New York Without Hamilton is What Exactly?

I’m going to New York in a couple of months. I might as well be going to Nebraska, because – swallow whatever’s in your mouth and sit down because I don’t want you to choke and hurt yourself from the shock – I’m not going to see Hamilton.

Why bother? you ask. Is there anything else going on the entire 23-square mile island of Manhattan? Will they even let me off the plane at JFK without a ticket in my hand and will I be put on a terrorist watch list if I try to leave the city without a Playbill signed by at least three cast members?

Why is she even here?          No clue. Better frisk her and check for gunpowder residue.

The first part of my visit will be during my husband’s business meetings, so I’ll be on my own during the day. I will probably go to Chelsea Market shops, where I hear there is a vendor who sells lockets containing the dustpan sweepings from the stage at the Richard Rogers Theater, collected after each Hamilton performance.  And I’ll definitely go to Greenwich Village and hit my favorite indie bookstore, where they sell the few remaining books that aren’t about Hamilton in a newly built annex, constructed from hardback copies of Hamilton: The Revolution, the book about Hamilton. Which I am not seeing. (more…)

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Not Fringe, Just Famous


I’m not a big rocker and I don’t fawn over stars – I look for a table where I can sip wine at a rock concert and I almost literally tripped over Bernie Mac before I recognized him on South Beach – but it occurred to me last weekend that in order to be recognized as a rock-and-roll celebrity these days, you have to look like someone who just escaped from somewhere.

My husband and I joined the beautiful people in New York last weekend and then went to a Rolling Stones concert in New Jersey where we joined the weird and curious combo of British Invasion geeks and famous people with bad hair and ill-fitting clothes.

In fact, that’s how we determined who was Somebody and who was Nobody. The Nobodies were dressed in jeans and Stones t-shirts, shoes that fit them (give or take a negligible half-size), and appropriate accessories. As soon as we saw someone with a choppy haircut or a get-up that screamed LOOK AT ME! Look at ME! NOW! we knew we were looking at Somebody.

The people in line with us before the doors opened were definitely Nobodies. For one thing, they were waiting in line with us (duh). But also, they kept talking loudly about all the concerts they had been to. And they were dressed like everyone I’ve seen Christmas shopping in the past month.

But then we got in and found our seats and were delighted to find that they were aisle seats just up from the VIP section.

“Who is that?” my husband asked when down the aisle slowly strolled a guy in a bright red three-piece suit and a cowboy hat that was shockingly bright white. I’m gonna call it winter white. It may have been backlit in some way.

“I don’t know,” I said, peering at him and his entourage, looking for clues. “Maybe Randy Quaid.”

“Hey, Randy!” my husband said. No one turned around. Not even the people who were named Randy. It’s not cool to respond to “Hey” at a Stones concert.

Our aisle was the only path from the VIP section to the bar and the bathroom, so we saw a steady stream of potentially famous people. Couldn’t recognize a one of them, but we knew they were famous by their overconfident use of hair gel and inappropriate misuse of fabric.

“He’s definitely Somebody,” I told my husband, nodding to a guy in a black suit steering a blonde to their seats. Under the suit he wore a sparkly vest. On the sleeve of the suit was a rhinestone cupcake (or crown, but I’m pretty sure it was a cupcake). His hair was an orangeish Ronald McDonald rim-do that was screaming for some conditioner.

“Why would he let his hair get so dry?” I mused. I mean, honestly, it was sticking up all over.

“How else would anyone know he’s famous?” my husband said. True. You can sport all the sparkly cupcakes you want, but if your hair is normal, you may as well be a guy from the suburbs at Sears.

We saw a woman wearing a leopard-print bathrobe, a guy wearing a gray, ratty, Mr. Rogers cardigan four sizes too small, and a tiny little man whose hair had been cut with a paring knife. We saw lots of layers, ironic jewelry, and age-inappropriate headgear. A surprising number of them looked a lot like Iggy Pop.

“We are pathetic,” I said to my husband. I was having an excellent hair day, despite a major Bangs Crisis the day before. I had carefully chosen my outfit – my pair of jeans that fit the best, a black lace top and black boots – and had previously felt pretty well put together.

“Speak for yourself,” he said, taking off his V-neck sweater.

I told him he’d have to rip his pants, re-button his shirt so it was off by one, and stick his head under the Dyson dryer in the bathroom before he’d really fit in with the famous.

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Live, From the City That Never Slee-zzzzzzz


I felt a little bit bad for New York on Friday.

When I arrived for the weekend,  I was all set for a Sex in the City moment and instead got more of an NYPD Blue. Remember, those cops were in their jammies and in bed by 10.

My niece, Lauren and I met in our hotel bar, where she bought me a glass of wine (You know you’re a real grownup when you pay your aunt’s bar tab. Bravo, Lauren.) We were making signs of ordering another, when the barmaid suggested we check out the rooftop bar. “It’s really cool up there,” she said. “You can see the Empire State Building.” She even took the liberty of arranging our elevator ride up there with the hotel security guy, James Bond. We were closing out our tab when he came up behind us, all black suit and hair gel. He had a curly cord behind his ear that I last saw on Michelle Obama’s secret service agents. Also Clint Eastwood.

He walked us to the special elevator where Moneypenny, with her own curly ear cord, took us to the roof. Bond let Lauren leave her suitcase at the entrance. “It’ll be fine,” he told her. “The only people up here are our guys.” Your guys? Where were we? And is it possible to die of having a night that is so drastically different from your normal life of band boosters and stain removal?

“This way, ladies.”

I’ll never know. The rooftop bar was all glassed in and the skyline view at night was stunning. I not only pictured Lauren and I hanging out by the window with a glass of Chardonnay, but I had written half the script and planned a costume change.

“The bar closed at 12,” the bartender told us.

Lauren looked at her watch. “OK, it’s 12:05.”


“Sorry, ladies,” one of the bartender/secret agent/manager/hair product models said.

“Well, we can at least go back to the bar downstairs and get another drink down there,” Lauren said.

“Mmmm,” Bond looked at his secret rescue weapon, cleverly disguised as a watch. “She might have just called last call.”

“Isn’t this the city that never sleeps?” I asked.

“Well, some places sleep,” he said.

Not when I’m visiting from suburbia, they shouldn’t.  I don’t think New York realizes that I’m about as lame as it gets in the nightlife department. I’m in my 50s, I’m from Ohio, and I’m working on a couple different kinds of arthritis. If I still want a drink, I think you should still be serving drinks.

Fortunately the rest of the weekend came through with more of what I expected. On Saturday, we saw a show, shopped at a vintage clothing store that had virtually nothing priced under three figures not even a puny little scarf, went to Justin Timberlake’s bar with a guy who works for Def Jam Records (no, I don’t know him, I was just part of a group, but still), and almost got knocked down when our cabbie backed up just as I was starting to get into the cab.

So nice to see that New York hasn’t turned into anyone’s hometown yet.

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That’s Italian


Nine days in New York City will give you a new insight into the ethnic makeup of this country.

For example, if you live in the Midwest or Connecticut or Montana and you think there’s a nationwide immigration problem and it’s Mexicans sneaking across the border, stay in my hotel in Chinatown and tell me what you think of that after a couple of trips down East Broadway on a Tuesday afternoon. You will see hardly any Mexicans.

Because I was willing to take the New York subways (and not because my experience with the cabs was anything less than super-de-dooper; just because) I was able to criss-cross the city and take in its multiple personalities within the space of a single day.

Multiply that by nine days and I think I can safely say that my favorite ethnic group, the Italians, came through with flying colors once again. For the purposes of this post, let me make the comparison between Chinatown and Little Italy, since they’re right next to each other. Turning that corner from Canal Street onto Mulberry is like going from a busy Asian marketplace where high-pressure salespeople are screaming at you to buy their bootleg DVDs, counterfeit handbags, raw fish and jewelry to suddenly being transported to the flashback scene in Godfather II. You can actually hear a real accordion playing in a darkly lit bar that smells like pizzelles. Lord give me strength. It’s hard to leave.

The waiters stand out in the front of the restaurants in Little Italy and seduce you right into a chair at one of their tables. A construction worker complimented me on my pedicure. A limo driver stopped and asked my sister and me if we were looking for somewhere to go have a drink. OK, those last two things were kind of creepy, especially since my sisters and I are all on the wrong side of 50, but you get the picture.

Occasionally there is some cross-over. My sisters and I were having some of Vincent’s famous spicy sauce, pasta and wine, surrounded by black and white photos of Frank Sinatra and Paul Sorvino, when someone snuck up behind me and said, “DVD? DVD?” I said no but she was back in a flash. “DVD? DVD?” She shoved a cover in front of my face.

“We’re not buying anything,” I snapped. For crying out loud, among the four of us we had already spent the equivalent of my four-year Kiwanis Club scholarship on Pashminas in Chinatown within the last few days. But right now I was almost melted into my chair – the wine, the sauce, the music, Paul Sorvino smiling down at me – do I look like I want to watch Toy Story 3 right now?

The Chinatown merchants are clearly making more money. Remember when we were all afraid that the Japanese were going to take over America because they were buying up all of our stock and their kids went to school year-round and kicked our asses in math? The new threat is the Chinese and not because they own us, but rather because we are handing out cold, hard cash to them in exchange for things that will fall apart next week.

If we’re making ethnic generalizations (and because I’m Irish, I’m allowed; we’ve gotten a dispensation from the Pope) I would say that Chinese Americans are the hardest working, most entrepreneurial group in New York. Nobody’s selling hot dogs on Broadway with as much zeal. The drug dealers in the Bronx aren’t as enthusiastic. And uptown? Forget about it. Most of the shops on Madison Avenue are By Appointment Only.

The shops in Chinatown have got to be making as much in an hour as one visit from one of the Olsen twins to Versace. Their sales tactics, how ever obnoxious,  are paying off, one I Heart New York t-shirt at a time. But I’ll take an Italian waiter and whatever he’s selling any day of the week.

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New York cabs sure have changed since I last rode in one.

Granted, it’s been more than two years since I’ve been in New York City, but getting into a cab Friday was like being a Stephen King character and waking from a coma to find that the world has been turned upside down, Flair pens have been invented and the new Coke came and went unnoticed.

For one thing, the cab I rode from the airport was a Lexus. I thought the cab line director was kidding when she handed me a slip and said, “The Lexus is yours.”

“Ha! Oh, that’s a good one. Lexus . . .” I laughed as I took the ticket and walked down the line to find my taxi. Well, blow me away if it wasn’t a Lexus. Painted yellow.

Our cab driver was a one-legged guy named Shushil Maggoo. But that’s where the New York cab experience ended.

Inside, the seats weren’t ripped and it smelled like something that was definitely not urine. There was a credit card swiper in the back seat, so apparently now you can pay for a cab on a credit card. Also in the back seat was a GPS map so you can watch as the cab driver takes side streets at 80 mph to try to get you to your destination faster. (Covering your eyes is no longer necessary; you can use the screen as a distraction.) And there’s a little TV screen that runs ads and promos for New Yorkers and tourists, including an ad for a campaign to convince Lebron James to come play for the Nicks.

“No! No, no, no!” I said to the little screen. Mr. Magoo sideswiped a bike messenger.

I honeymooned in New York in the ‘80s and back then cabs were as close to being a homeless heroin addict as I wanted to be. Honestly, I enjoyed it because  why go all the way to New York if you were going to experience the same stuff you did in Columbiana, Ohio? But a New York City cab ride was the definition of the word “seedy.”

Then in the late ‘90s and the Zeros (or whatever we’re calling that decade. Really, it’s unfortunate that anything at all historically significant happened between 1/1/00 and 12/31/09 because we’re still having a heck of a time referring to those years by a decade with a catchy name.) I lived in New Jersey and visited New York as often as possible, since it was just a short train ride away. We used to pack a bunch of us into the back seat of a cab and even put some people up front. And then once, while in Little Italy with three Hubbard friends and all of our kids, we started to pile five of us in a cab and the driver said, “I can’t take more than four.”

“What? Since when?” I asked. I was the fifth person and had one leg in the cab and was ready to sit on Lisa’s lap.

“Since new regulations. Four max.”  I thought about arguing with him about the word “regulations” and how there are regulations and then there are regulations. You know, like there are regulations about not selling Rolex watches out of a suitcase or fake purses to women from Texas who think they’re getting an actual Kate Spade bag for $10. But I didn’t want to get into it.

“Fine, be that way. I’ll just walk.”  I slammed the door and gave him my best pouty face and started walking.  Pretty soon I noticed that the cab was sidling up alongside me, creeping along next to me.

The driver rolled down the window. “Get in.”

I smiled and said, “Thank you!”  I am from the Midwest, after all.

On this current trip, the first three days of my New York stay has been with my daughter, who doesn’t like to walk everywhere like me, so there were a lot of cab rides in our weekend. Once the princess and her cute-but-uncomfortable shoes go off to NYU for the week, I’ll be hoofing it a lot more, so I won’t be cabbing around as much.

But I’m grateful I got to experience and new-and-improved New York cab of the Twenty Teens . . . or whatever we’re calling this decade.

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Floridian in the Big Green Apple

Attention airport security: Florida clothes in carry-on may cause blindness.


I’m packing today, for a trip to New York City, where I’m hoping my lack of New York clothes won’t make me the laughingstock of the lower east side.  (“Look at the lady, mommy!”  “Shush, darling. She can’t help it; she’s from Florida.”) My clothes are all wrong. I’ve got too much pink and green and not enough black, gray and beige. I’m afraid I’ll look like a margarita in a martini bar.

I used to be a black-beige addict. All of my clothes were like the Mix-n-Match Travel Ensemble from the JCPenney catalog. I used to love looking at that model wearing a total of four items of clothing, but by wearing them in different combinations, had a different outfit for every day of a 9-day business trip. Put the black blazer over the beige tank one day; next day add the beige-and-black striped top; turn the whole thing inside-out for a black-on-beige reverse trick, all worn with the same black pants, which, like a chameleon, look different every day.

When I shopped, I intended to buy colors, but would be drawn like a magnet to the black pants, the beige shirt, the gray scarf.

I was an addict. And my enabler was every women’s clothing store in the mall. Some seasons every rack of clothing in The Limited and New York & Co that is visible from the mall entrance was full of black and beige clothing. And then there’s the Black & White store.

One day I honestly said aloud, “I should look for a job as a hostess or something in a place where you have to wear black and beige every day as a uniform. I wouldn’t have to buy a thing.”

Then I moved to Florida and started to shop in stores where you had to put on sunglasses when you walked inside. So much hot pink, bright white, sunshine yellow, turquoise and lime green. The drabbest thing in Beall’s is the Nautica navy blue line with embroidered sailboats.

I was buying it and I was wearing it but I wasn’t entirely comfortable about it until my daughter said, “You look younger, now that you’re wearing colors.”

Then it all began to make sense. Florida is in statewide denial about aging. No one here wants to admit that we’re all getting older. The Sunshine State is the plastic surgery and hair dye capital of the world. Not to mention drinking too much, driving too fast, and behaving immaturely. People go to great lengths to hide their age, including wearing a day-glo sundress to calling hours. There is no job in the state of Florida where the hostess wears black and beige.

I don’t think it works that way in New York. So I’m prepared to be mistaken for a 43-year-old dressed like an umbrella drink.

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