Every summer, the Public Theater of NYC puts on 2 free plays in Central Park’s glorious, outdoor Delacorte Theater, as part of the Shakespeare in the Park extravaganza. Scoring the tickets can be a bitch – but one that’s always worth it.
This past weekend, I was seated in the front row for The Merchant of Venice, featuring Al Pacino and Jesse Martin. In my long history as a patron of the arts, this was the first time I’ve ever sat in the front row for anything. It’s nice up there. I felt like I owned the place. I could (and did) do leg lifts, there were no giants sitting in front of me to contend with, and I could see the saliva spray out of the actors’ mouths as they emphatically intoned their way through this literary classic. In other words, the front row is where it’s at and, the next time I walk into a theater or auditorium or baseball game, it’s anyone’s guess how I’ll be able to ungrudgingly park myself elsewhere. It’ll be just like when I used to get unexpectedly upgraded to first class when I flew home for holidays in college – and then, a few days later, they would send me back to coach for the return trip back to school. Once you’ve been bumped up, the bump back down has a way of becoming the more memorable of the two experiences.
Anyways, back to the good stuff: while I was up there, Pacino and I locked eyes more than once. I wanted Martin to follow suit, but he was in the zone (big time) and I couldn’t will those eyes of his to wander.
The last time I was in this very theater, I was literally sitting in the last row of the joint, with my back to the uppermost wall. The official weather conditions were about the same as this time around (and I was wearing the same amount of layering) – only last time, I was shivering the whole night. No shivers this time - I was comfortable from start to finish. It must have been the heat from all of those nearby stage lights.
That last, back-row experience in the Delacorte was in 2006. Back then, I was living a no-good, back-row kind of life, squinting at all that was decent from way out in the nosebleed section. I was going through a particularly rough spell of decline and defeat, and most of my attempts to turn things around didn’t work. My permanent address was shaping up to be a foul (but reliable) little place called up shit’s creek. It’s not easy to read some of my personal journal entries from that era.
Now it’s 4 years later, and I’ve advanced to the front line - in more ways than one. My life doesn’t suck nearly as much as it did back in that day. I’ve been methodically taking care of business in such a force-to-be-reckoned-with manner that the notion of invincibility no longer strikes me as all that unthinkable.
Methinks this choo-choo train is finally chugging down the right track.
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