to sit down to eat. I got into a line to pay with cash and ordered a single Shakeshack burger and a coffee shake. I was given a restaurant pager, those little electronic devices that buzz and flash lights when your order is ready. The pick up counter was so crowded that you needed one of these devices to alert you that your food was ready. After I got my to go order I walked all the way to the One Worldwide Plaza which is a public plaza with tables and chairs. It is the perfect place to bring food you bought else where but it did prove to be further from Shake Shack than I thought.
My arthritic knee did not bother me much on this trip because I can dull the pain with just an aspirin. In two weeks I will be going to Boston for a two week vacation and that may prove to be more problematic for my bad knee.