March 30, 2008

Dream Jobs

It doesn’t matter how happy - or complacent - you are in your current job, because everyone dreams about some other job they could have. Maybe it’s the plight of being a New Yorker, where there’s always a better-looking person you could be dating, a better glass of wine you could have ordered, and some more exciting way to celebrate New Year’s Eve (which bites you in the ass when you wait for that better offer that never comes).

I watch a lot of TV at night before going to bed, and inevitably I happen across "The Big Idea with Donny Deutsch," starring the ad agency mogul and a lineup of inventors, celebrities, and entrepreneurs that have made millions by following their dreams (including, in fact, the heads of my company). But the problem everybody has is figuring out what they really want to do.

For me personally, I don’t think any of my dream jobs would make me a millionaire. Working at a record label, at one point, was my dream job - and the music industry is notoriously low-paying (except, clearly, for the heads of my company). And now as I fantasize about what else there is out there for me to do, I have the sinking feeling it’s going to be a long time before I can afford to buy an apartment.

My dream jobs, in no particular order:

  • soap opera star
  • sitcom actor
  • flavor innovator (there’s a lot more they could be doing with peanut butter)
  • subway ad scraper
  • newspaper/magazine columnist
  • entertainment reporter
  • VJ (except they don’t really exist anymore)
  • intrepid travel diarist
  • bar owner
  • trial attorney

I’ve actually always kind of hoped that I would have several careers throughout my life, remembering a conductor who died when I worked at Atlantic who, in addition to his classical career, was also an attorney and a medical doctor. I figure I can become a novelist or something when I’m old and ugly, and only a thumbnail headshot of me is required for the back cover.

But in the meantime while I’m young and still relatively attractive, what’s next for me?

I look forward to finding out.

March 29, 2008

Everyone Was Looking at My Legs

I had to go out tonight. Everyone had been looking at my legs today.

I’d decided to wear the red-and-black fishnets, the ones from this picture which had gotten so much attention already. Walking down the street, I had women and men stop me to tell me how great my hosiery was, and even more that just stared.

I’d had my heart set on seeing Dark Fair at the Swiss Institute so I waited in line for a while outside, slowly realizing I was dressed too nicelycompared to all the hipster folk I was surrounded by. When I finally got in, after at least a half hour wait outside, I immediately played pinball and wondered why I was there. There didn’t seem to be anytihng else to do.

After I left, after a bit of SoHo walking about which resulted in nothing, I went to Mercat so  I could just sit and drink. Fortuitously, a party rejected their shrimp order, so I got to eat their head-on prawns in olive oil and peanuts. After that, my appetite was whet enough to order the sauteed brussel sprouts with chestnuts and serrano, while a free order of pea shoots with pine nuts and golden raisins appeared from a waiter who felt sorry for me being alone.

After also getting a free bite of the duck with the roasted pear with cinnamon and chocolate, I was really starting to think it was MY NIGHT. When I got the bill, I was only charged for 1 wine out of three.Still, I kind of felt like I was cheating on Bar Jamon. I ordered Mercat’s version of pan con tomate and kind of liked it better. And I liked the txakoli better than the albarino.But the guys there weren’t as cute.

I did meet two other patrons and followed them next door for another drink, but the one I didn’t want wanted me, and the one I did want wanted someone else. Such is life. Typical of the way things always used to go, and the way I once refused to go again in the future.

So I thought I might try to withdraw from Bar Jamon this weekend, but now I feel even more strongly about going...

Earlier in the evening, while strutting my stockinged legs and sore heeled feet through the cobblestone streets of SoHo, a guy stopped to ask me if I’d been stood up. His accent threw me off and I thought he was asking if I was trying to stand out.

I suppose I was.

March 24, 2008

Brain Waves

Tonight I attended one of the BrainWave festival events at the CUNY Graduate Center. We got to watch musicians’ brain waves measured via EEG while they were playing music, pretending to play music, and thinking about playing music.

I found that the musicians were somewhat distracted by their own brains, and kept turning around to monitor their brain wave progress on the big screen behind them.

I think we’re all sort of intrigued with the way our inner People to go therapy, psychics, naturopathic doctors and acupuncturists just to hear about themselves - the good, the bad, the diseased, the dysfunctional. Even worse, people go on dates just to talk about what the other person thinks of them.

If given the chance, people will buy wall art of their own DNA or thumbprint. And they’ll look at their reflection wherever they can find one: in a store window, a mirror, even a spoon.

I’ve actually had two EEGs in my life, so I know something about how my brain is firing. As a young kid, I suddenly began to have what appeared to be seizures, but it was more just passing out and then having convulsions. Of course my parents panicked that I was epileptic, though thankfully not having soiled myself.

After seeing Dr. Marasigan, a neurologist whose instructions to touch my nose I couldn’t understand through his thick accent, I went into the hospital twice and had electrodes glued to my scalp through my hair. I lied down on some gurney while they tried to instigate some brain reaction by flashing lights through my closed eyes.

Turns out I wasn’t epileptic, but after passing out in my living room, in the bathroom, and in church and having an out-of-body experience each time, I thought I was either dying or really in touch with the spirit world. Instead, they said I was only vasovagal, typically hyperventilating and passing out in response to stressful circumstances. Considering my childhood, I’m surprised I ever stayed awake.

I think the last time I passed out was in the chair at the oral surgeon’s office before getting my wisdom tooth pulled a few years ago here in NYC. I think that means my life is less stressful. I guess that’s a good thing.

Still, I kept wanting to volunteer myself as an EEG subject tonight. I’m curious what my brain has to tell me nowadays.

Like a Cat...

I don’t get to express my drama geek side very often anymore. Even going to Naked Angels’ Tuesdays @ 9 doesn’t feel very theatery (except for the typical and predictable overacting that occurs there). But I was raised on Thornton Wilder and Edward Albee and, of course, Tennessee Williams.

I’d performed in scenes from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in high school (as Maggie The Cat, of course, since I have a certain Liz Taylor quality about me) but I’d never seen a production of it, only having watched bits of the movie. So when I had the chance to see the groundbreaking new cast on Broadway starring Terrence Howard and James Earl Jones, I dug deep and paid my $100 for a ticket in the sixth row.

It felt like an event. The excitement in the air was palpable. It was Easter Sunday, and everyone was dressed in their Sunday Best. Finally, once again attending theater in New York City was a special occasion.

Maybe it’s because it was an audience that hasn’t had their minds fried by Clay Aiken in Spamalot or any number of cheesy C-list celebrities in Chicago. Instead of Marilu Henner (who I really have seen in Chicago), we got to see Oscar nominees and Tony winners in a play that uses real words like "mendacity" and "avarice" alongside "fuck" and "crap"! Sure, you have to suspend your disbelief pretty hard to enter a world where a black family runs a plantation in the south in the 1950s with black servants. But somehow, it works. Sometimes all it takes is good acting.

So what’s next for me? Maybe I’ll skip Young Frankenstein and see Albee direct Albee at the Cherry Lane Theatre.

Further reading:
A Black ’Cat,’ Catching An Elusive Audience - The New York Times

March 10, 2008

Operation Exploration

[Ed: Some edits made 9/15/16 for clarity and quality]

Somehow being out in the West made me feel like an explorer—like I wanted to blaze new trails of my own.

Standing on the beach behind the Hotel Del Coronado, being blinded by the gold flecks in the sand even through my sunglasses, I started dreaming of the Gold Rush and cowboys and every type of rancho I could think of.

During our San Diego trip, we used our downtown hotel, The Sofia, as a base camp for our many adventures - and not just the 59-Mile Scenic Drive that took us through La Jolla, Mission Beach and Pacific Beach.

Formerly owned by a groundbreaking stagecoach company, and currently located in the same building as Greyhound, it seemed appropriate as a launching point for our many travels (despite its very weird position near the County Court buildings, the law library, and several bail bond providers).

On Friday we drove about an hour north to Temecula, Southern California's wine country situated between San Diego and Los Angeles, serving both communities with lush rolling hills, strawberry patches, and, of course, vineyards.

Trying to curb our intoxication so we could actually drive home, we visited four wineries:
  • the Hart family-run winery
  • Callaway, the area's first winery
  • La Cereza, where we found a great bottle of "Girlfriends," a Gewurtztraminer blend, to ship home
  • Falker, where we found a great bottle of Riesling to bring back to the hotel with us, and spotted a bunny rabbit hopping across their outdoor tasting area

Filled up on wine, we decided to leave the rest of the wineries for another day and head into Old Town Temecula, where we happened upon the annual Rod Run which took over the streets with tricked-out lowriders and convertibles with their shiny inner workings hanging out for all the world to see.

Amidst the revving engines and hooting and hollering, we stopped into the Temecula Olive Oil Company for one more tasting, where they gave us shot glasses of olive varietals, sometimes with balsamic chasers and mixers.

Historic train

The next day, we took the harrowing route 94 south, taking winding roads through mountains and canyons and big boulder rocks to Campo, CA, where we met up with the Pacific Southwest Railway Museum for their "Ticket to Tecate" historic train ride to Mexico.

I'd really wanted to go to Mexico but had no interest in tourist trap Tijuana nor in driving there, fully aware of police corruption, so this group excursion was perfect. The volunteer conductors and trainmen were personable and informative, and although Edith and I felt very young amongst our mostly-retired fellow travellers, we loved every minute of it. No matter how weird it was.

The old San Diego Arizona Railway was renowned at its launch and even featured in a bunch of silent movies, but it was a horrible failure and victim to natural disasters and sabotage. We rode one of the later San Diego & Arizona diesel locomotives through the border into Mexico, past factories and innumerable shacks from which kids ran out to wave at the passing train, right into Tecate, namesake for the popular Mexican beer. With just about three hours to waste in Tecate, we grabbed margaritas and lunch (and an extended serenade of "Imagine" by a busker) at Lolo's near the plaza, took the Tecate brewery tour clad in hard hats and safety goggles (free 16 oz tallboy can included), and stopped at the town's only bakery for some delicious pastries and dulce.

On our way out of Tecate I noticed the Mexican kids waving again, but on this side of the train they ran right up to it, arms outstretched, and the Americans in the back of the train threw change out to them (the American dollar is accepted in Tecate in addition to pesos). Edith and I remarked about it and the couple across from us no sooner confirmed what was happening than actually took out a dollar bill, shouted out, "Hey, amigo!" and then chucked it out the window to a little boy, which was met with squeals and screams. These are kids that are being brought up in houses made of cinder blocks and tarps with advertisements printed on them, so they could surely use the money, but the whole thing felt like a petting zoo to me, treating those poor kids like animals.

When we got back to Campo, we decided we wanted to extend our Mexican experience so after rinsing off at the hotel, we took the Trolley to the flipside experience, San Diego's Old Town. A big tourist destination because of the strip of Mexican joints and all the Mexican-themed souvenir shops (which look nothing like Mexico), Old Town is considered the "birthplace" of California, the site of the first Spanish settlement.

We visited at night, so we missed all the historical elements and instead went off the beaten path to eat at El Agave, a Mexican restaurant with a bit more haute cuisine and over a thousand tequilas.

Balancing out eating/drinking with adventure, I think I could have spent at least one more day on this trip, and I can definitely foresee another trip in the future. There's still whale-watching, paragliding, hot air ballooning, hiking, and all sorts of other activities to be done. And maybe even the chance to poke my head into the BBQ restaurant that Top Gun made famous.

But I'm glad to be back in NYC. Ask me today, and I'll say that life is good.

California Girl

I've never thought of myself much as a California Girl, but that's mostly from my trips to LA where I feel completely out of place. When I visited San Francisco in November '06, I actually thought I could live there - the first city I've ever considered an alternative to New York. But despite my East Coast upbringing and uptight nature, something keeps drawing me back to California.

I had a free flight to redeem on JetBlue (thanks to all that business travelling), so I decided to go somewhere far, where I'd never been. San Diego seemed as good as anyplace so I booked my trip for early March, when I'd surely be sick of NYC winter weather and I'd be longing for a trip (especially since I was skipping WMC this year).

In the process of evaluating a particular vacation destination, I always ask myself, "What's there?" In the case of San Diego, the answer was: wine country, mountains, lighthouses, beaches, and Mexico. That sounded like enough for a trip. Turns out it was actually too much for one trip, because I could have used at least one more day to drive on historic Highway 101, to explore the lighthouses of Point Loma, and to live the life of a local in San Diego.

Upon arrival on Wednesday, with Edith in tow, I drove to Coronado to see the historic Hotel Del Coronado, best-known for key scenes from Some Like It Hot and as the place where L. Frank Baum wrote The Wizard of Oz (the hotel's architecture itself perhaps inspiring Emerald City). We had a great late lunch there, joined by dozens of loud chirping birds with French fries in their beaks, and then walked along the beach, digging our toes into the empty mussell shells and getting gold rush glitter all over the tops of our feet. The sand there is firm and cold, textured and striated, sparkling in the sundown sun. And the water was freezing yet refreshing.

Our first night in the city, we did a bit of exploring through the historic Gaslamp District which might as well be Bleecker Street. We felt like we belonged a bit more at Quarter Kitchen in the Ivy Hotel, where we sipped a delightful Gruner Veltliner and sat at the bar of the open kitchen watching the chefs work their magic on food that smelled better than anything we'd experienced in recent NYC history. The Raw and the Cooked artichoke salad and lobster risotto were satisfying, but I still had the idea of going back and trying everything else on the menu in the back of my mind during the rest of our trip. And hoping to catch scraps from the kitchen in my mouth like a dog sitting on a kitchen threshold on Thanksgiving Day.

I tried not to make our entire trip about eating and drinking, but San Diego is known for its food and wine, so we definitely tried to take advantage. We had breakfast at Cafe 222 twice, eating both cornbread and pumpkin waffles and various egg dishes and good coffee with great service and a funky atmosphere that included chandeliers made of teacups and spoons. We also had dinner at The Guild, the restaurant outpost of a metal and design shop factory that's actually attached to (and visible from) the back, in a factory-dominated neighborhood that looks like it's bound for a NYC-style hipster takeover.

Our last morning before leaving, we brunched at Cafe Chloe, an elegant Parisian bistro east of downtown with delicious homemade croissants, a huge bowl of Mexican hot chocolate, and a clientele distinctly comprised of locals instead of Gaslamp-frequenting tourists.

The drinks in San Diego met every high expectation, from Porfidio tequila at the Grant Grill in the U.S. Grant hotel to the Karl Strauss locally-brewed beer at their downtown restaurant to the hundreds of beers on tap at the Yard House(including the Coronado Mermaid Red Ale), the only bar we could stand in downtown San Diego.

But as I said, we focused more on excursions outside the city. On Thursday we drove north to La Jolla where we braved kayaking for the first time in freezing cold water and burning hot sun. Overcoming my fears, we paddled out into the ocean by the La Jolla caves (which we weren't allowed to go into) and La Jolla Cove, where some really intense swimmers crossed our path. Mostly we were overwhelmed by the sound of the beached sea lions, barking out into the late morning, growls echoing off the rocks, making them sound like the smoky monster in LOST.

It was actually great to get some exercise while on vacation, but I was pretty intimidated by the idea of being out in the middle of the ocean by ourselves in a two-seater, especially when the ocean swelled and tipped our boat a bit. Thank God Edith has had some experience on the water, because I made her take charge (a nice switcheroo from me driving the rental car pretty much everywhere).

When we made it back to shore safely, a fully-dressed guy in jeans said to us, "Aren't you girls cold?" When we said we actually felt pretty good, he said, "You must be northerners then!" and we chuckled and kind of nodded, proud of where we're from and what we'd done.

A little self-reward came in the form of fish tacos at George's with a great ocean view and a bottle of Cucapa Osbscura cerveza, and a cute waiter to serve it to us.

Unfortunately, later in the evening, a horrendous sunburn emerged on the tops of my feet, shins, and arms that prevented me from sleeping properly and throbbing so badly that the look on my face sent Edith to the pharmacy for some Lanacane and Advil.

More adventures to be told later...