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Month: March 2002

Still crammed with work. Spent the last two days at Flying Lab on the DG computer game project, which is going well. They’re looking for a publisher at this point and have lots of good progress in that direction.

Brief good news: The Unknown Armies second edition rulebook is now going to be 336 pages, up from the 256 we previously announced. It’s a big fat bastard of a book.

Stupid news: WotC actually lost all the signed CoC D20 books we did a couple weeks ago. They apparently got mixed in with the general shipments, so I presume they’ll turn up in game stores eventually. I’m going back out there next week to sign another 200 copies.

Here’s a fascinating story about a failed 1940s collaboration between Walt Disney and Salvador Dali. Thanks to Nick Wedig on the Unknown Armies discussion list for pointing this out.

Back in Seattle now, and hope to write a final NYC dispatch shortly covering my trip to the Whitney Biennial and the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Meanwhile, those of you interested in the Call of Cthulhu D20 project I worked on should look at this new set of pages on WotC’s web site, with excerpts, interviews, art, and more.

Wow. We just saw The Graduate on Broadway, with Kathleen Turner in the Anne Bancroft role of Mrs. Robinson.

The mind boggles.

(If you’re not familiar with the film, this discussion is unlikely to be of interest.)

Much of the play sticks with the film, at least in the dialogue that survives and the main story points. But then the final minutes veer off the tracks massively.

When Benjamin goes to the church, everything changes. He and the Robinsons have a long, talky scene where Elaine vascillates between going through with the wedding and running off with Benjamin. Her parents argue with her, Benjamin argues with her, and it isn’t until she overhears her mother describing her as a moron and a dullard that she chooses Benjamin. They leave the church with the blessing of Mrs. Robinson–“This is the only time I’m ever going to support your decisions!” Turner cries–and then in lieu of the intensely ambiguous bus scene, we see Benjamin and Elaine in a motel room. They more or less reenact Benjamin’s first sexual encounter with Mrs. Robinson in a creepy but bluntly obvious bit of parallel action, and then they sit on the bed and sort Cheerios together, laughing and smiling.

That’s the end of the play.

WTF? I’m baffled. Admittedly, it’s probably better than watching Jason Biggs and Alicia Silverstone sit on a bus set and stare blankly into the audience for four minutes, which is how the film’s ending would play on stage with this cast. But good lord! Mike said it was like watching some freakish director’s cut.

Turner is imperious. At times she reminded me of George Washington: not in appearance, but in her bearing and her tone. She constantly seemed to be in the prow of the boat crossing the Delaware, stern and forward-leaning, her voice one of utter command. You can’t take your eyes off her, though her interpretation of the character is so focused and distilled that she doesn’t quite come across as a real woman anymore–she’s a force of nature.

Biggs is lackluster as Benjamin. He doesn’t communicate any of the depression or the impotent anger of the character until the second act, when he at least has the benefit of being proactive in stalking Elaine. But the first act has him operating on the level of Steve Gutenberg, a competent line-tosser whose chief virtue is that he speaks quickly and clearly enough to approximate wit. His professed rebellion is empty and unsatisfying. He does succeed in being flustered and awkward in his bedroom scenes with Turner, which is appropriate, but flustered and awkward is most of the range he expresses throughout.

Silverstone is just bizarre. Her Elaine seems at times to be a mature, intelligent, and passionate woman of real conviction, but she spends most of her time at the apparent age of eleven–or eight when she gets drunk with her mother, in another long, talky scene not found in the film. She’s just all over the map, playing dumb-sweet one minute and fiery the next. It’s not an interesting or credible oscillation, however–it just comes across as frustratingly inconsistent.

I did quite like the supporting cast, particularly Benjamin and Elaine’s fathers. Those two did excellent work in thin parts as proud and angry authority figures, and I thought they dominated the stage when they really got going.

All told, this stage version of The Graduate is a massive exercise in compromise. I well realize the difficulty in adapting a creative work from one medium to another. But instead of rising to the challenge of meeting the film’s rich ambiguity and dark digressions, the writer/director of the show has turned it into a new-age farce.

I’m very glad I went–it was great fun to see a Broadway show, and overall it was a fascinating, thought-provoking experience.

Just not for the reasons the creators intended.

And the odyssey continues. When last we left our hero, he was up far too late on Wednesday night. Thursday was mostly a loss. We ate at Donut House, a diner at which we did not, in fact, consume any donuts. I had a corned beef omelet which was superb. That afternoon we were meeting with the producers of Mike’s upcoming off-Broadway show. Sitting in this little diner in Brooklyn, eating greasy food and talking about the meeting, I felt completely in synch with those movie scenes of showbiz people meeting in diners, like The Front with Woody Allen.

It’s curious the ways in which the New York of my movie-going career does not match the New York of this trip. Most notably, a big part of my mental picture of the city comes from films of the 1970s, stuff like Dog Day Afternoon, The Warriors, or even The Exorcist, when Father Damien goes to visit his mother in the city. Those images of the city as a trash-strewn, grimy wasteland, cold and foreboding, do not align with the city I see here today. Parts of it do a little bit, like the streets south of Times Square and north of Chelsea, where the shops all close their graffiti-strewn metal shields at night. But for the most part, the cinematic New York is a thing of fantasy, or of the past, or both.

The meeting with the producers went well. Lots of things are falling into place with the media campaign and so forth. We raised the topic of our shooting a television commercial, but once I made it clear that they would have to pay me for the work–instead of just doing it for something resembling fun or camaraderie–they lost enthusiasm rapidly. (When I said we’d need a schedule and a budget, one jokingly replied, “The schedule is now and the budget is zero.”) I’m glad it worked out this way, since I really can’t stay the extra few days the project would demand.

Afterwards we had dinner at Chumley’s, a venerable watering hole in Greenwich Village. It’s particularly known as a writer’s bar, and has been graced by the likes of Hemingway and Hammett in their day. We had a fine meal there and then headed for home.

Friday came and oh, hell, it was a lazy day. We got moving really slowly. By the time we’d gotten our act together and eaten, it was about 4pm. Lunch was thin-crust pizza, really delicious. Mike and I headed into the city to prepare for TechTV.

This TechTV gig is an odd one. The show is called The Screensavers, and it’s sort of a talk show and tech-support program in one. People call in–sometimes on their internet video cameras–and ask for technical advice, and they also have guests and features and so forth. It’s sort of the tech version of Car Talk. This night was Mike’s fourth appearance on the show, and he drafted me to join him in the role of Steve Jobs, founder and CEO of Apple Computer. We’re both gonzo Mac geeks, so this certainly struck us as funny, even if no one else was amused.

Jobs habitually wears a black turtleneck sweater for his appearances, and we spent a frantic hour trying to buy one. Despite the cutting, freezing wind howling through the city, every salesperson we talked to informed us it was spring, and therefore they only had light spring clothes, no turtlenecks. We finally gave up less than an hour before airtime and made do with a crew-neck sweater I’d brought, which I wore backwards as a simulacrum.

TechTV is based in San Francisco I believe, but they have a small studio here in New York. Most of the branch staff had gone home by the time we arrived, and so a guy led us to a large unoccupied room with a desk and two chairs where we would perform. We sat around for twenty minutes, settling on the material for our bit. We’d sort of made it up now and then over the preceding week, and had enough stuff prepped to ad-lib it sufficiently well. The piece was great, and I’m really satisfied with the results. For those of you unable or unwilling to watch it, I’ll have it online soon. I find it difficult to reconcile my comedic appearance on a cable network show with the rest of my life–it just doesn’t seem to fit. But it was good fun, so that’ll do.

Jean-Michele’s brother Joe arrived in town with his girlfriend Rae. They’re staying at Chez Daisey now, so I decamped to the Pennsylvania, a huge old hotel by Penn Station and Madison Square Gardens. It’s an uninspiring but serviceable place, enormous, and catering to the tourist trade.

We all met up after the TechTV gig and had dinner at O’Reilly’s, which is of course an Irish pub. Afterwards we launched a frustrating quest to see the movie Blade 2, which opened that day. Every theater we went to was sold out. Finally Mike called a ticket service and found a venue in Chelsea where we could catch a midnight showing. He bought tickets over the phone and we headed off.

The film was very good, though I won’t try to write a full review. The crowd was large and boisterous, a suitable opening-night kind of group for a big action movie like this.

Today we all had brunch at Bar Tabac, a French cafĂ© on Smith St. here in Brooklyn. The food was outstanding, and then we went to Galapagos, the bar where we attended Phat Tuesday. We shot Mike there doing a final batch of short pieces, and he indulged me by doing one where he played Torgo from Manos, Hands of Fate. I had to call Christine in Seattle and get her to hum Torgo’s theme music over the phone so Mike could perform it during the bit. It all went well. We ate yet again, this time perogies in a Polish neighborhood, and are now regrouping.

Tonight we’re going to see The Graduate, a Broadway production of the excellent film. It’s running in previews right now, which means it’s on for real but the critics don’t review it until the official opening. It’s like a grace period combined with a shakedown cruise. The consulting director for Mike’s show is the assistant director for The Graduate, and told us about a cheap-ticket deal we could get. The show has Kathleen Turner as Mrs. Robinson, Alicia Silverstone as Elaine, and Jason Biggs, that pie-fucker guy from American Pie, in the Dustin Hoffman role. No idea if it’s good or not, but it’ll be fun to see a Broadway show.

And that’s that. Sunday should be an all-museum day, if I get my way . . .

I utterly failed to write about this in advance, but Mike and I appeared on The Screensavers last night, a geek talk show on the TechTV cable network. I pretended to be Steve Jobs, founder of Apple Computer, and Mike conducted an amusingly disastrous interview. The show aired yesterday (Friday), but repeats this Monday morning at 11:30AM Eastern time for those of you with TechTV and a VCR or Tivo. You can find more info at their web site–look for the article called “Mike Daisey’s Mystery Guest.”

My nationwide live television debut was great fun and very silly. Somewhat nerve-wracking, as we were improving without a script, and my hands were shaking a bit. Fortunately you can’t tell . . .

More dispatches soon. I’ve moved to a hotel without net access, so I’m not online much at the moment.

My friend Damon writes from Memphis:

This afternoon I was a judge at the Shelby County Science Fair. The best poster that I saw – (we only judged 12 out of like 300) “Do cats always eat the most expensive catfood regardless of flavor”. The experiment was to buy three different brands of cat food, same flavors (chicken, fish, beef) and feed them four different cats to see which ones they preferred. Conclusion: Cats eat the cheapest food. Go figure.

Monday started late. Didn’t get outta bed until noon. Went out to a laundromat, whose name was “Laundromat.” Had a pastry, coffee, and cookie from a little bakery here in Brooklyn. While I was sitting on the bench out front I watched what appeared to be some low-level mob activity. All very exciting.

Laundry done, I headed back and eventually went uptown to Museum Mile. This is a long chunk of 5th Ave. across from the northern end of Central Park where there are a bunch of museums. I had my heart set on getting to the Whitney Museum for their infamous biennial of contemporary art, but time and tide were against me and I was too late in the day. The Cooper-Hewitt Design Museum called.

The Cooper-Hewitt is part of the Smithsonian. It’s based in Andrew Carnegie’s old mansion, which is exactly as beautiful and huge as it sounds. They had free hours from 5pm-9pm, so I was set.

I hoped they had a permanent exhibit, Smithsonian style, an historical survey of design. “Design” in the Cooper-Hewitt sense largely refers to functional and ornamental household goods–dishes, furniture, textiles, that sort of thing. No survey. Instead they had two exhibits going.

The first was devoted to European glass from 1900-1940, mostly stuff from Austria, Germany, and Czechoslovakia. Beautiful stuff. It charted the transition from art nouveau to art deco, from clean almost-minimalism to more ornamentive styles. The one piece to transfix me was a glass decorated with a calendar, the months in tall narrow columns around the outside. At the top of each month was a zodiac symbol, then the name of the month, and then a 3×11 grid of numbers. No days, just numbers. But Sundays and holidays were in a different style than the rest. The calendar was for 1919, and then at the bottom of the class was Venus riding a dolphin beneath a legend reading “1920”–bottoms up, new year coming through. Beautiful work, fantastic design.

Upstairs was the second exhibit, devoted to Russell Wright. I never knew about this guy. From about 1930 to 1965 he was Martha Stewart. He and his wife conceived and promoted a new lifestyle they called “Easier Living.” It was essentially an effort to shed the hidebound formalities of British fine dining and instead embrace a simpler, rationalist approach suited to the small apartments of American cities and middle-class life without the benefit of servants. The Wrights created innovative lines of dishware (including American Modern and Iriquois China), furniture, and decorative items. It’s beautiful stuff. Their descendents can be seen in the friendly austerity of Ikea, Target, and of course Martha Stewart.

Wright was heavily influenced by the surrealists in his younger days, and in part this helped him throw off the shackles of the past. Looking at all his work, it was like a giant puzzle piece fell into place for my understanding of 20th Century American design. He was the crossroads where surrealism, art deco, the Eameses, and Martha Stewart met and shook hands. It was a revelation and then some.

That night we went to Galapagos, perhaps the coolest bar I’ve ever seen. It’s in an old mayonnaise factory in the Williamsburg neighborhood of Brooklyn. There’s no sign, of course, just a brilliant red light that projects up the side of the building above the door. Inside is a large reflecting pool, maybe 10’x20′, above which is a rotating art exhibit. It’s dark, with red lights in the corners and spots on the art. The reflecting pool is filled with india ink, not water, so the surface reflects rich, saturated colors, just beautiful. Inside the main space, dozens of candles dot the walls for illumination. There’s a stage at one end shielded by a curtain, not in use that night. Then there’s a backroom performance space suited for an audience of forty or so.

We were there for a monthly event called Phat Tuesday, curated by a friend of Mike’s named Boo. Boo got up and introduced the evening’s artists. The main performer was a guy dressed as a nurse, using an Austrian accent, who sang cabaret between the other sets. Then a woman came out and did a dance with two fire brands while a guy played conga; she was unexceptional, clearly a skilled dancer but perhaps still new to working with fire. After her was a performance artist. She came out slow and slinky to weird, gothy music, her long frizzy hair covering her face, and for a glorious moment I thought she would reveal to have no face at all, just a smooth featureless surface. No such luck. Instead, after a minute she took a razor out and appeared to slice open her breasts through her dress. White fluid poured out and down the dress, as if her breasts had been full of milk. Then she opened a slit in the stomach part of the dress and produced a fish, which she sent on a little platform up to the ceiling. She interrupted this performance to ask, quite straightforwardly, if God was in the audience. A woman volunteered. She asked God to pull the rope to raise the platform. Once this was set up, she resumed her performance. Afterwards we debated whether this was intentional or just a technical glitch she had to fix halfway through her number. Following her was a sleight-of-hand magician, a passable technician but with tremendous energy and excitement. He did some card tricks and such and got a lot of laughs with his performance. Finally, a dancer came out whom we referred to as the Ass Pirate. His leotard left his butt hanging out, and he came to our row in the audience and slithered past us, waving his ass in our faces. Then he danced a while, ate some soap, and crawled out under a tablecloth. It wasn’t very impressive, but he was clearly a long-time professional dancer. So while his piece wasn’t very memorable, his skill was exceptional.

This morning we got up and went to the Simon & Schuster building downtown. There we met with Rachel, Mike’s editor, and shot her and several other editors talking about the worst jobs they ever had. This is for another video piece, and it went well. We also shot a piece of Mike in their amazingly ramschakle office supply closet. The woman who used to manage the closet left and they didn’t name a replacement, so soon the staff took all the good office supplies and just left behind a mass of junk. Mike said it was like the supply closet went feral.

We returned to Brooklyn and ate at place called Ferdando’s Foccaceria, a very old little Italian restaurant apparently once frequented by Sinatra. I had a fantastic sausage and ricotta sandwich. The floor was made of unmatched tiles, quite beautiful and run-down all at once. Lots of great tilework in this city.

J-M went to bed for a while and Mike and I headed out to see Resident Evil, which we hoped would be spectacularly bad. It was, in fact, terrible, groaningly so, but not quite hilariously awful. In the lobby of the theatre near the concession stand there was a little pedestal with a popcorn-butter dispenser sitting on it. Above it on the wall was a piece of paper. An employee had typed this thing up on the computer, printed it out, put it in a plastic protector sleeve, and taped it up. It read: “Welcome to our popcorn topping dispensing center.”

Tonight we all went to another Italian place here in Brooklyn and had another scrumptious meal. This place was so authentic you knew it was closing time when the owner and the old bartender changed into jogging suits. Fans of The Sopranos should be familiar with this fashion statement.

Back at the apartment, more movies, ice cream, and flavored seltzer. Is there no end to this hedonism? We watched Zoolander, which proved to not be as funny as I had once dreamed it would be, and Heist, the David Mamet flick, which was not as good I hoped but still something to see.

Tomorrow afternoon we have a meeting with the theatrical producers. There’s suddenly talk of us shooting a television commercial for the show. I’m slightly skeptical but curious. It would mean staying longer than I’d planned, but it may happen. We’ll see.

Happy news on the hosting front: the marketing firm hired by the producers has a web host we can use that will handle the traffic, and they’re going to pick up the bill for the duration of the show. Very happy news indeed.

Now it’s four in the morning and time for bed again. There’s so much to do here–not exactly a vacation. But we’ve made good progress. In Seattle I hear it’s snowing.

Mike’s performance tonight was superb. It’s amazing to see how far the show has come since that first full rehearsal in January of 2001, and even since the last time I saw it last summer. They’ve really tightened it up and improved it in a multitude of ways. Fascinating process, like editing a manuscript but in four dimensions.

Afterwards, we ate at a lousy restaurant where two women were lapdancing guys at the bar. Jean-Michele encountered one of them in the bathroom and something amazingly funny happened, which I challenge her to tell in her own blog, should she finally start writing it.

Later we came home and once again fortified with ice cream and the inescapable flavored seltzer water watched Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. I’d never seen it in widescreen before, and hadn’t realized just how beautiful the film is.

I feel almost dirty making a transition from that masterpiece to our recent work, but the reason I sat down to file this dispatch was to put up some snapshots taken during our filming.

Rev Shoots

This is, predictably, me with the camera. It’s the lovely and talented Canon XL-1, with a Sony stereo microphone attached to the boom you can just barely see in Jean-Michele’s hand there at the left. I have two of those microphones. The first one died because I left the battery in it for six months in storage, and so I bought the second one right before coming to New York. Then I realized the first one wasn’t dead after all–I was just incompetent. Now I have two identical fully functioning microphones. I’m such an idiot.

Mike & Rev in Chinatown

Here are Mike and I in Chinatown, getting ready to do his bit about pornsniffing day at Amazon.com. We recorded a performance of this bit on stage in preparation for the show over a year ago, and it was strange to be doing it again in this very, very different environment.

Shooting on the Promenade

Jean-Michele did sound for the shoot, operating the boom mike. Here we are working on the Promenade, the lovely park that looks off the coast of Brooklyn (there’s an odd phrase) towards the Financial District of Manhattan. Yes, there were once two huge buildings right over there across the water, but then some fucking idiots made their bid for glory.

I’m sitting in the Rose Reading Room of the NY Public Library, a beautiful space. Of course, that’s almost an insult of an understatement. It’s roughly four stories tall, covered in marble. The ceiling is a glorious rococo surface of substantial depth and detail, with three very large panels that bear painted sky and clouds. The rest of the ceiling is painted and stained in luminous brown and gold. so encrusted with detail that you are lost within them in moments. A balcony rings the room about eight feet off the ground, and above and below it are bookshelves. The space is bisected by an ornate wooden structure where you pick up and drop off the books you request. The rest of the space is filled with long, beautiful tables bearing lamps, power outlets, Ethernet ports, and little numbers to identify your seat. You can bring your laptop in and hook up to the net, and there you find the only flaw: the library’s net connection is glacially slow. But in exchange for free access and the opportunity to write within this mind-palace, it’s a compromise I’m eager to accept.

I’ve brought Seattle with me. My first day in New York was all blue sky and sunshine, a perfect day. Since then it has been gray, cold, and constantly drizzling. My North Face windbreaker, an emblematic piece of outerwear for the Pacific Northwest, has proved surprisingly indispensable here. Considering that I got it free from a bartender who was emptying out his establishment’s lost & found box, I’m pleased at its ongoing utility.

To rejoin the narrative of the last two days, Saturday night was indeed a quiet evening, except for the violent robbery. We had a wonderful dinner at an Asian restaurant, Faan, on Smith St. in Brooklyn near where Mike & Jean-Michele live. They make a glorious huge bowl of soup with roast duck and thick, homemade noodles that was scrumptious. We then fortified ourselves with ice cream and flavored seltzer water and headed for Blockbuster to find a movie.

This location is on two floors, a ground floor and a basement area. It’s not because it’s huge–it’s just a small space. While we were downstairs looking at videotapes, we heard the pounding sound of someone running upstairs. Then someone else was running, and they were both running back and forth and all around. Then a slam and a bam and a rolling series of thuds that could only be a full-fledged, on the ground, desperate struggle between two or more people. Then some more struggling and some more running. And then quiet.

It seemed like this went on forever. And even accounting for the subjective nature of time during moments of tension, it went on for a while. We elected to wait out the thunderstorm in the basement.

When we eventually emerged, all was well. A police officer was at the front of the store speaking with an employee. People were milling around, looking for a movie for the night. But during checkout, the guy behind the counter was tense, breathing quickly, and in a great hurry to get us out of the store. It was midnight, time to close down, and he wanted to lock the doors and run home and dream of a better life where he wasn’t earning six bucks an hour by grappling on the floor with a crazed shoplifter.

The movie we rented? Rat Race, a wacky comedy released last year, and something of a remake of It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World. I’d heard mixed reviews of the film and it looked cheesy as all heck, but for some reason we wanted light relief.

The film started poorly. Gags fell flat, characters were dull, the setups were wooden. Fifteen minutes or so into the film we were groaning with displeasure, consoling ourselves with the aforementioned ice cream and flavored seltzer water.

But slowly, like a train chugging uphill, the film gained ground. Something funny happened. And then something else funny happened. And eventually, against seemingly overwhelming opposition, I found myself laughing more than I’ve laughed at an intentionally funny film in ages. It’s a hoary old thing, full of protracted setups that build until a monumental payoff, real old-school stuff. But for the majority of the film, this stuff really works. Even when it didn’t work, when a gag was lame or a plot twist made absolutely no sense, we did not object. By that time we were rooting for the film. We were team, the three of us and the movie together, pulling hard for the greater good like communists on a collective farm just before the killing frost. When it got lame and Mike moaned with horror, I cried out, “Stick with it! We’re all in this together!” And then it would get good again, even great. In the end, it was a wonderful experience.

They should use that blurb on the video box. “Brings the family together like communists on a collective farm, raves John Tynes of Revland!” At least it would be better than the lonely “Great Transitions!” blurb on the back of the Battlefield Earth DVD, which sits there like the last drunk in a bar desperately hoping to go home with the bartender.

Then night gave way to day and it was Sunday.

We intended to get moving early, as we had a brunch date with a college friend of Mike’s. Instead we left the apartment at 11:30, though thankfully the woman postponed our meeting until 3pm. Mike sat on the steps of the brownstone and we shot three pieces there. For these, the idea was simple: Mike sits there with a galley copy of his book and reads directly from the page. For the first one, he pretended to read from the book and instead improvised a torrid sex scene between him and Jeff Bezos that was drop-dead funny. We did two more which are actually in the book, and then moved on.

Our next stop was Monteleone’s, an Italian bakery specializing in many delicious cookies. The Daiseys are partial to the almond macaroons, and I cannot dispute this opinion. The gag was simple: Mike comes out of the bakery with a box of cookies, hurries over to the camera, and exults in the glory of the neighborhood cookie stores. This required a couple of takes, in part due to people passing on the sidewalk. We then did a short and very strange bit where Mike stands next to a six-foot plastic statue of a pig in a chef’s suit and talks about the other white meat. One of our delays here was due to a guy and his three small children who began romping around at the feet of the pig. This pig stands out front of a pork shop, and the father was doing something of a monologue for his children: “Yes, it’s a pig! And do you see what he’s holding? Pork! He’s selling parts of his relatives for us to eat! Isn’t that disgusting?” The kids laughed and played with the pig while we waited patiently.

Brunch followed at a French cafe. Wonder of wonders, they had grits, one of my favorite Southern boyhood foods. I got an order of cheese grits with chorizo sausage, and the dish was wonderful.

Returning to Chez Daisey, we separated. The Daiseys needed to work on the play for Monday’s rehearsal, and I decided to strike off on my own in search of adventure.

I took the F train to 57th St., north of Times Square and south of Central Park. The park was my destination. By then it was dark and biting cold, yet I was eager to see Central Park. I gave it all of twenty minutes before fleeing. It was cold. I started walking south again and found both sides of the street coated in a thick ooze of commerce, ritzy store after ritzy store sucking up real estate and dollars. After a couple blocks of this I realized I was on 5th Ave., a famous street for shopping, and it all made sense.

Then I saw the cathedral. It was a beautiful building, all Gothic spires and stained glass. People were wandering inside, and it appeared some sort of service might be underway. I wanted to see the inside and headed up the steps.

The cathedral proved to be St. Patrick’s. It was more beautiful than I imagined, simply stunning. There was a large crowd inside, with television cameras towards the front, and people in tuxedos were milling around up past the altar. Someone handed me a program and I discovered I’d arrived just in time for the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra’s memorial concert for the victims of 9/11.

I took a seat in a pew to the forward left and stayed for the whole event.

I’m not a devotee of classical music. I’ve got my CD of Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition and Night on Bald Mountain. I played a little clarinet in junior high school for two years and found it miserable. And that’s about it. But this was, perhaps unsurprisingly, a beautiful experience.

What stunned me was making the connection between the music and the performers. sitting there, forty feet from the string section, and realizing the perfect, smooth sound I was hearing came from those people making violent motions with their arms and fingers was a revelation. The sound did not seem to correspond with the particular motions, the starts and stops of muscle groups. It flowed, organic and alive, the sum of all its parts. I realize it sounds obvious to say there is a connection between the performer and the performance, but to really feel that tether between perfect sound and imperfect humanity was a welcome shock.

I couldn’t have told you the music they played, but thankfully the program can. The first piece was a brief “soft brass” selection from Bruckner’s Symphony No. 8, a symphony I gather the Vienna Orchestra has been performing lately at Carnegie Hall. They then did Haydn’s “Seven Last Words,” an interesting piece with some history behind it. Haydn composed it for a set of homilies built around the last seven statements of Christ on the cross. After a musical introduction, a priest came forward and read the first statement (or “word”) in Latin, English, and German. Then followed the first sonata, inspired by that statement, and so on. An epilogue representing the earthquake following the death of Christ concluded the work. This was very much new to me, and I loved it. The thundering epilogue was particularly enjoyable.

After the Haydn performance, the conductor came forward to read a statement in memory of those killed last fall. He then asked us to hold our applause for the final piece, instead to observe a minute of silence and then exit the cathedral. We all took candles and lit them while the orchestra and a choir performed Mozart’s Ave Verum Corpus, then paused for a while and quietly made our exit. It was a beautiful experience, and I’m grateful to have bumbled into it by chance at the perfect time.

Resuming my southward stroll I reached Times Square, brilliantly lit of course. I didn’t spend much time there, long enough to poke around the Virgin Megastore and have a hot dog. Then I caught the F train back to Brooklyn.

Exiting on Smith St., I returned to the Sherwood Cafe where I had dinner two nights earlier. It was exactly what I wanted: a quiet place to sit and relax and have some soup and a beer. Then I returned to the Daiseys’ apartment and went to bed.

Today, they are at the Cherry Lane Theatre doing rehearsals. I’m going there shortly. We hope to shoot some interview footage with various people there, asking them in true Jay Leno style, “What is the worst job you ever had?” Then Mike is doing a rehearsal performance of the show for the producers and assorted associates. Tomorrow is another rehearsal day, which I hope to spend at one or more museums. Wednesday we’re shooting a short bit in the office-supply closet at Simon & Schuster.

At this point I believe we have thirteen pieces in the can, so we’re already over our promised quantity. We should hit sixteen easily. Either we end up with more pieces or we cut the weaker ones. Regardless, the project is a success and I’m very pleased with the whole affair.

I’ve also found what looks to be a good solution for our web hosting problems, a company called CI Host who offers what we need at an affordable price. Our problems with the current host continue. Our site is down several times a day for a couple of minutes each time. While it’s down, visitors get a brief error message stating “No web site is configured at this address,” which is rather unfortunate. My first email to the support staff resulted in a form letter about how sometimes in this life things just don’t work right, more or less. I responded with a polite request for more information and so forth. After two more exchanges I finally got a real note from a real person who asked for a traceroute on the site while it was down. I did this and sent it back, at which point I received the initial form letter again. That’s officially the last time I try to work with these fools. By the end of the week we should be up and running on the new host, just in time for the blizzard of publicity and bandwidth-hogging video files to bring the whole thing crashing down or else push us up through the stratosphere into a wonderful new world of uptime.

It’s almost five o’clock, time to wrap this up and take the subway down to the village for Mike’s performance. Web hosts aside, this is a wonderful world.