Hominy & Hash: PRODUCING NEW YORK
by Constance Daley
American Reporter Correspondent
St. Simons Island, Ga.
NEW YORK, N.Y. -- A three-day weekend comprising a 12-hour Saturday, ful= l Sunday and a 12-hour Monday might appear to offer little time to enjoy ev= erything planned for a weekend in New York. Not so. Not if you cram-jam 60 = fully-rounded seconds into every minute of every hour. For the uninitiated= , that time distinction is called a New York minute. The draw was a high = school reunion, a chance to reconnect or establish for the first time, frie= ndships with those living parallel lives to our own 'way back when. Early = arrival in the city meant we would have time, precious time, each moment on= e of Kipling's unforgiving minutes -- certainly not to be squandered.
Our travel clothes were suitable for Saturday's matinee at theSt. James,= where our four tickets to "The Producers" burned into our clenched fists. = Too early for check-in, luggage was stored with the bell captain at The Ma= yflower.
Just 30 or 40 yards from the theater = and boasting an appealing appetizer menu, we chose Sardi's for lunch where= we knew from experience we could relax, grab a bite before the two o'clock= curtain, make it on time, enjoy the scrumptious fare, impeccable service a= nd the excitement that comes with Broadway.
With 10 = minutes to spare, we walked all the way around the block for some people ga= zing and leisurely fell into the line when we reached it. For some unaccou= ntable reason, everyone was dressed for the theater ... for a change. On t= he last few trips to New York, I saw everything from cut-off jeans and almo= st-bare behinds to navel jewelry and multiple lip rings.
I try not to judge the audience by their clothes but I liked what I saw = Saturday. I suspect it was a New York audience, still holding on to the so= phistication that always goes with the theater. My opinion was confirmed w= hen the play began and almost immediately set the tone for the most politic= ally incorrect lines ever spoken on a Broadway stage. Timing was so precis= e that no line was stepped on by laughter. The actors froze while raucous l= aughter and hip understanding of the irreverent nuances played out.
Lenny Bruce once said, "In New York, even if you're Catholic, you're Jew= ish." That's what makes me believe it was a New York audience. Enough has= been written about "The Producers," the hottest ticket on Broadway, for me= not to rehash the plot here, but it is everything it's said to be and more= . Mel Brooks and Thomas Meehan wrote the book; Mel Brooks, music and lyr= ics. Again, New York, not merely Jewish but Irish and Jewish.
The hype f= or tickets went right over my head. We were going to New York anyway, I ca= lled the 800 number, got four tickets at $45 each and watched the show from= third balcony, side center.
The three-hour musical was a tour de force for Nathan Lane,rarely off st= age, and in full voice most of the time. And, it was a surprise to see Matt= hew Broderick, a fine comedic actor, dancing gracefully, effortlessly, acr= oss the wide stage.
We four, relaxed and happy, separated company, they to go to dinner, I t= o dress for the reunion and taxi out to Flushing to join my friends for the= drive over.
Alas, the fourth house with the flag out front was on the wrongstreet. = A phone call from the accommodating homeowner, brought Gene to the corner t= o lead an embarrassed me to the real house with the flag. New Yorkers have = a reputation of being in too much of a hurry for theniceties of life.
Not so at the Albertellis. First, Gene informed me, the man who allow= ed me the use of his phone also stands in the middle of the street with a w= ooden rifle when the teachers drive by going to summer school. He's a close= t terrorist!
Jane said, "We've got a few minutes; here, have a cup of coffee." And = we did. And we looked at old yearbook photos and laughed and remembered. I= t was already worth the trip and we hadn't left for the reunion yet.
The reunion was proof once again anticipation is often more pleasurable = than the reality. There were 282 all-classes alumni. I discovered this: T= hose I loved before, I continue to love; those I metfor the first time are = strangers still, regardless of the days we mayhave been students at the sam= e school assembly.
And so ended the first 12-hour day in New York City. The one a.m. drive = back to the city to the sound track of traffic, construction detours and ra= t-a-tat pile drivers -- all surrounded by different views of the NYC skylin= e was more stimulating than a jolt of caffeine.
Son-in-law Greg, on his first time in the city, wanted to see Grand Cent= ral and take a subway ride. Since it was Sunday, it would be appropriately= crowded but not jam-packed as on Monday at 7:00 a.m.
The subway shuttled= along in a lopsided way over tracks quite possibly the same ones we travel= ed on in our '50s morning commutes. Still filling each seeond of every minu= te to overflowing, we hung onto the straps until the end of the line, then = took a cab to Jane and Gene's for a backyard barbecue, where to my surprise= , I learned Gene had searched for and found my life-long friend, Mary McCar= thy Brown, and invited her secretly to surprise me.
Where barbecues are usually about food, this one was about conversation.= The table, groaning under the weight of chilled salads, sizzling meats, v= egetables, breads, relishes, deviled eggs, spinach pieand more, left us wit= h one decision: pile it all on one plate or come back for seconds and thir= ds. Jane's Lemon Meringue pie was light as air and delicious beyond describ= ing.
All this food was prepared and presented quietly, and effortlessly in th= e background, while in the foreground there was animated conversation just = as effortless, if not as quiet. We were a mixture of people. Some born aft= er I left New York who never knew me or the ones I brought with me, who nev= er knew them talking among others who grew into my contemporaries from once= being little kids in the neighborhood.
Although we continued to laugh over "The Producers," we had not yet hear= d opinions from these New Yorkers who hear the scuttlebutt not picked up by= the media.
"Were both stars there?" more than one person asked.
"Well, yes, and they were wonderful," I responded defensively. Jane sa= id: "Nathan Lane misses a lot of shows,"
"I'm not surprised," I countered. It's an exhausting delivery. I don'= t know how he does it without losing his voice."
"He's getting full of himself," she added, knowingly. "He's holding out= for more money."
Still defensive, I said, "He seems like such a ham, I think he'd do it f= or nothing."
Their opinions are formed. Who am I to sway them in their perceptions? = On second thought, why wouldn't he hold out for more money? It's a three-h= our, two man show, raking in the money for other people. And, what makes m= e think he'd work for nothing?
It was a wonderful gathering; none of us w= et behind the ears, none of us too old to cut the mustard.
Gene drove us back into the city in time to change and meet our nephew f= or dinner at Orsay's, once known as Mortimer's, and famous for the manager = who sat people at tables according to their importance. He could make a gr= own man or woman cry.
Monday began with the Staten Island Ferry, no destination but a free boa= t ride on a glorious day passing the Statue of Liberty and getting a view o= f New York's many bridges. We walked to New York University, then to Sprin= g Street for lunch at Balcazar's, followed by a longer walk to the West Sid= e for Greg's yearned-for corned beef sandwich at Katz's Delicatessen.
My mother's advice to me was always, "Bloom where you're planted," and m= y husband learned to "consider the turtle, who never gets anywhere unless h= e sticks his neck out."
Because John followed his way, I started blooming where I wastransplante= d. My own advice to me came from an anonymous sage: "We cannot change the= direction of the wind, but we can adjust our sails."
I've faced winds an= d adjusted sails often but if something takesme to New York, I instantly fi= nd my roots. The winds become idle, the sails are still and I'm on a stea= dy course. That's when I find contentment, and that can only mean I'm home= .