A so-so night's sleep, after the long flight from London and the attempt to stay awake for long enough to get to bed at NYC bedtime. We were awake early, and showed up for our B&B breakfast at eight--along with most of our fellow guests, it seemed. We sat with a friendly Flemish family from Belgium, fresh from a trip to the American West. And spent much too long doing futile and frustrating with online connection problems, resolved only later in the day by the hotel management. You may have noticed that the Buddha Diaries entries covering the previous two days were posted late.
Walked across town late morning, for a first stop at the Rubin Museum, with its fantastic collection of art from the Himalayas. An opportunity to renew contact with the Buddha--not to mention the many deities and demons, boddhisatvas and teachers of the Tibetan Buddhist world:
I think I may have mentioned in the past my vague discomfort with religious art removed from its original context and purpose. Once reinstalled in a museum, it becomes nothing more than an object of beauty, lovely to look at but somehow dis-spirited, deprived of some of its inherent power. The feeling returned to me at the Rubin, even as I enjoyed the incredible complexity of these extraordinary objects and the human skill and passion that went into their creation.
We ended up at an Italian restaurant for a decent lunch. From there, we found access to the delightful Highline walk, a beautiful nature stroll through the lower west side of the city following the tracks of what once was an elevated railway...
... above the streets of Chelsea. It was from these lofty heights that I had the bright idea to put Emily, our assistant in Los Angeles, to work online to get the tickets we had failed to get earlier because of our connection problems. We had almost given up on seeing "Warhorse"--though we had been advised everywhere not to miss it--but Emily performed a little long-distance magic and called back to say that tickets would be waiting for us at the box office. Greatly pleased by the news, we left the Highline in the Twenties, descending to street level for an afternoon's romp through some of the major galleries. We found a great deal of all-too familiar stuff. The highlight was unquestionably the installation "Breaking Open the Head"..
... by Mindy Shapero at the Marianne Boesky Gallery--a series of adventurous deconstructions of what's inside the human skull, no only the brain matter but abstractions, as I saw it, of what it fantasizes and how it perceives the world out there.
With the prospect of a late evening at the theater, we returned across town to our inn to rest a while and freshen up before heading for the uptown subway. Getting through the turnstile proved to be more of a challenge than we would have imagined. We have been having difficulty with our swipes--first in London and now here; our cards don't seem to open the gates as every one else's seem to do. However, with some friendly assistance from the locals, we managed to board and even had a personal escort to the Lincoln Center, to be sure we arrived there in good order.
Before the performance, we stopped for dinner at the Bar Boulud...
... and found ourselves sitting next to a nice young couple who were planning to attend the same performance. Noticing a huge crowd gathering across the street in the theater complex, our waitress speculated that Bill Clinton might be showing up for "Warhorse"--a prospect that had us wondering what we'd say to him, if we found him sitting next to us. Or--we began to fantasize ourselves--might it be the Obamas? We had some fun tossing that one around, but it turned out to be no more--nor less--a celebrity than Paul McCartney who had attracted the crowd. And not to see "Warhorse", but to perform himself.
Whatever your may have heard or read about this theatrical event, don't believe it. It wasn't enough. It proved to be an experience unlike any other I have ever had in the theater. The staging is spectacular, the puppetry amazing: the horses don't pretend to actually "look like" horses in the literal sense. They require three people to operate them. But the people simply disappear into the extraordinary horse-ness of the horses; they become characters, yes, but not human characters. Their energy is magnificent. They prance and neigh and whinny, toss their heads in anger and start back in fright. In the stunning battle scenes (this is the First World War, the "war to end all wars,") they are utterly believable. We see the terror of it all through their terrified eyes. They have a nobility that transcends the man-created chaos that surrounds them.
Aside from this remarkable achievement, the story is a compelling one, the actors engage us in their human frailties, the comedy, the pathos and the tragedy of our existence. From our seats in the fourth row (thanks, Emily!) we were almost a part of the action, which reached out often enough into the audience with roaring tanks, explosions everywhere, and horses rearing over our heads from the front of the stage. An amazing experience, and one that we were very glad not to have missed. We negotiated the subway, this time with some success, and returned to our hotel near midnight, totally exhausted--not only by jet-lag from the previous day's flight, but also from the exhilerating experience of "Warhorse."