The song "Somewhere" from West Side Story is constantly in my head now 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 said before, 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'm not just a blogger.) A show I wrote, along with my good friends and collaborators Tim Maner and Alan Stevens Hewitt, called Lizzie Borden, is going to be presented in a prestigious festival in a couple of weeks.
It's a hard rock musical based on the Lizzie Borden story. Last fall, we had a two-month run at The Living Theatre on the Lower East Side. It was a great small production with an amazing cast and band. Good audiences, good press - we were on the Advocate's Top 10 list of queer theater for 2009.
In a couple weeks, Lizzie Borden will be presented in a concert reading as part of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre's festival of new musicals, a huge annual industry event where theater producers from all over the U.S. come to check out the most promising new musicals. It's kind of a big deal for the show and for me as an artist. Only eight shows are chosen each year. We start rehearsals on Tuesday!