30 Before 30: Geek/Greek Style

We sit at the bar, free drinks in our hands, discussing our hopes and dreams. Well, Walter’s hopes and dreams.

“30 before 30,” he says earnestly, “That’s the goal.”

I look at him in disbelief, “Oh really?” I laugh.

“Yep,” he sighs, “But it’s looking like that’s not going to happen,” he says and makes a heart wrenching sad-face. Walter is a master of making faces. If we were sitting at a bar in ancient Greece, sculptors and mask creators would swarm us, all hoping to model their art from Walter’s visage. Alas, it is 2012. Thus Walter is an actor/bartender, like nearly everyone at this bar.

I grab his shoulders, look him in the eye. My face the picture of (faux) sincerity, “Don’t you say that, buddy!” I mock, my voice laden with sarcasm, “You can do anything if you put your mind to it! I believe in you.”

I’m usually an incredibly supportive friend, I swear.

It is a blogging cliché, a meme you have likely seen bogging down the blogosphere or your Facebook wall:

30 before 30!

1. Give up soda to fit back into high school jeans and run a marathon while wearing them

2. Explore Africa and get a to-scale tattoo mapping out travel route on ass (butt crack = the Nile)

3. Learn French and read the complete works of Shakespeare in French translation (Être ou ne pas être, c’est la question.)

And so on and so forth, a list of 30 things the author hopes to accomplish by age 30, to be crossed off and dated upon completion.

4. Break agency rules, go on internet, and update blog while temping at a consulting firm in the middle of Times Square. 2/8/12

I do not know if Walter has a blog (that said, he doesn’t know I have one), but it wouldn’t surprise me. We met working at a renaissance faire. He devotes hours to video games and subscribes to gamer magazines. When I work a video game promotion,  he’s the only one of my friends who appreciates the swag. He created scavenger hunts for my past two birthdays. His hobby is juggling clubs, rings, you name it. He was the fat kid on the playground (I’ve seen pictures). It’s easy to describe him as a total geek.

However, it’s also easy to describe him as a total frat boy. He pledged ΦΩζ his freshman year. We became friends doing push-ups. It took weeks of constant berating, but I finally got him to stop calling them “girl push ups”. He takes his liquor seriously and can drink more than any one I know. I finally learned to stop having drunken heart-to-hearts with the guy because he has no memory of them come morning. Now I get him to tell stories: of his frat-boy college days, of the time he slept with three girls in one 24 hour period, of how he wants to multiply that number by ten before her hits the big 3-0. Stories of how that prospect is so close, but so far. There is one obstacle thwarting Walter’s plan. The poor guy has a triple threat of a girlfriend: actress/dancer/model. Smart/beautiful/great-sense-of-humor. She’s a dream killer!

Two sides of the same coin: Comedy and Tragedy. Frat Boy and Geek.

Walter’s “30 before 30” is the stuff chick-flicks are made of. The stuff of frat boy fist bumps.  The stuff of drunk-at-an-open-bar conversations. The stuff of cliché (I told you men come to Manhattan for 2 Fs! Food and Fucking!)

But it’s also the stuff of fat-twelve-year-old boy-who-pretty-girls-won’t-look-twice-at dreams. Wally’s very lucky to have that boy in his past. He’s grown up to be a well-rounded, attractive man who walks the line between charm and douche like an incredibly skilled tightrope walker. I feel lucky to have him as a friend. There’s no one else with whom I could have a similar conversation (“I want to fuck 30 bitches!”) and feel the same.

“Wally,” I say poignantly, “If it is the night before your thirtieth birthday and you are 29 for 30”, I pause dramatically, “I will be there for you.”  It’s never going to happen, but hey, I told you I’m an incredibly supportive friend!

A Date with My Elementary School Nemesis: He’s in the Navy

(Continued from A Date with My Elementary School Nemesis: Background)

I watched him as he struggled to parallel park the car, always a challenge on a San Francisco hill. I was nervous. This was the culmination of seven weeks of  communication complicated by a separation of 3,000 miles. This was real life. The last moments of anticipation: a straightening of wheels, a gear shift, a door open, and I would finally be faced to face with the boy I hadn’t seen since he was the hot lead singer of a band and I was the artsy weird girl in glasses. My hands were sweaty, and not just because I’d been sitting in the California sun for the past hour. Can you enjoy talking to someone on the phone but hate them in person? What if he still has cooties?

The lock on the car door clicked and he stepped out. “New York Cliché,” he said, grinning. No one can say your name the way someone you went to grade school with can; someone who knew you before really understanding what last names were. The friendliness lacking from our last encounter was now present by tenfold. He grabbed me and pulled me in for a hug. As my Elementary School Nemesis, if we’d ever touched before it was with malice: a hair-pull, a pinch. We’d certainly never hugged. Turns out he gives good hugs. I smiled, enjoying the feeling of his strong, I-live-on-a-ship arms. There was no question: he’d outgrown cooties.

In kindergarten we all drew pictures of what we wanted to be when we grew up. I drew a tightrope walker (a trip to the circus left me infatuated with the shiny pink costumes of the performers). I have no idea what Nemesis drew, probably an astronaut or cowboy. Does anyone follow through on their kindergarten dreams? By fifth grade my answer had changed. I remember clearly filling out a 5th grade graduation questionnaire: What do you want to when you grow up? I carefully wrote “Actor” on the line provided. Again, I don’t recall what Nemesis wrote, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he filled the blank with “Writer”. If that is the case, we’re both pursuing our ten year-old dreams. My fill-in-the-blank remains the same. His fill-in-the-blank is now considerably more specific. He’s a communications specialist. That means he’s employed by the United States Navy. That means my Elementary School Nemesis grew up to be a sailor boy.

You all know how us ladies feel about sailors. Just walk through Times Square during Fleet Week and watch how many female heads turn.

To continue and read the story of the actual date click here: A Date with My Elementary School Nemesis: Running Uphill 

A Date with My Elementary School Nemesis: Background

Hair pulling, teasing, pinching, name-calling, tattling, insulting, fighting. Oh boy, did we have a history.

Last week I went on a date with my elementary school nemesis.

You could say it was a date 2 months in the making. You could say it was a date 20 years in the making.

You could say it started with a Facebook message. You could say it started with a playground game of “Farmer in the Dell“.

When he picked me up for our date, my first glimpse of him was through the windshield of his brand-new BMW. It was the first time I’d seen him in almost a decade. The last time we’d seen each other was in high school, an interaction so brief he doesn’t even remember it. I, however, have a memory like the sticky traps city dwellers place in the crack behind their refrigerators. It doesn’t just catch the big mouse-sized memories; it catches dust, hair, any small particle. Besides, it’s hard to forget when someone makes you feel like shit.

It was one of the few house parties I went to in high school, some friend of a friend’s sweet sixteen. With probably fifty teenagers in attendance, this was not a rager but still a great party from my not-a-cool-kid perspective. While the birthday girl’s parents cut the cake, a live ska band played in the front room. The front man was about 6’2, still with the same fiery hair and cocky attitude he’d had since age 5. I had not seen him post-puberty but I recognized him immediately as my Elementary School Nemesis. He looked remarkably the same and yet so different… The little boy who had given me constant cause for cootie shots was now grown up, and inextricably attractive.

I, however, was unrecognizable from my elementary school self. My signature blonde pigtails replaced by an androgynous shaggy bob, so abused by home dye-jobs it looked like the worst-case-scenerio of a tye-dye shirt: when all the colors blend together and you’re left with something you’ll never wear. The adorable pink dresses that defined my K-5 signature style replaced by my teenaged signature style: best described as part punk-rock part creeps-leave-me-alone-if-I-wear-shapeless-clothing. The know-it-all nature I was known for in fourth grade had morphed into the awkward insecurity of a teenaged girl.

I was a cross between the weird girl in “The Breakfast Club” (but I wasn’t that weird) and pre-makeover Rachel Leigh Cook in “She’s All That” (but I wasn’t that hot).

I wasn’t the kind of girl who approached the lead singer of a band (as you know) or any kind of attractive teenaged boy for that mater (which might explain my recent travesty with just such a nineteen year-old). It was no small thing that I squeaked his name inquisitively as he walked right by me, “Nemesis?” He turned, “Yeah?” There was no look of recollection in his eyes, instead I saw the glaring sentiment: Girls like you don’t usually talk to boys like me. I swallowed, “New York Cliché, remember me?” He looked at me in disbelief, “New York Cliché? No way,” he scoffed. Then he laughed, that cruel way only attractive teenage boys can, “New York Cliché… do you still tell on every one all the time?” There was no friendliness in his voice. I do not recall my reply. I know I managed to refrain from running away to cry in the bathroom. That was the last time I saw or heard from my Elementary School Nemesis until about two months ago.

How did we get from there to actually going on a date? Stay Tuned.

Drool Worthy: Fancy Food for Me & You

If my New Years Resolutions had been diet-centric in any way (it is a resolution cliché after all), I would have already failed miserably.

What’s your vice? Cheese? Chocolate? Alcohol? You name it and that is what I spent my week eating. How could I say no? I was surrounded by the top gourmet food from all over the WORLD. I was lucky enough to get a job, and thus a virtual All-Access Pass, at the food industry’s most exclusive and largest showcase of the season.

The Fancy Food Show. Imagine a huge conversion center filled to capacity with 1,300 exhibitors representing over 50 countries. Isle after isle of booths featuring their tastiest products, some so new they are only available for pre-order. The competition is fierce; convention attendees are looking for products for their specialty stores, restaurants, hotels, etc. Exhibitors are all vying for those sales. Then there is me. Absolutely no connection to the food industry except what I put in my stomach. But I’m an actor and easily play the part of “Interested Buyer”. Every chance I got I let those exhibitors do their best to impress me.

There were so many cheese makers, from all over Europe primarily, with cheese aged to perfection. I didn’t come close to trying them all, even in three days. Most of the cheese I eat is from Trader Joe’s, I’m lucky if it’s aged a year. I never, ever eat cheese this good.

Then there were sweets, of all kinds. I have a sweet tooth and I indulged it, like the cliché kid in the candy  store. I just went the dentist and learned I have two cavities. I should cut back on sugar, I really should, but how do you say no when you have glass cases of gorgeous looking pastries and truffles staring at you, with bakers begging you to take a sample?

Answer: you don’t! I can cut back on sugar tomorrow, this was an opportunity not to be wasted.

I had to walk by the Haribo booth every time I went to the bathroom. Haribo is something I can buy myself, at Walgreens…but..but..it was so visually appealing! Plus I love gummy candy! They had bowls full of absolutely every kind, making it so hard NOT to help yourself to a piece. It was too hard to resist.

 

Fortunately, many companies had packaged samples. Many people left this convention with several bags, full to bursting of samples. On the last day, I myself came home with a sizable bag. “It looks like Halloween trick-or-treating,” my mother remarked. More on that later. I did pretty well, considering my only time to walk around was on my half hour lunch break when my main priority was to eat lunch.

I could have filled up on cheese and sweets alone, but there were endless possibilities for more meal-like sampling:

Pasta and sauces from Italy, made and served by people from the country.

Surprisingly authentic frozen entrées from India.

Things you’d never seen before from Japan.

Endless tapenades made of my positively favorite things to eat: tomatoes, garlic, basil, onions, and artichokes. That one under the bread sticks was probably my favorite thing out of the entire show.

So what was I doing the rest of my day, when I wasn’t on lunch break? I was wearing a gorgeous red velvet dress. I don’t think I have ever gotten so many complements in my life. One man said to me “You look like a New York model.” (Note: this event was in San Francisco.) I grinned and thought, Ha. I could tell you a story that would make that compliment seem like an insult! Aloud I said, “Aw, thanks!”

Alas, they did not let me keep the red velvet dress that perfectly matched the Red Velvet Martinis I was promoting. The product won’t be on the shelves before Valentine’s day, which is truly a shame. It really did taste exactly like red velvet cake, pretty remarkable. It is very sweet, just like the cake, but I was strictly forbidden from saying those words. “‘Very sweet’ comes off as negative!” said the owner of the company, “Say, ‘Very flavorful.'” For the three days of the convention I slung those “very flavorful” martinis, from 10am to 5pm. Not exactly the kind of drink I would want anytime before dinner, let alone around brunch, but you’d be surprised by how many people tried them (and some people certainly thought they were too sweet). Just goes to show my charm as a promo model and the power of a fancy dress.

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Has all this talk of food made you hungry? Are you jealous I get paid to wear a fancy dress AND have access to all this amazing stuff? Don’t worry, I anticipated that! I filled my bag with samples with you in mind! I just stuffed a Priority Mail package box full of (nonperishable, sorry no cheese,) samples I got at this show and I am sending it to one lucky person who comments on this post!

That’s right, it’s a give-away! To win this box of goodies, please subscribe to this blog in some way (follow it on WordPress, follow on Twitter, Like on Facebook, subscribe via e-mail: any one of those is great) and then leave a comment on this post! Winner will be selected (by random.org) on Tuesday January 24th and then they need to e-mail me their address by Wednesday January 25th. Good luck & thanks, always, for reading!

Edit: Thanks everyone who entered my Fancy Food give-away! The winner is HarleyJQ from 1, b, Platypus! This box is going overseas (I think)! Congrats, Harley! 

Ballerinas Take to the New York City Streets

I have mentioned many times before the simple pleasure of a stroll in New York City.

There’s the people watching, the fresh air, the chance of meeting a handsome stranger. There’s also the chance you’ll see something quite out of the ordinary. Something you’d never see anywhere else.

I was walking through Columbus Circle the other day when I happened upon this unbelievable sight:

A couple doing very intricate ballet on the street.

They sashayed all over the circle, sometimes on pointe, doing twirls, even lifts:

Even the most jaded New Yorker had to turn his head (it didn’t hurt that the ballerina was gorgeous).

I was convinced it was some kind of street performance. It’s the recession! Ballet dancers are forced to take to the street!. However, when they finished, they just ran off. Swiftly departed without even a bow and certainly no putting out a hat. That, and a snippet of conversation I overheard from them, makes me believe they were simple rehearsing for a performance. Instead of renting a huge rehearsal space, they chose to take it to the streets. And why not? They would never have made any one’s day in the confines of a rehearsal space, but out under the sunshine they did just that.

Random Street Ballet Couple, thank you for making my day. I doubt I was alone in that. New York City streets, thank you for always being fabulous.

Oh, NYC Christmas Tree

If you are ever in New York City and it starts to rain (and you’re in NYC now, the chance is likely), you will be shocked by the volume and velocity at which umbrella sellers pop out of the wood-work (steel-work? concrete-work?). It is as if they lie in wait in manholes, a bulging bag of black umbrellas strapped to their person. The second that first drop of rain hits, they are on every street corner shouting “UMBRELLAS! UMBRELLAS! FIVE [or 10 depending on the part of town] DOLLARS!” I’m guessing most of them do it without even watching The Weather Channel.

It’s similar, though not as impressive in spontaneity, when Christmas trees arrive in Manhattan. New Yorkers never see them arrive, though perhaps we imagine the magical smelling trucks that must bring them on the island, but the morning after Thanksgiving Christmas tree forests have sprouted up all over the city streets. There’s nowhere else to put them in Manhattan- no empty lots, no space. Nor is there a place to bring the trees into at night, nowhere to lock them up. The people selling them make little tents out of tarp between trees and wreaths and camp out for the whole month of December. No one complains, who wouldn’t want to walk through an evergreen forest that masks the notoriously ugly city smells and makes you think warm fuzzy thoughts as winter winds begin blowing the contrary? In fact, thinking about them now, why can’t they stay up all winter?

When I decided I wasn’t going home for Christmas, I knew I’d have to put some effort into generating my own Christmas cheer. It’s easy to leave that to your parents: those who created Christmas magic to their children in the first place. While I was ready to have my first Christmas away from home, I was not ready for my first Christmas without a tree. Midway through December, I was cruising the above Christmas Tree Pop-up Shop (yes, that’s a thing in NYC “pop-up shops“) in my neighborhood (Upper West Side) and to my horror discovered nothing for sale was less than $30. That’s enough to suck the Christmas spirit right out of a starving artist. Or any 20-Something, really. So we did what we always do when something is too expensive in our neighborhood, we went to Harlem. When I say “we”, I really mean my roommate. I can’t take any credit for finding this little beauty of a $10 Christmas tree.

It smells just like a $30 Christmas tree and that’s what really maters. We strung it with a costume-jewelry pearl necklace, some holly berries, and for ornaments we used earrings. The topper started out as a Santa hat, but after some office gift exchanges, changed to a bona fide star. It was nothing like the Christmas trees of my youth, but it was perfectly suited to me, my 2 lovely roommates, and our cozy, craigslist-furnished apartment.

I think even my mother would have approved, though it’s nothing she would ever let into her house. Many families have a tradition of togetherness surrounding the Christmas tree. The tree is selected together, brought home together, and then everyone in the family decorates it, each person putting on their favorite ornaments. I know many families who do this (like my cousin’s family for instance, they make it look so fun), but none of these are activities I have ever experienced. I suppose the New York cliché, on the Upper East Side at least, would be that the housekeeper decorates the tree. Fortunately, that’s never been my experience either.

The fact is, my mother is extremely particular about her Christmas tree. It must be just the right species of fir, the proper width and height, precise distance between tiers of branches. It is in the processes of outfitting the Christmas tree that my mother’s perfectionist streak displays itself. The lights are colored lights, which might surprise you. Clear seems to be the favorite of Christmas tree snobs perfectionists. It will certainly surprise you when I say my mother insists on colored lights of only red, green, yellow, and blue. This has grown increasingly difficult over the years, with yellow often being replaced by orange and pink being added to many strings. Not on our tree. Only true red, green, yellow, and blue have a place in our living room.

I remember attempting to hang ornaments as a child, perhaps one I had made that day in class. Like most children, I imagine, I didn’t give much thought to my placement. Any ornament I ever hung was moved to a different place on the tree, to a branch that supported its weight and size just so. Soon I gave up trying, “Here Mom, you hang it up.” She’s the queen of our family Christmas tree, no doubt about that.

I couldn’t help but wonder around Christmas time: When I have a tree, will I know how to decorate it? Will it be a mass of sagging branches with pathetically placed ornaments? I’m happy to have practice on $10 Harlem finds. I’m happy to report I did very well hanging earring ornaments. Thank you very much. The thing that’s harder to report? I…moved several that my roommates placed on the tree….that branch isn’t the perfect place for that one, this one would be better suited to a branch higher up

Your mid-twenties, is that about the time you start to realize you’re turning into your mother?

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I know it’s strange I’m writing about Christmas nearly a month after the fact, but I’m enjoying it. Helps me hold on to that cheerful, holiday feel a little longer. Do you agree? Are you just happy I’m updating my blog? Or do you wish I’d live (write) more in the present? I hope to get to that next week…ha ha.

Home for Christmas Or Not

I’ll be home for Christmas…but only in my dreams.

It was December and this song seemed to be playing where ever I went. It was haunting me. Normally, December 1st hits and I love hearing (and singing) Christmas music. We all have Christmas carols we detest. I personally can’t stomach Frosty the Snowman or Rudolph (I highly doubt I’m alone in that), but I’ll Be Home for Christmas is mellow, has a nice melody, and seemingly sweet (or at least innocuous) lyrics. Unless they hit too close to home. A home that you, the listener, will not be seeing for Christmas.

It was a difficult decision, so of course I waited until the last minute to make it. Flights were going up, and if I was going to take the plunge, I couldn’t wait any longer. A $600 round trip was already staring me in the face, a number that’s far to large a percentage of the total money in my checking account. But it wasn’t just the money, I was back at my interactive theater job and a stipulation of getting that job back was working during the holiday season.

And so it was that I found myself willing back tears, on the phone with my father, telling him I would not be home for Christmas. For the first time in 25 years- the only time in my life.

On the plus side, New York’s not a bad place to be for Christmas, not when you have trees like this one in Bryant Park!

I’m an only child, this makes situations such as this difficult. The Christmases of my youth were often just me and my parents. My presence (and presents) would be sorely missed. But that’s part of growing up, isn’t it?

I spent my Christmas with my beloved aunt and uncle in Princeton, NJ. They have an only daughter who coincidentally has the same name as I. It was her second Christmas not home and I felt like my “taking her place” (I could never actually take her place) made perfect sense. I had a lovely Christmas on December 25th. I also had a lovely Christmas last weekend. I flew back home on the eleventh day of Christmas (11 pipers piping?) and now am in sunny California for most of horrible, awful, dreary January. Two weeks after official Christmas my little family in San Francisco opened gifts under the tree, ate roast beef, and counted our blessings. All in all, it worked out very well for me.

What I learned is, it’s never to late for Christmas wishes. Sometimes they are even better belated- it’s nice to have something after the magic of the season has disappeared.

Merry Christmas!

I hope your holidays were full of cheer and that January doesn’t get you down!

Do you remember your first Christmas away from “home”? Has it happened yet?