Ever since my friend Marvin Hass told me about the play War Horse when it first opened in the UK, I've wanted to see it. I love the theatre, I love puppets, and of course I love horses. I watched as it came to New York and hinted to my horsy friends how much fun it would be to go see it. No takers. Then the movie came out. I had zero interest in the movie – haven't seen it, don't want to see it. Finally I decided that I just had to make plans for a New York trip. Or more accurately, encourage Jim to make the plans. We finally scheduled the weekend of 19-21 October 2012 for our excursion.
Our timing was fortunate because we visited a little over a week before Hurricane Sandy smashed into the mid-Atlantic states and devastated the area.
We decided to take Amtrak from Staunton. The Cardinal runs three days a week to New York on a schedule that suited us just fine. Staunton used to have a beautiful station that was the centerpiece of downtown. At least the building is still there, although it is now vacant.
The current station is the adjacent 1886 signal house. It has his & her restrooms, a handful of schedules, and a trash can. Open one hour before train times. Basic. Sad.
Booker T. Washington was the old segregated school. The class of 1965 was one of the last to graduate from it before the Staunton schools were integrated. I chatted with some of them, but didn't think to ask why they were having the reunion in D.C. rather than Staunton. I can think of a few reasons, but don't know if any of them would be correct.
We haven't traveled with Amtrak in recent years and were glad to see that the service, equipment, staff and schedule were all much improved over our experience of 15-20 years ago. It was a very pleasant trip and it won't be 20 years before the next one.
At dinner we sat with a lady from Ohio who said that her return trip was also sold out. She and her daughter had reserved a sleeping car for their outbound trip to Philadelphia but had to settle for coach on the way home.
We ran into rain as we approached Washington. There was a magnificent rainbow against a purple evening sky, but alas, I couldn't get a picture of it. By the time we reached New York, the rain had stopped, but it was foggy.
Our hotel, the DoubleTree, assigned us a room overlooking the Chrysler Building. This picture shows it in the morning light.
The hotel is located at Lexington Avenue and 51st Street – perfect for our visit. We were adjacent to the subway and within walking (or hiking) distance of the theatre.
I had to take this picture looking east along 14th Street because for many years my brother lived at 14th and Avenue C, almost at the other end.
War Horse was a fabulous production. The puppets were amazing. The designers and puppeteers have clearly studied horses and their behavior.The play, however, is not really about horses – it's about war and its impartial devastation. I've spent most of my life pretty fuzzy about WWI. The visit to the WWI museum in Kansas last year and this play have both served to remedy that somewhat.
The Metropolitan Opera next door was hosting The Tempest, a 2004 work by Thomas Adès.
The following week New York would be visited by a real Tempest – Hurricane Sandy.
I had also asked my friend Jody to recommend a good place to eat and she came through again by suggesting Kefi, a Greek restaurant near the Lincoln Center (closed in 2018). It was another winner – thanks, Jody! It was vibrant: families with children, singles, couples, you name it. And delicious food.
The next morning we scrambled out early to catch our train home after a too-short, but very enjoyable, visit to New York City. We hope to come back before too long.
It wasn't until later that I found out the American Ballet Theatre had staged the original Agnes De Mille's version of Rodeo that same weekend! It is rarely performed due to restrictions in her will. BOO HOO! Oh well.