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Marsha and Matt Take Manhattan

hamilton

This was a trip where the stars truly aligned.  After a lot of searching and effort, we got tickets to both Hamilton and The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.  So off we went to New York, New York.

Okay, here is the answer to the question everyone asks.  How did we get tickets to Hamilton?  Well, it is not that you can’t get tickets.  What you cannot get are tickets at the regular price unless you are willing to wait about a year.  My policy is that I do not buy anything a year in advance.  My life changes too much, my mind changes too much, to make that kind of commitment.  Heck, for all I know, in a year I could be living in Tahiti.  (I wish.)  But there are plenty of tickets for sale by resellers. The issue then becomes, how much are you willing to pay?  My answer was, not more than I ever paid to see Prince.  Plus, you need to be flexible and be willing to go on a Wednesday or some off-day.  Forget the weekend.

I went on-line and started going through the tickets for sale day-by-day, month-by-month until I found two we could afford.  Some of the tickets were going for as much as $1000 a piece.  Yeah, I am not paying that kind of money.  I have some dignity and I am not going to be extorted.  I finally found tickets that were under $300 a piece, which was a bargain.

Having secured those, I started shooting for Colbert tickets.  Why not try to do both?  Getting tickets to Colbert is not an easy task either.   I had applied for tickets many times and so I started searching every day to see if a date had opened.  Finally, one night as we were enjoying our after dinner repast, and I was playing on my iPad, they let me into the queue and I got them.  It worked.  See, the stars did align.

But wait, there’s more.  We love a good meal.  I’m very much into table pounding a la Harry Met Sally when something is gosh darn good.  When we last visited New York, we had dinner at The Modern, the restaurant associated with the Metropolitan Museum of Modern Art.  It had good reviews and we are foodies so we decided to try it.  The food was surprising and imaginative and our taste buds were most pleased.  So we thought, let’s go again.  Turns out the chef had left and started his own restaurant–Gabriel Kruether.  Well, Gabriel darling, we made reservations and we are on our way.

And let us not forget Aquavit, our favorite Nordic restaurant.  After our trip to Norway we became fans of Nordic cuisine, and we have eaten there many times.  So we had to stop there too.

Plans all made, we set off on a cold February day riding the train to New York for a four day holiday.

First stop, Colbert.  Hey, there we are on the telly:

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There are very strict rules about attending one of these shows.  We have to get in line to get a ticket and a hand stamp, even though we already have reservations.  Then we are told to return at a specific time and if we are not there, we are out, even with a ticket. Then we get into another line and wait and wait and wait.  The first line is interminable.  The show tapes at five.  We start standing in line at around two.  It is raining and cold and miserable. We are early enough that we are standing under the theater awning so we are not soaked but after two hours, the toes are decidedly frosty.  But we persevere.  We go away and come back at the appointed hour.  We get in line again.  When they finally let us in, we stand some more.  Finally, doors open and we end up pretty close to the stage.

So what happens?   It starts with a comedian warming up the audience.  A not very funny comedian who seems to be a throw back to the 1950s.  He is actually telling ethnic jokes about the Irish.  Um, okay. This guy’s job is to get the audience fired up.  We practice yelling and cheering.

Next Colbert comes out for a Q & A.  They tell you not to ask him any personal questions.  He takes my question.  I am so excited.  Actually, I have a comment.  I tell him that I really think he could be the next Johnny Carson but he needed to have someone from a zoo bring an animal to maybe pee on his head.  Then he’d really be Carson.  (I will never ever forget that Carson moment.) Yes, I suggest that Colbert have an animal pee on his head.  He makes a joke about my comment, he is flattered that I compared him to Carson, and that was that.  Then Jon Batiste and the band come out to play some for us.  The show starts, Stephen comes on and we watch a t.v. show being made.  It is all over in about 90 minutes.  The entire ordeal took about six hours.

We have reservations for a late dinner at Aquavit.  I opt for the three course traditional Nordic meal, which, of course, includes house-cured herring and potatoes.  It ends up being about seven courses after they brought all of the chef’s surprises like porcini mushroom soup with rabbit and a venison tartar with a raw quail egg.  We pair dinner with an aquavit flight.  What is aquavit?   A Norwegian spiced liquor, a vodka or whiskey depending on whether it is made from grains or potatoes.  Linje Aquavit is by far the best and most traditional.  In the olden days of yore, sailors would put the aquavit in casks and take it with them around the world. They realized this process gave it a more complex flavor.  So Linje mimics that by putting their aquavit into oak casks and giving it a world tour on a ship traveling to the far reaches of the Pacific and back.  The aquavit matures with help from the gentle rocking of the ship.  I assume the house-made aquavit we were tasting did not go around the world on a ship but it was still tasty.  Three shots of it and I am feeling pretty good.

After dinner, simply stuffed to the gills, we flag a taxi and head back to the hotel to begin planning for our next adventure–Hamilton.

Here is the other answer to the often asked question about Hamilton, is it really that good?  Yes. Yes, it is.  I cannot emphasize that enough.  In fact, Hamilton has ruined musicals for us.  As Matt says, there is a time before-Hamilton and a time after-Hamilton. For example, we recently saw Evita at the local theater.  Yikes!  So BH.  Now that we are AH, that musical just does not meet the test for a great musical.  I am not sure if it ever did.  But I can say that, after Hamilton, it seemed flat and dull.

The theater where Hamilton plays is quite small,  built at a time when men must have been as tall as James Madison.  Matt, like most other men in the theater, is squeezed into the seat, knees practically under his chin.  I am even uncomfortable. But the music and the story are so engrossing, we just ignore it.  The show is a three hour extravaganza of music–pop, rap, traditional musical numbers. It has it all.  It is just exhilarating to watch.  Yes, watching two men have a free-style rap off (if that is what it is called) about how to pay for the debts of the States after the Revolutionary War is ridiculously fun.  We are watching the original cast, too.  Afterward, we walk back to the hotel happy about what we have just witnessed and vowing to see it again someday.

And now the day had come for us to dine with Chef Gabriel.  We save ourselves all day for the tasting menu extravaganza that is to come.  We are warned the tasting menu takes three hours and has twelve courses.  Twelve?  Bring it on.  It has it all.  Fois gras, caviar, venison, lobster, and more.  It ends up being more like fourteen courses with the add-ons.  Once again, groaning as we leave the table, we waddle back to the hotel.  We must have consumed two days worth of calories in that one meal.

The next day we packed our bags and headed home, another adventure coming to an end.

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The Corpse Flower

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Success!!! On August 2, 2016, we finally got to see the Titan Arum in bloom in all of its fetid glory.  Also known as the Corpse Flower or stinky plant, this plant, indigenous to Indonesia, gets its nickname from the putrid odor it emits when it blooms.  The odor is likened to rotting flesh or meat.  There is a purpose to that odor–it attracts beetles and flies which then pollinate the flower deep inside the cone.  It is also called titan for a reason.  This one grew to be 7’4″ tall before it collapsed.  Go to the US Botanical Garden website to see the time lapse video.

Trying to see one of these bloom and emitting a stench is no easy task.  People line up for blocks to get into the building.  And if you don’t get there at just the right moment, it will not smell.  Why do we want to smell it?  Because that is the point.  It is one thing to be a big plant.  It is an entirely different level when it smells like a rotting corpse.  You have to ask yourself, can it be that bad?  The only way to find out for yourself is to be there when it smells.

We tried to see one three years ago but I was traveling and by the time I arrived, speeding like a maniac from the airport to get in line, the line was so long that it wrapped around the building and double on itself.  They closed the doors just as we approached the entrance.  We cried and went home.  When we went back the next day, the odor was long gone.

This time we were fully prepared.  I was glued to the live webcam waiting, waiting, waiting for it to open.  I would yell to Matt from my office–it looks like its getting closer!  Maybe tomorrow.  But it delayed and delayed.  When will it open damn it!  And then finally, pow!  The leaves opened and there it was in all its blooming glory.   We went through lots of logistics and planning for us to get there and get in line.  But we did it!  And it stunk to high heaven!  At first we could not smell it and I was concerned that we had missed it again.  But we found the exact right spot where the stench was lingering.  For me, it smelled like a dumpster on a hot and humid day, maybe holding a dead body, or at least rotting meat.  It took a really long time to get that smell out of my olfactory nerves.  But by golly, we achieved a lifetime goal.  See and smell a stinky plant.  Hey, life is full of these little treasures.  Here it is for a close up.  Gorgeous details.

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This next photo is of a fountain in the botanical garden.  One day, I want to have one of these.  fountain

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