Wednesday, October 20, 2010


View of the Queens County Farm
Museum Maize Maze from above
Last weekend was a-MAZE-ing.  (Excuse the dreaded pun but it had to happen... regardless of how corny it may be.)

The Queens County Farm Museum sets up the "Amazing Maize Maze" each year but I had no idea.  I don't remember how I heard about it... probably Gothamist or AMNY, but regardless of how I heard I'm ecstatic that I did.

If you head out on the E or F Train to the Kew Gardens/Union Turnpike Station and then hop onto the Q46 Bus (eastbound on Union Turnpike) to the Little Neck Parkway stop you can walk the 3 block to the entrance.  It's a bit of a trek (unless you have a car) but once you're there you discover this quaint little farm in the middle (or edge) of Queens and suddenly you're thrown back to the late 1800s and the smells (some good, some meh) overwhelm your senses.

But the main attraction and point of this post is the Amazing Maize Maze which doesn't lie.  You start out by getting an 8' tall flag that represents your team.  We were "Jack and the Cornstalks".  Then, after a brief "Stalk Talk" where the officiate tells you about the maze, where to find clues, map pieces, etc, you are clocked in to check your time and sent on your way.  You wander through the dense corn, searching for mailboxes that will give your pieces of the map and hunt down clue cards to nudge you in the right direction.  We clocked out of the maze at 47 minutes... not bad timing.  Some people took upward of 2 hours while some teenagers made it through in 16 minutes... but they didn't bother with the clue and mailbox hunts.

Anyhow, the maze is still running until November 7 so go.  Now.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ghosts of Drag Queens Past and Present

Back in college I was doing a production of La Cage aux Folles and had not yet seen a real drag show. My mother had. But not me. In fact, when I got the word that I was cast in La Cage I called my mom and squeeled, "I'm in the show!"

"Oh yay! Which drag queen are you?"

"Oh, I'm not a drag queen. I'm a townsperson."

Quiet. Then my mother replied, "Oh," slight disappointment pierced the phone line, "that's good too."

So here I was, not playing a drag queen in my first professional show, but surrounded by friends who were who were aghast that I'd never been to a real drag show. So they whisked me away to one of the few gay bars in town (which was only five minutes from campus by car) and we entered into this dark, smoky bar with low ceilings and sticky floors... the Carousel II. I never really knew why it was called the Carousel II. Rumors were that the Carousel I had burned or that they had once lost their liquor license and it was easier to get one as a new business then to reapply as the old. Regardless, here I stood, nerves trembling (partly from excitement, partly from fear) in the Carousel II.

A spiral stairway led up to the show floor and we climbed up, the thumpa-thumpa music getting stronger and stronger. At the top of the stairs was a tiny room with an even tinier stage tucked in one corner. Short, round tables were scattered around the edge of the stage, accompanied by three or four chairs each, and dozens of other chairs were pushed against the back wall. The place felt crowded, although I was informed by my friends that this was not crowded. We pressed through the masses and found a spot against the back wall. I hopped onto a small ledge while the others took the chairs or stood to see the show.

Now, from later experiences I would learn that drag shows almost never start on time. It's epidemic. If it is scheduled to begin at 11:00pm you might as well get there at 12:10am because you'll have plenty of time to get a drink before the first queen appears. So after 45 minutes or so the hostess came over the speakers, "Ladies and gentlemen..." and so the show began.

The main lights dimmed (more, if that was really possible), other lights shifted to the mylar curtain that was pulled open at the back of the stage and a soft piano began to play. I know this song, I searched my brain. What is this??? Ah, yes. ABBA.

Onto the stage marched this massive drag queen. Her wig was a silver nest of brillo pads and in lieu of a traditional gown she wore a homemade, hugely oversized, "S.O.S." box.

Granted, the costume was a little rough, you could see staples here and then and sometimes, where glue was intended to hold it together, it was peeling back. I imagined she had it in her closet and thought, "I should drag out this old gem and see what I can do with it." So, in my imagination, she dusted it off, picked up some new steel wool at Wal-Mart and headed on down to the bar. As she sang she tosses "samples" to the audience. I remember dodging an oncoming brillo pad as it zipped past my head and hit the back wall... one of the perils of a strong performance I supposed. But even with the risk of injury and the homemade costume I remember thinking that this performer was putting on a great show. I had expected nothing more than a tired queen in a sequined JCPenney's gown but not her. She had put thought into her act. I was sure she might come out next as a tube of Aquafresh or Big League Chew and really wow the audience.

But after her big number she disappeared into the darkness backstage and didn't reappear. Instead a skinny queen in a sequined JCPenney's gown did and I knew right then the difference between Drag and drag. There has to be a show. There has to be drama and heightened reality. It has to be big, bold, glamorous. It has to be something you remember fourteen years later.

So when I saw the current Broadway revival of La Cage aux Folles (my first time seeing it staged except for what I saw from the wings back in college) I knew I was in for the S.O.S. pad and not the cheap, sequined gown.

So instead of me giving a lengthy review of the current show, just know this. Go. I promise you will get a Broadway quality S.O.S. pad performance and not a cheap, sequined JCPenney gown. Now go! GO!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Discovering during Columbus Day Weekend

Columbus Day Weekend (which, didn't we decide it would be Discoverers Day at some point in my elementary school days?) meant a much needed 3-day weekend but, coming right after payday also meant a much broke weekend. So, what do you do in NYC when you have just paid your bills and looking for something fun and interesting to do?

Well, we decided to go exploring (much like Columbus himself) and found ourselves traveling the F train to Roosevelt Island.

We'd never been (the closest I'd been was watching Dark Water, the slightly scary, mildly boring 2005 horror movie starring Jennifer Connelly) and I figured it might be interesting to look around and see what the odd little strip of land had to offer. You arrive on the island on the south end where some beautiful new high rise condos have been built and where a massive Duane Reade sits across from a cozy little Starbucks. But as you begin to walk north the "new" wears away and suddenly you are in this dark, almost ghost-town valley of buildings that feel dead. We saw less than 20 people as we walked along the island. The whole place has this sort of post-apocalypticness to it... as though it has been evacuated due to a zombie plague.

Not fun. Not interesting.

So, we climbed down into the F and took off for a place that was fun, interesting and familiar - the village.

At Ofrenda's we grabbed some Bloody Maria's - their take on Bloody Marys. Mine was fine but Ren didn't enjoy his. So, after remembering that it was National Coming Out Day, we headed around the corner to The Stonewall Inn (epicenter of all things 'gay rights') and discovered that the well drinks were two-for-one. Fantastic! Of the seven people in the bar we were the quietest... but we were tired from our promenade through NYC's quietest and most gloomy neighborhood.

This weekend will be a corn maze, pumpkin harvest extravaganza... so that should make up for the blah of Roosevelt Island. Here's hoping!