This past Wednesday we saw the hottest day so far this year in the city, 94℉ in the shade, and the kind of heat that feels like standing next to an open oven door. Perhaps the arrival of a hot weather day promises that the upcoming summer, unlike last year's tepid affair, will live up to the season's potential. At any rate, we had plans that day to take a long walk in the morning, see a Broadway matinee in the afternoon, and go to a nice place for dinner at night, the sort of things appropriate for a birthday. As it turned out, the well-paced day of outdoor and indoor amusements proved a great way to beat the heat. In addition, I thought that a walk, a play, and a dinner, as general categories, would provide a winning combination for spending any sort of day in New York and wanted to pass the idea, though hardly novel, along to readers. The success of the day, however, would be highly dependent on the choice of walks, the play, and the restaurant.
Walking along the waterfront in the morning, especially with a nice breeze in the air, is a great way to start the day in the city; that is, after sipping a good strong cup of coffee. From the Village I often make my way west over to the Hudson and to Pier 45, the long open pier with a green lawn and shady areas at the end of W. 10th St. From there, it's easy to walk north or south, depending on the mood, along Hudson River Park. My walk this past Wednesday happened to coincide with the exciting opening event of Fleet Week, the Parade of Ships, when members of the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps sail into port. The air on Wednesday morning was a little hazy, presaging the oven-like day, but it was a thrill to watch the big ships sailing by, with the sailors at parade rest in advance of the docking. My movie-fed imagination led quickly to singing and dancing sailor scenes from the 1949 musical film, On the Town.
Hudson River Park is only one choice for a morning promenade. The East River, Roosevelt Island, the Battery, the new Brooklyn Bridge Park, or Riverside Park, among many others, would be excellent choices for a morning walk on a hot day.
So, let's say, after the morning walk, there's plenty of time for another cup of coffee or a little rest or a little lunch or, as we like it here, a lot of brunch. Then, as the day is heating up, it's time to go to the theatre. Matinee performances are usually scheduled for Wednesdays and Saturdays at 2 p.m. and on Sunday at 3 p.m.; so obviously, the day of the week defines this schedule. This past Wednesday, we saw a matinee performance of David Mamet's play, Race, at the Ethel Barrymore Theatre (243 W. 47th St.), one of the great Shubert houses, built in the late 1920s. The theatre seemed freezing cold, but comfortable and intimate, a nice touch for some hot language, serious subject matter, and stinging laughs.
For spur-of-the-moment decision-makers, the TKTS Discount Booths (official site) provide discounted tickets for Broadway and off-Broadway musicals and plays. If you choose to see a straight-up play without music, TKTS features the fast-moving "Play Express" window. The TKTS booths at the South Street Seaport and the one in Downtown Brooklyn sell matinee tickets the day before performances, so it's possible to do a little planning.
Choosing a restaurant often involves a discussion about the type of food, atmosphere, location, noise, reputation, and price. On this hot night, we opted for "a nice restaurant," meaning one above the normal standard, as in "No, I don't want meat loaf again. I want to go to a nice restaurant." We achieved a quick consensus on Lupa (170 Thompson St.), a lovely comfortable restaurant specializing in the cuisine of Rome, and I made reservations for an early time through OpenTable. Having already seen sailors in the morning and actors in the afternoon, we could linger over our courses - a plate of shaved vegetables, ricotta gnocchi, wild striped bass with fava beans - lit by soft light, and talk about the events of the day. For dessert, the waiter brought us a Tartufo, an ice-cream dessert, topped with one burning candle. After the last sip of wine, we strolled home through a clear night with a surprising cool breeze. The hot day had melted away.
Images by Walking Off the Big Apple from May 26, 2010.