Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Take My Advice

I love advice columns.  I began reading Ann Landers, when it was Ann Landers, at an early age following in the footsteps of my mother.  She often put the paper down in the morning and exclaimed, "I just love that Ann Landers."  This being the only words she had spoken to me after, "Get up!"  No, I'm just kidding, she was a morning person.  I was not.  Later, I read Carolyn Hax's Tell Me About It column in the Washington Post when it first came out.  I returned to reading her column and the fake Dear Abby column (I'm not saying they are not good, I'm just saying they are not Abby.  I always preferred Ann, I will say) in the Philadelphia Inquirer when The New York Times wanted to charge me to read the paper online.

I especially love etiquette questions like, "We are getting married but we have everything we need, how do we ask for just money?"  or "How do I tell my daughter's boyfriend's mother that she is dressing like a slut?"  I may like these questions because I think I'm a walking faux pas and it's nice to know that there are people in this world who are more embarrassing than I am.

A very few people of course, but us social blunders do love company.

I sometimes think that I could be an advice columnist.  That is until I read superior advice like the Social Q's column in The New York Times.  Also following in my mother's footsteps, I realized that I did want access to the New York Times so I got Sunday delivery which gives me unfettered online access.  It also introduced me to the Social Q's column.  The New York Times Magazine has an Ethicist column but it's not nearly as amusing.  At least to me.  

To prove my point, here is a recent question and response.  The first paragraph of Mr. Galanes' response totally won me over.  (I highlighted it so you wouldn't miss it!)  And, in case you are intrigued, here's a link to the column.

I am on a dating site called OKCupid.com and list my age as 33, even though I am actually 43. When people meet me, they assume I am in my late 20s or early 30s. I feel fortunate to get away with looking so much younger than I am without Botox. My plan is to admit my true age on a second or third date, and hope he’ll forgive me. Or should I correct my age now?

I hate to be the bearer of hard (gravitational) truth, but no one who is 43 looks as if he or she is in the late 20s (or early 30s, either). And if people are telling you that you do, they are fibbing to make you feel better.
Correct your listed age. Better to underpromise and overdeliver on dating Web sites, and elsewhere, than to play it in reverse. There is also the small matter of honesty with potential mates. Why not be the youngest-looking 43-year-old on the Internet?
But I was not born yesterday (either): Online daters tell me that age shaving to the next-lower 9 (listing yourself as 39 when you are 43) is a common ploy. That way, we turn up as matches for folks who only want to date people under 40. That may be ageist of them, but it’s their loss. So why waste your time?
I know aging isn’t easy, especially when it feels as if everyone is looking for a 28-year-old. But look on the bright side: We’ll be taking advantage of those AARP group insurance discounts in no time.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

(no) Thanks for the Memoirs

Have you  noticed how many people have written memoirs or are in the midst of writing memoirs?  It's awe-inspiring or groan-inducing, depending on how you look at it.

I can't believe that many people had such shitty childhoods and that they feel compelled to write about them, and air all their dirty laundry.  I'm feeling rather inadequate about my own normal childhood.  Sure we had some problems but nothing to write home about....or a book about for that matter.

I've read a few of these memoirs.  Some, I couldn't get through like Don't Let the Dogs Go to Africa (or whatever the title of that book was).  Some, I managed to finish like the The Glass Castle.  That woman's  childhood makes me wonder if her editor was James Frye.  Or, how about Dave Eggers' first book about being a Heart-Breaking Genius?  I've heard a lot about Mr. Eggers through the years and he may be the greatest writer of our generation but I won't read him because that book bored me to tears.  It's like these authors had such horrible things happen to them--beyond their control of course--and yet somehow they managed to become these amazing, giving, wonderful people.  Are they blowing smoke up their own ass because no on else will?

And that just produced an image for me that I would like to forget.

This from a girl who adores biography.  I guess it's okay if someone else writes about you but when you do it yourself, I tend to wonder.  Unless of course you are David Sedaris, and throw in humour and, most likely, quite a bit of exaggeration 

I have liked some memoirs, believe it or not.  I rather enjoyed Ruth Reichl's books about learning to cook.  Although I'll admit that I only read 2 or 3 of them.  Enough Ruth!  Julia Child you are not.  Now, that's a memoir that I loved:  My Life in France.  Dude, it's Julia; how do you not want to read it?  But now, of course, everyone who has ever stepped foot into a kitchen is writing a memoir.  When you do what Julia Child did, I will read your book.

And, before you even mention it, No!  I did not read the Julie and Julia book.  This woman opens up a cookbook, follows some recipes, and people pay her tons of money.  Okay, I'll admit that maybe I'm a tad jealous that she got paid for making dinner.

I do like actors' memoirs like Sir Alec Guinness' My Name Escapes Me.  I saw him on stage once.  He was doing a play in London with Edward Herrmann (of The Lost Boys).  It was Lee Blessings' A Walk in The Woods.  It's a great play and I can attest to it because I saw it years later with regular actors in it and it was still good.  Anyway, after the show (in London) we waited by the stagedoor for the actors to come out.  It was a small crowd of only a few Americans.  Londoners don't do this, I guess.  Anyway, Edward Herrmann came out and chatted with us and walked on.  Then, And Then....Sir Alec came out.  Everyone gasped and took a step back and stared dumbfounded.  He shrugged, put his cigar in his mouth, and moseyed on down the street.  The stage manager popped out, looked at us, and said, "You have to actually talk to him if you want an autograph."  Several in the crowd ran down the street after Sir Alec.  When I told my mom this story she sighed and said, "Oh, he was smoking, I don't like to hear that."  

I cannot make this stuff up.  I'll have to put it in my memoir:  "Confessions of a Lady Curmudgeon" or "Who Took my Cocktail" or "From Vermont to Philly to Stoli" or "Stage Manage This."    These are just a few title ideas I'm throwing around.  Don't worry, I'll get Mr. Sedaris AND Mr. Frye to edit it.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Smartphones, Uggs and Mid Life Issues

I am smart!  Well, at least my phone is.  I succumbed to the lure of shiny lights and GPS and upgraded to a smartphone yesterday.  It all came about because we don't have a landline and since I work part-time I'm not always home when my kids come home.  My son needed a phone to be able to call me when he returned from school.

Last night was spent with both kids nose deep in keyboards taking pictures and deciding who deserved what ringtone.

Not being hip, I only have a vague idea on how to use my smartphone.  I can't seem to figure out how to add contacts, let alone assign them ring tones.

It cracks me up that I have this phone.  I rather prided myself on my backwards technology:  my old phone only made phone calls and texted; I couldn't get a picture message or an e mail.  But in a moment of wanting to be cool like everyone else...

Which brings me to Uggs.  Those boots are so ugly and yet so ubiquitous.  My daughter has been begging for them for years and I refuse to buy them for her.  There seems to be this uniform worn by every girl between the ages of 13 and 30:  leggings, Uggs, and a North Face fleece.  I wonder why everyone wants to look like everyone else.  Where's the uniqueness?  Where's the individuality?  Where's the humanity?

I'm getting carried away.  I think I just want my daughter to find her freak flag because sometimes I feel like I don't fit in and I want company.  I worry that others are judging me all the time.  No one understands me!  It's probably because I'm going through the "what do I want to do next?"  phase.  I refuse to call it a mid-life crisis because my husband says I only get one and I'm not wasting it on a smartphone.  And, who wants a mid-life crisis at 43?  But, I do need to get over myself and since I refuse to go the Uggs and leggings route, I need to find some more friends who accept me for who I am.  Hmmm, I wonder if there's an app for that.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Experiencing Some Viral Issues

I de-activated my Facebook account.  It was a rather arduous process with several questions to answer and even a last-minute emotional, blackmail attempt by Facebook:  They put up pictures of some of your friends saying that these people will miss you.

Seriously?  Because if they are my friends, really my friends, they know how to get in touch with me.  I'm just saying.

I originally joined Facebook to promote my blog and I recently discovered that my friends on Facebook actually read it.  That was a pleasantly surprising discovery because I don't even look at people's pictures.  When I would check out Facebook, I breezed through posts wondering why I cared that someone was excited to watch the new season of Mad Men.  I do want to keep in touch with people but I prefer a nice long e mail or phone conversation or, better yet, in person over a beer.  It's probably why I like blogging because I get to know people through them.  And, you can drink a beer and read blogs:  truly a win win.

I know, I'm so old-school, I should be tweeting my life in a 140 characters except that I have a LOT to say.

Another reason I felt the need to get off of Facebook has to do with my daughter.  She tried out for competition dance at her dance studio.  The owner of the studio moved her up to a higher level team for this year.  The people on the team didn't think she deserved it and said so all over Facebook.  It pissed me off and my daughter off.  I also think the owner missed a teachable moment, although not about Facebook.  She reprimanded the girls and said, "We don't do things like that at this studio, we have to support one another."  What she should have said was, "I made the decision to put Clara on the team.  I own the studio and it's my choice.  If you don't like it you need to speak with me."  But, alas, like everyone else, the owner wants to be liked.

Which brings me to another reason I'm not into Facebook right now.  We tend to, in our little posts, present an exaggerated picture of ourselves, maybe a polished version, not an authentic one.  I think, as I'm trying to figure out the next step of my life, I want to stay away from the noise of all that.  You could say that blogs can be inauthentic but I don't feel like the people I've met through them are. Plus, there is room for more creativity.

All of this may sound like a pretentious excuse, I'm not sure.  Of course, I'm about to get a new smartphone.  Not so old-school now am I?  But without Facebook, what am I going to use it for?  I suppose I'll have to download one of those games everyone is playing like Dirty Birds.  Or is it Angry Birds?  Maybe I am too old for this.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Did Ya Hear the One about the Farmer's Market?

Farmer's markets make me want to do yoga.  Earlier this evening, I was explaining this to Brian at the same time I was talking about cling wrap.  I like to multi-task.  He said that the sentence, "I want to talk about cling wrap," would be a better opening sentence but I don't actually want to talk about cling wrap.  It's really not that interesting.

Let me set the scene, we went to the Elkins Park farmer's market this morning.  Last night, our kids had a sleep over with friends, so we were alone.  We went out for a drink and a bite then home for a movie:  The Company Men with Ben Affleck, Tommy Lee Jones, Chris Cooper, and Kevin Costner--highly recommended.  This morning, after breakfast at a diner (complete with the New York Times), we hit the farmer's market.  It was so very metro chic of us.  It also gave me a glimpse into my future when my kids are off at college.  I felt slightly guilty at enjoying it all.

For some reason, seeing all those vegetables, organic honey, and homemade bread laid out made me want to do yoga.  It may have had something to do with the peasant omelet I had for breakfast.  Sausage, potatoes, eggs, and onions can weigh a person down.  But I think it's the farmer's market itself with the glorious colors and the feeling of eating locally and supporting the organic movement.  It's not the first time I've wanted to hurl up every greasy burger I ever ate and clean my palette with free range eggs.

Plus, the pickle man was there.  This guy only sells pickles but man, they are good pickles.  He is the embodiment of the idea that if you do one thing, make sure you do it well.  His half sour pickles are so light and clean tasting, I could have done a sun salutation in the middle of the lane.  He doesn't look like what I would picture as a pickle man; he looks more like a frat boy business major.  Just don't judge this book by it's cover until you've tried his pickles.

Glenside, the town I live in, has a farmer's market but it seems to me to be all jewelry and coffee with very few vegetables.     Some of you may remember when I wrote about the french class I took last year.  A woman in the french class was very free with correcting everyone else's french.  One night we were all out and the Glenside farmer's market came up.  When she found out I didn't go to it, she exploded with, "You live in Glenside and You  DON'T go to the farmer's market?!"  She never, of course, bothered to ask why, she preferred to berate me in front of new found friends and show the world how much better she is as a human being because she goes to the Glenside farmer's market and she doesn't EVEN live in Glenside.  What can I say?  It never made me want to do yoga.  I didn't tell her that though, she isn't the type of person who would understand that.

I don't know how you feel about farmer's markets but there's my take.  Next time, maybe I'll chat about cling wrap, you never know.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pouring Rain

I've written recently about wondering if I should find a full-time job, or stick with stage managing or win the lottery.  And, sometimes, these thoughts get answered in mysterious ways.  Well, except for winning the lottery part.  Although, we recently had a fun family dream session where we all sat around and talked about what we would do if we won the lottery.  Brian, my husband, wins with "I would set aside money to help my friends out when they are in dire straits."  What do you say to that?  I'd go to Paris.

After my stint with New Paradise Laboratories, (doing that 3 part, multi-media piece that I wrote about), I took the managing director out for coffee to pick her brains.  I love to chat with people about their lives, how they got where they are, etc.  Anyway, she mentions that she needs help in the office (it's just her running things and the Artistic Director).  I tell her that I was free, stagnating at home and I could help out if I could learn about budgeting and grant writing.  Deal.

So I help out 15 or so hours a week.  It's very flexible; not only am I learning stuff, I'm figuring out how to work and get stuff done at home.  That last sentence may ring false because when I do a show I work 50+ hours a week.  Here's the difference: when I leave for rehearsal, I don't return until after the kids have gone to bed or are going to bed so I've missed homework, dinner, baths, etc.  I schedule little or no appointments during that time unless it's on a Monday (the day off).  Now, I'm in the baby steps of balancing a job with all that other stuff.  It's like dipping the toes in the water before jumping in full-time.

Okay, so then I run into Jorge Cousineau who has an office next door to NPL's.  He is a local sound, video, all-around brilliant artist who did the set, video, sound, and filming for Extremely Public (the multi-media show we did with NPL).  He has a dance company with his wife called Subcircle.  They needed a Stage Manager for their gig and he saw me and thought, "Look there's a stage manager!"  So I spent a week working on their dance piece.

Dance is vastly different from theater.  They have been working on this show for a couple of years.   I came into the process 2 days before they opened.  I have done dance before but not for years and it was great to re-visit it.  We set light and sound cues by skipping to that point in the dance and Jorge telling me:  "When she does this, lights and sound should go."  Of course, I didn't know what came before that cue so I had to have laser focus the first few times we ran the show.  In a 50 minute piece there were 30 light cues, 30 sound cues and 4 fly cues.   At the 4th and last show, Jorge was setting up for their fund-raiser and I was perusing the beer selection to see what choices he had made.  He asked if I wanted one and I had to tell him, "No, dude, I need every ounce of concentration for this piece."  So you know it was difficult if I had to refuse a beer!

What a long post but that's what I've been up to:  working in an office and stage managing, I've got 2 out of the 3, now I just need to win the lottery!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Bring Out Your Inner Nerd

I have been busy this past week with a part-time job.  How crazy is that?  I took the managing director of the last theater I worked with, New Paradise Laboratories, out for coffee to talk about her past life.  This is one of my favorite things to do:  figure out how people got to be where they are.  In the midst of the conversation, she mentioned that she needed someone in the office to help organize it, file, work on budget stuff, etc.  And, I mentioned I was free.

I've spent the last week and a half organizing files, throwing stuff out, putting like items together, and as boring as it may seem to you, I LOVE IT.  Organizing shit just brings out my inner nerd.  It's part of what makes me a good stage manager.  People have told me I should go into Personal Organizing as a career but it's only one part of what I love about theater.  Also, I have to admit, I don't think I could sell organizing to someone because I find it really easy.  I'd be telling them:  Oh, you don't need me, all you have to do is... And I'd be out of a job in no time.

The job is just perfect for now:  it's part-time, I'm getting some beer money, I'm learning a bit about budgeting and grants, I'm getting out of the house.  Oh, and I discovered that if I don't vacuum the house every day, it's still there when I get back.  Plus, the managing director knows that I have other gigs coming up so the hours are very flexible.

But this will make you laugh:  I get home one day and my daughter needs a new binder for school.  I bring out several of my binders plus my hole reinforcements, tabs, and dividers.  I have a plethora of dividers in all shapes and colors.  She goes crazy re-organizing her binder.  Then, my son gets into the act, appropriating a binder, dividing it up into sections for God only knows what and using tabs wherever possible.  It was an office supply orgy I tell you.

These apples did not fall far.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Let's Stay with Star Wars

Two more for your viewing pleasure (Sorry Mr. Fox!):

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The Upside of Boring

Brian went away this past weekend to run a half-marathon in Baltimore with a college friend.  Since I'm in theater, it's rare that I have an entire weekend alone with my kids.  I always try to make it a special weekend.  Try being the operative word here.

On Friday night, they had some friends sleep over.  I took them out to our favorite diner where everyone got milkshakes and then we went home for a movie.  On Saturday night, my son was invited to sleep over at another friend's house so it was just my daughter and me; an even rarer event.

I thought it would be a perfect night to watch a chick flick which is Clara's favorite type of movie.  I searched IMDB and Rotten Tomatoes, I asked for ideas, I watched trailers.  Is Bridget Jones' Diary to risque?  Would The Proposal be funny enough?  I wasn't sure.

But after dropping my son off, Clara said she didn't feel like a movie.  She just wanted a shower and to watch TV.  Really?  I pleaded.  It's mommy and daughter time.  It'll be special.  She tried to rally and when I saw that she was only going to agree to be nice, I relented.  If she wanted to be boring, so be it.

I went upstairs to watch TV and when Clara got out of the shower she came up to say good night.  How I Met Your Mother was one; my favorite show.  I talk about it all the time because it's legend....wait for it....dairy.  Clara has always wanted to see it so she stayed to watch the end.  Then we found 2 more episodes on demand.  After, we flipped channels, talked, and Clara played on the computer some.  By this time, it was late, and since I have a king sized bed, and since it was just Clara, I told her she might as well sleep with me.

I didn't know boring could be so special.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Beer and Little Black Dresses

My clothing style is what I like to call  "frumpalicious."  When I was working on my show in Center City, I would go outside and stare at everyone walking around.  There are so many styles and types of people in Center City, Philly.  It's a people watching place.  I'd stare at these people and think, "Why don't I look as good as that?"  It's not that I'm fat.  I've actually kept my figure pretty well over the years.  Okay, okay, except for the year that I lived in Ireland.  But if you tried sausage and chips combined with a pint of Guiness, you'd understand why I gained 20 pounds.  I think it's that I tend to wear baggy clothes so I look like I used to be heavy.  I also hate to shop.  HATE IT.  It becomes very difficult to be stylish when you are mixing and matching 80's and 90's clothes.  Let me re-phrase:  when you are mixing and matching MY 80's and 90's clothes.

The costume designer for this last show is very stylish.  Well, you'd expect that wouldn't you?  It's why I turned to her when I decided I just needed a new dress for a wedding I'm going to in October.  I haven't been to a wedding in years and I thought it'd be a good time to spruce up the wardrobe.  As luck would have it, she had to get an evening/cocktail type dress for the actress in the show.  She shared her research with me and then she did something even better.  One day, instead of shopping with the actress, the costume designer brought in a few dresses she thought might work.  When one was rejected, she turned to me and said I should try it on, because it'd be great for a wedding.  So I did.  It was pretty tight, or form-fitting, or whatever the word is.  I thought it might be too small and the costume designer just looked at me and laughed and said, "You don't wear tight clothes, do you?"

But I had a new dress and no shopping!  Win!  A rather blurry picture of it is to the right.  And no, that's not me.  I'll get pictures from the wedding to show you.  I feel so very Audrey Hepburn in the dress.

AND!  I found shoes on Zappos.  Actually my daughter found them for me so again no shopping!  Another win!

Okay, here's the thing.  I'm on the other side of 40 and I've discovered that my flat stomach ain't so flat anymore.  I've a bit of a pouch.   And, no unlike Fabienne from Pulp Fiction, I do not want a pot.  It's forced me to do sit-ups religiously because I want to rock that dress.  We could count that as another win:  working out regularly.

What would probably help the pouch is cutting down on the beer.  Never expected me to admit to that, did ya?  Every afternoon around 5 pm or so, I indulge in my 5 o'clock beer.  When my kids were little, I used to think that 5 pm was the witching hour because the kids seemed so cranky around that time.  Turns out, I was the cranky one, not them.  My bio-rhythms must be below the radar at that point.  Beer is probably not the best idea for low bio-rhythms but it works for me.  It's like my little reward for keeping my kids alive for one more day.  I'd rather do sit ups then give up the 5 o'clock beer.  Okay, I'll admit it, it's usually 2 beers.

Yesterday, though, my son asked me not to drink so much beer.  How sweet you're thinking right?  Ha!  It wasn't out of concern for mommy's drinking habits, nor was he trying to help me look good at a wedding.  Oh no!  See, he has to take out the recycling every week and in PA, we don't do the bottle deposit thing.  He just felt there was too much recycling so I needed to quit drinking so he'd have less to do.  Gotta love it.  Of course, he asked me that and then proceeded to tell me it would be so funny if he locked his sister in the basement.  When I said no, he didn't take it to mean, no it wouldn't be funny.  He took it to mean no it wouldn't be funny because it would be even funnier if he locked his sister AND his mother in the basement and then that's what he did.  And now you know why I have a 5 o'clock beer.  And when I say a 5 o'clock beer, I mean two 5 o'clock beers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Let's All Go the Movies!

This past weekend was my first weekend home with no shows.  Brian took the kids up to see his parents and I had the weekend to myself.  Now, if you read my last post, you'll know that I'm wondering, contemplating, thinking about full-time work and what that would look like.  My voice teacher last week sat down and talked to me about my career and life goals and told me I needed to buy the book What Color is Your Parachute and do the exercises.  She actually gave me career-seeking homework.

So I went out, bought the book, leafed through it and promptly forgot about it.  And, I did what any 40-something who is filled with apprehension about the future would do:  I went to the movies.  Not just once, mind you.  4 movies  in 2 days.  It was a great weekend.

Okay, 2 of the movies I watched at home but still, it was a great weekend.

Friday night, I went to dinner with girlfriends and then we had drinks after so when I woke up Saturday, I was feeling a little ugh.  Then I realized I didn't actually have to get up if I didn't want to so I flipped on the TV and Down with Love was just starting.  That's the 2003 movie with Ewan McGregor and Renee Zellweger that's a take-off on the Rock Hudson and Doris Day sex comedies of the 1960s.  It's so great and funny.  You can watch it over breakfast, over lunch, over martinis, anytime.  It's light and zany and just a real romp. Of course if you prefer angst-ridden indie films, this might not be the film for you.

Saturday afternoon I went to see Moneyball with Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill about the Oakland A's General Manager who put together a winning team on a very small budget based purely on statistics.  Interesting side note:  The Oakland A's used to be the Philadelphia Athletics back when Philadelphia had both an American League and a National League team.  And that's all I say about the Philadelphia teams in light of the Phillies disappointing loss last Friday.  Back to the movie:  It's fine, a good film.  Interesting.  If you see it, it's entertaining.  If you miss you, you haven't missed much. Brad Pitt is enjoyable and so is Jonah Hill.  The screenplay is by Aaron Sorkin so it's fun.

Saturday night after a beer with a friend (I just don't want you to think I was completely anti-social all weekend), I watched Cedar Rapids.   Ed Helms plays an insurance agent who has to represent his company at an annual convention in Cedar Rapids, IA.  He meets John C. Reilly, Anne Heche and Isiah Whitlock, Jr. who help him navigate the conference.  I really liked this movie.  Ed Helms is naive but not so much that he's pathetic.  I hate those movies where the protagonist is so pathetic it hurts to watch.  Mr. Apatow are you listening?  I watched Bridesmaids a few weeks ago which critics hailed as a woman's version of an Apatow film.  I found Kristen Wiig's character to pathetic to watch.  Cedar Rapids, good flick, endearing.  Entertaining.  Great for an easy movie night.  Again, not really if you like angsty films.

Sunday, after grocery shopping and working out, I made it to Drive before the family returned.  This is the Ryan Gosling picture where he plays a stunt driver and part-time get-away driver who gets mixed up with the wrong criminals.  This may be the film for you if you like angst films.  It's dark.  Not a lot of dialogue.  Bryan Cranston is great in it and Albert Brooks holds his own.  Oddly, when you first see it, the production values almost resemble a 1980's teenage comedy but it's certainly not that.  I'm still intrigued by it.  If you love films, and you want something different then this is a film for you.  But be warned, the violence is on a level that would make Quentin Tarantino proud.  It might even make him jealous.

Not a bad weekend, huh?  Some people have retail therapy when they are down, I've got cinema therapy.  And it works.

Monday, October 10, 2011

eXtremely pUblic

Okay, I'm finally back.  I was off doing a show for the past two months and got out of the blogging habit and then the new non-blogging habit stuck so I had to break that.  It's like a cycle with me, I know.

I wasn't signed up for a show this fall but the SM couldn't do it so I got called at the last minute (last two weeks of July to start in August) from this theater that I have never worked with, New Paradise Laboratories.  They do experimental, devised works which, to put it in layman's terms, means making it up as you go along.  But seriously, they do some wild stuff and it's really good.  The Artistic Director, who also works at the Arden, is often referred to as a mad genius.  He's also one of the only directors I know who does racy, adult stuff with New Paradise and then directs these amazing children's shows at the Arden.

This show was entitled Extremely Public Displays of Privacy.  It had an entirely different format from what you expect from a theater show.  The first act was a website where you learned about Fess Elliot and her budding "friendship" with Beatrix Luff.  See, Fess is this 40 something mother and music teacher who used to be in a band.  She walked off the stage one day "fed up with the bullshit of the music business," became a teacher and got married.  In Act 1, you learn that on ChatRoulette one night she meets Beatrix and plays a song for her.  Beatrix loves the song, they become Facebook friends, and Bea starts remaking Fess' songs and adding videos, etc.

So Fess wants to meet Bea.  But before she can do that, Bea makes her go through a series of public displays which brings us to Act 2; a walking tour.  An audience member downloads video onto his/her phone and walks through parts of Center City Philadelphia watching Fess perform these public displays on the phone.  It's hard to explain but you (if you were the audience member) would stand at the fountain and watch Fess jump into the fountain on your phone.  It's pretty neat.  That was the first half of our rehearsal process, filming Act 2.  It was pretty cool: we had middle of the night shoots, early morning shoots.  It felt very Hollywood.  My major responsibility was holding the wipies and driving the van which is probably all I'd be doing in Hollywood.  Although, I'd probably get paid more for it.

So Act 3 is supposed to be a concert that Bea has concocted but Fess is fed up with Bea so she goes into hiding.  The concert is at this secret location that audience members are told at the last minute and a concert does indeed happen plus stories and stuff.  That was the most "normal theater" part of the show.  Well, except for the secret location part.

The whole thing was neat to work on as I had never done devised work before.  Also, the subject matter was close to my heart.  It's really about how Fess, in her 40's might regret giving up her music and trying to figure out how to bring that back into her life.  It's also about how the internet has changed how we view things.  Really, we can get anything we want with just a few clicks of the mouse button.  But is getting that good for us?  Is it what we really want?  The director called the show lonely and it really is because no one else can figure out these answers for us.

If you are interested in checking out Act 1, which I believe is still up, here's the website:  http://extremelypublicdisplays.com/of/privacy  As a side note, the actress who played Fess wrote all the songs for the show herself.  She's a great musician and listening to her music every night was one of the highlights of the production.

I've been thinking about the show for a while now.  My kids are older so I could get a full-time job because they are so much more self-sufficient.  It might also help my attitude since it's getting really, really boring to vacuum again and again and again.  But I love stage managing and I would do it more but that only takes me away from my family too much.  I wouldn't have the vacuuming but I also wouldn't have my family.  Of course, the next questions are:  what type of job do I get?  how do I keep theater in my life?  The show really struck a nerve with me as you can tell.  And I think that's one of the things I love about theater:  how a story can really speak to you and you realize "oh!  I'm not alone, other people feel this way too."  And I don't really want to give that up.  See?!  Can you see my dilemma?

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pack Your Flippin' Bags!

I haven't been around much this summer on the blogosphere.  I've been a bit busy and, quite frankly, my summer has not been all that exciting.  Nothing to report.  I've been trying to be very disciplined with working out, singing and doing morning pages (from The Artist's Way).  I've also been trying to keep my son's brain from atrophying so we've been doing math and reading all summer. 

I hope I haven't lost you to boredom yet but you can see why there's not much to blog about.  We did see U2's 360 tour a couple of weeks ago.  I was completely underwhelmed.  The sound was not good where we were sitting and we kept trying to find a better listening point.  The stage itself was supposed to make the concert feel intimate.  Instead, I felt like I was watching it on YouTube.  This is coming from a diehard U2 fan.  Well, I was.  Back in the day, I could tell you anything you needed to know about those guys and I had such a crush on Larry Mullen.  I might still do.  I think I may be a bit over them now.  Bono just seems too preachy to me these days.  At the end of the concert he wanted the audience to sing Happy Birthday to Nelson Mandela.  These guys are Irish, we're in Philadelphia, it was Bastille Day and we sang Happy Birthday to Nelson Mandela?  I like Nelson Mandela, don't get me wrong but it seemed just so out of place.  I get that Africa is in a crisis.  I understand.  But if Bono is so gung-ho about this cause, why doesn't he sell off some of his houses or motorcycles or guitars (that he can't play, damn did I say that out loud?) to help the cause.  I mean, either practice what you preach or don't preach.  My apologies to the U2 fans out there.

A side note on singing:  I found a new singing teacher whom I love and I have made such progress since switching to her.  And, she's a lovely human being.  It's like a win-win-win.

So anyway, here's the gist of my post:  A pet peeve.  It's happened so often now that I want to scream.  We have a Trader Joe's by us, which I frequent.  Often, I am just running in for milk or olive oil or some other item that I've run out of.  Here's what kills me:  At the register I am always (make that ALWAYS) behind a customer who does not believe in packing his/her own groceries.  That customer just stands there (like a flippin' idiot)  waiting for the cashier to finish ringing up the items and then bagging them.  Wasting my time I might add.  How hard is it to pack your own groceries?!

The worst scenario is the customer who engages the cashier in some sort of jocular conversation while NOT bagging his/her groceries.  Usually this customer then turns to me trying to engage me in this banter.  At this point I have 2 choices neither one good:  I can either ignore the person which just shows the entire Trader Joe's community how much of a curmudgeon I actually am; or, I can respond and thus prolong the misery by giving this person an audience. 

I don't go to Trader Joe's for the social aspect.  Yes, they are kind and unique grocery store but I don't actually want to hang out there for the afternoon, if you know what I mean.  One day, and this is good, the customer in front of me, instead of packing his groceries, was speaking Klingon to the cashier.  Klingon!  Really?  This isn't a freakin' cocktail party.  I'm not even sure Klingon would go over well at a cocktail party. 

Now you know a bit more about the real me....the curmudgeon.  Hopefully, it won't prevent you from reading future posts.  But if it does, I understand.  Just please, do me a favor?  Pack your groceries at Trader Joe's?  Deal?

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summer Reading

One thing I'm trying to do this summer (and remember folks, we're only in week 2 here) is to read with my kids. I used to read with my daughter quite a bit and with my son some.  My daughter and I have read many books together:  The Secret Garden, Pippi Longstocking, Alice in Wonderland, A Wrinkle in Time, among others.

She refused to read The Outsiders so I started reading it to her this summer and now she really likes it.  See, mom does know best!  I promised to show her the movie after we finish and point out all the actors I drooled over when I was her age.  I just loved me some Matt Dillon!

I'm looking for suggestions for our next book together.  I'm thinking of To Kill a Mockingbird, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn or The Book Thief.  She's 12 but pretty mature for her age and like I said, I'll be reading it with her.  So if anyone has any suggestions.

Clara has actually made me read some of her favorite books like When You Reach Me and Heartbeat.  Two awesome books for young adults that I highly, highly recommend.  The best part about When You Reach Me is that it refers to A Wrinkle in Time but it's so much more than that.  Heartbeat is written all in poems but it tells a complete story.  Trust me, you'll cry.  For my summer reading, I'm working my way through the Percy Jackson series.  They are perfect for the pool and they don't make me cry.  'Cause that would just be embarrassing at the pool.

As for my son, we're reading The Phantom Tollbooth.  And if you have not read that book then you need to drop everything and get a copy now.  It's that good.  What are you waiting for?  GO!  I've read this book many times as a kid and read it to my daughter and am now enjoying it all over again with my son.  I get something new out of it every time I read it.  Next, we're going to finish the Narnia series, I think we only have 2 books left.    He's 9 going on 10 so if anyone has any good ideas for that age, send them on.

It's really a win-win reading with my kids:  not only do I look like a great mom (right?), I also get to read a bunch of books that I never did as a child.  I totally skipped the Narnia series so it's nice to know what they are all about.

Quick story about that:  I started reading The Secret Garden when I was young but then one night my mother made dusty potatoes and I came down with a fever.  So, I never finished the book because I always associated it with dusty potatoes and being sick, even though none of those things are in any way related.

Check back in a month though to see if I'm still reading to them or if we've just gone straight to watching the movie version.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I Had a Blog Once Too...

I had a blog once, wrote in it quite a lot.  Can't figure out what happened to it...unless, now, wait a minute.  This is that blog!  Fancy that!  I found it again.

Getting out of the habit of doing something is a killer...well, unless it's smoking.  My excuse for my absence is that we switched to summer hours here.  Basically, that means that school ended and the kids are home an awful lot more than they used to be.  And they want things too, what is up with that?

I've been trying to be a bit strict about my own schedule.  I used to love summer because it meant I didn't have to get up early.  But when I did get up, I'd try to get stuff done but the kids would be bored and wanting my attention and I'd get cranky.  Now, I get up at 6 am and exercise and get shit done.  It's pretty awesome.  Oh don't worry, I still get cranky, but not until 3 or 4 in the afternoon.  Then it's like an hour or two until beer o'clock so it's really not that bad.

Here's what makes me smile:  no more evening commitments.  Toward the end of school we had activities every night from Monday thru Thursday and sometimes on Saturday.  Everyday it was a mad rush to get home, get homework done, yell a bit, make dinner, eat dinner, rush someone out the door, yell some more (just for the hell of it), baths and bedtime.  Now, I can make dinner any time I freakin' feel like it.

In addition to yelling and exercising, I have been busy.  Our garden (I should put pictures up) is just beautiful. We have an abundance of collard greens and swiss chard and I have a ton of recipes for them if you need it.  We had a bumper crop of lettuce but that finally went to seed luckily not before we picked it.  My neighbor told me about green shakes:  put lettuce (or other greens) in a blender with almond milk (or regular milk) a banana, some fruit (I used frozen blueberries) and blend.  How healthy can you get?  Greens and dairy and fruit....it's a multi-tasking shake.

Just so you know we are also growing blueberries, pumpkins, tomatoes, broccoli ('cause I'm chopping broccoli, had to do it), peppers, basil, watermelon, cucumbers.  It's just so much fun.

So green shakes, gardens, exercising, driving the kids around, that's my summer so far.  If it gets more exciting I'll let you know.  And if it doesn't, well, I'll just make something up.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Throwdown: Showcase vs. Awards Ceremony

I spent all weekend working on the Apprentice Showcase at the Arden.  Each year, the Arden hires a "class" of about 6 apprentices.  The class consists of college graduates who have theater experience but may not know exactly what they want to do in theater.  The apprentices work in all areas of the theater:  box office, front of house, education, development, production, etc. In addition to all this (a 60 hour work week), they put on a Showcase at the end of the year.

I found this class to be very different from other classes.  (To be fair, I've only known a couple of others).  They seemed more grounded, more intellectual...they also seemed to be in sync with my view on people and ideas so obviously they are very intelligent.  Anyway, this showcase was different than previous ones.  Instead of presenting pieces picked by the Artistic Department, they chose their own pieces -- some even wrote their own. They didn't want the same people who had worked on it in the past which is where I came in.  They asked me to be their Theatre Coordinator.  I couldn't exactly stage manage it because of the union.  They came up with the title although I really liked one of the apprentices suggestions.  He thought I should just be listed as "friend" in the program.  How cool would that be as a title, "friend"?

We had very little time to tech in the lights, sounds, and costumes.  We met on Saturday for 8 hours and on Sunday for 3 and then they performed Sunday night and Monday night.  There was another show in the theater so the apprentices and the designers had limited time to rehearse and design.  But still, we pulled it off.  There's something exciting about getting in to a theater and seeing how great you can make a show with a very limited amount of time.  Priorities become very important:  light the person who is speaking, high priority, making that person look good, low priority.

I contrast that with my daughter's Awards Ceremony aka Graduation from Sixth Grade.  I was working on that this week as well.  The teachers put together these folders which contain each student's award.  These folders are stuffed and put under each student's chair.  But the student is not allowed to touch the folder until the end of the ceremony when he or she picks up his or her folder and carries it back to his or her classroom. Then, and only the is the student allowed to open the folder.  I'm not exaggerating.  The teachers threaten the kids within an inch of their lives about the folders.   Don't ask me why they don't just give the folders to the kids in the classroom.

I know this because the kids rehearsed this ceremony for 4 straight days:  walk in, sit down, stand for the pledge, sit down, walk up, get certificate of completion ('cause they aren't actually graduating), sit down, MIME picking up the folders, return to classroom.  My tax dollars at work.

Don't get me started on the awards.  They get an award for being in chorus.  The entire 6th grade is required to be in chorus.  They get an award for participating in D.A.R.E.  The entire 6th grade is required to participate in D.A.R.E.  These kids are going to grow up expecting an award every time they fart!   "Why Bill, that fart was great.  It wafted just over 3 cubicles.  Expect a little extra in your check this week."

The ceremony took 2 hours.  The high school graduation (an actual graduation) with 5 times as many students took 90 minutes.  I have to be careful though because of the number of parents who find this sort thing wonderful.  The parents who say, "They do so much for the sixth grade here."   Hey, if you want to get movie theater ass from sitting on bleachers for 2 hours watching your child stand up, in a carefully rehearsed manner, to be recognized because he/she  took the required chorus, feel free.  I kinda wish they'd do a little less for the students.

So I guess this throwdown was a no-brainer.  Did I mention that on our final night of Showcase (they perform twice) that the apprentices would not let me buy my own beer?  I guess they don't need any more points.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

All Day IPA: I Think I Love You

This week is Philly Beer week (or Billy Fear week as I like to call it) and my birthday.  Do you think they knew that when they planned it?  I bet they did.

On Tuesday, Brian took a half day and I met him in the city for lunch, a walk, some beer, basically a date.  We had lunch at the Belgium Cafe, owned and operated by the people from Monk's Cafe in Center City.  Monk's is known as one of the best beer bars in the world.  I kid you not.  The food was quite tasty but my jury is still out on our waitress.  She brought some unclean cutlery so we sent it back.  When she returned with supposedly new knives, she took a look at a knife then wiped it across her butt and placed it next to my plate.  I really wanted to say, "You know I'm right here right?"

After lunch we hit Eastern State Penitentiary.  When it was built it was the first of it's kind in America.  The idea was to give each convict time alone to reflect on his/her crime.  Each prisoner had a cell to himself and a small courtyard that he/she visited for 30 minutes twice a day.  The prisoners were not allowed to talk with anyone else during their stay.  Well, that didn't last as the crime rate flourished so prisoners had to share cells. Al Capone was held their for 8 months.  See, I can do culture with my beer.

We also, as you may imagine, hit a few beer bars in the area.  For the most part I'm a die-hard IPA drinker because they are so hopalicious.  Unfortunately, they are also big as in 7.8% or 8.6% or even 9% alcohol.  Not exactly a session beer.  Not exactly a beer that you want to drink on a hot summer afternoon.  But, at our 3rd bar, there he was....sitting innocently at the end of a row of taps.  "What's this All Day IPA?"  I inquired of the waitress (who, luckily didn't seem the type to wipe knives her butt).  "Oh, that's a new one from Founder's, out in Michigan, it's only 4.8% alcohol."

Well, that was a no-brainer on my part, I had to have a taste.  It was like the heavens opened up and a choir of angels began to sing.  A very delicious hoppy, dry taste that I just love in an IPA.  Granted, it's not the overpowering hops of a double IPA but it's also not the killer alcohol level either.

I'm in love!

Rest of the day didn't compare to that find.  We trekked down to checkout an IPA throwdown that was non-existent.  Shoulda stayed where we were.  But I'll find him again, that All Day IPA.  He can't hide from me for long.  It's true love.

I'd link to the song but let's face it, you're humming it, aren't ya?  Ba ba ba ba ba ba ba ba I'm sleeping and right in the middle of a good dream....

Friday, June 3, 2011

It's Friday! And What a Week it Was

Sitting here, having a glass of Chardy, as a famous (infamous) Aussie Blogger calls it, on a Friday on my porch.  For a 4 day week (Monday was Memorial Day) it seemed rather long.

Tuesday was my only day at home to get stuff done and amazingly the only night of the week when neither child had any activities; a rarity this time of year.  However, it was also my anniversary so Brian and I and the kids went to check out this beer place located inside of a Whole Foods.  I know, I know, we really live it up.  This place has 6 micro brews on tap and several wines (and no, we didn't try them all) as well as a bit of food.  It was okay, nothing to write home about.  We decided that it would be a good place to get a beer before going to a movie at the nearby cinema.  The cinema is located by a mall  and surrounded by chains of Pizzeria Uno's and the like.  And, I don't have to tell you what kind of beer they serve.

Wednesday was the 3rd Grade field trip to Philadelphia.  I went 3 years ago when Clara was in 3rd grade and had a great time.  A tour guide walks the class around to several sites including, of course, the Liberty Bell.  I was so excited to go again with my son.  Well, this past Wednesday, there was a heat advisory and the Philadelphia schools closed at 1:30 pm due to the heat.  But there we were tromping all over Philly.  Our tour guide was not the best.  The kids seemed to spook her as she tended to twitch if one got to close.  She had a lot of information but delivered it rather dryly.  And did I mention it was hot, extensively hot?  A friend of mine, who also went on the field trip, looked at me and said, "It's the worst day of my life."  I've got nothing to add.

The icing on the cake:  Wednesday night my poor son had a baseball game, in that heat.  Usually they play for only 90 minutes but after warming up for 15 minutes, they played for 2 hours.  That kid was Wiped Out.

The weather broke on Thursday, just a day late.  I volunteered at Cradles 2 Crayons, which I try to do once a week.  It's a great organization that I urge you to check out.  Unfortunately, there are only 2 chapters, one in Boston and one here.  I know several of the regular volunteers and we were getting together to re-organize a section.  I love these women, they are so much more real than the people with whom I worked on the yearbook (remember the lady and her dog I told you about?).  We shared ideas and listened to each other.  I had to leave before they finished but one of the volunteers sent me an e mail with an update on what they did.  See, how hard is it to act like an adult?  And, how much more pleasant?

That afternoon was the last meeting of the yearbook committee: My "best friend" didn't say a word to me.  Clara got her candy and we had water ice and then left.  I know when I'm not welcome but I wasn't going to be cheated out of my goodies.  You know, I heard about a book that just came out that tracked kids from high school into real life.  All the geeks, outcasts, etc., they are the ones moving and shaking in this world:  Steve Jobs (geek), J.K. Rowling (book nerd), Lady Gaga (fashion weirdo, hasn't changed much has she?).  It's the popular kids who end up with the most insecurities.  So there you go.

Not to leave out today, volunteered again (my halo is getting so shiny), mowed the lawn and now I'm enjoying the night.  Before I ramble anymore, I raise my glass in hopes you all have a great weekend!

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

All Work and No Play: Who Me?

So I've been a bit busy since I've not been blogging: some work, some play.  As you know, I don't do all work. Here's a slight rundown.


This year, I joined the 6th grade yearbook committee.  Our elementary school goes to 6th grade so there's a slew of activities for the 6th graders.  Don't get me started on the whole "graduating" from 6th grade; that's an entirely different post.  I figured I'd help out with the yearbook and Clara could help out and we could get to know other people in her class.  Clara doesn't have a ton of friends at school; she definitely has her own beat going on, which I know will be helpful later on in life.  In sixth grade, not so helpful.  In addition to attending meetings, I said I would format all the greetings.  These are little notes written by family, friends, etc. to certain 6th graders.  They cost $5 each and are a way to subsidize the cost of the yearbook.  This one mom on the committee, who is very close to the woman running the show, has decided that she doesn't like me.  I know it sounds so 6th grade but I started to get suspicious at the past few meetings when she couldn't even look me in the eye.  Then came the kicker.  I went to her house to pick up some greetings she had.  She has a glass front door so I watched her come down the stairs, stop halfway, turn to her dog to make her dog sit, and sit, and sit, before acknowledging my presence.  She saw me because as I mentioned, the door was glass.  Finally, after 5 minutes, she said she would get the stuff for me and then handed it through the door barely saying a word.  Why the dog had to sit is beyond me.

A few thoughts ran through my mind as I watched this:
1.  "Uh, I can see you, you know that right?"
2.  I wish I had a video so I could tape this and then send it to her so she could see how rude she is
3.  I have no desire to speak to this woman ever again.  Even if that guy is right and we are the last two people on earth.  Especially if we're the last two people on earth.

I chose option 3.

The greetings themselves were not difficult, just tedious.  With over 90 greetings, I had to type up each one in a different font, chose a shape to surround it, fit it on the page.  If I write "Congratulations!  You did it!  We are so proud of you!"  One more time, I might run screaming out of the house.  These people do know that the kid has 6 more years of school (not including college)?   And, that it gets harder from here?  I told Clara I was only half way proud of her as she was only half way done.  Okay, so I don't get into all these stuff like so many other parents.  And I wonder where Clara gets it from.

And, the last work of the weekend was cleaning out the garage.  My husband tried his hardest to talk me out of it but I wasn't having it.  It feels great to get it done.  We even marked on the wall where each tool, broom, shovel goes. This way we'll know when we put a tool back wrong.


Summer arrived on Friday night to our little town of Glenside.  I knew because of two things:  the heat and neighbors.  It got to 90, on Friday, a sure sign that Spring had sprung it's last.  We started out the evening with beers on the deck planning on making mussels for the family.  Brian noticed a neighbor or two and invited them over for a beer.  Inviting one neighbor over is like throwing a party in high school -- you only have to tell a few people and everyone shows up.   I'm not complaining.  I had two bags of mussels and a loaf of bread which barely fed everyone.  Unfortunately, I don't have JC's touch with the loaves and the fishes.  I blame Brian, he is an Atheist.  No one minded though and several contributed food.

Sunday night took us to the Blue Comet, a local bar (within walking distance) that plays rockabilly music on Sundays from 6 pm to 10 pm.  I may have mentioned it before.  The band there this past weekend was awesome.  It's always a bit crowded but people find a spot to dance and there are some good dances there, complete with the big hair and tattoos.  Boy can they swing though.  Dance that is, I don't know about the other stuff.  Brian and I tried our hand at it, we've taken some lessons.  We weren't as good, I'll tell you.  Maybe we need to get tats...I could pouff my hair...

Here's a YouTube video of the band we saw, The Buzzards, worth catching out if you get the chance.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find a video that had both good video and good audio.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Another Poem by Clara

So it's obvious I'm not feeling very creative this week as I try to get back into the swing of things after vacation.  The weather has turned hot and I've been trying to get up early to get stuff done and I think my brain is a bit fried.  My body is I know as I overdid it on working out this week and I'm so sore.  And, yes, I'm back to drinking good beer but don't worry I'm not overdoing it.

But my daughter, Clara, has been creative and writing poems and songs lately.  Here's her latest.  If she writes too many more, she'll have to set up her own blog.


The sound of words
Words that change the way
You look at things.
Words that change
Your life.
Razor sharp,
Digging deep
Are words
Really words?
Or are they wizards
That have the power to put your life on hold
People see this
And they still do damage
That ends
completely, cutting 
their fine threads
There is no miracle
No antidote
To revive a world
Big or small
Mighty or weak
Use no scissors

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

10th Daughter of Memory: The Short and the Long of it

The Short of it:

Tenth Daughter of Memory Theme this week:  White Lies Belie a Darker Truth.  When I read that theme I could think of only one thing.  A short snippet of a song that my husband and daughter recorded a while back.  You may not think it fits and that's fine.  And, I'm not sure if you should really vote for it because I didn't write it.  I'm just sharing it for something different and, like I said, it was the first thing I thought of when I read the theme

The Long of it:
The other day I was sitting in my living room while my son was drawing in his sketch book and my daughter was working on a poem or a song; she writes both frequently.  Brian was either playing his guitar or researching music online.  It struck me because I did not come from a creative family.  As a family of engineers, there was no encouragement in the creative process.  To be fair, there was no discouragement either.  My parents supported my decision to go into theater but I think it's telling that I'm in one of the more non-creative jobs in that field.

The few posts I have done for 10th Daughter of Memory have been so much fun.  I thought I would die of embarrassment because my writing is so poor; I have little experience with that genre.  So, I did what anyone in my position would do, I asked my creative family.  They have offered great suggestions for the previous posts I have submitted.  I even wrote a poem along the theme of White Lies Belie a Darker Truth and both my daughter and husband nixed is as too cliche.  And they were right.  So in full disclosure, my 10th Daughter of Memory posts are not entirely my own which I guess is why I feel it's okay to post a song I had nothing to do with.  And that is the darker truth...

Monday, May 23, 2011

Florida: Take Two

Despite not finding any great craft beer, we did actually have a great time in Florida.  How could we not?  A week at the beach with 75 degree weather, no work, no school, not doing dishes...it was lovely!

We tried to get out and see some sights but on a few occasions the sights weren't that worth seeing.  Someone had told me to visit Pass-a-Grille Beach.  We dutifully packed a lunch and trotted out only to find the beach rather rocky and unimpressive so we went back to our beach and had a grand afternoon.  Here's a picture of our beach at sunset.

Another day we went to Ft DeSoto Park, touted as one of Florida's best beaches.  We thought we'd ride bikes around the fort.  Well, it wasn't so much Ft. DeSoto as much as it was Ft. Mosquito; we were bitten alive.  Instead, we drove up the coast to Clearwater...where the water is, surprisingly clear.  We rented a Surrrey or 4 Person bike and rode around.  It was a blast.  Oh, except for when my son was driving.  Let's just say people dived off the sidewalk to avoid us; they preferred to take their chances with traffic.  Of course, he thought he was a great driver and wants us to get one of these bikes so he can drive us to work.  I'm going with a no on that one.  Here we are on the surrey:

Of course we visited Busch Gardens where Brian and Clara got stuck on a roller coaster.  I noticed that the Roller Coaster had stopped and that all these people were exiting, except for Brian and Clara.  Immediately I thought the worst but instead the coaster had just stopped.  Apparently, it happens all the time.  Who knew?

The Dali Museum had to be one of my highlights.  The museum houses the largest collection of Salvador Dali paintings in the United States.  They do a great job getting the kids involved in the paintings.  We took a guided tour which was well worth it as the docent pointed out all these interesting aspects in his works.  Here is my favorite painting I saw that day.  It's called the Hallucinogenic Toreador and in it you can the face of a Toreador made up in the repetitions of the Venus de Milos.  I just found it fascinating.

But every vacation must come to an end and here we are back to school, to work, to cleaning....At least the beers good!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Florida: You Can Stop Right There

Just returned from a week's vacation in St. Petersburg, FL.  It was the first time that Brian and I and the kids actually went away for a week by ourselves.  Usually, we travel with other people, and I have to say we had a great time.  The weather was wonderful, not too hot until the last day.

Here's the thing though, we live in Philadelphia which is known for (among things like the Liberty Bell and Ben Franklin) it's beer.  And, Brian and I are beer snobs.  But down at a beach resort town, they tend to cater to, well, Joe American, who tends to enjoy Bud products.  Their idea of an import beer was Heineken.  Some bars advertised that they had micro brews but usually ended up either being out of said micro brew or claimed that Sam Adams was a micro brew.

It became a running joke for me when Brian would ask a waiter about the beer list and the waiter would start with:  "We have bud, bud light..."  And Brian would say, "You can skip to the micro brews."  And when the waiter would say, "Oh we carry Sam Adams and.."  Brian would say, "You can stop right there."  I just thought it was the funniest thing.

The poor guy tried so hard to have a Florida brewed micro brew.  Because as any beer lover knows:  Drink Locally, right?   One of the local micro brewers is Cigar City but even though several restaurants had it on the menu, everyone seemed to be out of it "at the moment."  We were there for a week and it took us until day 6 for Brian to find a Cigar City beer.  And, sad to say, when he did, he didn't really like it that much.  So he stopped right there.

Excuse me if this is a bit incomprehensible but I've been up since 4 and traveled for 7 hours to return home.  I'm enjoying a Yards IPA (a top-notch micro brew from the city of brotherly love) and I'm not planning on stopping right there.  With the beer I mean.  With the post...I'll save you any more ramblings and continue this when I've had some sleep.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What's a Nice Catholic doing in a Presbyterian Church?

I went to my friend's church this past Sunday, Calvary Church, it's Presbyterian.  She had been telling me about it for a while now and I had promised to go but kept putting it off.  That's just the way I am.  Once I start something, I rather enjoy it but it's getting started that I keep putting off.  Well, except for mowing the lawn.  I don't enjoy any part of mowing the lawn.

So I enter the church and right away I'm in a foreign land;  Toto, we're not in Rome anymore.  People are talking and joking with each other!  In Church!  I'm not even sure what to say about the service because I wasn't sure when to stand, or sit, or say anything.  Luckily, they printed a program with the information on it.  As a Catholic, it's in my bones:  when to sit, when to stand, what my responses are.  I guess the Presbyterians are more loosey-goosey: Today, let's sit first then stand, then sing, then pray.  Every time the Pastor said, "Amen." I said, "Amen."  but no one else did.  If they noticed they were too nice to tell me.  Maybe they get a lot of ex Catholics so they are used to it.  Who knows?

Oh, and they changed up the Our Father as well.  There I was cruising along thinking, I got this when they threw in a different word for Trespasses.

The Holy Communion (which they apparently don't do every week, I must have hit an on week) was totally different.  I know they don't do transubstantiation so the blessing was a bit off (okay, for me it was off).  Then, these 4 church members come up and get the bread and hand it out to the parishioners in the pews.  Then they hand the remaining bread back to the Pastor and sit down.  Then the Pastor walks down and gives bread to the church members who had just handed it out.  Seems to me, that the Catholics are a bit more efficient in this department.  But I suppose one shouldn't have a "get it over with" attitude with church.

When I was young we had a Priest we dubbed Father Fast Prayer.  His masses lasted 35 minutes, I kid you not.  He always did the Saturday 5 pm mass so you could get in, get out, and get on with your weekend.  See, that's the other thing, this Church only had one service on the weekend!  Catholics have several, they cater to every need:  Don't like Sundays, how about Saturdays?  Prefer early morning?  We have a mass for that.  No music?  We have a mass for that.

One more thing about the communion.  We had to wait until everyone was served before we ate the bread but then they gave us the wine (read: grape juice) and everyone just took one and drank it.  I didn't really follow that logic.  But the Presbyterians do score a point in the Communion category:  we got a choice of 3 different breads.  I felt like I was in an upscale restaurant.

The best part was..oh wait, I forgot about the choir.  The choir was so cool -- they had robes!  And, they sang these songs about death that were so joyful!  "When I cross over, it's going to be awesome, oh yeah!"  That's a party I want to go to.  And, people clapped after the choir sang.  Happy people in church.. not quite used to that.

So, after the service they have a coffee hour.  And, I'm not talking about some coffee and donuts.  I'm talking mini-hot dogs, chocolate cake, cinnamon rolls, a deli platter, coffee, water, juice.  It was lunch!  Everyone was so nice, ridiculously nice.

Brian didn't go with us to church this past Sunday but he has met all the people before.  When I told him all about the service he said that next time he'd join us.

This from a militant Atheist.  I think he might be in it for the food.

Monday, May 9, 2011

The Tenth Daughter of Memory: Neptune's Payback

So, I'm entering the Tenth Daughter of Memory again, this time fully intending to vote!  I have to give a shout-out to my daughter who gave me part of the idea and the first lines for this.  For more 10th Daughter Stories, click here.


“A hurricane?”

“A hurricane?! That’s the best you could come up with?”

“TWO hurricanes?”

“My brother would swallow the hurricane and burp it back up just to laugh at my incompetence…Do you smell salt?”

Turning around, Neptune spied his wife, Salacia, shimmering in the doorway. Her flashing blue/grey eyes told him that she had heard some, if not all, of his conversation. The eels wrapping her body next to the seaweed and shells woven into her hair made her anger all that more beautiful. Knowing that she wouldn’t say anything in front of his assistant, Fons, Neptune just gave her a sheepish, ‘caught me’ look.

Turning to glide away, she paused, “Oh, your son, Triton will be joining us for…”

“Hellooooo! Anyone home?” The voice interrupted Salacia and soon Triton, newly shaven and in a spectacular coral necklace, swooshed in with his ever-present dolphin.

“I just love what you’ve done with the place,” Triton exclaimed, water kissing Salacia before turning to his father. Glancing from Neptune to Salacia, Triton guessed immediately.

“Ooooo, Mommy and Daddy are fighting again!” Triton turned to his dolphin, “Be a dear and go help Sally in the kitchen.”

The dolphin and Salacia slithered away as Triton turned to Neptune.

“What is it this time?”

“He took Vesta! Knowing full-well she was mine.” Neptune could barely get the words out. “He knew I had been planning for weeks to seduce her and take her for myself so he had to have her first.”

“Well, perhaps you need to be a little more discreet in your bragging. Uncle J wouldn’t have known you wanted her if you hadn’t been shooting your mouth off about your impending conquest.” Triton admonished as he tidied up his father’s wardrobe. “And, please, blue coral is so last year, daddy, we need to update your wardrobe.”

Neptune loved his son but never really understood his…well, his mermanishness. And yet, Neptune always felt he could be himself around Triton and he valued that more than anything.

“Jupiter always thinks he can take anything he wants: I’m god of the earth, mom always liked me best, here take the oceans.” Neptune whined. “This time, I’m going to get him though. And, not with a hurricane.”

Fons just shrugged. He thought it was a good idea.

“Okay, now I know why mummy has been redecorating.” Triton laughed to himself before turning to his Neptune . “To humiliate the big guy, you’ll need to do it on a grand scale, a spectacle for everyone to see. Something that will make him wish to be mortal so he could die.”

Neptune laughed at how much his son resembled his brother Jupiter. Neptune sat down at a table to plot. He put his head down just as Salacia appeared and slammed down a cup of hemlock in front of him.

Looking up, Neptune stared straight into the eyes of Socrates, his teacher.

“Sleeping again Aristophanes?” Socrates smirked as Aristophanes shook off his dream. Socrates brought his ever-present stick up over his head as if to strike again but thought better of it.

Aristophanes groaned inwardly. “I, uh…” Aristophanes didn’t know what to say. He didn’t know what to do. He definitely didn’t want to be there, under the flashing eyes of his teacher, the greatest mind in Greece.

“Perhaps Plato would care to answer?” Socrates turned abruptly toward his star pupil with a wide smile.

Aristophanes rubbed his eyes and nursed his sore ego, muttering: “Yes, let the star pupil answer, he’ll know it, he knows everything. No wonder Socrates likes him so much, he probably goes home and writes down everything he’s heard here.” Aristophanes was sick of everything, this school, not knowing the answers, this new-fangled method of teaching. Who asks questions in order to teach? “I’ll show them. Socrates thinks he’s so smart. I’ll show him. I’ll do something so spectacular…but what?”

It would be difficult to bring down such a man as Socrates, for while Aristophanes didn’t think he was the wisest man in Athens, he knew he wasn’t the dumbest. “If I could just make people see how annoying he really is.”

Aristophanes eyes flashed as a seed of an idea popped into his head. The beginnings of story, maybe best told on stage in front of all of Athens…yes that’s it. Total humiliation…Socrates will be begging for hemlock.

Aristophanes stared straight ahead, his mind tumbling with ideas, his eyes fixated on the story in front of him. Socrates continued questioning his students, ignoring Aristophanes, and never realizing that this was the beginning of the end.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Thoughts on the News

I wanted to jot down some thoughts about the operation against Osama Bin Laden, just to have a record for when I re-read it later.

I opened up my computer this morning to the New York Times and read the first headline:  Bin Laden is Dead, Obama Says.  So I had to read the next headline:  Obituary: Osama Bin Laden.  I looked up at Brian and said, "Osama Bin Laden is dead."  He just said, "Really?"

I think we were either stunned or the news had not yet sunk in.  I read the first article about the attack and all I could think about was: This is huge.  Then I said it to Brian.  Then:  "I am so glad this happened on Obama's watch."

And, I am glad.  I was annoyed the way the general (or whomever he was) announced Saddam Hussein's death with a news conference and a "We got him!" statement.  This seemed just so much better, more measured.

Then, of course, I was glued to NPR news for the rest of the day.  I wanted to hear everything.  And, the more I heard, the more impressed I became with the entire operation; the secrecy, the precision, the fact that not one American died.

I can't imagine what those Navy Seals felt like breaching that compound, knowing their target, understanding the seriousness of it.  I know they are incredibly well-trained but they are human.  What went through their minds when they met Osama Bin Laden?  What went through their minds afterwards?  When they knew they were successful?  What did President Obama think/feel?

The fact that President Obama took a risk like that is mind-boggling, especially since he is not known for these risks.  The intelligence had to have been very good.  Not like the Iraq intelligence: apparently, Absence of Evidence really is Evidence of Absence.

But I did agree with Bush's reaction to Afghanistan and to think that one chapter of this is closed.  We all remember September 11th.  My daughter was almost 3 at the time.  She must have heard us talking because a day or two later she asked if any planes would be flying today.  It's just one of those small moments that sticks in your brain.

With the Arab Spring happening all over the Middle East, I'm not sure how relevant Osama Bin Laden is.  I suppose time will tell.  I'm also interested in how the Republicans handle this news.  Crassly, there is no denying that Obama gets the win on this one.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Back to the Movies

First, I must send my apologies to the 10th Daughter of Memory folks.  I finally entered a post and was supposed to vote on the other posts for the one I liked best.  Well, I read all the other entries and then thought about them.  Apparently, I thought about them too long because when I went to vote, voting was closed.  So Mea Culpa.

I recently watched the A-Team movie.  I loved that show as a kid and so found the movie totally amusing.  My husband, who didn't really watch the TV show, didn't care for the film all that much.  I wonder if that had something to do with it.  I loved the Charlie's Angels movies and I watched the show as a kid.  I liked The Incredible Hulk film.  But that might have been because Edward Norton was in it.

Let's not forget the Star Trek films.  Love them!

You know what they haven't made yet?  A Bionic Woman movie.  Oh, I just loved, loved that show.  I especially liked it when they did Bionic Woman/Six Million Dollar Man shows together.  That would be a fun movie.

As I watched CSI last night, I began to wonder what current TV shows might get made into movies in the future.  CSI would be a good choice but only with the Grissom character.  They could do an American Idol movie except turn it into fiction.  You know, some kid from the sticks, against all odds wins the competition.

I like the show  Burn Notice.  That could be a fun, shoot 'em up movie.  But the thing is, the TV show had to have some sort of hook or joke that could be carried into the film.  Charlie's Angels had beautiful women with guns, now that's fun.  In the A-Team, each of the guys has his own personality quirk.

I don't think a show like Glee could be a movie.  Too bland.

Well, since I don't own a DeLorean, I can't answer the question about what current shows will eventually get made into films.  I guess I'll just have to wait.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Tenth Daughter of Memory: A First Time Post

This is my first attempt at a Tenth Daughter of Memory Post.  The subject is "A Cat May Look at a King."  For other posts and for the blog itself, click here

Well, here goes:

A Cat May Look at a King  

Cold, clammy night yanks the coarse grey blanket over him as rosy fingered dawn tries to draw it back

Through streets bubble wrapped in cobble stones, a skinny, sure-footed cat skirts half-dead drunks and slips by hags who sweep out the night’s remains.

Slowly, a city awakes, rising unsteadily to its feet like a newborn calf.
“It’ll be busy for sure today.”
“You won’t see nothin’, there’d be too many”
“Still, I wouldn’t miss it.”
“I can’t go it’s not right.”
The symphony of day begins its first movement.

The mangy pile of bones and fur makes its way north and then east pushing through smells as thick as molasses of day old fish and beer mixed with feces and perfumed with the stench of blood

Yellow sunlight finds a group of men standing outside a prison, anxiously waiting for someone else to take over their task.   The cat ignores them and continues on finding an immense stone structure across town.

Soon the streets fill with men, women, children…there are too many, too many.  A carriage rattles over the cobblestones pushing its way through, parting the crowd like the red sea.

As the cat climbs staircase, the faint sound of drums wafts through the building.  The woman, not sure that she had heard it, looks up from her morning prayers. 

The drum beats increase in volume and now the woman is sure.  She looks down at her hands, now wrinkled and old.  They used to be so smooth and pretty, she thinks.  The envy of all… Her thoughts drop as the knowledge that her past is dead sinks deep into her soul.  Looking up, she notices the cat staring at her son, already showing the disease of his older brother, another dauphin.

The woman falls to her knees, “The king is dead, long live the king.”

Monday, April 18, 2011

Much Ado About Nothing

I've got nothing to say, which is odd for me.  I've been busy though, busier than I thought I would be after the show.  The weather turned nice so we have some yard work and gardening to do.  It's taking a while though because we've had guests and stuff on the weekends.  But I am glad to report that the 3 holly trees that I can't stand are finally down!  Now, we just have to clean up the debris.

I've also had to drive my kids around to their various activities.  All the events at my children's elementary school seem to have been scheduled for the next 2 months.  Plus, my daughter is "graduating" from 6th grade so she has twice as many functions.  I don't get the graduation part though.  When I went into middle school, all I did was change schools;  there was no graduation ceremony, no going out to dinner, and definitely no presents.  Sometimes I think we over-celebrate our kids' accomplishments.  What's going to happen to them when they get a job and they don't get a gift for completing an entire week of work?!

Then there are my regular activities:  running (I'm doing the 10 mile Broad Street run in a week) and singing (I changed teachers this year and really like my new one).   Oh, and let's not forget the daily chores:  food shopping, cleaning, cooking, laundry, beer drinking, watching bad television.  So you can see I've got a lot to do.  Unfortuneately, it's nothing to write home about.  Or, even a blog post about.

But don't worry, I'll be back.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Memories by Rote

Before I begin, let me just say that No, I won't be ending this post with a video of Barbara Streisand (or anyone for that matter) singing "Memories" from Cats.  I'm in theater.  I know better.

I've been thinking about memory lately because I just finished Antonia Fraser's book Must You Go? about her life with Harold Pinter.  It was only a few years ago that I discovered that the two of them were married.  I find that odd because I love Antonia Fraser's biographies and Harold Pinter, well, he's Harold Pinter of              the                     pauses.  (Oh, and some great plays).  The book intersperses her diary entries with her memories of that time.  The book has made me want to keep a diary or journal of my everyday life.  Not that I plan on publishing my memoirs anytime soon or in the future.  Of course that hasn't stopped me from coming up with titles for them.  It'll be interesting to look back and see what I remember or how I remember the events of my life.

I'm also thinking about memory because I just started reading Joshua Foer's book Moonwalking with Einstein which is about (as he puts it) the art and science of remembering everything.  He's the brother of Jonathan Safran Foer who wrote Everything is Illuminated which was made into a movie with Ewan McGregeor (I think, I can't remember).  Anyway, he begins by discussing the Memory Championships where contestants have to learn a long sequence of numbers in a short amount of time.  My question is obvious:  Do these contestants remember the sequence the day after the championship?  I'll let you know.

I think this memorizing is quite different from memories.  Memorizing facts or numbers or lines (in my business) is different than remembering an event.  Or at least I think so.   I've always been good at memorizing facts for a short period of time and then totally forgetting about them.  The facts that stick with me are ones with a story associated with them.  In Middle School, we had a test on states and their capitals.  I couldn't remember the capital of Idaho so I cheated and looked on someone's paper.  I'll never forget now that it's Boise. 

What always impresses me are people who can recite full pages of dialogue from movies they have seen once or twice or remember that Elijah Wood was in  Back to the Future II.  And incidentally, Elijah Wood was actually in Everything Is Illuminated, not Ewan McGregor.  I constantly mix up actors and facts and things.  It doesn't prevent me from guessing wildly at Quizzo and convincing my teammates that I'm right.

So I guess I'd say that remembering facts is different from remember events that happen to us.  Of course the facts of the events may be fuzzy to us but the feelings are still there, or have they changed as well?  It's a funny thing, memory.  I wish I had a point but I don't so I'll leave you with a quote from Harold Pinter:

The past is what you remember, imagine you remember, convince yourself you remember, or pretend you remember.