Sunday, October 10, 2010

There's A Place For Us.

The song "Somewhere" from West Side Story is constantly in my head because the A train, which I take every day to wherever it is I might be going, as it approaches the station sings the first three notes. At first I thought it was an effect of the wheels on the tracks, but it is too regular and it happens at every station.

"There's a place..." That song always fills me with nostalgia. West Side Story was the first musical I worked on in a community theater production in Greencastle, Indiana. I was 13, on the stage crew, and Mike Van Rensselaer, who was lanky and handsome in a mid-70s way, played Tony. Every night as I stood backstage waiting for my cue to roll out one of the brick walls for the rumble scene, it was like Mike was singing to me. "There's a place for us...."


The other thing that's new about the subway since I lived here last is a woman's recorded voice on nearly every platform announcing the arrival of each train. She's super-cheerful and sounds like she's from Kentucky by way of Minnesota. It cracks me up every time, those hard nasal "a" sounds, an accent and tone so out of place here where daily one hears dozens of different accents but seldom that one. And she is announcing the arrival of trains, which is useless information. It's obvious when the train is arriving. It's big and loud. Information that might be helpful -- schedule changes, tracks changes, etc. -- is still bleated over a p.a., almost always garbled and incomprehensible. Just like the New York I remember.

I've been working part-time in a prop rental shop in Greenpoint. An old friend got me the job very soon after I arrived, and I'm grateful to have some income and to be working in a congenial place with varied enough tasks that I'm not dying of boredom.

The commute from Inwood to Greenpoint is almost an hour and a half door to door. So far, it's not bothering me a bit, though. After living in places where I had to drive everywhere -- if you know me, you know I hate driving -- I'm falling in love all over again with public transportation. I'm getting lots of reading done. I'm reading In Search of Lost Time again, the new Lydia Davis translation. (Which is great, by the way. If you've always wanted to read it but you're intimidated by its "great modernist masterpiece" reputation, don't be. It's a huge pleasure to read. I read the whole thing a few years ago when I was living and working in a very quiet, remote village in southern Utah for 8 months, but it's so long and rich and dense and entertaining that the first thing I thought when I finished it was that I wanted to go back to the beginning and read it again. Lots of time for reading may be the only thing the New York subway has in common with southern Utah.)

I work Monday next week and then I have two weeks off. I'll be working, but not for the man. As I’ve said, the two main reasons I moved back to New York were, one, because my heart was broken and I needed a change of scenery and, two, because big things are happening in my career. (I guess the real main reason I moved back is that I couldn’t make a living in Austin, but the heartbreak and Lizzie Borden are what spurred me to move now.)

The National Alliance for Musical Theatre festival of new musicals presentation is happening in a couple weeks. (If you're in New York, you can come to this event free. The performances are on Oct. 21 and 22, during the day.) I know I’ve said this before, but this is a huge fucking deal for the show and for me as an artist. Theater producers from all over the U.S. come to this conference to check out the most promising new musicals, and only eight are chosen each year to be presented. Eight. We start rehearsals on Tuesday!


Anonymous said...

The "There's a Place for Us" intro actually comes from electrical converters on newer trains. The old tracks use direct current, the new trains run on alternating; the converter boxes make that sound. The Times answered this question a little while ago when someone wrote in to ask why the N/R trains do it.

Karen Morrill said...

good luck or break a leg... Hope Lizze gets noticed big time. Rootin for my homeboy. GO STEVEN!!!!

Homeshuling said...

This is so exciting. Tom and I are committing to coming to the city if there is another run there, or almost anywhere in between northampton and durahm....

Steven said...

I'll let you know! It would be great to see both of you.