100 days of tuna fish

by Rebecca Bricker on August 29, 2015

A few weeks ago, I was browsing a London theater-ticket website, looking at the list of plays and musicals on offer. I had just booked my flights and hotel for a week in London. I hadn’t been to London in years and wanted to spend every night at the theater.

On the list of plays, I clicked on Hamlet starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Ticket sales for this production had broken the record for the fastest selling event in London theater history. On the official site for the play, there’s a queue, to wait on hold, for a returned or canceled ticket to pop up.

But on that day, when I clicked on Hamlet, a matinee performance for August 29 (today) popped up. To my amazement, there was a good selection of seats. Had the performance just been added, I wondered. Was I experiencing a divine stroke of luck?

The prices were high. In the stratosphere, actually. I laughed, remembering when the eight-and-a-half-hour production of The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby opened on Broadway (back in the Dark Ages of the early 80s) and word got around that tickets were going for $90 each or more — a shock felt down the corridors of People magazine, where I was working at the time. Suddenly dear orphaned Nick had lost a little of his star lustre, as my computer cursor hovered over the BUY $$$ NOW button.

When I contemplate a purchase that has a slightly staggering price tag — not something I do often, mind you — my nimble brain downshifts into a gear that allows what I call Creative Arithmetic.

I thought of all the shows I haven’t seen in London in the past two decades. The last play I saw in London was 20 years ago, in fact. Think of all the money we’ve saved by not seeing a London play in 20 years, the creative-arithmetic lobe of my brain told the right frontal lobe (where reason resides).

I clicked on BUY $$$ NOW and instantly felt my hands go clammy, as a timer on the screen started clicking down the minutes and seconds. I had 15 minutes to conclude the purchase before the ticket went back into the pool.

Those 15 minutes were fraught with second thoughts and euphoric anticipation. I nervously fat-fingered the keys as I tried to enter my credit-card number. I watched a little spinning circle for what seemed like an eternity, as the details of this purchase floated in the ether. And then came the confirmation with the message: Your ticket will be waiting at the box office.

I danced around the room, thanking my lucky stars. And then I grabbed my grocery trolley and headed to the market. In the deal I had made with myself — in the final bargaining between Creative Arithmetic and the Lobe of Reason — I pledged myself to 100 days of austerity. It was the only way to appease the Lobe of Reason, who was screaming, as though Hamlet himself, WHEN WILL THE MADNESS END?

I went to the market and loaded up on tuna fish, as seen here…

How bad could 100 days of tuna fish be? I googled tuna recipes and enjoyed a concoction of tuna-eggs-and-capers (made with a yogurt-based mayonnaise) for three nights in a row.

When all is said and done at the end of our days, what will we remember when our life flashes before us?

I know for certain I’ll remember the November day when I took my then 15-year-old son to Rockefeller Plaza for lunch by the ice rink. We watched the skaters and a crew of strapping men erect a 100-foot-tall Christmas tree above the rink. It was an amazing operation that intrigued my future-engineer-of-a-son (who last year received a master’s degree in mechanical engineering at Berkeley). He marveled at the equipment and yes, the engineering, that made this annual ritual possible. As he watched, he devoured a $17 hamburger.

When I told this story to a friend, about the burger lunch at Rockefeller Plaza, she immediately asked how much that burger had cost and then blanched when I told her the price.

“Seventeen dollars?” she shrieked.

I smiled at her. She’s a theater buff who spends hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on tickets each year.

“It was the price of admission,” I told her, “for a really good show, burger included.”

This afternoon, I watched Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet, in a superb performance I will carry with me until the end of my days. As I sat in my center-stall seat in the thirteenth row at the Barbican Theater, I didn’t think once about tuna fish. Instead, I marveled at the capacity of the human soul to write a play and deliver a performance that today soared into the stratosphere. It’s thrilling to see an actor still coming into his prime bring new life to an iconic role.

Priceless. And only MasterCard and a dear friend sworn to secrecy know how much I paid. 😉



P.S. In case you haven’t heard, this production of Hamlet will be broadcast (live in Europe, time-delayed elsewhere) in more than 550 theaters around the world on October 15. For details and tickets (a lot cheaper than mine): 






photo credits:

Cumberbatch as Hamlet – Johan Persson/PA

Christmas at Rockefeller Plaza – Stan Honda/AFP/Getty Images