The city that doesn’t sleep

On weekends and as many evenings as possible, I am a potter.

During the day, though, I am a public transit marketing executive, which includes oversight of three departments: an eight-person Marketing team; a one-person grant-funded program (Clean Commute Options); and a 15-person Customer Experience unit. I’m also my employer’s public information officer. It’s a demanding and largely thankless job, but it’s also deeply rewarding, and I love it. Passionately. It gives me purpose; heartburn at times; direction and anxiety. Compassion. Perspective.

While it is this job that precludes my ability to get into a good, steady rhythm as a potter, it pays the bills – puts a roof over our heads; food on the table. Allows us to travel and recreate. It paid for the 14 10-week classes I’ve taken at the Greater Lansing Potters’ Guild; the countless tutorials with Mea Rhee of Good Elephant Pottery; and the years of private and group raku firings with Ned Krouse. As much as it gets in the way, my job allows me to be a potter, and deepens my appreciation for the arts and life. More important, the work I do is fulfilling.

This past week, my day job took me to the city that – according to crooner Frank Sinatra – doesn’t sleep.

New York City, where the American Public Transportation Authority hosted its annual meeting; Times Square, to be exact.

Don’t shoot me, but Times Square gives me anxiety. Its dense population is largely comprised of tourists. All 460,000 of them at the same time, hustling and bustling about Times Square every. single. day. That’s more than 50 million tourists a year. For being somewhat of an introvert, it’s a bit overwhelming. But it’s a give and take.

The city’s pace is erratic, chaotic, loud and crowded, but the crowds are diverse and happy. New Yorkers are inherently tough but friendly and cool. Walking along Broadway I danced around or bumped into them; I sped past those who were slower and jumped out of the way of those who were in a hurry. There is no need for apology; human contact is expected where everyone’s packed like sardines at both ends of a crosswalk, waiting for the “walking man” light. Still, I said “oops” and “ack” and “excuse me” more than ever and was largely ignored, save for the few who apologetically smiled back. The movement of this mass of people flowed as if without obstacle, though there were obstacles aplenty: construction work, barricades, delivery trucks, street performers. Horns blared, lights glared, tires screeched, all of which kind of explains why people don’t sleep around here. And yet, I did. Soundly.

I also discovered what I love about Times Square: the Theatre District. The Marquis Theatre was next door, where Tootsie, the musical, is playing. Ain’t Too Proud – The Life and Times of The Temptations is at the Imperial, and Dear Evan Hansen is at the Music Box. Across the street, at the Lunt-Fontanne, Tina: The Tina Turner Musical is a hit; Waitress is at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre. Across the street on 45th, Moulin Rouge! is at the Al Hirschfeld Theatre; Slave Play is at the John Golden Theatre; Betrayal (starring Tom Hiddleston), which I really, really, really want to see, is at the Bernard B. Jacobs Theatre; Come From Away is at the Schoenfeld; and Lion King is at the Minskoff. A block away on 44th, Phantom of the Opera is at the Majestic; and To Killl a Mockingbird (starring favored Michigan son Jeff Daniels) is playing at the Shubert Theatre – another show I hope to see should Mr. Daniels ever decide to bring it to the Purple Rose Theatre in Chelsea, Mich. Frozen is at the St. James Theatre, which I could see from my hotel room window.

Further away, but still within walking distance for those who don’t mind the crowd, Wicked is at the Gershwin; Beetlejuice is playing at Winter Garden; Mean Girls is at the August Wilson; The Book of Mormons is at the Eugene O’Neill; Chicago is at the Ambassador; Hadestown is at Walter Kerr; and Oklahoma is at Circle In The Square.

On the opposite end of Times Square, you’ll find Aladdin at the New Amsterdam and Beautiful: The Carole King Musical is at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre.

I saw Hamilton at the Richard Rodgers Theatre Tuesday night, thanks to my awesome transit-marketing buddy, Felicia. I swear she has an angel on her shoulder. She managed to score a pair of tickets in row H for this sold-out show … eight rows from the room where it happened!

We grabbed dinner at 5 at the hotel and a half-hour before curtain, a long line of ticketholders wrapped all the way around the block. The line moved quickly, and we were seated in an orderly and timely fashion.

I took it all in, the stage and props, the costumes, the music – an eclectic assortment of hip-hop, rhythm and blues, jazz – and the lyrics – clever, witty and catchy; the choreography; everything was outstanding. Hamilton made me laugh. The foreshadowing and angst made me worry. The betrayal, the shattered friendship and broken sisterhood; the infidelities, the failed marriage, the deaths – it broke my heart. I wept for the heartache that Alexander and Eliza Hamilton endured; that those they cared about endured. The tragedies that befell this brilliant and prolific man and those he touched left a gaping hole in the history of these United States. The impact he had on our nation and its people is absolutely, breathtakingly … mind-boggling.

As told by Lin Manuel Miranda, refreshingly modern and relevant, I was drawn by Hamilton’s portrayal of love – love of friends, love between man and woman, love of family. The hatred and envy of a friend. The ambition and passionate drive of both man and womankind, in pursuit of a better life, were profoundly tangible and believable. It made me want to learn more about the story of this man; the history of our country; the acts and impacts of great and horrible leaders.

Did Hamilton leave you wondering about the story of your life? It did me. “Who lives, who dies, who tells your story?” Profound.

What will my story be, according to those that I will one day leave behind? Will the things I make – my warrior goddesses, plates and bowls – be part of it? Will the work I do in my day job and the people I serve make a difference? I don’t know, but I know who’ll tell my story – the people I love. The people who love me. That’s more than I could ever hope for.

Who will tell your story?

Da-da-da-da-dahh, da-da-da-da-da dia dahh!

Published by Lolo Robison

Crackin’ Crow Pottery is a Greater Lansing clay studio owned and operated by ceramic artist Lolo Robison. What’s a crackin’ crow? Simply put, it is an alliterative translation of “good crow.”

2 thoughts on “The city that doesn’t sleep

  1. It sounds like you packed a great plenty of experiences into your New York stay! Great to hear your detailed description of the people and places. Perhaps your acute observations just made it seems like so much. Always good to write and express the feelings and thoughts that arise when we travel or have revelations. Your way with words becomes you!

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  2. It was a wonderful work trip, which included time to catch up with a handful of good buddies. You and I need to catch up. I miss you bunches. Dealing with work/life balance and family concerns – Hughie is still fighting an uphill battle; my father is seeing a doctor for what we believe may be another bout with cancer. I’ll be at the downtown library this weekend for the Craft Show (favor for the library’s marketing director), instead of flying home to Denver to see Hughie. I’m going to have to book some flights to get out there more frequently, but … whatever it takes. I’ll try to make it to the Red Barn soon to pay my rent, do my chores and glaze some pots for the next firing. Much love to ya, Jane!

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