Thursday, March 26, 2015

Shut Up and Write update

I joined this Meetup group called Shut Up and Write, and it's been a good impetus to get started on the project for The Conversation, Storm's artistic endeavor. And with this new Bluetooth keyboard combined with my Kindle Fire, I can even do a little blogging with my extra time.

Picking up on the last entry, the trip to Philly was quick but fun. Puck did a much more thorough recap on their blog if you want all the details - no point in writing again about it. The following Saturday I went to my friend Loli's 50th birthday party at her penthouse apartment in Jersey City. It was a splendid affair, and I met many of Loli's friends outside the women's group, and her family, plus her husband (of whom I've heard so much about). The only big downside is that it was so foggy that day that the view of Manhattan across the Hudson River, which would have otherwise been panoramic, was completely obscured.

After the birthday cake was served, Loli loaned me some Laurie Anderson CDs and I took my leave so I could get a little rest before meeting up with Katie B for the Diana Krall concert at the Beacon Theater. I was there with Lori late last year for Tori Amos but it was Katie's first time there. I bought a vinyl copy of her latest release, Wallflower, and we went up to take our seats.

The concert itself was wonderful, very jazzy and upbeat compared to most of her recording catalog. At one point she paused in a show of indecision on what to play next and a lady sitting one row behind us sang out, "I've got you under my skin!" which brought a laugh from the audience. Diana responded from the stage, "How does the rest of that go ...?" to which the lady called, "You know better than I do, girl!" It was a very funny impromptu moment in a concert that was otherwise very reserved and polite. After the concert Katie and I went for a bite at the same Szechuan restaurant behind the Beacon that Lori and I went to before Tori Amos, and then said goodnight.

Sunday night I headed down to Staten Island because Yoshi was developing engine trouble and I wanted to get it taken care of before my trip to Harrisburg with Katie M. I dropped him off Monday morning at the Honda dealer on SI and rented a car to run errands. I went to Costco and renewed my membership there so I could get an eye exam and look for glasses. Plus I knew that Yoshi would need new tires, so I checked those out too. I went to a couple other stores and then home to wait for a call, but it never came. Finally after trying to reach the dealership, I finally got a call saying they haven't diagnosed the problem yet, but they would call me as soon as they got in in the morning.

Morning came and still no word, even after repeated attempts and messages. Finally around midday I got them on the line and they STILL had not fully diagnosed the problem. I lost my temper and told them I was coming to pick him up and unless they had an answer by the time I arrived, I would be taking him elsewhere. When I got there, they said the problem was the coils and spark plugs, which all needed to be replaced at a cost of nearly $1,000. I said forget it, and they had the grace not to charge me the typical diagnostic fee of $160.

I parked Yoshi near my apartment and woke up at 6:30 am the next morning to drive him carefully out to Princeton to visit the Honda dealer out there. I met with Jennifer, my usual advisor, and she set me up with a free loaner vehicle (contrast with SI, where I had to pay for a rental), so I went to Costco and found my new glasses (the optical advisor was very nice, and she used to work at the Wayne store, so it's possible she's seen me before). I also visited the Princeton Record Exchange, of course, and strolled around Palmer Square a bit, enjoying the sunshine. So it was a very pleasant change from dealing with the service people in SI. I drove into Manhattan to meet up with Puck and Katie B at the writing meetup, where we were the only three to attend. I also gave Katie a mix CD of some of Diana Krall's songs we heard at the concert. After that was done, Puck and I drove back to SI for the night.

Yoshi's engine problem turned out to be less serious than the SI Honda dealer said it was, requiring one coil to be replaced for about $200, but they also found that the bushings on his front suspension were cracked, so those had to be replaced for more than $600, so it turned out to be close to $1,000 anyway. Add another $500 for four new tires from Costco, and it was quite a lot of money to drop on a 15-year-old minivan. But like the situation with my apartment, I'm not ready to give up Yoshi yet until I find out where I will be working next.

Last Saturday Katie M met me at the ferry terminal to head down to SI to get Yoshi - we crossed paths briefly with Puck and their parents, who were on their way to Baltimore. We stopped at a White Castle for lunch - Katie's first time there - and then continued to Chris and Bruce's home in Harrisburg. We took a rest and then headed to 2nd & Charles, that great secondhand media store that has the most organized collection of used vinyl I've ever seen.

For dinner, Chris made grilled sea scallops, asparagus and parsley linguine alfredo, and I brought a very dry Proseco and a bottle of Pavan, a sweet French liqueur (beautiful website, btw) made from muscat grapes and orange blossoms, which we mixed with the sparkling wine. After dinner we had our Mario Kart challenge on the downstairs projector, and predictably, I was last in every race. Chris and Bruce traded first and second places, and Katie acquitted herself well, at least finishing ahead of me.

The next morning Chris made bacon and eggs for breakfast, and then we went to meet Eva at the bridal shop, leaving Bruce to work on his school project. Katie graciously modeled the dresses for us, since she was the closest in size to the dresses they had on the rack, and we found one that we thought was at least as nice as the one from Cocoa Couture. So that will be the one we go with, as we are running out of time until the September wedding date. We puttered around the Park City Mall for a bit looking at shoes and cosmetics before saying goodbye to Eva and going home to pack for the trip back to New York.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Oscar weekend 2015

It's been an amazing and fun Oscar weekend, and I'm especially grateful for it because I've been so sick with this sinus infection up until now that I was worried I wouldn't be able to enjoy all the plans I'd made.

Last weekend Kristina and I had a low-stress Valentine's Day together by seeing Don Giovanni at the Metropolitan Opera. We were actually both pretty sick, but we powered through together with plenty of cough drops and tissues. Thankfully we had Dress Circle box seats so we weren't packed in with people around us. The opera was excellent, and I loved the climactic special effects with fire and the title character being swallowed up by the floor.

Last week I tried to get to see the doctor but I had to wait until Wednesday to get an appointment since Monday was Presidents Day. So basically all I did was blast through all four seasons of Game of Thrones, resting and taking antibiotics to get healthy for this weekend. And that was fun, I'm really looking forward to the new season starting in April.

I woke up at 6 am on Saturday because of my cough and couldn't get back to sleep, so I went down to the theater at 7:45 to stand in line. The doors were still locked, so there was a line forming outside of about 20 people already in sub-freezing morning temperatures. By the time Puck joined me in line at close to 9 am, there were hundreds of people in line halfway down the avenue block. But we got in, got our preferred seats in the smaller of the two theaters and waited for the others to join us. Apparently the larger theater was sold out, so there were a lot of arguments over saving seats. I'm glad I didn't have to deal with that because it would have soured the whole experience for me. As it turned out we had several friendly people around us and it made it pleasant for everyone.

So here's my take on this year's eight nominees for Best Picture, in the order we watched them.

Boyhood - Despite the prosaic subject matter, I really enjoyed this movie for its authenticity and its lack of pretentiousness. Interestingly, even though part of it was filmed in Houston, it didn't bring back very many memories of my old life, which is a testament to how involved I was in the story. Piper, Ben and I marveled at how they seamlessly combined footage from over such a long time period, a technical challenge that I'm sure many audience members may have overlooked.

The Theory of Everything - This was a lovely little film, and Eddie Redmayne deserves his Oscar for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking, even though this is clearly an Oscar-bait kind of role, a la Daniel Day-Lewis in My Left Foot. My only critique is that it didn't quite hit me emotionally at the end. I was hoping for a "A Beautiful Mind" kind of moment that brings tears and it didn't quite get there.

Birdman - This was the only movie I'd seen prior to the showcase, so I took a little nap in the second half. I still think it's an impressive movie and I don't have a problem with it winning (although my Oscar pick was Boyhood). The best thing I can say about Birdman is that it is an unusually strong ensemble cast of actors and performances.

Selma - This was also a highly enjoyable, if a bit sedate, film about the civil rights struggle, and immediately takes it place as THE movie to watch on MLK Day every year. Because there seriously weren't that many great options before. The story was well told, but the whole movie was just a touch slow (behind the beat, to borrow from co-nominee Whiplash). But certainly the march scenes reminded me of the protest marches I've been a part of in the last few years and how we still have such a long way to go in the struggle for freedom and equality.

American Sniper - I liked this movie more than I thought I would, but then I'm a fan of Clint Eastwood movies. This was the only movie of the showcase that made me tear up at the end, watching Chris Kyle's funeral and the outpouring of grief and respect. Yes, politically the movie is pretty awful with the way it treats Arabs and glorifies war. It also reminded me a lot of Ridley Scott's "Black Hawk Down," or what it could have aspired to be. But American Sniper told the story it wanted to tell, and it did it well. Bradley Cooper and Sienna Miller were both excellent in their roles.

The Imitation Game - This was probably the most entertaining movie of the bunch. Another movie that conjured up "A Beautiful Mind" for me, this was a thrilling, intelligent and enjoyable portrayal of the true and tragic story of Alan Turing. Just about the only thing I didn't like about this movie was the downer, yet unfortunately also true, ending. In fact, Puck was so upset that they started collecting lists of LGBT movies with happy endings for us to start watching.

Whiplash - This was the movie I was most looking forward to seeing, and it also did not disappoint. But since I used to play drums and Tara was an elite-level drummer, I have a familiarity with the subject. I loved the pace of this movie, the music, the acting and musical performances, and the whole look of the film. The ending was unexpected, but very satisfying to me - I think it works for a fictional story, even if it is a little problematic for a real life one.

The Grand Budapest Hotel - This movie is pure Wes Anderson at the top of his game, and since Piper and I are in the middle of a WA marathon, I was thoroughly prepared for this movie. It was pure eye candy and a non-stop narrative, plus I'm a big fan of Ralph Fiennes. I can offer no better praise than to say that, after watching seven movies and having been awake for nearly 22 hours, I didn't fall asleep at all during this gem of a film.

This year Puck, Beth, Andrea and Ben joined Piper and me for the marathon and it was nice having the company. The only downside is that the event seems to be getting so popular that it is in danger of degradation. They also didn't have posters this year, which was a disappointment, and the t-shirts didn't include the nominees on them. But it was a strong field of films so it was totally worth it. If next year's nominees don't interest me as much, I'd consider skipping it for 2016.

Puck and I got home at 5:30 am and slept until early afternoon before they went off to visit a museum with their shul and I watched a Rockets game and cleaned up the apartment. Once they got back we started preparing food for the party. Our Oscar-pun inspired menu included:

The Imitation Crab dip with Theory of Everything bagel chips

The Grand Budapesto stuffed shells
Birdman chicken wings

DoughBoyhood stuffed rolls
American Snapper sugar snap peas with bacon
Selma-lina pasta salad

Mixed berries with coolWhiplash
Selma Alabama Fudge Cake

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

A slow start to 2015

Happy 2015! Hard to believe this is my first official post of the year, but it's been a pretty slow month for me. I got sick a couple of times (once from eating too much roast pork, the other time from a nasty cold) and that has curtailed my social schedule a bit. But there have been some significant events I want to document.

The second Saturday of this month I met up with Piper, her mom Karen and her boyfriend Ben at Great Jones Cafe for dinner, then we went to a bar called Hill & Dale for drinks. Then we all went back to Ben's apartment and they played Cards Against Humanity while I observed and left early to go home. I figured since Piper and I are planning to be roommates, it would be a good idea to meet her mom - it was Ben's first meeting her as well. So it was nice to add Piper to the short list of friends (Puck, Katie B, Chris, Kacey & Becker) whom I've met their parents.

The following weekend, Puck and I attended Katie’s 25th birthday party, along with six other guests – all women from Bryn Mawr, Katie’s alma mater. For a present, I gave her the 1978 paperback copy of “The Tolkien Reader” that I found in the stacks at Papacookie - last year, I'd given her a new copy of Tolkien's "Unfinished Tales," so it's kind of a thing. I also gave her a card that said something like, “For your birthday, I wish you rainbow kisses, teddy bear hugs… but watch out for unicorns. They’d just as soon gore you as look at you.”

After a dinner at a Turkish restaurant near St. Marks, we set out to look for a bar to continue the party. After striking out at a couple places, I suggested going to the Boxcar, where I had visited for Lytle's birthday ("Thanksgiving 2014" - December 3, 2014) and it turned out to be a good choice. So I was happy to contribute to a successful birthday party for one of my dearest friends.

The next day I had some wonderful one-on-one time with Liz. She helped me take down my tree and put away the ornaments, and then we disconnected the sofa sectional and moved furniture around to prepare for my Women's Poly Group the next evening. We went out to Kung Fu Ramen on 8th Ave, and then to Amy's Bread for cake, which we brought home to eat. Then she went home to get ready for her performance with Josh reviewing "Return of the Living Dead" at the PIT that evening, where Victoria and I met up and watched from the audience. 

The next day, Puck's grandmother Zoya passed away at the age of 90, the third grandparent to go in just over a year. What an awful string of bad luck their family has endured, what with Sandystorm destruction and now losing so many people in succession. And then the next day I fell ill with a severe cold that kept me home for three days and caused me to miss Zoya's funeral. I spent most of Saturday in Staten Island helping to sort through all the leftover effects to make room for more stuff coming from Zoya's apartment.

At least the next generation seems to be doing well, with Maya growing into a beautiful little girl and Kira starting to get bigger. On Saturday, Puck and I taught Maya the single fist-bump, and she apologized to me in English at the dinner table for splashing me with borscht, which was super-cute. She kind of reminds me of Pearl a bit, although I didn't really get to know Pearl until she was 5.

Otherwise, I've just been recovering from my cold. Piper, Liz and I came up with the menu for the Oscar party, and Piper, Puck and I have our tickets to see the Best Picture Showcase marathon on the 21st. Andrea is going to join us too, so it will be a nice group of people like last year when Josh came. But the entire month of February is going to be packed with events (plus our apartment search) leading up to that final weekend, so I'm just resting up to get ready for it.

Friday, January 02, 2015

2014 Christmas ornament

As longtime blog readers know, each year I choose a single ornament for my Christmas tree to represent the year. In addition, I also get the annual Angel ornament from the Metropolitan Museum, which I did back on the 22nd when I visited the Met with Kacey. We met at her favorite Miro ("Photo - that is the colour of my dreams") and went to see the Holiday Tree before having a late lunch in the Members Dining Room. Afterwards we met up with Becker in the crowded insanity of Rockefeller Center to watch the lightshow and window displays at Saks Fifth Avenue.

It felt right to close out the year with them for the holidays since we started this year with their wedding. And as I said in my post back in January, the corsage Kristina made for me for the wedding now serves as my 2014 ornament, representing this joyful milestone.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

2014 in review

When I ended my year-end post from last year, it was with a quote from Frank Herbert’s novel Dune"Without change, something sleeps inside us, and seldom awakens. The sleeper must awaken." The changes I thought might happen at the beginning of 2014 didn't happen the way I expected, but instead led me in other, unexpected directions.

The year 2014 started out with Kacey and Becker's wedding, where I was asked to emcee the reception and gave a toast along with the rest of the wedding party. There were a lot of firsts for me - my first bachelorette party, my first time participating in a wedding as anything other than a guest, and my first meetings with Kacey's and Becker's parents and extended family, plus many of their friends (Jonathan, Emily Dawn, Kirsten, Deborah, Amanda) I hadn't met before.

The three of us embarked on an apartment hunt that was ultimately unsuccessful, but even though we chose not to co-habitate, we remain the best of friends and they are both among the most important people in my life. And the inner work that I did to prepare myself mentally and emotionally for a move was not completely for naught, as Piper and I are discussing now the possibility of becoming roommates in 2015.

Kacey and Becker's wedding was one of two weddings (and one funeral - Puck's grandmother passed away in September) I attended this year, the second one being a much more modest affair in September when Agnieszka and Mike got married at their home in Cranbury, NJ. Speaking of family things, it was also a pleasure to finally meet Chris' family in Harrisburg over Thanksgiving, the first time I've spent the holiday with anyone outside Puck's family.

This year also marked the start of events at Hancock Street, a new Papacookie of sorts hosted by Miriam, Rijard and Anna, which is a welcome artistic community in my life. This year also marked the launch of other artistic collectives by Emily Dawn (Whimsy) and Storm (The Conversation) and I was honored to be present at both. My own creative life reached some peaks this year with the success of the Unchained Love Playwright Competition showcase for Open Love NY and my annual Free Love Letters project.

My personal highlights included a trip to Coney Island with Puck, Chris and Bruce, and visits to the original Nathan's hot dog stand and Totonno's pizza parlor, plus concerts by Tori Amos (with Lori) and Lykki Li (with my coworker Jennifer), and I saw several Broadway shows and plays this year - PippenMatilda and The Real Thing with Liz, The Book of Mormon twice (with Piper and Katie B, and with Natalia), Kinky Boots with Puck, Hedwig and the Angry Inch with Kristina, and Cabaret with Beth, Andrea and Lori.

And of course I attended a great many other plays with my many theater-minded friends - The Watson Intelligence, Dutch Heart of Man, Love and Information, A Thousand Words, The Feminism of a Soft Merlot, Father Comes Home from the Wars, The Other Mozart, Bitten, NYC Icon Plays and numerous performances at the PIT and at Shotz, plus my first exposure to Murderfist and the New York Neofuturists.

Although I didn't see very many movies in the theaters this year (most of them with Kacey and Becker), I had a wonderful Oscar viewing party at Times Square Movie Club (my apartment) that Liz and Piper helped me to host. Piper and I - in addition to our annual Best Picture Marathon date (with Josh tagging along) - started the year watching horror movies for our regular one-on-one time and now we're in the midst of going through the Wes Anderson catalog. Natalia and I started a POC marathon that skewed toward the martial arts, and now we're going to try and redirect to more queer themed movies. Hopefully if I move with Piper next year, we'll have a good space for home movies the way TSMC has been.

As far as an overall theme for 2014, I think this year was probably more marked by changes in the lives of people close to me than changes in my own life. Two of my closest friends got married, and we said goodbye to a grandmother and a beloved rabbit. But I also continued down the path I started last year toward building a long-term intentional family around me, even though the path didn't wind the way I thought it might go.

For 2015, I wonder what the future brings for me and Puck, who is back in New York after being off in Stony Brook, St. Petersburg, Boston and Philly for much of the past several years. I'm also excited about the possibility of living in a new space with Piper and what changes that will mean. I look forward to another wedding in 2015, this time in Pennsylvania with Chris and Bruce, where I will be a bridesmaid for the first time ever.

But most of all, I want to recommit myself to the work of self reflection and examination that leads to personal growth and being open to change. I've been very content these last few years and it's been in many ways a wonderful break, but now it's time to get back to work. I hope that I am up to the challenge I've set myself.

Wednesday, December 03, 2014

Thanksgiving 2014

It must be something about the holidays that brings a touch of melancholy, no matter how much I tell myself that I'm doing fine. And things are generally OK with me and I had a pleasant, although a bit exhausting (due to travel) Thanksgiving in Harrisburg.

Picking up from my last entry, Piper and I had a nice dinner at Print, the restaurant on the ground floor of the Ink 48 hotel, where I had my 10th birthday party in July. We had a lovely charcuterie plate and entrees, and after dinner took a quick ride up to the roof to view the night sky, although the chill wind was a bit much, even for me.

I took 11/21 off and hung out with Kacey at her place, working on my Free Love Letters project while she organized some files. I brought my redundant iHome music box to play my iPod and left it there, since she doesn't have a stereo. When Becker returned from work we went out for soup dumplings and headed over to Storm's event entitled "The Conversation," an interdisciplinary think tank meets artist's salon of performances and idea generation. I didn't really interact with anyone besides Kacey, Becker and Storm, but it was a pleasure to meet Milah, a young actress who played Storm's daughter in a film, and Storm gave me a surprise invitation to speak for a minute at the end of the night about polyamory and safe space.

On Saturday Kristina came over to pick up an air mattress I lent her for some houseguests and we went out to Gotham West Market to have dinner at Ivan Ramen. It's a really cool place, like a food court but fancier. There's even a photo booth where we took some silly photos together.

We came back to TSMC and kept the ramen theme going by watching Tampopo before it was time for me to leave for Lytle's birthday party at Dream Baby, a bar near Tompkins Square Park. The bar was super-crowded, hot, and loud when I got there, and more people kept pouring in. I gave Lytle a quick hug and a small present, and then stepped outside for a breath of air. Liz joined me for a bit until we got too cold and went back in. Liz's friend Nancy also came, as well as Victoria.

Eventually I couldn't stay inside and went to the bar next door, Boxcar, where it was completely empty except for the bartender, Josh. When I walked in, Josh got off the phone and started to turn the music up, but I told him since I was the only person in the bar, I preferred the music down. I sat at the bar and we talked about Scotch, a topic which he had some knowledge about. He served me my first Scotch, a 12-year Macallen single malt. Eventually Liz, Nancy and Victoria joined me and we had our own little side party for the remainder of the evening.

On Wednesday before Thanksgiving I took the day off and met up with Kacey and Becker at the Upper West Side Shake Shack for a quick bite and then to watch Interstellar at the Lincoln Center IMAX theater. It was very powerful and emotional, although not gratuitously so. It was more thought-provoking than emotion-provoking.

Early Thursday I started out for Harrisburg and returned 36 hours later, which involves a subway, train, cab and car ride, then the reverse coming back. Chris' mom warmly welcomed me to her home. She made a point to genuinely thank me for being a wonderful friend to Chris, to which I replied no more than she has been to me. Chris and Bruce's new home is lovely and spacious with a comfortable guest room and a massive home theater, where we played MarioKart 8 and watched Silver Linings Playbook until it was time for bed.

Friday I attended Katie M's Friendsgiving dinner, where everyone brought tons of leftovers and I got to see Katie and Amy's apartment on the Upper East Side. The rest of the holiday weekend was filled with laundry, cooking and basketball games. I made my first soup by boiling leftover turkey bones, plus a bourbon bread pudding. Sunday evening Natalia came over to watch the first half of Red Cliff, and we finished that up last night.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Love letters

I got a whopping 10 love letter requests for my annual Free Love Letters project. This is really becoming a thing in its fourth year!

The first year, I only got one request. The next year I got three. Last year I got five. So it's growing exponentially!

I was especially pleased with the variety of people who asked for letters. It runs the gamut from my closest friends and intentional family to people I barely know. Two people I've met in person only once. Two requests are repeats from last year. There are people who used to be close to me years ago but had drifted apart. I have two requests from overseas, my first international requests. This is getting to be a global project!

So I've done four of the 10, and I guess I've done the easiest of the four. So if you're one of those wondering where your letter is, please be patient. Each letter is the result of deep reflection and research on our history in my blogs and social media sites, plus a few hours to create, package and mail the letters. I promise you will be happy with the result when it eventually comes!