It was my birthday last weekend and also happened to be the closing weekend of Into the Woods at Shakespeare in the Park so I told my boyfriend that’s what I wanted to do for my birthday. I love that musical and I love Sondheim and I love the Delacorte Theater.
For those of you who have never heard of Shakespeare in the Park, it’s a program put on by the Public Theater in New York where they run two free plays – one in the first half of summer that is a Shakespeare production, and the other in the second half of summer that is, well, something else. Tickets are first come first serve, which I found out meant that we were going to be camping out in the park at 6 am to get them.
We dragged ourselves out of bed at 5:00 am on September 1st, re-packing the picnic basket full of Whole Foods treats we had shopped for the night before (also part of the birthday festivities was going wild in a grocery store – we definitely bought $20/pound salami and chipotle honey turkey and hit up the antipasto bar like we were going to be camping out for days).
We get off at the Natural History Museum stop on the C train and decide to follow a man carrying a folding chair. He was surely going to be waiting in line for tickets with that determination and paraphernalia.
He waves to someone waiting at the entrance and they take off together. We follow them gingerly, trying to keep far enough back so they don’t feel like we are stalking them. We reach a fork in the road and there is hesitation in the group. We break the ice by my boyfriend speaking up and saying, “It looks like the line is over there” to the left.
“Have either of you done this before?” I ask.
She says, “No, never.”
And he says, “I’ve been doing this twice a year for the last 8 years.”
All right. An expert. We decide to stick close to them and as we wind our way to the back of the line, we file in behind them.
“First set of benches,” he surveys. “This means we’ve got a really good chance.”
Awesome. My boyfriend and I settle in and, after about an hour of getting used to the idea of being in Central Park at 6:30 am with hundreds of other people, fall fast asleep.
The box office opens at 1 pm so we have a good six hours to be in line. As I’m making a turkey, salami, and olive sandwich around 9:30 am, the woman we walked into the park with taps my shoulder and says, “That’s an unusual sandwich you made.”
“Oh, haha, yeah, we forgot to grab the spinach so I decided to use olives instead.”
“Ooohhh, olives! I thought those were grapes. That’s less weird.”
And the ice was broken. The guy with the chair who was on the same train as us explained that usually his wife and son join him in line, but this year, she is picking up their son from the airport from a trip to Ecuador, so the friend he is with, who is usually the recipient of the extra ticket, agreed to join him this year. This is her first year too.
We all become fast line friends.
On my way back from the loooonnng walk to the bathroom (we must be 200 or 300th in line, with diehards on air mattresses, NYU students curled up on top of each other, and kids playing Uno in front of us), I come back in the middle of a conversation where my boyfriend finds out that our line friend and his wife just bought a house in Bushwick off the Gates stop.
“We just bought a house in Bushwick!” I exclaim.
“I know, your boyfriend was just telling us.”
He asks us where and we tell him the cross streets.
“Wait… is it a white house? With graffiti on the side of it?”
“Yes, next to a laundromat, do you know it?”
“We almost bought that house!!”
“Whaaatt? No way!”
“Yeah, we got pretty far along too.”
“Did you know about all the fines? We just paid all the fines.”
“Yep.” He nods. “We’ve been in there a number of times too.”
“So you know about the smell?”
We laugh. “Oh yes.”
“Wow, so what happened?”
“We were trying to figure out how to make the renovation costs work because I’m a handyman so we wanted to live in it and do the renovations ourselves. The renovation loan was too restricting for us.”
“We just couldn’t make it work with what it would cost to renovate. So we moved on.”
All the pieces started falling into place.
The time my old agent called in November/December to see if the house was available – it actually wasn’t. Then when I called again in January – it actually was. Why the seller’s agent was so excited to find another couple who wanted to renovate and live in it. Why the agent was so sure of the price point that would go through with the seller’s bank. All if it. The agent had just done the whole song and dance with another couple right before we came into the picture.
And we were on the SAME TRAIN and in the SAME PLACE IN LINE as them for Shakespeare in the Park. Whaatt??
He calls his wife and puts the phone to my ear. “Tell her who you are!”
“We are in line with your husband and your friend and we just found out that the white house we just bought was the white house you guys almost bought!”
“No, really? Wow, congratulations! We would love to see what you do with the place.”
“Oh my gosh. This is nuts.You are all invited to the housewarming!” I look at my boyfriend and we cannot stop smiling. What are the odds??
We exchange numbers as the Public Theater staff tell us to start gathering our things. We hug and wave goodbye, hoping to catch each other at the show later tonight.
Naps are had in the afternoon and we have an entire pizza for dinner before the show (there’s a delicious gluten-free spot at 3rd Ave. and 14th Street!). We settle into our seats and watch Amy Adams and crew make some Sondheim magic (I don’t care what the reviewers say, the show WAS magical), sans new friends. They must not pass the tickets out in any particular order.
We decide to walk to 72nd street to catch the train at the next stop, hoping the station will be a little less crazy. The first train car we walk into has no air conditioning so I insist we move to the next train car when the doors open next.
And, of course, a few feet away, we see the would-be owners of our house. The wife and I hug and I shake hands with their son. We re-promise to keep in touch and make sure they see the fully renovated house.
I’m still shaking my head. This city is ridiculous.