Sunday, June 18, 2006

2 days @NYC

I visited New York twice in this visit to Brookhaven so far: the previous Sunday( a week ago) and this past Saturday. I wasn't expecting much, but New York had yet some more surprises for me. Each time I visit, I get into the heart of New Yorkers a little more.

Last Sunday, it was the first weekend since we came that we weather was actually nice (warm and not raining). Patrick wasn't in the mood to drive the hour-long trip to Manhattan, so I went on my own after the footbal matches.

I was planing to go to central park, because I hadn't been there the last time I came with Dora, and also it is most fabulus in the summer and especially on Sundays when all the New Yorkers are out. On my way there, I saw thousands of Latinos walking around in the streets near the park. The streets were FULL of them. After asking around a bit I realized it was the Puerto Rican Day, and the Puerto Ricans were in the streets parading. It was definately not what I expected to find!

In Central Park, the view was unique. Thousands of people were out playing, running, eating, having fun.

There may not be a beach nearby (since we are in the middle of a jungle of scyscrapers!), but that does not prevent people of playing beach volley:

You can also find lakes with boats that ride up and down:

There are also playgrounds for kinds, with the buildings watching them as if there were their parents:

These are my favorite shots. Only in New York you can find a beautiful park to play with the skyscrapers in the background. It just feels weird for me every time I am there, it is something I am not used to.

Then I headed over towards Times Square to catch a movie. On my way there on 7th Avenue there is this beautiful building

and under it I found a british young playing with his soccer ball next to the subway station... reminded me of the tv ads of Nike and Adidas with people playing football in the middle of the most weird places. I talked to him, and it turns out that the New Yorkers are more organized for football that the Angelinos. metrosoccernyc is their website, and apart from the official leagues they gather for kickarounds every Sunday afternoon during the world cup...

1X Times Square

The americans are almost never down to earth when it comes to blessing their own.

"Welcome to the center of the universe". It seems arrogant (and it is), but to a point it captures the feeling you get when you look at times square: that if all the world outside Manhattan suddenly vanished, they would care! "The ball drops here", the sign reads, and it is not wrong.

I went to Lowe's on 42nd street, one of the oldest movie theaters in the US. I wish I could see this movie:
... but it doesn't open until July 7th. Instead, I went to the highly anticipated Pixar's Cars.

Well, I have only one thing to say: Pixar did it again. To me this is their best movie so far. Pixar is the most succcesful company in movie history (and Steve Jobs has something to do with it...): they have released 7 films so far, each of which has grossed over $200,000,000 . No other film studio has had such success. And when you think that their movies cannot get mych better, they simply do.

In the beggining of Cars I noticed the crazy action in the Nascar race. Then I noticed the truly beautiful animation, which is by far the best thing to show up on screen until now. The colors, the moves of the cars (they feel more humans than many actors in dumb movies), little details here and there, everything was perfect. Then I noticed the not so adult (but still higly mature) story. Then I noticed the voices of the cars. The I noticed the perfectly chosen music. Then I laughed on the really fun jokes they have (some sequences are hilarious in a Shrek-type way). But after several minutes I couldn't notice anything: everything blent into a whole, a beautiful story that unfolded beyond my eyes. I forgot were I was, I forgot that I was in a theater. And when a movie does that, it is a great movie.

The Pixar films dop not offer anything original in terms of story; however whatever they do, they do it extremely well. You have your classic characters: the young arrogant man (sorry, car) that will learn the power of honesty. The hot girl (sorry, Porsche). The old wise guy. The funny companion. The mean enemies. Everything has be done before, but it was so perfectly done that I fell for it... Keep up the great work, Pixar.

On my way back to the car and Brookhaven (gee), I passed by Radio City Hall, the most prestigious showroom in the city. At that time the Tony Awards ceremony took place (these are the Oscars for Broadway theatrical shows). A bunch of limos were parked outside.

Now, let's move on to this past Saturday (boy, this is going to be a long post or what). After I dropped off Patrick at the airport on Friday (it took me 2.5 hours to get back from JFK to Brookhaven instead of the normal 1 hour with this crazy NY traffic!), I went by the lab to get the day's data and then I talked to Summer: he is a half Israeli and half Arab postoc here at ATF with 8 first author publications before he finished his phd. We went for dinner together and then we decided to go to Manhattan together. He's young and fun to hang out with, and none of us had anyone else nearby to go with, so...

Our plan was to get to a Broadway show. They have this deal that they sell same day tickets of the shows if they are available at half price, if you are willing to wait in the line for a bit. The booths are open from 10-2 for the afternoon shows and from 3-8 for the evening shows, so we decided to get there before 2 for the afternoon shows.

First, we had to find parking. The first times I visited Manhattan I didn't know and I paid about $30 for the parking each day. Now, on Sundays you can park on the streets, but on Saturdays? Summer knew this parking lot, at 33rd Street and 9th Avenue that is open and has a weekend deal of $15 for all day parking. It is a great deal so we left the car there (it is behind the post office building).

Opposite from the parking lot there is a store called B&H Electronics. They claim to be the cheapest electronics store in American, and although I have no way to verify that I cannot disagree that they have some amazing prices. It is huge with more than 50 employees usually helping out the customers. We soon realized though that since they are Jews they are closed on Saturdays. However if you ever visit the city and need any type of electronics gadgets to buy, pay them a visit.

We had a short lunch near Times Square and then at 1:55pm we reached the ticket booths. We saw them closed but on the side there was a huge line of about 150 people...

We soon realized that this was the line for the 3 o'clock opening!

Apparently this is one of the best ways to get tickets in New York. They are 50% off the regular high price, which is usually $110 (full price). Each of the previous two times I watched a Broadway show, The Phantom of the Opera and The Producers, I paid $116 each (incl. taxes). Now, we would pay $58 each of us. But for which show?

Luckily the people next to us waiting in the line were experienced Broadway attendees. The lady was living in Bronx (too expensive to live in Manhattan!), and came to get tickets for Hairspray. The guy next to her was a father that wanted to get tickets for his sons to go and see the Producers (on top of that he had been the previous day to Chicago and the next day to the Lion King. 3 shows in the row! He doesn't live in New York but he visits every once a while, so he goes to the shows whenever possible.

Summer had watched the Lion King and he liked it, so he wanted us to get tickets for Beauty and the Beast, which is another Disney show. I don't have to tell you that I never wanted to go to that show because it is (in my mind) childish and banal, and I couldn't find any way that I could possibly like it.

We talked with this lady and the guy for various Broadway productions for about 1 hour (as long as the wait in the line). They had seen several shows each so it was a stroke of luck to have them there and advise us. The guy had seen Beauty and the Beast, and he said they had beautiful and most elaborate stage effects and sceneries. He also suggested Mamma Mia, as Broadway classic. At the end I agreed to go and see Beauty and the Beast for 2 reasons: First, Summer had seen Disney productions and he loved them, and second, when it comes to Broadway what you can find here and nowhere else is the scenic design. So I had to experience it.

It was 3pm so we had some time before the 8pm show. We briefly visited the Lincoln Center of the performing arts, a unique place that they have all kinds of performances, from classic orchestra to theater, libraries and music performances. It wasn't so interesting in the day though.

Then we caught the subway and went downtown to the NYU area and Washington Square. It was beautiful, with hundrends of people enjoying the warm weather and having fun. Here's two ladies dancing in the fountain at the sounds of a nearby band that was playing live:

And here's a more artstic picture of a child in the fountain waters:

Then we headed to Broadway Street, a street with unlimites stores that is packed on Saturdays from shopping people. In a corner, I couldn't help but notice that although Americans don't give a shit in general about football and the World Cup, well, there was something there to remind them:
A huge ball outside of the Adidas store and people watching the games on the big screens (it looked beautiful on HDTV... I can't wait to return home in LA and watch them too in HD!).

For an early dinner we went to a french restaurant that Summer knew, Gavroche, located at 212 West 14th Street (between 7th & 8th Avenues). As soon as I walked into the garden on the back, I remember the Sex and the City scene with Carrie that walks into a similar place and says something like "oh, I would love to have one of these restaurants with a small area on the back garden that you have to book months in advance to find a table". Well, it was like that (but no reservation required!):

We met the French owner of the place, she was really nice. They have this deal before 6pm, you can have a 3 course meal for only$19 (I paid $25 including tip and tax), which is great when the avearage dinner price in NY is $35 ($45 in London; $65 in Tokyo!). The service was friendly and the food was great, but it is french so don't expect huge meals.

At 7:15pm we were at the theater, just 100feet away from times square. My expectations for the show had risen from 0 to something during the day, so I couldn't wait.

What can I say? The show was amazing. It is the best of the three I have seen so far. The Producers are of a different kind as it is comedy-driven, but it was very similar to the Phantom. Great acting, great singing, great design. There were many laughs that made the whole thing highly enjoyable and not at all childish. And when it came to the staging, the scenes were just great. It was really like watching the action happening live in front of you... I was deeply touched, more than I could have been with any movie...

The indoor of the castle is the most amazing set I have seen in my life... you just cannot avoid saying "wow". But the best part was the last 20 minutes or so... it was truly the best of the best. The room that the Beast and Gastone fight is about 1/3 of the total stage. As they fight, they go outside through the door... then you see the whole thing rotating and coming closer, showing us the back side, which was the balcony.... as they keep fighting for the final time, rain starts to fall with an amazing light effect that I have never seen before... lightinings and thunders can be seen and heard throughout the battle, as they move over to the edge of the bridge, and teh orchestra giving its best... it was a memory that I will never forget.

One of the final shots is where the Beast transforms back to a human. I don't know how they did the transformation technically, but it happens right in front of your eyes in just a few seconds... the body of the Beast lifts, levitates, and then starts rotating... quickly enough it is turned into a man that slowly lands down to earth... it was a most magical moment... it feels stupid and unreal in tv, but when you actually watch it happening in front of your eyes... it is not fake anymore... it just hits on you...

As we walked back to Times Square, I took a look around, and I notice up there in a corner, my first time, eternally mine: