Archive for January, 2012

January 30, 2012

Broadway for a day

Broadway week, running from January 17th to February 4th…a celebration of theatre (and savings!) saw my mother and I making a day trip to New York City with half-price tickets to “The Phantom of the Opera”.  Finally, I have seen the longest-running (since 1988!) and most iconic show on Broadway.  I’ve been to my fair share of Broadway shows and am, quite obviously, obsessed with them and yet, for one reason or another, had not seen the Broadway staple.  A few seconds after the lights dimmed, I remembered why.  Aside from my knowing that, of all shows on Broadway, this one is most likely to still be there on my return visit, and aside from the flashy attraction of new and acclaimed productions like “South Pacific” and “Anything Goes” that have previously drawn my attention away, I mentioned to my mother that such a well-known show might be more prone to have tourists as audience members.  By tourists, of course, I am not talking about people visiting from other places.  I am talking about the obnoxious and confused idiots who decide that being unfamiliar with their surroundings and on vacation excuses them from accountability for their actions and consideration for others.  But my mother had never seen a Broadway show, so it seemed like an ideal initiation.  My prescient apprehension could not even begin to comprehend what took place for the next three hours.  Loud whispering, crinkling of food wrappers and water bottles, people getting up to go the bathroom, camera flashes throughout, the jackasses who start to exit the theatre during the final bow in order to avoid the crowds.  One young lady left the theater during the show to answer her phone through the emergency exit.  The door remained ajar with sunlight flooding into the dark theater until an usher rushed over and closed it.  When the curtain fell for the last time, and the lights came back on, I saw the majority of the noise was due to large amounts of children everywhere.  It must have been some sort of ill-conceived field trip; there were rows and rows of them scattered throughout the upper balcony like fungus.  And it wasn’t even like these children were intentionally misbehaving.  They were the rudest brats imaginable and yet had no concept of it whatsoever.  It was as if not one adult in their short lives (lives that almost ended at my hands that afternoon) had ever taken them aside and taught them about manners or behavior.  Not a single child was removed from the theater or, as far as I could see, punished in any way by a parent or chaperone despite loud shushing from patrons like myself who were still in possession of a shred of human decency.  In fact, upon reliving it now in this post, I no longer feel bad about frightening a few of them when I stood up at the end and yelled down to them that they had ruined the show for the entire mezzanine and to never behave like that again.  One little boy stared at me terrified and wide-eyed for a long time after that.  He literally walked backwards down the steep steps of the theatre as if I’d pounce on him like a panther if he looked away.  Most of the people in the upper balcony didn’t even get up for a standing ovation at the end.  Apparently, they will get up and walk around during the show but somehow can’t find it in themselves to rise and show some respect and appreciation for the arts and what it means to see a live performance of that caliber and the hard work and dedication involved in it.  It is times like that when I think we should all be required to wear scarlet T’s (for “Tourist”), and New Yorkers should be permitted to punch us in our faces when we act this way.

That being said, I am now justified in my opinions of “The Lion King” at the Hippodrome in Baltimore.  I was underwhelmed by the sound when I saw it in December, but I then begin to feel that maybe I was shortchanging the experience.  That perhaps, having not been to Broadway in three years, I had elevated it in my mind to an unattainable status.  I had not.  Despite the dregs of human society surrounding me, those organ notes were still reverberating in my soul and rumbling under my feet.  And I seem to prefer a musical that requires a real brass and strings orchestra; those musical instruments have more of an impact on me than lighter, poppier pieces that call for guitars and percussion.  During my favorite piece, when Christine sings “Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again” in a heavy, velvet, sapphire-blue cloak with deep red sleeves coming out of the arm slits, bathed in turquoise light, she hit some beautiful notes that sent chills from the center of me out through my fingertips and the top of my head.  Ah yes, that’s the sensation I was talking about!  NYC has just gotten it down to a science, pure and simple.  It’s their specialty, and they’ve mastered it.  I’m already planning my next euphoric fix.  Mid-week, at some trendy joint this time where there will likely be plenty of locals, and premiere seats where I believe its acceptable to shoot fellow theatergoers when they get out of line.  In the meantime…oh, if only I could get the Greek to take me to the opera!  I have never been to one, and I have a sneaking suspicion we have a superior or at least comparable offering here in DC.

That was supposed to be a picture of the lovers Christine and Raoul but ended up as a picture of the reflection of my Mom as she stares up at the marquee.

  

I’ve included just a few more photos of our day in the city, a 19-hour marathon that began with leaving my home to catch a bus at 6:00 am and ended with me arriving back at my home at 1:00 am the next day.  I was utterly worthless the day after and am still tired beyond belief today, but it was worth it.  My one regret, other than our penny seats amongst the rowdy rabble, was the one photo I didn’t get.  And I just must take a moment to tell you about it.  Now, I’ve been to NYC numerous times, and I go to work each day in Baltimore.  So I’ve seen some interesting things.  But this was a first for me.  On 5th Avenue, there was a homeless man proselytizing on the street; so far…actually pretty ordinary.  But I noticed that on the ground, he had a small square of plaid fabric laid out.  And on the square of fabric was a black cat, sitting quite calmly and contentedly while the man ranted and gesticulated wildly around him.  And on the black cat, there was a cat-sized, perfectly-fitted, olive-green bomber jacket with a camo lining and a shearling-trimmed collar.  No idea.  I didn’t pay the guy to get a photo because he was a little intense, but I now regret it immensely even in spite of the fact that when we missed our bus in the evening and had to buy a second pair of tickets in a far less luxorious express bus, we had just enough cash to the dollar to buy our replacement tickets.  Sure, we made it back that same night and weren’t stranded in Times Square, but at what cost?  AT WHAT COST!?!

The Shubert Theatre, currently playing “Memphis”, 2010 Tony Award Winner and, I think, my next pick!

A shop window on Fifth Avenue.  Fabulous.

Athena, Herald Square

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January 12, 2012

A knitting post that sort of took a weird turn…

 

Apparently, knitting is not women’s work.  For the majority of human history dating back to the ancient Egyptians, knitting was a male-only occupation.  This latest resurgence in knitting popularity has seen the return by men to the art of knitting, men you might not otherwise expect to be drawn to this particular craft.  Behold Exhibits A and B:

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704896104575139990857438962.html?KEYWORDS=trucker+pick+up+stitching

http://www.good.is/post/prisoners-transform-through-knitting-behind-bars/– This is courtesy of my friend Joabby who may possibly be the last person still enabling my knitting addiction and who is not yet thoroughly weirded out by it.

Grizzled truckers and tattooed prisoners are knitting (and sewing and quilting), by choice, and finding it an enriching and thoroughly manly use of their time.  It seems that our definitions of what is women’s work and what is men’s work are somewhat muddled.  Which brings me to my side note: since when did feminism become a rebuff of all things feminine?  Mind you, I believe women can do traditionally male jobs equally well, and I believe that masculinity and femininity are as much learned behaviors as they are biochemistry.  But at some point, the attitude shifts and a line is crossed and suddenly you find yourself on the other side of the spectrum where a masculine female is regarded as overcoming femininity.  This is as damaging as a man feeling emasculated by doing something traditionally considered feminine.  Yes, there should be the ability for fluid movement of the sexes between “masculine” and “feminine” traits without it being perceived negatively.  But as a woman who loves domestic tasks, crafts, uncomfortable shoes, and things that are pretty, I also consider myself a feminist.  And I become highly irritated when anti-feminist distaste for things considered feminine is treated as feminism.  On another side note, this is further evidence of what I’ve been saying: modernization and civilization led to the downfall of women!  When necessities were taken for granted, suddenly so were women.  Not until our emphasis on all things either unnecessary or just plain made up (e.g. war, currency) did men’s value in society rise.

January 8, 2012

Synopsis: Holidays 2011

The holidays began for me as they do every year…with baking.  In the end, I’d made three batches of cookies, baked six pies, bought one carrot cake (to replace one burnt apple pie), and made one breakfast of beignets (from a mix; I’m not a machine!).  All-in-all a success, aside from my nemesis apple pie, which, despite six attempts made during the last decade, has stubbornly refused to both look appealing and taste delicious at the same time.  Irritatingly, my most beautiful pie tasted by far the worst ending up tart and watery despite the addition of homemade caramel.  A frustrating bafflement.  And my unanimously declared most delectable pie being the ugliest; it was notoriously named “Frankenpie”.  My most recent pomme failure was a pie completely scorched on the top, possibly because I brushed the crust with milk instead of egg white having used the last of my eggs, or possibly at the hands of my erratic oven which I mentioned in a previous post has a suicide pact with several other kitchen appliances.  The most recent member of their ranks: the kitchen faucet who sprung a leak and flooded the cabinet below the sink on New Year’s Day, an appropriate occurrence considering the curse of bizarre mishaps that always seem to happen to us on and around New Year’s.  However, this became a rare opportunity for the Greek to demonstrate his renowned MacGuyver-esque skills to, quite literally, use a straw, a paper clip, and a rubber band to allow us to continue to use the kitchen sink until our replacement part arrives in 10 to 14 business days.

 

Now, I pride myself on my present-wrapping.  I actually enjoy taking the time to make sure every gift is wrapped beautifully despite the fact that we can’t display them under the tree lest our feline terrors shred them and that most of my delicate handmade bows get smashed en route to each holiday party.  But this year acknowledgment must be paid to the Greek’s mother Ann for her sparkly blue bows of abstract art inspired by the fascinator (most recently popularized by Princess Kate).

 

These pair of photos I have aptly named “The Frenzy” and “The Fallout”; they are as close as a still representation can come to describing the Greek’s nephews during the unwrapping of presents.  And I learned a valuable lesson this year: always dress your little ones in the most adorable, preferably matching (this is why you have two) outfits for present-unwrapping.  For one, they’ll likely go along with whatever you chose as long as it involves opening presents, and, as many a childhood Christmas morning photo of mine can attest to, it’s less cute when they’re wearing dingy pajamas and mussed hair.

  

Kayla’s tolerance knows no bounds.  Good dog.

2011 was a big year for me.  I began a blog, and within it I recorded all the things I’d resolved to do that year…and then actually carried them out.   Imagine that.  And while the Greek and I didn’t do anything even remotely exciting this year (we sat around and watched the DIY network and read books; he fell asleep at 11:54 pm), I thought such a personal feat should be somehow commemorated.  So, I had a glass of Viognier.  I think it’s a $6 bottle of wine.  Nothing exceptional about it except that I bought it in Paris in spring 2010.  I thought this occasion was special enough.  Plus, it was a prime opportunity to use my lovely stone wine stopper, a gift from my sister.  So I drank it slowly and thought about what my resolutions are for next year.  In 2011, I applied to grad schools.  In 2012, I shall get into one of them.  Try new things.  Keep making the time to do the things I enjoy.

When I was a child, I lived a very transient life moving from one place to the next (no, my father was neither in the military nor on the lam), and my family was and remains scattered all over the world.  Since I moved near my aunt and uncle’s to go to college and decided to stay put for the foreseeable future and since my mom joined us over a year ago and we were thankfully able to convince my sister to visit us for many years in a row and since the Greek’s family all remained within a stone’s throw of one another, I now find myself in an unprecedented rich concentration of family that I have never before experienced.  I should be basking in the warmth of the knowledge that a dream, so hopefully and longingly wished for, had finally been realized.  But what do I do; complain about how tiring it is slogging from one place to the next each holiday season.  Which I shall do next season.  Christmas is invariably a 3-4 day affair, a veritable marathon of several cycles of baking, wrapping, driving, and merriment.  Nonetheless, it was wonderful spending the holidays with you all, and I love you all dearly.

January 3, 2012

Reflections on “The Lion King”

 

I have accomplished perhaps the greatest feat of my eight-year relationship: the Greek and I had a date night of musical theatre.  On December 17th, I dragged a reluctant Greek to his most hated city of Baltimore with the enticement of microbrews, and we ended the night with tickets to “The Lion King” touring company at the Hippodrome Theatre.  As usual, my customary giddyness at live musicals was abound.  I teared up at the beginning (you know, when the baboon lifts the cub up on the cliff and all the animals bow) from the sheer happiness of being at my first theatrical performance in two years.  Since then, I find myself humming the songbook every now and then, and I suspect this shall continue through the rest of the month.  And unsurprisingly, my neck was still sore a week later since I have the unconscious habit of watching the show leaning far forward with my head cupped in my hands and my elbows perched on my knees like an eager child.  A few observations from my evening:

It’s always funny to me to see people all gussied up in their ties and gowns when they’re in the cheap seats with us.  Nothing is more indicative of a theatre newbie than a crystal embellished dress and a faux fur wrap sitting in a $40 seat up in the rafters as opposed to,  say, behind the orchestra…on opening night…at the Met.  On the opposite side of the spectrum, however, is my father wearing faded jeans and a Goodwill sweatshirt with a toucan painted on the front that has spent at least a decade in his possession to Lincoln Center in New York City.  Both choices are equally regrettable.  Additionally, I’d like to discourage any women from wearing knee length dresses or skirts.  In those tiny, smooshed together seats, it is nearly impossible for a lady to cross her legs, so she must spend four excruciating hours holding her knees together…or the alternative.

Now at first I thought there wasn’t a live orchestra.  Admittedly, I did see two unenthusiastic-looking white guys in vests playing all different kinds of percussion instruments on either side of the stage.  But I thought they only accompanied a recorded score.  A friend of mine with a different view of the stage said she did see some people tucked into a very hidden orchestra pit.  And upon reexamination of my playbill, I do see credits for people playing various musical instruments.  But  I must say I still can’t shake the feeling that at least some of the music was recorded.   Nothing beats live music, the way it carries and fills the auditorium, and I just wasn’t hearing that here.  Perhaps it was the acoustics of the tiny Hippodrome, but there were some electric guitar riffs that I should have been feeling in the bottoms of my feet.

The show itself was marvelous.  Everyone says the set pieces are amazing, but that is even more so when you are talking about the touring company and every couple of months they must pack up and head off to a new city and do the performance all over again on a new stage.  But it’s the costumes and visual effects that truly make the scene, a wonderful mixture of puppetry and acting.  They make no effort to hide the people and the mechanics behind all the animals: the wheels of the gazelle herd are fully visible, and when the cheetah stalks and cocks its head gracefully to the left, so does the woman controlling it.  Yet it all seems to work and even enhances the effect.  My favorite scenes were of the lionesses and all their musical numbers, and adult Nala was fantastic.  All the kids were astounding.  I looked it up; the children playing young Simba and Nala are all about 9 years old.  Nine!!! 

Finally, I have a confession: the lovely photos within this post are stolen.  Apparently, there are no photos of any sort allowed inside the theatre.  In hindsight, I do recall that being the case in my past experience as well.  And in the instance where Disney is the proprietor, the ushers become venerable photo Gestapos.  It took them awhile to catch me though as I had the confident bravado afforded someone who is completely unaware she is doing something wrong.  And I wasn’t using the flash. Because that would be rude.  On our way out, the Greek noticed the Gestapo forcing a woman to delete photos of the show itself off her camera.  Good riddance.  Now while I myself forgot that there were no photos of any kind and am now shamelessly sharing my pilfered, flashless, pre-show photos to you, everyone knows you don’t take pictures during the show.  You’re not some ignorant tourist.  This isn’t Sea World.

I do highly recommend the show.  Alas, I became so completely entrenched in holiday whatnot that my recommendation now comes with only five more days to see the show in Baltimore!  It is a timely review for those in Minneapolis though, which I believe is their next stop.  A complete schedule can be found here: http://www.lionking.com/.

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