February 2009


No Day Like Today.

Honestly, save for required transportation and meetings, I haven’t been north of 17th Street in New York City in at least a couple years.

Today’s been no different—after checking in , I headed to B-Cup where I worked and looked at cute guys, before going on a shopping expedition, returning to my hotel and deciding where to find dinner.

It was actually an easy decision.

The Life Café.

Although an old friend, long ago, introduced me to RENT, I’d never quite become the RENThead that others became. I’ve only been to two performances, one at Indiana University, where I’d rushed tickets and found myself sitting at the front. The second time I’d won free tickets because I was the 4,000th person to register on a now defunct RENThead website.

Despite this, and listening to the RENT soundtrack several more times that I really ought to have, I’d somehow missed the connection that the café in the musical was a real life café, the Life Café at 10th and B on the Lower East Side.

With the unfortunate closing of RENT last summer, there was a flood of coverage and I discovered that the Life Café was a real place with a real and intimate connection to the musical—it’s where the musical was written.

And right now, I’m sitting on The Jonathan Larsen Bench, having had a lovely dinner, with my (new) computer out, writing introspectively about the feelings of sitting here and absorbing what it is to be here.

It is oddly emotional and powerful.

RENT is such an amazing and powerful story about living life, enjoying it to the fullest, making the most of the world you live in. And surviving with Hope, a message that still resonates powerfully today.

There is no day like today.

I imagine that the wait staff can get tired of RENTheads making pilgrimages to absorb the qualitative, emotive, and tacit experience that can only exist here. These kinds of experiences cannot be replicated via Google Earth and 360 high-res photography.

You must be here.

I signed the fourth volume of the RENT register—registers filled with people from around the world expressing their love for the musical. It’s incredibly emotional and strange knowing that the musical has had this effect on so many other people—and I am only mildly affected. I read several people expressing joy that for their 16th birthday they were able to come to the Life Café.

It’s unfortunate that I’d overlooked the café before—it has a great feel, my waitress is awesome, and there’s a live gathering of some kind at the front—music, poetry, and more being performed. I’d enjoy it more if it weren’t competing with a truck sucking sewage out of a manhole across the street.

Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes
Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Moments so dear
Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes
How Do You Measure – Measure A Year?
In Daylights – In Sunsets
In Midnights – In Cups Of Coffee
In Inches – In Miles
In Laughter – In Strife

In – Five Hundred Twenty-Five Thousand
Six Hundred Minutes
How Do You Measure
A Year In The Life?

How About Love?
How About Love?
How About Love?
Measure In Love

Seasons of Love.
Seasons of Love.

7 comments to No Day Like Today.

  • I discovered Rent in London, and got hold of the soundtrack before it had even opened on Shaftsbury Avenue. A fantastic show, which went on and on. People can connect to the lyrics and the stories at some many levels.

    Certainly when I’m feeling very introspective get the soundtrack out, sit back and just enjoy it.

    When I heard they were doing a movie, I was afraid justice wouldnt be done to what Larsen wrote. Fears were unfounded – and something wonderful was brought to life.

    Not been to new york yet, its on the list of places to get to – and certainly a visit to the life cafe is for sure

  • I didn’t know that it was in a real cafe! Great…now I have yet another place “I must visit!” BTW: I am a TOTAL RENThead! That song you wrote will happily be stuck in my head today!

  • I can’t remember the last time I was SOUTH of 17th street in NYC. I think I went there to visit one of my vendors last year, but that was somewhere around 14th Street and 9th Avenue.

    I usually stayed in mid-town and the last time I was there the Radisson bumped me up to a suite that overlooked the roof garden of the Waldorf Astoria. 😀

  • LB

    Funny you mention B Cup. I live on Ave C, very close to there, and I’ve also been to Life Cafe… I swear every time I walk down that stretch of Ave B between 14th st and the park, there’s a new swanky taco place or coffee shop. While you’re over, if you ever fancy a cheeseburger, you should try Royale on the west side of Ave C between 9th and 10th. It’s one of the best I’ve ever had.

  • @Phil: It’s amazing how one musical can have such an effect on so many people — I can remember so much about it, and I only saw it twice. I know of people who pause the sound track so that they can speak aloud the missing dialog.

    @Yelli: It’s not clear to me how I missed the story about the café, and it’s so close to B-Cup which is, for me, a great place to get work done while in New York City.

    @CQ: I find mid-town to be too cold and characterless. Where I stay there is a certain essence of being that comes through. So close to Union Square and then the East Village is right there… so many things I like come out of the East Village.

    @LB: Oh wow… what a great neighborhood! Or is that Neighbourhood? I think if I were going to live in NYC, I would want to target that area. Next time I will seek out Royale…

  • Jul

    It never occurred to me that the Life Cafe might be a real place. I hope they serve pasta with meatless balls.