It was a windy but otherwise beautiful fall day as we left Penn Station to enjoy a couple of days in New York City. The Empire State Building loomed over us as we walked past the largest store in the world. It was of course the Macy’s made famous by the Movie named Miracle on 34th Street or was that the other way around. In any case, we were like two school boys on a field trip without chaperones and were hell bent on seeing as much as we could. By the time we reached Times Square to get in line for those discounted Broadway Show tickets behind the Father Duffy Statue and under the bleachers where tourists rest and stare out across Broadway with its flashing lights and huge ICON advertising displays (i.e. The Simpsons enjoying a bottle of Coke). The line moved rather quickly and excitement was building as we tourists got closer to those glass enclosures where ticket s sellers punched in availability searches for the myriad Plays and Musicals on and off Broadway. I had been waiting to see for myself if Harry Potter could actually sing and dance as well as perform magic in movies. Okay, I know, my youngest son once again had informed me before I left for the Big Apple that I wasn’t going to see Harry Potter but the actor named Daniel Radcliffe. Nevertheless, when one has used the book series and films to teach literature and film appreciation to his classes, it’s difficult to let go of the characters of J.K. Rowling’s masterpieces of imagination. It was my turn.
“Two tickets for How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying please,” I joyfully intoned shamelessly while smiling at my buddy, Curt, who patiently stood behind me.
Then the world collapsed around me. “Sorry all sold out,” the ticket seller said with professional aloofness. Well, I was not about to have that “sold out” comment spoil my New York City adventure, so I grabbed my wallet lying on the ledge of the ticket window, turned to Curt and announced. “We’re going to the Hirschfeld Theater.” At a pace which the much taller Curt could hardly keep pace with, I virtually ran down 45th Street toward 8th Ave. I could now see the Marquee with the grinning Daniel as the early 60’s character of J. Pierrepont Finch dominating the scene. A line spilled out onto 45th Street from the Box Office. “Not a good sign,” Curt casually said. I shot him a glance of disbelief. In response he went to the street vendor and got himself a Hot Dog. By the time he returned I was at the Box Office window and asking about available seats. None were to be had. Curt munched on his hot dog, not daring to say another word. “Thank you,” I said with a tone of sorrow as if just leaving a funeral service. “But we do have two tickets in the side box,” the compassionate lady behind the window offered. With a neck jerk I turned and said, “Sold.” “That will be sixty dollars,” she said. I counted out my $60.00 and shoved the bills through the opening at the bottom of the grate. Curt was digging out his money as well. In a quick exchange she placed two tickets in an envelope and gave them to me. “Enjoy the show,” she smiled. Suddenly reality set in. “What’s wrong with these seats?” I asked. “Nothing just off to the side in the box.” My face illuminated like that of a child on Christmas morning. I accepted the envelope with the two tickets and opened it to make sure they were there.
We entered the prestigious and elegantly appointed theater going up the stairs which were bathed in golden light. Escorted to our seats Curt and I were more than pleased with the great seats. The skyline of New York City formed the panel covering the stage, the lights dimmed and the orchestra began the overture. I sat on my red velvet chair soaking in every detail. The voice of Anderson Cooper served as the Narrator and set the scene of the story. Then Daniel Radcliffe entered the scene and the audience went wild and he hadn’t even spoken a word as yet. Their enthusiasm was not to be diminished when he did speak and when the cast performed the spectacularly rendered dance routines which saw Daniel being lifted, turned upside down and twisted to and fro as that energy built to a crescendo of applause for he, John Larrouquette and the entire cast who had flawlessly brought this revival to life in a humorous, energetic and entertaining manner. Harry Potter proved that he could indeed sing and dance and also deliver witty lines and no magic was involved. By the end of the show the audience was wildly showing their appreciation once again.
As we rose to depart I pulled out an envelope from my briefcase. Curt eyed it curiously.
“It’s an invitation for Daniel Radcliffe to consider playing a role in my new movie,” I nonchalantly said. “What movie?” Curt asked. I pulled him toward the stage door and got buzzed in. In short order I explained that I was the author of a novel titled “The Stone Cutter Genius” and that I was working on a screenplay version of it. Though I couldn’t present the letter in person, I did receive a promise that Daniel would get it.
Thus, I left with a hopeful heart and set our course for Curt’s destination, EATALY at 25th ST. and 5th Ave. Thousands of people suddenly formed wave after wve of humanity trying to cross Broadway. The movement was closed the chaotic scene indicated why the mounted police had been called out to patrol. The Wall St. protesters had formed a huge march into Times Square and all the way down Broadway for several blocks. Though they were to keep behind the barricades set up they did not. Rather many stood directly in the path of pedestrians coming out of the theaters. They held up signs indicating their particular issue. Curt and I mangaed to squeeze through and took a detour toward 5thAve. I was reminded of the 1968 Democratic convention protests in Chicago. Only then I was playing both sides of the fence. I worked for the Convention and I was a student as well reporting on the scene of massive protests and candlelight processions. But their was little time to share my thoughts. We were on a mission.
Twenty Blocks latter Curt was as joyous as I had been to see a Broadway Show. It seems that he has followed Mario Batali’s cooking career and that he was the creative founder of what can only be described as everything Italian and then some. From what I call Nectar for the Gods, Gelato, to Pannini sandwiches, to fresh vegetables, cheeses and breads one is immersed in an Italian Market atmosphere where one can drink wine and eat varieties of cheese at marble tables or enjoy a lunch or dinner at a sit down restaurant. Then after tasting the best of Italy, one may choose the pasta, Olive Oil, Wine or sauces which would have been a part of that meal from shelves devoted to displaying each product in a variety of styles. Curt was in his glory as he chose cheeses for his daughter, an EATALY tee shirt and a bottle of wine. In the mean time I was loading up with Olive Oil, freshly baked Tuscan loaves of bread, and even an eggplant for my mother in Philadelphia. As we shopped the eyes of Sophia Loren and Frank Sinatra looked down on us. It wasn’t a spiritual event rather they gazed out over the scene with the likes of Marilyn Monroe and others from large photo banners hanging from the ornate ceiling over each shopping or eating area.
By the time we walked out onto 25th Street our shopping bags were filled with delicious goodies. But that didn’t hinder our trek to “Little Italy” near the Bowery of New York City. There we enjoyed a wonderful meal at Grotta Azzura Restaurant. Sitting outside on Mulberry Street we soaked in the culture of days gone by as we feasted on Rigatoni and Pork and Beef Braciole. The sun had set quite a while ago as we walked toward Prince St. and the subway entrance which would return us to the Theater District. And that was just day one. The magic of theater, Little Italy and Eataly had cast their spell on two guys from Chicago.
(Arthur Cola is the second generation son of great-grandparents who came to the United States from Abruzzo and Tuscany in Italy. He is a veteran educator and author of three novels: The Stone Cutter Genius, The Shamrock Crown (Legend of Excalibur) and Papa and the Leprechaun King as well as three screenplays based on his books. His Christmas themed book for children is titled: Papa and the Gingerbread Man.
Make him your friend on Facebook. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
His web site: www.arthurcolalegendarytales.com.