New York Now
April 17, 2003
It is Thursday evening and this week we have had winter, spring,
and summer followed by a rapid return to winter. Saturday
the sun broke through the heavy leaden skies around one in
the afternoon; the temperature soared and spirits rose with
the temperature. Sunday was glorious! I walked four miles
along the country roads of Columbia County, alone with my
The war, it is said, is all but over. My friend Joe, who
is in Iraq, clearing landmines, is alive and well. The small
number of coalition causalities was, and is, astounding. I
am amazed so few were hurt, on both sides. But those who did
die and were wounded will haunt me.
Were we right? History will judge us. Both sides have now
crossed the Rubicon. By terrorists on September 11th and by
us the day we rolled our tanks into Iraq. We have all thrown
the dice and we will see, someday, what numbers come up.
Indeed, there has been a collective sigh of relief since
it began. The talking and the posturing are over. And the
world didn't end immediately.
Oh, so now we have to get back to living
The alert level has been lowered around the country, everywhere
but New York. Well, we haven't been below Orange since this
rating thing was started. We're used to it.
Walking home from a meeting tonight, my cell phone rang.
It was a friend from the west coast, asking some advice on
how advertising works, which I gave. But before we said good-bye,
he wanted to know: how are you? How is New York?
I must admit I was a little surprised. Everyone else may
be noticing we're Code Orange but we're just going on the
way we have been in this new normal we have been experiencing
for the last eighteen months.
We're almost living normal lives.
Monday night I went to the opening of a one man show, off
Broadway at the Actor's Playhouse, currently home to NAKED
MEN SINGING, a show that is exactly that: naked men singing.
It has been a surprising hit since before I moved to New York
but which seems to be finally running its course.
RHAPSODY IN SETH is a very, very funny show about Seth Rudetsky's
experiences growing up gay on Long Island. Seth has played
in several orchestras on Broadway. He has written for Rosie.
He is SOMEONE in New York.
Behind me sat the lead in MAMMA MIA on Broadway; BeBe Neuwirth
was two rows in front. Patty Lupone, the original Evita, was
somewhere in the audience.
As the audience came and went, I listened carefully.
No one was speaking of Iraq.
No one was talking about war.
The weather was a big topic.
The city budget cuts were a big topic. [For those of you
not living in New York and not thinking about the Big Apple,
let me tell you we're in BIG financial trouble. There is NO
Money is a topic that is on everyone's lips - as in everyone
doesn't seem to have enough. The jocular mantra of the month
is: cash flow! Cash flow! A banker friend lamented he had
to let his housekeeper go. Freelance friends are desperate
for staff jobs because the freelance market SUCKS. What was
once a month's work is now three days worth. But staff jobs
are not easy what with hundreds applying for each and every
And SARS! Mayor Bloomberg went down to Chinatown to have
lunch to help dispel fears that SARS was running rampant there.
[It's not.] But tell the truth, we're more afraid of SARS
right now than of terrorists. One of the most traveled people
I know told me, when I told her we were thinking of going
to Toronto, that she wouldn't go. Not now. Not after hearing
two hospitals have closed.
SARS is pounding another nail into airline coffins. Cathay
Pacific is thinking of grounding its fleet.
So, guess what? We're not going to Toronto.
Well, we have war and pestilence. Famine is a constant. Where
is that Fourth Horseman of the Apocalypse? When is he going
to come riding onto the stage?