11 Hour Culture Crawl

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lennygoran
Posts: 12661
Joined: Tue Mar 27, 2007 9:28 pm
Location: new york city

11 Hour Culture Crawl

Post by lennygoran » Mon Jan 02, 2017 8:14 pm

Can't quite figure out what this is doing in the NY Times but the Met Opera figures in the article-what can it mean for US culture. Regards,Len :(

2016 ends with an 11-hour culture crawl through an opera, a house
party, two concerts, a masquerade ball and an East Village gay bar.

By ISAAC OLIVER JAN. 2, 2017

I am not a New Year’s Eve person. I’m a gay stalagmite; I don’t like holidays that rip us from our homes, put hats on us and make us move. I never know where to go or what to do that will throb with the appropriate meaning. Invariably, I wind up in a bar or on a couch listening to sky-high people give 12:30 a.m. TED Talks about how this next year will be theirs.

Ringing out 2016, though — an unforgiving, brutal year, full of violence and discord, that spirited away so many cultural greats — seemed unusually important. I wanted to spend a night immersed in the arts.

I bought an inexpensive tux from the adorably chaotic New Era Factory Outlet on Orchard Street in the Lower East Side, and loaded up a schedule: an opera, two concerts, a masquerade ball, and, for punctuation, the honest shadows of a lurid East Village gay bar. Culture crawl I would, at breakneck pace, through an only-in-Manhattan New Year’s Eve, to show last year the door.


“Moonstruck” is my favorite movie, and Lincoln Center my favorite place. I’ve waited my whole life to sit, like Cher, in a Met Opera box and hold the wooden hand of my lover and cry. To kick a can in the street on the walk home, as she did, in red heels.

The Met is presenting a New Year’s Eve gala performance of Gounod’s “Roméo et Juliette,” directed by Bartlett Sher. Dinner, dancing and fireworks will follow, but my friend and wingman, Ricky, and I have time to catch only the first act. A busy night looms.

The opera house lobby isn’t open yet. An optimistically well-dressed woman is disco-napping against a wall in the cancellation line. Once the caped ushers welcome us, we head to the upper levels to watch people pour in. The red cantilevered stairways look like the ventricles of a heart coursing with glitter blood. Everyone, men included, seems to be in “Where the Wild Things Are” furs; coat check looks like the Bronx Zoo. Floral patterns abound, on stunning floor-length gowns and crisp suit jackets. Shoulders are bare and unblemished, and jewels dangle together in family reunions. The sounds of soft, expert cork pops bounce percussively off every wall. It’s all impossibly glamorous.

“This is the only place to be,” says Roberta, from Manhattan, who gives me a New Year’s kiss on the cheek but not her last name. “I’ve been coming here for 25 years. It’s civilized, it’s gorgeous, no one gets drunk, and you’re home by 10:30.” Is she ready to say goodbye to 2016? “Absolutely. It’s gotta get better.”

Anxieties about 2017 are nowhere to be found. Are we waltzing on the Titanic? Sorry, I can’t hear you, the ushers are ringing the bell. I’ve got to go hear characters divided by hate sing.


Is there anything better than the Met’s Viennese chandeliers gliding to the ceiling as the lights dim? Or, as the first non-English line is sung, your seat going full Brookstone shiatsu chair as everyone behind you jabs for the supertitles?

“Night of intoxication, O mad night!” the chorus sings. In the rows in front of me, I see supertitles glowing in German, in Spanish.

“Joys last only a moment,” they sing later. “Celebrate the night’s delights.”


Very sad to have left “Roméo et Juliette” at intermission, but, you know, things seemed to be going well for them and I’m uplifted! We’re late to our first concert, by the rock band Phish, which has a tradition of performing wild, hourslong shows in New York on New Year’s Eve.

“Happy New Year!” shouts an older man swigging from a plastic bottle of vodka on the subway platform. He breaks into the “Single Ladies” dance. People maneuver around him.



“Politically, 2016 wasn’t the best, but for Phish it was great,” beams Doug Dykstra, who traveled from Charlotte, N.C., just for the night. “I just love the overall energy and friendliness. There’s not a bad interaction to be had here. At other concerts, you bump into someone, you get a bad look.” Not at Phish concerts, which are known for the smell of marijuana wafting through the air. “Here, it’s, ‘You’re good, man,’” Mr. Dykstra says.

Our seats are in Section 420, which is met with immediate belly laughs by everyone, since all of Madison Square Garden is Section 420 tonight. We get a hot dog, popcorn and two waters. We’re the only people in tuxes.

People stumble along the promenade like happy zombies, as if they had all just been kissed by their first crush. Lots of floral patterns here, too. Lots of paisley. There are animal onesies, glittery blazers and suspenders, exposed bras and flip-flops. I’d wager many people here spent just as much time and money on their sartorial stories as the people 30 blocks north at the Met did.

We are greeted with smiles at every turn, but anything further, I learn, is unwelcome. “Hi,” I start to say to an older woman dancing by herself in front of Simply Chicken by Jean-Georges, and she dances her back to me. The moments here are personal and private — people are getting to know walls, floors — and to intrude on their psychedelic reverie seems gauche. Medics stand by.

The arena is packed, and the faces are mostly white. The band plays a series of soothing, modulating chords that has the audience lulled and loose. Glow sticks fly through the air from upper levels. “Those are going to hit somebody!” I shriek to Ricky, who’s dancing. The man in front of me lights up a cigarette. “He’s inside!” I shriek again.

Suddenly the song swells, and a burst of choreographed lights swirls out, aurora borealis-like, over the audience in repeated waves. Cheers erupt and glow-stick-waving hands shoot into the air. I shut up. It’s beautiful.

My friend Sarah provides us 20 minutes of shelter in her cozy-classy apartment with her cozy-classy friends. She works at The New Yorker, and has filled her home with cartoonists and theater directors and people who really gave it a go in school.

There are sweaters and snacks, a dapper South African neighbor, and a couch. I have a glass of prosecco and take a seat. Sarah has a new record player, and George Michael plays quietly in the background. “I’ve got Prince, too,” she mentions. Everybody nods and smiles quietly. What a year, what losses.


“It’s a night of big expectations and low return on your investment,” Sandra Bernhard deadpans from the stage during her annual New Year’s Eve concert performance, this year titled “Sandra Monica Blvd.: Coast to Coast.” “We’ll muddle through and pretend it’s all fine.”

Joe’s Pub, the glimmering nightclub at the Public Theater, bursts with laughter and cheers. Tonight, it’s a convergence of downtown, uptown, East and West — polo shirts with leather jackets, suits with Converse.

Our handsome waiter brings chicken and steak frites.

“This is the awkward part, O.K.,” Ms. Bernhard says, eyeing the clock. “Look, every year has its beauty and its ugly, so, going into this new year, just take a little meditation on yourself and know that you’re capable of doing whatever we need to do to get things done. If we can’t depend on the government, we can depend on ourselves and each other in the bubble here in New York City. And if you don’t live here, sorry.”

More cheers.

She eyes the clock again. “Is that clock right?”

“Yes!” someone from the tech booth shouts back.

She nods. “Happy New Year.”

Confetti explodes from the ceiling. Champagne flutes go up, lips come together. A smattering of balloons drops. Ms. Bernhard kicks one.

The room is festive but realistic. It’s late, and the check is going to come.

“Wherever Hillary Clinton is tonight,” Ms. Bernhard adds before her final song, “let’s send her some good vibes. What a shanda. Now, back to me.”


The talk at the McKittrick Hotel’s Masquerade soiree is all about the rise of antibiotic-resistant superbugs in 2017.

Just kidding. Everyone’s drunk.

The McKittrick is home to the theatrical spectacle “Sleep No More,” which I’ve seen only once. I missed all of its orgy scenes — I was always one room away. By this hour the scene is even more debauched.

“Happy New Year!” is a less-profane version of what a young man in one of the many crowded stairwells shouts at us. We step gingerly over a girl sitting to fix her broken shoe.


All five levels of the McKittrick are in play. DJs blast deafening music in each room, the beat so loud it rattles your sternum and lungs. All around, costume masks have been pushed to hairlines and full, blurry faces are exposed. The masquerade is over, This Is Us, Tuesday nights on NBC.

“I’m Simon,” Simon says to me in yet another “Poseidon Adventure”-crowded stairwell.

Couples hold onto each other like buoys at high tide, swaying to and fro. Girls with feathers in their hair and boys with beards and pearls dance wildly. The shirtless bartenders in the V.I.P. lounge spill mixers on one another and, egged on by the crowd, kiss. We kick a path through piles of confetti from room to room.

“How do I get out of here?” a girl wails into her phone. “I’m surrounded by walls.”


The rooster, a delightfully perverse gay bar on Second Avenue, might seem an odd choice for a culture crawl, but it’s got culture and crawling all under one roof. It’s a judgment-free zone for people of all persuasions to come and be pawed. I’m timid, so I paw the wall, but I like watching people feeling free enough to be their truest, dirtiest selves, especially at the start of a new year.

A fully nude man is in line ahead of us for coat check. Ricky and I are, yes, still in tuxes.

The scruffy go-go boys downstairs wear sparkly top hats and bow ties right out of “Liza With a Z” and hang from pipes like the Super Mario Bros. I slide a trembling dollar into Luigi’s G-string and shriek, “Happy New Year.” He smiles and wishes me the same. I run away.


Eleven hours later, I’m almost home. My stalwart photographer, Jessica, tries to lure me to one last East Village stop, at Elvis Guesthouse, but I’ve hit a wall. It feels like a year since I’ve been in bed. I talked to strangers. I saw lights and heard beautiful singing and even moved a little. My tux, miraculously, is stain-free.

Am I now a New Year’s person? No, I’m ready to sit. New Year’s Eve in New York City will always be an inescapable occasion, one on which its residents rally and reach for one another. And reach for each other they did, in their favorite places, their havens, their cherished institutions.

“This is my city,” I hear a man yell triumphantly in the distance as I step out of my final cab of the night.

It seems, at this late hour, that we can lay no further claim to a city than we can a year. New York does not belong to anyone. Neither does a period of time. We are simply beneficiaries of their good graces, and prisoners of their rages. And yet how wonderful that our trains were all in the station at the same time. I guzzle a can of seltzer from the bodega, drop it in the street, and, like Cher, give it a good swift kick.



http://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/02/arts/ ... front&_r=0

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