MISSION: To visit every state and territory in the U.S. For my mission a visit is greater than a stop over; I wish to explore the natural and cultural environments of these areas. Each of these locations has a story to tell, and I want to find it.

As of February 2018 I have visited all 50 states (and Puerto Rico and 2 island in the US Virgin Islands) at least once.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Nutcracker, Magicians, the Sound Machine and THE TREE

Rockefeller Christmas Tree
December is here... how did that happen?  The year is not over yet, and I have a few big things planned before the calendar flips to 2017... first up, a trip home to NJ.  I needed to get home, just to say Hi, I won't be home for the holidays.  I wanted to stop by my alma mater to see my favorite professor.  I wanted to get into the city to see the tree and some theatre (and maybe do some shopping).  While this has been my best theatre going year in a while, there are still shows out there that I want (really, need to) see. 

I had good intensions, but the weekend went too fast.  I didn't get everything accomplished, but I had fun trying - and now I am TIRED.

We started our adventures with a viewing of the Nutcracker.  The local dance company, BalletNOVA, invited me to their performance and reception... I could not say no.  I grew up attending the Nutcracker every year. To this day, I see it, on average, every other year.  I, myself, never danced in the Nutcracker growing up - ballet was my not specialty. (Sometimes, I wish other dance genres were given holiday love as well - we could do the hulu to Mele Kalkimaka or a fun jazz number to Santa Baby - but I digress)... my sister was an angel in the NJ Dance Theatre Guild's production and a few of my company friends who did kick ballet butt were featured dancers.  So, this local performance was of interest to me... I wanted to see what they brought, as unique.  And my boyfriend wanted to attend, making it our first ballet together.  So we watched local dancers with aspiring dreams pirouette to Tchaikovsky. After he was impressed with the professionals they brought in for the Sugar Plum Fairy Waltz, I now have license to explore some of the Washington Ballet's performances with him... HA! 

Following the show, we attended the reception, met some dancers, the artistic director, the executive for the school and some Board members. My boyfriend was excited since he got to chat up an ex Redskin player (from their last Superbowl run); I had a chance to speak with an artistic director of the Dance School of Harlem.  I was embarrassed to say that I have yet to see a performance by them - I have to put that on my theatre agenda.  And  I will have to check out more of BalletNOVA's local performances.  You need to support the arts locally as well as on a professional level.

We did not get home until after midnight, and we had a quick turn around if we were going to make it into the city for some shows and fun... so after power packing and some sleep, we hightailed it out of DC and headed north along I-95!  Oh, for one glorious day, we did not hit traffic (once out of DC); I seriously do not recall a trip in recent memory where I was not stuck in central or northern MD or sat parked in DE.  I have long resolved to miserable traffic in DC, no matter the time, but the trip home has been beyond frustrating- this morning, when we were in a rush, the traffic gods smiled upon us and we sailed along smoothly.  As a multi-tasker, along the way, I texted my brother promising a free dinner and verified plans with a friend.  Dinner and a show has become a "thing" with this grouping - Something Rotten, Dames at Sea, Disaster, and now On Your Feet!  How awesome is it when different parts of your life all fit and get-along?  I love nights like this! 

But before we met loved ones, we had to get into the city.  We had eyes on a matinee!  Sadly, our
traffic luck ran out once we hit Secaucus.  And all hopes of making the 2pm show were dashed.  The train station was packed and there was no parking to be found.  We weighed the option of parking at the local warehouse lot but decided against it - I did not want to risk getting towed (and my brother assured me that was a wise decision)... so, as a seasoned warrior of city driving, we turned around and headed into the tunnel.  I grew up driving into the city via the Lincoln Tunnel for classes and shows (we headed over the GW Bridge for family visits) - so as we drove through it, I advised my passenger to watch out for the state line... it was his first time in the tunnel.  And since I was driving I did not try to replicate our childhood attempts at holding our breath for as long as possible (we never made it to the line).

The Show Summary Letter
We got through the tunnel, parked and made it just in time to TKTS to score some primo 6th row seats to the 3pm showing of The Illusionists-Turn of the Century.  Seeing the Broadway magicians was not on my top priority list, but it was what we could fit in and could be fun.  The boyfriend was interested... and we did just see Maxwell Blade in Arkansas.  I do love a good magic show, so I was game... I just did not know what to expect, I did not see the Illusionists first run on Broadway last year, nor have a read a lot about the show. I was going in blind (just not blindfolded). 
My name - spelled correctly
Quickly, the audience is told that this show harkens back to the early 20th century when magic was king, Houdini was the celebrity master and conjurers were the rockstars of the day.  We were entertained by multiple cast members - a davedevil. a charlatan, a showman, an eccentric, a conjuress, the Grand Carlini, the "immortal" and 'The Clairvoyants'.  There were jokes (lots of them), floating balls and people, rings and cards, jellybeans, a marionette magician, a bird and feats of strength.  AND, I got to fulfill an old dancer's dream and stand on a Broadway stage.  I was called on stage by the Clairvoyants when a sponge ball landed in my hands... I did not try to catch it, it bounced out of the hands of people in at least 3 rows... I did not meet these people, I have only seen them on TV.  Yet, here I was with the ball in my hands, and when they said please come up I auditably said "f*#k" - got a laugh, but was definitely not the impression I wanted.  So, I climbed over half my row and headed up on stage to verify cards, pull an letter out of a box and find my name at the bottom of the show summary! 
Leaving the show was a riot since people I crossed wanted to know (1) did I really not know them (2) if anyone approached me before the show (3) what did I see... All I could tell them was that I got my tickets less than 30 minutes before showtime in Times Square, not the box office.  And no, they did not bribe me to lie.  It was fun.  And it went all too quickly.

We left the Palace Theatre and crossed the street back to TKTS.  We met my brother and friend (who somehow bumped into each other in Times Square), and we stood in line for the next round.  The plan was to see Jersey Boys.  While my friend and I have seen it years ago, the men had not, and it is closing mid January.  Apparently everyone wanted to see it - it was sold out (good for them, sucks for us).  But, no worries, we have been eying the Gloria Estefan musical for a year... and it was high time we went. I got worried standing on that line, very worried; so many people had no idea what they were doing at TKTS.  So, public service announcement people - PLEASE KNOW YOUR SHOW (and backup) BEFORE YOU GET TO THE WINDOW!  It is agonizing watching shows sell out while you are stuck in line behind a group of people debating with show flyers and asking for the best deals at the window.  That is not what they do... do your research ahead of time, get the app, ask around, but DO NOT block people from buying their show tickets.  It got so bad I actually had to call out to them to step aside.  Three groups later, we made it to the window, I walked up, asked for our show and we were on our way in less than 3 minutes... that is how you do TKTS people!  We scored sweet orchestra seats for a very good price, said our thanks and headed out to feed my brother's stomach. 

In a city filled with food, you would not think that finding a place suitable for everyone, within walking distance would be difficult, but it is... my friend, armed with her phone and a gluten free app scoured choices that were palatable for a young man craving lots of protein yet workable for someone with celiac disease... so, we ended up at Heartland Brewery.  Not the most refined choice, but she and I have more options when its just us.  We all chowed down on burger/steak sandwiches (hers, wrapped in lettuce), and headed back out into the heart of Times Square to attend the theatre in the Marriott, the Marquis Theatre.  Last time I was there was for Thoroughly Modern Millie, but I have seen a handful of shows here... its a beautiful hotel ride up the theatre, with walls lined with show posters.  If I had more money and more time maybe I could say I saw more... but I can try and dream!

The show was electric.  I have always loved Gloria and the Miami Sound Machine.  Like so much of the good 80's music, I have memories of dance tied to these tunes.  The crowed laughed, cried and cheered at their story.  During intermission we talked about how amazing it was to see this cast, that like Allegiance earlier this year, highlighted the talents of minorities not often seen on Broadway.  It is changing... but shows like this show everyone that we are all just people - we all want the same things.  The message of the show was perfect for our time - we are all Americans. (Remember it was staged before the 2016 election).  Everyone walked away salsa'ing and singing with wet faces from crying.  I loved her music before, but now some songs have context... I hope that this musical helps my brother's generation connect to her stylings.  He walked away impressed, so there is hope!

After the show we all walked the few blocks to the Rockefeller Center.  We joined the crowds, easily numbering in the tens of thousands lining the streets to catch a glimpse of the legendary holiday decorations.  We were smart and came in off 6th Ave and skipped 5th... while the view may be better, there was no room.  We, instead walked right up to the tree... a gorgeous fir from Oneonta New York (where we stayed this summer on our Cooperstown trip).  After staring into the greenery, looking over the edge at the ice rink and pointing to Saks and their light show, we headed back.  Maybe when I return in a few weeks it won't be so crazy.  What we were thinking, visiting the tree the first weekend it was up? 
And with that, we were done... we headed back to the lot to drive everyone back (why not, we were parked in the city after all).  So, we brave the crazy tourist rush, out of the city on 10th and drop everyone off... and as we are driving down the parkway, I realize I forgot my keys to dad's at home.  How are we going to wake them up at 2:30am... well, after trying a few texts and even enlisting my brother to call his mother, I call mercy and just head to a hotel.  We needed to sleep!  And there was no way I was ringing that doorbell.

The next day the traffic gods got back at us... it was a mess in Central Jersey.  We missed everyone at home... by the time we got there everyone was out "doing their thing", so we went to the movies and came back for dinner.  After that, it was the long ride back to DC. 

I didn't get to Rutgers - I need to see Professor Clark.  Maybe next time.  This time, we saw some good stuff and made happy memories with those I love... Happy Holidays everyone!

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