Sunday, July 6, 2014

To NYC with Spouse and Tank

I always look forward to visiting New York City, but I approached my most recent visit with some trepidation. I’m still recuperating from knee surgery and most people today seem to make sustained eye contact only with their iphones. Is life so overwhelming that people can only handle it when it’s contained within the boundaries of that small screen?

But I digress. I was most interested in enjoying New York without being maimed or injured. Yelling “Look up! Look up!” as someone is about to knock me over doesn’t always work. English is the only language in which I can plead for my life and so many people are wearing headphones that speech becomes futile.

What was I willing to risk all for? Kenneth Branagh in Macbeth.

I bought tickets in December and the prospect of seeing Sir Ken has gotten me through hours of pain, slow progress in walking and the generally blah feeling one can have after surgery. Anytime I felt discouraged I would turn to my husband and say,

“We have tickets to see Kenneth Branagh in June.”

The keys to the successful trip were the flexibility of my husband, Bob, and the use of my walker (hereafter known as “the tank”). I have used the tank for years at mystery conferences so that I could move smoothly through crowds. What works in hotel halls works on the streets of New York. I could move more quickly and safely with the tank and the crowds parted.

Bob and I got to the Park Avenue Armory quite early and I went in through an entrance for disabled people. While my husband talked to the bartenders (there was no intermission so this would be the time to get a drink), I talked to the very friendly Armory staff.

When I professed my considerable affection for Kenneth Branagh, I was told, “You’re in a long line of people that would now include the women who work here.”

Bob returned from the bar with some scotch. We had wanted Laphroaig. Any number of sleuths drink it and we had just learned to pronounce it. (Check out YouTube). Alas, no Laphroaig was on offer so we settled for Glenlivet.

Soon it was time to join our clan. This was a most sensible way to seat a lot of folks in an orderly fashion. Since getting to the theater itself required walking over a very dark heath, I went by wheelchair.

Bob and I had good seats. My one regret was that we did not have seats close enough to be spattered by rain, mud or fake blood. I just wanted the opportunity to turn to Bob and say, “Our gayness and our gilt are all besmirched.” Yes, I know it’s not from Macbeth. It’s from Henry V. But daily life does not offer many opportunities to speak such lines and I wanted my chance.

Two uninterrupted hours went quickly by. I loved it all: the battles, the chanting monks, the witches. Most of all I love to hear Sir Ken do Shakespeare. He makes the speaking of the lines seem natural and effortless. (It’s not. I’ve tried it.)

I told myself that if I got any opportunity to make eye contact with Branagh I would give him a melting smile or do a little kissy motion. (You’re embarrassed for me, aren’t you? You think I lack decorum).

That moment did come about halfway through the play. But by that time I was watching Macbeth, not Kenneth Branagh. The king had killed people and was about to kill others. It was not a cosy moment. I let the opportunity pass.

Stephanie Patterson

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