Saturday, March 12, 2016

Steven Wilson at the Beacon

As the time remaining at TSMC counts down from months to weeks to days now, I find myself striving to enjoy every precious moment of living in the heart of NYC. For me at this stage in my short life, it's not really about going to shows or hanging out in Times Square (although I will have one last stroll through it before I go) but rather having people I care about share my space with me and using it as a convenient departure point to plan fun activities.

It took me a couple days to recover from the 24-hour Best Picture Showcase, but the following Thursday Katie M came over and we finally watched Interstellar. Puck joined us for the second half, right after the crew went through the wormhole. I still think it's a stunning cinematic achievement even though it overreaches in many aspects. But it's better to aim high and come up short than to settle for mediocrity.

Rebecca joined me and Puck last Friday evening for my first attempt at making quesadillas (successful, I think) and we watched The Man from U.N.C.L.E., followed by Pulp Fiction. But the real excitement was the following night when I took Jen to see Steven Wilson at the Beacon Theater.

Ordinarily, I get concert tickets months in advance but it happened that this one snuck up on me. I saw an email from the Beacon in my inbox on Tuesday and there were still great seats available and they were very reasonably priced so I bought two, figuring I could find someone to go. Fortunately Jen was available, which was great because I introduced her to Steven Wilson just a few weeks ago while we were playing cards. So I was very excited to see the show with her, even though I'd seen him perform only nine months prior with Puck at Playstation Theater in Times Square.

Before the show started, the PA voice announced that, for the first time in 20 years of touring, Steven had almost completely lost his voice due to illness. For a second I wondered if they were going to cancel and reschedule the show, as happened with the Diana Krall concert that Katie B and I attended two years ago, also at the Beacon. But it turned out that he had his backup singer, Ninet Tayeb, in the house and she would sing some of his parts, sharing duties with the lead guitarist.

So the show went on, and we counted ourselves fortunate indeed to see a show that few people will ever get to see. Ninet sang the lead on the song "Hand Cannot Erase" and I loved how she did it in two octaves, something Steven can't do. Steven introduced the song "Routine" by saying he considers it one of the most depressing songs ever written, comparing it to specific songs by The Cure ("One Hundred Years") and another by Joy Division (whose lead singer committed suicide, in case you didn't know). And Ninet just killed that solo version of "Routine" - it was already my favorite track on the album but now it's stuck in my head all the time.

If you don't know the song, here's a link to a Live Nation concert performance by Steven and the band (unfortunately, not including Ninet live, but her part is recorded). Here is a link to the animated video that is projected during the song.

The first half of the show was pretty close to what I saw last year, except for Ninet's involvement. In the second half the band performed songs from his EP "4 1/2" just released this year and some of it was instrumental but also included Ninet's reworking of "Don't Hate Me" from the older P-Tree album "Stupid Dream" and a powerful rendition of "Sleep Together" to wrap the set.

The first encore was something I'd seen on YouTube - they did an acoustic tribute to David Bowie by singing "Space Oddity" (although for our show Steven just played guitar leaving Ninet to solo). The only real disappointment for me was that they didn't do the two songs from his previous full album, "The Raven That Refused to Sing," both of which are accompanied by videos - "The Watchmaker" and the signature title track. Instead he closed with a popular P-Tree song, "The Sound of Muzak," which he didn't sing at all but asked the audience to sing for him and we all obliged as best we could.

Sunday I finally got to reconnect with Piper, whom I haven't seen since last autumn. We've been trying to meet up but she's been sick a lot this year. We met at the arch in Washington Square Park and went for Vietnamese food at Saigon Market near Union Square. We had a good long conversation over fried spring rolls, pho and curry pork - although the waiter mysteriously absconded with the spicy condiments from our table.

Monday night I met up with Chrissy at Tortaria, a taco place Kristina took me to when we used to do yoga across the street. We talked about a project she wants to take on for Open Love NY, so I gave her some feedback and advice on that. Then we went to a free play reading of "The Ash Tree Spinners" by the Shotz! crew, the first of four being held in the lounge of the Daryl Roth Theaters just off Union Square. It was a thought-provoking musical play about the the Fates of Greek mythology - Clotho, who spins the thread of life; Lachesis, who measures it out; and Atropos, who cuts it off.

Afterwards we meandered our way back to TSMC to drop off some things and then walked all the way up to 90th Street where she showed me her building's roof and the breathtaking views on a perfectly cool and breezy night. Since it was late, I said goodnight and took a subway back home.

Wednesday Katie M came over and we had a long talk - so long that we couldn't watch any of the lengthy movies in our queue, so we watched An Education instead. This little film was Oscar nominated for Best Picture in 2010 (losing to The Hurt Locker) and also garnered a Best Actress nomination for Carey Mulligan, one of my favorite actors. It was a charming movie, but I actually thought some of the deleted scenes should have been edited and worked into the final cut.

Last night Jen came over and we finished our game of 10-card Gin we left in progress - she beat me again 352-218. So we started playing her version of 500 Rummy, which is new to me, while watching The Talking Heads concert film, Stop Making Sense. I've only just watched this for the first time this week and I was blown away so I've been listening to a lot of their music in the past few days. And finally tonight Rebecca came over again to join me and Puck in watching her recent favorite film, Crimson Peak, and my movie pick, Glory, which I felt any fan of composer James Horner needed to watch.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Oscar Weekend 2016

It was once again a wonderful Oscar time this past weekend, something I've looked forward to every year since 2011. That was the first year that Piper and I attended the 24-hour AMC Best Picture Showcase, which I've attended every year since. It's also the fourth year in a row I've hosted an Oscar viewing party, which has grown to become the biggest TSMC event every year.

This year my friend Rebecca attended the marathon with me; it was her first time at the event so I prepped her as best I could. This was the 10th anniversary of the event itself, but I was rather disappointed in the way it was presented. There were no trivia prizes or any kind of banter between movies, and the breakfast was poorly planned compared to years past. It's as if they lost all the great people who have run it before and all that institutional knowledge about doing the event has been replaced by cold efficiency (since they were extremely precise in their show schedule).

As usual, here's my recap of the eight nominated movies and my thoughts about them:

Brooklyn (10:30 am) - I'm lucky that I didn't watch any previews of this charming little movie because I realized later they give away too much about the story. This was, quite simply, one of the best pure love stories I've seen in a long time. The writing and performances were delightful and it was refreshingly free from melodrama and contrived tragedy. This is a movie that I'd like to have in my collection to watch over and again.

The Big Short (12:46 pm) - At the end of this movie, there's a postscript that counts the cost of the events depicted in the movie: trillions of dollars in value lost, millions left homeless and millions unemployed. I was one of those who lost their jobs because of the financial crisis. So the story of this global event was compelling stuff, driving home the scope of the disaster as seen through the eyes of those who saw it coming. As a movie, it kind of reminded me of Oliver Stone's Wall Street, but this was a real and much larger story.

Room (3:20 pm) - We walked in a little late for this movie because we took a break at TSMC so I was a little confused that there didn't seem to be an explanation for the first part of the movie. Of course, it is revealed over time. Brie Larson may have won her Oscar, but I think Jacob Tremblay should have gotten a Supporting Actor nomination. I got a little choked up when he asks for a haircut to help his mom, and when she gives the hair back to him. What a masterpiece of storytelling.

The Revenant (6:25 pm) - We once again walked in a little late on this one because we went across the street to Five Guys Burgers and Fries, bringing the food in with us. Thankfully, we aren't squeamish people when it comes to eating during a movie as gory as this one, plus we'd both seen it before I think. Upon second viewing, I was actually a little less impressed than the first, which was the opposite reaction I had to Mad Max. It is still obviously a gorgeous and meticulously crafted movie and I admire the fortitude it took to make it. But at its core, I feel that it lacks heart in that I don't care as much about the characters as I did with some of the other movies.

Spotlight (9:30 pm) - The surprise winner of the Best Picture Oscar, this movie is All the President's Men for a new generation. As a former journalist, I am in awe of the work portrayed by the Boston Globe reporters depicted in the film. I think my lone disappointment was that it didn't seem to play up the resistance from the community and the Catholic Church as much as I would have expected, but maybe that was the most authentic portrayal.

Mad Max: Fury Road (12 am) - My second viewing of this movie allowed me to acclimate myself to the relentless and high-octane action sequences that overwhelmed me when I watched it the first time with Lytle last summer. I was able to more fully appreciate the nuances of the characters and the story, plus marvel at the production elements that swept through Sunday night's awards. I've never seen any of the original Mad Max movies, but I've been an admirer of director George Miller since The Witches of Eastwick and the Babe movies. I can't wait to see what he does next.

Bridge of Spies (2:25 am) - This movie was like Catch Me If You Can crossed with JFK but with less pizzazz and hardly any humor. I certainly found it the least entertaining of all the movies in the marathon, although still a superior movie overall compared to the dreck that is found in theaters year-round. I mean, the story is basically a little courtroom action followed by a seemingly endless series of negotiation meetings. In other words, all men, all talk, very little action (except for a plane crash where we know the outcome).

The Martian (5:10 am) - This was a nice little sci-fi movie, heavy on the science, reminding me of Robert Zemekeis' Contact. I thought the humor was a little heavy-handed and the disco soundtrack seemed an odd choice. For a rescue mission, I thought it was a little lacking in emotion, but perhaps the book was better in that respect. I liked the twists and turns of the plot, but at the same time, I was constantly thinking the Star Wars line, "I've got a bad feeling about this." It's also hard to get emotionally invested in a movie when it's clear from the outset that there's one objective (to rescue the stranded astronaut) and there's really not much suspense whether that will ultimately happen or not.

I got home at about 7:30 am Sunday morning and started my beef shortribs cooking in the slow cooker before joining Puck in bed briefly before they woke up a couple hours later. I slept until about 3:30 pm and then Puck and I started getting ready for the party.

My co-host Liz came over at 7 with her Bridge of sPies (chicken pot pie), Crystal (Spot)Light, and Martian-mallow Krispie treats, made with brown butter and sea salt. I had two tubs of Mad Max: Fury (Rocky) Road ice cream in the freezer, plus plenty of Land-O-Lakes whipped cream.

I made my The Big Short(Rib) tacos, a Radish-mint (Revenant) salad, and Stuffed MushROOMs. Josh brought the Brooklyn Lager and Victoria brought a bottle of #OscarsSoWhite wine. We were all set for the big show!

This year I added a new prize category called the Surprise Prize, a $15 Regal Cinemas gift card for anyone who correctly picked a winner that no one else also picked - that went to Katie B for picking Bear Story in the Best Animated Short Film category. Liz and Puck also had surprise picks for Best Supporting Actor and Best Picture respectively, but Katie's pick was first.

I did pretty badly this year because I thought The Revenant would do better than it did, and I didn't anticipate that Mad Max would sweep the technical categories the way it did. Katie M was the grand prize winner of a $50 AMC Theaters gift card with 16 of 24 correct picks. Michelle was second with 15, and Victoria and Liz tied with 14 each - they all got consolation prizes of DVD movies.

Carolyn and I tied with 13 each. It's probably my worst Oscar ballot in many years, but I still had a great time. Movies are great, but enjoying them with friends is what makes a love of movies really special!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Movie madness and SmartGlamour fashion

It feels to me like I'm cramming as much fun stuff as I can in the last days of TSMC. I hope the withdrawal when I leave isn't too depressing. It will be a different set of circumstances and I'm looking forward to the change of scenery and being with Puck. But even they recognize that it's the end of an era and they are going to miss being here almost as much as I will.

My friend Carolyn came over and watched The Last Emperor with me on the 12th, appropriately since we're both Chinese. I have a personal connection to the movie's central character (unfortunately this does not make me the Lost Empress of China) as chronicled in this 2008 blog entry. Watching it with Carolyn made me realize that she's practically the only Chinese person I'm friends with, as we both have this lingering first-generation Chinese-American perspective.

It's sort of an interesting feeling being isolated from my cultural roots the way I am. Katie M came over earlier this week and we watched Saving Face, a Chinese lesbian comedy that was filmed in Flushing and Manhattan and half the script is in Mandarin. I wouldn't say that I miss the idea of a Chinese community because most of it collides with my current beliefs and lifestyle.

The following Tuesday another new friend, Rebecca, came over to watch Beauty and the Beast with me, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of becoming the first animated film to be nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars. We had a wonderful time talking about movies, as she is as passionate about movies as I am. I'm really happy that she's going to come with me for the AMC Best Picture Showcase this year - I think we're going to have a great time. We're both super-excited about it - it's her first time going, and my sixth.

In other news, Liz hosted a lovely Galentine's Day brunch at her apartment on the coldest weekend of the year. All her furniture she brought up from Texas has now been put into place, minus a few inches of wood here and there. I brought deviled eggs and she made some very tasty bacon and set up a waffle bar with lots of toppings. I got to see Victoria briefly before she had to leave for a show, and Marguerite, Michelle and Andrea all came as well. I noticed that Michelle was wearing a Beauty and the Beast-themed Valentine's shirt that was covered with heart-shaped candies that read "Flowers," "Chocolates" and "Promises You Don't Intend to Keep."

On Friday, Liz and I attended the all inclusive + body positive runway show presented by SmartGlamour for their new Spring 2016 collection. Liz blew up the internet as part of SmartGlamour's #imflattered campaign earlier this year.


After the 20 minute show, we went around the corner for a complimentary glass of Prosecco before heading up to the PIT Loft on 29th Street to meet up with Josh for "This Live Show with Nate Foster," an SNL-style improv performance that Josh helped to write. One of the skits was a contest of movie charades that I volunteered to participate in and ended up winning a $15 Regal Cinema gift card. Afterward we had a late dinner at nearby Black Iron Burger before heading home.

Saturday, January 09, 2016

First post of 2016

First post of 2016, so it's time to recap the holidays.

But first I'll mention that I had a lovely day yesterday with Puck's sister Ella and her daughter Maya, who is nearly 3 years old now. As I've mentioned before, Maya already recognizes me as a member of the family but this was the first time we've actually had any real playtime together. The three of us went out to the beach and scared seagulls, drew in the sand and made this face in the sand with seashells.

As long-time blog readers know, it's been more than a decade since I've had a child present in any part of my life. Having fun with Maya felt like reaching deep into a long-dormant part of my personality and waking it up a bit. There's so many things I've learned and forgotten over the years about raising children. I'm actually looking forward to dredging some of that up as more of my dearest have children of their own.

Anyway, now to catch up on the holidays. On Yule the winter solstice I went to see Star Wars TFA at 9:30 am by myself at the AMC Prime theater at the Empire 25 on 42nd Street. It's my first time in the premium AMC theater and it was okay, but I wasn't super-impressed. I felt the sound was a little overblown and fatiguing, but the picture was perfect. The seats were also comfy, but there wasn't enough legroom for me to fully recline (which I probably wouldn't do anyway since I might fall asleep). But I wanted to see it before Katie M came over that evening because I knew she'd want to talk about it, and we did. I explained the whole "George Lucas loves to tinker/Han shot first" controversy and showed her clips from different versions of Episode 4 to illustrate.

Christmas Eve was a quiet evening at TSMC with Puck watching Ben-Hur, the first time they've seen this classic. It's one of my top 3 all-time favorite movies, and my 50th anniversary restored Blu Ray looked fabulous on the projection screen.

Christmas Day I spent making a bourbon bread pudding and bringing it over to my friends Jennifer and Tam's place on 23rd Street for their party. I met Jennifer's other partner who is visiting from the UK and many of their friends in the Burning Man community. They have a gorgeous top-floor apartment with a view of the Empire State Building and the new United Nations building that's under construction. We went up on the roof for a bit and watched oddball movies like The Ref and Rent while other people sang karaoke in the adjoining room. I ended the night walking home at around 2 am in the brisk cold air.

On the Sunday after Christmas I had a day with Chrissy and Rob, her West coast husband (although not for long, as he is planning to move here soon). I met Rob briefly at Poly Cocktails on Chrissy's last birthday, but this is the first time we've had a chance to actually get to know each other. We met up at an Ethiopian restaurant (their first time having such food and they said they enjoyed it) and then meandered through Riverside Park for about 20 blocks up to 72nd Street. We took the subway back down to Union Square and saw Star Wars (their first time, my second) and then said goodbye as I stayed to watch The Revenant.

The next day I had lunch with Lori before heading down to Staten Island to join up with Puck's family for a trip to Glen Rock, NJ, to visit Puck's eldest sister's husband's family home for his 40th birthday. We had a splendid dinner of roasted chicken and herbed fingerling potatoes, mushrooms, green bean casserole, salads and the most extravagant French patisserie desserts, followed by a screening of The Bourne Identity. It was the first time I'd visited his family's home where he grew up.

Afterward we stopped by Ella's friend's home nearby. They have two older children so we played with them and Maya while the adults had tea. As we were leaving it started to sleet but not too badly. I was trying to get to Secaucus but we couldn't find it on GPS so I ended up dropping myself off at the ferry terminal to go back into Manhattan while everyone else continued home, since I had a lunch the next day.

Lunch was with my friend Kara at Bareburger, my first visit there. I met Kara after the Pride March this past year when she joined us for a post-march supper at Good Times Diner and met up with Storm there. This time around she brought two of her friends (one of whom said he'd met me at a bowling event some years ago) and Storm came later. It was a nice lunch, although I did have to remind the fellow about consensual hugging and it gave me an opportunity to teach group hug protocol. I'm going to keep at this until it becomes the standard.

The next evening was the day before New Year's Eve and Puck and I had a hard time getting out of Times Square to get home for their mom's 60th birthday. Fifth Avenue had been closed off for an NYPD funeral, and some bus routes were already affected by NYE traffic control. We got stuck in the Rockefeller Center area long enough to watch the Saks Fifth Avenue lightshow, which was beautiful this year.

We managed to finally catch an express bus and make it to the restaurant directly from the bus, where we had a traditional Russian banquet feast, punctuated by toasts and dancing. I even gave my own toast, which is a first for me at these family events that I've been attending for many years now.

Even though I was coming back the very next day, I went home after the party since Puck's house was filled with guests and I didn't want to have to compete for bed space two nights in a row. So I turned right around the next day and made my way through the barricade in Times Square at 2 pm to get down to Staten Island again for the big NYE bash. When I got there Maya was having a grand time re-enacting a scene from the movie My Neighbor Totoro when the little girl Mai wakes up Totoro while lying on his belly.

I presented Maya and her cousin Kyra with a New Year's gift: a set of Neurosmith Music Blocks that I found at the Met Store when I bought my annual Angel Tree ornament. This was one of my favorite kid toys I'd bought years ago so I was probably more excited than the girls to play with it again. It may be a few years before they get interested in this particular toy.

Although I didn't realize it was a costume party, I happened to wear an outfit of white dots and sparkly pants that suggested a starry night, so I declared my costume to be "The Cosmos." There was the usual banquet of food, and this year it was mostly Mediterranean and Indian food with some homemade salads.

After dinner Puck called for everyone to write down something they wanted to leave behind in the old year and something they wanted to take forward into the new year. Guests were invited to burn one or the other (or both) as a symbol of destroying the negative things or releasing the positive intentions.

Once that was done, the champagne was handed out and we greeted the New Year with toasts and kisses, followed by an appearance by Grandfather Frost and his partner, who handed out presents to everyone. I got a wonderful illustrated book called "World Without Fish" by Mark Kurlansky, who wrote "Cod" and "Salt," two of my favorite non-fiction books. I gave Puck an illustrated book called "Radioactive" about Marie and Pierre Curie. We played a few rounds of charades as people started to drift away from the party, and then Puck and I prepared the couch and an air mattress for ourselves and our guests. It wasn't quite as big a crowd as we were expecting, so everyone got a good night's sleep to usher in the new year.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015 in review

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes - how do you measure a year? It's been a most unusual year in 2015, the first time since 2009 that I've been out of work, and now the longest stretch of non-employment since I started working full-time back in 1991. So while it's been a restful and rejuvenating break for me, I'm also a bit disappointed that I haven't done very much to improve myself. If I'd have known I was going to be not working for so long, I think I would have set a few more personal goals. I guess that's why people take sabbaticals.

To me, the highlight of the year was the wedding of Chris and Bruce in September, my first time as a bridesmaid ("A bridesmaid's tale" - Sept. 16, 2015) and as such, the corsage of dried flowers I wore that day is the ornament that represents 2015 on my holiday tree.

Chris was one of the first persons I connected with online in my new life (predating even Tara) and is thus my longest-standing friend besides the six holdover friends from my old life (Pearl, Linda, Meredith, Norm, Meador and Agnieszka Prime). The night before the wedding I posted a blurb about us on Facebook:

In 2004, I met a 15-year-old kid who lived about 1,700 miles away. We were both going through difficult times that would have life-altering repercussions. We showed each other that love and friendship can flourish regardless of age, culture and distance, illuminating both our darkest hours and our most joyous occasions. Never in my wildest dreams did I think that more than a decade later, I'd be sitting in her guest room on the eve of her wedding day and preparing to witness her next transition, from a soloist to a duet in the chorus of life. We've come a long way together, and we've only just begun.

But in addition to the long-planned wedding, 2015 will be best known for the curveball of starting the year with one set of expectations and having them completely derailed barely a month into the year. It seems such a distant memory that this year started with a plan for Piper and me to become roommates and we were just about to begin visiting potential apartments when I got the surprise at work on February 2nd.

For the first two months of unemployment, my body decided it was time to cash in all the missed sick day chips over the past five-plus years working at Nearing. In fact, I was so ill that I couldn't attend the funeral of Puck's grandmother Zoya, who passed away on MLK Day in January. However, being under the weather didn't completely stop me from having fun. I managed to make it out to the Met to see Don Giovanni with Kristina on Valentine's Day (we were both pretty sick) and I hosted another epic Oscar Night party with help from Piper and Liz. Victoria barely edged out Piper to tie with me and take first prize.

In April I helped celebrate birthdays for two of my dearest, Liz and Kacey. Liz's 30th birthday was an extravaganza feast at The Cannibal, where I had my second whole roasted pig of the year (the first was a suckling pig at Pig & Khao with Lori and her friends back in January). Liz's family and friends came up from Houston to help celebrate so I got to meet her parents and sister for the first time. Kacey planned a yoga party in Prospect Park, but it was so cold and windy that we had to use my picnic blanket as a makeshift shelter instead. But it was a lovely intimate group of people and we still had a fun and memorable day.

May was the bittersweet highlight of the year with my first real trip to Chicago - Puck and I helped move Kristina out to the Windy City for a fresh start ("Eating through Chicago" - May 8, 2015). I got to cross off a few culinary bucket list items (Lou Malnati's pizza, Al's Italian Beef and Superdawg) and see many of the key tourist sites. But I was sad to see Kristina exit from my day-to-day life, as we'd gotten quite close over the past two years.

In June, Katie M and Sylwia helped me organize Open Love NY's first march in the New York City Pride March, and we had a great turnout of about 40 people. It's probably the first time since 2009 that the polyamorous community has been represented in the march. I met several new people that day, but the one who is most significant at this point in time is Chrissy, who carried one of my signs during the march. She and I have become friends, and I'm currently mentoring her to become a leader for Open Love NY.

In July and into August I took trips to Harrisburg for Chris' bachelorette party and to Philadelphia with Lori, ("Adventures in Pennsylvania" - August 3, 2015) after visiting the same two destinations earlier in the year (with Katie M to pick out bridesmaid dresses, and with Puck to visit ex-coworkers in Philly). Then in September we had the wedding and in October Liz and I rounded up friends to go apple picking again, reprising our fabulous 2013 adventure. I also continued my Free Love Letter project with 10 requests, same as last year, and eight of them first-timers.

It was also in October that I went to the Pennsylvania Ren Faire with Puck, Natalia and Chris. Katie M and I had a beautiful trip up to Springwood, rounding out the month's outdoor adventures ("The great outdoors" - Nov. 3, 2015).

In November Puck celebrated their 25th birthday in style with several events, and I presented them with a trio of stuffed Totoro animals in addition to a trip to the Intrepid Museum. For the second year in a row, I had the privilege of spending Thanksgiving with Chris and her family in Harrisburg. Later in the month, Kacey and I took our first road trip together, visiting Lourdes and Illona in Boston ("Sweet November" - Nov. 30, 2015). Even as I write this tonight, Illona and Tom are in the hospital right now meeting their firstborn, so I'm sending good thoughts to them.

Overall, this has been a highly unusual year without the structure and routine of work. I've crammed just about as much fun as I prudently could into my life, and I've also been going on job interviews but so far without success, although I feel I've gotten to the final handful of candidate on one or two opportunities.

I've also gotten to see several wonderful shows on Broadway this year (Aladdin, Finding Neverland, Fun Home, Spring Awakening, The King and I, Airline Highway) as well as smaller shows my friends have put on, or have had friends in (The Skin of Our Teeth, Play On!, Eleven Reflections on September, Kafka's Belinda, Veritas, Songbird). I've attended two spectacular concerts (Diana Krall at the Beacon and Steven Wilson at Sony Playstation Theater).

With my closest friends I've completed first seasons of "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" and "Heroes" this year, and we are well into the second seasons on both. I've read all the Horatio Hornblower novels by C. S. Forester and completed Bill Willingham's run on the comic Fables. I watched the entire seasons of "Game of Thrones," "Sense8," "Daredevil," "Jessica Jones," "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt," "The L Word" and others.

Obviously, I'm looking for more changes in 2016. A new job, hopefully in the city, and new experiences in my professional life. But I love my intentional family and the friends I have around me. If anything this year has been about them, and strengthening my connections with all of them, near and far. I continue to be profoundly grateful for all my many blessings in this intentional life.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Holiday ramp-up

Picking up from my last entry, I've been seeing even more of Liz, Josh and others who are closest to me. Liz hosted an Ugly Mug / Housewarming Party on the 11th, her first party in her new apartment. So when I went to my women's group meeting that Tuesday, I stopped at several thrift stores in the area to find an ugly mug - mine had a ceramic rabbit molded into the well of the mug with one of its ears broken off.

Thursday Puck and I had a double date with Kacey and Becker to see The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 2 at our usual theater in Battery Park. We had a quick bite at the Shake Shack and afterwards walked along the Hudson back to their place before saying goodnight. Then the next night we went to Liz's party, which was also attended by the usual suspects Josh, Victoria, Lytle and Michelle, plus a bunch of new people. After opening a couple of cool mugs and getting them stolen from me, I wound up with a FDNY mug for the evening - poorly played on my part. At least I did better than Puck, who got stuck with a Duck Dynasty mug!

That weekend I stayed home to read "Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets" and watch some of the movies to prepare for a Harry Potter trivia night that Katie M invited me to on Tuesday. She's been dealing with a death in the family so I hadn't seen her in nearly a month.

But first on Monday was Poly Cocktails, where I was meeting up with Chrissy to introduce her to O Man as part of the Open Love NY mentoring process. Chrissy actually ran into a former co-worker and they both discovered that each other is poly. As the bar got crowded she and I left to get a late dinner at a nearby gastropub called Set LES that was charming as it was uncrowded. We sat in the corner table and had some sliders and drinks, and possibly because it was so empty, the waitress brought over free shots of Jameson to thank us for coming in.

Tuesday's trivia game was held at Professor Thom's near Union Square and it was a lot noisier and chaotic than it should have been, but then I've never been to a trivia night before. Katie ordered a Butter Beer, which was made with vanilla flavored vodka, and a huge plate of nachos. Even though we had some HP experts on our team (our friend Amelia, her Rocky Whore-r castmate Bella-Carolina and two people I've not met before, Jacquelyn and Caroline) we didn't score perfect enough to even get to the tiebreaker of any of the four rounds. Not that I expected to win, but it was a bit frustrating.

Wednesday I visited the Manhattan (Harlem) Costco for the first time to stock up on supplies for TSMC events last week. I also got some baking supplies for Liz - 20 pounds of flour, 10 pounds of sugar and a liter of olive oil. Natalia and I finished our Fast & Furious series with Furious 7 on Thursday, then she came back to watch Star Wars IV and V with me and Puck on Friday. Saturday we hosted both Matt and Natalia for Star Wars II, III and VI.

Sunday I met up with Josh and Liz to deliver the groceries and have brunch at a brand new gastropub called Treadwell Park. Liz found it while searching for a venue for work, and it was recently written up in the New York Post. I had a very acceptable eggs Benedict and we shared a giant pretzel that was as big as a frying pan. The atmosphere is unusually open for New York, with ping pong tables, pinball machines and communal dining tables. The big negative was the women's bathrooms, which Liz and I both felt was lacking.

Monday morning I woke up early with Puck and I went to see the new Star Wars movie because Katie M had seen it on Sunday and she was coming over that evening. Even for a 9:30 am Monday show in the premium theater, the auditorium was almost full. I enjoyed it a lot and I'm glad I saw it before anything was spoiled for me because there are a lot of spoil-worthy things in that movie.

Katie and I had a good time talking about the movie and about the positives and negatives of George Lucas before we finished our Star Trek trilogy by watching Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. That is one advantage Star Wars has over Star Trek - because it's a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, the Star Wars movies don't get dated the same way that the Star Trek movies do. Nevertheless, I am looking forward to seeing what Justin Lin does with the rebooted franchise when Star Trek Beyond comes out next summer.

Monday, December 07, 2015

Storytelling, Star Wars, Songbird and Spring Awakening

It's actually been a fairly busy first week in December so instead of waiting until the end of the month as I've been doing, I'd better post sooner.

After Monday night's episodes of "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" with Puck and Natalia, Puck and I ventured to Brooklyn Tuesday night for a new event called "Take Two Storytelling" at a bar called C'mon Everybody. Puck went to school with one of the organizers, and we met Kelli Dunham, one of the storytellers, at a Poly Pride rally several years ago.

The idea behind Take Two Storytelling is that people take a true story and tell two versions - one the way it actually happened, the other where they rewind time to make it all turn out differently. You tell what happens when you take the other fork in the road, right the wrongs or wrong the rights, say what you could have said, do what you could have done, flip to a different page in the choose your own adventure. The event tied in nicely with the book we just finished reading this week, one of my childhood favorites called "A Necklace of Fallen Stars" where one of the characters is a storyteller.

On Wednesday I planned to help Chelsea move a dresser with Yoshi, but a few minutes before I was to leave, I discovered that my GPS died. So I had to scramble to print a map to get me to the destination, and I relied on Chelsea's smartphone to get us to her home. But after we finished moving the dresser and we parted, it took me almost an hour to get out of Brooklyn and into Manhattan, and even then only with phone help from Puck.

I planned to go back to TSMC and get stuff to bring to Staten Island, but I didn't realize that the Rockefeller Center tree was being lit that night, so when I finally got close to home the entire area was cordoned off and police were everywhere. I couldn't turn on my street so I decided to give up and head back to SI. I was calling Puck to let them know my status when a cop started yelling at me to get off the phone and he smacked my window a couple times, very hard. Obviously I wasn't going anywhere fast and it rattled me - I hung up the phone immediately. But then I nearly hit a pedestrian in a crosswalk because I was so shaken by the incident. By the time I got back to Puck's place I was nearly in tears and I couldn't wait to get home.

Thursday night Angel invited me out to see her play for The Snarks, a theater company, called "Play On!" It was hands-down the funniest play I've ever seen! The play is about, well, the making of a play - Act One takes place at a rehearsal of "Murder Most Foul," three days prior to opening night. Act Two is the dress rehearsal the night before the opening, and Act Three is opening night. The play cleverly sows the seeds of chaos throughout the rehearsals and everything that can go wrong does go wrong on opening night. Of all the plays I've seen in New York, only a few select Shotz performances have made me laugh harder than I did Thursday night!

I spent Friday night alone to relax and put up my holiday tree, including this year's ornament: the dried flower corsage I wore at Chris and Bruce's wedding. On Saturday, I hosted the second half of the Star Wars "Machete" cycle with Katie and Lillian, and their friends Carolyn, Rebecca and Jen. For food I made my curry chicken salad and stuffed it inside mini pitas to make finger sandwiches. Rebecca asked for the recipe but I've only made it twice so I'm still working out the exact proportions - but it's mostly seasoned to taste anyway. So here is the basic recipe:

Mischa's version of Ess-a-Bagel's Curry Chicken Salad

2 pounds chicken breast fillets
1 cup cashews halves or sliced almonds
1 cup golden raisins
1 cup chopped celery (use the tender hearts and chop to about Tic Tac size)
1/2 cup chopped green onions
1/2 cup capers
2-3 cups mayonnaise
3 tablespoons curry powder
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 teaspoon habanero or cayenne chili powder
Salt and pepper

1. Boil chicken for about 30 minutes, then cool and cut into chunks (about grape sized).

2. Mix the mayonnaise and dry spices together in a large bowl until well blended. Add all other ingredients and toss. Adjust seasoning to taste.

3. Cover and refrigerate at least an hour before serving.

Sunday I spent the whole day with Liz, which was a treat because we haven't seen each other in months, since the apple picking trip in early October by my reckoning. We met up at Amali Sustainable Mediterranean Restaurant for brunch, where we both got a very appetizing shakshuka, which is baked‎ eggs, tomato, chilies, feta cheese and grilled pita wedges. I've made this dish once before at home based on a recipe in the New York Times but this version was much better. I might try to reverse-engineer this one next.

We poked our heads into Dylan's Candy Bar for just a moment, then went to Sprinkles cupcakes for dessert (Katie M introduced me to my first Sprinkles just last week). Then we made our way to the 59th Street Theater to see the closing performance of Songbird, a musical play set in Nashville and based on Chekhov's "The Seagull." The music and lyrics were by Lauren Pritchard, who originated the role of Ilse in the Broadway musical, Spring Awakening (which we were to see later that same night).

The show and especially the music were fantastic, even though I didn't particularly like the ending, which I attribute to the characteristically bleak Russian source material. It reminded me a lot of the Broadway musical Once, which I saw back in 2013 when I experienced a renaissance in my musical interests. Since this was their final show, we even got treated to an extra song by the composer and cast post-curtain. Liz's friend and cast member Eric told us after the show that they might do a cast recording at some point, but in the meantime, most of the songs were performed by the cast on YouTube - here's my favorite, Cry Me a River.

We walked back to TSMC (getting caught in the Rockettes RCMH show crowd for a bit) to have tea and snacks before heading to the 7:30 pm performance of Spring Awakening. Our seats were high in the rear mezzanine but since it wasn't crowded we moved down several rows at intermission. The show was enjoyable with several high points, but overall I actually liked Songbird's music and story better, despite the conclusion. The Broadway show was flashy and had interesting visuals, but I had trouble following the story and keeping the characters straight - probably in part due to being so far from the stage. At Songbird we were in the fourth or fifth row of a much smaller theater.

This week I am once again busy four of five nights, so I'll probably need to post next weekend as well. In addition to lots of fun stuff, I also have a second interview with a big company tomorrow, and possibly another second interview with another company later in the week. Maybe this time one of them will turn into a job offer.