Tuesday, September 29, 2009

A Visit From The Coast

Today I had the wonderful surprise of palling around the city with my good friend Lauren Gucik, an IU alum and now San Francisco resident. We walked all around the city, covering the bases from Harlem to the Waldorf Astoria to Chinatown and the East Village. It was so, so nice to visit with her during this unexpected visit. We began the day on Lexington Ave, home of the many, many overpriced clothing and homewear stores. It's where the rich go to stay so sheik. It's also the area home to notable places like the Plaza hotel and the Waldorf Astoria. After a little powwow, we hopped on the train and decided to check out a strip of Harlem. It was still morning, so we thought we'd give it a shot, instead of getting shot. We popped out of the subway and passed by several little restaurants and tiendas before walking up to Marcus Garvey Park to eat our lunch. Funny, all the streets and parks had names like MLK or Malcolm X or Marcus Garvey Blvd, lots of the names of my AAADS education in college. At the park, we climbed this little plaza on the top of a giant rock. It was an interesting and beautiful place and had a nice view of the Upper half of Manhattan. We also got a little view of some 'local activity,' lots of single passersby, just sort of hanging out in the plaza. Now, perhaps they were all on their lunch break from work, though I think that was mostly the case of the many people on the park benches at the bottom of the rock. Our suspicion was that they were either drug dealers or some of the "down low" brothers looking for, well, their brothers. Needless to say, they didn't need anything from us. After descending the rock, which I was ready to do, we strolled down the street a little bit then decided to hop the bus to check out the historic Cotton Club. Once on the bus, we passed the historic Apollo Theater and several of the goings on of central Harlem. Off the bus, we scooted over towards the Cotton Club. On our way, there was tiny, tiny old woman scooting along the road with her walker. As we walked through an intersection, a great gust of wind rushed through the street and blew the little lady right over - onto Lauren! After a few moments, we got her upright and back on her way. It was very, very sad, to see the fear and embarrassment in her eyes, as she meekly said, "Thank you." I wonder who this little old woman was before she was a little old woman. Was she beautiful? Did she have a job? A husband? Children? And where was she headed? This is certainly a difficult enough city for the young and directionally challenged, I can't imagine spending my advanced years right in the city, yet many of them do, and live alone at that. It's one thing to think about the many senior citizens safely tucked away into little, gentle (well, for the most part) New Castle, and the troubles they surely face, but these senior citizens of the city are completely hidden from view and passed by by the army of young professionals on the fast track and busloads of tourists here to admire New York glitz and glamour. I'm glad it's not my job to take care of all these people, attempting to find them housing and healthcare. Surely Medicare and Social Security, flawed programs they may be, are deeper and faster than one really thinks.
We did eventually make it to the Cotton Club (ironically painted a very white-wash white). It is a very small place, maybe the size of the Ice House, but yet the such an iconic figure of the Harlem Renaissance and 20's and 30's culture in New York. We weren't able to go inside, but we found it! Next, we hopped onto a crowded 1 train to head downtown to Chinatown. We quite literally went from the top of the island to the bottom. Talk about a change up! Harlem is essentially a very homey neighborhood, not a lot of tourists and without a lot of the hustle and bustle of the city. Chinatown on the other hand, is overgrown with tourists and loud, tacky signs in both English and Chinese (or Korean or Japanese or Vietnamese or . . .), and street vendors (Louis Vutton? Fendi? You want a Fendi?). We walked around for a bit before finding a little restaurant to get some munchies. We had some wonderful dumplings and lo mein, for those are perhaps the basis of our friendship. After re-negotiating our bill with the waiter (he had some creative math), we walked around the neighborhood a bit more, then headed uptown to meet up with another friend in the East Village. After making the trek, in which we had to inevitably empty our bladders in the super nice Whole Foods, we arrived at our destination, The Crocodile Lounge. We chose this particular establishment because, with any drink purchase, you receive a free small cheese pizza. Yes, a legit, home made pizza. So, the rest of our afternoon consisted of bargaining with the bartender and eating little cheese pizzas. Who could ask for anything more?
Now, back in Astoria, I am getting for bed and preparing another day back to the audition circuit. Tomorrow, they are holding auditions for the Non-Equity national tour of Cabaret, one of my favorite musicals. It's also a little more in my personal ouvre, so I am looking forward to this audition a little more than It's a Wonderful Life from Monday (disaster). So, we shall see what tomorrow holds for me. For now, I am glad to be safe and warm at home, a belly still full of pizza, thankful for the many possibilities and opportunities in front of me.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

City Sights, City Lights

The bright city lights, the many city sounds. The miles and miles of pavement. Instead of a church on every corner, there is a bounty unbeknownst to the Midwest eye of little groceries, ethnic restaurants, sex shops (well, just in Midtown), and corner hacks with great "finds" (from art to underwear to iPod accessories). Instead of interesting sights at the Wal-Mart, there are those wonderful street anomalies (I swear the other day I saw a Muslim woman with her pink Carrie Bradshaw phone tucked into her turban-veil, pushing a stroller, talking "hands free") And yet, tonight I find myself longing for the open roads, the sweet smell of grass, and the cows that were my childhood (the livestock, not the women at the swimming pool or in line at the Dairy Queen). Right now, I'm listening to the Dixie Chicks. As the guitars, banjo, and fiddle play, I'm not especially paying attention to the lyrics, but rather reflecting on those images these conjure up: hot summers, 400S, Granny, the pond, cookouts, Mom's meatloaf and mashed potatoes, Uncle Roger and Aunt Frieda, and the many other simple and unique (I'm just now finding out) wonders that filled my childhood and got me where I am today. This week has been a good week: I went to a few auditions, had an interview, am becoming more settled into my apartment, and have actually worked a bit (and after looking at my upcoming credit card bill, Thank God). I am really enjoying and getting to own my newfound life. I love going to auditions, feeling I have something special and important to get to everyday, and the opportunity to perform a little something for someone, even if just for 30 seconds. I love the possibilities each day gives: who will I see? who will I meet? will I get a callback? I love passing the many Broadway theaters, reminders of why I am here and where I want to go. And it's funny, I am starting to see the same mix of people at a lot of auditions; we must all read the same (trade) paper. They do say it is a small business.
One thing I am not enjoying is the new manager at the restaurant. This short, coke-snorting Italian (allegedly) runs around the restaurant like a mad person during rush hours and breaths down your (and by your's I mean mine) neck at every little thing. And let me just say once for the record, I thought Italian men were supposed to be charming heartthrobs - what happened to him? Who knew a soup spoon was such a matter of importance and chaos? Last night was my first dinner shift as a real server at Locale. The restaurant was pretty busy, and I would say I did good job. He and I were after each other all night, and we had to have a little "chat" after work. Those are my favorites. There was a point last night when I was ready to call it quits, but I am glad I didn't after I received my tip-out today. So, for now, it looks like I will be putting up with his bullshit for a little longer. Thank God he doesn't work brunch. There might be an "accident" with all that hot coffee going around. It's days like that I really yearn for inevitable days of stardom (because clearly, it's a sure shot), and all those that have crossed me will have to kiss my rich, famous ass. Until then, I suppose it's "Yes, sir," lots of open calls, and living in Astoria instead of the Hamptons or my Lower Midtown Penthouse. But maybe along the way I will rack up some fans as well (I was instant besties with a lipstick lesbian couple, they even wanted to know my name). And how would you like those eggs ma'am?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Good News!

"Good News! Good News! Look, a callback!" Today, was a very good day indeed. I received my first callback here in New York for an upcoming production of The Miracle on 34th Street. How exciting! It's for a regional theatre, Jersey Shores, and looks like a big opportunity, so we'll see! The theatre is actually located in the Tropicana Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, which I find a little hilarious. Think of all the glitz and glamour! I have been invited to come back tomorrow (Friday) for the "mover's call" a.k.a. the non-dancers call, which I know I will dominate at. I'm also called back to sing and read for them, which I find really flattering, and I'm taking it as a good omen that maybe I do belong here after all. Getting a callback makes the oftentimes stressful and sweaty (why does it feel like the beginning of summer during the day?) trip to the city all the more worth it. I'm giving credit to a good breakfast (scrambled eggs with veggies and toast), a cup of green tea, and most musical theatre performers' fear and lack of monologues. Afterwards, I attended another audition, this time in the East Village (I forgot to mention that the Miracle auditions were held very close to 34th St. and the big Macy's). The ad was for an improvised musical about a homeless theatre troupe (apparently, it's about economic downturn - woh woh). I had to sing a few songs by the director-composer and then read a few sides. After reading my first side as a French tourist (thanks for the help Ben, and Eartha), I was asked to read for the distinguished character role of Lady Liberty. Transgendered, homeless Lady Liberty. After my first go through, I was asked to read it as if I was African-American. The third go was to be "ghetto." However offensive or off the mark, my Bianca Defy-Edris-AAADS-girl-from-the-Popeye's (which I visited yesterday, next to the Drama Bookstore, which was delicious, but shorted me my Mac 'N' Cheese) seemed to impress or at least amuse the auditor. Beforehand, he looked at me and said, "Well, you know." So, if I'm not in a very innocent Christmas musical in Jersey, I may be appearing in the Lower East Side as an African-American, homeless trans-woman in a Lady Liberty costume. Welcome to the East Village. I think it even counts as OFF-OFF-Broadway. Both sound perfect. The rest of the day was spent cooking and eating, doing laundry, and drinking vodka and Diet Squirt (well, not the whole day). Ooo, we also had our first staff meeting at work, which mostly served as an official introduction to our new manager, Stefano, and chef, Jessie. Stefano is a very Italian and he a wants us to be giving the best a service to makea de most money. From the Koreans, to the Italian and East Europeans, here we go Locale! I got called in to work tomorrow night, which is very exciting and hopefully means lots of $$$ (so I can finally get that gym membership). Well, that is all for now, into the night I go!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

A Day of Rest

After lots of hustle and bustle in the city, I decided to give myself a little day off and get a few needed errands and more importantly relax. Yesterday, I spent a good chunk of the day, all of it in my business suit, which I hate wearing. To start the day, I had a meeting with a manager who had called me back after our musical theatre showcase last spring. It was a good meeting, feel like I learned a good chunk and got some good tips, but was certainly not the most I have had in my life. For over an hour, I had to talk about myself, my dreams and goals, my strengths and weaknesses, and attempts at professional work thus far. Not to mention I had to perform a monologue, two excerpts of songs, and do several of the impressions listed on my resumé (the receptionist didn't tell me to prepare anything while I was on the phone with her - she also neglected to mention that this man operates out of his home office). It was like sitting in his living room naked for an hour, while we discussed what he saw. Thank God he didn't mention my weight. I am sure this process was good for me, but maybe not the easiest thing in the world. After that, I ventured over to the Upper East Side to Serendipity 3 (restaurant chain of One Fine Day fame) because of a "Help Wanted" ad they had placed on Craig's List. After finding the cramped, tiny little restaurant, I escorted by the host to this troll-looking woman, one part Sophia Loren (today not then), one part Carol Channing (does it matter?), and one part hump (Quasimodo? - ouch). After glancing over my resume, which required her hand held magnifying glass, she asked me my availability, and promptly threw my resume at me when I told her I was only available M-F. It was like, just by walking in the door and mentioning the ad, I had insulted them. Bah! And let me tell you, the Central Park overlooking, museum laden, classic architecture chic, luxury fashion and decor store headquarters known as the Upper East Side, is not my favorite part of the city. There, one can see where the snooty New Yorker stereotype mostly stems from. I mean, what do these people have to be so up tight about? They probably all live in doorman-protected, rent controlled apartments many times the size of mine, and wear outfits worth more than my monthly rent. I was quite flustered and the Granny in me was rarin' to get out of those stuffy clothes and back to Astoria. However, I trucked on, as I was planning to stop by the Apple Store in the nearby area. My headphones had gone kaput, and I knew replacements were a necessary purchases. What turned into a simple pick-up errands quickly turned into much more as I descended the psychedelic semi-clear plastic spiral staircase into the store proper. Apparently, the Apple Store is a gran destinación for NY tourists, especially those not so inclined to English. After fighting through the masses, I flashed my credit card, purchased my ear buds, and escaped the pandemonium, iPod music once again sheltering me from the city. Now, its into the subway, to the interview, and home soon. Simple, eh? No. After walking for a good half hour (plus ten minutes waiting in line for the bathroom at the Dunkin' Donuts), trying to find an address that in reality is somewhere in the water separating Manhattan and Queens, I broke down and called the law firm to get their address (which was much closer to the subway stop in the first place). Frustrated, tired, and hungry, I interviewed as well as I could. It quite a strange meeting: everyone was dressed down, including my interviewers, and I was in a suit, and I was placed in a conference room full of bookshelves, boxes, and old movie posters. The interview consisted mostly of the woman describing the job, glancing at my resume, and trying to remember if there was anything she had forgotten. Finally relieved of my interview duties (I REALLY would like to get that job $$), I returned home to Queens, content to do nothing the rest of the night, or at least attempt to. Tomorrow holds another audition for me and my first staff meeting at Locale (oh joy!). Let's hope for the best. For now, all I have is good night!

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Florida Studio Theatre Production of William Finn's 25th Annual Putnam Spelling Bee

Yesterday, I attended my third audition in New York City. This time, I was contesting for a spot in the Florida Studio Theatre's production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, or as it is affectionately called in the industry, "Spelling Bee." The show tells the story of several gifted, albeit quirky youngsters gunning to be the top speller. The kids come from a variety of backgrounds, and the show chronicles the experiences that have led them to this year's Bee. There is a fat kid, a Black kid, an Asian girl who practices the baton, another Asian fellow, and a young prodigy with two dads instead of one. Needless to say, this is a "character musical," and I was very excited for these auditions. After shaking off the weekend brunching and boozing, I made the trek from towny Astoria to the heart of Manhattan, where the auditions were being held, arriving around 11 a.m. Now, I am still getting used to New York streets and travel, but finding a Penthouse studio is made all the more difficult when the ad in Backstage has listed the wrong address for the studios. After consulting a gang of police officers (were these high security auditions?), a hotel concierge, and two doormen, I made my way to the correct address (just down the street from Carrie Fisher's new one woman show Wishful Drinking which I really want to see) and Shetler Studios. Arriving at the studios, I found a mob of people, more than I had seen at either of the other auditions I had yet been to. Apparently, the Equity auditions were being held in the morning (when the director still doesn't hate his life), followed by the Non-Equity auditions. Now, there are a few important differences between the two classifications of auditions. Equity, or union auditions, have an official monitor, exact appointment times (well, kind of), performers usually get to perform one longer selection or a couple selections, and they are supplied with such helpful information such as who is in the room, who is the accompanist, contract details, etc. By the time I had gotten there, all of the afternoon Non-Equity audition slots had been filled and a lengthy, unofficial, alternate list had been assembled on various pieces of scratch paper. I was number 102. After waiting around for a while, a friend of mine showed up, and we decided to make the very practical decision to go to lunch. (We found a tasty little empanada place I had spied during my previous job hunting). And thank God we did. After another friend ours arrived, we heard through the grape vine that the auditors had decided to begin typing to cut down on the number of applicants. The "typing" process refers to the thoughtful process where everyone auditioning that day gets in a line in the crowded hallway and the director or producer walks down the hall, pointing, either saying "Yes" or "No." It kind of reminds me of when all the livestock are lined up by the judge during a 4-H competition. All involved are indefinitely bound for the chopping block. So, we raced over to Shetler studios and awaited our immediate fate. By now, there were even more police officers surrounding the area, and even some barricades. What could be going on? After waiting a bit longer (it was about 2pm by now), we lined up for the typing ceremony. Two of the three of us made it in, one didn't. Somehow, I did! It was one of the first times that my lack of height has helped me in an audition scenario. Then, the real wait began. We sat and sat and sat. I pounded the water and frequented the bathroom. I read my play, I checked my phone, I warmed up, I cooled down, I tried to make nice, I tried to disappear. The monitor cooed, the monitor entertained, the monitor favored those he knew and those that (supposedly) had to be at work by 4. We also received word about the continuing security around the building. Apparently, President Obama was in town to appear on the David Letterman show (on the same block). Thank goodness he, too, wasn't auditioning for the spelling Bee. However, his presence did make it for several actors to return to the studios for their auditions, as waves would stream in from time to time, post frisking and interrogation. Who knew musical theatre could be such a pressing matter of national security? Finally, around 6pm, we were called to audition for the FL Studio Theatre production of The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee. I think my audition went alright, the man laughed and wrote something on my sheet, Lord knows what, and then it was over, boom. I don't think I am being called back. My poor friend Aly, who knew the show better than anyone else in the room, had a somewhat disappointing audition that consisted mostly of the accompanist and her struggling to find a common tempo. Appropriately she sang a number from the show, "Woe Is Me." Tails wagging, we both scurried out of the building (luckily the Obama brigade had left) for some post-audition margaritas at Blockheads, and then our individual journeys home, me to the east to Queens, her to the north, to 1--th Street. Days focused on less than 60 seconds of performing tend to be both tiring and frustrating. This is the business of acting.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

A Bunch of Brunch!

I am now an official New York server. Well at least, one in Queens. I've noticed on my never-ending job search that a lot of restaurants ask for "at least x years experience in NYC restaurant business." I hope this counts as a beginning to my NYC restaurant career (and hopefully I keep going up and up the 'food' chain). Brunch was alright, busier than I had seen it last weekend (which meant some more dollars for yours truly), but a bit challenging and a big test of my training and server abilities. I made it through and still got paid, so I guess I passed, yea? I was the king of omelettes, burgers, pasta, and paninis this morning, doing my best to keep the coffee and mimosas flowing. This restaurant actually has a COMPUTER, something wonderful that I am still getting used to, but I like it so far. And as far as I know, there were no phone calls or ominous drive-bys (via van) by our owner, so I guess we did alright. Believe me, you don't want a man from Monte Negro staring at you from his van. Terrifying. My favorite part about my new job is that we get a discount on not only food, but also liquor. That after hours cocktail seems not only necessary, but actually cheap, a conflicting notion. Today, I had the Blood Orange Martini, delicious - why are Blood Oranges so good? The rest of my evening includes cleaning my room, dinner, and attempting to not drink the entire bottle of wine I just bought ( a Chenin Blanc; the Chinese (I'm assuming) lady who runs/owns the liquor store and I are becoming fast friends). I may even try to get some reading done or prepare for my next audition (Monday: 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee). Tomorrow bodes another trip to the laundromat. Terrifying. By the way, I am looking for a new book to read (on the train). Does anyone have any suggestions? Good weekend to all, and to all a good night!

Friday, September 18, 2009


So, today I had another audition, this time for a cruise line. Sang the same song, think it went pretty well, even remembered all of the words. Though I really wanted to sing "Why Do the Wrong People Travel," I figured that somehow that would not fit into the "pop/rock" category they were looking for. So, mission accomplished there. I got to the audition early enough that didn't even have to wait that long in line. Oh, and one other cool thing happend, I SAW LIZA MINELLI! In the studio across from our holding room (cell?), there was a rehearsal simply marked "LIZA." I saw it when I got there, but kind of thought, no way, it must be something else. Oh, no, it was Miss Minelli herself. As soon as she came tottling down the hall, I spotted her and really couldn't stop smiling. I feigned a weak little wave in her direction. And she waved back!! By then, I had totally forgotten about the cruise line and was merely soaking up her greatness. About half an hour later or so, she reappeared from her rehearsal room to use the bathroom, and I swear it she was wearing a red bandana as a headband. A sign of greatness for sure! Apparently, she is rehearsing for a Vegas version of the show she just did on Broadway (and won a Tony for). Maybe next time I see her, I will actual get to speak with her . . . Oh the possibilities. I did a little more job hunting in lower midtown, then popped into The Drama Bookstore (I'm there a lot it seems) to get the new copy of Backstage and believe it or not, Tyne Daly was in line next to me! Buying a copy of Master Class. What are the chances?? So, my day has been made. I am planning to spend the rest of the afternoon doing a little reading and writing, eating all the Ritz crackers, thinking about doing laundry, and possibly eating Mexican food. Oh yea, good times. And thank God I'm working tomorrow, let's hope we're busy. Ciao for now and good luck star-gazing.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Audition #1: The Beginning

Well, one down, many more to go. I had my first NYC audition this morning for the Non-Equity Tour of Jesus Christ Superstar. It was held at Steppin' Out Studios in Lower Manhattan. I think it went alright, not super or a performance of a lifetime, but I made it through one and feel like, for the most part, I represented myself well. I definitely looked the part of big talent, in my new crisp white button up, courtesy of Serena Williams and Barnes & Noble, and if it was based on looks, I would defnitely already have a contract. I sang "Close Every Door" from Joseph. Not the most original choice, but I really don't care. If anything, I considered today's outing more as a research tool than anything else. I found the audition notice, made it to the studios on time, was seen in the first hundred people (after seeing the crowd today, I am so thankful for the thing between my legs), didn't cry, and didn't have to get snippy with anyone near the building. Apparently, every other day of the week Steppin' Out Studios is a ballroom dance institution, as there ballroom dancers training immediately outside the audition room (my favorite couple was a tall, math-teacher-looking white guy and a European-esque woman with Raspberry colored hair, black roots showing, wearing girdle-mumu-leotard combination and chunky heels). I almost remember all the words to my song. For some reason, in auditions or performance, if I get the least bit nervous, or more often rusty, my words just go. Gone. I covered ok today, but I'm sure that wasn't on there of desired qualities: "Correct Lyrics Optional." Anywho, I got through it with grace; showed them that I am not an American Idol wannabe sing-your-face-off musical theatre performed, a jarring type that is all too common among my age bracket nowadays; and quickly fled the building after using the bathroom for the fifth time (I compulsively drink water before each audition or performance). I was actually headed to another audition, but by the time I made it to the 16th floor of a very corporate looking building, I discovered that the auditions had been cancelled. That's ok, there was rumored tap dancing - I would rather use a hammer and nail or play in the mud. And there across the street was a reward du jour: a Taco Bell Express. Now, my Crunchwrap Supreme did not taste quite as good as I remember them tasting at 3 am in Bloomington, and certainly cost me more, but it was a satisfying find in this drive-through-less metropolitan. The rest of my day is going to be dedicated to some more Craig's List job advertisements, reading, and hiding my credit card from myself. And guess what, I am planning on attending another audition tomorrow, for a cruise line! Mimi Paragon here I come! Bon voyage!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

I Did Not Meet Serena Williams Today

Yes, at the outset of the day, there was a chance that I, Bradley the country mouse, was going to have the chance to meet the multi-Grand Slam champ at a Barnes & Noble book signing this morning. I got up semi-early (as good as I have done yet) and ventured to midtown to meet the ferocious star. After rushing over to the bookstore about an hour before the signing, I made it up the escalators to the "event area" in which the signing was to take place. After taking my queue (or so I thought) in the already heavily formed line (who knew there would be that many people there, especially after her recent code violations), I began my wait next to a bunch of comics. Not a minute later, I was informed by B&N security that it was necessary to buy the book to participate in the book signing (apparently, that's all she came to do: no speech, no reading, just selling some books). Feathers ruffled, I made my way downstairs to purchase the book. $30. $30 for a hardcover book by Serena Williams. I gulped and took the plunge, sliding my brand new Gap Visa card. So, book in hand, I head back upstairs, guns ablazing. Again, I park in line, preparing to wait for Serena. Once again, I am swiftly approached by security, this time very rudely informed that I must wait outside to even get to the upstairs queue. Now, maybe it was the long line, maybe it was the $30, or the rude attitudes of the B&N security, but I had had enough. Downstairs I did go, but this time straight to the service counter where I promptly decided to return said $30 book and leave the store. When asked why I decided to make this decision, I told the service girl that her coworkers were very ready rude and put the B&N in its place. Did they know who they were talking to? I am going to become very, very famous one day, and Serena is going to want a signed copy of my book! Fumed, I left the store and headed down 5th Ave. I decided to spend my $30 on new shirts and underwear instead of that goddamn book (which will probably be heavily discounted at the Strand in a year). The rest of my day was spent reading, emailing my resume to everyone who put up a Craig's List Ad, and eating everything in sight. I am planning to head to my first audition tomorrow morning, and I am terrified. It has been a long time since I have auditioned, and I feel rusty, out of practice, and a little unsure of myself. But, I know I need to go and break the ice, if anything just to be seen and get some experience auditioning in New York. And after the first one is over, hopefully there will be many, many more to come. Maybe I will buy myself ice cream afterwards, that's always nice after you have to get a shot or your mom takes you shopping or you go on an audition. So, here goes, let's hope I remember the words and somehow find the key. And what to wear?!?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The City and Me

Today has been a good day. I finished two plays (one I started yesterday, Dead Man's Cell Phone, and US Drag), read an essay by E.B. White (the guy who wrote Charlotte's Web, he also wrote for The New Yorker for many years, talk about city and country!), applied at some more jobs in the city, took in the Park, and made myself a nice, relaxing dinner at the apartment (recipe to follow). I have decided I need to start getting up before 10 am. Unemployed though I may be, I have made the conscious decision to make the best of it. The city has so many sights, so many wonders, and national landmarks and destinations, it seems unlawful for me to waste idle time here in Astoria (not to knock my neighborhood - I'm learning to love it). It amazes me how New York has not just a few blocks of landmark institutions, but that almost every block has its own wonder or calling card. While wondering around the past few days, I have passed The Public Theatre, The Carlyle Hotel (where Stritch lives; it also has a celebrated cabaret show), The Alvin Ailey Dance Studio, Playwright's Horizon (and many other noted theaters), NYU, The Whitney Museum of Art, and Columbus Circle. I took a new train today, the 6, I am really racking them up. One day, I am going to take the A to check out Columbia University and even the L, to make my first venture into Brooklyn (terrifying). I took my first walk through Central Park today. It was such a calming experience, and the air smelled so fresh! I have made a pact that no matter what I am doing, I must take a walk there at least once a week. The green, the trees, I need it! While my funds last, I'm hoping to check New York's wealth of museums, cultural sites, and touristy things like the Empire State Building and Ellis Island. After I get my first paycheck from the restaurant, I'm planning on joining the gym across the street. See now, my schedule is already getting jam packed! I might as well become very physically impressive while I am unemployed and take up the role of eternal New York traveler and tourist. Though, some more work would be nice!

Speaking of the above US Drag, I thought I would give some of my unwarranted commentary on this year's US Open, a strange one indeed. I was glad (though a bit surprised) to see Clijsters and Del Potro take the titles; both are very deserving players, albeit for quite different reasons. I have always liked and respected Clijsters very much. In my book, she always seemed a superior and fitter played than her countrywoman Henin, only lacking the nerve to put the big wins away. My mom would say she is just not mean enough. Del Potro has been coming up the rankings this year, and he seems to have a mix of fitness, fire, and a strong gameplan (which is different from Rafa and Roger) that make him a very strong competitor (hopefully for years to come). Sure, everyone loves Roger, he is so fantastic, greatest who ever lived, a gentleman, superior technique, grace, style, yada, yada, yada. I'm getting a little tired of him and am ready to see the field actually take a piece out of him (though I wish it would have been Roddick handing him a runner-up at Wimbledon than Del Potro and Flushing). Now, as many of you know, I am a big Williams sisters fan, especially Venus. I was sad to see her early exit from the tournament (at the hands of Clijsters), but it seemed to match up with most of the other women in the top ten. Women's tennis has been in a topsy turvy, constantly looking for a champion, but mostly getting upsets and mixed results. Dinara Safina has been atop the ranking for most of the year, yet she has only capture a few titles and wilts under pressure at Grand Slam events (did you see Venus completely kick her ass at Wimbledon?). Serena has been the most compelling performer at Slams, the favorite each time she has entered, but has either been upset, injured, or absent from most of the other tournaments this year. And regarding her lashing out at the lines woman, 1) you don't call a Foot Fault at that point in a semi-final match, but then 2) you don't scream at an Asian lineswoman, especially when you are a muscled-out, intimidating Black woman with a racquet in your hand. Both of the Williams sisters have done so much for women's tennis, I'm hoping this whole mess will blow over, she did apologize, they still won the doubles', yada, yada, yada.

Well, those are my thoughts for now. Until next time, au revoir and buenas noches!

Easy Steamed Mussels
4 pounds (or more!) fresh black mussels (half or quarter this recipe if you are making for just one or two)
one cup dry white wine (Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, White Bordeaux, White Rioja, or Pinot Grigio are great)
Two garlic cloves, minced
1/4 - 1/2 cup freshly minced parsley (try it with basil or terragon for an interesting change up)
Juice of one lemon
Sea Salt
Black Pepper

Rinse and clean the mussels and remove any beards. Make sure all mussels are closed or only slightly open (hopefully your fish monger/seafood guy did this before he sold them to you). Place in a large pot with garlic, wine, and parsley. With lid on, bring to boil on high heat, shaking occasionally, until all shells have opened up. Remove from heat, place into serving bowl with juice, and add lemon juice, olive oil, and S & P. Enjoy with a big piece of crusty bread to sop up juices. Yum-O!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Noisy City, Quiet Queens

After a long day of finding the Post Office, shopping, and filling out more job applications, I am home again to quiet Queens. Well, not so much that is a silent town - there's some much stuff going on here, a ton of places to eat and shop, and lots and lots of families - but it is a reprieve from the city, especially Midtown, and all its hustle and bustle. Taxicabs, cars, trucks, and buses peeling down the road, street vendors everywhere, and lots and lot of people, all in a hurry to get somewhere else. Now, don't get me wrong, I love the city, especially this city, but it takes its toll after a while. The noise, the confusion, the constant trafficking of people and things, gives the city its amazing color and vibrancy, but also assaults the individual, wearing you down as you fight your way through the masses. Today, I saw a (supposedly) homeless man questioning the ladies at the Post Office counter (protected by a clear partition, of course) about why he could not get a PO box without an address, a Long Island City (actually in Queens, not Long Island) street full of auto shops and car washes catering to the legions of taxi cabs and private cars, a huge Green Market full of discerning shoppers, one dollar slices of pizza fresh from the oven, an army of commuters approaching the train on their return from work, and lots of restaurants, eager for me to come fill an empty table, and somewhat disappointed to hear me asking for work. A few of them did seem enthusiastic, so we'll see. I am very excited to begin work at Locale this weekend, partly for the money, partly to establish some kind of routine (I'm also planning on taking the plunge and joining the nearby gym once I get a job). After a long, busy day in the city, I am looking forward to staying in tonight, reading a new play, and skimming Backstage for the coming weeks' auditions. This will of course be happening with a glass (or two) of wine. My roommate is planning to get up at 4:30 tomorrow morning to work as a temp for an upcoming election. 15 hours of unexpected pay is not something to be pushed away. As for me, I am content to continue working on my sense of balance: my city life / country life, my subway riding skills, dance class, Queens vs. Manhattan, water vs. wine, and of course my check book (if that's not a rude awakening every morning!). XO - BW

Saturday, September 12, 2009

September 11: A Strange Day in the City

Sorry to be a few days in writing . . . I guess I actually have been a little busy! 9/11 has kind of been a strange day ever since it happened, and yesterday was no different. I remember when it happened I was in 9th grade at NCCHS, taking the ISTEP examines with Dixie Williams. I went from one strange state of standardized testing, to another strange state of standardized mourning. Back then, New York and the attacks seemed so distant, so far removed from my life in Indiana that it was hard for me to grasp the gravity of the situation. 8 years later, having visited NYC and now living here, it seems too devastating to imagine. Lower Manhattan, especially Chelsea, The Village, Union Square, SoHo, and Chinatown have become some of my favorite parts of New York. 8 years ago they were covered in dust. Several of the subway cars currently have all kinds of ads about filing claims in the wake of 9/11 - still today in 2009. I've never known how to behave or go about this day in the past. Should I be reflective and mournful? Any mourning, however sincerely sought, seems artificial. That wasn't my city, those weren't my friends. Or should I go about my day just as any day: full of errands, to-do's, and trials. Yesterday, tended more towards the second for me. To begin, yesterday, it rained all day in New York. It was gray and disgusting and my overwhelming feeling the entire day was of spurning the weather rather than remorse for the lost. Upon waking, I had a note from roommate to move his car (yes, he has a car - we live in Queens after all) before the street sweeper came, in order to avoid a ticket. So here I go, still in my pajamas, only a little awake, to move his car in the gray and rain. Now, our neighborhood is not Times Square, but there are still quite a few cars on the road at any given time. And all the available parking is street parking, which means parallel parking, which brings worry to someone who grew up with nothing but parking lots. I know he must of been pretty desperate to ask me - why else would you leave this potentially costly task to the nervy, granny Macy's bag bearing New York newbie down the hall? After many select words and a few moments of near tears (I'm telling you, there were no spots to be founf), I parked his car (he didn't get a ticket, Thank God) and made it back home. As it rained on and on, I still had to make my way to Staples to print and fax a document (which I'm still not sure went totally through), fill out an application at the nearest Starbucks, and then attempt my first load of laundry on the East coast. Terrifying. The Starbucks was hidden amid the nearby Astoria-Kaufman Studios, and the Korean run laundromat sent a shock through me when I had to pay $3.50 for a wash. Afterwards, I had another training shift at Locale, my first on a weekend night (Good news, I have two more hours of training tomorrow afternoon, then will be good to go to make some actual money), then ventured into Manhattan for my first evening at The Afterparty, the musical theatre open mic night my former professor and music director plays at each weekend in New York (imagine what kind of frequent flyer miles he racks up). I am really enjoying my new job and coworkers and hope that it helps me easily transition to New York, both from the income and the new friends. Despite my attempts to look somewhat nice for the Afterparty, I mostly channeled sewer rat after walking down 42nd street a few blocks (and a few extra since I passed the club). It was a really great time: I got to meet up with some of my old IU chums, drink too many Hot Toddy's (so tasty on a cold, wet night), see Prof. Ray in his element at the piano, and hear inappropriate ethnic and 9/11 jokes from the stage. It certainly was a day come full circle. So here I am today, reflective but moving forward. I think I have finally have secured air pressure in my mattress thanks to cousin Aliescha, am going to actually make money at my new job come next weekend, have plenty of clean underwear, and am feeling settled enough to actually put myself out there and audition this week (it helps that I won't be spending most of my energy training or applying for jobs). Though I'm sure this coming week will have its own mix of challenges and obstacles (how early do I need to get up to get to Manhattan by 7:30am?), I think I am making steady headway towards reaching my goals and establishing myself in the city. It's kind of like yesterday's NY Times 9/11 article: it was more about September 12 and what the city has went through since the attacks, rather than dwelling in the past events of that dreadful day 8 years ago. Even though the road up ahead is rough, it can only be conquered one step at a time.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Finding My Stride, Forgetting My Steps

Good news! I got the job at Locale! I go into training tonight, and assuming I don't do anything horribly stupid or get caught stealing, I will be a legit employee by next weekend (I'm going to be the King of brunch in Astoria). Have been busy today with lots of important errands: opening a checking account, going to an interview, applying for other jobs, shopping at the Gap and CVS, and getting more wine from Trader Joe's. As part of my new city lifestyle, I've decided to implement a new arm workout: the Three Buck Chuck Power Lift. Conveniently placed in the six-bottle mesh tote (only 53 cents at the register), one can get quite a bit of exertion from a small drinking habit (and at $3 a bottle, who doesn't love that?). Although my interview did not go well at the kitchen store (lack of availability - what?), at least it gave me an excuse to visit the legendary Union Square Trader Joe's. Home to lots of restaurant, a Green Market, and near the Strand Bookstore, it's quickly becoming one of my favorite areas in town.

Though I have been getting organized and getting shit together, much of my NY life is still in disarray. My air mattress is currently completely deflated, like a huge popped balloon or used condom. Gross. Luckily, my wonderful cousin Aliescha is sending me an air pump so I can keep that mattress plump and firm, the ideal state for items of that sort. My room is scattered with clothes and personal property, including those infamous dance clothes. Yesterday's dance class was interesting and intense. I was covered in sweat by the time warmup was over (and I was wearing gray, so wet tshirt contest, yes.) and not walking much after it was over. The class was taught by a wiry, energetic, sassy Black woman named Sheila Butler (if I was a real dancer, I would know who she is, but alas I am not and I don't). After four months of no dance class, I was quite rusty, not to mention intimidated by all the people in the class, who appeared to all have been regulars. The class was ok, but not quite my thing, I'm hoping when I go to the actual Theatre dance class it jazzes better with me than, well, the jazz class. And at almost $20 a pop, drop-in classes aren't looking like the way to go for an unemployed Bradley. I'd much rather spend that on my Three Buck Chuck Power Lift. On a more serious note, I was not impressed with the other students in my class. Don't get me wrong, they were great dancers, but seemed like pretty shallow, fake people. Maybe my response partly came from being a stranger on their turf, on my defensive, or the fact that many of them were younger than me. But, is this the company I want to keep? I felt much more at home with the other restaurant employees, especially the bartender Kat (surprise, surprise). Maybe I'll just work at a restaurant and be a highly syndicated columnist and blogger?!? More on that later. Well, now to work and hopefully greater things (and tips).

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Air Mattress of Dream

I think there's something about sleeping on an air mattress that encourages vivid and powerful dreaming. For example, last night I had a dream that my old coworkers from Japanee threw me a going-away party in an Egyptian Pyramid and invited everyone I knew, family and friends throughout my life (even Marissa Nichole was there). Tom Colicchio (from Top Chef) and Rocco DiSpirto were there serving food (because I am sooooo VIP), Mr. Colicchio in a state of drunkenness, Mr. Dispirito in a state of shirtlessness. For some reason, by the time I got there it was very late, and most of the party guests had left after I had to go on an unexpected "Beer Run" (for Coronas). I then got into a fight with my dad, which afterwards we laughed off until I learned that more than half of the money I moved here to New York with was gone. Then I woke up. I'm not sure if we ever made it very far into the Pyramid. Terrifying. It was disappointing to wake up to no Egyptian landscape, but even moreso to an air mattress considerably less filled up than last night when I filled up afresh (with my own hot air, no pump). Well, that's the ephemeral nature of life, isn't it?

Today, I am MAKING myself go to a dance class at Broadway Dance Center. I have not been to a dance, voice, or acting class in so very long I am a little nervous. I haven't even auditioned for anything since the early spring. But, that's what I'm here, so I'm gonna do it! I was thinking yesterday, it's kind of like jumping into pool, do you slowly dip a toe in, checking the water for temperature and sharks, or do you just jump in, take the plunge and hope for the best? In this big city, I think the latter is the only option. There is too much going on, too many people, too much at risk, that you really have to make a whole Hello of a lot noise to get noticed. At least, that's my theory. I think I will be attending my first audition tomorrow morning for the national tour of Beauty and the Beast. In other news, I have an interview today for a real job here in Astoria, a little cafe called Locale. Cross your fingers, and let's hope for the best. I think I have passed out more than 20 resumés since I have been here, and I am just hoping and praying to get something locked down so I can keep at least some of my money from running down the drain. Oh, I meant to mention that I saw my first New York City rat in the subway the other day. Terrifying. I still have not seen a cockroach, but I am very wary of the first time it's going to happen. I am learning the subway bit by bit, I have taken trips on the N, W, 1, 5, 6, C, and R trains so far (impressive, no?). Well, time to pour myself into dance clothes for the first time in four months and try to look presentable for New York. Here we go!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Sunday: Making the Gameplan

Sundays are for sitting. Sundays are for sun. Sundays are not taking a shower until at least 2:30 pm after you finish your blog entry. It is warm, sunny, and breezy today in New York, and so far I have stayed inside. After sleeping in late, I have been doing a little reading and working on online job applications. Did I mention we found a reliable source of Internet in my roommate's room? Amazing, it's changing my life. I spent most of yesterday checking out the Chelsea-Village-SoHo area with my long lost friend Roxanna. Having not seen each other in about a dozen years, it was strange and wonderful to meet up after so long, comparing who we've become and who we still are. We drank margaritas, gnoshed on guacamole, and chatted about the good old times, then and now (my caipirinha was delicious, but don't act like my mouth didn't drop when I found out they were $16 a pop). She works in the fashion industry here in New York and is tre hip and trendy. This coming week is Fall Fashion Week here in the city and everyone in her office is gearing up for shows, parties, lots of out-of-town visitors, and hopefully lots of "Ooos" and "Aaaahs" and "Yes, Yes fantastic." Needless to say, I'm sure there will be a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and booze centered around Bryant Park this week. My plans include a job interview (cross your fingers!) and plans to attend an audition or two as well as a dance class. Needless to say, there will be probably be a lot of blood, sweat, tears, and booze on my end as well. Oh, and she did invite me to her friend's annual 9/11 party to play Jenga and drink fancy cocktails (horrible I know! but I'm totally going). So, hopefully my interview goes well and my audition at least goes well. In other news, my roommate Megan has almost found a job as well, so hopefully we will plenty to celebrate come next weekend. We are becoming more settled into the apartment and our neighborhood and are making plans of how to make the apartment ours once the final bachelor is out. We are hoping for those jobs very soon, so we can buy important things like dressers, decorations, and a microwave. On the agenda for the rest of the day is trying to soak up a little of the remaining sun, do some dishes around the apartment and investigate our neighborhood gym (free yoga classes - I could get into that). Cheers for now!

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Making a New Home

Well, I have been busy busy with trying to figure out the city, settling into my apartment, and stealing Internet from the neighbors. Things are slowly starting to come together, though I miss friends and family and a lot of the things I left in Indiana (like my cutting board). My new roommate arrived Thursday night, and we are becoming fast friends. Last night, we cooked a little family dinner of salmon pinwheels and sautéed spinach with white beans. It was delicious. I have been hard on the job hunt the past day, and need to continue with that project today. I've been a resumé-spitting junky, going into every restaurant and bar I can find in hopes for employment. It's weird to not be working, especially after working so much this summer. I kind of feel like a bum. That, and the fear of utter doom and homelessness seems to knock at my door every morning. Terrifying. I have been immersing myself in the city, riding the subway from here to there - I added a new train, the 1, to my lists of trains I sort of "know." On one of my subway rides, I was treated to a mariachi performance free of charge. I seem to be the only to think this was amusing, as everyone else looked away in disgust and steeliness. I've looked some audition info and looks like I will be attending my first set of NY auditions this week. Terrifying. Hope to also attend a dance class, which means I will have to pour myself into dance attire. Terrifying for everyone involved. I have not taken a class for so long, should be an interesting result. Plans today include some more grocery shopping, dumping resumés everywhere possible, and hopefully meeting up with a childhood friend of mine I have not seen in more than ten years - will we even know each other? I am really loving city life, but it's not easy. It takes a certain fight, certain survivor mentality. A will to survive the subway one more time, to find inexpensive food and fun, to go and get what you want - nothing's coming your way. It's funny that in this great city we have areas of such wealth and such poverty, only blocks apart, and oftentimes crossing paths. In the city, a little luck, either good or bad, is all it takes to take you from the upper echelon (sp?) to the lowest of lows. I think I am going to enjoy living here - it's a place I've wanted to live for so, so long - but I know it's not going to be easy. Breathe. Just take it a step at a time. And try not to step in dog shit.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

In New York!

Well, I have arrived! I actually got here yesterday, but this has been my first chance to get online and write. I was able to briefly access the web at my apartment by stealing a half bar of signal from my neighbors (somewhere?) for about 5 minutes at a time. Good thing I had my luxurious air mattress to blow up in between websites (it is now mostly deflated). I am currently at the NYC public library on 42nd St. using one of their computers. Now, you would think this would be a somewhat easy task. Wrong! First, one must find library. Second, one must be at the library during open hours (me, last night at 8pm scratching my head - what happend to the 24 hour Wells Library?). After one gains entrance to the library via a bog check, you must mount the staircase to the third floor where they actually hide the computers and books - don't worry the gift shop is on the first floor. (I just had a thought about how grimey this computer keyboard must be - yikes!). There they are, the computers, your link to friends, family, news, and your profession. But wait! To use a computer you have to reserve it first. And I'm not just talking about a clipboard sign-in. In order to access these computers, you mut first register for a library card, which you then scan and reserve a computer (with an appointment time an hour after you got to the library). So here's stupid Hoosier me desperately trying to finding a computer. I finally find the window marked "Library Card" thinking Ok here I am, but oh no, you must pre-register with the computer down the aisle first to recevie this card, which afterwards I am informed you need to have proof of being a NY resident, which I don't have yet, so I have a three day trial card. But alas, I have made it to this computer and here I am! One mssion down, many, many more to go. Since I currently am unemployed, I am planning on scoping out the entire city, inch by inch, only in the daylight of course, because that seems to be the only way I can almost learn an area - maps are immune to my Hoosier sense of direction. I do like my neighborhood and think I am acquainted with it - I have found the essentials: the subway, the grocery, the pharmacy, and liquor store. On the agenda for the rest of the day? Buy a copy of Backstage, the theatre trade paper, to learn about all the auditions I can't go to because I'm not equity; a pillow (no leads so far - I thought there was a Pottery Barn on every corner?!), gym shoes (again, no leads), and meet my new roomate when she arrives this evening. Oh, and so far no bugs, thank God! We will see how long that holds up . . . I have my doubts about this ex-bachelor pad. Well here goes!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Home, Sweet Home

Now, I am watching "What Would Brian Boitano Make?" his new series on Food Network, and thinking how easily I could be doing that and not having to try SO hard. I just need to win a few Olympic gold medals and be the subject of a South Park musical number, then that TV deal is mine!

Tonight marks my last night in the Broad Meadow and the beginning of my journey to Broadway. I've been home for the past couple of days for some final packing and planning, then a big family get-together at our house. Everyone was there: two grandmothers, one grandfather, two aunts, three cousins, a group of special family friends, one brother, and even a mom and dad. We had burgers and brats on the grill served with tomatoes fresh from our garden and guacamole with home grown jalapeños (recipe follows). It was so good to have everyone out to our house for a final night in the broad meadow. I think everyone (including myself) was filled with a mix of excitement, nerves, worry, and hope, a mix of enthusiasm and caution. Saying my various goodbyes, some vowed to visit me in New York as soon as possible, while others I don't know when I'll see again. Yesterday, we visited with Granny, my 104-year-old great-grandmother and the matriarch of our family. She was her usual steely, sassy self, full of the days groans and gossip. While she ate her plain hamburger and kids' sized banana milkshake, we chatted about other family members, local politics, church, and tales from her assisted living home. While her eyes, joints, and hearing give her a lot of trouble, her mind and will to go on are still completely there. Considering my upcoming departure, even hard nosed Granny got a little boo-hooey, and when that happens, you can just forget it! Though she's been saying she won't be here much longer since her 80's, now at 104 (105 in Dec.) I wonder how many times I will get to visit with her. So preparing to leave has been an exciting, but bittersweet experience, good for remembering where I come from , but questioning whether I will return here again. With a whole new set of friends and locale, I wonder who will I be and how will my life change. Forced to stand alone now more than ever, all I will have left is Bradley - who I have become, who I want to be, and where I have come from. I am so, so thankful for so many things in my life, but none more than my beautiful, wonderful family and all the love and support they give to me. But, no time for tears, I'm leaving for the airport at 5 a.m. I think it's safe to say most emotions don't really register until noon - about the time I will be arriving at my new apartment. NYC here I come! So long NC!

Yummy Guacamole
5 avocados, chunked
1 garlic clove, minced and combined with salt to form a paste
1/4 cup chopped red onion
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
Juice of 2 limes
Lots of salt (coarse-style or sea are the best)
2 small jalapeños from the garden or 1 larger-sized from the grocery store
One small garden tomato

Combine all ingredients in medium-sized mixing bowl and mash with a fork until avocado chunks are broken down and mixture is smooth. Before serving, taste, and add more salt or lime juice if needed. Try not to eat the whole bowl by yourself.