I’m no reviewer. I don’t think I have the stomach for it. I wouldn’t be able to say that the play I went to on Broadway tonight, Superior Donuts, was if not terrible, then not worth recommending paying $65 to see. Donuts is by Tracy Letts, who won a Tony and Pulitzer last year for August: Osage County. Well, Tracy, you win some, you lose some. So does the audience, but even with those odds it would be a crime to live in this city full of theater and not take in a show every now and then. Last week I went to a play with a friend of mine who does write reviews. He came down pretty hard on lead actress Sienna Miller, a movie actress probably better known for splitting up marriages and dating Jude Law (who’s portraying Hamlet on the Great White Way and whom she’s started dating again). In After Miss Julie, Miller plays opposite another Miller, Jonny Lee (the first Mr. Angelina Jolie) in a sadomasochistic class struggle between the two of them and a rather underused third person. I was glad I didn’t have to review the play because my friend criticized enough for the two of us. I did, however, get to see Susan Sarandon in the audience. “There’s Susan Sarandon!” said the two tourists sitting next to me, as if they were spotting a leopard on safari. I’m sure Sarandon was kinder to the Millers than the critics, her own production of Ionesco’s Exit the King with Geoffrey Rush having come under some terrible scrutiny only a couple of months ago.
Archives for October 2009
So, lo and behold, there I was walking down Broadway the other night when I saw, smack in the middle of the road, an island of greenery. This is unusual for an area of Manhattan known more for cars, flashing lights, theaters, hot-dog vendors, and honking horns.
In part of his effort to make the city more pedestrian and cyclist friendly, Mayor Bloomberg has started shutting down some of the major thoroughfares, Broadway especially, for cars and trucks. Great, I thought, I’m going to cycle this. And I did. The following day I got on my bike and rode all the way from 57th Street, through Times Square, to Chelsea. That’s several kilometers that now has a cycling lane dedicated to YOU. In a city where the taxi cab is king, queen, and mostly jester, this is a godsend. Until recently bikes in the city meant those horrendous messengers on two wheels who disobeyed red lights and traveled at 100kph. Deaths sometimes happened (I kid you not). For the rest of us, we had to stick to the sidewalk and endure the looks only New Yorkers know how to give. But now it’s all changed.
And believe me, there is nothing quite as exhilarating as being able to take in the famous buildings of Manhattan with the wind blowing through your hair, a 360-degree view. Along the way, especially around Times and Herald squares, and near the Flatiron Building, there are newly added little tables and chairs (the kind you find in the Tuileries in Paris), all for visitors to park out on.
So anyone coming to New York, think of renting a bicycle and heading down one of the many new bicycle routes or along the river (you can virtually circumnavigate the island on bike tracks now). Most bike shops rent, as do the guys hanging around Columbus Circle. Go ahead, freewheel it!
This has absolutely nothing to do with New York, but yesterday saw the launch of ZA News, an Internet-only “news” service for those of you who want a laugh and a half. In the style of Spitting Image and Wallace & Gromit, funnymen of South Africa like Zapiro, Ben Trovato and Madam & Eve‘s Stephen Francis have, in the first two episodes, put words into the mouths of people like Julius Malema and Jacob Zuma and Helen Zille. Don’t miss Malema consulting his dictionary in ep. 1 or Thabo Mbeki ordering cocktails in ep. 2. This is SA(tire)BC, sponsored by the Mail & Guardian and upstart airline kulula.com.
I won’t go so far as to say boycott Starbucks. Give credit where credit is due. The chain store made people pay attention to coffee, taught us how to say latte and cappuccino. But now, after growing too big too fast, they are just this side of McDonalds & Co., using automated machines to make your ‘specialty’ drink (how’s a machine special?). And, from this week, they will be selling their own version of instant coffee. Yes, folks, the company that took the world away from instant is taking it straight back to that hellhole. You might as well just bring your own bottle of Nescafe Gold with you. Many foreigners who come to America think Starbucks is an excellent, sought-after brand. Well, it just ain’t. The good news is that there are plenty of alternative coffee shops in whatever city you are going to that do what Starbucks once aspired to do – make good, real, individualized coffee. And the attitude and ambiance is usually a whole lot better too.
Whatever city I go to, I try find the non-Starbucks places to go to. If you are in New York, here are some tried and tested, excellent alternatives: 9th Street Espresso, Joe, Jack’s, Gimme, Abraco, Third Rail Coffee, Stumptown. Some of them have several locations. Go ahead, find out what real coffee should taste like!