Thursday, April 29, 2010

How to Start a Bad Day

First, awake from a fitful sleep and dreams (to use the term loosely) that you've already dressed, been to work, had a long day and then been late coming home.

Second, stay groggy.  It's a great way to get motivated to maneuver the challenges that lay before you.

Third, climb onto the train but make sure that the train hasn't come for a long while, that way it is exquisitely packed with the hordes of folks on their way to various jobs or schools.

Fourth, after a tumultuous, thrashing ride, squeeze through the doors and up the stairs into the brisk April air of Times Square and lumber down the street to the gym

Fifth, realize as you enter the gym that you've forgotten your keys and then be rejected from the facility (just in case you are your evil twin bent on destruction).

Sixth, give up on the gym and go on to work... it's not like you can go home without keys anyway.

Seventh, realize that through it all, you still can't believe you are here and love this city and your job regardless of the (sometimes constant) headaches you face.

And now... to actually start the rest of the day.  Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Jealous of Their Boogie

Surely you stayed tuned this season, transfixed on the drama (faux or fabulous) of RuPaul's Drag Race. This season found a new crop of queens clawing their way to the top in a desperate attempt to be crowned America's Next Drag Superstar.

At the risk of "throwing shade" (thank you Ru, for the introduction to a term I had missed somewhere along the rainbow road), I was less then thrilled with the outcome.  RuPaul's rubrik for judging the ladies was charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent (you can figure out the acronym on your own).  Based on that alone, and had I been judging, Pandora Boxx would have won the title.

Pandora Boxx
Pandora was easily the most charismatic (hell... spoiler alert... she won Miss Congeniality).  She had personality bigger than her wigs and real character (not cold or antagonistic unless provoked).  She was, hands down, the most unique (did anyone else have her sharp, singular wit?).  When told she had a lack of style (if you say so Santino) she boldly held on to her sense of flash and whimsy and that takes nerve. And ultimately she was the most talented.  Who else could serve up comedy while taking the verbal beatings she did?  (And did I mention she wore a racetrack-themed dress to the reunion?  COME ON!)

As for the winner (click here to watch the finale), all I can say is "meh".  The attitude (at least as perceived through the literal lens of the producers') was too much and I just couldn't jump on the tuck-truck.

For a behind-the-scenes look at the reunion episode check out Rich Juzwiak's post (thanks to Mark for the link).

Ok, no need to drag out this diatribe.  Enjoy the video of RuPaul's new single, "Jealous of My Boogie" featuring the top three.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Art Isn't Easy

Portrait, Goldie Hawn, 1996
I accidentally (and to my horror) left a collection of my own artwork in Alabama when I moved to NYC two years ago.  But my friend Lynn was good enough to send it to me (although I realized the other day that one painting is still in a closet at the University... gotta get it shipped ASAP).

In unpacking the artwork I really remembered how much I loved the creative process of putting pen, ink, charcoal to paper (or canvas or wood or steel).  It got me interested in creating again and I've started a new piece that (due to a mix of bad time management and frustration) has sat half finished in the living room for over a week now. Have to get back to it soon. 

The box of art was shipped to my office since it, unlike my apartment, has someone at the desk who can sign for packages in my absence.  Several coworkers gathered as I unboxed the pieces and flipped through them, remembering each piece like an old friend that I hadn't seen in years. Flipping through them I realized how fascinated I was with people, particularly faces.

Little Red and the Big Bad Wolf, 2008
One of my colleagues commented that I had a comic book sensibility about my art - even for the more realistic pieces.  I suppose that's true.  It's probably also why I love the theatre... this heightened sense of reality that is probably improbable but always a great adventure.

A full gallery is available on my Facebook page if you're curious.  Art is very personal, so even writing about it is weird to me, but I wanted to share a little of who I am that many friends do not get to see on a regular basis.

I made a valid attempt to use Picasa to upload to a web folder viewable by anyone but that failed... couldn't figure it out.  So, it's all Facebook for now.


Saturday, April 17, 2010

Terror at the Theatre (or Swings with Wings - thanks Ash!)

A little over ten years ago I was cast as a swing in Tapestry: a Review Based on the Music of Carole King at the Clarence Brown Theatre back home in Knoxville, Tennessee.  My female swing-counterpart was one of my best friends Ashley.  I'm not sure if you've ever been a swing before but, at least for us, it was possibly the most boring gig either of us had ever had the privilege to accept.

The show was very straight forward.  A couple of actors playing a couple of friends over a couple of years all to the music of a couple of Carole King songs.  Simple set, simple staging, simply Ashley and I sitting in the house taking about a page (total) of notes but mostly gossiping about the day.

Jimmy, our musical director, had taken the band to the lobby.  It was their first night all together and he wanted to run the songs without the actors so the musicians could work out any kinks.  Watching Jimmy leave with the musicians one of us turned to the other and suggested we go listen.  When musicians join the show it can be very exciting.  You're hearing the songs full-out for the first time.  You get a sense of how big the show is now that there's this other piece of the puzzle that is finally fitting into place.  Hell... we'd have been excited by dust in the sunbeams at this point.  So off we went to the lobby, trailing behind the band.  (We looked like preppy groupies tagging along behind this motley crew of student musicians.)

We listened for a while as the band made it through "So Far Away" and "You've Got a Friend" but eventually boredom struck again.  The band was getting through eight or ten measures and then stopping to correct something.  It was a little like being stuck in traffic, going five feet and then stopping again because of heavy congestion on the expressway.

"Have you ever been to the catwalks?" I asked Ashley.  She had not (as far as I remember).  "They're so scary," I said and we headed toward the open door that lead from the lobby to the stage manager's booth, then up again to the machine room and out across the catwalks that hung above the audience.  It was only a few feet behind Jimmy but he didn't notice as we walked away and into the stairwell.

Now, be assured that there was nothing unusual about the night.  We'd been to rehearsal for weeks now and nothing bizarre had happened.  But this night suddenly shifted into something very off.

We climbed up a seven or eight steps, not to the first landing, and then for some reason stopped to look back.  There was the door, wide open, lights on, Jimmy a few feet outside leading the band into "Smackwater Jack".    But something was very off and we could just feel it.  We couldn't have been looking for but a second when we saw a hand (from a body that we couldn't see because of the turn in the staircase) push the door shut.  Whether it slammed or simply clicked I can't remember.  My body froze and I could feel Ashley grip my arm from the step above.  Lights out!

"Wha...?" Ashley got out in a terrified whisper.  Someone or something had pushed the door shut and then switched off the lights leaving us in absolute darkness.  The stairwell had no windows as it was an interior climb and only a hint of light peered through the crack beneath the door.

I could feel my chest shaking.  Whatever had shut the door and turned off the lights had to be in here with us.  

"Jimmy!!" We both screamed after a minute.  Nothing.  No answer.  "JIMMY!!?"  Still nothing.

We stood silently for what seemed like minutes.  Ashley tightened her grip on my arm but I couldn't feel it.  I felt a mix of terror, exhaustion and numbness all at once.

"What do we do?" She finally asked... still hushed fearing he/she/it would hear us.

It took everything I had to get breath to talk, "Climb."  But still neither of us moved.  The thought that if we shifted even slightly that we might touch whatever was with us was too much.

A few moments passed when Ash asked, "When?"  At that we broke a little of the spell that was on us and in unison took a step up.  Then another.  Then another.  Nothing in front of us.  At least not immediately.

We hit the landing and without saying a word we both bolted, charging up the steps to the second floor fumbling over the landing and turning up to the third (and final) floor to the machine room above.  The beating in my ears sounded like footsteps behind us.  It might even have been chasing us that moment.  But still our hands reached out, praying for a doorknob and not another body.

Found it!

The door swung open.  No one was inside.  No one ever was really.  The room was an attic and housed the air conditioning system for the theatre.  It was pitch black but I knew where to go.  We hurried past giant metal boxes, all whirring and banging, air shooting past our faces as we desperately sped to the other end of the long room.  Still my heart was pounding, impersonating boots crashing quickly on the floor behind us.

For years there were rumors of this ghost or that ghost, like any theatre, and I'd seen some odd things (that's another post for another time) but no one had ever mentioned a ghost in the stairwell before.

Finally!  The doorknob that lead out of the machine room and onto the catwalks.  Even being terrified of heights I ran, Ashley following, straight across the grated metal path.  Our shoes hit the metal, clanging and rattling the rails.  It sounded like anvils falling onto sheet metal and the echo, along with the heart which was about to burst through my ribs, just reminded me that any one of those noises could be the entity behind us.

Looking down I could see the cast below us as we crossed through the small cutout in the proscenium that lead us above the stage itself.  We flew past the fly rail and finally hit the spiral staircase that lead down to the stage floor... and to safety.

I don't remember touching any of the steps.  It felt like we slid straight down leaving the terror above us. The cast was still on stage so we dashed through the stage door, into the small hall that connected to the green room and threw open the green room door and crashed onto the couches desperate for breath, for our legs to stop wobbling, for our hearts to slow down just a little.

It might have been the most terrifying night of my life... in terms of horror.  Whatever chased us didn't catch us.  We survived the fear and after half an hour couldn't help but laugh.  There's something cathartic about sharing a scary experience like that.  Ashley and I were closer... instantly.

After catching our breath we decided to rejoin the cast and headed back to the stage.

They were starting a break and heading our way as we walked through the stage door.  "Where have you two been?" one of them asked.

I looked at Ashley, "You didn't hear us running across the catwalk just now?"  She asked.

They were dumbfounded.  They just stared at us as if we just landed from Planet Crazy.

"No," they said together.  None of them heard us.  Kennedy didn't notice anything.  And when we asked Jimmy why he hadn't answered our cry for help.

"What?" He had no idea what we were talking about.  "We must have been playing loudly."  I suppose.

We explained our story to everyone... all of whom found it amazing, if not slightly unbelievable.  It didn't matter.  Ashley and I knew it happened.  We knew we'd had this terrifying and yet somehow amazing experience together.  And we knew that we would NEVER go into the stairwell alone or without a flashlight.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Goodnight Julia

I'm pretty devastated tonight... having just learned that Miss Julia Sugarbaker, Dixie Carter, passed away Saturday morning.  She, and her iconic Designing Women character, was a hero of mine.  From her epic tirades to her cool, collected charm she was the epitome of Southern class mixed in with a pinch of fiery heroics.  Enjoy this moment as we wave goodbye to her.  Goodnight Julia!

Julia (on the phone): Yes, you can give him a message. You do take shorthand, don't you? Good, we take it in the South too. Anyway, just tell him that I have been a Southerner all my life, and I can vouch for the fact the we do eat a lot of things down here... and we've certainly all had our share of grits and biscuits and gravy, and I myself have probably eaten enough fried chicken to feed a third world country - not to mention barbecue, cornbread, watermelon, fried pies, okra, and... yes... if I were being perfectly candid, I would have to admit we have also eaten our share of crow, and for all I know - during the darkest, leanest years of the Civil War, some of us may have had a Yankee or two for breakfast. But... speaking for myself and hundreds of thousands of my Southern ancestors who have evolved through many decades of poverty, strife, and turmoil, I would like for Mr. Weaks to know that we have surely eaten many things in the past, and we will surely eat many things in the future, but - God as my witness - we have never, I repeat, [shoutsnever eaten dirt!  

Thursday, April 08, 2010

How Time Warner Cable is Like Flan

Let me clarify first by stating emphatically that I detest flan.  It is somewhat fluffy and looks like it would be wonderful... then when you get your own and taste it you feel a little slimy and a lot unfulfilled.

That is precisely my experience with Time Warner Cable.

Our bill came in yesterday and, since January, it has climbed $20.  I called in to their Customer Service (a misnomer if I ever heard one) and got a very unhelpful person on the line.  I asked about the increase in my bill, which she couldn't explain, and then asked if there were any promotions that we could switch to in order to continue service and save money.  Having no answer for me she quickly transferred me to an account specialist (again, see "misnomer") who explained that I was in a Pricelock Guarantee... right, hence my confusion about the increase.

"Sir, you have a 36-month Pricelock Guarantee... that's why your bill has gone up."

"That makes no sense," I replied.  She clearly had no concept of logic.  "Besides, I have a 24-month Pricelock Guarantee.  It even says so in black-and-white on the bill in front of me."

"No, it's 36-months in our system.  You are locked into this price until November of 2011."

"Again, that makes no sense.  How has my rate gone up when I'm in a Pricelock Guarantee... and, I repeat, it is a 24-month Pricelock Guarantee.  I'd be happy to come to your office and show you my bill where it states that."

"Well, you were locked in for one year at $76 a month... but in year two that changes to $96."

"Again, you are baffling me.  Shouldn't a Pricelock Guarantee LOCK me into a rate?"  I was stumped at this point... and becoming agitated.

"Well, it was locked at one rate and then changed.  You are locked in at $96 until November of 2011."

"Or," I replied, "you could arbitrarily change my rate... right?  I mean, you did already.  And by the way, my Pricelock Guarantee is only locked in until November of this year... 24-months.  It's a hard concept, numbers and all, but I think you'll find my bill to be a legal document."

This went on for, what seemed like, hours.  Finally I asked for a supervisor and was directed to Mary.  Mary was very calm and spoke in a near-monotone voice (probably trained that way).  Mary couldn't help either.  She tried to explain that a 24-month Pricelock Guarantee was actually a 36-month Pricelock Guarantee because the 24 months start AFTER the first year of savings... WHAT!?  Again, their logic defies all.

Mary couldn't offer me any promotions and said even if she did she would have to charge me $67.50 to CANCEL my current contract and start from scratch.  This is false.  I know full-well that you can adjust your service without canceling anything.

I went further, "You realize that you're suggesting I cancel my service for a charge of $67.50... which I will consider doing, but in doing so I would certainly not start any new service with you.  The other option you have is to work WITH me, not charging me a cancellation fee, offering me some sort of deal that will both KEEP me as a customer and SAVE me money.  You would then continue to make money off of me for some years to come.  But no, you are suggesting that I just cancel, pay you less than $70 and go my merry way.  If you think it's best to not give you my money moving forward than I will certainly consider that."

Mary pointed out that I was still saving "lots of money" with Time Warner Cable... until I counterpointed that their competition was offering more services for $30 LESS a month.  She had no rebuttal.

That was the last I heard from Mary.  We parted ways and I am left to contemplate canceling cable.  Dear Hulu and Netflix... you may have found a new friend!

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Kick off the covers and grab your Fruity Pebbles...

I ran across this list of "The Best 80's Cartoons You Forgot About".  It's impressive but it it does lack a few key shows...

Dungeons and Dragons (1983)
In this cartoon adaptation of the then-popular role playing game (before RPGs became video games... although I guess you can still buy the books and dice) a group of kids are happily riding a roller coaster when they are suddenly sucked into the medieval world of Dungeons and Dragons.  (Remind me to stick to the Tea Cup ride.)  The Dungeon Master appears and acts as their guide (although he rarely really helps) and gives them each a weapon or garment identifying them as an RPG archetype for the duration of the show.  Of course, their goal is to get home as fast as possible because they can't play Frogger in a world with no electricity.

Heathcliff (1980)
Heathcliff was "the other Garfield" when I was little.  I loved Garfield and Friends but Heathcliff had much kookier adventures, which sometimes involved The Catillac Cats (riff-raff who lived in the dump and ALSO had kooky adventures).  Every week Heathcliff would "terrorize the neighborhood" "playing pranks on everyone!"

Ducktales (1987)
Part of the "Disney Afternoon", Ducktales was amazing.  I envied Huey, Dewey, and Louie because they got to go on fantastic adventures with Uncle Scrooge, Launchpad McQuack, Webby and Mrs. Beakley. There was a multi-episode storyline where Uncle Scrooge raced against Flintheart Glomgold
to maintain his status as the richest duck in the world.  It made me squeal like nobody's business when it came on.  It was the perfect mix of Indiana Jones and the Goonies... a-mah-zing!

And now for, what may be, my big favorite three (in no particular order):

Kidd Video (1985)
Kidd Video was the lead singer of a "real world" band.  In the opening sequence (see below) they wake up and hurry to Kidd's garage (I think it was his) for a practice session.  But, OH NO, Master Blaster appears in a floor length mirror (did you have one of those in your garage) and sucks them into the Flipside!  There, a fairy with terrible allergies, saves them and changes their Subaru Brat into a HUGE Kiddmobile.  Each episode involved them freeing someone from Master Blaster's clutches while trying to find a way back home.  (See Dungeons and Dragons, above, for basically the same premise.) Aye aye aye!

Count Duckula (1988)
Nickelodeon brought this one over from Great Britain (thankfully).  Set in Transylvania, the previous Count Duckula has just died and Igor the Butler brews a potion to resurrect him.  But instead of blood he grabs ketchup and when the Count revives he's a vegetarian... whoops!  Comedy ensues!  Nanny was always the scene stealer, causing havoc wherever she went (which is probably why she always wore a sling on her arm).  This one might have had the catchiest, most-disco'y theme song of all time.

Jem and the Holograms (1985)
Jerrica Benton lost her mother long before the series began and, if memory serves, looses her father right before it begins, leaving her in charge of Starlight Music and the Starlight Foundation (a home for orphaned girls).  Jerrica has a big secret though.  When necessary she can pinch her earrings and call on Syngery, a holographic computer designed by her father to be the most dazzling entertainment system ever.  Syngery can then, through holographic projection that could transmit through the air to wherever Jerrica was (I think through a transmitter in the earrings but I'm not 100% on that), transform Jerrica into Jem... rock goddess!  Jem and the Holograms (the other girls in the band, who also help run the orphanage) are constantly battling The Misfits (a dirty, heavy-metal inspired girl group) who are the minions of Eric Raymond, once half-owner of Starlight Music.

As an added bonus here's the second intro for the show (I vaguely remember this, although it does not have the rock quality of the original.)

Friday, April 02, 2010

Take the A** Train

I am all for comfort and one's ability to enjoy his or her conveyance from point A to point B.  But, when your comfort impedes mine, I get a little perturbed.

Today I enjoyed a short day at the office (thank you Good Friday) and then a great meal with friends at the Rocking Horse Cafe in Chelsea.  Afterward we walked down to 16th Street where I caught the A train heading uptown to home.

The train was packed for 4pm on a Friday.  There were no available seats for those boarding... and by available I mean "where someone wasn't being a total dip and using a seat for storage".

This woman (see picture to your left) had a purse in her lap and two carryon bags in the seat next to her.  Several people clamored onto the train, saw her, looked at her bags with confusion and then asked, "Excuse me" or "May?"  To which she turned her head and ignored their request.  Not only was she rude to ignore the multiple requests but she was also breaking the law (MTA Section 1050.7, 10(1)).  Yeah, I looked it up.

Now no one in their right mind is going to push her bags out of the way (well, I know a few people who would... yeah, you know who you are... and I celebrate your gutsiness).  So this woman rode for 40+ blocks with her bags until she popped out past midtown after collecting her inventory of American Tourister clearance items.

I mean, really?  She's almost as uncouth as the Sweet Fanny from Red.

Separated at Birth (or at least at the Cabaret)

Spotted this photo over on Dlisted... anyone else think that maybe Susan Boyle and Nathan Lane were separated at birth?

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Sweet Fanny Madam (or Butt the Show was Excellent)

Photo from the official
Red website.
We were privileged to see Red at the John Golden Theatre on Broadway the other night. It's an intriguing look at Rothko's work as he painted (and thought) about his commissioned work for the Four Seasons in NYC's (at the time) newly constructed Seagram's Building. It appealed to the former studio art student in me and made me pine for the days when I smelled of turpentine, was covered in gesso and would spend hours in front of a canvas wondering what was living underneath the white that I could reveal through layers of acrylic.

But the 11 o'clock number of this not-a-musical was moments after the performance.

Molina and Redmayne had made their bows and were no off stage, the house lights were warming and people were standing (either because they had been during their ovation or because they were ready to leave... or both). I was turned to my right, talking to Ren, Patty and Trevor about the show ("D'you like it? What'd you think?") when a very light tap tap happened on my back. I turned to find a very small, elderly woman with intensely thick glasses staring up at me. She had been seated next to me the whole show and had stayed quiet and focused. She only moved a few times and that was to draw out her binoculars so that she could zoom in on the performances.

But now she was focused on me. "You're very tall." Odd, I thought, surely I didn't disrupt her ability to see the show... sitting next to her and all. "I'm sorry," I said, offering an apology for something I wasn't sure I caused. "No no, it's fine," she replied, "It's just that your fanny was right there... right there in my face when I was getting up from my seat."

Gasp! Had I backed up into this poor, frail woman and offended her?? "I am so sorry!"

"No no, it's fine," she said again. "I'm not complaining. I just didn't expect it. But it's fine. You're just so tall and your fanny was just right there in my face." She smiled. Did she like this uncomfortable moment that we were having? Was she relishing in the fact that my rear was, likely, super-sized through her Coke-bottle lenses?

"Ok," was all I could mutter. I turned to my party, bug-eyed, and flipped my hands, shooing them out of the row and onto the street so that I could reveal this bizarro encounter. Being awkwardly hit on my little old ladies is best left to the Max Bialystocks of the world.

P.S. Go see Red. It's a limited run (closing June 27th) but well worth the time and money. Now shoo!