Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Day 13 Road Trip '11: NEW YORK CITY

I was in New York for one night and a day and it still managed to suck me in once again. I had a very hard time leaving, and not because of the ungodly midtown traffic. But let me back up.

In LA, someone had asked me about New York City. At the time, I was so enamored with the beach that I started talking smack about my beloved NYC. "Oh it's a great place to visit," I said, "but I would never live there."

I officially recant that statement forever.

I would live in NYC in a heartbeat. Granted, it costs like $1200 for a single person to live there. That's right, $1200 for a single-room apartment. That's averageish. You COULD live in Brooklyn and be one of the weird white people I always made fun of on my mission, but who wants to do that? In any case, I love that city.

About the time I realized that all my smack talk was crap was as I was driving through New Jersey and caught a glimpse of the NYC skyline. I got all choked up and started getting all antsy. I realized that I was in NYC again (or almost anyway) and shamelessly blasted "Empire State of Mind" at full volume with the windows and sunroof open.

There is magic in California, but there is another kind of magic in NYC. In California it's like all of your problems are rather abstract and theoretical, like they're not really real. They're just these ideas that always seem to work themselves out because it's so sunny. It's like nothing could go wrong.

NYC magic is different. It's more like... more like a dream that becomes so vivid as to be real. You suddenly see a score of possibilities that seem to be just within reach. It's not that there are no problems - on the contrary, it's clear that there are obstacles. The magic of NYC is that you suddenly feel like you can take them head on and defy the odds. It's heady, in a way.

For me, I suddenly saw a slew of possibilities and futures. I realized that there was so much to be had in this city and that I had just barely skimmed the surface in the two years I had lived here. This wellspring of supressed dreams just started bubbling up inside me and erupted like a geyser of what-ifs and could-have-beens.

But it wasn't in a negative way like, "Oh, I really missed out." It was more like, "I have so much more to do here. I have to make it back here and accomplish what I set out to do all those years ago, starry eyed and young." Or something.

Point is, as I drove into NYC I began reevaluating my life. I was distracted though, by the insane traffic and the upcoming deadline: Wicked started in an hour and I had to make it to my hotel, dress, and get to the theater before then. I put my introspective journey on hold and made it to the Gershwin with plenty of time, so fresh and so clean clean.

Now, if you haven't seen Wicked, you need to stop what you're doing right now, check where the nearest showing is, and plan a trip around it. Take sick days, buy the plane tickets, do whatever it is you have to do. This is theatracal event of this decade, and it's on track to be the theatrical event of TWO decades. You must has to see this show in your life. Why? Let me count the ways:

1) Music. So epic. I know the CD backwards and forwards and I was still blown away by Defying Gravity and No Good Deed. And Glinda's songs are even better in person than on the tracks. This music was awesome.
2) Characters. So much depth. So much growth. So much emotion.
3) Fun. Everything about this show is fun. Even in the second act, when it gets much more serious, it's still fun. They do a perfect job of disarming you with comedy and light heartedness before slamming the emotion and power of the second act in your face and heart.
4) Costumes and setting. I put these two together even though they could be their own categories, and indeed they are. But the feel of what I was looking at was so spectacular that I put them together. The set was simple but effective, and the costumes were just amazing. The lighting was something I had never seen before. I won't give it all away, but Defying Gravity literally blew me away. By the time it was over I was sitting like one sits in a car that is accelerating too fast for you to catch up to, like you're just thrown back in your seat by the explosiveness of the car. That's how I was at the end of Defying Gravity. Epic.
5) Story. The story is fun, but the writing is excellent. Even if a particular actor isn't doing the part justice, you can't help but enjoy it because of the writing and story.

I could go on, but you get the picture. The show was everything everyone has ever said it is. It also helped that I had the absolute best seat in the house. You know when rehersals are going on and the director sits in the exact best seat so that he/she can see everything that's going on on-stage? That's where I sat. Pay the extra bit of cash so you can get a good seat. Course, in the Gershwin all the seats are really good.

I left that theater deep in thought. My first thought was "Why was I not in that show?" I realized that I still had the bug. I resolved to get back into it and see what I could do. Granted I've got three years of killing bad guys ahead of me, and I'm stoked for that. I couldn't be more excited for it. But that will only last so long. I'll be back to NYC to try my hand someday.

I started looking at all the things I wanted to accomplish in life and wondered how anyone is supposed to just pick one job or career to do. I want to do law, politics, intelligence, infantry, theater, film... a family too, somewhere. But how are you supposed to do all that? I thought about it long and hard, trying to figure out some way to do all of them. There is a great quote that a professor gave me at BYU. It reads:

"A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects."

Excerpt from the notebooks of Lazarus Long, from Robert Heinlein's "Time Enough for Love"

Now, my professorleft out the bit about "Specialization is for insects," and I dont' mean to say that if you've specialized than you're the equivalent of an insect in my eyes. I do think that the principle is there though - why limit what we can do or attempt because it's safe or easy? A human being is a complex creature with incredible potential. I hope that by the end of my life I can say that I've done all these things. I'm determined, thanks to the magic of NYC, to get my list accomplished. And there's more on the list than what I wrote up there.

I went back to my hotel ON TIMES SQUARE (INORITE!!) and flopped down on my bed as I planned my next move. It was now 2330 and I was beat. I had said goodbye to my oldest friend in the morning, driven 10 hours through the day, and then had my mind and worldview blown to bits during the night. But I'll sleep when I'm dead, so I looked for my next adventure.

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