Thursday, July 24, 2014

The Critical Mom Comes Home To New York

Even before we got here, my husband made sure we got a foretaste of paradise--the Saturday before our Monday flight we drove to Cologne to see the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater.   The smaller stage at the Philharmonic barely cramped their style--they danced ecstatically, gorgeously, and seemed happily astonished by their effect on the Germans during the inevitable showstopper--Revelations.  I've been watching Revelations since the 1970s and it seems to me that certain sections--"Oh, Sinner Man," have gotten faster and louder, but the spirit of the piece remains.  And now here I am in New York with the family, and my daughter and I took a ballet class with Richard Marsden (Very Beginner Ballet, slow but strenuous) at one of Alvin Ailey's homes, City Center--and enjoyed ourselves immensely.  Step off the plane, take a ballet class!  We have enjoyed a nonstop schedule since arriving, and while the family sleeps, the mom types.  The air conditioner is on, the sounds of the city muted, and the sense of having everything I want right in front of me, or just a New York minute away, is growing by the moment.
We flew Düsseldorf to London on British Airways, which was its competent and slightly stuffy self.  Seating myself, I pulled out the barf bag "just in case" for my youngest, whose stomach is susceptible to airline travel.  But I found that someone had left a moldy old cookie and some gum in there, and my oldest child asked the stewardess if it would be too much trouble to find us an unused one.  Eyebrows vaulting to her hairline--we had not yet taken off--she barked, "Who was sick?"  I assured her that it was none of us and she disappeared, returned with blue rubber gloves halfway up her arm (the kind the border guards at Kennedy routinely wear) and removed the offending item with a very British sniff. 
Yesterday we got tickets to Les Miserables and felt miserable when the subway had delays and we got there only after hacking our way through hellishly loud stores and crowds twenty minutes late.  But they let us in!  Even though we missed "I Dreamed A Dream" we loved the show and of course I cried when they were singing "To Love Another Person is to see the Face of God!!" We arrived home in a moistly sentimental state and baked some expensive but delicious organic chickens, which the children were almost too tired to consume.  And we watched the part we'd missed, the Susan Boyle version, on YouTube.  A perfect evening.  Day Three is dawning--Shakespeare in the Park?  Good thing we didn't go last night, because the "Blow Winds And Crack Your Cheeks" part of the show was accompanied by just that kind of weather--the thunder and lightning nearly drowned out Susan Boyle.  We hoped for tickets for the Bolshoi, which was sold out, but we did get discount tickets to Pippin.   Now I remember the Ben Vereen version from the seventies, which had a certain elegance: this new production is faster, racier, and louder, but most enjoyable, and the actor who had played the original Pippin (the prince who doesn't want to be a prince) in 1972 now plays the king. We wandered lower Manhattan and managed the free ticket night at the 9/11 museum, whose recordings of memories of people who lived through the catastrophe, and memorial quilts, are very moving.  I was less happy with the movie, which seemed to me an assertion of the rebuilding of empire:  the new tower loomed onscreen such that we had to crane our necks to see the top, and I thought of the John Winthrop sermon on board the Arabella in 1630:  building a city upon a hill.  New York is our city upon a hill, as long as fortunes can be made and immigrants can be welcomed and everyone can just get along.

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