Tag Archives: Friends

O, Christmas Tree. O, Christmas Tree.

I was raised with the understanding that “Time to trim the Christmas tree!” started with putting said tree together. Our tree was stored in a giant tupperware bin, amidst an array of plush snowmen, Precious Moments nativity scenes, and shiny, red garland. Sure, we didn’t have the joy of picking out a new tree every year, but we did get to control which way the branches curved.

While I have no regrets as to my childhood of straightening out wire branches and attaching them to color coordinated slots on  a big ole pole, I have to admit that I was a little excited ecstatic about the prospect of getting a real tree this year for my apartment. My first real Christmas tree. The smell of pine, the crunch of needles loosed from the branches, the task of watering the tree…I couldn’t wait.

So, on the chosen night, my roommate and I headed out to find our tree. We took the train one stop to a grocery store that had been rumored to have great trees. As we excitedly sifted through the selection, it became clear that not all rumors are true. Trees with strange bald spots and already rotting stumps greeted us at every turn. Just as we were about to give up, we saw it: Standing, half tied up and pushed to the side. It stood a good 5-ft, had strangely bushy and awkwardly-faced branches, and looked like it would last til just past Christmas. Our tree. We nearly jumped in excitement (Okay, I nearly jumped in excitement. My roommate, who is a normal, well-adjusted member of society, just smiled ), paid, and happily began to carry it back to the train.

Which brings us to adventure number 1: Riding the subway with a 5-foot tree in tow.

Surprisingly this was not so much of a milestone as carrying said tree from the subway, up two blocks, down an avenue, and then hauling it up four flights of stairs. As we trudged, we half joked/half prayed-“Wouldn’t it be funny if one the four male friends we live across the street from passed us on the street right now, and then offered, out of the kindness of his heart, to carry our tree for us? Wouldn’t that be just lovely?”

…it would have been. But, after a full ten minutes of hoping, even as we climbed the stairs to our apartment, we victoriously carried the tree into our living room ourselves.

Next came the decorations. After standing up our tree, declaring it every euphemistic name we could think of for slightly awkward (Quirky! Cute! Unique!), we rushed out the door to go raid the various 99-cent stores in our neighborhood. We were met with the discovery that 99-cent stores close at 9 pm. (No, I am not kidding.) After coercing one of the shop owners to let us in, we picked out some lights, bobbles, and a classy light-up star for our tree-topper.

After a couple hours of cutting snowflakes, listening to Christmas music, and drinking hot toddies, our third roommate arrived home, and we haphazardly decorated our little tree. We stood there, practically vibrating from excitement, staring at what had to be the most beautifully-imperfect tree in existence.

The tree

The quirky little tree that marks my first real Christmas tree, and my first Christmas in my new apartment

Overcome with a need to share this with others, we texted our neighbors a brief “Come over”, with the hopes that their close proximity would mean that they would overlook the fact that it was midnight, and come look at our tree. Sure enough, two did. And with a shot of Jameson, several Santa hats, and Christmas carols underscoring the conversation, we laughed, joked, and celebrated around the tree- my first real Christmas tree.

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Bring it in, NY

I’ve been struck countless times over the past two months at how lonely a city of billions can be. Really, when you live in NYC, you are alone for a staggering amount of time. Walking to and from the subway, riding to work, doing prep work for auditions-I would say a good 60-70% of my time is spent on my own. There is a good deal of peace and happiness to be found in this amount of solitude, but it can also be cripplingly lonesome.

Which makes moments of real connection stand out. Hurricane Sandy swept through the city, devastating some parts while hardly touching others. My apartment was left unscathed, but I certainly felt the storm’s effects when my restaurant lost power for a week. Somehow, we stayed open, serving bottled beer and mixed drinks by candlelight. Of course, no food and a lack of customers meant that I was rendered useless; due to a lack of communication (thank you, lost phone), I found myself in the back of a cab on Halloween, headed into work. The restaurant’s windows were boarded up with plywood to protect against wind gusts. A rather sketchy-looking “Still Open!” was spray painted across one of the boards. Even I, who had worked there pre-Sandy and knew it wasn’t a serial killer’s hideout, did not want to go in. I pushed the door open, and let my jaw drop. Hundreds of tea lights glowed from every nook, cranny, and corner in the restaurant. A half dozen people sat at the bar, sipping on what must have been lukewarm beer. The lack of top 20’s hits usually booming from every speaker pressed the silence loudly against my eardrums. I walked into my very own Wonderland, complete with an Alice serving drinks behind the bar (it was Halloween, after all). My fellow server, the overly affectionate guy, came bustling over to me, handed me a box of matches, and explained that he was bored out of his mind and replacing used-up candles to stay busy. Steam rose from his lips as he spoke, and I realized we didn’t have heat. 

As I walked around the restaurant, lighting candles and wondering why I was called into work, I heard something. A little trickle of laughter. It bounced and flitted around the mostly empty restaurant, making way for a whole gale of laughter. And that’s when I noticed it: everyone sitting around the bar- strangers, newcomers, regulars – were engaged in conversation with one another. They sat, swapping stories by candlelight, as if they had all come in together. An overhwhelming feeling of camaraderie settled on the bar, as the conversation grew to welcome two new members that had just stumbled in. In a city filled with loners, here was a group that stretched and reshaped in order to include everyone that came near. I felt myself smile as I walked over to join in.  A pizza was ordered, a round of drinks poured, and a happy little community was formed. Sure, it was temporary. We’d all leave soon and go back to not making eye contact with passersby on the street, but that was for later. And, really, it’s moments like these that make the rest of the time seem totally worth it.

Sailing Homeward.

Home is an interesting concept to someone in transition. From college, to my parents’ house, to summerstock, to college, back to my parents’ house-I’ve bounced around quite a bit in these past four years. And now, it seems, I’m just biding my time until I move to my next location. I have my family in one location, and my chosen, extended family in about ten others. So, it’s been awhile since I’ve felt truly at home- where all my possessions and all of my life’s loose ends come to rest, neatly tied up and put away.

For the past three summers, I had the incredible opportunity of working at a Renaissance Festival in upstate NY. This entailed living in the woods for three months of improv training, character creating, and laughing at and with my insanely talented castmates. It was, in one word, magical.

This summer, it was time for a change;  however, I have missed my little corner of the woods more than I can say. So last weekend, two of my college friends (Toby and Kate ) and I piled into my car and roadtripped it to their opening weekend.

I’ll admit it: I was a little apprehensive about visiting. Firstly, I had no idea how it would feel to not be acting in the festival. Would I play along (it’s interactive improv-which is creating scenarios that you can pull audience members into)? What shows would I see? And, most terrifyingly, would it be less -well- magical as a guest? Secondly, it holds a lot of memories. And, really, any place that holds that many memories can either be a joy to visit or a painful sinkhole of moments. (I know, that was a little too 14-year old goth chick, but go with me.) Anyway, I was nervous. And immensely excited.

I could spend this blog post commenting on the awesome shows I saw, and this quirky conversation I had with a character, or that hilarious scene I saw played out in front of me, or what it was like to be carried through the mid-day parade over the shoulder of a once alchemist, now pirate, but I’m gonna go ahead and skip to the pivotal moment of my trip: the pub sing.

PUBSING!

Now, every faire day ends with a half-hour sing along with the entire cast, all of the musicians, and every guest that is within the gates. I cannot accurately explain  how moving this is, but I’m gonna give myself fifteen words in which to try (lest I spend the next twenty minutes writing some epic poem about it that no one, not even myself, will want to read afterwards): It’s like that moment when you first light a sparkler as a kid…awe-inspiring. Anyway, the songs vary from day to day, but it always ends with the same two songs: Auld Lang Syne and Mingulay. Preceding Auld Lang Syne, one character gives a speech- a moment in which he can reveal something about himself, the actor. The speeches are usually moving and therefore usually bring me to tears (A lot of things bring me to tears. I am not generally able to not cry when things move me, or I, you know, breathe. Or walk. Or eat a particularly good sandwich.)

It wouldn’t be a pubsing without a song about drinking far too much.

On this day, my dear friend Lenny Burrows got up to speak. So, of course, my eyes welled up. He began to talk about returning to the festival-of how leaving for a period of time will make the return mean that much more. Great. Thanks, Lenny. Let’s talk about that today-when I’m returning. Thanks for that. By the end of his two-minute (if that) speech, I am hysterical. Kate and Toby are sitting next to me, I’m assuming wondering if they can sneak away slowly so as not to become associated with this madwoman. But I know, oh boy do I know: this is just the beginning.

Love is pretty much what it comes down to. Love and Music.

The minute the song begins, I fall entirely apart. Sobbing. Not really breathing because I would rather refrain for a few minutes than start wheezing. I can see cast members looking at me, sobbing about 8 rows from the stage, and smiling in that way people do. More tears. Then comes the line, “And here’s a hand my trusted friend…” Traditionally, during this line, the cast will offer hands to each other, then to the first two or three rows of the audience. I look up from my lap, which I have been studying quite determinedly for the past 30 seconds or so, and see about ten of my friends in the cast traversing down the aisle towards me. They grasp my hand, one by one, share a tearful smile, and run back to the stage.  I cannot express, or even begin to make sense, of the amount of love I felt in that moment. But more than that, I felt at home. It all clicked into place- I was entirely and happily home.

And as the cast sang the last song, “Mingulay,” I heard my own voice join in. It was a song about coming home, about returning to loved ones after time away- how could I not sing along?

My Fourth of July (or how I learned to drown in a kayak.)

Fireworks, of any variety (romantic or, you know, the kind that actually explode in the sky), are quite possibly my favorite thing in the world. Top five at least. There’s always been something about lights for me, whether they be twinkle lights, Christmas lights, sparklers, or good ole’ fashioned stars. I’m immediately enthralled. In fact, I have a habit of picking restaurants based on who has the best string of lights decorating the outside of their building- but I digress. Fireworks. They’re fucking awesome. And so, when one of my best friends from high school asked me if I wanted to kayak down the Charles River to watch Boston’s 4th of July fireworks from the water, I said “yes.” Actually, I think I squealed, jumped around a bit, and then said, “Are you serious?!,”  about 500 times…but “yes” is pretty much what all that conveys.

So, Wednesday morning I made the trek to Boston, armed with a flashlight, sneakers, and little to no knowledge of how to kayak. The day passed in a happy blur of window shopping, book store browsing, and some really strong margaritas, until finally, it was time to make our way to the launch point. (Side note-how cool is it to get to say that? “It was time to make our way to the launch point.” Bad ass. I feel like an astronaut. Or someone who kayaks. Either way-  bad ass.) After the quickest safety course I have ever been a part of (“Here’s where you go to see the fireworks, don’t get too close to the barge, stay to the sides or you’ll get run over by rich people on boats.”), I was given a life jacket, an oar, and, finally, a kayak. My friend ( let’s call her Specs- she has awesome glasses) and I were going to be rocking out in a double kayak for the night, so we jumped in and started trying to steer away from the launch point (again, bad ass). After a few minutes (around 30 or so), we got the hang of it, and sped along the Charles toward some point that was approximately 4 miles away.

Let me pause for a moment here to talk about upper body strength. You don’t want to wait until you’re in the middle of a river in a kayak to start thinking about incorporating some push ups into your daily routine. Lesson painfully learned. Now, back to the story.

After about an hour of rowing, Specs and I arrived at the viewing point.  Clusters of boats, kayaks and canoes sat in the water, waiting for the show to begin. As we reclined in our kayak, I started to notice bursts of light out of the corner of my eye. Lightning. Oh goody. It was around this time that we thought to ask a fellow water dweller what the estimated start time was: 10:30. It was 9.

Thunder began to start echoing across the water. we paddled forward to look for Specs’ friends, who had fallen behind in a four-person kayak. As we passed under a bridge, I became aware of the crowd: thousands of people lining the shore. I couldn’t help but smile. We had the absolute best seats in the house- the barge that held the fireworks was directly in front of us. We sat, listening to the Boston Pops, floating back and forth, waiting. And then, about five minutes before the fireworks were scheduled to begin, it started to sprinkle. Tiny droplets of warm rain. Now, we were already soaked from the decent amount of flailing it had taken us to reach our destination, so a little bit of rain was nothing. Child’s play. I turned to joke with Specs about the ridiculousness of the situation- sitting in a slowly filling kayak in the middle of a crowd of equally endangered kayaks and canoes- when a burst of color made my head snap back to the front. Without any

I cannot even put into words how gorgeous these fireworks were…so here’s a picture!

forewarning, the fireworks had begun to fill the sky. My jaw subsequently dropped. I had never seen anything like it. The sheer size of the fireworks was stunning, not to mention the variety of shapes and colors that exploded across the the harbor in a continuous stream. (Heart-shaped fireworks. HEARTS!) As I stared, slack-jawed, up at the show, the rain started getting heavier. And heavier. A torrential downpour of lukewarm rain pummeled our little kayak (and my face), creating a wall between me and the fireworks. The sane reaction would have been annoyance, concern for the kayak, or even a shuffling of clothing to try to slow the attack. But me? I laughed. I doubled over in the kayak, overcome with the insanity of my evening. Kayaking 4 miles to sit in a rain-filled kayak, watching the most beautiful fireworks I had ever seen.

The rain eventually slowed, and then stopped, while the fireworks continued to get better and better. As I watched the finale, a barrage of colors that literally filled the sky, I felt a wave of gratitude and awe crash over me. How lucky was I to be experiencing this?

And then I remembered…I still had to paddle 4 miles back. My arms became dead weight at the thought, silently protesting the hour-long rowing party that was about to begin.  Needless to say, Pocahontas was lying when she sang “just around the river bend.” Bitch.

I and Love and You

I’m a firm believer that art should be experienced, not written about. So, while I usually don’t feel inclined to write about performances I’ve seen, I did want to post about one particular moment in a concert I saw two days ago.

If you don’t know who the Avett Brothers are, you’re missing out. In fact, I suggest you stop reading, go to youtube, and look them up. OR! Better yet, read while you listen to them. Really, they’re fantastic. Bluegrassy, with a banjo, upright bass, cello, guitar, drums, piano, and stellar lyrics.

I was lucky enough to go see them perform on Sunday night with a few friends from the city. The place was packed, and, of course, the minute the band hit the stage, any thought of enjoying the concert sitting down disappeared. They were absolutely phenomenal! High energy, clearly loving what they were doing, with the audience swaying and singing along to every song.

About 3/4 of the way through their set, the familiar chords of the first song I ever heard by them reached my ears. “I and Love and You.” My heart leapt. The memories attached to that song swam in my head, and, feeling slightly sentimental, I reached up and put my arm around my friend’s shoulder. Within seconds, my friends and I were connected in one swaying, singing line. It’s strange- how connected you can feel to a song. In that moment, I was exactly where I needed to be, with the exact people I needed to be with. At a concert. Singing along to a group who loved what they were doing. Along with a thousand or so others.

All sarcasm and joking aside, it brought home to me once again the incredible ability music has to bring people together, to ground them, to enrich their lives, and make them feel that they are a part of something bigger.

Whistle While You…what’s that word again?

I’ll admit it. I am currently procrastinating. This would not be a problem if it was the first day I had been putting things off.  Nope.  It’s been a solid week of no work for this chick. Felt great, too, until  around 7:30 this morning. And yet, here I sit, typing out a new blog. My one defense is that it’s on a completely relevant topic: procrastination.

We’ve all done it. Whether we’re trying to avoid schoolwork, shopping for that incredibly finicky friend’s birthday, or applying for jobs, it’s an epidemic. I usually explain it away by saying, “Well, I work better under pressure,” and this might be true. However, here’s when I know I’m getting really desperate for procrastination activities:

1. I actually want to work on my survival job resume. This is a welcome task, something to celebrate.

2.  I call home for the seventh time that day, and my mother suggests that I “go play outside with the other kids.”

3.  Every single edible thing in reach is in danger. And I’ve just eaten lunch. For the second time. In an hour.

4. I tell my roommate that I’m going to the gym by myself on a Saturday, and I’m not joking.

5. I think it’s high time I pull out those bank statements and receipts and balance my checkbook. And, hey! While I’m at it, why not draw up a little financial plan for the next five years?

6. I run out of Prairie Home Companions to listen to, and start writing my own.

Yes, it’s beginning to look like the end of my procrastination is drawing near. Or it did. Until I got this text, actually, while I was writing this: Water Balloon Fight. 4:30. Damn. My homework plans foiled again. Well, at least I’m succeeding at one thing,  right? I mean, no one can say, after this week, that I can’t avoid work as well as the next college senior. And this skill is just bound to come in handy, time and again.

K’s Room. 5.4.11. (Or other uses for Toilet Paper)

With my impending graduation, reminiscing has become less of a hobby and more of a habit. I assume this is normal, as it’s pretty much running rampant throughout my entire class. Every quick exchange includes a comment about what little time is left and , “Oh! Remember when in freshman year we…” Luckily, I think we’re far enough out from the date that no one is falling into a hysterical heap on the floor at the mention of the time they blew their nose in the dining hall in October of sophomore year. I know this is coming. I intend to find shelter and wait it out when it arrives.

I can’t help but share a memory of my own, one that sticks out in my mind as a milestone in both college, and my life. Don’t worry. It’s not a dramatic coming-of-age tale, nor is it a Hallmark movie moment. Actually, it involves toilet paper. Lots and lots of toilet paper.

So, around this time last year, I was running through life at my usual pace-an all-out, no prisoners sprint. This included 18-credits of classes, two shows, and my lovely job of baking bagels. Rest was not an option, nor was finishing any sort of assignment ahead of time.

After a long, tiring, frustrating rehearsal, and the 20-minute drive back to school, I was not feeling particularly social. In fact, I was downright grumpy. Snow White and the Seven Dwarves grumpy. Before Snow White. I knew that two of my very good friends were on campus, and most likely waiting for me to get back (Let’s call them the Artist and the Intellectual). I was also well aware of the fact that I would most likely have a hard time escaping to my room once I bumped into them. So, to circumvent this, I sent the Artist a text, Hey. I’m exhausted and I have a paper to write, so I think I’m gonna call it a night. I entered my dorm building a few minutes later, dreading the next few hours I’d be spending with Microsoft Word. And there were the Artist, the Intellectual, and Kate (From “A Titanic Evening”), standing rather conspicuously on the staircase, waiting for me. “I know you’ve gotta do stuff, just wanted to say goodnight.” They followed me up the stairs to my room, watching me a little more closely than befit the situation, but I shrugged it off. And then- I found out why.

I opened my dorm room door, and was met by a wall of white. Streamers hung from my ceiling, blocking my view of the room. No, not streamers. Toilet paper. I entered cautiously, expecting there to be something in the room they wanted to obscure. But the toilet paper did not end. My entire ceiling was covered, the toilet paper hanging down in long strips.

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I was stunned. And then I was laughing. Uncontrollably. It was as if I was swimming. There was so much toilet paper hanging from my ceiling that I couldn’t see more than maybe 6 inches in front of me. The Artist stepped forward, and announced that this was an Art Installation entitled, “K’s Room. 5.4.11.” It was made up of four industrial-sized rolls of toilet paper and two hours of manual labor. Two. Hours. Then, I began to notice other things. Missing things. All of my make-up that had once resided on my bureau had been replaced by paper replicas. A paper dress and shirt hung neatly in my closet. Even my shoes had been replaced.

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Amazed, I called several other members of the house, all of whom seemed to know, but came to swim in my room regardless. A rousing game of hide and go seek followed (really, there was THAT MUCH toilet paper). It was the most unexpected, wonderful, insanely ridiculous thing anyone had ever done for me. Now, excuse me while I go collapse into a hysterical heap.