KAPOORS ON THE ROAD
We were under the impression that tickets go on sale on weekdays at 3:00pm and that the crowds come early to line up for the chance to get 30-40-50% discounts on some of the shows. The discounts depend on the popularity of the show and how many tickets are remaining for any given performance. Yeah, ‘Priscilla’ was a bargain! Some shows, like The Lion King are never discounted. When you line up in Times Square, you purchase tickets for the same evening performance, or matinee, if one is on offer.
We arrived shortly after 1:00pm and found ourselves standing in the blinding sunshine. We were fairly near the front of the line and well prepared with water and sunscreen. To our surprise, Tuesday performances begin at 7:00pm instead of the usual 8:00pm, so the tickets go on sale an hour earlier as well. By 2:20pm we were the proud owners of two tickets to ‘Priscilla, the Queen of the Desert’. We had been inclined to pick this musical as our first Broadway play, but when I checked my emails after posting photos on the ‘Calm Before The Storm’ journal entry on my travel blog, I found a note from a woman who follows my journal despite the fact that we have never met. She gave two thumbs up for ‘Priscilla’, so we went with her suggestion, and we’re glad we did.
We had several hours on our hands before the evening performance and I could think of no better place to spend them than the nearby Bryant Park. We found a table and then set off to grab a coffee at Starbucks across the street. The long, long line put us off so we decided to try the little ‘witchkraft’ kiosk at the entrance to the park. To our surprise, all their coffees are discounted by 50% between 3:00pm and 6:00pm – it seemed to be our day for ‘half off’!
We settled in and enjoyed our coffee, people-watching to our heart’s content. A little later we moved to the Outdoor Reading Room, sponsored by the Bryant Park Corporation. The books, magazines, newspapers, readings and programs are available to anyone without charge. There is no need to have a library card of any kind.
The original Open Air Library was established in 1935 by the nearby New York Public Library, in response to the fact that many people had nowhere to go during the day and no job prospects during the Great Depression. It was closed in 1944 because of World War II and the increase in job opportunities.
Time passed and it was time to stretch our legs and also to make use of the public washroom facilities. I had been impressed with Bryant Park and its beautiful trees, but I was unprepared entirely for the toilets. They are located in a small stone building near the NY Library with only four stalls on the women’s side. As usual, I joined the queue, but as I neared the entrance door I was astounded to see a huge bouquet of exotic fresh flowers in a massive vase on a table between the doors into the men’s and women’s washrooms.
I had time to stand and notice the other details of the building and delighted in the delicate ceramic tiling and then the small floral arrangement placed on the counter between the sinks. This was certainly a place one would seek out even if it meant walking a few extra blocks. I chatted with one of the cleaning ladies and learned that the Bryant Park Corporation is responsible for this beautiful addition to the park facilities.
With more time on our hands, we gravitated towards another part of the park. We found a group of men playing ‘bocce’ and sat down to watch. Over the course of the next hour there were some very talented players enjoying the game, some in crisp shirts and dress pants, others in casual clothing. One gentleman was helping onlookers learn the game, showing great patience as they struggled to understand the basics. One young Chinese couple became quite adept in a very short time; the young woman clearly had a better eye than her husband.
Off in the distance we could see a large fountain and a children’s carousel, so we made another move and made the second best discovery of the day. The bright umbrellas of the Southwest Porch caught our eyes, and the follow up cold beers quenched our thirst. Come to think of it, we never did get over to see the carousel. Before we knew it, it was time to leave the park and seek out a street cart for a snack before our Broadway show.
We walked up the Avenue of the Americas (6th Ave) and a Halal Hot Dog cart caught our eyes. Little did we know that we had chosen one of the most famous carts of its kind in the area; this one has a photo from the New York Times showing the Mayor Michael Bloomberg having a hot dog at the stand with the Prime Minister of Great Britain, David Cameron. Apparently, this stand cooks all its hot dogs in butter. Sounded delicious, but we both opted for vegetarian fare – falafel wraps.
We had a great chant with the chef and learned that he hailed from Bangladesh. Anil talked about cricket with him, about the uprisings in Libya, Tunisia and Egypt and then I mentioned how hard it must be for him to work in the heat during Ramadan. It was then that he told us that it was Eid-ul-Fitr, the celebration that marks the end of the fasting period. I wished him ‘Eid Mubarak’ and I think I saw him add another falafel to our wraps. While waiting for our food to be prepared, (the falafels were made-to-order) I thought of my first Eid-ul-Fitr, almost forty years ago.
I was travelling with a girlfriend from Edmonton after finishing my teaching with CUSO in Nigeria. We crossed the border into Libya that day and Tripoli was hopping with excitement. We couldn’t change money at the banks for three full days and we barely found a room in a hotel that would take single women. But that’s another story, for another journal someday.
Luckily we were very near the theatre, so we set off with increasing excitement ourselves. The Palace Theatre was spectacular, ornate and old-worldly. We had great seats on the main floor, just on the aisle. There was high energy in the crowd, many of the women and some of the men too, had purchased feather boas on the way in. The orchestra came to life and we were transported to Australia in a way that’s impossible to describe. I won’t even try, suffice it to say the production was over-the-top, hilarious, heart-warming and unforgettable.
We were on such a high coming out more than two hours later than we couldn’t face the hustle and bustle of the Port Authority Bus Terminal. Instead we chose to walk to the Hudson River and catch the NY Waterways ferry across to our ‘home’ in West New York. The Manhattan skyline was aglow with lights, the evening was warm with a light breeze blowing and we were on top of the world.
We’ve lost track of how many times we end the days with a shared appreciation for how fortunate we are to be together, to be healthy and to be able to live the life of our dreams. It had been another great day, and we were thankful. I guess that’s a kind of prayer, right?