A Night at the Opera

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‘Where everyone falls in love with the wrong person, and dies a horrible death in the end’

Maybe you’ve heard this joke. It’s the one about the guy who goes to the ballet and asks, “Why don’t they just get taller girls?”

Sorry. My dad used to tell that one, and I don’t know any opera jokes. I do remember there was an old Bugs Bunny cartoon that was a parody of Wagner, but actual opera jokes? Hmmm.

I wanted to start with a bit of levity because, most of the time, opera is sort of the opposite of humorous. But that’s what I love about it. I mean, what’s not to like about poisonings and sword fights and firing squads? And brutal stabbings with daggers — of bad guys (take that, Scarpia!) and of one’s self (poor Butterfly). Oh, and let’s not forget the jumpings to one’s death off parapets. That’s in Tosca, my very favorite opera. 

Anna Netrebko rocks the house as Tosca. Here she is soaking up her zillionth curtain call after jumping off that parapet

Anyway. I’m not going to get into a lot of Opera Stuff. Except to say that I absolutely love it. Except for maybe exploring the upper reaches of the Amazon, opera is quite possibly the most exciting thing I do. At least with all my clothes on. Opera is even exciting before it starts. Just check out this video taken from the balcony of the Met:

Magic Fountain, Magic Flute #metopera #bestqueenofthenightever

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And it’s exciting after it’s over, too. I know people who are content to watch those “live in HD” opera movies. And I’m happy for them. But they miss the curtain calls. Which can be crazy (and practically the Best Part). The other night after Pretty Yende (yes, that’s her name; she comes from a part of Africa where parents name their kids what they hope their kids will be — she has a brother named ‘Prosper’) sang Lucia (as in Lucia di Lammermoor), the house was fully brought down. People were not only ‘brava’-ing like mad, they were tearing up their programs and showering dear Pretty with the confetti thus made. And the screaming and shouting and stomping of feet? I bet you could hear it from wherever you were that night. You just thought it was thunder, or that volcano in Hawaii.

Dear Michael Fabiano as Lucia’s driven-mad-enough-by-love-to-stab-himself-and-still-keep-on-singing lover got a Standing O that wasn’t too shabby either. He’s a Jersey Boy who got an infamous start in the documentary ‘Audition’, which is worth watching even if you think opera is for effete snobs. Michael’s sort of a bad guy in this film; while everyone else is being nice and self-effacing, he wants to win. (And he does! So operatic.)

Outside the Met during the Ring Cycle. Four days and like 40 hours of Wagner. A once-in-a-lifetime experience. Literally

It’s fun to watch that documentary. It’s kind of like ‘Spellbound’, but with singing. And the singing is all aria(s) all the time, so it’s not too intense. The Dude only likes arias; he thinks whole operas are way too long. And he’s not wrong — most are at least 3 hours, and some, like Tristan und Isolde (my other fave) clock in around 5. And don’t let’s get going on the Ring Cycle. The Ring goes on for days. I adore opera, and once was enough for me.

Me, taken midway during my Ring Stint. Yup, one result (other than a sore butt) was my official blog photo

I could go on and on about opera. But then, like one of those Soviet works like ‘The Nose’ I’d no doubt put you to sleep. (I made myself stick around for the whole Nose experience, but I hated it with a dreadful hate. Sorry, Shostakovich.)

I couldn’t start with an opera joke, but I’ll end with a funny opera story. Dark, but funny. The other night, when I was watching Pretty and Michael do their mad-scene-and-self-stabbing Thing, there was a crash in the box behind me. (I should explain that by ‘box’, I mean a side-parterre box, in my opinion the best value in the House. These are located just to the sides — hence the name — of the Grand Tier, and not only are a perfect perch for singletons like me, but just as good as the GT boxes, which cost an Absolute Fortune, and are usually populated by Famous Rich People.)

Me, ensconced in my side parterre perch. Where the view is quite wonderful, and not that crazy-pricey

Anyway, this crash came from the Expensive GT Box right next to me. Someone had fallen to the floor, upturning her chair and that of her neighbor. After the crash, there was a commotion, then three ushers entered the box with flashlights to deal with the situation. Turns out said Someone had been ‘overserved’ some overpriced champagne, probably in the Grand Tier Restaurant during intermission.

The Met during intermission. Sometimes I have champagne, but I usually indulge in calling my Mom  

During the ensuing commotion, I could hardly pay proper attention to Poor Tosca stabbing Evil Scarpia. I could hear the ushers whispering things like “Can we help you up?” and “Wouldn’t you like to get up from the floor and go lie down, um, somewhere else?” while the woman protested (loudly) “NO, I am FINE” and “I just need to STAY RIGHT HERE” and suchlike. It was a good thing it was dark; if I’d caught the eye of my fellow parterre-boxers we would have all burst into inappropriate-for-opera giggles.

Finally, happy ending in the box (Well-Heeled Woman exited stage left); satisfyingly tragic ending on the stage. Lucia goes mad, her lover gets stabbed, Pretty and Michael bring down the House, and I get myself home to (maybe) more champagne. Curtain.

Sometimes I get champagne at intermission too. And sometimes I just steal The Child’s

New York City. May 2018

The friend who had a nanny for her dog

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‘Way up on the Upper East Side’

One of the many things I enjoy about living in New York City is the, well, mix of people. Where I grew up in the Midwest — at least when I grew up there — a brunette was pretty darned exotic.

But here you get to rub elbows (and sometimes much much more) with a wide variety of folks. Some of whom live on a scale that can take some getting used to. Like, one day The Child came home from nursery school with this to say: “Mommy, Helen’s mommy has a couch in her bathroom!” Me: “How nice for Helen’s mommy!”

And I once shared Safety Patrol duty with a very congenial fellow mommy who, it turned out, had the same last name as a whole wing of the Metropolitan Museum. (No, she wasn’t named after it; it was named after her.)

My mommy friend’s namesake

And you may recall (from my story “Three, and You’re Under the Host”) that when The Child was attending that Quite Distinguished Private All-Girls School, we were invited to some pretty swell parties. (All the parents, not just us, were invited to these parties. But still.) Continue reading

So help me God

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‘The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth: jury duty in New York City’

Excuses, excuses. This week I’m late because I have to keep chasing a darned turkey out of my yard. Sorry if some of you out there like turkeys in your yards; not me. They leave too many ‘gifts’, if you get my drift.

Anyway. On to this week’s story. Which is about jury duty in New York. Now before you start yawning, let me assure you that it can be pretty darned fascinating. For one thing, they changed the rules a few years ago so that nobody — and I do mean nobody — gets out of serving. So it’s quite possible that you can find yourself killing time doing the crossword in a big ole waiting room with the likes of Madonna or Sir Paul or maybe even The Donald back when he lived in New York (But wait; He still does live in New York. But I don’t think he does the crossword.)

Used to be that you could get out of serving if you had a little kid at home, were a doctor, or owned your own business. (Check all three boxes for The Dude; now that those exceptions have been eliminated, he has to serve and it drives him nuts. He thinks up all kinds of “you may be excused” answers to their questions, like “Yes” to “Do you believe that everyone who is tried in this court is implicitly guilty?” and it just makes the lawyers love him all the more. He almost always gets picked.) Continue reading

It’s lonely at the top of the Coliseum

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‘The time we went to Rome and no one was home’

They say that comedy is tragedy plus time. It’s been thirty years since the Chernobyl disaster, so I guess it’s safe to tell a somewhat-amusing story about it. After all, New York Times Journeys is selling tours to the Chernobyl site. The group is ‘departing’ (nice choice of words, Times writer) May 27, so there’s still time to sign up. If you’ve got $5,495 and a hazmat suit.

I think I’ll skip this, tempting though it may sound to stay in ‘the only hotel in the town of Chernobyl’

So what could Chernobyl possibly have to do with a nice thirty-something couple in New York? Well. The Dude was a freshly-minted doctor at the time and was preparing to give his first big lecture at his first big medical meeting. This meeting, of ophthalmologists from around the world, was to be held in Rome — a city that sounded darned nice to visit, meeting or no meeting.

So The Dude got his notes and slides all prepped and polished and I found us some nice cheap plane tickets and a nice cheap hotel. (These were the days when we were living ‘Barefoot in the Park’-style in that fish-bowl ground-floor apartment, remember, and the Hassler was not in our budget. Still isn’t, actually.) Continue reading

Signs of Spring (Fever)

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‘An it’s-too-nice-out-to-be-chained-to-a-computer story featuring funny signs, though not necessarily about Spring’

Okay okay. I have a zillion ideas for stories that should amuse the bejeepers out of you. I’ve got trip stories, like the one about when we went to Rome right after Chernobyl and nobody was there. Or the one where we left The Child by the side of the road next to a pueblo.

I’ve got ad-biz stories, like the one where we went to South Africa for a diaper shoot and the baby wrangler would only eat foods that started with ‘C’. Or the one where I got lost finding my office in the new Ogilvy digs at Worldwide Plaza and wound up in a British documentary.

And of course I still have plenty of fuel left in the family-story tank — plus major holdings indeed in the growing-up-in-a-small-town memory bank.

But. It is Spring. And Spring is distracting. I’ve been so distracted that the photo at the top of this post was mistakenly snapped by my iPhone-clutching hand while strolling along checking out Spring in New York City. (Actually, I was in a rush to deliver some crutches to The Child, who had just sprained her ankle badly in a fall from a climbing wall — but that’s, ahem, another story.)

Photo taken while wandering lonely as a cloud. If one can ‘wander’ while on a bike

And then this weekend, while on a bike ride out in Amagansett, hoping to clear my head and focus — focus, already — on a story, I found signs of Spring springing out at me from every which way. Continue reading

Please don’t play it again, Sam

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‘Living in harmony with the Piano Man’

Even the most wonderfully wacky honeymoon — spent driving around Portugal and Spain checking out caves (well, make that one cave) and mooching off Malcolm Forbes in Morocco — has to end sometime. And then you have to get back to Real Life.

Which The Dude and I did. We lived, as we do now, in an apartment here in New York City. Not the same apartment as now, though. This one was on the ground floor of the building right next door, which is an oddity I won’t get into right now, for lack of space (mine) and patience (yours).

Anyway. I mention the Ground Floor Thing because it meant that any pedestrian striding by on his or her way to work or class (hospital down the street, school across it) had a clear view through our windows of anything we happened to be doing. I remember getting our living room ready for moving in — this was before our blinds were installed — and feeling, you know, watched. I glanced up to see a whole Peanut Gallery checking out my floor-polishing technique. So we pretty much had to keep those blinds shut. Which made the apartment feel rather like that cave we visited on our honeymoon. Continue reading

Laughter is the best medicine. Well, except for maybe a manhattan.

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‘Waking up to Mo(u)rning in America. Trumped’

When life hands you lemons, you make lemonade. But what do you do when life (or, er, almost half of your fellow Americans) hands you a Big Ole Orange? Well, you can weep or rage or march. You can tear at your clothing or hair. You can move to Canada or even threaten to secede from the Union. (Bye, California, including Oldest Younger Brother Scott in Petaluma; just don’t take Mom with you.)

And sure, you can look for a way to try to squeeze a little orangeade out of that Big Ole Orange. Here’s a way that involves squeezing a trigger. (No, no. Do not call the Secret Service; this is perfectly-harmless-yet-remarkably-satisfying paintball, folks. And, yes, The Child approves the use of this message.)

paintball-wizzard

Caption to this pic on The Child’s Instagram feed: ‘Good way to let off steam after a tough week #stillanastywoman’

And of course you can indeed toss off a few Manhattans. I chose this other favorite beverage this time because I’ve already ‘done’ Martinis. You can read about my cocktail adventures in ‘Three, and you’re under the host’, in case you missed it or just want to bail already on this Trump post and skip right to drinking. Reading about it, anyway. Continue reading

Yachts: many many boats

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‘A few salty sallies from the pages of New York Magazine.’

Last week’s post was sort of a Reader’s Digest of amusing Metropolitan Diary entries written by, um, me. Since you Readers seemed to get a kick out of it, I thought I’d regale you this week with a few examples of stuff of mine that got into New York Magazine. (If I ever get anything into the New Yorker, like my pal Ken, you’ll never hear from me again.)

Remember when I told you that Ad Folks are the funniest people ever? This famous New Yorker Cartoonist used to work at Ogilvy. And I actually KNOW him!

Remember when I told you that Ad Folks are the funniest people ever? This famous New Yorker Cartoonist used to work at Ogilvy. And I actually know him. Fun fact: he also wears blue glasses (!)

To be honest, I’m really doing this stuff-from-New-York-Magazine thing because I played hooky away from my computer all weekend. I was on a birdwatching trip (honest) to Cape May, New Jersey, and it was kind of hard to think about my blog while I was trying to concentrate on warbler wing bars. (I promise to share wacky birding stories soon; stay tuned for my views on how “birders” are practically sexually indistinguishable — and much much more!) Continue reading

Walking the goldfish

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‘And other Dear (Metropolitan) Diary entries’

A couple of weeks ago, my story (‘The time I had a blind date with an eye doctor‘) came by way of a suggestion by my friend Mary Ann. (Thanks again, Mary Ann!) This week’s is thanks to an idea from another friend, Jim. (Who writes a very cool blog called ‘Forged in Buffalo’. Plug plug plug.)

Jim reminded me that my stories used to appear fairly regularly in the New York Times. Honest. There is this column that appears on Mondays called The Metropolitan Diary. As the Times website puts it, ‘Since 1976, Metropolitan Diary has been a place for New Yorkers, past and present, to share odd fleeting moments at Bloomingdale’s, at the deli around the corner, in the elevator or at the movies.’

You can well imagine that I’ve overheard my fair share of ‘odd fleeting moments’ (emphasis on ‘odd’), and that I haven’t been shy about sharing them. Only now I share them with dozens of followers of my blog rather than with thousands of readers of the New York Times.

Hmmmm. Continue reading

The time I had a blind date with an eye doctor

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‘A Cinderella Story. Involving an actual cinder’

My friend Mary Ann said she liked the Forbes story (which was about a honeymoon) and the de Kooning story (which was about a living room), but that the story she really wanted to read would be the one about how The Dude and I met.

And I’m going to tell it. But first I have to set the stage a bit.

See, back in the 80s when this tale takes place, I went out a lot. With a lot of different guys. Trust me, this wasn’t at all unusual at the time. Most of my friends also went out with lots of guys. Young People then were not so into that going-out-in-packs thing, much less that thing called ‘hooking up’. (I’m not sure I know exactly what that means, and I don’t want to know. And please don’t mention Tinder.) True, there were a few couples into that serial-monogamy thing, but most of them were married.

A bevy of pre-dating-app beauties. The one on the right (me, hah) has a role in this story

A bevy of pre-dating-app beauties. The one on the right (me, hah) gets the fateful cinder in her eye

So. During the day I’m having a blast working at Ogilvy. Nights and weekends, I’m having a blast going out with guys. Let’s see, at the time of this story I was going out with a blonde surfer-type guy from California, an energetic older guy (he was probably 45) I met running in Central Park, a hunky television producer who owned his own Personal Truck, and, oh, off and on I was also seeing a Russian waiter. I’m not counting Steve Martin. I met him a week after I met The Dude. (If you have a sec, you can read that story here. It’s a pretty good one.) Continue reading