Thursday, July 31, 2008

I've never been to S'mac or haggled for a rug on Broadway

Today I decided I wanted to take it easy because of my neck situation. I felt capable of moving around the city today, but not up to doing anything too extreme. It's so ironic that the night before the great muscle spasm, I wrote a post about how I was going to go jogging the next morning. The universe heard me and yelled "Ha ha sucker, no you ain't!". Anyway I was able to accomplish one thing that was actually on my list (okay, accomplish is maybe stretching the meaning of that word a little when you think about this task) and I went to a place I had read about somewhere that I knew would be right up my alley; a restaurant that is all about macaroni and cheese called S'mac. And the best part is that the one I read about is somewhere downtown, but an upper west side outpost has recently opened up, so I only had to walk down to my old neighborhood in the 80's on Columbus to sample the cheesy goodness.

The place on Columbus is actually both the macaroni and cheese place combined with a pizza place, and it's on the upper west side, so it was filled with kids. The restaurant is replacing a place I used to go to all the time called Columbus Bakery, so I was a little sad when I noticed one day that Columbus Bakery had closed. My sadness was very quickly replaced by joy, however, when I learned that all different types of mac and cheese were served there, and the joy was replaced with anger when I realized that just when I moved out of that neighborhood they decided to open up a restaurant with one of my favorite foods. But anyway, when I went in there yesterday I discovered that they had all different macaroni and cheese combos - some with just cheese and some with complimentary ingredients- some italian mac and chesse, some indian, some french, etc ad infinitum. I had a very difficult time deciding because if you put any cheese and pasta together and bake it, I like it, but I ended up settling on the french version with brie, figs, rosemary, and roasted mushrooms. It was deeee-lish, and served hot out of the oven in one of those cast iron skillets topped with bubbling cheesey breadcrumbs. I will be going back there to try all the flavors, and each time I will lament the fact that this joint didn't open up until after I had moved away.

I did a little shopping afterwards, and on my way home walking up broadway, I passed this guy who was selling oriental rugs out of a very narrow little storefront and on a table on the street. I stopped because he had all these hallway runners, and in my apartment there is a very long hallway that I have been meaning to cover with a rug ever since I moved in. I just wanted to look at what he had, but he was going for the hard sale. I wasn't trying to haggle, I was just hesitating because I wasn't planning on buying a rug, but as a hesitated, he kept going lower and lower with his prices. You have to imagine this all with a persian accent:

Him:" I give it to you for $120 - that is 50% off retail, but this is sample sale!!! No, okay $100 for you only today. Okay, okay, $75 but don't tell anybody I give you this price. Is practically stealing!"

Me: "Well, the thing is I really need to measure the hallway to see what size runner I need because it's kind of.."

Him: "OKAY! You killing me - I give you for $60 but it's crazy I tell you!"

Me: Well, I just really need to measure"

Him: " Forget measure. You take the rug with you, no pay me, see if it fits - if it does, you bring me back $60."

And with that he rolled up the rug, put it into a bag, and basically shoved me down the street as I mumbled "Not pay you and just take it... okay...." I was so shocked by this guy, in new york city, just giving me this rug, and trusting that I would bring him back the money, but it also made me grin all the way home. I mean - what a tactic! This guy is an expert! He knows that if I bring the rug all the way home, that whether it fits or not, I'm going to feel obligated to pay him. And so of course, I unrolled the rug, it was a little short, but I went back and payed him anyway. And then I looked at the rest of the rugs, and somehow got him to give me a square one for my bedroom for 30 bucks even though he originally wanted $100. Obviously I'm not the one getting the bargains - this guy must have gotten all these rugs for free - like they fell of the back of a truck or something - but I was so taken by being in New York City and having somebody trust me, that I bought two rugs when I didn't intend to buy any. But you know what? They are really beautiful rugs, and I couldn't have found cheaper ones even at IKEA, so I'm just going to enjoy them and not question what the hell happened to me. Maybe we should try that tactic with operas ; "You come, don't pay anything, then only pay at the end if you liked it." Maybe we could fill every seat that way!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

I've never royally effed up my neck and back like I did today

So, I've been having some - let's call them stressful feelings - about my career in recent days. These types of feelings tend to come and go, and are very easy to fixate on if one is not occupied at all hours of the day and night. Yesterday, for a variety of reasons, I was feeling particularly nervous about a large hole in my schedule (mentioned in a previous blog when I complained about all the gig offers being in the same 2 second period with 10 years of nothing before and after), and I thought about it a little too much. Then when I went to sleep, I had a stress nightmare that my agents fired me and also said I couldn't do any of the jobs I have lined up with them, leaving me poor and destitute and unemployed. In my dream, one of my agents said something really enigmatic like "when the chicken went cold, we couldn't put it back in the oven" in reference to my not having become a "hot star" or something. I was literally screaming in my sleep and woke myself up in a tizzy. I managed to fall back asleep, but when I got out of bed this morning and walked into the living room, something felt like it snapped and suddenly I couldn't turn my head and it hurt to sit, stand, or move. I spent all day putting heat on this pulled muscle or muscle cramp, and while it's not constantly painful anymore, it still hurts if I try to move my head around at all, and I'm walking around like a stiff statue. A doctor friend of mine looked at it tonight and said that it's a bad muscle cramp, and she prescribed me a muscle relaxer which I will take before bed, because I'm sure with my low tolerance to drugs, it's going to make me really high and loopy. Since I couldn't do anything much without moving, I had the day to contemplate how stress and worry can really take physical hold of you if you fixate on what you don't have happening in your life. I always think I'm getting better at this difficult part of being a self-employed artist, and it takes me having to walk down Broadway (to get my drugs) like some crazy robot with a non-working neck and getting weird stares even from homeless people and crackheads to quickly remind me that I have a long way to go.

Monday, July 28, 2008

I've never eaten at August

August is a little bistro restaurant in the Village on Bleecker street that I've always heard about, mostly as the food you eat before going to Magnolia Bakery, which is two blocks away. But seriously, I had heard it was excellent, and since it's restaurant week, I thought it would be a good time to try it out. It was delicious, and even though I ordered the prix fixe, which came with dessert (carmelized banana flan), and even though there is now a Magnolia on the upper west side, my friend Jenna and I couldn't resist the allure of the sugary bakery after dinner. The smell of that place is enough to make you weak in the knees, and we were already in the village..... I'm still recovering from the amount of Beignets I ingested in New Orleans, not to mention that last night at Marco and Marina's somebody brought some homemade cannolis from an Italian bakery in Brooklyn and I almost bit my own tongue off, so drunk I became on sweet italian cream filling. The tongue injury was serious enough that when I was trying to sing today, the double consonants in Italian were making my whole mouth hurt. Yeah, I need to slow it down on the whole eating of desserts (often multiple desserts) at every meal. That, and tomorrow I am totally going running.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

I've never tried Clerico

I am incredibly lucky because some amazing friends of mine moved into my building (I might have told them about the place and steered them towards the front door) and not only do I like being around them a lot, but they are also fantastic hosts and chefs, and love having people over for dinner. My friend Marco is an Italian baritone and his wife Marina is American but speaks pretty much every language (and is a writer for the New Yorker and a pianist - awesome enough?) and now that they live only three floors below me I get invited to their dinner parties sometimes. Woo-hoo! Tonight's was particularly fun for me because it was all Italians and I got to remember how much Italian I've already forgotten, plus eat Marina's yummy cooking (calamari in cous cous with a tomato sauce with pine nuts and currants). But my new favorite thing that she made tonight was this fantastic drink called Clerico which is a kind of white wine sangria. It's made with white wine, ice, fruit (peaches, watermelon, orange) and sugar all mashed together and served in all it's cool delicious splendor. Can you imagine a more fantastic summer drink?

I've never seen La Forza del Destino

I went to Caramoor last night, the musical summer festival in Katonah, NY to see my friend Marco sing a role in La Forza del Destino, Verdi's very dramatic opera about people killing each other and themselves for no reason. Caramoor is a beautiful place, and the audiences there are very appreciative - there were shouts and bravos after every aria, and my friend Marco was fantastic as usual. I have to admit I don't go see Verdi operas that often, partly because he just didn't write a single role I can sing, but also because I guess that type of music doesn't appeal to me as much as Mozart or Rossini does. But some people just die for this stuff, and there are certainly moments that I found very beautiful and moving. I think it's also REALLY hard to present Forza as a concert as opposed to staging it because a) the libretto is really weird and b) it's hard to demonstrate someone killing someone else or themselves without having them fall on the ground. One of the most exciting things that happened other than the singing and killing was that an elderly gentleman seated directly in front of me passed gas in the loudest and most audible manner right during a silence in one of the pieces - and he was sitting in the front row! The weird thing was that nobody blinked or looked around in a shocked manner except me - I'm just not good at being subtle. I just hope it wasn't his assessment of the piece: "This is what I think of you Verdi! Sssspppppwwwfffff!!!!"

Saturday, July 26, 2008

I've never been to Dylan's candy bar or Bowlmore lanes

Today made me appreciate how difficult it must be to be a parent in general, and how expensive it must be to be a parent in New York City. I officially apologize to my parents for all the times I begged them to "buy me this thing I don't really need" and pouted when they said no. And I had two little girls with me who didn't beg for anything and who were incredibly well trained and well behaved. I can't imagine having kids who constantly throw tantrums!

I thought it would be fun to take Kate and Emma to Coney Island because it seems like a place kids would like. I had only been there once before, and I was with a friend who was a summer associate at a law firm, and the law firm had given them free passes to everything there, so I had no concept of what things cost. When we got off the subway (it took about an hour to get there) our first stop was Nathan's famous hot dogs, where I fed the girls ( I ate a very healthy lunch of french fries since I'm not currently eating meat) and we went into the various amusement parks. It turns out both girls are afraid of roller coasters, so the Cyclone was out, and then I discovered that the rides cost $5-$6 per person per ride!!!! On weekdays you can buy a one priced pass for all the rides, but I didn't think they were going to want to ride that many rides. So I bought a book of 5 passes (and convinced the guy to let me on free for the second ride) and we rode the Wonder Wheel twice, once with the stationary car, and once with a car that slides back and forth. Price; $24. Even the girls, ages 11 and 15, had enough sense to say to me "Jenny - are you sure you want to do this - it's really expensive!" But I couldn't bring them all the way to Coney Island and not go on ANY rides!!! We left after only about an hour and a half.

The next stop was to be Serendipity the restaurant because Kate had been really curious to try frozen hot chocolate. We marched in there ready to assault our taste buds and discovered it was an hour and fifteen minute wait (at 3:45 on a friday afternoon). To kill the time, we wandered in to a store on the corner that I had never been in; Dylyan's candy bar. This place is like Willy Wonka on candy crack - it's seriously a dentist's nightmare and a kid's dream. There are two floors of every kind of candy, and you can buy it in any kind of bulk - the store workers helpfully hand out clear plastic bags - even to the small children - in hopes that they will fill them up with the sweet stuff. After perusing the two floors of candy, we stumbled on the cafe on the top floor, and low and behold, they also had frozen hot chocolate and we could have it right now! We ordered our drinks ( I had a milkshake - my food intake for the day so far had been french fries and a milkshake - I wasn't winning any nutrition prizes, nor was I winning any parenting awards for what I was feeding the girls) and the drinks were so outlandishly sweet, none of us could come close to finishing them. The people working behind the candy bar also seemed to be drunk on candy-crack because they forgot our order and then took longer to make the three drinks than it took us to drink them. However, Kate did get her frozen hot chocolate, and I got to see them make it, so now if anyone asks me why it's called frozen hot chocolate, I can tell them that they steam the milk like they would real hot chocolate, and then add the cocoa, and then put in in a blender with ice and more sugar - and that's why they call it frozen hot chocolate.

After I dropped the girls off at the train station exhausted and nutritionally-depleted, I actually had a date, and got to try two more new places just for grown ups. The first was the Blue Water Grill in Union Square, which is not only a restaurant but has a jazz room, where a live jazz trio plays while you eat your dinner. This is restaurant week, so they had an excellent prix-fixe menu, as well as a special cocktail with "organic" tequila (watch out for that stuff). The dinner was really good, and afterwards we went to another new place for me - an actual bowling alley in Manhattan called Bowlmore Lanes. It was fun - but talk about expensive!!! For two games for two people and two pairs of shoes, the price was $50!!!! Ugh - how does anyone live here? But I totally won both games, and the second time I bowled a 124, which is pretty good - for me. Especially after the organic tequila. Actually, maybe that might have made me a better bowler.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

I've never seen (gulp) Legally Blonde

And boy, it made me want to move to Europe and take a barf bag on the plane with me.

Let me explain why I was witnessing this spectacle. I have two wonderful young ladies visiting me for today and tomorrow, ages 11 and 15. They are the daughters of a family I stayed with 5 years ago on a singing gig, and have become like family to me - I don't have any nieces or nephews, so I have basically adopted these two girls, and I adore spending time with them. I thought it would be fun for their big adventure in New York City to take them to a broadway show, and their first choice was Legally Blonde. They have been following this reality tv show that has apparently been on MTV (today was the first I had ever heard of it - I'm getting old I guess) - and it's been a show whose entire purpose was to select the new lead of Legally Blonde. They crowned a winner, and since the finale of the show aired very recently, tonight was only the winner's second performance. The fact that the star in a broadway musical was selected by a reality show is horrifying enough, and it is compounded by the show itself, which is really atrocious. I mean, I can see the appeal if you're between 10 and 16, but after that, it's hard to swallow. But the good news is that Kate and Emma loved it. Seeing them clap and cheer absolutely made it worth the fact that I kept throwing up a little in my mouth.

After the show was over, the girls wanted to wait by the stage door to see this newly crowned "star" in person (again - I can totally see the appeal - if I had the opportunity to meet the winners of project runway, I would probably wait 37 hours in the heat and kill people if I had to) and when she came out and everybody was grabbing at her and taking photos, I had several thoughts. The first thought was that there were probably only a handful of people waiting at the stage door for Patti Lupone - for this girl there were a couple hundred rabid fans. I just can't believe the way stars are made by media and not talent now. I know it's not news, but it still makes me sad. The second thing I noticed was how there seemed to be no interaction between the star and her fans - they just shoved things in her face for her to sign and snapped her photo, but no one was complimenting her on her performance or even talking to her really - she was just a famous shell for the people to say they had met. None of them seemed moved by her performance, they just all seemed to want a piece of her. Where oh where have the days gone when people were groupies because a performer really moved them and made a difference in their lives? Ugh - I should get off my soapbox, but I found the whole thing pretty shocking. I felt sad for her and for us.

But for all this complaining I'm doing, there is nothing more fun than giving an 11 and a 15 year old something that really delights them. Everything else seems inconsequential when you can make somebody you care about - especially somebody young and full of life and excitement - grin from ear to ear. That's worth more than all the body mikes and hair extensions from here to 42nd street.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

I've never been to a boss's birthday party

I have to say I was kind of honored to be invited by my City Opera "boss" of eight seasons to his birthday party. Robin Thompson basically handed me my career on a silver platter (he hired me right out of Juilliard and continued to promote me through the City Opera ranks, and I worked there every single season for 8 straight years) and I owe him a debt of gratitude. I was super-psyched that after all our years working together and getting to know each other, that he now considers me enough of a friend to invite me to his milestone birthday party. I won't say his age here in case he wouldn't want me to, but he really does look fantastic even if he were 10 years younger than he actually is.

The party was held at Vivolo, a lovely italian restaurant on the east side, and he had the entire upstairs party room for his 40 guests. Other than me, the only singer present was Lauren Flanigan, and I was happy to be sitting at her table because she's a very fascinating person, and we had the chance to talk quite a bit during dinner. The party was also peppered with a ton of "movers and shakers" from the business - several important managers, higher-ups from the Met, and even some luminaries from the Art world. I was seated next to an art dealer/ manager who manages the likes of Chuck Close among others, and also at my table was the head curator from the MOMA, and the former president of the City Opera Board. I always feel small and uninteresting among people like these, but I try my best to hold my own and learn what I can from people who have obviously led pretty interesting lives.

Friendship is important - I'm just glad that all different people consider me their friend. I hope it's always that way.

I've never been to NEW ORLEANS

What a place! Unfortunately for New Orleans, nowadays, the first thing people think of when they think of the town is Katrina. But the funny thing is, I would never have known there was ever a disaster in that town if someone hadn't told me, because everything is back in full swing, and in fact, most of the more visited areas weren't really as affected by the flooding. I'm not diminishing the grand scale of the disaster, I'm just doing a little PR for the city here, and reporting that in fact it is still the same sin-filled playground it has always been.

My weekend started on Friday, when I woke up very early in the morning, arriving in NOLA at 9:30 AM. My best friend Georgia and her fiance Micah, who was born and raised in New Orleans, picked me up and brought me back to their lovely new apartment. It's about 4 times as big and as nice as my place in NYC and for the same thing I pay, so I could immediately see the allure of moving outside of New York just for the comfort of things like space and dishwashers. We dove right into Louisiana culture by picking up some crawfish, corn and potatoes, and bringing them to the Levee, where we sat on the grass and feasted. I had never eaten crawfish before, and I can only explain it as a combination of eating a shrimp, crab, and lobster - but it really has it's own distinct flavor. The Louisiana preparation is full of spices and flavor (I think there's this mix of seasonings that they boil the crawfish in), and I even got the hang of yanking off the tails to reveal the meaty deliciousness, and sucking the juice out of the heads. I was still pretty exhausted from my early morning traveling, so I got to view a lot of the cool old houses and neighborhoods from the car, and we stuck around their place for dinner.

Saturday was spent in the French Quarter. We started the morning by having the famous beignets at Cafe du Monde. I think if I lived in New Orleans, it would be very difficult for me not to eat those puppies every day. Golden chunks of fried dough drowning in powdered sugar, washed down with an iced coffee or cafe ole. I went on to eat beignets several more times during my trip - I haven't weighed myself since leaving. We wandered around and shopped for a lot of the day, and then met some friends of ours who have moved to New Orleans and now have a baby - Amanda and Aaron - for a very decadent New Oreanian dinner at a restaurant called Galatois. We walked down Bourbon street,
and even on this night in what is considered the off season,
Bourbon street was utterly filled with people carrying alarmingly large alcoholic beverages in plastic cups, and people standing on balconies waiting for some nudity which might warrant some bead throwing.Every other establishment is a strip club, although a lot of them have chic french names like cafe deaux deaux, adding to their allure. At one point we passed a man holding a large cross which eventually formed into a circle of men creating a prayer group. Good luck fellas - these dens of iniquity weren't even washed away by a life altering natural disaster - I'm not sure how much your metal cross is going to accomplish!

Sunday was quite the opposite of Saturday's debauchery feast because we spent it in nature. Micah took Georgia and I to the Jean Lafite swamp and nature preserve to see if we could spot some real live alligators up close and personal. It felt like it was 115 degrees in the shade and about 425% humidity while we walked along the swamp path, but it was worth it because we saw about 4 alligators - one so close I could have reached out and touched him. And this isn't like at a zoo where the animals are behind glass - this is a wooden footbridge over the swamp with no railings or walls - just you, nature, and the alligators, who hopefully aren't feeling hungry. We also saw these crazy huge spiders in large numbers, and dragonflies that were so incredibly colorful, I was getting ideas on what colors I wanted to paint my bedroom. But the most exciting thing was seeing this huge monster alligator (he was, thankfully, across the swamp) fully open his jaws in a kind of yawn, revealing all his teeth and just how many people he could fit in that mouth if he were so inclined.

Monday, when Micah went back to work, Georgia and I spent literally all day wedding dress shopping. It was funny - because we are opera singers and are very used to wearing gowns - even some white wedding gowns from time to time - we were very pragmatic about the selection and fit of the dresses, and there was very little squealing and no crying. But I did have a moment of disbelief that this person who I've known for almost 15 years, who I met when we were these young impressionable freshmen in college, is taking this big life step, and at one point I exclaimed, "You're trying on wedding dresses! This is so surreal." I took my maid of honor duties seriously and tried to help her decide on the best dress, but it was difficult because she looked gorgeous in everything. I may not have cried when I saw her trying to dresses on because it felt a lot like a costume fitting, but during the ceremony I'll definitely plan on waterproof mascara, that I'm sure of.

All in all I got to see this fantastic and crazy city, I got to spend some quality time with my best friend and her future husband, and I got to eat a lot of really delicious food, and get drunk in the middle of the day. Who could ask for much more from a weekend getaway?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

little break

Hi everybody and thank you for following my adventures thus far. I now have to beg your indulgence while I take a one week break from my "I never" section which I plan to make up during the first week of August (I don't want to shirk on my full 30 days of responsibility to goof off). But for the next couple of days I've got to head up to my parents house for some extremely uninteresting maintenance (dentist appointment and driver's license renewal - I can't bear the DMV lines in manhattan) and then for the weekend I was able to find a cheap plane ticket to go visit my bestie Georgia in her new home; New Orleans. I'll definitely write a blog entry about my trip to Nawlins since I've never been there and it sort of fits into my July theme of new things, but I'm not counting it towards my one month challenge because it's not in NYC, and I can be a stickler for rules, even ones I made up myself. Not only do I get to see the French Quarter, but I also get to participate in wedding dress shopping as part of my maid of honor duties for Georgia's wedding. I've never wedding dress shopped before, so that will be another I never to add to my list of new July experiences. I promise not to write a blog entry about standing in line at the DMV in Poughkeepsie, and I'll try not to drunk-blog from New Orleans, but from what I hear about that place, I can't promise about that one.

Monday, July 14, 2008

I've never searched out the best chocolate chip cookie in NYC

Mondays always present a challenge in my culturally rich list of events because all the museums, gardens, and shows are closed or dark on Mondays. Today my friend Matt was going to be in town for the day, and he wanted to take part in whatever adventure was going to present itself, so I was doing a little research to try to come up with something fun and unusual. I came across an article in the NY Times from earlier this week about how to make the best chocolate chip cookies, and the article also included some of the best bakeries and bakers in the City, and information on how they made their chocolate chip cookies. So armed with the Times article and some other information about the City's bakeries, I figured a perfect afternoon for me would be traipsing the city and taste testing all the best chocolate chip cookies to come up with a very un-scientific study about which was the absolute best. Matt was game, so we set out.

We started in the Village at Jaques Torres Chocolates. These chocolate chip cookies are made not with chips, but with chocolate disks that are at least an inch in diameter, so that each bite contains swirls of chocolatey goodness. They are served warmed and are about the size of a flattened softball. The cookie was truly excellent, and we thought for sure there wouldn't be a better one. The next stop was Insomnia cookies, up a little further in the Village, and while that cookie was decent, it was nothing to write home about. The third stop was City Bakery on West 18th street, and with both the complexity of the taste of the dough combined with the slightly more bitter chocolate, we decided that hands down this cookie was the winner. It wasn't even beat out by the two excellent upper west side contenders; the Levain Bakery with their basketball sized doughy wonders, and the famous Magnolia bakery - famous for cupcakes, but making a mean cookie as well.

The problem with this event was that by the end of the day, the thought of eating another cookie made me want to throw up on the sidewalk. Luckily, Matt was really pushing us both to finish strong, and not give up before the 5th bakery. But when we got to Magnolia and split open the still warm, soft cookie, and put it up to our noses for a sniff, we both had the same expression as if we had been sniffing dog poop. It's amazing how something as wonderful as a chocolate chip cookie, when not sampled in moderation, has the same effect as trying to eat burnt brussel sprouts. If anybody wants to try this little adventure themselves, I would highly recommend spreading it out over several days so you can enjoy all the cookies instead of forcing the last cookies down like you would melted down tires. And if you want to go straight for the gold, head to the City Bakery, because that cookie would brighten even the darkest days.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

I've never been to the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater

The UCBT is a small theater in chelsea that presents improv shows. I don't know about the history of the theater, but I had heard about it because some of my favorite cast members of Saturday Night Live (including Amy Poehler) are known to moonlight there on Sundays. There are two shows, one at 7:30 which requires pre reserved tickets, and one at 9:30 which accepts no reservations, but which you have to line up for about 2 hours before they give the tickets away. Since I didn't do any advance planning, I was stuck with the wait in line for two hours option, but luckily I had the good company of my friend Jenna and we even smuggled a bottle of wine and some tortilla chips into the line, so the two hours zoomed right by.

Once we got into the theater for the show, I realized that I was probably the oldest audience member by about 675 years. As we waited for the show to start I felt like I had snuck back into a college frat party, and should be walking around scolding these youngins' for their foul language. My feeling old around college kids is now compounded by the fact that I'm a University Professor, so I feel both old and responsible around them, like I should be whipping them into shape. Luckily, the improvers were all my age or older it seemed, so I didn't feel like the grandma at the sorority rush once the show started.

The show featured two Saturday Night Live cast members; Horatio Sans, who has dropped 50 pounds and is almost unrecognizable, and Jason Sudeikis, who is the guy who currently plays Bush on SNL. They were joined by 5 other guys, and the improv was witty and quick. They would take one word suggestions from the audience, one of the guys would do an improvised monologue about some true story from their life that somehow related to the suggested word, and then they would all jump in and present improvised skits about the material in the monologue. It's a good system because it allows a lot of tie-ins and they can bring all the material together in the end for a satisfying punch of hilarity. It wasn't the funniest improv I've ever seen, but I did laugh out loud several times, and I find Jason Sudeikis particularly funny. Horatio Sans couldn't always keep from laughing, just like on Saturday Night Live, but the guys were pretty bright and spot on and quick in their ability to keep things alive and jumping. Some of the jokes were even targeted at the fact that the audience was so much younger than the players (like a joke about texting and how keystrokes are now too important to waste on entire words) and those jokes particularly appealed to this ol' lady.

And in case you were wondering about my progress on music learning, I've already learned all of Musetta, which is actually only about 20 minutes of music, and I managed the run the whole thing a couple of times in a coaching today. I think my plan of having daily activities to encourage my schedule to allow for music learning is working! I may be old, but I ain't dumb.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

I've never been to the Bronx Zoo

I don't have a lot to say about the Bronx Zoo - Zoos are pretty similar anywhere you go in the world. But I will say that you haven't been to a zoo until you've been to the Butterfly habitat with a six year old girl. I was lucky enough to go to the zoo today with some friends of mine and their six year old twins, and going to a zoo with children makes it about a hundred times more interesting and magical than going with other adults. Everything is full of wonder and excitement when you're with a child, especially the butterfly world, which this little girl had her sights set on from the moment we entered the zoo. We took the special zoo train around to see the hippos and rhinos and the red panda, but Hadi was always anxious to see the butterflies. Then when we finally arrived in the butterfly habitat, she wanted nothing more than to hold one on her fingers or in her hands. Afterwards we got ice creams and the day was complete

Friday, July 11, 2008

I've never seen La Lupone live

I have seen Patti Lupone, like everybody else, on tv and in movies and broadcasts of performances she's been in, but I had never seen her perform live. I had really been wanting to see Gypsy, because I just can't imagine what other human on earth could do Mama Rose better than her, and she did win the Tony after all. My friend Eve happens to be a student, so she was able to get two student rush tickets for only 27 bucks per ticket, and they were in the FRONT ROW. In an opera, this would probably not be the best place to sit, but on broadway, where everything is incredibly amplified and the sound is the same no matter where you sit, I quite liked being right up close and being able to see the actors sweat and cry. I was also trying to see how the hell Patti Lupone can belt like that night after night, year after year, and can continue to have a voice. I still have no idea. And let me tell you, she does not phone one thing in, even though this was like the zillionth performance, and she already won her Tony, she was in it for every single moment, and when she opened up and wailed, it was like a lion roaring. And she even cried real tears in her final scene, which I cannot imagine how she can conjure up night after night, but she did, and I absolutely believed her. She really is a force of nature. The rest of the cast was also excellent, and god, what a great show Gypsy is. Here's a photo taken of the stage before the show started so you can see just how freaking close I was sitting.

I know the show because it was pretty much the first show I was ever in. When I was about 8 years old, my parents brought me to audition for the town's professional summer repertory theater company's production of Gypsy. The role of Baby June was very coveted by all the "stage babies" of our town, and I was not one of them. Baby June has to be able to tap dance, twirl the batons, do the splits and cartwheel, none of which I had any idea how to do. But because I could belt out a tune, the director decided to give me the part and they taught me how to do all the things I just mentioned (except cartwheel, which I was never able to master in my whole life). All the real life Mama Roses of the town were in a tizzy because I was not one of the "theater kids" and managed to land this plum role, but I had such a fantastic time doing that show, learning all that stuff, and wearing all those crazy wigs and costumes, that it was probably THE experience that got me hooked on wanting to be a performer. And the thing that is the most crazy is that even though I tend to have a terrible memory about events from my childhood, when the Baby June numbers started tonight, I remembered every word as if not a day had passed since I twirled my little eight-year-old batons off.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

I've never been to the Frick

The Frick is another of the places I have always said I needed to go, but never did until today. It's a collection of pretty amazing mostly european art all collected by one really rich guy, housed in his actual house, which he turned into a museum towards the end of his life. Tons of the big european masters are represented; Manet, Monet, Vermeer, Degas, El Greco and one solitary American; Whistler. The photo seen here is the little atrium, and just behind the fountain is the famous Renoir painting of the mother and her two daughters. It's the perfect afternoon activity because it's just one floor of all stunning, carefully collected and curated art, and they have these free audio guides where all the most important paintings are described and demystified by the art historian curators of the collection.

I decided to walk across the park to get to the Frick, and was reminded of how New York can be so full of rich experiences around every corner. As I was nearing the Naumberg Bandshell, I started to hear some really good jazz music. I don't know much about jazz at all, but I can tell a good musician when I hear one, and I heard this crazy sax wailing in all octaves, so I had to stop. It was these three young guys, a sax player who also played clarinet, a drummer and an upright bass player, and they were playing for tips in Central Park. And these guys were really good. I bought myself an ice cream sandwich and sat my butt down on a bench and watched them play until they were through. The Sax/clarinet player was just so good - of course the tourists, moms with strollers, and crazy roller skaters had no idea that they were getting this really awesome concert for free, but I just munched on my ice cream and appreciated all that new york has to offer. I talked to the guys afterwards, and they said they play there every day, just as a way to practice and maybe make some tips while they're at it. So not only will I go back to the Frick, but I'll definitely go back to the park (it's around 72nd street, right in between the West and East side at the top of the big steps from the fountain) and watch me some more free jazz. Ah New York - I'm falling in love with you all over.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

I've never seen the ballet Giselle with ABT

I've actually never seen the ballet Giselle OR seen a performance at American Ballet Theater, so it was a double whammy today! A friend of mine writes for the "what's happening" section of the New Yorker, and she had an extra ticket to see Giselle today, so I happily accompanied her. It was great because since I never go to the ballet, I knew nothing about anything, but my friend was there to tell me the story of Giselle, the details about who the dancers were, and basically the whole history of ballet. Plus, seeing something on the stage of the Met that wasn't an opera (ABT performs at the Metropolitan Opera House when the singing's not in season) made me appreciate both the similarities and differences between an opera and a ballet.

The types of performances I go see the most often are obviously operas, so whenever I go to see a different kind of performance, I always need a few minutes to adjust. When I go see a play, I wonder why no one is singing. When I go see a musical I am freaked out at first by the fact that everyone is so heavily amplified. And seeing this very classical and traditional ballet today, I was at first feeling jarred by the fact that there were no words, and that all the acting had to be done completely with movements and gestures. Of course, that sounds ridiculous - it was a ballet!! But when the text is such an important part of everything you do, acting without it seems almost ludicrous at first. But after a few minutes I was able to relax and get into the flow of watching a story unfold that was completely told by movement.

Gisele is a young country girl who falls in love with a Prince disguised as a peasant (so far sounds like both Cenerentola and Barber). She has a heart condition and isn't supposed to dance too much (Traviata, La Boheme), but when she finds out that her boyfriend is not only a Prince but is engaged to someone already, she dances herself to death at the end of the first act (Antonia in the Tales of Hoffmann sings herself to death, and Giselle has a mad scene which reminds me of Lucia). The second act is the land of the dead, and all the women who died before they got married are dressed in these awesome white tutus, and they dance around and trap men and kill them when they get into their clutches - again, awesome! Gisele's former princely boyfriend comes to her grave, and she protects him from these crazy dead brides, and helps him escape alive, although he's all distraught because she's still dead. I can't really equate the second half to any opera because we don't have any dead brides killing young dudes. But that could be a cool premise for a new opera - maybe I'll suggest it to one of my composer friends.

According to my expert friend, the man dancing the lead in today's performance would possibly be one of the greatest dancers living today if he were only a few inches taller. I never really thought about that affecting a dancer's ability to go to the highest levels of success, but of course it makes sense. I don't profess to know jack about ballet, but this guys jumps and his landings were so incredible, I was greedy and just wanted him to jump and land for the entire ballet. It really looked like he had some harness attached to him that we couldn't see, his jumps were so high and his landings were so light. Singers complain that looks are starting to play very strongly into our profession, but imagine if the only thing holding you back were something as uncontrollable as your height!

When I was waiting in line for the bathroom, I was forced to contemplate yet another hardship of being a dancer compared to being a singer. These older new york ladies behind me were talking about the performance, and they started talking about the corps de ballet - the dancers who made up the ensemble, and who didn't have any solos. The ladies were exclaiming "imagine if you dedicated your whole life to dancing and you never made it past the chorus! I would rather be an opera singer in the chorus than a ballet dancer!" and I think they had a point. Someone in the opera chorus of the Met makes a decent living, and doesn't really have to worry about their voice or their body, and they can continue to sing in the chorus until they're 65 years old if they want to. A dancer in the corps still has to be incredibly careful about what they eat, they have to take dance class every single day just to stay in shape, and then they probably have to retire at 30 and find another career, after dedicating their whole being and lives to dance. Singers don't even usually start taking lessons til high school or college, but dancers start ballet classes at like 5 years old and never stop til they retire. The next time I complain about how "difficult" it is to be a singer, somebody remind me what it takes to be a dancer and I'll shut right up.

Ballerinas have my utmost respect and admiration, and I hope this gorgeous slightly short dancer gets his due respect despite his problems with stature. And may I be forced to stand on pointe until my toes bleed next time I utter a complaint about how the life of a singer is sooooo difficult.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008


I had every intention of doing something new today. I actually planned to go to the Wave Hill Gardens - a big park/art museum out in the Bronx, and in fact I took the 1 train to the last stop - 242nd street - in order to get there. But unfortunately I got very behind schedule this morning when dealing with some career stuff, and I got there 10 minutes later than the last shuttle left to get to the gardens. The gardens aren't really walking distance from the subway stop, but they have a free shuttle that takes you there at 10 minutes past every hour until 3:10. Unfortunately, by the time the subway pulled into the 242nd street station, It was about 3:20.

It's not my fault! This morning I got a call from my agents about the timing of some future job offers. As it stands right now, I have a large hole in my schedule - hole is an understatement - it's more like the crater that would be created if a meteor hit the earth - followed by a period of 4 months in which I have 5 offers. Unfortunately, because of the timing of said offers, it's looking like I can only accept 2 of them, and all 5 of them are things I REALLY want to do for varying reasons. Plus I have agents here in the U.S and agents in France and I'm trying to coordinate the offers from different continents with different people receiving differing commissions - suffice it to say I was starting to feel slightly hysterical when I was informed that yet another offer conflicted with already accepted jobs. WHY? I say why???? does everything have to happen at once?? Can't one of these jobs please land in the meteor sized hole in my calendar?

I did try a new japanese restaurant with my best friend who is only in town for a day and a half, so I guess I didn't completely break my own rules of trying something new every day. And tomorrow I have a really good new thing to try, so stay tuned...

Monday, July 7, 2008

I've never been to Union Square greenmarket, neue gallerie, boathouse at central park

Yes indeedy, today was a full day. My mom came into town yesterday to spend some time with me, and we managed to accomplish a lot today.

First, we spent the morning shopping at the Union Square Farmer's Market, which is the only really good one of it's type here in the City. There are other little markets throughout the city, but this one in Union Square is where I've heard all the chefs of the city shop. I can see why. There is a big variety of wonderful looking fruits and vegetables, and it's all reasonable. I was also able to get some farm fresh eggs and rustic organic bread. I will definitely be going back there for produce. I made a really yummy and slightly bizarre peach salsa thing with the ripe peaches and fresh basil from the market, and put it on top of toasted pieces of the rustic bread slathered with warm brie. It was pretty good.

The next stop on today's whirlwind tour was the Neue Gallerie, a museum on the Upper East Side with German and Austrian Expressionist Art. It is my friend Kim's favorite place in the City, and it was ridiculous I had never been there. Well, now I've at least been in the cafe, but I still haven't seen the Art. We went to the cafe first because it was lunch time and we were hungry. While we were there listening to a live pianist play lovely jazz and classical pieces, a customer having a coffee who turned out to be an opera singer got up and sang with the pianist, randomly. The pianist was playing Summertime, and I guess this girl, who seemed like maybe a student, just wanted to sing along, so she did. Afterwards she was handing out her card to the manager and seemed to be generally schmoozing. I don't know if she got herself a gig out of it, I found the whole thing really bizarre. She was dressed in flip flops and a tank top, although she did have a lovely voice. After we left the cafe we discovered that half of the museum is currently closed, so I decided to return in a week when the whole thing reopens, so I can see the entire collection at once.

This change in plans led us to have a few hours with nothing to do. We started walking towards the park, and my mom had the idea that we could rent bicycles and ride around the park. But once we got to the bike rental place it had closed - but the boat rental was still open. I hadn't ever rented one of those rowboats on the Central Park lake before, so I figured it would be a fun thing to try. It wasn't. It was hot and humid, and rowing was harder than I thought it would be. But you know what was even harder than rowing? Steering. I really suck at steering a rowboat. The thing that made the whole experience completely bizarre was the fact that a bunch of playboy bunnies who apparently have a reality tv show called "The girls next door" were right in front of us in line for the boat rentals with their entire tv crew. At first I thought "what are all these porn actresses doing with a tv crew in Central Park?" until the russian guy renting the boats informed me "You know, The Girls Next Door! They live with Hef!" He seemed delighted by their presence (go figure). We waited while they climbed into their rowboats with their platform heels, spray tans and bleached blonde hair, and we were next. The entire time I was in the lake I kept nearly running into one of their boats, so much so that when we finished our hour rental, one of the producers asked for our signature so they could use our images on tv. I told them just to blur my face out - I don't want to appear on that particular show, thank you. As I was getting out of the boat I twisted my knee in a weird way, and my mom had to help me hobble out of the park and into a cab. Now my shoulders, arms, and back really hurt from all that rowing (I was absolutely doing it wrong and making it much harder for myself), but at least I'm looking forward to seeing my blurry face and very bad boat steering skills on the Playboy channel.

See how much I was enjoying myself?

At least my mom was having fun!

Sunday, July 6, 2008

I've never seen an classic movie at Symphony Space

And it's another thing I will definitely be doing again. Symphony Space is only a few blocks from my apartment, and while I had both seen and been in performances there, I had never been to see any films there, and they show interesting old classic films that I would never otherwise see on a big screen. They show double features every Sunday, and this month they are showing Hepburn films - today was a Hepburn/ Spencer Tracy double feature with two films from the early 50's; "Pat and Mike" and "Adam's Rib".

It's pretty amazing what a renegade actress Hepburn was, and how her roles were so ahead of their time- many of her movies could almost be made today which is definitely not the case with the majority of movies I've seen from the 50's. Both movies dealt with heavy feminist issues in a comedic and light way. "Pat and Mike" was about Hepburn as an athlete who doesn't want to marry her fiance until she feels she can be independent and achieve her own accomplishments (in the 50's - whoa!). Every time her fiance shows up in the stands for one of her matches, she chokes up and ruins the game. Tracy is her manager, and as manager and athlete they agree to have a relationship that is 50-50 - completely equal, and of course, she eventually dumps her fiance for the equal rights loving Tracy character. Movie number two, Adam's Rib, dealt square on with feminine equality. Hepburn and Tracy are married lawyers representing opposing sides in a case where a woman shoots her husband when she catches him cheating. Hepburn argues that if the shooter were a man, she would be acquitted and she wins the case, but almost loses her marriage when her husband feels emasculated by the whole process. This could seriously be a sex and the city episode right now - in fact I think it might have been. These movies were really interesting because they show just how much things have changed in certain ways, and how in other ways we haven't actually come that far in the past 60 or so years. I guess it never occurred to me to think of Hepburn as an important proponent of the feminist movement, but she certainly was bucking the stereotypes previously expected of actresses of her era. Go K-Hep!

Saturday, July 5, 2008

I've never been to Kew Gardens

A good friend of mine recently moved to Kew Gardens, Queens, so today I went out to see his new apartment and the very suburban neighborhood in Queens he now lives in. I took the Long Island Railroad out there because the stop is only a few blocks from his place, and it was so fast and easy to get there. There are parts of the neighborhood that definitely look like what you imagine Queens looking like - industrial parts and lots of ethnic restaurants. But there were also parts that looked so suburban, it could have been a neighborhood in Ohio. I couldn't believe it was only a couple of subway stops away from Manhattan. Queens is actually a really nice borough because there is tons of green - there's a huge park called Forest Park just a few blocks from my friend's apartment - but also just among the apartments and houses there are trees, lawns, and little parks. I also love the around the world restaurant tour you can take, with Italian, Indian, and Asian food abounding. And not the swanky Manhattan type restaurants, but immigrant run restaurants serving the real food you would get in those countries instead of some americanized or fancified version. I can totally see the appeal of living in Queens, and I also really enjoyed my afternoon because I got to spend some quality time not only with my friend, but with his two adorable dogs, Mojo and Ella. It was a little bizarre walking Ella because my dog is also named Ella, although it felt totally normal when she barked and I said "No Ella!" because that's a phrase I utter constantly to my dog. Ella was too busy running all around for me to get a good shot of her, but Mojo did everything but say "cheese" for this photo.

Friday, July 4, 2008

I've never walked across the Brooklyn Bridge

Happy 4th of July! I'm not generally an overly patriotic person (if anybody asks me I'll say Italy and Canada are better in a second) BUT today's adventures sure made me appreciate this great city. I enlisted the company of a brand new friend - someone I had never before spent any time with, which added to the "I've never" nature of today's outing. We took the subway down to South Street Seaport and stood on the piers to view all four of the Waterfalls - NYC's summer '08 public art installation. This installation has been compared to the Gates, the orange gated flags that the artist Christo put up all through Central Park a few years back, and which I found very interesting and evocative. The waterfalls were nice, but with all the things to look at surrounding them - the Brooklyn Bridge included, they seemed like just another blip on an already full landscape. The bright orange gates dotted throughout Central Park in the bleak winter landscape totally and completely changed the way the park looked, and both walking through them and looking at them from a distance were really effective. I wouldn't kick these waterfalls out of bed for eatin' crackers, but I probably wouldn't ask them out for a second date either. Below is a photo of the Waterfall under the Brooklyn Bridge, and a photo I had taken of The Gates. See how the Bridge kind of dwarfs the waterfall, but the gates really enhance the park? No offense waterfall artist guy - I'm sure you're really sick of being compared to a totally non-related art installation.

The waterfalls became even less exciting when I walked across the Brooklyn Bridge, the next stop on today's journey, because the bridge itself is so totally awesome - and by awesome I mean both great and large, and also cool and rad. The structure of the Bridge is so beautiful to look at, and when framed with the views of Manhattan when you reach the Brooklyn side, it's totally breathtaking. I can't quite believe it has taken me this long to experience this spectacular and totally free wonder of my city, but I'll definitely be doing it again, maybe next time at sunset which I've heard is unbeatable.

The day finished with a rather long (and somewhat lost) walk through Brooklyn until we located Montague street (thanks to Georgia who grew up in Brooklyn, and who I called because I didn't want to walk all the way to Queens by accident), a lovely little street in Brooklyn Heights filled with restaurants and shops, where we sat down in a cafe for dinner and beers. I enjoyed today so much that it made me feel really good about my decision to fill July with newness because new friends and new experiences make new beginnings, which make me feel hopeful and alive. Not that I'm normally depressed and dead, but you know what I mean.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

I've never been to P.S 1

Hooray - I finally did something on my list today, and it only took me three days! P.S 1 is an outpost of the MOMA here in New York, and while I've been to the MOMA many times since it reopened, I had never been to P.S 1 before, and I do love me some modern art. So I took the 7 train out to queens (I don't think I've ever had occasion to take the 7 train before this either) and even though you can see the building when exiting the subway, I still managed to get lost twice before I located the huge old school.

I guess they put the museum out in Queens because the big space was cheaper, but it definitely has a "too cool for school" lower east side vibe to it. First of all, there are pretty much no explanations for any of the installations, so you have no idea why there is a video screen with a guy playing a clarinet badly while a monkey looks on, even after you watch it for a few minutes. I'm actually not the biggest fan of video art installations because I feel like I'm watching tv, which feels entirely unartistic. There were also paintings and sculptures, some that really spoke to me, and some that really spooked me. There was one room that had a big silver bowl filled with water and a stuffed rabbit peering into the water - I think it was titled "confusion" and I was definitely confused by it. I got totally freaked out by a bunch of metal underwater suits hanging up in a dark room and "making" very loud clanging noises, but I liked that it elicited such a strong reaction from me. The second floor was a special exhibition of various forms of artist representations of social protest, including a room devoted to different takes on patriotism and the american flag . One piece was just an official photo of President Bush hung upside down, and another was a shopping cart full of hundreds of pin-on buttons with photos of the american flag on them. There were no real explanations for any of the pieces, so somebody like my Mom, who wouldn't recognize the faces of the members of the band Bon Jovi circa 1987, would have had trouble appreciating the irony of the photo of said band members posing in the same formation with a flag as the soldiers in the very famous Iwo Jima photo. This is what I mean by the museum being too cool for school - isn't art supposed to be for everybody?

Although a lot of stuff left me scratching my proverbial head, I still really enjoyed myself because whether I got what the artist was trying to convey or not, most of the things made me start thinking about something - even if it was whether they should be considered "art" or not - and the fact that all of it was thought provoking makes it interesting and artistic to me. I would definitely go back, but next time I'll go to the MOMA first (admission to P.S 1 is free if you have a MOMA ticket that's less than a month old) to see the Picassos and Pollacks and Rothkos and see if I can find anything of a conversation between those guys and these stuffed rabbits and clarinet playing monkeys. Whether I find it or not, the thought process will definitely stir up my brain in ways only art - any art - can.

And speaking of art - here's a photo of the rustic armoire my dad and I made using an antique barn door, and then antiquing the rest to match (he did all the carpentry and I did the painting). It's a real monster standing at almost 7 foot tall, and 3 foot wide. If that doesn't fit all my stuff, it's time to get rid of something.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

I've never driven my parents van through the Bronx

Now I'm starting to regret that I sent an email to all my friends announcing "Hey - I'm going to do fascinating stuff each day and write witty and telling commentary on all the new epiphanies I'm having!" because both today and yesterday have kind of been lame in the department of epiphanies.

Today my parents and I drove down from their house to the City to deliver and assemble my newly constructed armoire. As usual, everything took longer than it should have and we got on the road later than anticipated. My dad was feeling really sleepy on the drive, so I volunteered to take over the driving, ignoring my Mom's raising of her eyebrows at this suggestion. My mom and dad are both sort of nervous passengers/drivers, but they have a system that they've worked out after over 40 years of marriage where my dad is behind the wheel, but they kind of co-drive the vehicle. It seems to put them both at ease. So when I got behind the wheel, it really messed with the system, and they both felt like they needed to become backseat drivers. My dad was worried that I was not staying in my lane, and my mom was very adamant that I not tailgate (i.e. - stay 650 miles behind the driver in front of me so that she doesn't need to slam down on her imaginary passenger breaks). This was all going fine, and I was laughing a little at them, but then our GPS directed us to get off the Saw Mill Parkway and take Broadway all the way down from 230th street to 99th street. Why the GPS didn't think the Henry Hudson would be more direct I don't know, but once we got into the Bronx is when true hilarity ensued.

I think both my parents nearly peed their pants every time someone cut me off, which was approximately once every second. Not to mention the constant jockeying of lanes you have to do to avoid the left turners in one lane and the double parkers in the other. It really is a nervous passenger's nightmare. By the time we reached the 160's or so, I got fed up and just followed some signs to take me onto the Henry Hudson, but as I was merging I nearly took out two other big vans, and I think my parents really did pee their pants at that point. We made it to my apartment unscathed, but both Mom and Dad needed to lie down for a minute to recover from the experience. And in their defense, I'm not a horrible driver, but I ain't great either, so they were probably mostly justified in their terror.

I had big plans to walk across the Brooklyn Bridge today, or at least see the Waterfalls Installation downtown, but by the time we recovered from the driving, put together the armoire and ate dinner it was too late. But tomorrow - tomorrow I'm going to change to world and move mountains and write such gripping social commentary that it will surely be published immediately in literary journals. Either that or I'm gonna, like, try a new flavor of chewing gum.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

I've never been to Woodstock

And now I have, and I don't need to go back. I mean, it's a sweet cute little town, but you can pretty much cover the whole thing in about an hour and a half. It didn't exactly feel like I was starting my 30 day adventure with a bang, but I did have an absolutely delicious spinach, mushroom and three cheese strudel at a restaurant called Joshua's, so it wasn't a total wash. Actually, it kind of became a wash - or I should say, we got washed - when a crack of thunder nearly made my mom jump out of her sandals and then it started pouring rain on our un-umbrellaed heads. And since we didn't need any tie-dyed tee-shirts, we pretty much surmised that the trip to Woodstock was over.

The other "I've never" thing I finished up today was building an armoire for my apartment. About a year ago I found this cool old barn door at an antiques store, and I've spent the last year trying to think of how to use it creatively as a piece of furniture. My first thought was to fashion a headboard, and then I thought maybe a dining room table, but I eventually decided I needed more storage, so my dad agreed we could build an armoire and use the barn door as a....door. I thought I was going to be doing some major sawing and drilling in the construction, but my dad is such a fantastic and speedy builder (how he learned this I don't know, because he is a school teacher by trade), that I was basically a tool hander. I did have the creative job of painting the thing to make it look old enough to match the old door, and frankly, I think the sucker turned out pretty awesome.

I realize none of these experiences were earth shattering or worthy of any guide-books or how-to guides, so hopefully tomorrow's adventure will turn out to life changing. No pressure or anything.