Friday, July 23, 2010

Rainstorms and Fireflies

Tuesday, July 13

This morning, I give Northern Stage another shot and show up for their ECC.  If  I can't be Dorothy, maybe they'll consider me for one of the munchkins.  Really, I just want to be a part of somebody's Oz.  If I start out as a munchkin, maybe I can work my way up the ladder and play Elphaba someday.  That is, when I'm no longer cast within the confines of type. Ugh.

High hopes.  No such luck.  I'm #2 on the list, but the two-hour long call fills quickly, and it's closed by 10am.  

With the rest of the morning and afternoon wide open, I decide to do something productive and head for Trader Joe's.  The new Chelsea store opened yesterday, and I can't wait to see it.  Hopefully, it's bigger than the one in Union Square.

Hallelujah!  It's amazing.  HUGE isles and more selection than I could ever ask for.  Granted, it's the middle of the day, but the lines are actually reasonable, and they're certainly not wrapped around half the store.  I load up on the good stuff and reassure myself as I lug it all home that the strawberries and peaches are worth the extra effort.  

I get off the train at 68th Street/Hunter College and surface in the middle of a deluge.  Some guy is hawking umbrellas, and tidy businesswomen shrug and skitter along under their newspapers, umbrellas, and cardigans.  I delight in the thought of Seattlites mercilessly mocking them.  Please.  It's just rain.

I cram my purse and duffel plus the two bags of groceries onto an over-crowded bus--thanks to the weather--and only have to haul it three blocks after my stop.  It's all my paper bags can handle (of course, this is the one day I shop without my sturdy eco-friendly recycled bags).  Just as I let myself into the door of my building, the bottom of one bag busts, and the second bag only makes it to my door five flights up.  What an adventure.  Good thing I have nowhere to be.  God has a great sense of humor.

Later that night, I head to lower Manhattan for my first scheduled audition--such a luxury these days!  It's for Urinetown: the Musical, a show I did with Rick Hornor my junior year at Whitworth.  The production company works specifically with young actors ages 18-35 looking to break into the business.  My audition is scheduled for 6:55, but I'm so worried about being on-time (or early), that I walk in the door at 6:05.  I can hear people auditioning through the door, and I'm happy to find that I sing as well or better than most of the folks here.  For once, I don't feel completely out of my league.  

They work me in early, and I sing a cut from "I'm Not Afraid of Anything" (Songs for a New World), a song I remember Alicia Doyl recommending to me my freshman year at Whitworth.  Turns out, the song and I are a really good match. :)  The room is tiny--a glorified closet, really--and despite my enthusiasm and gratitude for the chance to sing, I almost cringe at the thought of being in their position.  Voices like mine are not meant for small rooms.  Sorry, lovely people behind the table.

They have me read a side in the role of Hope (when she's tied up and telling it straight to Bobby), and I even get a couple laughs.  Sweet.  Cheesy, satirized ingenue.  Eat your heart out. 

On my way out, I'm told that I'll hear within a day or two about callbacks.  I don't get a call.!

I scurry home and swap out my dress and heels for shorts and a blanket and make my way to Central Park.  Tonight is a free New York Philharmonic concert on the Great Lawn.  It's insane how many people are here.  The upside to going solo in this city is that one little person can squeeze her way into some small spots.  Which is exactly what I do.  I find my own little square of grass and make myself at home amidst the mob of classical music lovers.  The show is fantastic.  The Shanghai Symphony is here, too, with guest performances from some of Asia's greatest opera stars.  I call Patti and leave a message on her phone, with a soprano solo in the background, of course.  Wish she could be here. :)

Around 9:00, the concert begins to wrap up, and the fireflies come out.  SO pretty!  That's one East Coast thing I wish we had at home.  They still surprise me, and every time I see them, I think of the Owl City song and Whitworth and all my friends...and how much I miss everyone already.  Love you. :)

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The one where I meet the nicest Tony Award-winner ever

Monday, July 12

This is the beginning of a very busy week.  At 8:00, I'm in line for a season EPA for Vermont's Northern Stage.  For the second time, I join a line of actors that neatly snakes back and forth through the lobby of Ripley Grier Studios.  We're let in at 8:45, just as everyone starts to get really grouchy about the heat.  I'm #2 on the non-Equity list, and they aren't seeing anyone until 10:00, so I schlep my stuff a few blocks to Telsey + Company for another EPA for Hairspray at Paper Mill Playhouse (NJ).  I'm somewhere in the 20s on the non-Equity list, so I go back to wait at Ripley Grier.  I settle in and start on my hair and makeup.  

The most exciting thing about the Northern Stage season, for me, is The Wizard of Oz.  I'm still figuring out what I'm right for, but I'm positive I would make a fantastic Dorothy Gale.  I even braid my hair in French-braided pigtails and curl the ends.  By about 11:00, I find out that the Northern Stage call has been closed to non-Equity.  Lame.  I really wanted to at least be seen for Dorothy. :(  I take out my braids and head for Telsey + Co.  

The energy here is weird.  In passing and in the bathroom, I hear more than a couple people say how they think the show is already cast.  With Equity, there's always a chance that an audition is being held out of union obligations, not because they're actually looking for actors to cast.  Equity members are asked for a full 1960s pop song.  From EMCs and non-Equity, they only want to hear 16 bars.  I am literally the last person in line before the 2:00 lunch--not the best place to be.  But I sing and feel okay about it.  This is one of those days where for some reason, I feel like my voice has just woken up a half-hour ago, even though it's afternoon.  It could have been better, but it definitely could have been worse.  I thank them and tell them to enjoy their lunch.

That night at 7:30, I go to a discussion with Tony-winning actress Katie Finneran.  She's currently starring on Broadway alongside Sean Hayes and Kristin Chenoweth in Promises, Promises, for which she won her Tony last month.  I saw an ad for the discussion in Backstage a couple weeks ago.  It's free (donation suggested), and all I had to do to reserve my spot was call and give them my name.  It's in the HB Studios Foundation Theatre where Katie trained with the famous Uta Hagen a number of years back.  

Katie is fantastic.  She's sweet and down-to-earth and absolutely genuine.  It's nice to know that actors so accomplished and well-known can still be such nice human beings.  As a matter of fact, this is Monday--her night off.  She's here on her own time to give back. :) I thoroughly enjoy her talk and her advice.  She's one of those actors that obviously had talent to begin with, but hers was no overnight success.  She didn't have one lucky break.  Her story is one of hard work and dilligence.  This is her nineteenth year in New York.  She talks about her Tony acceptance speech and how, in retrospect, she wasn't talking so much to the kids at home when she said to follow your heart and don't let anyone stop you; she was talking to her twelve-year-old self.  Whoever she was talking to, I got it.

After the discussion, Katie graciously greets everyone in the lobby.  "Hi, I'm Katie," she says, introducing herself to everyone with a wide smile and warm handshake.  Of course you're Katie, I think to myself.  We all know who you are.  I thank her for giving up her time to be here and make sure she knows how inspired I was by her Tony acceptance speech the month before.  "I just sat at home in Seattle and cried.  Thank you for talking to your twelve-year-old self because all I could think was, that's exactly how I feel.  Those are my dreams, and that's where I want to be someday."

I walk away feeling incredibly grateful to have met Katie Finneran tonight.  Her wise words and warm spirit are just what I needed after what, until now, had felt like a pretty unsuccessful day.  Bless you, Katie.  And congratulations! :)

Adventures of a Foodie: from Mexico to Korea

Sunday, July 11

I meet Tyler again at Redeemer for the 10:30 service.  I tell him how much I love the guy who does the scripture readings.  His speaking voice is fantastic, and Diana would definitely approve. :)  Come to find out, Tyler recognizes him for a production of The Screwtape Letters he saw in Chicago a few years ago.  So this must be the guy the bulletin mentions each week.  Our scripture reader is reprising his role as C. S. Lewis here in New York.  I should see if I can get a ticket. 

After church, we cross the street with the masses for coffee and muffins.  We're both hesitant to jump into any conversations, but at least we're together and don't have to look all awkward wandering around by ourselves. :)

"So, do you feel like showing me around your part of town," he asks.  I chuckle.  "Well, it's mostly residential areas, college campuses, and hospitals.  But if we walk a few blocks west, we can see Central Park.  I actually haven't seen anything south of the Reservoir yet."  So with coffees in hand--and hot ones at that! What?!?!--we walk the stretch to the park, happy to have bulletins in hand to fan at the heat.

This end of the park is beautiful.  There are lawns and stone bridges and bench-lined walkways.  It takes me a few minutes to realize it, but we walk through the same area I visited while here in January 2008.  It looks nothing the same because at the time, the pond that's now filled with rowboats and ducks was frozen over and dusted in snow.  The trees were bare, and the whole area was deserted.  Today is completely different.  New York is definitely a city of four distinct seasons.

At home, I get a craving for fajitas, so here's what I whip up:

It's super easy.  Just sauté a chicken breast (halved and sliced in strips) in your favorite seasonings (chili powder and paprika are a must).  In a medium bowl, combine chicken, minced garlic, a bit of olive oil, a can of corn, and a can of black beans.  Stir and let marinade.  Meanwhile sauté bell pepper and white onion.  When slightly browned, add marinading bowl of ingredients and stir until heated well throughout.  Grill both sides of a whole-wheat flour tortilla and smother with fajita mix.  Top with guacamole (you can make yours completely from scratch like I did) and Trader Joe's Pineapple Salsa.  Delicioso. :)

Later that night, I get an unexpected dinner invite from a girl I went to high school with.  Corrine is a pastry chef and has been in the city for a couple years.  She has a Korean couch-surfer staying at her place, and she and her boyfriend are whipping up an Asian food fest.  I happily RSVP, and by 9:00, I'm knocking on her door.  The food is fantastic, albeit way too spicy for anybody else in my family (guess I won't be making Korean food when I'm at home!), and we have a great time talking New York, couch-surfers from all over the world, and the love of great food.  What a fun night!  

Hiking Greenbelt with Tyler

Saturday, July 10

It's only been a week since my last adventure out of Manhattan, but already, I'm getting restless.  Last night, Tyler Hamilton and I made plans to meet up for a hike on Staten Island today.  He's living in Queens and working with Teach for America.  Who knew I'd get to hang out with two Whitworth friends in one weekend? :)

This morning, we meet up at the southernmost tip of Manhattan, at the South Ferry Terminal.  Another of New York's public transportation perks: the Staten Island is free.  All day, every day.  It's a 25 minute ride, and we trade stories the entire way--auditions, beach trips, new apartments and roommates, fourth-graders, and beating the New York heat.  While Tyler and I were never best buds at school, there's something about finding familiar people in this city that can make even the most casual acquaintances seem like best friends.  Instantly, we know we have things in common.  We've shared similar experiences, we have mutual friends, and we've both been part of a lot of great Whitworth stories.  For a little while, I feel like I'm back at home.  It's a good feeling. :) 

From the St. George terminal on Staten Island, we take two different buses to the Greenbelt. It's the second-largest component of the parks owned by New York City, and its wetlands, forests, parks, and extensive network of hiking trails cover an area of 2,800 acres.  The small section Tyler and I explore is simply glorious.  And during the three hours we spend trekking through the forest, we only pass one guy walking his dog.  This must be New York's best kept secret.  It's deserted which is especially surprising, considering we're here on a relatively mild Saturday afternoon.

The route we take is the white trail, and we only cover about half of it before we reach a point where it seems to fade of into an unmaintained tangle of downed trees, thick shrubs, and berry bushes.  Back at the trailhead, we decide to head for the bus since I have to nanny this afternoon, but both of us agree that we need to make another trip back soon to try the yellow trail, one that actually challenges us and is considered "difficult" by Greenbelt's standards.

All in all, it's a winner of a day.  "God's green earth," as Mom calls it, doesn't just provide my lungs with oxygen.  It refreshes my spirit, too.  I'm so thankful to have spent the day like this.  I didn't realize how much I needed it until, despite  the dirt and sweat and scratched-up shins, I walk away with a big smile on my face. :)

Shenanigans at the MoMA. Typical.

Friday, July 9

After getting a surprise Facebook message from Emily Miller, we make plans to meet up today for a trip to the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). She's in town for a few days looking at grad schools, and I'm so excited to see her! Slowly but surely, I am meeting up with old friends and new, creating my own little "tribe," as Diana calls it. Armed with a $25 Cold Stone gift card from graduation (Seriously!  How am I supposed to eat that much ice cream by myself?), I meet Emily in a shop midtown.  She goes for the berry sorbet, and I splurge on a Strawberry Blondie. :) Delicious.

We walk uptown to the MoMA which, thanks to the awesomenity of Target, is free to the public every Friday night from 4:00 to 8:00. Score.

This is my favorite. There is a huge room with this on the wall and a live microphone standing in the middle of the room for anyone to use. Yes. Love me some performance art.

Then we come across a series of portraits by Pablo Diego Jose Francisco de Paula Juan Nepomuceno Maria de los Remedios Cipriano de la Santisima Trinidad Clito Ruiz y Picasso. Yeah. Picasso. Lots of pieces and details to that guy's name.  Kind of like his art.  LOVE the progression of this series.

Emily and I think Yayoi Kusama's "Violet Obsession" (1994) is fantastic.  It's a rowboat and oars covered with sewn and stuffed fabric.  I want to jump in, but I also don't want to get arrested.
But the highlight of the evening is, unquestionably, a wall of butts. Not even kidding. Thank you, Yoko Ono! :)

"Ain't No Mountain High Enough..."

Thursday, July 8

It's a morning of really weird weather--hot as can be with a humidity you can see. Literally. There is so much sticky haze hanging over the City that the top of the Empire State Building disappears into the sky like a smudged brush stroke. Come to find out, the relative humidity is a balmy 82%.  No wonder.

By 9:00, I'm on the open call list for a 2:00 Royal Caribbean Productions audition for Hairspray, the show for their newest ship, Oasis. It's bizarre how few people are here. Come to find out, the call is more specific than I knew, and they're looking for 16 bars each of a contemporary musical theatre piece and an uptempo pop song à la Hairspray. Well, shoot. First of all, I don't have music in my book for anything pop, especially not something from the 1960s. By 11:00, I'm trekking uptown to the Performing Arts Library, wracking my brain for anything I could sing off the top of my head.  After browsing a few songbooks of hits from the '60s, I find "Ain't No Mountain High Enough." Perfect! I love the song and know it like the back of my hand. I'm in and out of the library in fifteen minutes with copies in hand.  

I make it back to the audition with time to spare. The organization of this call is different from all the others I've been to. The list, as it turns out, did no one any good, so I really could have shown up at 1:00 and been fine. They're taking everyone in groups according to the character that best fits their type. So I hop in line with the Penny Pingleton group. Ours is the first to be seen, and I'm #37 of who knows how many being seen for the role. Before 2:30, I've sung a chunk of "The Wizard and I" as well as "Ain't No Mountain High Enough," and that's it. If they're interested, they'll call me for tomorrow's callbacks and dance audition.

Earlier in the morning, I signed up for an EPA for The Importance of Being Earnest which, conveniently enough, is located on the floor below, so I head downstairs to check in with them on my way out of Ripley Grier. It's a popular one, and the monitor tells me the call was closed hours ago. Can't win 'em all.

Back at home, I whip up some dinner and settle in for another fabulous night of So You Think You Can Dance?  Great way to end a night. :)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Freckleface Strawberry, pennies from heaven, and pizza margherita

Wednesday, July 7

It's an early morning getting to the EPA for Freckleface Strawberry, a new musical based on the children's book by Julianne Moore.  By the time I arrive at 8:15, the line is already long.  This is what a typical morning can look like for me, if the building hasn't been unlocked yet.  And don't even think about cutting in line.

The monitor for today's call, Lorenzo, is one of the nicest guys ever, and he's totally in it for the actors.  He gives us regular updates as the day moves on, but it starts to look less and less like non-Equity will be seen.  Elizabeth has me on the list for James and the Giant Peach auditions down at Pearl, but I opt to wait this one out.  If there's any chance for me to be seen, I don't want to miss it.  How cool would it be to be part of an original cast?  I'd be on the recording!  Gah!

The day is long, but at least our holding room is nice and cool.  I end up being the lone hold-out.  I am literally the last person in the room.  At 5:10, Lorenzo tells me all the slots are filled through 5:30, and the call is closed.  This is the hardest kind of day to have.  It's one thing to wait, but to wait and not be seen feels lousy.  

But the day isn't a total loss.  I get an unexpected call from Mom saying that I have a 300-dollar check from Whitworth.  Apparently, I'm being refunded for my Jan-term trip to Thailand.  Just when I was worrying about money again... God is amazing. :)

At home,  I put together my delicious pizza margherita.  Nothing beats the original I had on tour with the choir, but it's still good.  Here's the recipe:


1/4 cup olive oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
8 Roma tomatoes, sliced
2 (12 inch) pre-baked pizza crusts
8 ounces shredded Mozzarella cheese
4 ounces shredded Fontina cheese
10 fresh basil leaves, washed, dried
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Stir together olive oil, garlic, and salt; toss with tomatoes, and allow to stand for 15 minutes.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Brush each pizza crust with some of the tomato marinade.  Sprinkle the pizzas evenly with mozzarella and fontina cheeses.  Arrange tomatoes on top, then sprinkle with shredded basil, parmesan, and feta cheese. 

Bake in preheated oven until the cheese is bubbly and golden brown, about 10 minutes.

*Note: the rounds of ciabatta bread sold at Trader Joe's work wonderfully as crusts for this recipe.  If you're not cooking for a big group, halve the recipe and make only one pizza.

As if a delicious pizza isn't enough, my night finishes off great with SYTYCD.  Without question, my favorite routine of the night--and of the season thus far--is Kent and Lauren's contemporary piece from Travis Wall. What can I say? I'm a hopeless romantic, and this made me smile from ear to ear. 

Lemon basil deliciousness

Tuesday, July 6

It's time for another trip to Trader Joe's.  The store is crowded as usual.  I can't wait until the new store opens in Chelsea next week.  But the heat wave is still in full force, so I'm just happy to be in A/C for the day.

I stock up on more fresh fruits and veggies, plus some yummy mango salsa and the makings of what promises to be a delicious pizza margherita, Buenos Aires style. :)  After finding a fabulous online recipe for lemon basil sorbet, I pick up a big bag of lemons.  What's summer without a little pucker? :)  It makes me think of all the times as I kid that I tried to start a lemonade stand.  I was never much of an entrepreneur.  Sorry, Dad. ;)

At home, I jump into my sorbet making adventure.  Here's the recipe:

1 cup half-and-half or light cream 
2/3 cup granulated sugar 
2 tablespoons honey 
1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest 
8 fresh basil leaves, divided 
2 cups whole milk 
Juice of 3 lemons, chilled 
Pinches fine sea salt

In a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan, combine the half-and-half, sugar, honey and lemon zest. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar. Remove from the heat and add 4 whole basil leaves. Using the back of a large spoon or ladle, bruise the basil leaves against the bottom of the pot. Cover and let steep 15 minutes. 

Remove the basil leaves and discard, then whisk in the milk. Place the mixture in an ice-water bath or refrigerate until completely chilled. 

Slice the remaining 4 basil leaves in very thin strips. Whisk the lemon juice into the chilled sherbet base, add the sea salt and stir in the sliced basil. Taste for sweetness; adjust by adding an additional tablespoon or two of honey, if needed. Freeze the sherbet mixture in an ice-cream maker, following manufacturer’s instructions. For optimal flavor and texture, freeze sherbet for a couple of hours before serving.

*Note: an ice cream maker is helpful but not necessary.  The mix can simply be frozen in the freezer in one large container or several smaller ones for individual servings.

The final result is even more fantastic than I expected.  The perfect treat at the end of a hot and sticky day. :)


Monday, July 5

Today, New York issues a heat advisory telling people to hydrate and stay indoors as much as possible.  I was originally hoping to hike Staten Island, but I opt out of that in favor of my A/C.  It's a good call.  By midday, the city is smoldering under full sun and 98-degree heat, and things aren't supposed to let up for another day or two.  

I bum around on Facebook and discover news about an Iranian woman and mother of two, Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, who faces death by stoning for false charges of adultery.  Outraged, I sign several online petitions and inundate my Facebook profile with her story, encouraging my friends to speak out, too.  (As of this writing, her story has reportedly earned enough international attention to save her from being stoned,  but she is still expected to be executed.)  

Please pray for justice for Sakineh and her children.

Surf, sand, and pyrotechnics

Sunday, July 4

After rolling out of bed and stepping into an already hot Fourth of July morning, the first thing I do is check Facebook.  Already, everyone is making patriotic postings which gets me thinking...and researching (sort of)... And this is the conclusion I come to (as posted in my Facebook notes): 

Happy 4th of July.  On this day, please consider "most Americans seem to think that God has some special investment in them when they hear 'God bless America.'  And this is easily interpreted as God bless us, all of the people." But we Americans are not ALL of the people.  There are Africans and Europeans and Asians and South Americans and everyone in between.  There are also Muslims, Hindus, Jews, and Buddhists.  Remember the world.  Followers of a faith called Sikhism end every prayer with a prayer to help all of humanity.  The expression means "we wish everyone well."  So, yes, God bless my family and friends here in America.  But God bless everyone else, too.

The quoted material can be found at the link above.

I don't know exactly why I feel so compelled to do heavy thinking like this first thing in the morning.  But I suppose it stems from the fact that several years ago, I would have flung around the phrase "God bless America" without a thought, proud to call myself a conservative American patriot.  And while I'm still relatively conservative on certain political issues, and I am immensely grateful for my freedom as an American citizen, I think twice before invoking God's blessing on anything and everything associated with America and her people.  That just feels a little too presumptuous for me these days.  I'm thankful but certainly not entitled to anything I have.  I feel the same way about God's grace--full of gratitude and completely undeserving.

I spend the latter half of the morning lounging around the apartment and going back and forth between two options for the day: sit at home spending the holiday like a bum or go to the beach.  Good thing I packed my swimsuit!

The trip to Rockaway Beach in south Queens is a long one, but it's one I can do entirely on the metro system which is great for my wallet.  By the time I quit getting turned around and ending up on the wrong subway line, I've clocked nearly two hours of travel.

It's totally worth it.  Here's a shot from the shuttle train out to the beach.  Who thought it could be this beautiful so close to Manhattan?

The beach itself is a pretty happenin' place, probably because everyone else had the same great idea to spend their holiday on the water.  There are people of every size, shape, color, age, and beach-going motivation.  There are sunbathers, sand castle-makers, swimmers, life guard-seeking flirts in skimpy bikinis, and soccer fans playing barefoot pickup games in the hot sand.  

Corporate America makes great use of the beach's popularity, flying banner-bearing planes along the sandy stretch for all to see. I get the feeling that this happens regularly, and I chuckle to myself as I think that as a kid, it was a really big deal to see a plane flying a banner like that.

The water is lovely, but I don't get much past my waist; as hot as it is--a 95-degree scorcher--the water seems a little chilly.  I spend the afternoon making dashing back and forth between the water and my spot on the beach, reading, texting Nanda, and gossiping with Mom.  Perfect way to spend the day. :) Around 5pm, I head for home to get cleaned up for the massive 26-minute Macy's fireworks show on the West Side.  

Every year, Macy's shuts down about thirty blocks of Twelfth Avenue right alongside the Hudson River.  Six barges shoot fireworks from the water, and as if the pyrotechnics aren't enough, they're synchronized with music for those close enough to hear.  

I don't arrive early enough to make it all the way to Twelfth Avenue, but the view is still great from Eleventh.  There must be thousands of police on patrol here.  It's impossible to estimate how many people are with me in the mob of spectators, but the number has to be somewhere in the hundreds of thousands.  

While standing under a street lamp at one corner, I look up at a sign that reads "NO STANDING ANYTIME."  Um...we're standing.  Me and about 50,000 other people.  I love irony.  It's hot and crowded and stuffy as all get out, but it's still fun.  How many people can say they've done this?  But the adventure is just starting.  

Walking back to the subway is absolutely insane.  Block after block is choked with crowds attempting to disperse.  It's virtually impossible for any traffic to get through, so the taxis lean on their horns a little more, and anybody else with a car just parks it until the roads open up again.

Along the way, I try to make a pit stop in McDonald's for an ice cream, but it's hotter in there than it is outside, so I just keep walking.  Eventually, I end up at a Wendy's with air conditioning and a (relatively) shorter line.  I have my heart set on a chocolate Frosty, but I get to the counter only to find out the chocolate is gone. :( So I settle on vanilla.  It's still a nice treat and a great way to round out another exciting day in the city.

Running for a danish

Saturday, July 3

I start the day off with a bang, running around the Reservoir in Central Park again.  I make it all the way at a steady jog without stopping to nurse a side ache, tie my shoes, or catch my breath.  Good thing my route begins and ends at the water fountain! 

From there, my day gets lazier by the hour.  After a good rinse back at the apartment to make myself more presentable, I head uptown to 87th Street.  I read an article in Edible Manhattan about this cute little pastry shop called Glaser's.  It's famous among UES folks and has been in business since 1903.  I order an enormous cream cheese and chocolate danish for $2.50.  This will certainly pack on more calories than I burnt running in the park this morning, but I don't care.  It's not like I make a habit of eating danishes the size of my dad's hand every day.  I eat some of it on the walk home, but it's so rich that I save most of it for a spot in the refrigerator at home.  As I walk the 17 blocks to the apartment, the chocolate chips melt into a messy, drippy puddle in the center of the danish, but I hold it together.  Good thing it came in a pastry bag! 

Like I said, today's a lazy day.  After my all-day outing yesterday, I'm zonked by noon and decide on a long nap.  Good choice.  

To the Bronx and back again

Friday, July 2

Much as I love the city and all it has to offer, this small town girl has to escape the hustle and bustle every so often.  This morning, I make my first foray into the outer boroughs.  Today's destination: City Island and Pelham Bay Park.  It's literally as far as the New York metro will take me on the 6 train, all the way to the northeast edge of the Bronx.  

The trip out takes over an hour, and for the first time since arriving in New York, I take a train far enough out of Manhattan for it to travel above ground.  I feel like I'm in a movie.  The Bronx is as tough-looking as Hollywood makes it out to be--and then some.  I pass block after block of worn-out old brick and concrete buildings.  Every inch of their facades within arm's reach--from the ground, rooftops, fire escapes, and windows--is covered in graffiti.  The face of this neighborhood would be nothing more than a blur of forgotten grays and browns if not for the shock of spray paint.  Falling-down chain-link fences rust and make feeble attempts at security with their tangles of razor wire and decades-old barbed wire.  This is the ghetto, and I can't imagine the lives of kids growing up here.  I can't help but feel ashamed of myself, sitting neatly on my seat in the train, all bright and optimistic in my floral sundress and mustard yellow purse.  For miles, mine is the only white face I see.  You don't realize the consequences of gentrification until you experience this kind of segregation, clearly grandfathered in and cemented for future generations by white, upper-class bureaucracy.  My frustration ties a big knot in my chest, and I try not to blame myself for being born into a life of opportunity.

After listening through Jess's 2010 mix a couple times, I arrive at my destination and catch a bus to City Island.  It's tiny.  Only about a mile and-a-half long and half a mile wide.  There is literally one main road running down the center, and all the side streets are dead ends.  It doesn't take me long to figure out that here are no public beaches here, but it's fun to walk around for a while anyway.  For a moment, I almost feel like I'm back in a small town on Puget Sound.

Along the way, I come across the City Island  Little League Anthony Ambrosini Field, "Home of Champions." It reminds me of Mitchell playing Cal Ripken little league with the Diamondbacks at the VFW field.  Those boys had the best cheerleaders ever--loud and proud moms and sisters shaking empty pop cans full of rocks.  That seems like ages ago.  I wish they could all stay little.

At the far end of the island, I discover City Islands comfort food hot-spot.  Apparently, this Johnny guy owns the entire end of the island.  No joke.  He has three different restaurants bearing his name.  All of them serve deep, DEEP fried food to the masses--well, if you can consider a population of 4,500 "the masses."  This looks like the town mecca for fish and chips, fried okra, and collard greens.  Johnny must be doing something right, because the place has been open for 40 years, and it's packed.  While I'm sure the regulars love Johnny's fare, I decide not to subject my stomach to the deep fryer.  Probably a smart choice.

On my way back from the end of the island, I pass an elderly couple taking a stroll with their walkers.  They move along at a snail's pace, side-by-side, until I walk by and the man drops back to let me by.  After passing them, I turn around and snap a picture.  Too adorable to miss.  They've probably lived here for eighty years.  If I have to resort to a walker in my old age, I hope I have someone like this who makes everything alright. :)  

I catch the bus headed for the subway station and stop off in Pelham Bay Park along the way.  It's gorgeous with all kinds of green--trees, flowers, grass, wetlands, all made even better by a fresh breeze and sunshine.  

At the far edge of the park is Orchard Beach, a popular spot for Bronx families trying to escape the heat of stuffy high-rise apartments.  Again, mine is one of a handful of white faces on a beach filled with hundreds of New Yorkers sprawled out under their umbrellas, building sand castles, and splashing in the less-than-pristine waters of Pelham Bay.

I dawdle around the beach for a little while, scrunching the sand between my toes and grinning at all the cute kids.  But before long, it's time for me to head home.  Sad as it sounds, my over-cautious self tells me I should be back in Manhattan before dark.  I wish I didn't feel this way.  But then again, I shouldn't make Mom worry.

*For more photos of today's trip, check out page 2 of my facebook album:!/album.php?id=59402424&aid=2041404&s=20&hash=90285135a8e7ee3b3bad4aff5503de32

Saturday, July 17, 2010

New music! It’s like Christmas!

Thursday, July 1

I'm going on an adventure. It's kind of like a field trip for a really over-eager music-loving kid. Because that's me to a T. The New York Public Library has dozens of branches all over the city, but my favorite location, without question, is the Performing Arts Library at Lincoln Center. We're talking three
enormous floors of nothing but books, scores, recordings, DVDs, and anything else you could want related to music, theatre, and dance. Did I die and go to heaven? It's very possible.

I spend an hour or so figuring out what's located where, and eventually, I end up in the circulating recordings section. I browse row after row of musical theatre CDs—original Broadway cast recordings, London cast recordings, revivals, collections inspired by a single composer…the options are endless. When all is said and done, I have a stack of CDs so high that I have to balance it all between my hands and my chin. No joke. I'm sure I look like a complete moron. Do I care? Please.

The poor woman at the checkout counter has to scan each CD and remove the security tape that keeps every case closed. And it takes forever. This system is much more complicated that the one at home where I can pull all the CDs I want and check them out myself without feeling ridiculous. Oh well. In the end, all I care about is that I have a bunch of new recordings to burn to my iTunes library—31 to be exact. Somehow, I make them all fit in my purse. It's quite the feat.

On my way to the bus, as I walk through the Lincoln Center Plaza, I pass this woman and her son playing on one of the 66 public pianos placed around town by an organization called Sing for Hope. I love that these pianos give people in almost every New York neighborhood the opportunity to make music, even if it's just Chopsticks or the dreaded Für Elise. At the end of the day, music is music, and you can never have too much of that.

At home, I crank up
The Lion King and play "He Lives in You" on repeat as I attempt my latest culinary masterpiece: kalamata olive and garlic bread. Here's the recipe from

4 cups all-purpose flour
½ cup warm water (110 degrees F)
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 tablespoon non-iodized salt
¾ cup warm water (110 degrees F)
3 tablespoons olive oil
5 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup seedless Kalamata olives, chopped

In a medium bowl dissolve sugar in 1/2 cup warm water. To proof yeast, stir in yeast and let stand for 5 to 10 minutes in a warm place.  Preheat oven to 105 degree F (40 degrees C). Warm an oven-safe bowl in the oven.  Place flour in bowl of food processor. Add salt and pulse for a few seconds.  Start food processor. Pour proofed yeast into flour through hole. Immediately add the additional 3/4 cup warm water, then the olive oil. Process for about 1 minute or until dough ball cleans the sides of the processor bowl. If dough is too wet add a little flour through the top while processing, or if too dry, add a little more water.  Turn off food processor. Remove lid and transfer dough to the heated bowl. Cover with a plate or plastic wrap. Let rise for 1/2 hour in a warm place.  In a small bowl, combine minced garlic and chopped olives. Set aside.  Once dough has risen transfer dough to a lightly floured board. Make an indentation in the dough and place olive mixture inside. Knead dough 10 times. Bulk of mixture should remain in middle of dough. Form dough into a log or round loaf shape. Sprinkle cornmeal onto greased baking sheet and place loaf on top. Turn oven to 150 degrees F (65 degrees C) for 2 minutes and then turn off.  Let dough rise in warm oven for 1/2 hour, or until light and puffy. Remove loaf and increase oven temperature to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).  Bake bread at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 30 minutes or until loaf sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.

*Note: the food processor is not necessary. Mixing and kneading by hand does the trick just fine.

The final product is absolutely delicious. Couple it with some pasta and marinara and a glass of red wine, and life is just peachy. Plus I get to watch
So You Think You Can Dance? and marvel at the plethora of talent being broadcast to my living room. If I had a genie, I would wish for world peace and a cure for HIV/AIDS. My third wish would be to dance like those contemporary dancers who always leave my jaw dragging on the floor in awe. Extension? Seriously. Holy crap.

Mary Poppins Funk

Wednesday, June 30

This morning is my first Broadway EPA: Mary Poppins. Both Elizabeth and I are at Pearl Studios by 8am, even though the call isn't until 2pm. By 9, we're signed up with the monitor—top of the list!—and free to leave until the lunch hour ends and they start the audition. With a few hours to kill, we head up to 72nd Street and find a spot to kick back in Central Park. It's a gorgeous day, and there are moms and kids everywhere. This is only the second time I've been to the park just to sit and enjoy it for a while. Elizabeth and I have really hit it off over the last few days, and this morning isn't any different. We swap stories about home and boyfriends and making it in New York. There are a lot of things we have in common, and as far as personality and communication style, we line up in a lot of ways. It's nice not only to have an "audition buddy" to get on line with but to have a friend I can really talk to. And I worried I'd be lonely!

By 12:30 we're on our way back to Pearl. Hopeful and anxious with headshots in hand, we watch as the monitor calls off name after name from the Equity list and everyone picks up their cards. 2:00 rolls around, and we get word from the monitor that the call is closed. The casting director or producer or whoever is in charge isn't interested in seeing non-Equity. Darn. Elizabeth is really bummed. I totally understand. Waiting all day just to find out there isn't even a chance you'll be seen is pretty lousy.

But I pick up my chin and head out. I'm going to an EPA for Origin Theatre Company, my first straight audition. There are surprisingly few people at the call when I arrive, and I'm seen within fifteen minutes. My monologue isn't the perfect choice, and I know it, but I feel good about my audition. That good feeling sours quickly. The director looks at my resume and then looks at me, grinning, "So you've been in New York, what, two weeks?" That was a smug remark. Um… "As a matter of fact, yes. Two weeks exactly." I try to sound confident and un-fazed by his snarky comment, but he's already rubbed me the wrong way. I say my thank you and leave, frustrated that there are people here who obviously have no problem coming off as rude and condescending. I know probably look like I was born yesterday, and my resume has nothing but university credits, and my headshot looks a little different from most others, but come on. That wasn't necessary. At least not the way he said it.

I consider myself a pretty upbeat, optimistic person, but today, I go home in a bit of a funk. I don't like feeling like this, so it's great fuel to my fire. I'm going to persevere, even if there are guys like him who show up once in a while. Who cares if I'm the small-town kid? Who knows, he might have been, too. Maybe he just forgot.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Wannabe runner meets don't-necessarily-wannabe domestic goddess

Tuesday, June 27

I don't get a callback for Man of La Mancha, so I spend the morning in Central Park.  I'm running by 7:15, reminding myself how good it feels to shake out my sleepy bones and break a good hard sweat.  I've gradually perfected a playlist of music with just the right beat and vibe for running.  My slightly neurotic music major brain gets bent out of shape if I can't run in time to the music.  Finding just the right songs is harder than you might think.  One of my favorites so far, though, is "Brand New Day" by Tim Myers.  It's from Meghan's annual mix, and I play it on repeat to blast through the last few hundred yards of my run.  Thanks, Megs!

Back at home, I tackle a mounting domestic issue: I am running out of clean clothes and will soon be forced to either smell gross or join a nudist colony.  I vote the former.  I load up on detergent and a pocket full of quarters and schlep my clothes to the laundromat a block away.  I decide Tuesday afternoons must be a good time to do laundry because only a couple other people have the same idea.  It's a nice, quiet way to spend an hour or so.  After finishing Three Cups of Tea—an incredible book I recommend to everyone—a few days earlier, I dive into Donald Miller's Searching for God Know's What.  I'm reminded of how much I like his voice.  His low-key intellectualism and humor seep right out of the page, and I find myself laughing out loud for an audience of empty washing machines.

A couple hours and five dollars worth of quarters later, my closet is stocked with sweet-smelling clean clothes again.  Oh the simple pleasures.  :)  It's like being in Thailand all over again and feeling so happy to finally get rid of the grime of the city.  New York is like Bangkok in a lot of wayshot, muggy, dirtier than Yelm or Spokane, and relatively unkind to the state and smell of your clothes.  Which is why I love washing machines.

Later that night, I bust out my imaginary chef hat and get to work on a recipe Brooke gave me before I left.  Back in January of 2008 while in our prep class for the New York Jan Term trip, I saw Brooke snacking on some fascinating bright purple food.  She told me what it was, but I didn't give it any thought until this summer, random as it may be.  The recipe is for tabbouleh, a traditional Lebanese dish, garnished with cooked beets.  

It's a pretty easy mix of bulgur (from wheat), scallions, lemon zest, olive oil, tomato, mint leaves, and boiled beets.  She usually includes some crumbled goat cheese, but I used feta from cow's milk instead.  Beware: the beets are messy, and for a little while, they'll stain your kitchen and your hands bright purple.  No worries.  You'll soon return to your God-given color.

To be honest, I was skeptical about the beets.  I tried them once before and thought they tasted like dirt.  Because they do.  Literally.  But when boiled, they're not as earthy, and they mix well into this recipe, especially when combined with strong contrasting flavors like mint and feta.

Here's the final product, which only gets more and more purple as the bulgur soaks up the beet juice.

Clean clothes and a refrigerator of delicious food.  I might not manage to book a New York gig, but I'm getting really good at the whole domestic living thing.  Scary.