Saturday, January 30, 2010

I Am Trying to Think

Of exciting, colorful, fun, delightful things to do for free or cheap, preferably outdoors, definitely out of my apartment. Here is the only thing I have thought of so far: Carry maracas around everywhere.

Dark Chocolate Cupcakes!

I made them!

They are good.

Cupcakes are super the big thing right now; there are cupcake bakeries all over town, breeding Irvine-bunny-style. I've even transcribed a couple interviews with the owners of cupcake bakeries.

Unfortunately, cupcakes are also almost universally boring. Dry little cakes in a muffin tin, with too much frosting. Woo.

But I thought I could probably do better. I used this recipe a couple years ago, and remember liking it, so I tried it again tonight!

I topped them with chocolate buttercream frosting, in which I quadrupled the standard amount of vanilla, leaving the frosting vaguely alcoholic and enormously delicious.*

So they are still pretty much cake, and the frosting is still the best part, but they are a little more moist and a little richer and a little chocolatier than any cupcakes I've ever bought, making them, at least in my opinion, worth eating - more than I can say about any other cupcake I've tried! Next time I make them I'd like them to be even richer and chocolatier; Tom suggests adding an extra egg yolk and two more tablespoons of butter, and cooking them at a higher temperature for a little less time. I love having a chef in the house!

*I had to run to Foodtown while the cupcakes were in the oven, because I was so low on powdered sugar. It is effing cold out, btw! Anyway, Foodtown only had the $4.49/lb organic kind (really, Foodtown? really?), but I was committed enough to the buttercream plan that I bought it anyway. Oh well. Now I can pride myself on saving the environment for a day.

You May Not Have Been Able to Comment

on this blog. Now you can! And you should, because I like you sooooooooo much!

Friday, January 29, 2010


It's freezing out today, and in my apartment the boilers have been on for a long time, so it's super hot and humid. The window is covered in condensation, and if you look from the right angle, the sun shines through and lights it up and it looks like a paper-thin, infinitely faceted diamond.

When I Am Rich

I am going to eat at every restaurant.

What Do You Want to Do Before You Die?*

There's this big screen up on the wall on 5th Ave. and 44th, near Best Buy. At the top it says "What do you want to do before you die?," and it is filled with people's answers; there's a smaller touch screen next to it where you can put in your answer.

I stood and looked at it for a long time. At least five people want to sky dive, and another few want to fly; lots want to go on dates with specific people or get married or fall in love or live happily with someone they love or have a loving family; two different people want to run with the bulls. One person wants to make everyone forget about Twilight (an admirable goal, if you ask me!). A few people wrote variants on "help other people." One person wants to travel to Brazil and bring back a hot boyfriend.

I want to become an FAA licensed balloon pilot.

What about you?

*Here is the website for the project: Unfortunately, it turns out to be for a pretty stupid looking MTV show about four guys road tripping and doing whatever obnoxious stuff they feel like. Maybe if the numerous shows/books/movies about this same topic ever involved anyone other than spoiled white boys - i.e. let women drive around doing the things they have always wanted to do, or anyway play any part other than being items on boys' lists, or if they involved people of color in any way at all - I would be a little more interested. That said, the project on 5th Ave. is cool, and at the website you can fill in your own to-do.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bella Via

Tom and Alex and I wanted to eat out tonight, and I was craving Italian food (yes, I am aware of how boring I am), so we looked up a place in Long Island City that looked reasonably priced, called Bella Via. We were, it turned out, outside of their delivery range (it's not very far! but ok, maybe they don't have a serious delivery system. that's fair), so we impetuously decided to actually go out to the restaurant! I know. We are wild and crazy people.

Anyway, it's super cute inside, mildly fancy. Entrees $14-$21 (guess which end our orders were on). The opening bread was cold but good; the butter was so cold as to be unspreadable, but Alex discovered the trick of holding a knife with a pat of butter on it over the small candle until the butter warmed and slid easily over the bread, and the entertainment of this process redeemed the situation. Tom and I both ordered spaghetti carbonara, and Alex ordered fettucine with shrimp and oven-dried tomatoes. The spaghetti was good - not great, but for sure several-meals-of-leftovers worthy, especially once parmesan was added and heavily buttered bread used to sop up the puddle of extra sauce. Alex's turned out to taste super fishy (literally, as in, that brine-y, distinctly fishy taste that all seafood has to some degree), and it was also discovered that oven-dried tomatoes are distinctly sub par compared to their sun-dried counterparts. Fortunately, we had a cook at our table! Tom asked for a whole dish of parmesan, and helped Alex figure out to add lots of butter and parmesan and salt and pepper to his food, which turned it into noodles in deliciously, mildly fishy cream sauce!

We ordered dessert, since we seemed to be feeling profligate. Tom and I (we have very similar taste in food, it turns out) both ordered the chocolate souffle, with high hopes but low expectations; Alex ordered the chocolate mousse cake. The souffle was hopelessly overcooked, but tasted reasonably good; the chocolate mousse cake was also good, for restaurant chocolate mousse cake (can you tell I am spoiled and heavily opinionated when it comes to dessert? Really, though, if I can make it better, what am I paying a restaurant for?). The vanilla gelato that came with the souffle was delicious, though! I let Alex finish most of my dessert and his (we had been half-and-half-ing it); he is not picky when it comes to dessert, or most food. If dessert isn't super delicious, I don't bother to waste the unhealthy calories on it; Alex does not quite grasp this behavior.

The service was not awesome, either. The buser was great, actually; prompt and polite. But the waiter was appallingly negligent. There were perhaps four occupied tables in the entire restaurant; he wasn't too busy for us. He clearly just didn't care. He spent most of the evening chatting at the bar, very very occasionally glancing over at us and then turning back to his conversation. All three of us are routinely excellent tippers - as in, over twenty percent almost always - and we left 10%.

So we wouldn't go back there. But it was a lovely evening nonetheless! It felt like a treat, since it is more than any of us usually spends, and of course the company was a delight! Next time maybe we'll go to the Thai-Japanese place across the street.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

The Hunger Games

It deserves every one of the many praises it has been given. If the library doesn't have the next one for me soon, I think I might cry. Read it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


1. I saw Billy Elliot a couple months ago. That movie was destined to become a musical from its inception. What a great dance show it could have been! But whose moronic idea was it to have Elton John write the music? And where was the choreographer for three quarters of the numbers? What dancing there was I enjoyed, but for a show about dancing, the choreo was awfully sparse. Also, did the book even exist?

I'm not a fan of Elton John anyway - schmaltzy bombast is not super exactly my style - but it was so so so so so wrong for this show. For Lion King, fine, I can deal. For Aida, who cared in the first place? (Ok, maybe I just didn't care. Reasonable people could probably love that story. I have never yet found myself in a discussion about it.) But for a serious, down to earth drama about a devastating strike, tied together with the so-genuine story of a boy learning to dance? I was laughing my head off through the second act.

2. Alex's parents took us to see Next to Normal last week! I really enjoyed the first act - until at intermission Alex enumerated all the things about it he found frustrating, and I realized to my dismay that part of my enjoyment came from my uncritical nature. (Actually, I have not had an uncritical nature regarding theatre for some years now, but I usually enjoy whatever I'm watching in the moment and then spend the next two weeks taking it apart. It is a bummer to be pushed into criticism in the middle of everything!) Anyway, the biggest problem with the first act was that the music was sort of all the same - dramatic musical theatre rock - because the tone of the first act was uniformly dramatic. Basically, the whole act was a climax, which sort of eliminated any real drama. This could reasonably have been the intentions of the writers; the show is about a woman who is bipolar and has hallucinations, and about the way she and her family deals with this. In the first act, she and her family are constantly constantly constantly plummeting off the edge, or at least feel that way. So it makes sense, in a way, for the music to reflect that. But it isn't very effective; it didn't quite take us over the edge with them, because there was never tension, only release. (I did, however, love the song "Super Boy and Invisible Girl." That was my favorite!)

That said, the second act was a vast improvement. The music got a lot more subtle; the high points were distinguishable from the rest. Alice Ripley is a brilliant actor; I totally see why she won the Tony. The woman who plays her daughter, and the actors who play her son and her psychiatrist, are also very strong.

Here is what I think about Tony-winning musicals in the last twenty years or so, although I have not yet looked up what they all are in order to support my conclusions: There are so few musicals released every year in the last couple decades, and so few of them have original plots and original music, that whenever one of those exciting new stories comes around, it is pretty much a shoo-in if it is at all good. In order to discern which shows are really great, you would probably have to look at about five years' worth of Tony-winners and pick the best of those; I'm thinking that every few years a musical actually worthy of "Best Musical" comes around. Maybe sometime soon I'll look up the last couple decades of winners and spout some opinions :)

3. Birdland! Birdland Birdland Birdland! For those who are not familiar with it, Birdland is a historic, renowned jazz club in Midtown. Look it up if you don't know about it! I've wanted to go there since I was on the Satellite program, but I never did. But Alex's parents took us there when they were in town (Alex's parents are great! :p), and it was as glorious as I imagined. We saw the 7:00 show on a Monday night, which featured the work of (musical theatre) lyricist Amanda Yesnowitz. I didn't expect musical theatre, Birdland being a jazz club, but it was a delight nonetheless. Yesnowitz is a little heavy on her rhymes, but she's very clever, and some of her songs are great - and they were sung by a wide variety of talented (and occasionally famous/successful on Broadway/other professional venues) performers.

But that was not the high point of the evening! Oh, no! Little did we know (until it was announced after the show) that open mic night is every Monday at 9:30! After a brief conference, we decided to stay; it's $10 for the night plus $10 minimum order each, which is a bargain if I ever saw one. Alex and I got pressured (and pressured ourselves) into seeing if we could go up and sing; Jim Caruso, the manager, instructed us to consult with the pianist and see if we and the band had any "upbeat and fun" jazz standards in common. Upon said consultation, Alex planned to sing "Once in Love with Amy" and I prepared for "It's Only a Paper Moon." Naturally, after I had already talked to the pianist (Tedd Firth, who possesses the kind of sightreading, improvising, sight-transposing, bad ass skill that makes me wonder why I even try to play the piano) and after the show had started, I began thinking of all the other upbeat jazz standards I knew, which had not been so kind as to rise to my mind at a more appropriate moment.

My nervousness grew. I have never sung "Paper Moon" full out! What was I thinking? And then someone sat down to play the piano and sing. I remembered that I know by heart exactly one of the songs I have written, and it is upbeat and fun. So when my turn came (about two and half hours in!), I asked (doing this sort of set of silly, cute mannerisms that I don when I am on stage and nervous and trying to be fun) if I was allowed to change my mind - I was, Jim Caruso, who P.S. is a riot as an MC, informed me - and I sat myself right down at that piano!* I played "Fifth Wheel" - like I said, the only song I've written that I've memorized (I need to get on that!) - and was shaking so hard that I missed some notes when my hands shook right off the correct keys. Also, I forgot the words and had to stop and wiggle my tongue around and go, "I promise I know these words!" which everyone assures me was very cute (I just felt super awkward!), and rearranged the verses accidentally, but I think I pulled it off! Jim Caruso said he liked it, anyway, and so did the very sweet (and talented) woman sitting behind me. (Have I mentioned that everyone who performed at Open Mic Night was super super talented, and a number of them have been on Broadway/Australian Broadway, whatever they call it/The West End? Anyway, it is true. And intimidating. But great.) And then Alex went up and changed his mind and sang a cappella: "A Change in My Life" by Rockapella, which is a great song and which you should look up if you don't know it. Anyway, he was also super nervous but great, and Jim came up and shook his hand when he finished because he was surprised at how great he was.

And that was Birdland! I already have a list of probably 12 songs I want to sing there. Must go back! Many times! It is heaven. Everyone should come to New York and visit me and come sing at Birdland!

4. That is all for now, actually, but next up is Stew and Heidi Rodewald! February 17, Making It. I will post about it after I see it, if I haven't expired yet from the Glory That Is Stew.

*Was that a complex sentence or what? I did warn y'all that I am overfond of parentheses. I probably should have mentioned my barely restrained passion for m-dashes while I was at it....

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Things I Have Baked Recently

I promise not to post regularly about the boring minutia of my life. But I am so excited about dessert!

Chocolate chip cookies!
Chocolate chocolate chip cookies!
Honey ice cream! (I am aware that this did not exactly involve baking. But it did involve homemade dessert!)
Chocolate pecan bars! (Actually, Alex made those; I tutored him.)
Midnight mocha cake!
I'm thinking about making shortbread today!

Other suggestions are appreciated.

ETA: I did make shortbread. It is delicious.

Observations Thus Far

In no particular order.

1. I always thought that being able to see the individual pointed, lacy shapes of snowflakes was a myth! How gloriously wrong I was.

2. My favorite subway musician so far: the one who was playing "Take Five" on the steel drums in Grand Central as I passed through on the 7.

3. Of course I realized that the Lubavitchers were weird, but I did not realize how weird until I saw first the travelling sukkah on the back of a truck and later the Mitzvah Tank. Do A Mitzvah Today.

4. My favorite sports bar so far: Broadway Station, at Broadway and 31st in Astoria. They show all the football games, and they serve food, and they are right off the N.

5. The roof of my building is silver and sparkly!

6. My favorite subway station artwork (although it could just be familiarity. but I wouldn't count on that.): The Bryant Park quotes! "tellmetale of stem or stone....rivering waters of, hitherandthithering waters of. Night!" (Of course, I am a sucker for James Joyce.) Not to mention "The unnatural - that, too, is natural."

7. I was walking past one of the studios in Ripley-Grier on 8th and I think 36th, when a piano intro began and a large, bombastic chorus immediately bust out these lyrics in impeccable harmony: "Abortion is murder! Abortion! Is murder! A holocaust!"

8. Cupcakes are astonishingly prevalent. Too bad they're not delicious.

9. The Central Park Conservancy is kind of shady (ha! ha! did you catch my pun? I made a pun! ha! ha! ha!). I'm not sure how many more details I should mention, given that I am supposed to keep these interviews I've been transcribing confidential, but suffice it to say that I would not work for them.

10. On the subject of transcribing interviews, not only do I now know everything about New York City parks, but I can talk for an inordinate amount of time about free range pig farming.

11. I had forgotten, after living for four years in Irvine, that in most places, precipitation lasts for more than five minutes at a time. Every time it rains or snows here, I run frantically outside, trying to get a little water on face before it stops! And then it continues for hours. It is so much less stressful not having to worry about missing it!

12. I was walking by Eugene Lang College some months ago, and two guys were out painting a lovely black wrought iron fence an astonishingly hideous shade of brown.

13. The City College of New York looks like a fucking castle. Seriously. It's beautiful. It's all stone and crenelations and turrets and archways and acres of emerald grass.

14. Columbia, on the other hand, looks exactly how I expected it to. And here is an interesting little comparison: At CCNY this grass has signs permitting - rather, encouraging - walking and sitting and lying on the grass but prohibiting sport. At Columbia there are no signs, but all the lawns are surrounded entirely by hedges, rendering signs unnecessary anyway.

15. Walking past one of the buildings at Columbia, I saw on the ground a pair of pigeon wings connected by a shredded, bloody tendon. No hint of the pigeon - just the connected wings. How fascinatingly grotesque!

16. I love to look from 60th down Amsterdam or Columbus, at the city and the sky between the walls of retreating skyscrapers. It is breathtaking.

17. I wasn't going to write a song about New York, because everyone write a song about New York, right? But then I decided I might as well get it out so I could move on. Done.

18. I love the "Welcome to Sunnyside" banners strung across the streets in my neighborhood.

19. I was walking home on Greenpoint the other day, by Nita's bakery, and a police car pulled up, turned out its lights, the cops started to get out - and a little guy in black who'd been sort of loitering under the eaves up in front of me took off like a shot. For a moment I thought "shit! shit!" (meaning, "what on earth am I going to do if I find myself in the middle of a police chase?"), but the police took no notice and headed on into the bakery.

20. I love the patterns the rain makes on the tree outside my window, backlit in orange gold by a hidden street light. I can look at it for a long time.

21. The way the sunset glows down the streets to my left when I walk north on 40th from my apartment to the 7 is nothing short of astonishing. It makes me gasp every time.


So I've had at least 5 people in the last few months tell me I should start a blog, because apparently having-moved-recently-to-New-York-City-and-trying-to-find-work-in-music-slash-theatre = having an exciting life. And I admit, the prospect of sharing my thoughts on life more publicly than I probably should has grown on me the more I've thought about it. So I caved. Hello! Here I am!

Be forewarned: I am given to purple prose and the excessive use of parentheses. Furthermore, I am inclined to scribble down things that I think at the time are poetical and profound, and it takes some time for me to get over my initial flings with these scribblings and realize how ridiculous I am being. Please bear with me during these unfortunate episodes.

Also, alliteration is my second favorite literary device. Ten points if you know or guess my first favorite; if you can recognize its use, twenty extra points!

As far as I'm concerned, those are the relevant introductory glob** facts, especially since if you are reading this you are most likely well acquainted with me to begin with. Let the wild rumpus start!

*For those of you who did not take four years of Latin (or live with me while I was taking four years of Latin), this means "Hello." Or, more literally, "Be healthy!" That said, rest easy: I am not likely to indulge in classical pedantry on a regular basis on this glob, given that I have forgotten most of it.

**I accidentally mistyped "blog" as "glob" in the first footnote, and I'm kind of enamored with it.