Monday, March 30, 2009

West Side Story - A Review

Background. I'm a show freak and mighty damned proud to admit it. I've seen everything, over the years. Twice (if not more). With one notable exception, that is. West Side Story. Music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Steve Sondheim, book by Arthur Laurents. Choreographed and directed by Jerome Robbins (with the able assistance of Peter Gennaro).

It opened on Broadway in 1957 and was movied in 1960. Like many, I grew up knowing the show only on the basis of the movie. And although it was shot on the mean streets of upper Hell's Kitchen, on the very site where today's Lincoln Center stands, it was, well, it was a movie. I love movies. You can do things in movies which you can't do on stage (CGI). But the theater is my first love. It's real. Once that orchestra starts playing, come hell or high water, the SHOW MUST GO ON. And you've only got one chance to do it right ... for the audience that night. You can't beat the immediacy of it.

And so it was on Friday night. When they posted the opening notice last November I was all over the box-office website like a bird on a June bug, and booked two seats for the front mezzanine for last Friday. Not bad for a week after the opening.

How was it?

Indescribably wonderful. Artie Laurents (at 94, God bless him) did a great job of re-creating the show from memory.

The leads were adorable, able and sweetly (nearly) adolescent. Maria is beautifully played by Josefina Scaglione who is a 21 year old from Argentina where, apparently, she's enormously popular and operatically trained (it shows!). In addition to being quite beautiful, she was fragile, vulnerable and highly expressive. Matt Cavenaugh (Tony), is a ruggedly handsome young man who has got a phenomenal vocal range (it's a very tough role to sing -- Bernstein liked to murder his male ingenues voices), and he acquitted himself beautifully with a pure, sweet upper range, when required.

The other roles were handled with the sort of professionalism you'd expect from a Broadway show.

But the real hero of the evening, as far as I was concerned, was Joey McKneely, whom you've probably never heard of. Well, it was his job to do the nearly impossible, i.e. to recreate, as exactly as possible, Jerome Robbins' complicated choreography. And recreate it he does. Before this he did "The Boy from Oz", the story of Peter Allen which starred Hugh Jackman, a few years back. Somewhere along the way he had become friends with the late Jerome Robbins who, apparently, taught him all the dances.

Because everyone has heard about it, I want to talk a little about the infusion of Spanish into the show. Rest assured that it's not a distraction, it's an enhancement. We all know the songs inside and out, so that when Maria bursts into song with "Siento Hermosa!", we all know that her new-found love is making her feel as beautiful as our first made all of us feel. There is some Spanish in the dialog scenes, but you never have the sense of missing out on something. You always know what's going on.

I knew I was liking the show because my "butt alarm" didn't go off once during the nearly 3 hour long performance. I was transfixed, held, illuminated and entertained from beginning to end.

There was only a single sour note in the whole evening, and that didn't even occur on stage.

After the show, my friend and I waited outside the stage door to say "hi" to a friend of mine in the orchestra. As we waited patiently by the curb, the Co-chairman of Fox Films, Tom Rothman and his obnoxious clan, pushed me and my friend off the sidewalk into the busy street so that they could crowd around their lousy brat who, apparently, was one of the Jets.

Fans. Sheesh.

If you're planning on coming to NY, try (desperately) to get tickets to see "West Side Story". You won't regret it as long as you avoid the stage door after the show.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Tonight, tonight....

won't be just any night, tonight I'm seeing "West Side Story" at the Palace theater on Broadway. (Friday, March 27, 2009)

Many years ago I heard the late, great, Jerry Orbach say, "the two most beautiful words in the English language are MUSICAL COMEDY". And the show he was in when he said it was, "42nd Street." Beside the point. He was absolutely right.

It is certainly the most vibrant art-form of the 20th century. Keep your painters and sculptors. Keep your depressing playwrights. Give me a composer, a score, a chorus, dancers and tons of giant production numbers, and I'll be happy.

I'll try to find time to do a full review over the weekend.

Friday, March 20, 2009

I'M CURED!!!!!

It's official, I'm cured! I took this on-line test, which proved it!

Paranoid Disorder:Low
Schizoid Disorder:Low
Schizotypal Disorder:Low
Antisocial Disorder:Low
Borderline Disorder:Low
Histrionic Disorder:Low
Narcissistic Disorder:Low
Avoidant Disorder:Low
Dependent Disorder:Low
Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder:Low

-- Personality Disorder Test - Take It! --
-- Personality Disorders --

I would've taken the dating quiz but our office IT department is administered by the Department of Truth / Division of Big Brother and our blocking software tossed me out with the admonition that I was visiting A DATING SITE which, apparently, IT is against (as well they should be -- those nerds haven't had dates in years).

It's the first day of Spring, it's snowing in New York and it's Friday.

The weather can do whatever the f*ck it likes. Mother Nature cannot stop the calendar.

July will happen.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Greed is Good! Pot is Bad!!

Why are we beating up on this guy for smoking some weed:

When we SHOULD be taking this guy out into the middle of Fifth Avenue at 57th Street and beating the fucking shit out him for giving away $165 million taxpayer bucks to a BUNCH OF FUCKING LOSERS who ran AIG into near bankruptcy last year and who are now being rewarded with OUR money for it:

How infinite is the American capacity for forgiveness of bald-faced greed and for lack of forgiveness of so-called moral failings which 90% of us have made?

We're beyond hypocrisy -- we live in the fucking Twilight Zone.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Open Mike Wednesday

Well, not really. More like a hodge-podge Wednesday... only without mentions of Christianist shootouts or family killings, because they're actually pretty sad stories, when you think about it.

First up, we have this cute photo:

Just because I have a soft spot in my heart for heartless fat-cats everywhere. It started on Wall Street, back in the 80's (of course), but then my friend Jan started collecting real fat cats (of the variety in the picture above) and I started falling in love with them, and vice versa, as the years rolled by.

But my favorite story du jour concerns Senator David Vitter (remember the diaper-loving client of a DC Madam? Yup, the same). Apparently he went ape-shit at Dulles last week when a plane had the nerve to leave without him.

First off, I copied the story from Wonkette, with a pointer, at the end, to the original source of the story:

Hooker-using diaper fetishist Senator David Vitter freaked out at Dulles airport after he missed his flight back to New Orleans. He arrived at his gate to discover that doors had closed and he could not board his flight. A normal person would say, “Oh well, can you try to get me on the next flight then?” but Senator Vitter yelled about how he was a senator and therefore endowed with special powers of douchebaggery. Then he opened the security door, which set off an alarm, and the airline employee he’d been chewing out was all Hey man that is really not cool, and David Vitter ran off like a pussy while the employee looked for a security guard. What an awful human. [Raw Story]

Monday, March 09, 2009

Eleven Years

Yesterday was my 11th sobriety anniversary. In fact, it was exactly Sunday, March 8, 1998 that (so far) I had my last drink of alcohol.

In fact, that last drink was AFTER I'd gotten out of jail that morning. Yes. Jail. On a drunk-driving charge from Saturday night. I awoke that Sunday morning in a cell, my clothes piled neatly on the floor ourside of my cell... safely out of reach (lest I do something stupid, like fashion a noose from my trousers). It took most of the last $220 I had in my wallet to get out of jail that morning. I still had part of a 1.75 liter bottle of rotgut vodka back in my small room at my brother's house, where I'd spent the previous 3 months sleeping on a paper-thin mattress on the attic floor. I polished it off before I passed out for the last time. I hated myself and wished I were dead.

Two days later I attended my first 12-Step meeting, at 7:00 a.m. on Tuesday morning, March 10, 1998.

After that there were court dates, a loss of license for 6 months, fines, insurance surcharges, court-mandated attendance at something called IDRC (Intoxicated Driver Resource Center) and, finally, court-ordered attendance at 12-Step meetings for the next year.

By the time the court got around to that, though, I'd already been attending meetings for 3 months. In fact, I'd gotten my 90-Day pin the day before my first court appearance.

11 years later... during which there've been no police, no courts, no insurance surcharges and, most importantly of all, no court-mandated attendance at 12-Step meetings (I run to them of my own volition these days).

I've come to realize a lot of things in those 11 years. I've come to realize that there is a God and that I'm not him (or her). I've also come to believe that there is a plan, which is not my plan and that God, frankly, doesn't give a rat's ass about my opinions regarding that plan, but that my job is to show up for that plan and to do my best to implement that plan. It makes life so much easier when we stop trying to be God... and get rid of that massive chip on our shoulders because we are not God.

I have loving friends and family. For a long time I didn't. I like being around people today. For a long time I didn't.

I go to a Step meeting on Sunday mornings in the sleepy little town of Plainsboro, NJ (home of the non-existent Princeton-Plainsboro Hospital where House practices being a medical jerk). My sponsor goes to the meeting with me. It allows us to have some valuable "face-time" every week. He gave me my 11 year piece at the meeting yesterday.

I love my sponsor. He's my best friend. He puts up with a lot of crap and neediness from me. He thinks I'm a good friend, too. He's told me so. We're good for each other. He and his wife have taken good care of me over the years. They've been there for me with all my medical crap over the years. I would take bullets for them.

So today I start my 12th year of sobriety. I started it the same way I started my sobriety on a dismal, friendless and hopeless Sunday morning in 1998.

One Day at a Time.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Gay Marriage, Prop 8 and Voter Initiatives

The whole business with Proposition 8 in California, the original ruling, the 18,000 or so marriages, the voter initiative last November, the fallout from that, the whole debacle over Mormon involvement and, finally, yesterday's hearing in the California State Supreme Court led my friend Bev, over at FunnyTheWorld, to post about it today (SPOILER ALERT: She's frustrated), which prompted me to post a reply.

I hate to brag (shut up, Bev) but I will. It was so good (and to be honest Bev encouraged me to send it to the Court) that I decided to post it here.

What follows is a direct copy of my post:

"Well, here's my deal on all that Prop 8 stuff.

When I moved to Seattle, back in '76 and fresh out of college back here in the east, I was shocked (and that's not hyperbole, that's what I was) to find out that you good folks out west (Washington, Oregon, California and, probably, some other states as well) had this loose cannon thingie called "Voter Initiatives" which, basically, overrode the Federal Founders express desire to provide built-in protections for all minorities against the TYRANNY of the majority.

I figured it out in about five minutes.

[Furthermore,] over the ensuing 33 years I have yet to see any evidence that the voter initiative process is anything more (or less) than a loaded gun in the hands of overly-emotional 3 year olds. There are reasons it takes a 2/3 votes of both houses of Congress AND of all the states in order to modify our national constitution.

The Founders were not idiots. Lynch mobs, though, usually are."

---- nb: I later posted an addendum to that noting that I was wrong, that it takes 3/4's of the state legislatures to ratify a constitutional amendment.

Thursday, March 05, 2009


Addiction and lack of direction go hand in hand. It’s difficult to pinpoint just which one comes first. I generally opt for starting out life with a lack of direction, booze and drugs to follow (shortly).

I grew up surrounded by a bunch of aimless, drunken, souls whose main ambitions every week were to survive and then to get blasted on Saturday night.

Nobody ever sat me down and said, “What would you like to do?” Nobody ever showed that much interest in me. The general attitudes around my childhood home were a) that I was a burden for them to endure and b) that I was a handy weapon my mother could use against my father and c) that children should be seen and not heard. Nor did anyone try to give me a leg up on life by teaching me anything (worthwhile, or not). Frankly, they didn’t have very much to offer. I was a bright kid, who could’ve done a lot if I’d been given half a chance (or even some outside tutoring). Regrettably, I had to figure everything out for myself (becoming an autodidact) and it came as a rude shock when, in the middle of the 9th grade, I realized that I couldn’t teach myself algebra. I threw in the towel on education when I hit that brick wall. I barely managed to finish high school, despite the kindness and interest of a handful of teachers. I was too ashamed to ask any of them for help.

My primary responsibilities as a kid were a) to keep up appearances in Catholic (and later, public) school so that no attention would ever be drawn to what was actually happening in my house and b) to clean up after the alcohol-fueled messes.

Consequently, I’ve never aspired to be successful. I’ve never aspired to “having a career” or even having a job that I would be remotely interested in. If I mastered something, I got bored with it. If it was too hard (i.e., it took more than a week to learn) I quickly lost interest and tossed it aside.

The same went for people. Either I mastered them overnight, or they fell by the wayside.

And there were careers and relationships. To all outward appearances, both were lovely. But they weren't. They were empty shams.

Nothing fulfilled me. Nothing gave me a sense of being. I spent most of my life being a big, empty, nothing.

Only recently have I begun to realize that all those things I failed to get in childhood (including having decent role models for healthy relationships) I was now in an ideal position to give as a sober adult.

The rooms of 12-Step programs are full of needy people, who, like me, grew up empty, desperate for loving direction, kindly help and moral support. I had the opportunity to “be” the very thing I so desperately craved. I could be the loving father and mother to others that I never had for myself.

I had a chance, at long last, to be fulfilled.


p.s. I'm watching the live stream of the California Supreme Court hearing on the constitutionality of Prop 8. So far I'm having a hard time pinning down the court's attitude.

Monday, March 02, 2009

But it's March fer cryin' out loud...

9:00 a.m., Monday, March 2, 2009. From my living room window. Click on the photo to "embiggen" it (which my friend Joe J. over at Joe.My.God likes to say.)

I woke up at 5:00 a.m., looked outside and said to myself, "ain't no way I'm truckin' into NYC today." Then I turned on the local news. The NYC schools are closed, and they never close the schools in New York. So it was bad. I went back to bed for another hour, got up and checked the weather again. Still snowing. I called the office and left a voicemail saying that I wouldn't be in today.

Then, of course, being the good little alkie that I am, I showered, shaved, dressed, went out and dug the car out and drove off to a 12-Step meeting that meets at 7:00 a.m., six days a week in the local Presbyterian Church. The diehards were all there. The amateurs always stay home.

They say we're going on daylight savings time this coming weekend and that Spring is merely 3 weeks off.

Somebody should tell Mother Nature that winter is over. Like She cares.