Patrick and I have started twice-monthly Friday night Payday Dates. The girls are just old enough now to be home alone for a couple of hours at a time as long as we're fairly local. Last week, my smart husband picked a very tacky, very townie Chinese restaurant, which shows precisely how well he knows me. I love a place with a vibe - an energy all its own that sets it apart from a place like Bertuccis or Olive Garden or someplace that's just...ordinary. The decor is incredibly out of date with giant pandas and bamboo in random places. The drink menu included things like Singapore Sling and Suffering Bastard and Scorpion Bowl for one. (Which I ordered, just because it came in a bowl. Perfect.) The bartender was in his 50's, and had the most enormous, pouffy, sort of streaky Chinese afro I have ever seen. The bar was wall-to-wall townies, Boston accents rich and jangly, just the way I like them. Keno, flaming pu pu platters, and a waitstaff that has been there for twenty years. It reminded me so much of my favorite Chinese restaurant of all time, the Aloha in Hingham, which is now a Starbucks/jewelry store/insurance agency. We would go there after every chorus concert and for most of our cast parties, and it was the tackiest place you ever saw. It had this scary sort of dark sunken bar area with - I kid you not - a whole bunch of shrunken heads hanging over the doorway. I vowed that the very second I turned 21, I would get a drink at that bar, and I did, exactly once before they tore it down. I still have a menu from the 80's that Barry Violette stole for me in an effort to impress me. It worked. We had a great date, and I was very grateful to be so understood.
My favorite times have always been in places with a vibe - and my favorite people are the ones who share in and appreciate that. One example of this is my friend Dillon, (who was a student in my very first class) and his fiance Lisa (picture a combination of Gidget, a 1940's pin-up girl, and Meg Ryan...though prettier, and with a subversive, slightly bad-ass edge.) They live in NYC, and have a very unique appreciation for the concept of the vibe. Last year, they took me to a rooftop bar, full of plants and flowers and a fabulous drink menu in a very brown-stoney upscale neighborhood near a gated park. The year before that, Dillon took me to a very secret bar in Grand Central Station (one of my favorite places in the whole wide world) where I turned 39 over a giant goblet of "Prohibition Punch." Very vibe-ish. They are getting married this summer, and they are having a Mad Men, 1960's themed reception. See? Vibe. They will make it work. I absolutely cannot wait.
Some of my favorite vibe places include: the Haymarket in Northampton, the Purple Pub in Williamstown, 12 Westwood Road on some particularly memorable party nights (some large, but the best of them much more intimate), the 8th floor lobby of the Marriot Marquis Times Square, the Company Theatre fireplace room, and the Loring Movie Theater in Hingham. Places where things happen to you, feelings happen, and you can tell from the energy that things have happened to other people there, too. I love that. I love being in a place that's very full of humanity and connection. You know them when you feel them, I think, and I'm always on the look out for more.
By way of update...we ran Act One last night, and it was a little rough. At least, rough by my current standards of what is "good" and "rough" in high school theater, which is to say...pretty freaking fine. I am so far ahead of where I hoped to be by the week before production week of a Sondheim musical...it's just the best. The kids revealed their Secret Valentines at the end of rehearsal last night, and the bonding in this cast is so deep and entrenched. I wrote them all Valentine notes, and I always feel that moment of hesitation when I tell students the truth of what I think about them. I feel it when I write each of my 6th graders their end of the year project letter, and I felt it with this, too. I want to say what is truly in my heart, but I also have that moment's hesitation of, "What if this were broadcast on the 6:00 news?" Would my outpouring of affection be misinterpreted? I guess that's just part of the job - that worry. I have chosen consistently to just SAY it, what I think and feel about them, come what may. I just have to. It's who I am, and I can't be NOT that.
In the musical "Big," (yes, there really is one) there's a song called "Stop, Time." It's sung by Josh's mother, and it's about how you love every phase of your child's growth, each one more precious than the next, and you just want to stop time right where it is to truly revel in the moment. That's exactly how I feel about Into the Woods.
Stop, time. I'm not ready to let them go.