Stepping into Magic: an actor's journey…

"Be not afraid of greatness: some are born great, some achieve greatness and some have greatness thrust upon them" ~William Shakespeare

Mom + Manhattan = A Magical Birthday Week!


On Monday my Mom arrived to NYC! I made reservations for dinner at T-Bar, which was only a couple blocks away. I found the restaurant on Open Table (Of which I am a big fan, I like collecting the points and am close to getting the $50 dinning check!) We were seated at a table with a view of the bustling street and promptly ordered two gin martini’s. We had a few things on the list of what to do for the week and agreed to just let the city take us where she wanted. My Mom had an idea to take abstract photos each day with her camera. I was going to suggest heading to McKeown’s, a local Irish Pub, after dinner, but I thought she would be too tired. The waiter stopped by to ask if we wanted dessert and my Mom waved him away explaining that we had to go to the Irish Bar to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, great minds think alike! We walked over and enjoyed some Jameson with a toast to our Irish ancestry before heading home for the night.

Tuesday we decided to have an easy day. I suggested seeing a movie and remembered that Philomena was playing at The Paris theatre. I made us breakfast, we got ready and walked along Central Park to the theater. It was a chilly day and my mom was trying to remember the last time she had been in NYC during the winter time. Recently a lot of New York folks have been sharing how exhausted they are of the cold weather. Over the past few weeks there have been a couple sunny and slightly warm days but then a really cold day will hit. I did see some robins poking around in the park a few days prior, but they seemed to have disappeared again. We arrived at the theater just in time. It was an incredible film, Judi Dench brought a harrowing simplicity to her role and the story, based on true events, left me with a bad taste in my mouth, in a good way. We left the theatre and chatted about the film the whole way to the restaurant we found on Yelp. Knowing we wanted Italian food and didn’t want to spend too much money, I did a search on the Yelp app for $$ places that were near our area. We chose Pazza Notte and it was perfect. They had a martini happy hour, 2 for 1, and their small plates were decadent. Prosciutto wrapped asparagus, baked clams and arancini (fried rice balls), homemade linguini with pesto and a beet salad. We then wandered down 5th avenue back towards the apartment crossed over to Lexington, checking out all the little restaurants and store fronts. We took a bunch of abstract photos on our walk, noticing interesting buildings and details on churches. When we got home Mom watched Chicago Fire and I caught up on The Walking Dead.

Wednesday we visited the Guggenheim Museum, on a friends suggestion, to see the Carey Mae Weems exhibit. The show included photographs, writings and videos that covered three decades of her work. Her work was very personal and she appeared in almost all of her photos. One particular set of photos chronicled the rise and fall of a relationship, with large print black and white photos and a written narrative that accompanied the 14 framed pictures. After completing the exhibit we both got a bit hungry and decided to check out The Wright restaurant in the museum and were delighted to split a very good burger and salad. We then took a train to Grand Central Station. It began to rain slightly and we headed to the crowded subway during rush hour. Arriving at the main terminal we immediately gazed upwards at the gorgeous blue ceiling with the constellations painted in gold. We wandered around the food court, took a look at the market and stumbled upon the NY Transit Museum and Gallery. Their current exhibit was a collection quilts that were created in a competition for the centennial celebration of the Grand Central in 2013, one of the quilts was made by someone in New Mexico! After sitting for a moment and regaining our strength, we left the station and headed out to find a rooftop bar with a view of the city. On our way we saw an incredible sight while waiting at a crosswalk. A woman, on rollerblades, went against traffic, in the rain, with large plastic bags filled with cans and bottles. She wasn’t going very fast and it was amazing how determined she was, as my mom noticed, you could see it not only in her face but in her whole body. I snapped a quick photo of her before she disappeared down the street as we got the signal to cross. We ended up at Bookmarks in the Library Hotel. The room with the view was packed but the hostess kept an eye out for us as we sat at the bar, and soon we were able to sit on a couch and watch the rain come down on the on the city. The night before we had picked up a couple menus of places to eat along Lexington and decided on a spot for dinner. We chose a french restaurant called Sel et Poivre and called up my Mom’s long time friend Phyllis to meet us for a tasty dinner with some great wine and excellent service.

Thursday was my birthday and the first day of Spring! We began with lunch at The Boathouse with some friends of my Mother’s. The restaurant was very reasonable and the crab cakes are delicious! It was a lovely day, the sun shined on the lake through the clouds and there were loons fishing and swimming in the lake. Afterwards we walked over to the Frick Museum and were treated to a mini tour by my Mother’s friend who worked there part time. I found my favorite piece in the current exhibit of the Hill Collection of Bronze sculptures.  “The Rape of Sabine” by Antonio Sussini and it was breathtaking. It was only 23 and 1/4 inches tall, but I could look at it forever. It was set up so you could look at it from 360 degrees and at each angle was a different story. In the gift shop my mother bought me the book New York Stories, a collection of short stories by various writers on the city of New York. We went home for a nap then got ready for dinner at Bella Luna with Phyllis. The food was very good, the best clams and linguini I have tasted in a long time. The waiter treated each of us to a glass of limoncello to end the meal. I hugged Phyllis goodbye and put my mom in a cab home and headed to Shalel Lounge, a little Morrocan basement bar I found on Yelp, to meet up with a few NYC friends to celebrate. It was a great group of folks who showed up, a friend from NM, one from USC, friends from Dallas and Oregon. We had a nice little table in a stone alcove, we had drinks, ordered dessert and I blew out my 3rd candle of the night. (That wish better come true!) Two of my friends headed with me to the Irish Pub near my neighborhood and we ended the night with a few more drinks, some intense people watching and a little bit of dancing to the music on the Jukebox.

Friday was my Mom’s last day in the city. We had a lunch planned with her friend Steven Kasher who has a photography gallery in Chelsea. We checked out the current exhibit, Jerome Libeling: A Matter of Life and Death, whose photos reminded me of Dorthea Lang.  Steven then took us to lunch at The Trestle on Tenth, the rigatoni was amazing! We said goodbye to Stephen and wandered Chelsea and visited the Aperture Gallery which has a great selection of photography books in addition to a small gallery. I was fascinated by one book in particular: Subway by Bruce Davidson. It is a collection of photos taken in the 80’s on NYC subways and stations, stunning images. We took more of our abstract photos along our way to Penn Station to meet another friend of my Mom’s who happened to be in town for the weekend. We covered a lot of ground and were happy to sit and have a cocktail to catch up. We had tickets for INTAR’S production of “Adoration of the Old Woman” by Jose Rivera at 8pm and had some time to kill after saying goodbye to our friend. We fought through the crowds on 35th street and headed to 6th avenue to catch a bus to the Plaza Hotel. My mom had suggested that it would be fun to go to Tiffany’s to look at wedding bands which was right across the street from the hotel. She was right it was fun! The woman was super helpful and taught me a lot about different settings and styles. She probably knew I wasn’t someone who could even imagine purchasing a ring from there, but she gracefully suggested a number of rings, helped me find styles that I preferred and handed me a card with all of my favorite selections in case I should return with a final decision. We had a couple of drinks at the Plaza before hopping in a cab to the theater. We were a few minutes late but they were wonderful about seating us in between the first and second scene. It was a hysterical, deep, moving and honest journey. Jose Rivera’s words were like honey and the acting was spot on. The frosting on the cake was the collection of talented audience members that were in attendance. Tanya Saracho was in the audience with the cast of HBO’s new show LOOKING and Jose Rivera was there as well! My mom and I hung out after the play to meet and greet with the cast of the show, the cast of Looking, and the Artistic Director Lou Moreno. Everyone was warm and friendly and it was an honor to have been there that evening. Finally, after saying our goodbyes we caught a cab and went home so my mom could get some rest for her long trip the next day. We had been invited to drinks with the folks we met that night, but we were both exhausted!

Saturday morning we waited for her car service to arrive and off she went back to New Mexico. I was sad to see her go, it was so much fun to be with her in this city. When I was little I came to this N.Y. a lot with my Mom and have memories of the museums, Central Park and the subways. I’m so happy we got to celebrate together and explore this place again. That night I headed out to the Mercury Lounge to meet up with Beto O’Byrne, a playwright/director and graduate of the USC MFA in playwrighting program and his girlfriend Meropi Peponides, a dramaturge, writer and producer to listen to some live music. The two bands we caught were Ruben and the Dark and The Darcy’s. I realized how much I missed hearing live music and both bands were fantastic.

Sunday morning I researched rush policies for NYC theaters and decided to try and get a ticket for Antony and Cleopatra at The Public. Their policy is to get there two hours before curtain and I lucked out and got a ticket for closing night! Since I had some time before the show I looked up a place to eat on Yelp and found Wise Men. It was a nice little dark bar with a good menu and reasonable prices very close to the theater. The show was beautifully directed and acted, I got a little confused in the story (I had never read this one) but was most taken by the love story between the titular characters and was intrigued by Caesar’s journey. I snuck down to the second row during intermission where I had a great view of the last image of the play, which still sticks in my mind. For a night cap I headed over to the local Irish Bar in my neighborhood but they were closing early for renovations and recommended that I walk a few blocks up to Doc Watson’s. They had live traditional Irish music playing and the bartenders were awesome.

Monday I had the pleasure of a leisurely lunch and pot of tea with my friend Stephanie Swirsky from USC. She is living near my area and suggested we go to Alice’s Tea Cup. It was a super cute little place with a great menu and a bajillion types of tea. That evening I attended a staged reading of “WALL, BALL, SUMMER AND FALL” by Daniel John Kelley directed by my friend Alex Correia who I met in Oregon when his assistant directed The Heart of Robin Hood at OSF. It was an interesting story about searching for one’s passion, there was one character that was running from something and another who was standing deeply still in something else. I love staged readings, hearing them and performing them. I enjoy the exercise my imagination gets when creating the world of the play. Afterwards I helped them get 10 music stands down an elevator and into a cab to return to the rental office. We stopped at Rumours Irish Pub for a very good burger and beers to toast to their creativity.

Today marks one week left that I have in this city, and Gloria Steinem’s 80th birthday! I am trying to pack in as much as I can in these last days. It was a wonderful birthday week full of awesome Mom time, great food, loving friends, wonderful art and long walks. I look forward to what NYC wants to show me this week, she has a way of providing great adventure if one is open, positive and aware.

“I remember walking across Sixty-second Street one twilight that first spring, or the second spring, they were all alike for a while. I was late to meet someone but I stopped at Lexington Avenue and bought a peach and stood on the corner eating it and knew that I had come out out of the West and reached the mirage. I could taste the peach and feel the soft air blowing from a subway grating on my legs and I could smell lilac and garbage and expensive perfume and I knew that it would cost something sooner or later — because I did not belong there, did not come from there — but when you are twenty-two or twenty-three, you figure that later you will have a high emotional balance, and be able to pay whatever it costs. I still believed in possibilities then, still had the sense, so peculiar to New York, that something extraordinary would happen any minute, any day, any month.”

~Joan Didion

New York Vintage - Lower Manhattan skyline looking northwest from Brooklyn. June 1948. Photo Andreas Feininger.

New York Vintage – Lower Manhattan skyline looking northwest from Brooklyn. June 1948. Photo Andreas Feininger.




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