WOULD YOU LIKE (VOCAL) FRIES WITH THAT?

I pick up the phone at work to call an agent. She’s reached a level of success where she has her calls placed for her and I have to go through several assistants to get her on the phone.  One would think this woman  might have a mature speaking voice and perhaps an impressive vocabulary. I’m greeted by an all too familiar sound which, much to my dismay, seems to be increasingly common in teens and 20-somethings. It’s that raspy sound made famous by the likes of Lauren Conrad of “The Hills”, the Kardashians, and even the adorable Zoey Deschanel. It suggests a combination of boredom, carefree/casual attitude, and lack of interest in what others have to say. It’s called “vocal fry” my friends, and it ain’t cute.

When did it become trendy to sound underwhelmed and unimpressed? Perhaps I’m being incredibly anti-feminist by saying this, but I think speaking this way does an extreme disservice to women who are probably quite intelligent (except perhaps Khloe). The combination of vocal fry and uptalk (ending a sentence like you’re asking a question?) literally diminishes the voice that women have worked so hard to have.

I unknowingly fell prey to this trend a few years ago. I had just graduated college, was spending my first summer back in the city and was feeling particularly aimless. In a voice lesson, my teacher brought it to my attention that I was talking a little too much like a bored valley girl and it was harming my vocal chords. I started paying much closer attention to my speech, and in doing so, became increasingly aware that other women were adopting these bad habits as well.

I still often sound like a little girl when I talk. I don’t always speak eloquently or use big fancy words. My voice sounds floaty and aimless if I’m not paying much attention to what’s coming out of my mouth. But as we continue to fight for gender equality, we can’t take for granted that we have been given a voice. Let’s not fall prey to sounding unintelligent and indecisive. Let’s speak with confidence and authority, making the decision to use our voices as one of the most important vehicles of expression we have been given.

Am I right? Or did I lose you when you realized this wasn’t actually about Fries?

 

 

WHAT’S SO BAD ABOUT THE ‘BURBS?

I’ve been a snooty New Yorker for 26 years now and I want to talk about it. For some reason, I’ve always had a stereotype about people who leave NYC to live in the ‘burbs. Whether it was New Jersey, Westchester, or even Connecticut, it always felt kind of like selling out to me. I’ve heard countless people say “we moved to the suburbs ’cause the public schools ar better” or “we moved out of the city because you can’t raise a child in an apartment”. Newsflash, I did it and thousands of people do. In fact, I think I’m better for it.

BUT, that’s not the point of this story. This weekend, my RoRo and I went to his parents’ house in Tuckahoe, which is in Westchester…or so they tell me (once I’m more than 20 minutes outside of the city I never know where I am). We had a lovely dinner in their newly renovated, gorgeous apartment. It’s the kind of apartment you dream about owning when you picture your life 20 years from now. It has giant windows facing two directions, high ceilings, beautiful wood floors, and marble everything. The apartment complex also includes a pool, a “media center” and tennis courts among other pleasantly bouge-y things you can only dream of.

Following dinner, we took a walk over to Roman’s sister house where she’s just moved with her husband. On the way, we had to step over a cluster of ants and walk around a fallen tree as if we were traipsing through the woods. I’m really in the country now! Their house is lovely with a beautiful patio, a hot tub, and space for days (I’m not kidding…they have a guest room).

On the thirty-minute train ride back to the city, I had to take a good hard look at myself and my judgy-ness. What’s so bad about the ‘burbs? It takes less time to get to parts of Westchester than many areas of Brooklyn. You get infinitely more space, better amenities for less moolah, and significantly fewer homeless people asking you for money. So why the judgment, Emma Rose?

In all honesty, I’m a city girl through and through. You can take the girl out of the city (briefly) but you can’t take the city out of the girl. I’d like to raise my kid(s) in an NYC apartment and have them fall asleep with the bustle of the city all around them.¹ I love (almost) every aspect of the city, both good and bad. BUT, I can no longer fault people who choose to live a different way. I get it! It’s awfully tempting to hop on that Metro-North and arrive at your pleasantly peaceful house in the ‘burbs. So for now, whenever I need a break from the Big Apple, I’ll just jump on the train to take a dip in the Palylyk’s pool or the Andersen’s hot tub², and look longingly at all the closet and counter space that I’ll never have.

¹Footnote ’cause I’m fancy: I’m a girl who likes extremes. I EITHER want to grow old in an apartment in NYC OR in a cabin in the woods in Maine. So you CAN in fact, take the girl out of the city but only if it’s to drop her in the country.

² I also frequently enjoy finding a moment of relaxation at my parents’ house in Connecticut. However, this story isn’t about people who take refuge from the city in the country on weekends. Perhaps that will be a whole post in itself!

THE BARE SHOULDER PHENOMENON

Ok y’all, I’m back and I’m here to tell you about a theory I have. I certainly won’t be able to explain it as eloquently as I like because when you have something to say you hardly ever have the words to say it, amiright? But I’m gonna give it a go. I’m making this all sound terribly serious and philosophical, it’s not, it’s just an observation I have.

During the rise in popularity of strapless dresses, off the shoulder shirts, and sleeveless wedding gowns (actually these have been popular for at least a decade or two) I’ve noticed a pattern. This observation came to me initially from watching far too many hours of “Say Yes To The Dress”. I’ve noticed that people never look as amazing bare-shouldered as they think they do. They don’t NOT look amazing, there just seems to be some kind of lens with which they see themselves that affects their judgement.

Often when trying on clothes, people (particularly women) can be hyper-critical of themselves, noticing and criticizing things about themselves that no one else would notice. This is the opposite of what happens when someone wears a piece of clothing that exposes their shoulders.

After watching many hours of the aforementioned tv show “Say Yes To The Dress”, I noticed in almost every episode a lovely young lady picking another boring sleeveless dress. They all looked the same to me and I found it so odd that so many seemingly fashionable women would opt for the same style of dress over and over. This is not to say that I don’t like this style of dress, they can be really gorgeous, especially on the right person. I just mean that often times, particularly on this tv show, they all look the same, at least to me.

As I watched the show, the women would put the dress on and be wowed by how they looked. They would go out to their friends and family and the tears would start. I think this has more to do with the fact that they were trying on a wedding dress, but I also think that my theory comes into play here. When you or the people you are closest too see you baring your shoulders, it evokes this kind of sexy regalness that is very striking. It’s happened to me! I’ve tried on a dress that was strapless and thought “hey shoulders…you make me look goooood”. BUT here’s the crux of the theory, when someone you don’t know (well) bares their shoulders, you’re just like “oh, now I see your ‘head, shoulders, knees and toes, knees and toes’ and you’re totally unphased.

I’m gonna go try on my favorite off the shoulder shirts and really wow myself and my boyfriend now…

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INKED IN NYC: Part 2

In case you missed it, I wrote all about my thoughts on tattoos and the background of my first two in this post. For your own sanity and to avoid boring my readers (and by readers I mean my mom, my boyfriend, and my grandma), I decided to break up the post into two sections. I know you’ve all been waiting on pins and needles to find out about my other two tattoos, so here you go:

3) When I was little, whenever I had to do something I was nervous about, my grandma, Mimi, and my grandpa, Papa, would tell me they were each on my shoulders helping me. Imagining them there encouraging me when I was feeling uneasy about something always helped me to feel a bit more courageous and confident. Papa passed away in 2007. In his final days, my mom sat with him in his hospital room and asked him tons of questions about life and his philosophy on it. Thinking he might have some kind of profound statement about religion as he neared the end of his life, she asked him to tell her his beliefs. He said, “heaven is at 21215 Eaton Road and anyone who wants to can join us there”. 21215 Eaton Road is the address of the house my mother grew up in and where my grandparents lived for over 60 years.

Two years after my grandpa died, I wanted to create some type of image or symbol that would represent him and my childhood with my grandparents. I came up with a multitude of crazy ideas including pencil drawings of quartered egg sandwiches which reminded me of Mimi, and garbage bags full of shucked corn on the cob which reminded me of Papa. I decided that I wanted to include their address in my drawing and started writing it over and over (as I did with tattoo # 1) in different scripts. My good friend, Pauline, suggested that I get a drawing of their house with the address underneath. She drew me an example of what she was envisioning and there it was, my third tattoo! I got it on the upper right side of my back so my grandparents would forever be where they always promised they’d be, on my shoulder.

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A week after getting the tattoo, I traveled to Ohio to visit my family for Christmas. I took a close up picture of it, framed it and left it for my grandma under the Christmas tree. When she opened it, she looked at me quizzically, wondering why I’d given her a framed drawing of a house. I started to strip for her, as you do on Christmas day with your family, to reveal the tattoo on my shoulder. Mimi started crying and laughing and said, “I never thought I’d like a tattoo on my grandchild so much”.

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In the interest of full disclosure, contrary to the picture, my grandparents’ house does not have a red front door. In fact, it looks nothing like that drawing. It’s the thought that counts though, right?

4) The Worry Tree- When I was little, my mom often told me bedtime stories. She created many fictional tales which contained thinly veiled moral lessons, this one was about a magical garden. Prior to entering the garden, you were required to pin all of your worries to the “worry tree” because worries were not allowed inside the garden. There was a mouse named “Mousy” who lived in the garden. He lived in a tree and he only ate orange foods such as oranges, orange marshmallow peanuts, carrots, etc. I’m not sure what the motive was behind Mousy’s involvement in the story besides being a cute rodent with very specific dietary needs.

Two years ago I decided I wanted a tattoo which represented my relationship with my mom and a memory we shared. We went to a coffee shop around the corner from our apartment and starting drawing images from the stories she used to tell. She combined the worry tree with the tree Mousy lived in and it was a perfect representation of one of my favorite bedtime stories.

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About a week later, on my way to a guitar lesson in an area of Brooklyn that I don’t remember the name of, I walked by a new tattoo parlor. Since I was quite late for my lesson I kept on walking, but on my way back to the subway I noticed boxes and boxes of pizza inside the tattoo parlor. Naturally I went in. I presented them with my tree drawing (which was at that point serving as a bookmark), and they connected me with one of their tattoo artists. While he drew up a version of the tattoo, I ate free pizza and pondered the idea of a full tattoo sleeve ’cause go big or go home, right?

Jon Boy hard at work.
Jon Boy hard at work.

Eventually, we decided on a size and location for the worry tree and the tattoo artist started scratching it on. We got to talking and it turned out we went to the same church in Manhattan. In the hour that it took to draw the tree and the mouse on my leg, “Jon Boy” and I talked about Christianity, Jesus, interpretations of the bible and our personal experiences of Faith. He said he felt he was meant to be a tattoo artist to spread a message of love in an industry that was often lacking it. Since tattooing me, Jon Boy’s career has blown up and he is now tattooing celebs like Hayley Baldwin and Kendall Jenner. You’re welcome, Jon Boy. (Jk, this obviously has nothing to do with me and everything to do with how talented and wonderful Jon Boy is.)

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So there you go. Now you know why you might see a tiny mouse peeking out from the hem of my shorts or a little house on my right shoulder. What about you? What do you have? What do you want? What do you seriously regret? Let me know!

 

INKED IN NYC: Part 1

When I was in high school it was really cool to go down to St Marks and get your belly button pierced, your cartilage pierced, or a small, questionable-in-taste tattoo, without your parents permission. Somehow I got through these formative years un-inked. This is good because at the time I wanted either a fish or a sea-horse tattooed somewhere on my body…most likely my lower back, as you do when you’re 17. I did however leave high school with 6 piercings and have since obtained four tattoos.

I’ve heard a lot of people say that they could never get a tattoo because they fear they would regret whatever it was they permanently inked on their body. I get this perspective, however it hasn’t been my experience. One of my tattoos doesn’t feel relevant to my life anymore, but it reminds me of a special experience and group of people so it still holds a lot of meaning.

I love hearing what people’s tattoos mean to them and I always have people asking what the significance of mine are. Here’s a little bit about each one in order of their acquisition:

1) “Jump” When I was in high school I was one of 7 seniors to lead the annual junior retreat known as “Kairos”. As a Kairos leader, I had to give a speech to the Junior class about a meaningful experience that changed my life. The retreat itself was full of tears and sentimentality, so you really had to be ready wear your heart on your sleeve. While I prepared to leave for the weekend retreat, I was a bit nervous about sharing something that was so personal with fifty 16-year-old girls. My step-dad, Larry came into my room and said “Imagine you are on the dock in Maine” (oops back track, I used to spend my summers on a tiny island in Maine…ok back to present-past time). He said “Whenever you are getting ready to jump, you are always nervous about the fall and how cold the ocean water will be. But after you come out, the sun warms you and you feel so refreshed. Imagine this experience is like that. You will be nervous at first but once you’ve done it, you’ll be glad you did”.

Mom mid "jump".
Mom mid “jump”.

After Larry said this, I immediately wrote “jump” in sharpy on my wrist and looked at it throughout the weekend. A year later, while on winter vacation from College, my mom, Larry, grandma, aunt, uncle and I were eating at a breakfast spot in Greenwich Village.  While we ate I scribbled the word jump over and over on the paper table-cloth. I decided on a version that I liked and Larry and I walked around the corner to a tattoo parlor on Bleecker (which no longer exists). The tattoo artist looked at me funny when I handed him my scribble because 1) he wondered why I didn’t want to choose a typed font since my hand writing isn’t so gorge and 2) he wondered if I was perhaps suicidal or just crazy? But I stuck with my paper table-cloth version. Ten minutes and $70 later I had my first tattoo!

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2) Here is the one that doesn’t feel so relevant any more. I’ll give you some background. In my junior year of college I took the advice of tattoo #1 and got up the cajones to audition for the university’s annual musical. This year’s  production was “Hair” and I was dying to play Chrissy. I was cast in said role and had one of the best experiences of my life spending two months with an amazing group of people. Being that “Hair” was set in the ’60s and was meant to embody love, peace, and heavy use of hallucinogens, we were encouraged to work hard at bonding with one another and developing a “tribe”. We did develop that tribe and really felt close to one another, spending every day together rehearsing, meditating and eventually getting completely nude on stage.

"Let the sunshine..."
“Let the sunshine…”

When the show closed, a group of us took a road trip to NYC for the weekend. Three of us out of that group felt strongly that we wanted to remember our time doing “Hair” and what it embodied for us so we went down to the village to get matching tats. We each got an “om” sign tattooed over our rib cage. This is my favorite part of the story: after getting our matching tattoos we went to one of our friend’s older brother’s apartments in Bushwick. There were 7 people living in the dirtiest loft you’ve ever seen with graffiti on the walls, ladders leading up to bedrooms you didn’t even know were bedrooms and makeshift wooden doors separating each “room”. When we got there, the girlfriend of the brother of the friend looked at our tattoos and said “wow…that’s sooooo cliché”. I was initially pretty offended but then I thought “lady, you live in a hipster loft in Bushwick Brooklyn. You couldn’t be more cliché if you were drinking kombucha out of a mason jar”, and I quickly got over it.

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To be continued…

STRETCHING YOUR NET OF COMPASSION

I’ve noticed a recurring theme, a lesson of sorts, that keeps coming up in my life in various ways. At first, I was trying to ignore it as I knew that giving it attention would require a lot of work and introspection. But I’ve realized that God or the universe or whatever YOU want to call it, is trying to school me on the subject of compassion or more specifically, unconditional love for others.

I’m coming at this topic from a primarily Christian perspective, but that is only because it’s what I’m most familiar with. I think anyone and everyone can relate to what I’m going to say. Whether you’re Jewish, Muslim, Atheist, Wicken or praying to a shrine in your closet,  I encourage you to keep reading even while I get into the tiniest bit of Jesus-talk.

In the Bible it says over and over to love others, to love your neighbor as yourself, that love heals all things, etc. etc. I think it’s really easy to read this and feel uplifted and inspired. Just love everybody, man! But it means a heck of a lot more than that. It means loving when it’s really freaking hard. It means loving the people who are mean to you, who disagree with you, who are voting for the wrong presidential candidate. And that’s the tough stuff. One of the verses in the Bible touches on this kind of really hard love specifically (aside from the whole “forgive them father” section…that’s a big one). In Matthew 5 verse 43-46 it says  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’44 But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. 46 If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that?”.

This theme has come up for me over and over and I think it’s because it’s something I’m really bad at. I call myself a Christian but I’m terrible at loving those that I find hard to love. I write people off when they disappoint me. It’s difficult for me to put myself in others’ shoes and I find it hard to forgive when people “wrong” me. But I’ve seen some pretty amazing examples that I want to share, partly for others but partly for myself, in hopes that exploring them will inspire me.

Many years ago my grandparents decided to help a young, troubled girl in their town by providing financial support to put her through college. My mom recalls one day when she and her family were at home and looked out the window, only to see a cross burning on the front lawn. It came out that it was the girl they were trying to help, rebelling against them. My grandfather spoke with the girl and asked her what motivated her to take such an extreme action. I don’t know what came of the conversation but in the end, he decided to continue to provide for her and help her in any way he could. This is one of many times my grandpa chose to respond in love.

In Wyoming in 1992, a young man named Matthew Shepard was brutally beaten and left to die tied to a fence. This was said to be a hate crime in response to Matthew’s sexual orientation. At the trial, when deciding on the sentence for the two murderers, Matthew’s father Dennis read a letter to the judge. He made the following statement “I would like nothing better than to see you die, Mr. McKinney. However, this is the time to begin the healing process. To show mercy to someone who refused to show any mercy. Mr. McKinney, I am going to grant you life, as hard as it is for me to do so, because of Matthew.” Has there ever been a more beautiful display of forgiveness, love, and grace? I pray that someday I might have the ability to be so forgiving and strong.

On the night of the Paris attacks, a man in Connecticut fired a few rounds into the Mosque next door. On various forms of social media, he spoke hatefully about Muslims, going so far as to say “Is Muslim season open yet? I’m in a target rich environment.” I think a very acceptable and even appropriate response would be to feel anger towards this violent man. Instead, the president of the Mosque invited the man to a service at the Mosque and instructed all of its Muslim members to offer him a hug and show forgiveness. Of course, there is no way to know whether this truly happened and whether it was genuine, but it’s not the only story of its kind. I want to believe that people are capable of such loving behavior.

And so I HAVE to believe I am capable of it as well. The title of this post is “stretching your net of compassion”. I stole these words from today’s sermon by K Karpen at the Church of St. Paul and St. Andrew. I’m going to butcher this so bear with me. The sermon was about the story in the gospel of John when, with Jesus’s help, the disciples catch 153 fish in their net. Though they have so many fish, the net does not break. K likened this to our love for one another. He said that God’s net of compassion is cast wide. The net doesn’t discriminate against gay fish, straight fish, black fish, white fish, republican fish or democrat fish. His net of mercy and compassion catches all of them without breaking.

So, I’m going to work on it. I’m going to work really really hard on it. I get upset when people hurt people that I love. I get upset when people treat me in a way that I (hope) I would never treat them. I get upset with people who treat complete strangers disrespectfully. But Jesus didn’t hate the men who crucified him. My grandpa didn’t hate the young girl who responded to his love with complete disrespect. Matthew Shepard’s parents didn’t hate the men who brutally killed their son. I think I can work on loving a little bit better, even when it’s really really hard.

A LIFE IN THE WINGS

My mom conducted Phantom of the Opera for the first time when she was 7 months pregnant with me. My dad was in various productions of the show as a performer throughout my infancy and early childhood. Needless to say, I heard Andrew Lloyd Webber’s music and felt the warmth of theater lights from inside the womb. It’s not a lifestyle that I ever thought was odd or different, but over the years, I’ve discovered that some people find it to be quite interesting. It’s difficult to summarize what my childhood in the theater was like but here are a few of the most memorable moments.

When my mom was pregnant with me, the cast and crew of the LA production of Phantom had a bet going on when I would be born. Michael Crawford was in the LA production at that time. His guess was the closest to my actual birth time and, therefore, HE won the pool of money. With this money, he bought me a baby-sized bracelet with my name engraved on it and wrote me (my mom) a beautiful letter welcoming me into the world. I’ve seen him since and reminded him of this story, which neither of us really remember. 

The "Phantot of the Opera".
The “Phantot of the Opera”.

As Phantom gained popularity, it started opening in various cities and countries around the world. My mom was fortunate to have been given the opportunity to put together and maintain many of the European productions, one of which was in Hamburg, Germany. The production there ran for 10 years and she would often take me with her when she went for auditions, rehearsals or to check in on the production. Many of my favorite memories are from various visits to the Neue Flora theater in Hamburg. Among these are taking my first steps in Hal Prince’s hotel room at the Four Seasons, and (much later) singing in German with the offstage singers during the show.

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The first memory needs no more explanation than I was in Hal’s hotel room, I walked and everyone was excited. Here’s more on the second: I often found it more exciting to hang out with the performers during the show rather than staying with my mother who was purely business when at work. There was a canteen at the Neue Flora which was open throughout the show and served food, drinks, candy, etc. I often planted myself there, waiting for the actors to come in and spend time with me. On one occasion, they were leaving the canteen to do the offstage singing in the second act of the show. I somehow convinced them that I knew the German lyrics and could sing it with them. Much to my mother’s chagrin, they brought me along and I sang the words loud and clear. I was no longer allowed to leave the canteen during the performances after that.

In the Christine Wig and Crown.
In the Christine Wig and Crown.

I’ve never thought of myself as a particularly mischievous child but in hindsight, it seems I caused my mom a bit of trouble now and then. One thing she LOVED was when I walked around giving actors notes on their performance. I’m told I went up to a Raoul following the show and told him he did a great job but his voice was a bit too dark for the role. I’d like to see how my mom dug herself out of that hole. Evidently, this is one of many inappropriate notes I gave to actors throughout my childhood. I’m hoping that with age I’ve gained at least a bit of diplomacy when speaking with actors.

"Mr. DeMille, I'm ready for my close-up."
“Mr. DeMille, I’m ready for my close-up.”

At a certain point, I think around age 4, I became very frightened of the Phantom and was unable to watch the show. When the touring production went to Cleveland, my mom’s family went to see the show and brought me along with them. As soon as it started, I began to cry and insisted that I couldn’t watch. My aunt took me into the theater lobby where I performed the duration of the show for the ushers. 

In addition to working on Phantom, my mom worked on various other shows including Sunset Boulevard. As I mentioned in a previous post, she would often take me out of school to go on business trips with her. This time, she took me with her when they were rehearsing and opening the Sunset Boulevard tour. The production was still in previews and on one particular night, they were having to start and stop the show many times due to technical difficulties. On the third or fourth time stopping, the production stage manager went to make an announcement to the audience, grabbed my hand and pulled me up on stage. I stood there sheepishly in shorts and Birkenstocks (with socks) while he said “you can’t be mad at me when I have this cute little girl next to me, but we are going to have to stop the show once again. We will resume shortly”. 

Peter Lawrence and I trying to calm the audience.
Peter Lawrence and I trying to calm the audience.

One evening, my mom and I had settled in for a night of take-out and movies. We were lying on the couch in our PJs relaxing when at around 7:55 she got a call from the stage manager at Phantom. They didn’t have a conductor for the 8:00 performance and needed her to come conduct as fast as possible. We hopped in a cab and rode down 9th avenue. We lived at Columbus Circle and what should have been a 5-10 minute cab ride at most took forever due to unexpected traffic. We got out a few blocks from the theater and started running. I sat in the front house left box in my pajamas and watched my mom conduct the show that night.

Another day watching rehearsal.
Another day watching rehearsal.

When I tell people that I grew up in the theater, it’s hard to express how much it truly runs in my veins. I’d say this is partly by choice and partly due to my upbringing. I tried for years to extract myself from the world of musical theater but felt a constant pull to return. The swell of the music, the excitement backstage, the corny/cliché/magical drama of it all, it’s intoxicating to me.

STEPHEN SONDHEIM HATES ME

OK I’m exaggerating, he wouldn’t know me if I walked right into him, which I did once. But one particular summer I managed to inadvertently agitate him continuously on a few different occasions.

In the summer of 2003, my mom traveled to Chicago to work on a new musical called Bounce (which has since been re-named, Road Show). It was the world premiere of the musical which was written by Stephen Sondheim and directed by Hal Prince.

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Can we just soak up these pictures for a minute though?

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I was between years of high school with little to do in New York City since I wasn’t a summer-camp-going kid, so I ended up spending a month with my mom in Chicago. As I was a bit too young to explore the city on my own, I spent most days sitting with her in rehearsals and watching the performances in the evening. 

The first occasion when I managed to get in the way of one of the greatest composers of all time began with me riding up in the elevator of the theater to go into the house to watch the show. As the doors opened, I was looking down and didn’t see that He was standing in front of me trying to enter the elevator. I walked right into him nearly knocking him over and was too shocked to vocalize anything resembling an apology. I’m pretty sure I heard him mumble a few obscenities under his breath but I could have made that up in my mind as I tend to be pretty sensitive. This was the least horrible of the three events. 

On another occasion, I was sitting in one of the first few rows of the house watching a rehearsal. Most of the creative team was scattered in various seats around the theater behind me. While I was watching, I noticed that one of the conductor monitors behind me wasn’t on and I looked to the other side of the mezzanine to see if that monitor was turned on. I suppose I wasn’t aware that I was being disruptive to the people seated behind me. I quickly learned that I was when I heard Sondheim’s voice loudly lamenting to his colleague “who is that girl and why does she keep moving around? She’s distracting me!” I did my best to stay very still from then on whenever I was in his holiness’s presence.

The final event that really solidified his dislike for me was during one of the evening performances at the Goodman. I got too distracted in my mom’s dressing room to get to the house before the first act started. I decided I would go up at intermission and find an open seat to watch the second act. I went into the theater and found a seat in the last row and sat down. Just as the second act started, out of the corner of my eye, I noticed a man behind me standing against the wall. He spoke with an usher briefly and continued to stand. I didn’t realize until the lights came up at the end of the show that it was Sondheim. I later found out that I had taken his seat, leaving him with no choice but to stand for the duration of the second act. Why he didn’t use his royal status to get me to move, I’m not sure. That is truthfully how it went down… at least in my memory of it. 

I really like to say that Sondheim hates me ’cause, as they say, it’s better than indifference. The truth is, he has no idea that I exist. For him, I am a blip on the screen that is his fabulous life. For me, he’ll always be one of the greatest lyricists/composers of all time. Nearly 15 years later, I still like to bask in the glory of our less-than-desirable interactions. 

“Any moment, big or small,
Is a moment, after all.
Seize the moment, skies may fall
Any moment.”

A LITTLE BIT OF SACCHARIN ON EASTER

As a kid, Easter was all about being with my family and eating copious amounts of chocolate. I spent many of my Easter holidays in Florida at my grandparents’ house with my cousins, aunt and uncle. The night before easter we sat around the dining room table coloring eggs, each one of us trying to come up with the coolest design. The next day we would wake up in the morning and hunt for our (barely) hidden Easter basket.

After consuming almost all of the contents of said easter basket, we would reluctantly get ready for church, my cousins and I groaning that we didn’t want to go and “can’t we just stay home?” The service always seemed to be the longest and most boring part of the day. Clearly we were missing the point of the holiday. After church we spent the rest of the day consuming more food and candy, again paying very little mind to what it was we were celebrating.

These days the outline of the day looks similar, but I attempt to take more time to reflect on the meaning of the holiday. What am I celebrating and why? Do I believe the story of Easter as it is described in the bible? What does it mean to me and how can I apply it to my life?

Without going into too much depth on my religious beliefs (if you do want a bit more info on that you can check out this post), here is a bit about what Easter really means to me:

  1. It gives me a renewed sense of hope. In a time when we are seeing horrific terrorist attacks occurring all over the world, I remain hopeful that love and kindness will eventually prevail.
  2. It reminds me that forgiveness is both possible and necessary.
  3. It grounds me, helping me to reflect on my faith and the amazing, unseen and unknown mysteries that surround us.
  4. It energizes me to continue to reinvent myself daily and to try to become a better person.
  5. It means that “popcorn trees” are coming! In my family, we have always called cherry blossoms “popcorn trees”. They are one of my favorite parts of spring and they are so close to popping and revealing their beautiful pink selves.

What does Easter mean for you? Is it a time of joy, hope, reinvention? Let me know!

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“I LOVE THE GRIME ALL THE TIME…”

It’s a humid day in NYC. It’s gone between sunny, rainy and cloudy (my childhood cats were named rainy and cloudy…I think I was in a bit of a depression when naming them) and yet it’s been a glorious day. I think something that I dislike most about living in the city is the schlepping. On any given day I’ll go between my house, work, an exercise class, multiple auditions and my boyfriend’s house. This requires me to carry more bags than I’d wish to carry, inevitably making me into a bag lady of sorts. This morning I walked to my office and various auditions, down and up and down again along 8th avenue. Each time carrying, at least, three bags while attempting to keep my cool.

 
As I walk in one of the busiest neighborhoods of this city dripping sweat, there are so many classic New York scenes in every visible direction. A man stands on the corner trying to sell me an umbrella, a biker nearly runs me over trying to deliver someone’s lunch (and I do NOT curse at him), tourists block the intersection looking at their cellphones and directions. It all reminds me of the stories my mom told me of her dreams of moving to New York and hustling to make a life here. Her dream was of course a romanticized version of what it is actually like, but it’s also not. It’s exactly as beautiful and grimey and amazing as she imagined it would be.

One of my favorite sights becomes increasingly visible as I near the block where the majority of Broadway (and off Broadway and off off Broadway) auditions are held. I see actors/dancers/singers going to auditions. You can sometimes spot them from a mile away. I ride the elevator up with a young girl and her mom, the girl carrying a sparkly blue binder full of crisply printed music. She is clearly new to the audition scene. The more seasoned performers roam the halls with their binders full of faded copies of music they’ve sung for years. Some of them even have black rectangles of mic tape residue on their necks from the previous evening’s performance.

It starts to pour outside of our 16th-floor window and I’ll have to schlep all these bags back to my office with no hands left for an umbrella. But it’s fine because I’ve spent the morning being serenaded with broadway show tunes and after all, I live in one of the greatest cities in the world.


  

“Once I hated this city
Now it can’t get me down
Slushy, humid and gritty
What a pretty town

What thought I could be duller
More depressing, less gay
Now my favorite color
Is gray

A wall of rain as it turns to sleet
The lack of sun on a one-way street
I love the grime all the time
And what more do I need?

My window pane has a lovely view
An inch of sky and a fly or two
Why I can see half a tree
And what more do I need?

The dusk is thick and it’s galling
It simply can’t be excused
In winter even the falling snow looks
Used

My window pane may not give much light
But I see you, so the view is bright
If I can love you, I’ll pay the dirt no heed
With your love what more do I need?

Someone shouting for quiet
Someone starting a brawl
Down the block there’s a riot
And I’ll buy it all

Listen now, I’m ecstatic
Hold me close and be still
Hear the lovely pneumatic
Drill

A subway train thunders through the Bronx
A taxi horn on the corner honks
But I adore every roar
And what more do I need?

I hear a crane making street repairs
A two ton child running wild upstairs
Steam pipes bang, sirens clang
And what more do I need?

The neighbors yell in the summer
The landlord yells in the fall
So loud I can’t hear the plumber
Pound the wall

An aeroplane roars across the bay
But I can hear you as clear as day
You said you loved me
Above the sound and speed
With your love what more do I need?”

“What More Do I Need”- Stephen Sondheim