Tuesday, April 06, 2010

SoHo & So-So Show

Our second full day in Manhattan featured mostly sunny skies with cold temperatures and whipping winds. The vacation sleeping schedule (I do love sleep!) meant a late start to our SoHo shopping date. Chad and I were both weary of motion-sickness from the cab rides: racing up to traffic lights or traffic to lurch forward when the brakes engage, weaving in and out of dangerously tiny gaps in traffic, the overpowering unnatural smell of various deodorizers. However, I have a mild phobia about being underground or in confined spaces, so I dared not take the subway on previous visits to New York. (I'm fine with the elevated trains in Chicago and monorails in Orlando or Atlanta, but there's something unsettling for me about being underground.) I swallowed my fear and allowed Chad to educate me in the ways of subway travel. My first New York subway experience was easy-peasy, surprisingly clean and comfortable. The trip cost almost as much as a cab ride for short distances ($2.25 each person), but without the motion-sickness proved itself a bargain. We caught the train one block from our hotel at 28th Street & Broadway and emerged on Prince Street in the heart of the SoHo shopping scene.

The streets were crowded with college students and fellow-tourists gawking and gaping at storefronts. I was disappointed in Topshop, a British import of supposedly affordable high fashion, which seemed to me like an overpriced Forever 21 type of store. The lines for fitting rooms were ten people long, so no purchase.

I loved returning to Pearl River Mart to buy Lychee Tea, cute chopsticks and Asian candies. Pearl River Mart tightly packs an amazing array of goods from fabrics to tea to lamps to 40-foot-long parade dragons into a large, multi-level space. Shopping there would have been overwhelming if we hadn't stepped up to the elevated tea room for a hot pot of tea. We got a bird's eye view of the main floor of the store while relaxing for a few minutes away from the crowds.

Other stores worth a mention: CB2 - love the catalogs, enjoyed being able to touch-test the rug I want to order; Muji - meticulously edited selection of travel and home goods including travel-sized containers, essential oils, socks, t-shirts without printing on them, tasteful skyline cut-out souvenirs and more; Kid Robot - fun, alt-pop-art collectibles that the cool kids like.

We ate late lunch/early dinner at Red Bamboo near the university area. Thank goodness for a vegetarian restaurant, but the focus here was on fake meat shaped out of soy, seitan & tempeh, while I prefer a more vegetable and whole bean approach to veggie dining.

I enjoyed another easy subway ride to the hotel to get dressed-up for the night's Broadway show. Indulge me for a moment as I pass judgement on people who wear hiking boots and grubby jeans with fleece to a night at the theater. I opine that Broadway & off-Broadway shows warrant (at least) a nice, clean, dark pair of denim and dressy shoes perhaps a shirt with a collar or merino wool sweater on top. You're in no danger of being pulled into a mosh pit or being splattered in mud from monster trucks, so lose the lumberjack look.

When Chad & I approached our mezzanine seats for the show, I sensed someone staring at me, then heard Chad exclaim, "Wow! What are you doing here?" The man seated directly behind us was Charles K., the coolest accountant I know, from Austin who happened to be in Manhattan for work and happened to score tickets to the same show. Small world!

I held such high hopes for Promises, Promises starring Sean Hayes (who I adore) and Kristin Chenoweth (what's not to love?) based on one of my favorite movies ever - The Apartment. Sean Hayes grabbed my attention anytime he was on stage and Kristin Chenoweth packs mighty pipes into her pixie frame, but overall, I found the Burt Bacharach music rather tuneless, the dance numbers trite and the lighting design distracting. Katie Finneran as Marge MacDougall offered an unexpected bright spot in the show with her funny owl noises and shimmies that brought true humanity and humor to her character. Perhaps I should admit to myself that I don't like musicals unless they're poking fun at the random song outbursts in a self-aware, winking manner. Perhaps the combination of high ticket prices, star-power and love of The Apartment script set my expectations at an unreachable high. Overall the show felt flat.

Upon returning to our super-hip hotel via subway, we made our way past the bouncers to the lobby for some dessert and bubbly drinks. The dimly-lit scene with its too loud music filled with highly-preened people felt silly and self-conscious like a high school dance. People tried to shout witty banter at each other in varied attempts at wooing. I felt like Chad & I were the only couple at a cheesy singles night event.

Tune in tomorrow for weather woes / what to do when it rains on your vacation parade.