austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Lingering in the ocean blue

It was by a series of mishaps and misadventures worthy of its own separate retelling that bunny_hugger had acquired tickets to attend the Wednesday taping of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Really, all I could contribute to the process was to show up with her.

We took the bus up, as usual; as unusual, the parking vending machine kept my receipt behind an unmoving plexiglass barrier. I assume it was just stuck, as there was not a pile of receipts from the taunted customers underneath mine. We took the subway up to the vicinity of 51st street and walked west in search of the theater, to make sure we knew where to get back to. Then we looked for a place to eat.

As we'd passed a number of restaurants and delis on the way in I figured we couldn't go very wrong whatever direction we took. We went north and found a food desert, although there were plenty of car dealerships. We also found the studio for The Colbert Report, which we last visited nearly a year ago. We took a chance on a little deli and got (in my case) a cheese sandwich with cheese, went to Dewitt Clinton Park --- just across the street from the Daily Show studios --- to eat and be with one another and enjoy the scenery and activity of the small park.

bunny_hugger didn't actually have tickets, per se, but an e-mail for her ticket reservation. As with all shows they give out many more ticket reservations than they have audience seats, to be sure there's always a full house. At 2:30 they would give out actual tickets, with the first 125 or so attendees getting the yellow tickets assuring studio entry as fully as anything but a VIP ticket can, and after that are issued standby tickets. Other trip reports indicated there wasn't much point to lining up too early, so we didn't, and after the line was organized and we counted the number of people with Monty Python/Spamalot T-shirts (I found two definite and one possible) we saw the last yellow ticket handed out to a group ahead of one of the Monty Python shirt wearers.

bunny_hugger was heartbroken. I felt lightly doomed myself. But we had tickets number 127 and 128; really, unless every one of the yellow-ticket folks and every one of an abnormally large number of VIP tickets were present, we'd likely get in, wouldn't we? And wasn't the guest tonight one of those academic folks talking on financial matters that speak to The Daily Show's value as a source of real information rather than something that draws fans? (It was.) Sure we'd get in, wouldn't we?

Well. We had two hours to fret about it anyway, and we had things to do in the meantime. bunny_hugger wanted to go to the carousel opened last year at the Chelsea Piers, around 23rd street. What we ought to have done was go east a bit and catch the subway or a bus back down, but I had the idea we could walk at least part of the way and charged off, failing utterly to think of bunny_hugger's feet. She didn't complain, although the scenery along 11th Avenue is some of the most boring in Manhattan. Oh, looking out over the Hudson to the Garden State is nice enough and always shall be, but for local buildings there's ... what, the cold storage building? About the biggest attraction we spotted was Long Island Rail Road trainyards, which were noteworthy because I mentioned how the LIRR had a 4500-year track record as the most hated railroad system in twelve universes. Sure, but why was it so hated, she wondered? And I realized I couldn't give any specific reason; it's hated because, well, it's the LIRR. The LIRR is the manifestation in train form of the hating of things.

The Chelsea Piers are really quite nice; I haven't been there before that I remember. The carousel itself is a beautiful new specimen which tries to show off only animals which were local to the New York harbor before someone went and put New York on top of it --- bears, deer, raccoons, eels (shown as wrapped around a tree log, so there's something to ride), crayfish, otters --- and it does, if you discount the rabbits for representing European species (bunny_hugger has an eye for this that I still haven't learned) and the unicorn for being native to Cathay (the butterflies around the unicorn are native, I guess, as long as I don't try to find out from an actual butterfly expert what species should be found).

We retured as we should have, by subway, and waited by the Subway in the holding pen for tickets numbered 125-150. We were in better shape than we thought, as they were taking standby tickets in numerical order, so as long as there were four empty seats somewhere in the studio we were in. I actually got in the building first, temporarily, to use the bathroom (downstairs were two women's rooms, one men's, and one unisex bathroom which was de facto a women's room). My natural inclination to peek around the corners of things revealed to me a Christmas tree in the lower-workings offices there, but I missed a more interesting thing. I overheard in the line afterward that Jon Stewart's office is next to the bathrooms. I never thought to look.

Despite our fears the size of the studio and our low numbers sustained us, and we were let in. The pattern was very similar to that at Colbert's show --- a warm-up comic who gets people in the mood for laughter by teasing audience members (including one fellow who's been there enough times to be recognized by the warm-up), and then Stewart coming out to answer questions. They had claimed he'd be out for only a minute, but it was more like five minutes with a fairly rapid-fire exchange of questions and answers. These were as ``out of character'' as on Colbert's show, although Stewart's stage persona is much less clearly a character.

One of the questions tossed Stewart was how to ask out a girl, which would be a fruitful topic and provide the show's in-joke for the night. (You know those, the statements that don't mean anything but which the audience finds hilarious.) The audience guy asked for help for his brother in asking out a girl and Stewart expressed surprise that they were brothers, ``I thought you just both worked at the same hip, impractical eyeglass store'', someplace where ``form has completely left function behind''. Stewart asked if they had something to write this down on, and one volunteered, ``My brother has an iPad'', and now you know why on the 10th of August's show Stewart offered advice to the ladies about if they're in a bar and someone in impractical eyeglasses comes up to you and says ``my brother has an iPad'' and why the audience laughed.

The show itself, I must admit, was a routine one, even though there were no pretaped segments and they had a correspondent (Larry Wilmore) that's nobody's favorite (John Oliver would have been a hit but he'd been on the previous day's show), but also isn't Samantha Bee, and even though they had to re-tape the exit from one report so as to better fit the time available and internal story logic. But there was a bonus after all.

For nearly a decade now there's been a special Daily Show: Global Edition, a weekly program run on CNN International and pretty much a best-of-the-week compilation. I'd seen it in Singapore several times although I kept forgetting when it was on. I also got a (United States-based) friend upset with me when I insisted I'd seen it on CNN International because The Daily Show is on Comedy Central and not CNN and my attempt to confuse them was clearly me trying to be annoying in a petty way. You probably know people like that too.

But after the Wednesday shows, Stewart tapes his brief introduction to that week's Global Edition. Before this taping began, he called out to the audience, asking if anyone had seen it. A few people had. I raised my hand. I was sitting near the back row, naturally, but I was also just about in his line of sight, and I'm tall, and I was (consciously) wearing a bright yellow shirt, and bunny_hugger was pointing in my direction, so I was right there to be asked: ``Where'd you see it?''

``In Singapore'', I called back.

He asked, ``So, did you get caned?''

Here, bunny_hugger told me later, she worried I was about to say something confrontational. Yes, people get caned in Singapore; it's part of the justice system. But it's a very routine, stock joke that people make because they sort of remember that guy from way long back ago. I don't like thoughtless jokes. But, I was also the guest in Stewart's home. It wouldn't do to start a phenomenally pointless fight.

``Eh, not so much,'' I answered.

He followed up, ``What's it like living under the dictatorship?'' bunny_hugger curled up ready to die under my rare display of temper. I didn't have any such thing in mind.

``It's not so bad,'' I said. ``They've got Cartoon Network.'' I actually liked Boomerang better, the few months when they had both that I was there, but reasoned 'Cartoon Network' communicated the silliness of my example better.

Stewart chuckled at this, shaking his head and saying, ``What, you're some kind of Magellan, going around travelling to exotic lands in search of cable channels?'' He shook his head and said offhandedly, ``You know, [ Brunei ] has HGTV now.'' I put ``Brunei'' in brackets because bunny_hugger and I weren't sure where he did say; this seemed afterward to be at least roughly correct. In any case, it has the spirit right.

And that's my conversation with Jon Stewart: not so substantial as hers with Stephen Colbert, but a more lighthearted bit of silliness. Afterward, bunny_hugger and I agreed we'd have to go back to both shows, so she could talk with Stewart and I with Colbert, now that we've clearly mastered the art of getting the hosts to talk to us.

We weren't sure what to do afterward, besides send cryptic tweets about the experience (bunny_hugger called her parents to report it) and we thought, why not go to Central Park and see if we could finally ride that carousel? But, as with our last attempt to visit it together, we got there only after the ride had closed for the night.

Since we'd failed in getting to the carousel we went to the nearby Apple Store, the great glass cube which was shrouded today in canvas so that the interior really takes on that ``waiting to be reborn in the fires of Carrousel'' atmosphere. The thinking there was, the Apple Store near me may not have Roller Coaster Tycoon 3: Platinum Edition, which I'd passed up buying in January because I didn't have an Intel-based Mac then and the game insists on it, but surely this flagship store would. Also, it would have clean bathrooms. It checked out on the clean-bathroom front, but apparently, I was too late to buy this edition of Roller Coaster Tycoon 3 in the stores.

bunny_hugger's brother was unable to meet us in the city --- work obligations --- but he did through text messages have recommendations for vegetarian-friendly, none-too-expensive restaurants in the area. We took him up on a Mexican restaurant on 45th street which according to him had some name. The one we saw didn't have any name as far as we could see, but it was a nicely arranged hole-in-the-wall type spot. We got lime sodas and in my case a ``green'' enchilada with a spinach-based shell. Very tasty, although according to a belated text message from him we'd both missed the best item on the menu, assuming we were in the correct restaurant. We can't figure how we might not have been; there just wasn't another Mexican restaurant in the vicinity.

We did walk past Rockefeller Center, confirming that we were too late (again too late for something) for the NBC Store, although we wouldn't have wanted anything particular there, or for the studio tour. And we got back home in time to sleep, but not to watch the show live (in fact, we'd fail to watch it before she left), and not to see my parents. The gift remained un-given, with only one chance left to do.

Trivia: Farmers in Suffolk County attacked the Long Island Rail Road in the 1840s --- tearing up tracks, burning stations, and wrecking trains by pulling track spikes --- for running trains on Sundays, as well as for all the noise, chaos, and stray sparks produced by the trains. Source: The Story Of American Railroads, Stewart H Holbrook. (And that's the nicest he can say about the LIRR, and Holbrook doesn't have a bad word for any railroads.)

Currently Reading: The Greek Way, Edith Hamilton.

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