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August, 2006:

The play is done! Long live the play!

Well, the play is over. It was a ragtag last minute dash to the finish to create the play (the first performance was also the first run-through without stopping!) Nevertheless, we got lots of great comments, a lot of people really seemed to dig my work, and I really enjoyed working with everybody in the play. So– win, win, win.

Once again, it’s very difficult to encapsulate this sprawling novel in a 2 hour play– so not all of the complete stories of the characters I played were completely seen throughout the play. I highly recommend reading the book if you haven’t.

Here are two photographs of myself in my various guises throughout the play:

As Colonel Kearney (pronounced, surprise, surpise, Carny): a Southern-fried P.T. Barnum. There is more than a passing resemblance to W.C. Fields.
As Buffo the Great, the leader of the clown troupe who over the course of the play slowly goes mad. I really like the hat and jacket that they found for me– the nose, I made myself.

We’re so yonked!

Tres Leches Cake, decorated and made by local bakery Cristina’s. It was very good.

The party was a lot of fun, as Stephanie said. Amazingly, neither of us took any pictures, as we were too busy having fun, tending to guests, and just reveling in the fact that we can have a fair amount of people in our house and have a good and comfortable time. The only picture I took was of our cake (above) which was fabulous, as well as a lot of fun!

It did work pretty well, all told. Another lesson learned: Get easily readable numbers for the house. A couple of people couldn’t find it, despite our excellent directions.

I did take two other pictures– I was originally going to set up a tent on the outside of the property to hold people under, and to maybe store the beer/food and maybe even a grill eventually. The tent/cabana/whatever was from my mom, who had given it to my brother to do something similar.

As you can see from these two pictures, I abandoned the tent idea after wrestling with it for half an hour. There were no directions in the package, but I’m pretty sure the tent is just broken. It’s one of those things that if there is even a little bit of stress to the joints, they go all out of place. And at least two joints looked broken off. Sorry mom, but when I got it it was broken. Honest!

Party in da house

No one fell off the crooked front porch or got sick from the food (not that I know of, anyway) – so I’d deem our first official (big) party a huge success! Our friend S did cut his finger using my amazing ceramic knives – but a bandaid was all it took and the salad was no worse for the wear (well, at least I couldn’t taste the blood). (For those of you who come cook in our house, consider yourselves warned – they’re lethal!)

We had about 30-35 people there all total, with some conspicuously absent (you know who you are, Ms. Mayonnaise F.!), in an excellent crowd of friends, family, ex-boyfriends (for me) and long-lost friends (for Adam). Our dear friends Ed and Marni totally saved the day, as usual, by coming early and staying late – we are quite a team, the four of us (including Adam of course), and I think we should figure out how to make more use of our collective party-throwing capabilities. We also received a bunch of housewarming gifts – very unexpected, really (no, really, I mean it) – but very much appreciated, and will be appreciated by many others in the future as they consisted of no fewer than six yummy bottles of wine and a bottle of champagne, the New York Times Jewish Cookbook, a Pampered Chef bag of cool stuff, a challah plate, and other assorted house/kitchen-related gifty things. Thank you, everyone, it was very unnecessary and very, very nice!

I think the food was excellent, if I do say so myself, and I’ve heard pretty good reviews on it today. It was a tortilla fiesta – we went directly to the tortilla factory on Herriott street (about four blocks from the house) to get fresh-made little corn tortillas, and then I made carne asada (thanks, Ed, for the grilling lesson), shredded chicken, spiced veggies, a number of salads and a bunch of taco toppings, and then people rolled their own. We also had dessert, including a very special cake from the bakery around the corner which I’m sure Adam will blog about when he gets a chance later this week. Definitely a meal that fit the neighborhood.

More on doing major cooking in the kitchen in a later post – definitely worth a post of its very own. Suffice it to say I had all six burners going on Friday evening! Woo-hoo!

The house held up well in its first major outing, I think, and let me be the first person to say “I told you so” to Adam about opening up the walls between the kitchen and the living room and widening the door from the kitchen to the dining room. The circulation was really good and it was definitely not too noisy from room to room. The only hitch, and a lesson learned: the stool sitting at the peninsula in the kitchen cannot stay there for future parties, because once someone sits down at it, all traffic circulation bets are off. You must have a contingency plan for getting in and out of the kitchen/dining room after that – it’s like finding a bottleneck at Disneyworld when you’re trying to stay on a touring plan.

I’m already thinking about the Jewish holidays and Thanksgiving and how to make the house go from a buffet party for 35 to a sit-down dinner for 20 or 25 (and what to do when we can’t use the front porch!) I think it’s do-able, it will just take a lot of effort on the part of my big, strong man to move all the furniture a few times before we figure out how it can all work. But maybe I’ll let him rest up for a few weeks first.

The Drowsy Chaperone: a mini-review

We saw the Drowsy Chaperone on Tuesday night. Great fun. Just a brilliant concept incredibly well done. (Thanks to Stephanie’s parents, who were in town for a tradeshow. Thank you for an amazing night at the theatre!)

(For those that don’t know, the story is of a guy (The Man in the Chair) who is sitting listening to musicals on rather a glum day. He asks us if we’d like to hear his favorite record. It’s an unknown show, “The Drowsy Chaperone” that is just a fun bit of fluff. It’s the show that he listens to when he’s blue. And as he plays the record,the musical comes to life on the stage before our eyes.

The musical itself is (as the man expertly tells us) just a bit of fluff. It reminds me of the movie The Purple Rose of Cairo, the Woody Allen movie in which the stars of a 30’s fluff movie come to life (and the star of the show falls into the world of the movie.

The performances were not quite as sharp as one would expect from a musical (although I suspect it might be a choice of the director– it’s a remembered musical, an imagined musical, and it’s very much the work of the Man in the Chair, who continues to interact with us, and with the musical world.) The sharpness choice is very well-done, but it struck me as remarkable.

The guy who plays The Man in the Chair (who is also the author) was fantastic– he carried the whole show on his shoulders, and pulled it off magnificently. He was funny, he was sensitive, he was sarcastic at the right moments, and droll at others. And don’t get me wrong–the other characters were all expertly done. But for me, the most winning thing here was the concept. There’s lots of very clever bits, and the concept is so smart and well-done. I don’t want to ruin it for you by tellng the jokes, so I’m just saying that they make the most of their opportunities. You should definitely Go!

It started as a play in the Toronto Fringe, and they’ve made the bigtime, deservedly. It’s fresh, original, and funny– and apparently it’s losing box office, so if you want to see it, you should do it quickly.

If you don’t see it on Broadway, I’m sure that it will be coming soon to a theatre near you (probably done by high school students, or the local community theatre)

Before the theatre, frequently there must be dining. We went to B. Smith’s on Restaurant Row, a kind of Louisiana backhome fine dining experience. I didn’t realize it until looking at the website, but B. Smith is some kind of model/entrepreneur/television maven, a kind of black Martha Stewart. Not knowing anything about her until this moment, I thought the food was fun and good, but not sure if it was worthy of television stardom. Sorry B. Smith and your hordes of television fans. Better luck next time!

Days in Yonkers, Nights at the Circus

As the title says, I’ve been spending my days in Yonkers, trying to get everything done, but my nights are at the Circus. Well, at night, I’ve been at Nights At the Circus.

It’s a play I’m doing at the NY Fringe– the first show I’ve done since moving here. I got it quite by chance, the guy playing my role dropped out, and the author who is somebody I know (Ihad actually seen a staged reading of this play a couple of years ago) found out through a mutual friend that I was living in Yonkers. A couple of phone calls later, I was in.

So far it’s been fun, but a bit more rushed than I would like. I found out I was doing the play last week, and the play ends next week. Circus in a Hurry!

Still, it’s been good fun, and more importantly, it’s helping me to build a community of artists in town.

The commute is not so bad, although I’ve been mostly driving– while it takes about 25 minutes by car, it’s 45-60 minutes by bus/subway, and it costs about the same. (Assuming you can find parking) Because I’ve been going at night, there seems to be plenty of street parking at one of our rehearsal venues (which may become my secret parking area for years to come. I will share it with you, only on threat of death. (Actually, it’s pretty far away from everything, so not sure that people would park there anyway! But I still ain’t talkin’!)

Set in 1899, populated by whores, outlaws, clowns, acrobats, and freaks, NIGHTS AT THE CIRCUS tells the wild, bawdy tale of Fevvers, a Cockney aerialist who is the toast of London. She claims to be half-swan and has the wings to prove it! Jack Walser, a skeptical American journalist goes undercover as a clown with the circus to prove she is a fraud. Is she fact or is she fiction? Come to the show and find out!

You can also read the book to find out more:

Announcing the WORLD PREMIERE OF
Adapted by Carla Cantrelle
Directed by Linda Ames Key

The New York International Fringe Festival ­ FringeNYC
A Production of the Present Company

For tickets visit http://www.fringenyc.org/nightsatthecircus.asp
or call
In New York: 212-279-4488
Outside New York: 1-888-FringeNYC

NIGHTS AT THE CIRCUS will be presented as a Special Event in celebration of the Tenth Anniversary of the New York International Fringe Festival ­FringeNYC. The play, adapted from Angela Carter’s novel, runs at FringeCENTRAL, 27 Mercer Street (between Grand & Howard) August 23 through August 26, with all performances at 9 PM. Tickets: $15.00

FRIDAY 8/25 9 PM

For tickets visit http://www.fringenyc.org/nightsatthecircus.asp

FringeCENTRAL is a block and a half North of Canal Street.A, C, E, 6, N, R. Q, W, J, M, Z to Canal

In which we serve dinner to other people

We had our first dinner party in the house! And it went very well!

Not sure if it actually qualifies as a dinner party– Stephanie’s parents (dad and step-mom) were in town for a trade show, and they came out to the house so we’d have dinner. Is a dinner for 4 a dinner party? I think it should do– a small dinner party, which is a pre-amble to a larger function or affair.

The original thought was we would go out somewhere. However, about 3 hours before we were to meet them, Stephanie and I had a daring thought– We could cook and have dinner at the house. After all, we have a kitchen! So we jumped out to the local store, grabbed some food, and made a delicious dinner. (Ok, when I say we, I actually mean Stephanie)

Her parents hadn’t seen the house since it was under construction, and they liked what they saw. (the good thing is that everybody who has seen the house has liked the changes, and seems amazed at how far we’ve come. Which is much better than the alternative (Oh, it was so much better the old way! How could you destroy this Victorian kitchen with your granite!)

The weird thing is that because we know how much there is left to do, it’s hard to for us to not be disheartened. (Ok, here when I say us, I mean me.) I often feel a little like Tim Robbins in The Shawshank Redemption: I know it’s possible to dig my way out using a tiny geological hammer under the cover of night, but I don’t know if I personally am capable of doing it. (Although having a Marilyn Monroe poster can’t be a bad thing.)

But enough about my foibles and insecurities–back to the dinner! It was delicious- Stephanie is a very good cook! We had an asian beef dish with fish sauce (While Stephanie was out at the market, she ran into a neighbor/friend (well, they live about a 1/4 mile away in a really nice section of town (Park Hill)) Stephanie asked her if she knew where she could get fish sauce, as the local Top Tomato doesn’t carry it.) Our friend said, “I know where you can get fish sauce– My house!” Fish sauce I guess is the 21st century cup of sugar. Thank you Beth for your generosity! Also on the menu was rice, a cucumber salad, a cabbage/bok choy dish, and dessert was amazing watermelon and fairly good blueberries.

While small, it was a big hit and success, which is a good thing, because we are having a lot more people over on Sunday as a kind of open house/house warming celebration for the first semi-completed phase of the Yonked house. Our invitation photo was the Yonkers Gothic from a couple of weeks ago. (Hey we can’t let a good idea get away from us!) I think something like 37 people are scheduled to stop by, and probably more. If we somehow neglected to invite you, and you are not a complete stranger, please give us an email, and we’ll tell you when to stop by. (By the way, the menu will be a little different– a little more inspired by our current environs. No fish sauce required, but if you know where we can get some pico de gallo…

Everything has gone wrong today.

Not having the best of days today.

1) It’s +90 degrees (inside the house!) I’m cursing that stupid insulation,
that is apparently keeping all of the hot air in the house. I’m camped out
in the bedroom, where the air conditioner is struggling to get it down to
76. At least it’s relatively cool in here. I bought two fans, and they are
at least pumping some hot air out of the house, but you know what– it’s
still hot air!

2) The internet is out– I’m sending this via a stolen and very wonky
wireless connection that keeps on going on and off. (and via email) Not
sure what’s going on. WirelessThing2– thank you for installing an
unprotected connection. Now get a repeater or something so I can steal more
signal! The internet guy will come sometime tomorrow, supposedly, between 8
am and 8 pm– yeah, that’s the best they can do. Pitiful!

3) The air conditioning guy cancelled– he’s got clients that have stuff
installed, but no a/c. And our heat wave is ramping up. (*Hopefully to
break tonight with major thunderstorms. The other a/c guy hasn’t called me
back, despite 3 calls into their large company. Apparently they don’t want
or need my business.

4) The Sears guys came after waiting for 2 weeks for them, and they think
there’s nothing wrong with the dryer. Even though it was making a weird
clanking sound. According to them, a button could have gotten into the
inside somehow, and their lifting it up to check it out may have settled it
down. (There was also a weird incident, which I shall tell about.Last
week’s Sears guy ordered some parts for the dryer. The two guys who came
today (one of them was an older guy who told me he played conga in a salsa
band for 30 years, and was clearly a knowledgeable dryer guy) Anyway they
say that the parts weren’t necessary at all. And the first guy (a younger
hispanic guy, when he walked in the house, he nearly immediately, stepped
right into the 2×2 hole in the floor that is our return duct (Yes, that’s
right, we haven’t gotten any grates. Probably a good idea. But come on,
there’s a big gaping hole in the floor! Not small. 2×2. . He didn’t
break his leg or anything, although he did dislodge the flexiduct which I’ve
managed to temporarily re-install, and if the a/c guy ever gets here, he can
re-install it. It was a little wonky anyway.

So, today was a wasted day, although I’m busy writing a script for a next
week surprise event that I’m performing at. (Can’t really say anymore right
now in public, but suffice to say, it could be the beginning of a series of
gigs next year in a not-so-distant city (that is not NYC)

There’s always the hope that tomorrow will go better!

The Enormous Bed

I’m not talking about the book by EE Cummings. I’m talking about the king size bed that we bought the other day at Sleepy’s. It replaces the queen size bed that Stephanie has had for ever, the futon that I have had forever, and the floor, which is what we might have had to sleep on if Stephanie’s bed wouldn’t stop squeaking. (And no, vulgar readers, I am not referring to the squeaky squeaky noise that it might make during certain activities best left to the imagination. I am speaking of sitting on the bed, and the large squeak that comes forthwith.)

Naturally, nothing is easy. They delivered the bed on Sunday (we bought it on Saturday, after spending a good hour lying down sideways on beds, trying to imagine ourselves sleeping on them, and what it would feel like with our sheets, our pajamas, and about 7-8 hours of sacktime. We settled on a Miralux, which is a top of the line European brand that Sleepy’s just got into, enabling us to get it at a $500 discount.

However, when they delivered the bed, it turned out that it had a large grease stain on it. And our salesman had spent a lot of time telling us how even a mere stain would void our 10 year warranty. So we sent it back (well,actually they delivered it the next day.) The guys the first day who delivered it were very nice– the second guys re-delivering– not so much. I theorize because they figured that since this was a replacement, they probably wouldn’t get a tip. (we tipped the first guys of course) The second guys might have gotten a tip too, but their bad attitude left me no choice but not to reward their behavior. I believe this is what’s known as a “Self-fulfilling prophecy.” Despite this, we were relatively happy with Sleepy’s and would probably recommend them.

So the bed is in, and we’ve got two nights slept on it (well one night on the returned one, and one on the actual new one.) So far it is very comfortable and pleasant, although it’s weird not to have a headboard after so long. And it’s even more weird because Stephanie is now SO FAR AWAY. I feel like I need to build some kind of infrastructure on the bed– perhaps a series of highways, or a large funicular that would draw us closer together. (Actually, I hate to admit this, but we do often compute on the bed, side by side, and have at times IM’d while lying next to each other. That’s not a sin or anything is it? Well, if it is, so be it! This is the 21st century man. Or to paraphrase and update a bunch of Russian kids around 1989, I want my AIM.

The other weird thing is that despite the bed being larger, the room now seems larger than it was. I think it has to do with the fact that we don’t have a headboard or footboard yet– but there is actually more room in the room (although less room on the sides)

Here’s a picture for your prurient interest–

Please notice two things:
1) The air conditioner kindly given to us by my Mom. (It is super hot in these parts. Thank you Mom!)
2) The wall reading sconces, which we had made to order from the manufacturer. They cost $300+ for slightly nicer ones at Rejuvenation, but we got these for around $100 each. And they were just what we wanted.
3) The bonus thing to notice: our bedding is colorful! And it matches! Guess it goes to show you the power of compromise. (Actually, Stephanie already had these!)

And because this is a blog of enormous culture, I will also leave you with an excerpt from The Enormous Room, by ee cummings. It’s not poems, it’s a memoir, and quite funny. I recommend it!

Braced by this news, poked from behind by my t-d, and waved on from before by M. le Ministre himself, I floated vaguely into a very washed, neat, business-like and altogether American room of modest proportions, whose door was immediately shut and guarded on the inside by my escort.

Monsieur le Ministre said:

‘Lift your arms.’

Then he went through my pockets. He found cigarettes, pencils, a jack-knife, and several francs. He laid his treasures on a clean table and said: ‘You are not allowed to keep these. I shall be responsible.’ Then he looked me coldly in the eye and asked if I had anything else.

I told him that I believed I had a handkerchief.

He asked me: ‘Have you anything in your shoes?’

‘My feet,’ I said, gently.

‘Come this way,’ he said frigidly, opening a door which I had not remarked. I bowed in acknowledgment of the courtesy, and entered room number 2.

I looked into six eyes which sat at a desk.