June 30, 2006

Saint Chappelle

After our trip to Chartres which consumed most our first day in France, my mother's cousin's husband took Jon and I into Paris by train. I was amazed that even in the pastoral French countryside, graffiti can be found easily on the walls of institutions like train stations. It's done in the style of graffiti anywhere I imagine.
French Graffitti
French Graffiti 2

We got off the train at St. Michael's fountain which of course is an incredibly beautiful fountain. There aren't really any ugly fountains, statues or buildings in Paris. Here I am with the fountain in the background.
Font St Michel

Saint Chappelle SpireThis station is very near to Notre Dame but our first destination was Saint Chappelle which was the private chapel to the kings of France I think starting with one of the Louis's. I really hadn't heard anything about it before going and wasn't even sure where Maurice was taking us. It's right in the middle of their court buildings and we saw quite a few lawyers and judges walking around in the appropriate attire.

We walked in and it looked very old and very simple.

A statue of St. Louis here.
Saint Chappelle St

Some romanesque artchitecture there.
Saint Chappelle downstairs

I didn't know that when we went upstairs we were going to see the most amazing stained glass I've ever seen. It was remarkable. This is what I first saw when I walked into the gallery. People milling around. Tour groups listening to guides speaking in German and Spanish.
Saint Chappelle Main Hall

And then I looked up and saw it. Stained glass windows depicting the main stories of the bible both old and new testament. Each window contains in its multiple panes of glass the beginning middle and end of the great stories including the Garden of Eden, the story/stories of Jesus Christ, etc. For those of you that don't know, stained glass was used to teach people who couldn't read the stories of the bible through pictures. Most church stained glass that you look at from the Renaissance forward are elaborate illustrations drawn out like comic books so people could connect to what their bishops and priests were talking about.
More Saint ChappelleSaint Chappelle Window
Saint Chappelle Amazing WindowSaint Chappelle Closeup

After Saint Chappelle we walked up the Seine to Notre Dame looking at books at the stands all along the way. Here I am writing a note about this book that you can just make out to your right. Next to that is a photo of the book I was writing a note about. It's a children's book called Bonzo. I was just amazed that the hero of children's book could be a rough-looking dog who smokes and walks with a limp. Turns out he's a widely collected figure on old postcards and books. The link I found is pretty good.
Paris Book Stand Bonzo

Here's a picture of Jon in front of what I imagine is the original Shakespeare & Co. store. In the Paris store authors and ex-pats live above the store in exchange for working in the store. We didn't go inside and I didn't learn that until two days after we were there.
Shakespeare & Jon

From there we walked/jogged over to Les Invalides which among it's collection of weapons and armor from the around the world and across time, also contains the tomb of Napoleon. Sadly, my camera battery died before we got there so I have no actual documentation to prove we were there except a ticket stub which could have been bought by anybody.

Les Invalides was created by Louis 14 (aka the Sun King) to house the many, many veterans that were doomed to live the rest of their lives as amputees after fighting in his many senseless wars. Army veterans still live there today.

June 29, 2006

Chartres Cathedral

ChartresOur first day out in France was spent in the village of Chartres famous for its very old and wonderful cathedral. Construction was started in the late 12th century and ended - well - at a later date.

The cathedral is famous for it's architecture, sculptures and beautiful, original stained glass windows.

We were awed by much of the sculpture on the outside. Jon took these shots.


I have a personal fondness for religious statues and took these shots inside.
ChartresChartresChartres Chartres

And of course there's the stained glass. I really like the old, old stuff like this.

And then there is the newer stained glass as seen behind this statue.

Every great cathedral has a great relic and Our Lady of Chartres is no exception. They have a piece of the dress that Mary wore when she gave birth to Jesus. This relic is still with the cathedral even after years of fires, wars, theft, and vandalism.
A Piece of Mary's Birthing Dress

Meanwhile . . .

We're back from our great visit.

I know this is kind of a good problem that other people might wish they had so forgive me for whining.

We had a problem yesterday at Charles DuGaulle airport in Paris. We flew Aerlingus so we had to fly into Dublin for our flight to New York. We scheduled it perfectly with not too much down time between flights.

At some point while we were waiting in the gate to board our flight we heard a very soft announcement that our flight was delayed. The announcment wasn't repeated so I went to a counter to ask someone what was going on. There was no Aerlingus counter and all the people working behind the desks kept telling me to go another desk.

Finally, about an hour into waiting for our flight, we found someone who could help us. She told us in half french and half english that we should contact somebody at the Aerlingus counter and they would help us out.

So basically she didn't tell us anything.

When we finally arrived in Dublin, Aer Lingus ground crew were waiting for us. They ran us through the terminal to our flight which they held for the 6 New York passengers stuck on the delayed flight.

So we made it. We made our flight. If only we had known in Paris what was going to happen in Dublin, it would have made our waiting so much easier.

One glitch. We left before our luggage because they didn't want to delay our flight any longer and we were told that our luggage would get here today.

Well. It's not here yet, but it did make getting out of the airport last night so much easier.

June 27, 2006

Greetings From Paris - Part Deux

It's Tuesday. We are leaving France tomorrow.

Since my last transmission, I have been to the north east of France and back to Paris.

My cousin's wedding was held in a celebration hall which was partially surrounded by a field of wheat. We have seen a lot of fields of wheat because the government sanctions a percentage of every farmer's crop be dedicated to the growing of wheat particularly in certain areas.

Just so you know, France is the leading producer of rapeseed oil. I have seen field upon field upon field of rapeseed.

I can also identify les petite-fois, potatoes, corn, radishes, beans, lettuce, tomatoes and several different types of trees, including apple, mirabelle, pear and one mysterious Sequoia growing in the middle of Vic-Sur-Seille which is the birthplace of the famous painter George de la Tour. (My cousin owns a house there with an amazingly pastoral view of hills and white cows grazing in the distance.) No one knows who planted it but the mayor has granted that the tree never be chopped down.

You might be amazed to know that France is just dripping with history.

I'll write more about that later.

Today, Jon and I are back in Paris to visit the famous Sacre-Couer in the Montmartre district. We are staying in a hotel in Pigalle where the rooms don't have numbers but names of famously historical people that frequented the area. Our room is named for Frederique Chopin which is perfect because after Vivaldi, Mozart and Bach, he is my favorite composer.

I have charming stories to tell and photographs to accompany them.

My blog henceforth will be dedicated to writing about our trip to France.


June 22, 2006

Greetings From Paris

Jon and I are in a small internet cafe next to Notre Dame.

It's pretty nice.

We spent the day strolling around Paris, touring the Seine on one of those guided tour cruises, and visiting The Mona Lisa and the Venus de Milo. We also popped into a little gem of a cathedral near The Louvre. It was called the chruch of St. Germain l'Auxerrios or something like that. It was the official church of the royals when the Louvre was a palace and not a museum. There was no one inside, yet the walls were covered with some amazing paintings and the small chapels within contained beautiful sculptures. A lot of the paintings are covered in soot and barely legible. But there doesn't even to be a fund raising effort for it that I could tell. Major restoration could make this the jewel of Paris churches, next to Notre Dame of course.

Yesterday, we saw Notre Dame and Les Invalides most famous for containing the tomb of Napoleon which is ridiculously large. He is in a huge coffin made of a dark stone. Actually, he's in a tin box contained within four different boxes of varying metals, inside an enormous monument made from a purply brown and shiny stone. The building itself contains the remains of other very famous generals. I'll post about it in more detail at another time.

Within Les Invalides is also contained a large military museum with every type of weapon and armor imaginable.

Tomorrow we're driving with our hosts, my mother's cousins to my aunt's house in Champigneulles so we can attend my first cousin's wedding on Saturday. Confused?

I know I am. We are getting around quite about.

Also confusing and somewhat demanding is translating. My French is so-so, yet somehow we are getting by. But translating in your head and then speaking and then communicating to and for someone else is very hard.

Until the next time I can get to a computer - a tout a l'heure which means later 'gator.

June 18, 2006

Pardon My French

Jon and I are going away.
We are leaving today.

My cousin is getting married on Saturday.

First it's off to Torfou to say with my mother's cousin Therese and her husband Maurice. They are an hour outside of Paris.

Then we're all driving up to Champigneulles to say with my Aunt Marine and Uncle Marceau. That's near Nancy in the Alsace Lorraine region.

We'll be back soon.

June 17, 2006

The Color Purple

colorpurpleThis week I've been working on The Color Purple - the musical based on Alice Walker's Pulitzer Prize winning novel.

The original and catchy music is incredible. The choreography and dancing is incredible. The performances transcend incredible.

The New York Times review doesn't exactly support or appreciate the genius of Marcia Norman's book and by book I mean the story. She managed to pluck out the skeleton of Alice Walker's rather detailed story and create the basis for a show which takes you through 40 years of Celie's life which is no cakewalk (as they might say in a Clifford Odets play). In place of her mother who is already dead by the time we meet Celie, her father makes her work like a slave and abuses her sexually. He also gets her pregnant twice and in both instances takes the babies away not letting her know their fates. He then marries her off to a man called Mister, even more cruel than himself, where she is to be Mister's personal sexual pin cushion and help raise his four wild children left to him by a cheating wife that was killed while with a boyfriend.

Yes. We learn all this in the first half hour of the play.

The NY Times reviewer seems to a mourn the loss of a slow pace and thinks the fictional characters are missing opportunities to relish their star moments. Why he would want a 2 and a half hour show to feel long and boring is beyond me. The review upset me.

The truth is this a wonderful musical done in the old fashioned style of musicals with great show-stopping numbers that help to balance out the sadness of the story. The show has classical elements. There is a Greek chorus in the form of three nosy-bodies from around the way, who sum up each scene as it happens making it easier to absorb the information that does come at you quickly.

There are wonderful solos and ballads, sexy duets, great group scenes, incredible dancing and a wonderful operatic tendency toward tragedy. There's one scene in particular, which made me think specifically of opera. It's a scene in the beginning of Act Two. Here's the set up.

Act Two begins with Celie reading Nettie's letters from Africa. We see the actress that plays Nettie reciting her letters against an amazing African dance as she describes her life as a missionary in an Olinka village. The scene is vibrant and exciting. The dancing is unbelievable. The dancers are called on to combine powerful ballet moves with African dancing with athletics and they do it flawlessly.

But if you're familiar with this story you know that Nettie's Olinka village is attacked by white soldiers. On stage, while this tragedy is being acted out, Harpo interupts Celie's letter reading with news of Sophia being attacked by the white mayor's men for saying "Hell no" to a 'job offer' as a maid from the mayor's wife and a parallel is drawn.

As the Olinka fall, so does Sophia. Harpo explains how in prison, Sophia has been beaten so badly, she's been blinded in one eye and can't hardly talk.

I'm getting all weepy just thinking about how to explain it to you. When you meet Sophia in Act One, she's boisterous and bursting with happiness. She's a ray of sunshine in Celie's dark world. To see this strong, positive and funny woman beaten down is naturally upsetting.

Most of Act Two moves me to tears. The dancing is so incredible and the writing so complete, that the people performing on stage can really perform to the best of their amazing abilities. This is good material and the people in this show should all be awarded for their performances.

I don't know what it is about this story. I'm not black. I don't live in the sharecropper south of the early 20th century and my life hasn't been even 1/16 as hard as the characters in this tale. But somehow, I connect with these characters.

Maybe it's because lying at the heart of this story is the empowerment of women. Celie has been beaten down by life to the point where her self-esteem has been completely eroded. Through all of it though, she has a glimmer of hope that is sparked by and eventually inflamed by the women that she meets and that teach her how to grow into a fully-realized women. She certainly didn't learn it from the cruel men that taught her that a woman's place is locked up and hidden.

The production also lets the men redeem themselves adding to the show's lesson that people can grow and change for the better. For example, Mister helps Celie's family get into the country for a moving climax to this incredible play.

When Celie's children return from Africa with Nettie in the end, I dare you not to cry. It's just as moving as it ought to be. It gets me every time. I've actually limited the amount of time I've been watching the show because I get so emotional, but I do go in and out to see certain scenes.

Let me end by saying that LaChanze earns that Tony each and every night. She's a remarkable performer, a true triple threat. You believe her as 14 year old girl just as easily as you believe she's 54 years old.

This show gets my highest recommendation. Go see it.

June 16, 2006

Did I Mention the Dolphins?

After two days of cleaning windows, walls, dishes and floors it's hard to believe that only four days ago, Jon and I were standing on a Cape May beach watching dolphins.

When were through touring the Physick house, we decided to see the Cape May lighthouse, not realizing it was part of a little park with a wetland nature center and incredible beach.
Cape May Beach 2Cape May Beach Val
Standing on the beach, near the water, in the rain, taking pictures, we started notice black bumps jumping in the water. It took a few minutes for us to realize they were dolphins. We thought it a fluke but then it turns out that at this beach dolphins feed about three times a day and we were there for lunch. There were swarms of them. We watched them for a really long time.

(Talk about romantic - standing in the rain on a beach watching dolphins. Not too shabby.)

Jon was able to snap off this shot. All I kept getting was water.
Cape May Beach 3
They were pretty cool. It was the first time watching dolphins for both of us.

The wetlands were pretty amazing also.
Cape May Wetlands
Cape May Wetlands 4
Cape May Wetlands 3
Cape May Wetlands 2

June 15, 2006

Cape May

On Monday, because it was raining cats and dogs, Jon and I drove to Cape May - a charming neighboring town to Wildwood.

Emlyn Physick House 3Cape May is known for its Victorian houses and beautiful beaches. Because the day started out rainy there wasn't a whole lot we could really do. So we decided to visit the Emlen Physick House - a Victorian that's been converted to a museum.

At the age of 21, Emlen Physick inherited a fortune and retired even though he had just earned a medical degree. His father, a wealthy merchant who wanted Emlen to become a doctor like his own father, died when Emlen was four. He was raised by his mother and a spinster aunt. He never married. The tour guide who took us through the house, at some point, directed our attention to a photograph of Emlen with a hunting buddy. I asked him, "By hunting buddy, do you mean boyfriend?" He said, "Probably, but I'm not allowed to say."

The house was unusual in its design because it was built with a heating system which operated through vents in fire places and a personal bathroom attached to the master bedroom.

June 14, 2006


Jon and I spent two fun filled days in Wildwood, NJ.

What a fun place that was.

We stayed at the Starlux Hotel which is all done up in a 50's kitsch doo-wop theme. Our room was behind the big neon U in the sign seen below.

Every room was stocked with a lava lamp and cool 50's decor.
Lava Lamp

We were in our room for about a minute before we went to the famous Wildwood boardwalk.
Boardwalk shot

We had lunch at the Doo Wop diner which was decorated in everything you could imagine from the 50's.
Doo Wop Diner 2

We played tons of skee ball earning several incredibly cheesy prizes. Here is Jon playing AlleyHoops a variation of skee ball.
Alley Hoops

We went to Morey's Piers where we went on several rides, played several games and ate lots and lots and lots of junky food.
Morey's Piers Sign

The rides are beautiful and fun.

June 11, 2006

Stuff 'n' Things

It's very early Sunday morning and I'm awake - up at 6:40 to be exact. Today we're going to Wildwood for a couple of days. We rented a car and we're heading South. I have a vague memory of seeing TV commercials for Wildwood as a kid - either that or hearing them on the radio.

It's a beach resort town in southern Jersey on a barrier beach island like the one on which I grew up, Long Beach. They have an amusement park, water park, boardwalk and beach. Long Beach used to have an amusement park but they tore it down years ago along with the bowling alley and hordes of low income housing (well actually the low income housing mysteriously burned down) with dreams of developing beach side property into casinos and hotels. 25 years later, the developers are still waiting for approval.

I remember going to that adult playground as a child with my cousins. Here we are riding the teacups. The amusment park, in case you want to see images of it, was immortalized in Joan Jett's 80's music video for her song Do You Wanna Touch Me? Joan Jett lived in Long Beach while she was working on her career and some of her best hits were recorded by Boardwalk record label which may have been founded by a Long Beach resident.

Anyway. . .enough about Long Beach. Jon and I are headed to Wildwood, where we'll be spending a couple of nights at the Starlux Hotel.

I'm looking forward to getting away from the big nasty city - from the crowds, the subways, the crowds. Because we're staying Sunday and Monday, I'm anticipating small off-season crowds on the boardwalk, at the amusement parks and on the white sanded beaches.

It should be a great throwback to the time when people really, really got into amusment parks - the turn of the 20th century, when Coney Island was Coney Island.

June 09, 2006

Serenity Now

Stiller and MearaIt was back to the theater last night for yet another performance of Awake and Sing! Last night's show was especially good. Everyone on stage was on their game - timing was crisper, delivery was sharper. Maybe it had something to do with who was in the audience. I was handing out my usual load of headsets, when someone famous started walking in my general direction. As he got closer, I recognized him as Jerry Stiller of Stiller and Meara - aka the parents of Ben Stiller. Here is our exchange as best as I can recollect.

"I need a headset. How are you doing?"
"Very excited to see you."
"I'm thrilled to be alive and to be here."
"Do you have your driver's license handy?"

He gave me his license and I gave him a headset. Then, in spite of my excitement, I was able to give him spiel about using our headsets. I was very proud of myself because I didn't stumble over my words. I watched him walk back to his seat to see if his wife was with him and she was. Stiller and Meara. That was exciting. I remember them as a comedy team and I'm not sure why. I've always known they were a funny duo but couldn't tell you one thing they've performed together.

Later in the evening people lined up to return their headsets. I had two lines. One to the right and one behind me. I usually favor the line to my right because it's easier. When I turned around after the line was gone, there was Jerry Stiller talking to fans. I heard a fan say to him, "I met you once at Zabar's before your fifty-second anniversary. (Do you wonder why I don't talk to celebrities? I should sound so lame). There was a small group surrounding him. He was busier than me. I let slip,

"Gosh. I thought I was busy."

But I don't know if it came out the right. Because I heard him say, "You thought so, huh." I don't know if that was directed at me or the fan that was bothering him about their meeting at Zabar's, but he did give me a $2 tip, which was very nice. Actually I made $6 in tips last night - for 56 headsets, that's pretty good. I've made less handing out more.

It didn't end there. After he handed me my headset and just before I helped the next person, Anne Meara popped in out of nowhere and asked me where back stage was. I couldn't believe it. She looked right at me and asked me this question like a regular patron. I was so busy, I didn't have a chance to react but still, I can't believe it. She's amazing. She's someone I admire.

As usual, I was the last one to leave the theater. By the time I was done breaking down my headsets, the doors leading out of the front of the theater were all locked, so I had to cross under the stage and leave through the stage door.

Stiller and Meara were there talking to Mark Ruffalo. Actually the little group that they formed was in the way of the exit. Ruffalo's back was to me, so I carefully slid behind him without touching him so I wouldn't interrupt their conversation. But I did take a good look at Anne Meara one more time. She was smiling admiringly at Ruffalo - who was exceptionally good last night.

Wednesday night - the night I took off to go to trivia - another famous patron used one of our headsets. Paul Newman. But I wasn't there. He was at the show with Joanne Woodward and I missed them. Oh well. I guess I can't meet every celebrity, but this is the second time I've missed Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward.

Trivial Pursuit of Happiness

So. Wednesday at the Belasco was extremely busy. I handed out 89 headsets.

Bill and GildaBy the time the show was finished I was ready for my scheduled evening off. I had arranged with our friend Jonathan Bloomfield to go to the Drunken Smartass Olympics, the pub quiz at Dempsey's Pub. Through no fault of our own (wicked traffic on the BQE), we got there late missing the first two rounds. Shortly after the third round began we were joined by our friends Bill and Gilda (seen right).

2 good
2 be
4 gotten

That was our team name. I got it from my dad's yearbook. I used to look at that thing all the time. He graduated highschool in the early 60's - the hairdo's, the clothes, the activities. I was fascinated by that thing. Everything was different. The early 60's were so innocent when compared to the later 60's. After high school my father joined the air force and then later met my mother while stationed in France. . .but that's another story.

We didn't get there in time to really build up a good enough score. We finished in last place.

It's been a long time since I've hung out with that crowd. Jon came down after his work shift and joined us. Jon was one of the original hosts of the trivia night at Dempsey's pub. The last night that he hosted with current host Janet Rosen, was the first night I had ever attended. It was not called the Drunken Smartass Olympics then. At that time, it was just Wednesday night trivia.

June 07, 2006

Meanwhile Back at the Belasco

So. I'm back at the Belasco for another thrilling and demanding week of Awake and Sing.

Tonight was the busiest I've ever been on a Tuesday night. I handed out over 60 headsets. In the week since I've been there, I think the audience has aged 20 years and the number of people over 60 has increased 4 fold. I can only imagine that tomorrow's matinee will be an utter nightmare. My company decided that a second person in the balcony isn't necessary anymore so I'll be working the matinee alone.

The Belasco is one of very few theaters that hasn't undergone complete renovations. They still have a separate entrance for the balcony which harkens back to the days of segregation which is why a second person works there handing out headsets to the balcony crowd on matinee days. A patron seated in the balcony can not easily get into the main section of the theater.

But the powers that be have decided that person isn't necessary anymore. It's a bad decision.

This evening I had my first famous customer - TV, Stage and Film actor Fritz Weaver.I didn't make a fuss but I'm guessing the guy didn't even think I recognized him. If I'd seen only his name I wouldn't have known who he was. But that face is very recognizable. He is a frequent guest on Law & Order and he was one of the suited men that comprised the secret conspiratorial body from the X-Files. He's had an incredibly long career as a supporting actor, voice over artist and narrator.

The truth is I was too busy to make a fuss and I wanted to because he probably would have appreciated it. People were lined up waiting for the use of my free headsets.

After the show I got locked in the vestibule. Don't ask. Just know that I was stuck in that little vestibule where you can purchase tickets and enter the theater. While I was waiting for security to let me out, I watched James Franco having a conversation with friends and then eventually Lauren Ambrose. If I'd had my wits about me, I would have taken a picture but I didn't. All I could think about was getting out of that cage. He looks exactly the same in person as he does on screen as do most celebrities.

June 06, 2006


How are you spending June 6, 2006?

Do you believe that on this day and age of evil will be ushered in by the birth of the anti christ?

Or are you spending it in remembrance of the invasion of Normandy in 1944?

Or did you sleep late this morning like me and spend a lazy day drinking coffee and spending time with your husband?

The Last Exit

Last ExitLast night, Jon and I played bar trivia at The Last Exit in Brooklyn. We were joined by our friends Jonathan and Neil. This is a very competitive pub quiz where you pay to enter and win a large cash prize if you win first place.

We played an impressive game but finished second in the end after answering a third tie-breaking question incorrectly.

I was a little sore. The third tie-breaker question asked how many friends are listed at the Last Exit page in My Space. I didn't even understand the question when it was first asked. We guessed 53 while the other team guessed 83. The correct answer was 91. We walked away with $64 which came to $16 for each member of the team.

Neptune's Six PackNeil had to leave us but Jon and I went with Jonathan to Neptune Diner on Astoria Blvd. It's been a while since I've eaten there and since then they've updated their menus. On the cover, an extremely hunky Neptune and his trident stand on a rock while water flows through his beard and shmata. I don't recall ever reading any mythological descriptions of Neptune as a beau hunk. But it was a good for a laugh.

Look at how his muscles bulge every where. Judging from how pumped up his bicep is, that trident must weight about 200 pounds.

It's a good diner.