Blown away by my visit to New York

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Would you like to come over to New York for a few days? Daire asked in an email. Just to tempt me he offered a free return air ticket. So, two weeks ago I went.

I had given some thought to what I would do in New York, but there seemed so many options I threw my hat at it. Apart from wanting to check out some bookshops, visit the Metropolitan Museum and see what the High Line is all about, I just wanted to be surprised by Daire. And surprised I was.

Daire had an invite to a special screening by Vox Media of Steve Jobs but was waiting to hear if I could come along. The lure was not just the movie but a Q&A with director Danny Boyle and screenwriter Aaron Sorkin, who did such a wonderful job with The Social Network. Sorkin also wrote the early seasons of The West Wing, which alone would have attracted me. But in the expectation of not getting that prized invite we lucked upon a fine alternative – Rocker Patti Smith was doing a signing at the Barnes & Noble branch that evening and would also be doing a Q&A. How cool. The thought of adding another autographed book to my collection and meeting the famous Smith was just awesome.

As luck would have it we gave Patti the cold shoulder as Daire’s contact came through with the second invite. The small theatre was already filling up when we arrived, but needless to say Boyle and Sorkin weren’t present for the screening. Instead we sat back and watched an utterly absorbing tour de force by Michael Fassbender as the flawed messiah Jobs. Good and all as he is what really surprised me was Kate Winslet who was brilliant.

There was polite applause at the end and then several chairs were arranged just yards away where Sorkin and Boyle answered some questions – pretty good ones too. And then they were gone.

So, do you want to see Brooklyn? asked Daire. Of course. I had heard Saoirse Ronan’s performance was great, but most of all I wanted to see if Colm Tóibín’s book had travelled well onto the screen. Nick Hornby seemed like an odd choice of screenwriter for what was a quintessentially Irish work, even though I hadn’t been entirely convinced by the book. The carrot was the possibility one of the stars would be around for the showing which was one of three screenings in the Alice Tully Hall in the Lincoln Arts as part of the New York Film Festival. If any were there we’d go. Fortunately, we were assured someone would be present, so we booked although we were unable to get seats together. Never mind.

I found myself led upstairs and in the semi-darkness was nodded towards my row. A little self-consciously I negotiated my way past several patrons, most of who rose with difficulty as I struggled to find my seat. What an absolutely gorgeous emporium it was, offering me a spectacularly uninterrupted view.

The first surprise was to watch Colm Tóibín, Hornby and Ronan plus director John Crowley being introduced on stage. They all trooped off then and we sat back to savour an excellent performance by Ronan. Hornby’s screenplay is excellent, capturing Tóibín’s story very well, while also managing to inject some humour which the appreciative audience lapped up. It was only when the lights came on at the end that I noticed Ronan, Tóibín, etc., had watched from one of the boxes not far from me.

I stayed in my seat to watch the Q&A, not realising I could have gone downstairs for a closer look. Silly mistake. I met Daire later and we headed to the West Village for a fine meal to end a great evening.

We dropped into an independent bookshop the following day and what did I spy but an autographed copy of Patti Smith’s book! Naturally I bought it.

I like musicals, but wanted to catch something else on my other night in New York, so we decided to see Therese Raquin, with Keira Knightley making her Broadway debut in the title role. Another reason for going was the venue – former home of the infamous Studio 54. Knightley disappointed somewhat. Her voice didn’t really project too well in the large theatre, plus she maintained a rather broody silence until after the intermission. But the sets were simply brilliant.

I finally got to the Met one morning, but there was so much to see and so little time. It’s a massive place, much bigger than I expected, so I headed for the Egyptian section. Now I’m no expert, but I have seen the Tutankhamen exhibition and Egyptian works at the British Museum and the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna, so the sheer size and breadth of the offerings really blew me away. Room after room dazzled for a really impressive collection. I also made time for a quick check on American art and was able to grab a coffee – the place has loads of cafes. If I ever get back to New York I’ll spend a day at the Met.

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