We went to New York this past weekend. For the first time in a long time, it was purely for pleasure. No meetings. No presentations. Just the six of us (Iggy came along) and the open road.
Approximately four hours later, we arrived in Brooklyn, the Freedom Tower looming across the river.
Our hosts were Robbi’s childhood best friend Stella and her husband Josh, excellent people with the patience and grace to willingly absorb three children and a dopey blue dog for the weekend.
They took us out for gyoza.
And ramen. At which point Robbi could have died happy.
But fortunately she persisted long enough for the walk back to Josh and Stella’s apartment.
We slept in the loft. We fell asleep hard. It had been a long day. It had been a long week.
The morning came. I was treated to a view I could easily grow accustomed to, in a different life in which I did not live and make books in a barn.
After breakfast, I left Robbi and the kids to their visiting and headed north into Manhattan.
My destination was The Public Theater, where my dear friend David (Broadway and television actor) is midway through the run of a new play called Pretty Hunger, in which he plays Bette Davis.
It may strike you that David’s resemblance to Bette Davis is marginal.
Neither I nor David would disagree with you. Which is why he has to get to the theater about two hours earlier than the other actors to enact a dramatic transformation. I was there to witness and chronicle.
I will get the terminology and fine points wrong, to be sure, but I’ll do my best to document the stages. First off was placing a kind of headband to which the wig would eventually be secured.
And then a head stocking.
And then it was time for the glue.
Apparently, one of the keys to transforming a male face into a female one is to move the eyebrows up, which means David had to obscure the ones he already has. The first step was getting them good and gluey.
At which point, he used a small brush to brush them straight up so that they would not be piled on top of one another as eyebrows usually are.
Then he dried them.
And powdered them over.
The next big step was applying a range of flesh tones to create dimension and shading. David started with the broadest of brush strokes.
And then smoothed and blended.
Until his face became thinner, his forehead smaller, and his nose more slender and feminine.
Next came the application of the “new” eyebrows.
And the longer, lusher, thicker eyelashes.
And, of course, Bette’s signature lips.
The end result? A very different (and much prettier) David than the one I’d greeted two hours prior. I had to leave before he put on his wig and body suit (David is missing certain boobage and hippage needed to pull off the illusion).
But when he stepped on stage an hour later, I was greeted to the full-blown Bette.
In the play itself, Bette Davis is the dream/fantasy/projection/guardian angel/wicked stepmother of a seven year old girl trying to come to terms with difficult circumstances. David played the part with his trademark dry humor. He is a brilliant actor, and deadpan comedy might be his sweetest spot.
The kids did not come to the show, but Robbi brought them by for post-curtain greetings.
After all, how often does one get to meet Bette Davis?
How often does one get to see one’s “uncle” transformed into a beautiful lady?
How often does one get to see one’s best friend and wife sharing “girl” time?
Not often enough, I say.
After a stretch of oohs and aahs and hugs, we bid farewell to Bette, and headed back to Brooklyn. The children love the subway.
The one we have in Chestertown does nothing but sell sandwiches.
We spent a few minutes at the Carroll St. playground.
And then headed home again, listening to the pundits break down the March Madness brackets. (If you haven’t already, please join our group, make your picks, and dream of greatness.)
It started raining as we made our way from Jersey into Delaware, and it rained until we found ourselves back home again, safe and sound. Tired but happy from good hours spent sharing stories and bending gender with the best of friends.