I think I first ran across Avenue Q thanks to Randy. He had actually given me the soundtrack as a Christmas present and I loved it right from the start. That's not always the case for me and musicals. There are plenty of shows that I didn't care for upon first listen, or which I didn't love or even appreciate until I had actually seen the production. Avenue Q though was love at first sight. What's not to love about profane puppets singing about Racism and Schadenfreude?
Lets face it, if you have a particular type of sense of humor, it doesn't get much better than this.
So I've wanted to go for a while and it just never managed to pan out. A few friends always expressed interest but we never worked out the details and the opportunity just slipped past. That is until Karen said she would love to go and it was kismet. It turned out that she had a day off on her birthday and so we snagged the tickets online a few weeks in advance.
So not only was I going to get to see Avenue Q, the seats were fantastic. It was pretty much the best you could get short of the first row, which they reserve and don't make available for pre-sale.
Since the day of the show was also Karen's birthday, I started looking around for something which would make for a suitable gift. I had thought I would just pick her up a copy of the cast recording but she mostly burns MP3s to listen to in her car and I had already snagged her various other musical recordings including Avenue Q. While searching, I stumbled across an Avenue Q book, which I didn't even know existed and it was absolutely perfect. It not only contained interviews with all the cast and creators, but all sorts of background information about the show. It was also bound in orange fur, reminded me instantly of Harry Potter's Monster Book of Monsters.
While I was staying over at Connie's place last week, I asked to bum some wrapping paper off of her. I knew for a fact I didn't have any at home, not having wrapped a present in ages. It just so happened that Connie was wrapping a present for a birthday party Maddie was going to and I snagged the leftover paper. She offered to get me something less....quirky, but I thought it was nice and kitschy. Here's how the book ended up.
Spiffy, right? Disney princesses FTW.
So on Friday afternoon, I trekked out to Metro Park Train Station to meet up with Karen to venture into the city. I'm not sure I've ever mentioned this before, but I don't like NYC. My dislike for it has colored to a large degree my view of urban areas in general. When it was time to go to Chicago for graduate school, I had been really hesitant because I figured it'd be a mirror image of New York, which I had cemented in my memories from childhood as a dirty, crowded, and dangerous place reeking of urine and bums. Before all the NYC defenders jump in, you have to realize that these impressions were all formed from the time pre-Giuliani when many parts of the city were a sewer/demilitarized zone. Even if the city had changed, my view of it hadn't since I had generally avoided it whenever possible.
So since I was early to Metro Park, and Karen also ended up running late, I basically just wandered about pondering how long it had been since I had taken the train up to the city. I suffered a minor bit of sticker shock when a round trip ticket ended up being $20. I still remembered it as being $11, which just shows how long it had really been. When Karen finally arrived there was a bit of a scramble to make it on the train before it left. I'm not the most spry of people in the best of times and I had decided to wear a new pair of shoes which ended up being a stupid mistake. One I kept paying for all night.
The ride into the city was uneventful and everything about the city was much nicer then I had last remembered. For one, I wasn't greeted by the feted smell of urine upon getting off the train like in times past, though we did pass one person squatting and peeing against a wall at one point on the street. I guess you can't fix everything. They subways were also an interesting experience. I had only been on the NYC subways one other time in my life and it was helping Wajahat move into his dorm room at NYU when I was 18. I still remember Chris getting picked on and bullied by what must've been a 13 year old kid and mocking him about it for hours afterward. So what is the subway without a little street theater, right?
I'm still not sure what the fuck this person was doing. I'd like to believe he was part of those deranged Occupiers, but it's far more likely he was just drunk or stoned out of his mind. He kept rolling around wanting people to pick him up, for which I was more than happy to take a pass. I didn't know where he had been and it would just be my luck if he wanted to follow me home afterward.
It was also not very encouraging to see these signs plastered in all the subway cars. I'm not sure the MTA really understands their target audience in a case like this. I just can't see someone who would punch or knife a transit worker seeing the sign and saying to themselves, 'Hell! 7 years? Damn. Well, I'd totally stab this guy if it was only 3 years, but I'll be fucked if I'm going to do 7. I guess I'll just have to not go Stabby McCrazy today.'
They've also apparently decided to try to add a level of sophistication and class to the whole thing by printing little philosophical sayings on the back of MTA subway passes.
Frankly, I think they might get more bang for the buck by putting something like 'Please don't spit, urinate, or defecate on our subways. Thank you.'
So Karen and I made our way to the Comfort Diner, a place owned by someone she had met playing Scrabble.
It specialized, as you might imagine, in comfort food of all sorts. That was more than spiffy with me and I got to enjoy a really nice Chicken Fried Chicken. I also took the opportunity to give Karen her present, for which I told her there was a string attached. She usually doesn't like getting her picture taken but I couldn't let a picture opportunity like this go by, not when I was snapping photos of crazy people lying on the floor and the inside of subway cars. If I was going to act like a deranged tourist with a camera, I had to at least capture this.
I'm happy to report that she found the wrapping paper more spiffy than creepy, or at least that's what she claimed. It probably helped that I explained I had bummed a sheet off of Connie. It might have gone differently if that just happened to be my own personal wrapping paper I had lying around.
She also really loved the book, which was great. It really was spiffy and I almost want to pick one up for myself if it weren't for the fact I know I'd read it once and then put it on a shelf to sit until the next ice age.
After dinner we made our way over to the theater. We had a bit of a wrong-turn, detour moment but there was plenty of time before the show so there was no real rush. It was a good thing too since by now those torturous shoes were really doing a number on my feet. I really need to get myself a nice pair of sneakers, damnit.
The theater was actually quite unusual. It was like someone took a multiplex and turned each movie theater into a place for plays and musicals. There had to be at least a half dozen shows running in that building at the same time as I saw people lined up outside various doors. Maybe that's just how things work Off-Broadway, but it was the first time I had ever seen a musical that hadn't been in a large dedicated theater unless it was a touring group.
On the way in I snapped a shot of this poster I thought was spiffy. Now there's a nice way to sell booze at shows. I wonder if this is just an Avenue Q thing or if this is just a trend at theaters nowadays. I'll have a Phantom followed by a Valjean chaser.
The actual theater Avenue Q was being shown in was a lot smaller then I expected and more than cozy enough that there would not be a single bad seat in the house. That said, we were right in row 2, center stage. We were probably only 6 feet or so away from the performers at times and as I pointed it, more than close enough where if we snapped we would only have to vault over one person to leap on stage and mob a puppet.
As for the show itself, it was fan-freaking-tastic. The music from the soundtrack is great in and of itself, but actually seeing the whole production just flesh it out and makes it so much better. I loved all of it and would heartily recommend it to anyone and everyone. I was mouthing the lyrics and bobbing my head and just generally dorking it up. The best part is actually seeing the show, you get to really meet some of the characters who don't really have roles in the soundtrack. For example, Kate's boss Mrs. Thistletwat. Is that a great name or what? If I ever play in another ad&d campaign (or any RPG for that matter), that's what I'm going to name my next character. The Bad Idea Bears were also wonderful.
Bear #1: Or you could hang yourself..
Bear #2: Yea! We found this really nice rope!
Princeton: I'm not going to hang myself!
Bear #1: Awwww...
Princeton: Will you guys get outta here
Bear #2: Well, okay...but we'll leave the rope just in case
At the end of the show, they announced that they were raising money for charity and if you donated there were all sorts of goods and bonuses. They auctioned off a backstage visit and were selling posters signed by all the members of the cast as buttons and soundtracks and other brick-a-brak. I was actually thinking about picking up a button even though I knew it would become nothing but useless clutter when they said that for $20, you could get your picture taken with one of the puppets. Hell, that sealed the deal right there. I might be a cheapo about certain things but I can't resist things like this, as the pile of useless pictures from Space Mountain and other similarly bad ideas show. When we all filed outside I plunked down my $20, and got Karen to join us in the picture.
And that was how for $20, I got my picture taken with a slut in New York City.
After the show, Karen and I made our way back through the subway, back to the train station, back onto the train, and all the way back to good ol' Joisey. It was a great experience all around and I'm really happy I had the chance to do it. Next time, I'm going to either wear my sandals assuming it's not winter, or find a pair of comfortable shoes though.