New York: Wicked History

Friday, July 8

When I was trying to look up Statue of Liberty info before hand, I got distracted checking out bulk tourist deals. In the end I decided that it would probably be break-even at best, and tie me down to the embedded programs to boot. However, I did find out about The Cloisters, an extension of the Metropolitan Museum of Art that appeared to host various medieval artifacts in an actual cloister. The site sounded interesting, and I would have gone earlier if I hadn’t checked the weather and determined today was most likely to rain.

On the way to the train station, I also took a loop through Central park; I’d seen a few references to the Imagine tilework, but had missed it on my earlier expedition. After several bits of misdirection, I finally found back in some trees. It was somewhat predictably crowded. It was also somewhat smaller than I expected – given the scale of other items, I half expected a large tiled plaza on the mall.

The Cloisters are out near the upper end of Manhattan, in Fort Tryon Park. The park offers a piece of rolling hills with paths, gardens. Fortunately the weather was still clear. There is also stonework, e.g. Fort Tryon, although I don’t know if the structure was original or tribute. The current form includes a large gateway that encloses nothing, and then steps up to the top of the walls, where there is large patio area.

As I got into the Cloisters itself, it gradually became apparent that it wasn’t an original building, but one that had been purposefully built as a museum. However, it did included bits and pieces from actual structures, ‘in context’ and many rooms were set up to demonstrate the actual appearance of various churches, halls, and cloisters.

I spent the morning at the Cloisters, seeing a small shower falling into a courtyard. I stayed for lunch, thinking they have done something unique with it. The food was a bit classier than pizza, but still not all that special. The rain had let up by the time I was done, so I was able to depart in comfort.

Since The Cloisters is an extension of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, one entry was good for either on the same day. The Met sits on a piece of land carved out of Central park, but not really in it, since the entrance is along the side.

There were a pretty wide range of exhibits, from transported Egyptian temples to modern art. Perhaps the most interesting things were the complete rooms from various periods which, like The Cloisters, put artifacts in context.

It’s a huge building. Going to the Cloisters first, I barely made it onto the second floor, and I was skimming the second half of the first, at best. Of course, this was because I had scheduled show at a certain time. This is probably why I didn’t do a lot of advance planning. Who’s to say how long something should take? With a deadline looming, not only might the experience get cut off, but one has to be constantly mindful of the impending time to avoid missing it, distracting from the immediate experience.

As I came out from deep halls to windowed rooms, I started seeing the rain had finally arrived. I had my umbrella, but it doesn’t really cover the feet. At least I was wearing shorts, but traveling light doesn’t justify sandals or water-resistant boots. At least I had the umbrella – Central park wasn’t so crowded but I still passed a number of bedraggled pedestrians.

I went back to my AirBNB room – thankfully the host had no hard checkout time. Then I moved my baggage down the conference hotel – which just so happened to be two blocks over from the Gershwin theater, where Wicked was playing.

I had to go up three flights of stairs to reach my seat, which was literally the “the last seat in the house” – mezzanine, back row, far right. I didn’t bring my camera to the show – I figured with a no photos policy it would just save any questions. I might, however, at least gotten a shot of the stage. It turns out the gears and dragon were part of the stage framing. Still don’t know why. I gather that the gears were supposed to represent Emerald City and it’s mechanical nature. They would have the mechanical dragon, up by the ceiling, swing and blow smoke at a few dramatic moments, but it still seemed like a pretty random element.

The show itself was an nice bit of spectacle. I couldn’t make out many of the songs, but than I rarely can make out songs, and often go looking for lyrics (but I wasn’t buying a $20 program) The plot had a number of interesting ideas, and a certain reflection on the modern world (or perhaps just the world) There were couple of really nice ideas, often emphasized by big songs, but the few hours probably didn’t leave enough time to really tie things together, and it seemed to kind of rush from event to event – they were trying to cover an awful lot of ground.

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