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!

FullSizeRender

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.

FullSizeRender_1

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.

FullSizeRender-4

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.

images (1)
Can we just soak up these pictures for a minute though?

tumblr_lsb3oussJb1r0q7oao1_500

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!

IMG_9957

FullSizeRender (10)

 

 

Follow my blog with bloglovin!

“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

A CAREER PATH I ONCE TOOK/ TWO ROADS DIVERGED

Over the years, I have known that I wanted to have a career in the theatre, but I was uncertain as to exactly what that career would be. I have had many incredible opportunities; I was an intern to a Stage Manager on the Broadway revival of Gypsy with Patti Lupone and an intern on the Broadway production of The Phantom of the Opera. I briefly attempted singing and acting as an ensemble member of a workshop for a new musical headed for Broadway. (“headed for” is important. It didn’t make it). I interned for a sound designer in San Diego at the Old Globe Theatre.  I was a dresser for a number of years. Now I have recently (and finally) found what seems to be my “home” in casting. If my pursuits seemed random, you might say that the constant thread is the fact that I steadily pursued jobs in the theater (except that one time when I tried being a vegan chef).

My longest experience in one career path was as a dresser. It was also one of the most fun. I started one summer between my junior and senior year of college. Let me back up a bit in case you don’t know the specifics of what a dresser in the theatre does. Generally, a dresser is assigned to one or more actors whom they dress every night. They are responsible for pre-setting all of the costumes that the actors will need throughout the show, making sure that the costumes are in good shape (no rips, buttons falling off, etc), making sure the actor is comfortable and ready to perform, and assisting with any mid-show costume changes. My first job was as a swing dresser for The Phantom of the Opera. A swing learns many different wardrobe “tracks” in the event that a permanent dresser is sick or goes on vacation. As a dresser you need to a) stay out of the way of moving sets and fast moving people, and b) try to make everything as seamless for the actors as possible. This can be particularly challenging if you are doing a different track every night. I worked at Phantom for the duration of that summer, learning 9 out of 16 tracks in the show.

Screen Shot 2016-03-23 at 1.45.44 PM
Some of the Phantom wig and wardrobe girlies
The lovely Sarah Bakker on the night of her first performance as Christine
The lovely Sarah Bakker on the night of her first performance as Christine
The Raoul boys
The Raoul boys

 After college, I returned to the city and went back to dressing. I continued to dress at Phantom and also began subbing in wardrobe at Spiderman: Turn Off the Dark, two completely different experiences. Going between those two shows was a trip. One night I might be helping someone get into a giant dress with a corset and a big bustle and the next I’d be zipping someone into a skin-tight spider suit.

FullSizeRender-2

FullSizeRender-3

After Spiderman closed, I was asked to work on the revival of Cabaret as a full-time dresser. This was my first time not only having my own track, but creating it from scratch. I dressed the character Fraulein Kost throughout the entire show, helping other dressers with quick changes at various points as well. My time at Studio 54 was truly incredible. Watching Alan Cumming return to the role that made him famous was an experience I’ll never forget, not to mention making lifelong friends with such an amazing group of coworkers.

FullSizeRender (6)
Dressers hard at work
At Tony rehearsal

One of the things I love most about being a dresser are the fun traditions you create. Because the job requires you to do to the exact same sequence of events every night at the same time with the same people, you start to develop jokes and rituals with different people backstage. Every night after the call for places, Alan would come down the stairs in his Emcee costume and do pull ups on the stairs in front of us. When he walked by he would say the same phrase to the actors as he passed them, wishing them good luck. In the first act as one actor ran by to enter his scene, he would do a different kind of dance, entertaining those of us who were waiting for our next cue. At the end of the first act, when the actor that I dressed left her scene from one side of the stage and walked to enter at another side, she would get high fives from everyone she met on her path to her next entrance. On her final night, we arranged to have a huge line of people waiting to high five her. She wasn’t able to make it through that scene with dry eyes.

FullSizeRender (7)

One of my favorite traditions was during act two with my friend and floormate Danny who played Herr Schultz. Every night we (he) would come up with a joke of some sort and we would greet our other floormates Aaron (Ernst Ludwig) and Gayle/Hani (Fraulein Kost) as they exited the stage. Our jokes would range from full on skits to just wearing signs on our clothes. Any pieces of paper required for these jokes were later taped onto one of the dressing room doors on our floor. It turned into quite a work of art.

996121_10153133737338914_4233854520995927110_n

988931_10203706459006913_1079426879596794282_n

FullSizeRender (8)

IMG_9898

IMG_9899

I always say they should sell tickets to be backstage during a show instead of in front of the stage because that’s really where the magic happens. Dressers are just one group of so many incredible people that are crucial in making the experience of going to the theatre magical.

11081109_10204154461326691_4069228992825298303_n

SECRET PIZZA AND A WEEKEND IN PHOTOS

In a city that is notorious for it’s Pizza, I think I’ve finally found my very favorite slice in town. Though popular among born and bred Brooklynites and authentic Italians (at least that’s what my two very Italian friends tell me), I think this place is fairly unknown. L&B Spumoni Gardens is quite a trek but it is SO worth it. There are two ways to get there a) drive, though parking can be tricky or b) take the subway (N to 86th street or D to 25th Ave).

FullSizeRender_12

There is often quite a wait and you won’t have much luck sweet-talking the old school grumpy Italian hostess, but your patience will pay off. I’ve only been here twice so my suggestions are limited but I would suggest getting the Caprese salad which is a fresh and healthy start to what is sure to be a not-so-healthy meal. The rice balls look amazing. I didn’t have them as they aren’t vegetarian, but I did have the melted cheese and marinara sauce which comes on top of them and it was delicious. We got a carafe of the house red which is decent enough when you’re paying a pittance though I would just as soon get an ice cold Peroni to pair with my carbs. The obvious must-have is the Sicilian Pizza. This pizza… I “can’t even”. I mean I “literally can’t”. It feels like you’re biting into a cloud of dough. The marinara sauce has a delicious sweetness to it and there is the perfect ratio of sauce to cheese. If you are lucky enough to get a corner slice, you’ll really be in heaven. I’ve committed a Spumoni crime twice now in that I’ve never actually ordered any Spumoni. I am usually too full at that point and I tend to be more of a savory gal so you know where my priorities lie. I’ve heard the Spumoni is pretty darn good though.

FullSizeRender_1

FullSizeRender_2

As a side note, if you happen to drive to L&B Spumoni Garden in the month of December, you should also drive by Dyker Heights to see the famous Christmas Lights. They are over-the-top but beautiful.

We spent our Saturday evening at Spumoni Gardens in an effort to carb load for Roman’s half-marathon on Sunday. It seemed to have been a successful mission because he ran a great race. After not having run farther than four miles in months, Roman ran the half marathon on Sunday under two hours. I got to cheer him on in Times Square and then meet him at the finish. After his race, we went for Brunch at one of my favorites, The Smile. I had a quinoa, lentil, egg concoction which was great and he had lox and lemon caper cream cheese on a Black Seed Bagel. I’m not a lox person but I tasted his food and it was SO good.

FullSizeRender_3

FullSizeRender_4

FullSizeRender_5

Post-brunch, Roman and I walked around the village to different antique stores looking for furniture for our new apartment which we are moving into in the next few weeks. We found a million things we wanted and yet nothing we could afford. We also found some great mural walls to pose in front of.

FullSizeRender_6

FullSizeRender_7

FullSizeRender_11

After walking around for a bit, I went downtown to the Glossier pop-up shop. If you don’t know Glossier, you should. I don’t mind ordering it online but going to the pop-up is so fun, I can’t resist. It smells like roses (due to the Soothing Face mist which contains Rosewater) and is a pink wonderland. I spent way too much money on various new products I wanted to try but so far it’s worth it because I’m loving everything. If you want to try out some of their products you can get 20% off with this Link.

FullSizeRender_8

FullSizeRender_9

FullSizeRender_10

After a pretty good nap, Roman and I went to dinner at a friend’s place in Brooklyn. It was a fabulous night of wine, tuna steak (my first time having it, it was great!) and a very addicting game called Spyfall. 

Overall it was a perfect weekend. How was yours? Let me know!

BUSES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES

When I picture what it must be like to have grown up in a more suburban or rural area, I get caught up on the whole transportation thing. Imagining my mom driving me to school is comical. Two things happen when my mom drives: 1) She starts singing along with the seat belt bell which is supposed to tell her that her seatbelt isn’t buckled. She will do this for minutes on end. 2) She drives at a snail’s pace and keeps about 5 car lengths of distance between her and the car ahead of her. She does this even if she’s going 30 mph. This is probably wise due to the fact that she wasn’t allowed to drive in New York City for many years or she would be arrested/fined.

Conversely, I’ve had people tell me they could never imagine riding the subway to school every day. I find the differences in peoples’ day-to-day lives and routines to be fascinating. What is normal and maybe even mundane for one person is completely novel to another. This is what my experience was like…

Elementary school was at a public school on the Upper West Side, across from the Museum of Natural History. We lived less than a mile from there so for the most part, we walked to school every day. In the early years, I would walk with my mom or Indra, my babysitter. We walked by Lincoln Center every day and my mom would always point out the murals hanging in the Met. She would try to help me remember who the artist was that painted them by saying “think of the city of Chicago, Chagall!” It’s a bit of a stretch, but it worked.

Lincoln

In the warmer months when I would walk home with Indra, I tried to convince her daily that I HAD to have an Icee from the Icee cart. One day I decided to go out of my comfort zone and get a coconut Icee. Indra warned me that I wouldn’t like it but I ignored her advice and followed my heart. My heart was wrong. On the walk back home after I had one taste I slowly and subtly (not subtly at all) turned the Icee upside down, spilling it all over the sidewalk and then whining that I needed another one. I went with tried-and-true Mango this time.

icee

After elementary school, I went to a public middle school up on 107th street. This was when I really started moving up in the world because a) got a cell phone (a giant baby blue Nokia) and b) I started being allowed to ride the public bus on my own. My mom or Larry  would walk me to the bus stop every morning. When I got on the bus I would find a seat and watch through the window as my mom danced and sang for me on the sidewalk. At the time I found it extremely embarrassing, but nowadays I would probably just join in with her. To combat my embarrassment I would put on my walkman headphones and listen to the soundtrack to “Rent” all the way to school, thinking I was super cool and grown up.

One of my most vivid and traumatizing memories was from a bus ride home from middle school. My friend and I got on the bus like we did every day and walked to the very back to get a seat. When we sat down we noticed a teenage couple huddling over something. It was one of those moments when I instinctively knew I should look away but couldn’t. My friend and I watched as the young man helped his woman friend inject something into her arm. After a few minutes, their eyes started to sag a bit and they both became very drowsy. They started “necking”, clearly having no awareness that there was a bus full of people around them. My friend and I could not believe our eyes and went to the front of the bus to tell the bus driver what we saw. He stopped the bus and made an announcement over the PA system that the couple had to get off the bus. When they didn’t seem to hear or comprehend his command he came to the back of the bus to physically remove them. My friend and I took this opportunity to run off the bus as quickly as we could, thinking they would surely find us and get some kind of revenge. This is my favorite part of this story: traumatized and extremely frightened, my friend and I sat in a park and cried. As we dialed our mothers on our giant Nokia cell phones my friend let out a blood-curdling scream followed by the words “somebody help us”. I’m not sure what either of us thought we needed help with. I think we were both so upset by what we had witnessed and really just wanted to erase the images from our heads. I get a good laugh when I think of this experience now, mainly because of how we handled it, but for a few years, it really haunted me.

After middle school, I switched to an all-girls Catholic school on the Upper East Side. This meant a subway uptown and then a bus across town. I often met other west sider friends at the crosstown bus and we would ride through the park together. I went through a brief phase where I would use the time between walking from my apartment to the subway to smoke a cigarette (sorry Mimi). This was really badass of me because 1) smoking is bad for you, duh and 2) you weren’t ever supposed to smoke in uniform because someone might recognize you as a Sacred Heart girl and it would ruin the school’s reputation (priorities!). The fact that I tried to be cool by smoking a cigarette on the way to school is comical because I couldn’t really smoke cigarettes successfully. I would have one cigarette and then feel nauseous for the rest of the day. Regardless, I was a trooper and did what I could for the sake of “cool”.

On one occasion, I went down to the subway platform at Columbus Circle to wait for my train. I noticed there was an express train stopped in the center track and there was a lot of commotion. An MTA employee made an announcement that all trains were being delayed due to an incident at Columbus Circle. I asked a woman standing on the platform if she knew what was going on and she pointed to something underneath the train and said a passenger had jumped into the tracks. I was able to force myself to avert my eyes long enough to make the decision to find another way to school that day.

One of my favorite forms of transportation to and from school was on the back of my step-dad Larry’s red Vespa. If it was warm enough we would get on the Vespa and ride through Central Park to the upper east side. On days when we rode the Vespa I didn’t need to have my one daily cigarette cause my cool factor was already through the roof.

The view from the Vespa
The view from the Vespa

 

I include both the positive and the negative stories beause I think it’s important to see both sides and learn from it all. I’ve heard people say “I could never live in New York City”. If that’s your opinion that’s totally fair and valid (and better for me, the rent is already too high). However, I think there are unfortunate events and experiences no matter where you go. You just have to choose what is important to you and what negative things you are willing to put up with. As for me, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to leave this glorious city.

WHEN YOU KNOW, YOU KNOW. YOU KNOW?

It’s hard to write about meeting the love of your life without giving some background on the 26 years before you met him. You can’t really understand what it feels like to know someone is “the one” without having dated a bunch of people who weren’t the one. Or maybe you can, but that’s not how it went for me.

Without going into too much detail, I’d say I definitely went through the cliche “bad boy” phase. Does everyone go through this or are most people wise enough to know that a person who is kind and caring is generally the person you want to go for? If a guy ignored me, was not really “looking for a relationship”, or was significantly older, it was a challenge I was ready to accept. Whether due to “daddy issues” or low self-esteem, it was a pattern that went on for many years.

Between bad breakups and broken hearts, I tried to like “nice” boys. The feeling nice boys gave me is like when you feel like there are spiders crawling on you, it’s like you are going to crawl out of your skin. My favorite nice boy story was when I went out for drinks with a guy friend of mine. We had a great time and got in a cab to head uptown to our respective homes. I’ll have to preface what comes next by saying that I have a bad habit of not buckling my seat belt in cabs. It’s not that I think it’s stupid or unnecessary, I’m just not used to doing it. Perhaps this is because they were always broken or ripped out of the old cabs I took? Fellow New Yorkers, do you find this to be true? Anyway, we were sitting in the cab and he had buckled his seat belt. As we drove uptown I watched out of the corner of my eye as he very slowly unbuckled his seat belt, noticing that I hadn’t buckled mine. The fact that he was being safe and buckling up in a cab is not what turned me off. It was the fact that he couldn’t be confident about his choice. If you happen to be reading this nice boy, I think you are a great person and you are going to make another seat belt buckle upper very happy someday.

I’m skipping over a lot of things here, but only to get to the best part faster. In November of 2014, I was swiping left and right, as you do. I don’t remember the exact moment when Bae came across my screen but I obviously swiped right. After having been on Tinder for a while with little success I deleted it on a whim, thinking I should really meet a person the old fashioned way, slightly intoxicated at a bar. After a dull two weeks, I re-downloaded the app only to find the following romantic opening line waiting in my inbox: “so you run a lot?”. We chatted for a few days on Tinder before he said “I’m sorry if this is too forward but here is my number, text me, I can’t stand this Tinder thing”.

After texting for a few days, we decided to meet up after work. Coincidentally, it turned out that we worked on the same block, him as a director’s assistant at David Letterman and me as a dresser at the revival of “Cabaret”. While Roman waited for me outside the Studio 54 stage door, I took a shot in my girlfriend Gayle’s dressing room (I look back fondly at all the times Gayle and I HAD to do shots before we went on failed attempts at dates). To back up a bit, almost all my life I’ve had long naturally blonde hair. I went through a brief identity crisis and chopped all my hair off and dyed it platinum blonde. This happens to be when Roman met me. I came out of the stage door with a guitar on my back and a beany covering my platinum pixie cut. He says when he saw me thought I was a super cool guitar playing hipster, little did he know I was shakin’ in ma boots.

IMG_9800
The identity crisis look.

We walked to a trashy sports bar and on the way he kept accidentally bumping into me. I later found out he had already been drinking for a few hours with friends. I’m pretty shocked he still liked me after that evening because it seemed like I was determined to sabotage myself by telling him all the horrible things I had done within the last few months. Regardless, we saw each other two days later.

It wasn’t love at first sight but it was love at second sight if that’s a thing. Our second date started at Greenwich Tree House. As soon as I sat down with him I felt comfortable like I was home. We chatted for a bit and then walked over to the Village Vanguard. Sitting next to him and listening to a big brass band play, I felt like I was sitting next to someone I had known all my life.

The great thing about Roman is he is the perfect mix of everything. He’s certainly not a bad boy which I’m grateful for, but he isn’t the gross kind of nice either. He’s one of the most ambitious people I know and therefore is quite successful at everything he tries to do. He’s kind and loving and always helps me to try to “be a better person” as cliche as that sounds. He cares immensely about his amazing family which translates into caring about mine as well. All that plus he’s more handsome than Robert Pattinson and Rufus Wainright combined (and he gets that a lot).

index + images <

IMG_8076

As I’ve tried to think about different things I could write about in this here blog, Roman kept (jokingly) saying “why don’t you write about me!?” My response kept being “because I’m an independent woman and my life isn’t all about having a boyfriend!” I was joking when I said that but the truth is, I’ve grown up in an age where being a “strong woman” who doesn’t prioritize romantic relationships is not only fashionable but sometimes imperative. I was raised to dream about my career instead of my future husband, and I did. But no matter what happens in my career, no matter where I live, no matter how much money I have, I’ll be happy if Roman is there with me. And I think being able to say that still allows me to be an “independent woman”.

IMG_8619