Fifteen years ago today, I married the love of my life. (More inside.)
I still have faint memories from around age six of the day we first got cable. Mostly because I refused to go outside, watching every game show I could that afternoon on USA network, to the point where I got my television privileges removed for a week.
For about thirty years, I’ve had fairly consistent access to cable TV, even though I tend to not binge watch much of anything, and the onslaught of technological advancements over the last decade (everything from iTunes selling TV shows to streaming solutions like Netflix) have made it easier and easier to just not utilize it.
Three months ago, triggered by the sweet combination of “needing to get rid of the phone line we never use” and “Comcast jerking us around about previous item”, we decided to cut the cable, and try and make due with just streaming solutions. Front and center in this plan was Playstation Vue, Sony’s internet television service. (We already had heavily used Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime accounts.)
Three months later, I have no regrets, and only minor quibbles.
While most everyone became rather obsessed with the Adult Swim short “Too Many Cooks”, it was the quasi-follow up “Unedited Footage Of A Bear” that resonated with me more, It’s considerably more nightmarish: a pharmaceutical ad that goes completely off the rails and never considers coming back.
A stand-out part of this was because of Dan Deacon’s excellent – and unnerving – music. I wasn’t a fan previously, I did check out his most recent release, Gliss Riffer, and became more than a little obsessed with his 3/4 time metaphysical sea shanty, “When I Was Done Dying”.
Adult Swim, being the sort of people who will bring strange things to life, assembled the Off The Air team and put together a video for it, which is about as fitting as it gets.
In October, as part of our vacation to London, we took in two viewings of Punchdrunk’s latest production, The Drowned Man. Despite promises to write about it, I never did.
The show ended its run tonight. So what better time to finally try to draw some thoughts together than tonight, after the show can never be seen again?
The general format is, for the most part, as it was for Sleep No More: the masks; the loops; the roughly three hours; a vast space to explore.
The story is not Shakespeare, but instead Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck crossed with Nathanael West’s The Day of the Locust. The narrative is expressed through two parallel tracks running almost in mirrors through the space. It is not a 1920’s hotel in Scotland (actually a six story building in Chelsea), but a 1960’s American movie studio and surrounding village (actually an abandoned post office opposite Paddington Station). The cast feels exponentially larger: eight per “side” of the story, with fourteen in the middle, for a combined cast of around thirty.
With the mechanics out of the way, here are my scattered memories of the two visits, eight months removed:
After far too many visits to SNM, the struggle of trying to figure out a new space was such a joy. My mental map for the McKittrick is a seared memory, so to be faced with four gigantic floors and no sense of where anything was felt very liberating. It was also terrifying for the first hour, as the fear of missing out comes on strong.
I had always felt a little disappointment that there wasn’t more to be found in Sleep No More that was truly hidden – I’m aware of one passageway, and I was taken through it in my first visit. But the space in Temple Studios was full of these rooms – hidden behind curtains, across darkened hallways, and through tunnels in the sand. This made me ridiculously happy on multiple levels, and all of the rooms had that level of Punchdrunk set dressing love that I remembered so fondly. The reel-to-reel room, the sunflower room, the foley room; the entire desert floor, the church, the wardrobe; the Masonic Temple, the board room, the drugstore…so many of the rooms are unforgettable.
The soundtrack was impeccable, a mix of early 60’s American classics (think Shangri-Las and Avalons) and, strangely enough, the soundtrack from Perfume – The Story of a Murderer. “The Method Works!” is the most parallel to the use of Bernard Herman’s “Prelude and Rooftop” from SNM.
Casting was unsurprisingly strong, and it’s hard to not to want to give Sam Booth (in the above video) credit for his portrayal of Leland Stanford. He looms large over the goings-on, and hit just the right air of confident, disarming, and haunting.
It is rather tragic that TDM has come to a close, and while part of me wants to hope they’ll shut down SNM and convert the space, I also know that there aren’t many places in NYC that could contain that show. The space was truly massive, and as the obsessives on the TDM Spoilers FB group have detailed with the map, used very creatively. The majority of one of the floors was converted to an abandoned car park specifically for two characters to do one-on-ones in. I want to see the show live on, but I know the odds are slim.
If there is a lasting memory to be had of the show, it is this:
On our second visit, I applied the Don’t Stick Around For Scenes You’ve Already Seen rule, zipping out of a room if I got even the sense that I had perceived it before. Within my first half an hour, I came across a distraught woman in the saloon, being strongly compelled onto a stage. I stood close by and watched as Faye Greener – being played that night by Miranda Mac Letten – lip synced her way through Walking In The Sand by The Shangri-Las. It ended with her in tears, being comforted by her husband Harry, and returning to their run down room in the local motel.
That moment itself wasn’t the lasting memory. It was later in that show, when I happened into the same part of the loop and again saw Faye move towards the stage. And despite my better judgement and knowing I should go see someone else? I stayed put. It was that strong – that convincing – that I couldn’t look away.
And ultimately, that’s what I want out of theatre, and why I keep going back to immersive shows. I want the heart to win out over the head.
The Drowned Man is now closed. You can never go home anymore.
Despite it seeming to have been burned into my genes, I have never been much for drinking. Call it something between a character quirk, a lifestyle choice, and an explicit desire to not act like a complete fool. It was only within the last five years or so that I began to appreciate alcohol a bit more.
New York, being a rather thirsty city, has endless opportunities for those who need a drink. Dive bars, frat bars, pubs, trendy cocktail lounges, speakeasies – the city manages to run the gamut from slouchy to upright, from $2 PBR to $15+ for a mid-shelf cocktail.
Over the last decade, I had not yet found *that one place* to drink, the bar that feels like home. Something not snooty, not a dive, but just kind of nice. Somewhere with character, but not a gimmick. Somewhere preferably with decent food (because drinking on an empty stomach is deadly). A decent location. Those sorts of things.
It was April 27th of last year when I first stepped foot into The Dead Rabbit, and knew pretty quickly that I had finally found *that one place*. Downstairs was pints and meat pies, an absurd collection of irish whiskey, and high-quality takes on classic cocktails. Upstairs was teacups of punch and dollar oysters, someone at the piano, and bartenders in red shirts and suspenders moving so rapidly between tincture bottles it’s occasionally indistinguishable from magic.
I defy anyone to try the Irish Coffee and not fall in love.
So try to ignore their daunting list of industry honors after only being open one year: “Best New Bar”, “World’s Best Cocktail Menu”, those sorts of things. Try to put the long wait to get upstairs out of mind. It’s worth it. It’s incredibly worth it. And I say that as someone who’s not much of a drinker.
To Jack, to Pam, to Chris, to Anna, to James, to Laura: happy birthday, friends, and thank you for everything.
It’s a brisk day in March 2011, and I’m in Harrison. And I am terrified.
It was my first ever team event for the Red Bulls – and not merely a team event, but Media Day. I didn’t know what Media Day was when I accepted the invite from my friends at Gothamist, but I had figured it out early that morning and it sent me into colon lock. I thought it was a press conference; instead, it was a free for all where you walk up to whoever and ask whatever.
There’s Thierry Henry, world football legend. There’s Rafa Marquez, who at the time wasn’t a complete villain. There’s Juan Agudelo, just back from scoring with the national team. Here’s me, barely six months into following the team, trying to look like a sports journalist. I was a disaster.
I head toward the coaches – and after weighing my options, I went to Mike Petke. Petke, the local boy. Petke, who had just retired from the club he loved. Petke, who had been given the (seemingly honorary) title of “Individual Development Coach” in the front office like so many retired MLS players do.
I threw him a softball question – the only kind I had, having never interviewed anyone before – about the Parks Department donation announcement. (I thought this was the main focus of the event; it certainly wasn’t.) As I flubbed my way through my first ever team interview, Mike didn’t look at me funny, didn’t put me down – just answered the questions kindly.
Quickly running out of material, I recall the two videos about him trying to adjust to front office life, and asked if we should expect him to show up in any other team videos. This time, he laughed – and gave me an answer that was more prescient than either of us knew at the time:
“Hey, you never know where I’ll pop up.”
It’s a warm wet day in June 2011, and I’m in Portland.
It’s the weekend of the first RBNY-Portland match. I’ve written about this trip before, but there’s one story I left off.
At one point, feeling rather emboldened by being in the team hotel as a fan (I hasn’t yet fully crossed to media), I figure – maybe I can take advantage of this a little bit more than just random collisions. I try to think of who on the team is on Twitter – and there aren’t many at that point.
But there was, of course, Mike, now an Assistant Coach with the team. So I tweet at Petke, offering to buy him a drink in the hotel bar. But I never hear back, and it didn’t really cross my mind again. We did see him after the game, and he gave Katie a big hug and me a handshake.
Two weeks later, I’m digging around on Twitter, and click over to Petke’s timeline. And then I realize why I never heard back from him: because he mangled the tweet and the mention never hit my timeline:
Petke joked this year that he didn’t know how to get his phone to stop beeping when he got mentioned on Twitter. Social media isn’t his thing.
It’s a rainy evening in March 2013, and I’m in Portland. It’s the weekend of First Kick, and New York is again away at Portland.
Not two months earlier, Petke was named head coach – a surprise, given that the typical set of also-ran European names had been thrown around. And on the eve of his first match running the franchise, I am again in the team hotel, waiting for Mike with Matt Doyle and Jeff Carlisle. He’s running a little late.
Finally, he steps out of the elevator – and as he’s getting introduced to us, he gives me what seems like a smile of recognition. It throws me a little. “Why would he remember me?” I wonder.
This time, the questions come a little more naturally to me, having been doing these sorts of interviews for a year and having a much better knowledge of the team. I ask about continued crazy matches between RBNY and Portland. I try to catch him with a question about Tyler Ruthven, who had seemingly won back his contract after being terminated at the end of 2012, but then was suddenly on the outside looking in.
Mike just smiled. He nearly always smiles when taking media questions, whether he likes the question or he doesn’t. He handled them well enough (especially the Ruthven question), but I could tell he was a little nervous going into his first match. A little wound up.
I head back up to our room to find Katie so we can have dinner, but she’s not there. I switch my phone back on, and there’s a text from her, from just before Petke appeared, to the effect of:
“Just ran into Petke. He’s on his way up to see you now.”
Of course, of course, Katie would find him before I would.
It’s a lukewarm morning in October 2013, and I’m in Harrison.
It’s this past Saturday, the final weekend of the regular season. The Red Bulls have one game left on Sunday against Chicago – win, and they bring home their first championship in their 18 year history. Lose or draw, and unless other results went their way, it would be the same old story for the club.
It’s the final regular season practice, at Red Bull Arena, and I’m the only member of the media in attendance. (Full media availability was the day before, so there’s less appeal for media attendance.) But I’m not there primarily for interviews – I’m mostly there to get a sense for how the team felt rolling into their last game of the season, the one that might deliver them a trophy.
They were relaxed. They were joking and having fun. They were working, but it was a different air than I had ever seen the team in.
I ask for Mike for an interview, and then there I am, again alone, putting my microphone in his face. Mike had refused to talk for weeks about the chance of winning a trophy until they got into the playoffs – and even after locking a playoff spot, he was nervous to talk about it. So I tried for a different angle:
“When you look back over your career, in terms of anticipation, where does tomorrow night rank for you?”
He laughs. He gives Brian Tsao, the team communications director, a look that pretty clearly reads “Can you believe this guy?”
I try, poorly, to clarify: “Not asking about jinxing it, just – how much are you anticipating it?”
“Listen,” Mike says. “I anticipate – I’ve anticipated – I anticipated every game. I get wound up for every game. That’s exactly how I’ll answer that. This is 90 minutes, three points, that’s what we need.”
I don’t push further. He’s said more than enough.
It’s a cool evening in October 2013, and I’m in Harrison.
If you read my coverage, you know how this ends. The Red Bulls give up a goal to a former player, sending a wave of familiar dread through the stadium. Then Thierry Henry scores a golazo. Ibrahim Sekagya scores a goal-line scramble. Lloyd Sam scores a beauty. Eric Alexander goes one-on-one and wins.. Jonny Steele scores with ease. Five unanswered goals from five different players. The margin is so big, Chicago scores a consolation goal and the crowd barely notices.
The final whistle blows. The stadium doesn’t so much roar as it lets out an excited sigh of relief, that the team has finally ripped off the label of Never Won Anything. A few seats down from me, Dan Ryazansky – who runs Metrofanatic.com, which has meticulously chronicled 18 years of club futility – is beside himself, half in tears, half smiling. The Supporters Shield, snuck into Red Bull Arena secretly by a group of supporters just in case, appears near the South Ward, and it is hoisted again and again. Petke dedicates the win to the crowd, apologizes to his wife, and promises his kids the best off-season ever if they can give him just five more games – he’s already focused on the playoffs.
This moment obviously wasn’t mine alone. I shared it with everyone else in the stadium that night. But it was certainly the moment, so far.
I’m not a “96er”, like Mark or Miguel. I was there in 1996, missing the Curse of Caricola by a single game, but then I wouldn’t return for 14 years. I spent a year and a half as a fan, and then the last two years as a member of the media that was (perhaps not so secretly) hoping this team would finally win. And now they have, under Mike’s wound-up heart-on-his-sleeve leadership.
When I considered my trajectory with the team – from casual fan, to season ticket holder, to media noob, to occasionally being the only beat reporter at practice – I realized this week that Mike has pretty much been there for each and every step I took. More than any player, he’s the one that’s most represents the connection I have to the club. And that’s even after I missed most of his playing days.
It’s great to see the Red Bulls finally put something in the trophy case. But to have Mike be the one that lead them to it means so much more: to the club, to the players, to the supporters, and yes, to me.
So congrats, Mike. To be honest with you? You’ve earned this.
I don’t always get a lump in my throat at soccer games – but when I do, it’s something else.
To the Empire Supporters Club, the Midnight Riders, the Viking Army, the Rebellion, and the Garden State Ultras: good job, every last one of you. This was an unforgettable thing.
So Bioshock Infinite came out yesterday.
While I generally try to save all my praise for games until the end of the year, I’m going to make an slight exception for this one to tell you, in the present, that it’s really, really fantastic.
If you’re not already playing it, you should push everything else onto your backlog so you can go play it. (Preferably the PC version, if you can.)
What are you still doing here? Go play it.
Disclaimer: My wife works for Take-Two Interactive, parent company of both the developer (Irrational Games) and the publisher (2K Games) of Bioshock Infinite. This recommendation would still be coming even if she didn’t work for them.