Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Wonder Years

Thanks to Netflix streaming video, Roku, and a snowy weekend, I been lost in The Wonder Years over the past two days. I thought I'd just watch one or two then move on, but I got caught up in the wonder-fulness of it all. The writing and Daniel Stern's narration, a la A Christmas Story, perfectly captures life on Planet Middle School - at least the Planet Middle School of the 1960s/70s.

Everykid Kevin, played to perfection by cutie-pie Fred Savage, drags all of us back through the horrors and joys and back through the horrors of being 12, 13. 14. Emotional wounds - long since healed (or so we thought) - have those scabs ruthlessly ripped off during each episode. Lockers, junior high dances, bullies, Phys Ed disasters, parent-child battles, crushes, break-ups, misunderstandings, first phone calls, fashion, peer pressure, looking cool - is it all coming back to you now? Eeek.

Terminally-allergic Paul and the object of everyone's affection Winnie round out the trio of friends. Each brings a different facet of adolescent experience to the party. The Arnold Family is fairly normal as television families go. The parents aren't idiots, though Dad is kind of tough and grumbly. Brother Wayne is a real jerk and sister Karen tends toward hippie-militant, but the family sticks together, just like most of our families did. And the other characters that tromp through are recognizable.

I wonder if the cringe-worthy moments that take us back to our own junior high experiences resonate at all with 21st century kids. Certainly, the phone call terrors have disappeared, since a lot of ice is broken via email and Facebook now, I suppose. Have Phys Ed teachers changed? Do kids agonize over what to wear to school? Do they pass notes or slip them into lockers? Do they even have lockers?

No matter. Well done, The Wonder Years cast and crew. Your show withstands the test of time, at least for those of us who endured growing up in the pre-internet age.

Hey, we all got by with a little help from our friends.

Monday, January 16, 2012

I spent the afternoon at the 9/11 Memorial site in Lower Manhattan, walking around the two huge building-footprint fountains, reading the names, and trying to imagine what it must have been like for them on that day a little over ten years ago. 

Today was bright and blue and bitter cold. With pass in hand, I worked my way through the security checkpoints (the pass is checked four or five times during the entry process) and made my way to the fountains. The names are arranged by special groupings - First Responders, World Trade Center South or North, etc., which is a nice touch, more personal, than if they were listed alphabetically. The names include not only those who died in the towers on 9/11, but those who died at the Pentagon, on Flights 175, 77, 11, and 93, and at the World Trade Center in 1993.

While I didn't read every single name, I did walk along all four sides of both fountains touching and reading names along the way. It hit me harder than I thought it would. Each one of those people had families, friends, and co-workers who are left with memories, whys, and what-ifs. I was surprised by the number of women's names that included "and her unborn child" etched along the walls. Sad, sad, sad.

The museum is not yet open (I recommend visiting St. Paul's Chapel for a good collection of 9/11 memorabilia), so I'll have to go back when it's complete. But on this freezing cold January day, it was enough to take time to walk around touching the names of the people who lost their lives in this one particular slice of Hell on September 11, 2001.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Bucheron & Skordalia, Patti & Mandy

One of the truly fabulous things about living in New York City is that no matter the day or season, there is an infinite variety of  top-notch restaurants and first-rate theatre experiences that you can combine to create an unforgettable experience. And so it was Monday night.

After a long day's work, I made my way from 2nd Avenue & 43rd to 9th Avenue & 56th to Kashkaval Cheese Market to meet good friend Susie - in from Omaha and wrapping up a week of intense theatre-going - and new friends Thom and Adam. We had tickets for An Evening with Patti LuPone & Mandy Patinkin and wanted to chow down before the show. Well, the food and the company was truly top-notch. Plates of interesting cheese and meats, tapas spreads, homemade baguettes and pita bread, soup, sandwiches - well, check out the menu and give it a try sometime.

I was in the midst of theatre-folk - Susie, Associate Director of Omaha Community Playhouse, and Thom and Adam run the New York theatre scene (right, Thom? Adam?) - so I just sat back and listened to all the foot light wise-ness and chatter. The food was a lovely complement to the conversation.

Then, we were off to the show. Susie and I had great seats, Row H on the aisle. I was as up-close as I wanted to be, so we just sat back and let the music and entertainment wash over us. All the artists were on-stage, Patti, Mandy, musical director/pianist Paul Ford (from Atlanta, back in the Manhattan Yellow Pages cabaret era), and John Beal on bass. Anyone else in the mix would've been too much.

Musical numbers included the expected - lots of Sondheim - and the unexpected - lots of Rodgers and Hammerstein. We got to witness Mandy's "Oh What a Circus" and Patti's "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" (they were Broadway's Che and Evita). Teared up during "If I Loved You" and "You'll Never Walk Alone" (I know, so trite).

After the show we waited outside to greet Paul Ford (yeah, everyone else was waiting for Patti and Mandy). He and Susie talked old Atlanta cabaret times for a bit, and then we called it a night.

Full of fine cheese, bread, Richard, Oscar, Stephen, et. al., I slid away uptown to my little Spanish Harlem turret. Just another night in New York City.