Monday, November 13, 2006

New York: Wicked, and Flushing Chinatown

I disappointed my buddy because I didn't remember who played Elphaba in Wicked. He was horrified when he thought for a moment that I didn't remember which character that was. (This is the friend who told me several times he would take me to see Wicked in Portland, but then he didn't. won't stop pouting...) For the record, Elphaba was performed by Ana Gasteyer but as I told my friend, I thought Glinda was better, Kate Reinders. I would have to say the highlight of my October visit to New York was the Museum of Natural History, but this came a close second. It could well be my favorite Broadway musical so far, so it is pretty neat that I first saw it on Broadway. (ok ok, I guess I can stop pouting...though it would have been nice to see it twice) My NY friend (friend?) also thought Glinda was the best. I finally gave my Portland friend the black Wicked sweatshirt I purchased by request for his lovely wife.

Before we entered the theater for the matinee showing, we had lunch at the restaurant right next door, Azalea. I had a yummy salad with watercress, avocado, artichoke hearts and a lemon dressing. The Parmesan cracker was amazing, gotta love melted and hardened cheese, but too much even for me. He had a salad with fresh mozzarella and grilled zucchini, and a rum and coke, "Since you're buying" he said. While walking earlier through Times Square he pulled out some coupons for Subway. I wasn't going to eat something I could get anywhere, and wasn't going to eat in front of him while he salivated, so I offered. Sad thing about Times Square, most of what you saw were places like Subway, MacDonald's, and S'barro. Steve and I talked about that later, how it must be that those are the only kind of food places that can afford the real estate. I was glad to find this place right next to the theater, or I was going to be starving by the time we got out. My companion shared a taste of his mozzerella. I told him it was possibly the best I'd had. He told me cheese in New York is like drugs, or a secret society. You have to go to the back of the store and ask for it and they don't give it up easy.

Part of my vacation turned into a pilgrimage of sorts. I stayed in Flushing Chinatown in Queens.

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A few short blocks away I found buildings from early Quaker history in the New World. In the mid-1600s Flushing was known as Vlissengen, and was part of New Netherlands. The Society of Friends were jailed for holding meetings, yet they persisted. I came across the Bowne House, built in 1661 and the first meeting place for the Friends.

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John Bowne refused to pay the fine when arrested for the offense of hosting the Meeting of Friends, and he also refused the opportunity to escape jail. His civil disobedience and subsequent petition in Holland to the Dutch West India Company earned the Quakers the freedom to practice their religion in New Netherlands. In 1692 John Bowne donated land for a graveyard and a meeting house site. The Meeting House, established in 1694, is still in use by the Society of Friends Meeting for Worship. I found out these places existed from the yellow pages.

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The Society of Friends holds a special place in my spiritual history. When I first moved here to Portland, my first husband and I attended Meeting For Worship. An elder led a class series on a study of Buddhism, and she entered my dreams as a member of my Teacher pantheon.

Around the corner from my hotel I found the Happy Buddha Vegetarian Restaurant.

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Brown-robed monks congregated in the back for their dinner. I missed them, but my companion saw them. We got a platter of appetizers with faux eel, faux duck, tofu in disguise, and very good spring rolls. He got sticky rice, and I wish I had. It included some tasty mushrooms. I could have gone back to try more of the intriguing vegetarian menu.

Next to the restaurant, the Happy Buddha Condominiums, and three doors down, the Temple of Mercy Charity.

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I was urged to step inside to bow and to snap my picture by a sweet Chinese lady.

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1 comment:

Tom Paine said...

Fah-la-shung ("Flushing" in Mandarin) took over from the original Chinatown in the 90s as immigrants from Taiwan and the Mainland fled the high rents and cramped quarters of lower Manhattan. Now Flushing is getting too pricey and Chinese enclaves are springing up all over NYC.

And yes, I do speak Chinese, it's one of those little-known facts about me, aside from my being one of the Founding Fathers.