Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Book of Booking Broadway Tickets

For those of you who remember our last installment in this running history of my life and thoughts my daughter and I were in New York City.

I have to say I am always surprised when people remember things I say in this column or say outside this column for that matter.  I am the father of three children who are currently teenagers and I am an administrator of an elementary school.  Those things conspire to make me one of the least listened to people walking the Earth.  Flight attendants giving the safety speech before take-off at least have the paranoid sure-we-are-all-going-to-die-a-fiery-death passengers listening to them which is probably more of an audience than I have on any given day.

Anyway, I mentioned last time that my daughter and I are both big fans of theater.  A big part of why we went was to see real honest-to-goodness Broadway shows.  The impossible to get tickets at this time are for “The Book of Mormon”.  I tried to get tickets more than a month ahead of our visit and availability was nil.  My daughter is a lover of old-fashioned musicals so we salved our “can’t get the hot ticket” sense of disappointment by getting tickets to “Anything Goes,” the big Cole Porter revival. 

That didn’t go so well.  First, the big star (Sutton Foster, one of Emilyjane’s heroes as well as being one of her “best friends” on Twitter) left the show before we were going to be there.  Okay, we can live with that, the show is still going to be fun.  Then we hear the show is going to close eight days before the night we have already purchased tickets for rolls around.  Eight days, really?

I call the ticket agency to see about getting a refund on the tickets.  The lady is very nice and asks if there is anything she can do for me.  I ask if she could talk them into doing the show until we can get there.  She says that is a bit above her pay grade.  She asks if there is another show we would like to get tickets for.  I say how about “The Book of Mormon”.  She laughs, politely and all, but it was a genuine laugh.  You can’t blame a guy for trying. 

So, flash forward to when we are actually in New York.  We decide to take a chance and just go directly to the box office of the theater where The Book of Mormon is playing.  We get there just a few minutes after it opens in the morning, which is 10 AM, those theater folk don’t get up with the chickens.  The guy in front of us in line is in the middle of making a purchase.  His transaction is not making it look good for us.  He is buying tickets for a performance five months in the future and he is paying a premium price and when I say premium I mean Bill Gates and Paul McCartney would even split the cost with their dates.  So that guy finishes his purchase leaving behind his credit card number and a pound of flesh and I step up to the window.

My opening line was “I’d appreciate it if you wouldn’t start laughing until I actually leave the building.”  I then said we were looking for tickets for anytime that week.  He started to mention the premium tickets and I said thanks but I’d prefer not so sell my kidney for the money to see a show.  I didn’t really say that, but I did say thanks but no thanks. 

Then he said just a minute.  He looked at the sheet of paper on his desk.  (Digression alert)  Okay, this theater pulls in thousands of dollars each and every night.  This theater is in the heart of the biggest theater district in the world.  This theater has been in existence since the 1920’s.  This is no nickel and dime outfit.  Well, the sheet of paper he is looking at is a run of the mill computer printout list with dozens of scribbles done by hand in red ink.  There isn’t a more efficient system, really?  (Digression over) He then excuses himself and steps to the back of his tiny office and asks somebody we can’t see a question.  He then returns and asks what we are doing Friday afternoon.  Since I am known for my witty repartee I say “I hope I am sitting in this theater watching your show.”  

And that is just what happened.

Christopher Pyle loved the show and was surprised by the uplifting message they snuck in under all the humor, much of it a little, um, off color.  You can reach him at  

Friday, August 03, 2012

Traveling Beyond the Comfort Zone

I like being at my house.  Several of my all-time favorite people live there.  Wanderlust is not part of my DNA and I find I get more and more curmudgeon-like as I get older and assiduously avoid being with large groups of people (large being anything over six).  I put all that aside a couple of weeks ago and got on a plane which took me over 1,500 miles away from my comfy house to a place populated by way more than six people, New York City. 

This was a trip taken by just me and my oldest daughter, Emilyjane.  We had been planning it for weeks and weeks and I have to say it turned out pretty darned good, even if there are entirely too many people everywhere you turn there. 

Our hotel was just a couple blocks from Times Square so after we got safely checked in and our gear stashed we walked over to be wide-eyed Kansas tourists.  Do you remember the game Red Rover from your grade school days?  That is the game where two groups of people face each other and call out to send over a person to see if he or she can break through the line.  Well, standing at the corner of 45th Street and 7th Avenue waiting for the light to change felt like a weapons grade plutonium version of Red Rover.  “Red Rover, Red Rover, send the entire population of Inman right over.”

Actually, the pedestrian traffic lights on New York streets are more suggestions than actual rules of the road.  It surprised me how quickly Emilyjane and I, law-abiding Midwestern salt of the earth people, started brazenly crossing against the light.  At first I joked that New Yorkers can smell fear but really it is not a matter of fear.  New Yorkers are not sharks looking for weak and scared tourists to bite in half.  The crux of the matter is they simply respect decisiveness.  If you are willing to make a choice in a timely manner and stick to it you will be fine (but you still need to be fully aware that a taxi cab driver will run you over without spending any time at all trifling with the brake pedal or a sense of remorse). 

I very much enjoyed seeing the big city through the eyes of my daughter.  When we were first riding into town from the airport her head was on a swivel trying to see as much as possible.  She actually said, “I need more eyes.”  We are both big fans of theater but I missed occasional parts of the shows we attended because I was watching her watch the show.  Definitely one of the best perks of being a dad.

It was also fun to experience parts of New York through the eyes of smaller children, especially smaller children who I was not in the least bit responsible for because traveling with toddlers in this environment would be exhausting.  We were in the Disney store.  The lower level was mostly stuffed animals, clothes and princess dolls.  We were standing on the second level a few feet from a display of super hero toys when a little boy reached the crest of the escalator and the various Avengers came into view.  He immediately made a beeline for the nearest Iron Man toy saying, “This is more like it.” 

I have to say the sheer volume of smiling and good will was a bit of surprise to me, the unseasoned traveler.  I still had a prejudice that big city folk would be, not so much rude as entirely too driven and harried to be fun to interact with, wrongo.  Truly, except for the one food service guy who was moving at his own sweet time causing Emilyjane to contemplate jumping over the counter and deep fat frying his fingers because he didn’t seem at all concerned that she had ordered a drink and her current state of thirst was making her just a tad irritable, everyone we deal t with was pleasant, helpful and laughed and joked right along with us. 

Frequently in life I have found the ability to freely admit ignorance and ineptitude followed by the willingness to put myself in someone else’s hands makes that person not only smile but they work really hard to help.  Everyone likes feeling valuable and I have no trouble doing my best Blanche DuBois (sans southern accent, flowing frock and alcoholic tendencies) and relying on the kindness of strangers.
Christopher Pyle will probably do more columns about the New York trip, maybe allowing him to write it off as a business expense.  You can contact him, unless you work for the IRS, at