Monday, June 18, 2018

On the road again

When Romcoms Go Bad
Just back from a couple of weeks in New York, Cleveland, and Grand Rapids – the typical east coast swing. In no particular order, here are some observations and thoughts along the way.


No, I did not see CAROUSEL. I know it’s a classic but I hate CAROUSEL.

Unless you want to spend a fortune, see plays that are 8 hours long (but worth it) or musical adaptations of movies, there’s not a lot on Broadway these days.

That said, do see THE BAND’S VISIT. It just won the Tony for Best Musical and proves that heart and characters can beat out glitzy LED sets and overblown production numbers.

Had dinner with Broadway Bill Lee from CBS-FM, one of the last actual disc jockeys with personality. Keep the flame lit, Bill.

Everybody on the subway is checking their phone. Even the crazy people.

With Uber and Lyft the traffic is even worse in Manhattan, if that's possible.

Ocean Prime on 52nd St. – my best meal in New York. Better even then the Original Ray’s First Ray’s Only Real Ray’s pizza.

Thanks to the Gallery Players Theatre in Brooklyn for including my play, WHEN ROMCOMS GO BAD in their outstanding festival. I participated in a talkback after the Sunday performance and when asked what I was doing next I said, “I have to catch the F-Train for Rockefeller Center by 7. I’m nominated for a Tony.”

June is the month to go to New York. You can walk everywhere and eat outside.

Every building in Manhattan has scaffolding.

Certainly a highlight for me was getting lunch with Rob Long. Rob is a terrific writer/producer/commentator and does the preeminent entertainment podcast MARTINI SHOT on KCRW, Los Angeles. We went to the Union Square CafĂ© without a reservation at 1:00. The place was hopping. We thought we might have to eat at the bar. But we went up to the host stand to try our luck. The host looked up and said, “Ken Levine! Ohmygod! I’ve been reading your blog for years!” We got a table and this gentleman made my entire trip.

My daughter Annie and her husband Jon were in New York to move out of their Long Island apartment back to Los Angeles. They are driving back to LA even as you read. Since I planned to be in Grand Rapids, Michigan this past weekend to see my play OUR TIME they offered to give me a ride on the way. Thus began a four-day road trip that was great great fun.


Got there around 4:00 after a long day of driving through Pennsylvania and hitting construction every 30 miles.

Cleveland was fantastic. The weather was actually “nice.” Whenever I went to Cleveland with the Mariners or Orioles it was either snowing, raining, or a 1000 degrees with a million tiny swarming bugs called Midges. Wait, that’s not true. One trip with the Mariners we had a gorgeous day. But during the game there was an earthquake.

Last Thursday night was ideal. We of course hit the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. So much to see including Taylor Swift’s two piece chandelier dress.

At the gift shop (of course the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame had a gift shop) the clerk asked why I had come to Cleveland. I said for the R&R HOF. “Why else do people go to Cleveland?” I asked. “For the sports,” she said, “And our hospital.” Now Cleveland does have one of the premier Cardiac hospitals in the world, still – a “hospital” seems like an odd third most popular attraction.

People were walking and eating outside in Cleveland too.

Mabel’s BBQ – pork ribs almost as good as Gates BBQ in KC.  And it might explain the need for the hospital. 

We left Cleveland on Friday morning.  LeBron will not be far behind.


Driving through Michigan and Ohio I’ve never seen so many billboards for fireworks… or rifles.

Grand Rapids is known for making office furniture and was the boyhood home of President Gerald Ford. There’s a Gerald Ford Museum, which we didn’t see since no Taylor Swift costumes were on display.

Our Time
My play OUR TIME is at the Lowell Arts Theatre in picturesque Lowell. There’s a river and even a paddleboat. Both Friday and Saturday nights were sold out and both performances played great. My thanks to Brent Ailes, the cast and crew for really doing my play proud. It’s on again this weekend. If you’re in the area, you like to laugh, and you’ve already purchased your fireworks, swing by. Here’s where you go for info.

Annie & Jon continue their drive west and I flew home yesterday. Had to change planes at O’Hare. I got in my 10,000 steps and then some. Why does United put their video controls on the armrests right where you put your elbows? So to avoid changing my seat mate’s channels every five seconds I had to sit with my arms pulled in, thus feeling really squished into the seat.

Also, why do people in window seats keep the windows closed the entire time? I can understand when you want the cabin dark to see movies better or sleep, but in the middle of the day – especially right after takeoff and right before landing – I never get over the thrill of being in the air and seeing cities from above. You pay big money to simulate that at amusement parks. It seems weird that people are so blasĂ© that they’d rather close the window and play video games on their phones.

Now I’m home and the best part of yesterday was gaining three hours. So my Father’s Day was 27 hours. As it should be.


VP81955 said...

Someday, I hope to hear a host tell me, "Ohmygod! I've been reading 'Carole & Co.' for years!" Probably won't help me get a table, though.

Honest Ed said...

Interestingly (or maybe not), in Scotland the wee swarming bugs are also called midges. I wonder if the Cleveland ones were named by expat Scots?

Andrew said...

I'm glad you had a good experience in Cleveland! It's why we call Cleveland "the Renaissance City."

I lived in Cleveland for several years. The old joke was that even the poorest drunk on the street corner could tell you that Cleveland had one of the best symphony orchestras.

Covarr said...

Oh boy, CAROUSEL. It's a story that glorifies domestic violence (apparently it doesn't hurt people as long as you're a ghost??), and a musical that feels the need to waste the audience's time with such meaningless filler songs as "A Real Nice Clambake". The thing that gets to me most about this one is that Richard Rodgers considered it his favorite of all the musicals he worked on.

benson said...


It was great meeting you, Annie and Jonathan on Saturday night. "Our Time" is a lot of laughs and fun. While much of the play is about television, the radio parts gave me a wonderful sense of deja vu. You really nailed it.

Mike Bloodworth said...

Those ribs sound delicious. Unfortunately they're not kosher.
P.S. Welcome back.

YEKIMI said...

You must have hit Cleveland at the right time because right now it's so hot and humid that even the Devil said "Fuck this, I'm going back home."

therealshell said...

The film that the play "The Band's Visit" is based upon is wonderful.

scottmc said...

Sorry to have missed your play at The Gallery Players. It's a really nice venue and, like you said, only a few stops on the F train. Was Tony Shalhoub still in 'The Band's Visit' when you saw it?

Liggie said...

My biggest airplane window shade story. I was taking a red eye out of Seattle, and as we were reaching cruising altitude the flight attendant announced, "The Northern Lights are out on the left side of the airplane. As seeing them has been a lifelong dream, I immediately twisted my head to the left side of the plane. Unfortunately, the jerk with the only window seat there I could see yanked down the shade and went to sleep. Still seething about that.

VP81955 said...

Had a copy editor tryout in 1990 at the Plain Dealer. Liked the town, from the Rapid to the Flats, and what then was called "America's North Shore." Sorry I wasn't hired.

Max Clarke said...

Agree with you, Ken, about airliner windows.

The view is even better when you know what you're flying over because you were there once.

On a flight to Oakland, our Southwest airliner flew past Boundary Peak. It's the highest point in the state of Nevada.
I hiked to the top of Boundary in 1988. Never thought I'd be looking down at it from an even higher altitude someday.

J Lee said...

I was the first person to lift my window shade on my last flight, after the cleaning crew had shut all of them before we boarded. Bur I had the Shatner seat, so the view outside was 90 percent wing (minus vandalous creature). Might as well have been looking out the window on the F train.

Loosehead said...

So they chose a window seat, and then put the blind down during a daytime flight. Plane people are weird.

Rick Hannon said...

Need some clarification on the Ray's reference, as Original Ray’s First Ray’s Only Real Ray’s is the precise name of at least 37 different pizza places in NYC (and I really have not spent any time on Staten Island, so there may be more).

Ben Scripps said...

Ken--thanks again for stopping by Michigan, the play was fantastic, and it was great getting to meet you.

Wally said...

Got there around 4:00 after a long day of driving through Pennsylvania and hitting construction every 30 miles.

Evergreen statement. Been going on 30+ years.

slgc said...

Thank you! It's validating to know that I'm not the only person in the world who hates Carousel.

Buttermilk Sky said...

Also dislike "Carousel," apart from "If I Loved You." Shall we get t-shirts?

Maybe those people didn't ask for window seats. Maybe they were just assigned. Maybe they would raise the shade on request. Or swap seats with you. Next time, ask.

D McEwan said...

Boy I'm glad to see I'm not the only person who hates Carousel. Several friends have recently seen the current revival, and they keep raving about how great it and the basic show is. How many times must I type "It has a great score, but it's a repellent show about a wife-beating thug and the masochistic dishrag he knocks up. It contains terrible songs like "What's The Use of Wond'rin'" whose lyric boils down to "There's no point in wishing your man didn't beat you. You love him so his beating you up is your life. That's all there is to that," and the dopiest dialogue exchange in musical theater history, when Julie assures her daughter that it IS possible for a man to hit you, hit you hard, and you never even feel it. Most of my life I've heard bilge like that from women I knew who were staying in abusive relationships because "I luuuuuuuuuuv him, and he was really sorry and promised never to crack my skull open again. And it was really my fault. I disagreed with him." After a while I'd stop being sympathetic, and was all, "He's an abusive swine. Leave him. If you stay, stop whining about his beating you up since the only reason to stay is so he'll beat you up more."

But my gay musical theater friends reply, "But the dancing was so good, and the men in it so hot..."

Melissa C. Banczak said...

Yes! One of my favorite films. I saw it because our local arthouse programmer rocked and I knew I could show up on any night and get a 7pm ticket to the little room on the second floor and be in love with whatever flickered on the screen.