I made my way over to 9th Avenue, between 57th and 58th, in the Hell's Kitchen neighborhood of Manhattan, where I met Steven Klapow for brunch at Whym's.
I tried their seasonal Spiced Pumpkin Pancackes, which I loved, and Steven and I each had a:
Good food. Good, easy conversation, especially since it was with someone I've only spoken with for minutes in real life. A delightful way to start off my 55th birthday, and Steven generously picked up the tab. Thanks, again, my friend! I appreciate you so much.
I asked Steven if he had a recommended walking route to the New York Public Library on 5th Avenue—giving him my criteria, which pretty much amounted to "the route that has the potential to see the most passersby of the male variety" (some things never change)—and he suggested I walk down 8th Avenue, which I did. I made various Facebook "check-in" postings as I walked and enjoyed a leisurely stroll through a good portion of Hell's Kitchen before arriving at the library.
Before entering, I popped into the Deli Marche, where I purchased a bagel (Surprise! Surprise!) to have for later. I chose a sesame bagel with green olive cream cheese.
As you've no doubt figured out, in addition to eating bagels, I love spending time in the New York Public Library. It's just so cavernous and elegant. Here are two shots just inside the front doors:
I sat in the quiet section again today, staying on high mental alert to preclude myself from humming, and I made some moves in the many online Scrabble games I had going on, I finished up Thursday's blog entry, and I made notes of yesterday's events to pen that blog entry later. I did manage to get through my time there today without being shushed.
At about 3:15, I stood up to leave the library and I felt a little flutter in my stomach thinking that the time was drawing nigh. A forty-year dream soon to be realized.
I left the library, and I made my way back up to Paul and Juan's place near 99th and West End Ave, taking the #1 uptown train, getting off at 96th and Broadway.
Although the Barclays Arena doors were not going to open until 6:30, for the 8:00 show, I started my trek from the Upper West Side to Brooklyn at about 5:00, wondering what's the longest anyone has ever been stuck in the subway with a train delay or crash. I wasn't about to leave anything to chance for this momentous event.
I hopped on the 2 train, and when I exited in Brooklyn, my heartbeat kicked up a notch, and evidently my hand twitched in capturing this sight:
I walked the block or so toward the arena, and turned the corner to this surreal scene:
Actually, it would have been nice if I had turned the corner, saw that, snapped the picture and moved on, but what really happened was that it was up for just a second when I first saw it, and then scrolled on to the ads for all of the other upcoming events at the arena, of which there were many.
I stood there for more than five minutes, but less than ten minutes, waiting for the Barbra ad to rotate back up and to get a picture of it without a bus or huge truck crossing in front of it while it was being displayed.
I bought two hot dogs, for $2.00 a piece, at a food truck parked right across from the arena. I knew there'd be food inside the arena, but I also knew the prices were going to be in the captive audience range in there.
I actually entered the arena before 6:30 and went up to Will Call to get my ticket. The lady at the window helping me looked up something on the computer, shook her head, and then said something to another person behind her. That person went to several boxes where the printed tickets were, and after looking through all of them once, shook her head no at the lady helping me.
Needless to say, my heart dropped, as the lady looked at my driver's license again and then searched in the computer again. With no luck again, she once again asked the other person to look through the boxes, after which she once again shook her head no.
By this time, I was trying to shove my phone under the glass partition between us to show her the PDF copy of my ticket, telling her that I got an email this afternoon with "tips about tonight's experience" in it, all while she pretty much ignored my mounting concern. Finally she said, "We'll just print you another ticket."
I said to her, "Girl, you're giving me a heart attack!" Finally, I got the prize in hand:
After walking along the side of the arena in pursuit of a potential celebrity-sighting, during which I saw someone who looked a little bit like Jane Fonda, but I only half-thought so, and even if it was, wouldn't have been a big deal to me.
Returning back to the front of the arena, I joined one of the many lines that were forming, and after being "wanded" down by security, I just started people-watching.
After several minutes of looking around, I noticed people all around me with the printed copies of that PDF that was in my phone email that I was trying to shove under the glass at Will Call, and it dawned on me that that was my ticket.
I never had requested my Barbra ticket to be at Will Call; it was for Jake last night that I had done that, which of course was why it was waiting for me when I'd arrived there last night.
I was supposed to just print off that paper, which included a bar code on it to scan as my ticket, for this concert. Oh well, it was a fortuitous way to get a memento of the concert that I wouldn't have otherwise gotten.
When the doors finally opened at 6:30 and we were let in, I checked out the souvenir table, passing on the $40 asking price for a program of the concert and the $45 cost of a t-shirt that I couldn't try on and that looked like some portion of it would disappear as I tucked it into my shorts. They were black, though, which appealed to me.
I walked around the sports arena looking for the entrance to section 17, and when I finally found it, the curtain leading into the arena was still drawn, and an arena employee was there keeping people from entering at that time.
I stood there, waiting, and several people came up, realized they couldn't get in yet, and went away to spend money on things like the hot dog concession, which was $9.50 instead of the $2.00 I'd paid for mine outside at the food truck, which as far as I could tell was only because they were called "Brooklyn Dogs" in here.
More than one person came up and said, "Oh I guess we can't go in because Barbra's practicing."
First of all, I'm quite sure Barbra was in the green room, not on the stage, and second of all, she wouldn't be practicing, she'd be rehearsing.
When they finally let us in, I went to row 11, and made my way to seat 6. I was immediately pleased with my seat, as I really thought it was going to be much further away from the stage, since I was on the opposite side of the arena from where Barbra was performing.
I was the first one in the row, and a few minutes later, a single lady came into the row and took seat 7 beside me.
I was curious to see who was going to have the seat on either side of me, as I was sure it would be a single person, because I was pretty sure that the only reason I got as good a seat as I did was because I wanted a single seat.
As it turned out, that lady in seat 7 was by herself, too, and interestingly enough, she was there for her birthday, too. However, her birthday was actually on Thursday, which was the night Barbra did the first concert there, but it was sold out by the time she tried to get a ticket for that night's performance.
The first words out of her mouth was, "Wow, these seats are great!"
"I thought the same thing when I got here," I shared.
Then she got a text, and after responding to it, said to me, "That's my girlfriend texting me. She's the sister of Bruce Ratner, and she's inviting me to go sit up in the Owners' Box with them."
She scanned the arena looking for what might be the Owners' Box, and when she saw something that might possibly be it, she said, "I don't know if I want to go up there. These seats are so good."
I said to her, "Gurl! In addition to hob-nobbing with the likes of Bruce Ratner, there's going to be free alcohol up there. Are you crazy???"
"Well, I'm going to go up there, but I might come back down here for a couple of songs if the view is better from here."
To which I replied, "Well if you do, you be sure to bring me a bourbon and Diet Coke from up there. And you know I'm here all alone, and it's my birthday, so if there ends up being a 'no-show' up there, feel free to come back and get me."
That was the first and last I ever saw of her.
The next people to arrive in my row were two women, sitting in the two seats to my immediate left.
It's kind of funny, because for the five months I've had my ticket, I've been envisioning a bunch of gay men sitting all around me, but in reality found myself surrounded by women. Well, technically, with women to the left of me and an empty seat to the right of me.
These two women to my left turned out to be sisters, even though they looked nothing alike. One had long black hair and the other one, sitting right next to me, had short platinum blond hair.
The lady that had disappeared to the Owners' Box was from New Jersey, and I'd heard people in the row in front of me say they were from California and a little bit peeved that after they bought tickets to fly to New York for the only two concerts originally on this tour, they'd added more locations to the tour, including one in California.
It was in that context that I asked the two women next to me, "Are you from here?"
The blond one ejaculated, "No!" so emphatically that it startled me a bit, which to her credit she noticed, and then added a little more even-toned, "Well, what do you mean?"
I said, "Well, you know, I'm here from North Carolina, and those people are from California," I was just wondering if you were from here or somewhere else.
"Well, we're not from here; we're from the Bronx! People from the Bronx would never say they're from here. This is Brooklyn."
We both laughed after that and became fast friends. In retrospect, maybe I should have asked, "Do you live within local time?"
As it approached 8:00, the nosebleed seats started filling up, as the excitement—well mine at least—built:
The show started at about 8:10, starting with a video playing with a Barbra song in the background, which I at first didn't know whether it was her singing or a recording.
I quickly realized it was a recording, and my heartbeat slowed again. When it finished, that veil across the front of the stage raised, and the orchestra played the overture, before Barbra came out for her first song.
When she began singing As If We Never Said Goodbye, I posted this Facebook status update:
The entire setlist for posterity:
- You'll Never Know (video introduction)
- Funny Girl Overture
- As If We Never Said Goodbye
- Medley: Nice ‘n Easy / That Face
- The Way He Makes Me Feel
- Didn't We
- Smile (with Il Volo)
Il Volo segment:
- Un Amore Così Grande
- O Sole Mio
- Ask Barbra: Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long
- Ask Barbra: Enough is Enough
- Marvin Hamlisch: The Way We Were / Through the Eyes of Love
- Jule Styne: Being Good Isn't Good Enough
- Jule Styne: Rose's Turn/Some People/ Don't Rain On My Parade
- I Remember Barbra film clip
- You're The Top
- What'll I Do? / My Funny Valentine (with Chris Botti)
- Lost Inside of You (with Chris Botti)
- Evergreen (with Chris Botti)
Chris Botti segment:
- When I Fall In Love
Jason Gould segment:
- Jason's video for Barbra's birthday (Nature Boy)
- How Deep Is The Ocean (Barbra and Jason)
- This Masquerade (Jason)
- Here's To Life
- Make Our Garden Grow (with Il Volo, Brooklyn Youth Choir, Chris Botti)
- Somewhere (with cast; just the end)
- Some Other Time
- Happy Days Are Here Again (encore)
Throughout the show, I shared my binoculars with the sisters next to me, and at one point the one sitting next to me offered me several pieces of a toffee chocolate candy bar that she had, as well as offering me a tissue when I lost it during Barbra's rendition of The Way We Were, which she dedicated to the recently late Marvin Hamlisch, who wrote it for the movie of the same name.
When Barbra, who turned 70 earlier this year, introduced Il Volo, she quipped, these boys are 17, 18, and 19 and all three of their ages added together still don't add up to anywhere near my age."
While they were singing, I was looking at them through my binoculars, and handing them to that lady next to me, I said, "It's worth a look at them through these for that middle one—the 17-year old—alone. His pants are so tight."
She cracked up taking the opera glasses, and then after seeing for herself said, "Oh my. He must have a really... big... ego." Indeed.
At the point in the show when Chris Botti performed with Barbra, he messed up on his lines with her, by saying, "Did you want to sing that song you wrote for Evergreen?"
Barbra cocked her head a little, hesitating, perhaps giving him a moment to realize what he'd done, and then asked, "For Evergreen?"
"Let's try that again," Chris said, "Did you want to sing that song you wrote for A Star is Born?"
"Oh, Evergreen?" she said smiling, to which he replied, back on track, "No, the other one."
They did Lost Inside of You, which she co-wrote with Leon Russell, and then they did Evergreen, which she co-wrote with Paul Williams, both songs for A Star is Born.
Later in the concert, while introducing Make Our Garden Grow, Barbra actually messed up while saying something and said, "Let's try that again," which I thought was gracious and I'm sure made Chris Botti feel better.
I thought the most impressive part of the Chris Botti segment—aside from when he was performing with Barbra, of course—was when they brought a violin virtuoso out of the orchestra to do a number with him. My god, she was phenomenal.
Jason's video for his mother's birthday was very touching, and several people—undoubtedly mothers themselves—sitting around me used a tissue at the end of it. It was a series of still pictures, mostly of just Jason and Barbra, although at least two of them had Jason's dad, Elliott Gould, in them.
They were mostly of Barbra adoring her baby son, and then as he got a little older, some shots of him on the sets of some of her movies and in the recording studio. At the end, there was a message, written in script, something to the effect of, "I love you mommy..." and then, "Forever," or "Always," or something like that.
In terms of Jason's vocal talents, I agree that he's good, very good, but I don't think he's as good as she thinks he is and how good the critics make him out to be.
With that said, Barbra did note that his CD had just reached number one on amazon.com's list this week, and that her recently released new album, Release Me, was also number one. So they were a number one mother and son this week. Awwww.
Just a short note for posterity—although it's all for posterity, isn't it?—personally, I was not impressed with any of Barbra's outfits; I don't care who designed them. And about the little bit of dancing she did—which amounted to not much more than a little sidling—well let's be kind and just say that she's a better singer than dancer.
Something that sort of snapped me out of the context in which I was attending this concert—which is to say in the context of realizing of a 40-year dream—happened both at the beginning and the end of the concert.
At the beginning, and this was before I started talking to them, those two women to my left pointed down to the floor seats and said, "That's where we need to get seats for the Stones concert."
I remember thinking, "Really? Why didn't you get those seats for this concert?"
It was at this point that it occurred to me that there were people here for whom this wasn't the event of a lifetime. D'oh.
Later, after we had met, when they mentioned that they were going to try and get seats for the Rolling Stones concert, I asked, "Oh, is that that band that has the guy with the lips who sings in it?" Needless to say, that got a rise out of them.
Also at the beginning, back to the paradigm switch for me, the couple sitting to the right of the—now empty—seat to my right, arrived about ten minutes late, missing Barbra's first song entirely and well into the second one.
I remember thinking, "People! You've missed a song by Barbra Joan Streisand. Really???"
This was brought home again at the end of the concert, when after Barbra did her first encore, and it was obvious she was going to do one more, some people actually started leaving!
I was, again, like, "People (people who need people)! Where are you going? It's Barbra Streisand! She's singing another song. What are you doing???"
After the concert, I got off the 2 train at Chambers Ave, and took the 1 train up to Christopher Street, making a stop in the Village to sort of cap off my evening.
I stopped in The Stonewall Inn, where it was super crowded, too crowded to even get a drink without too much work, and so I stepped into the nearby Duplex Piano Bar and Cabaret, where as there almost always is for karaoke in New York City, absolutely phenomenal singers. Out-of-work Broadway and Off-Broadway performers, you know.
While there, I posted this to Facebook:
Obviously, I was not at my best with that typo in that tmesis, "Fanfreakingtabulous." Also, is it, "Hear! Hear!" or "Here! Here!"?
My final stop was in the Boots & Saddle bar, where they had strippers—well as much as they can strip anymore in NYC, which is to say, we saw some butt. Tight butt. Bubble butt.
I caught the #1 uptown train back to Paul and Juan's at about 1:15, and it was butts-to-nuts on the train in spite of the hour.
All-in-all, arguably, my most memorable birthday ever. Although my trip to Australia for my 50th was up there, too. And my sentiments of gratitude summed up on my trip home the next day: