I will make every recipe I own (and there are a lot!) (and I will probably make them in order; they are currently catalogued in one enormous binder, alphabetically within food type, printed from similarly catalogued files on my computer, plus a folder full of new as-yet uncatalogued recipes on my computer and another actual hard copy folder full of different new as-yet uncatalogued recipes) (am I a little bit obsessive-compulsive? yes.) and eat them and rate them and make notes and throw out the bad ones and put beautiful new copies of all the good ones in beautiful new even-better-organized binders and then cook them all the time!
The weather here today is warm and breezy and overcast and beautifully, almost unbearably pleasant. So the occasional drizzle - drops cool and big and slow and far between - is surprising, until you realize that actually it's less surprising than it is perfect.
Here is something I think is just the most fun thing to do all the time: Go on the library website and put books from my enormous to-read list on hold. It is even more fun than reading said books.
Here is what I do now instead of putting books on hold on the library website: Go on the Netflix website and go through all the new "movies you'll love" and put them in my queue. Thanks to this new habit, I now have 237 movies in said queue, not to mention the 68 in my instant queue.
God help me.*
*Not really. Don't worry, I haven't started believing. You may cease freaking out. :P
The day before yesterday, Alex and I went to Flushing Meadow Park!
Flushing Meadow Park is a flagship park - enormous, green, full of many things such as museums, World's Fair sculptures, and Shea Stadium - at the end of the 7 line in Queens (well, almost. Flushing proper and its subway stop are one stop past the park).
We disembarked at 111th St., on the west side of the park, and walked in. Except we were walking along the road, and it turns into an overpass as it goes by the stadium, and you can't turn off of it and it crosses right over the park, which in that area is actually just a gross industrial mess and not hardly a park at all! And then we ran into a construction area! So we turned around and once we got back to the Mets subway stop, which we had passed on the way in, we noticed a pathway up and across the industrial mess, headed south. We took this path, which was like a boardwalk in the air with no water around, and came down amid beautiful greenery!
We explored - ventured into the lobby of the Queens Museum of Art - gazed at the sculpture of the world leftover from the World's Fair - I picked a flower or two with which to adorn my hair (only the ones that were profuse!) - wandered past scores of people engaging in soccer and volleyball and cricket and various other athletic pastimes - found a quieter green spot with a hill and some trees - had a picnic out of my Madeleine lunchbox! I had a peanut butter sandwich and a banana; he had saltines with chicken pate (Tom brought it home from class - none of us actually buys pate!); we both had See's candy, which had arrived the day before from my grandmother (thank you!). Delicious and delightful! Gustatory pleasure in an inspiring location! What could be better?
Flushing Meadow Park is for sure going to be my go-to park instead of Central Park from now on. It's wider and less citified, and it takes about the same amount of time to get to. I love it!
Last night Alex and I went and saw 4@15, the four fifteen-minute original musicals produced by the UCI New York Satellite Program and the York Theatre Company. They were great! I knew almost everyone in the cast, which surprised me and also made it more fun. But also I was surprised and impressed by the quality of all four of the musicals! In the last few years, usually one or two have been very good and the others have been lackluster or weird and confusing, but this year they were all four engaging, understandable, creative, and - perhaps most importantly - made good use of almost all of the actors, which has also not always been the case.
Anyway, the first one was about couples shopping in IKEA. Despite this, it was surprisingly dramatically compelling and very fun, with lyrics and book by Amanda Yesnowitz, whom Alex and I saw at Birdland a few months ago! She is for real. We chatted with her after the show, and it was very exciting! I gave her my card - also very exciting!
The second was about a clown entertaining people on the 2 train uptown - but it took a surprising turn for the sad about halfway through, as we learned why one person wouldn't smile and how lonely everyone else actually was. Which makes it sound kind of pathetic and downer-y, but I promise it wasn't. My only regret is that they didn't make better use of the talented, cute, pseudo-Jamaican train conductor.
The third was odd and depressing and oddly, depressingly hilarious, about two lonely people who almost meet 1,000 times, during which time they decide to do their own dental work for their own bizarre reasons and to similarly unhappy results.
And the fourth was about the new, suave gentlemen in the Beth Shalom Retirement Home! That was probably my favorite, if only because of all the Jew jokes.
And then we had pizza, and went with Kelly and Kat and Kaitlin and many of the other Satellite people to a bar near their apartment at Lex and maybe 32nd, and I didn't drink because I was tired and hay feverish and also a pauper, but it was fun anyway, and then we bid them farewell and trained away home!
Yesterday I was feeling antsy and missing California, so after I finished my transcribing for the day, I went for a walk! I walked all the way down Greenpoint through Long Island City and into Brooklyn, to where it ends in a little park at the river across from Stuyvesant Town.
It was lovely! It heads over the freeway and through industrial north Brooklyn, over the Newtown Creek (I think the road goes up for boats sometimes, or used to; there are railroad barriers at either end and a big serrated metal divide across the center), past the Newtown Creek Water Pollution Control Plant (the smell of which I happen to enjoy), and through the neighborhood of Greenpoint (which I happen to know does not have as many green parks as Williamsburg, probably because it is not as gentrified, although it seems to be on its way). Things are blooming where there is room for things to bloom, and people were out and about in Greenpoint even though it was a little chilly (I wore a sweater and long sleeves and was comfortable).
The little park at the end of the road is clean and has some picnic tables, but the grass is not in great shape and the half of it closest to the water is fenced off. This is because it is about to begin renovations, according to the sign on the fence. I knew that there was a big waterfront park project along the river; it is interesting to see bits of it for myself.
Oh, parks. What don't I know at this point about the New York City parks and their enormous, complicated mess of funding, development, and regulations? My brain is filled with parks.
Alex and I hung out and read a little in Madison Square Park the other day, by the Shake Shack, which can't be worthy of its two hour line but which I expect I'll try at some point anyway. What I know about Madison Square Park is that the conservancy that runs about half of it recently replaced all the grass, and is keeping it fenced off for a while to protect the investment, and there was a big to-do about it in the surrounding community.
Anyway. When Alex stops being sick, we're going to use one of his days off to go explore Flushing Meadow Park, which is the big flagship park at the end of the 7 line (about as far as you can go into Queens on the subway [is it still called a subway when it comes out above ground? do I have to call the 7 in Queens the elevated train?]). Actually, maybe we'll walk there. It doesn't look like it's more than about 2 miles, on the map. It was a little over a mile and a half along Greenpoint to the East River. And I do love walking :)
*Before you answer, that is rhetorical. I am fully aware of the many things I have to think about. Parks just happen to dominate my working life.
Cheryl and Alex and I went to Chocolate by the Bald Man! The bald man is chef Max Brenner, and the restaurant is Tom's favorite. He recommends it to everyone who asks him where to eat in New York, and before this adventure, Alex and Tom and Tom's parents and brother and Alex's parents and also Jamie had all been there (and returned with glowing reviews), but I had not. So we went!
It was as good as I had been told. There is an enormous (probably 12 8"x8" pages) chocolate dessert and drink menu that comes with the regular menu. Eager to try everything, we ordered chocolate drinks, a shared appetizer, entrees, and dessert. All of the above together, pricewise, come to what is for us a very expensive but marginally affordable meal (maybe a one or twice a year kind of thing, although we could come get just dessert more often); for your standard middle class citizen, it is probably an average-to-slightly-pricey lunch or dinner out. Maybe $30/person, including tax and tip.
Anyway, as an appetizer, we ordered the waffle fries (which looked like mini waffles!) dusted with cocoa and chili powder, with chocolate ranch dressing and some other creamy delicious sauce I don't remember on the side. They were good - especially the sauces, although I am not really a ranch person - but they were nothing like what was to come!
Alex got some kind of delicious chocolate butterscotchy milkshake; I forget what Cheryl got, and I had dark European hot chocolate! It comes in a "hug cup," which you are to hold with both hands sort of wrapped around it so it is like it is hugging you, sort of metaphorically.
I love my hot chocolate in a hug cup!
For our main courses, Alex ordered fish tacos that he loved (I didn't try any, because I was filling up so fast, but maybe I'll order them next time!), Cheryl had some pasta that I didn't think looked that delicious from its description on the menu but a bite of which sent me head over heels, and I had steak quesadilla with sweetish green and spicy salmon-colored sauces, for one of the best lunches of my life.
Cheryl's delicious and beautiful pasta!
My delicious and beautiful quesadilla! On an exciting wooden plate!
The little bottle had the spicy pink sauce;
the green sauce, as you can see,
came already patterned on the food.
And then dessert! Chocolate-banana-caramel egg rolls with caramel and chocolate dipping sauce; chocolate-peanut-butter-banana crepe; dark chocolate cake with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream.
The desserts were good; they were certainly worth eating, anyway. But despite the name of the restaurant, I actually preferred the entrees! The desserts were better than any other desserts I've ever had at a restaurant, as far as I recall, but that's not crazy high praise - most restaurant dessert I don't even bother to order, because when I do order it, I rarely eat more than a few bites, because it is just not worth it. I can make tremendously better desserts at home! These desserts were for sure worth eating - and also beautiful - but I don't really care for banana in my chocolate and peanut butter and caramel, and the chocolate cake the waitress said was too rich and chocolaty for her did not blow my mind.
That said, they were beautiful, and also I ate them! And everybody else's mind was blown. I think my dessert standards are peculiarly high. It comes of being spoiled growing up.
I thought I took a picture of Chocolate by the Bald Man's cake,
but I couldn't find it.
So here, instead, for your viewing pleasure,
is a picture of the chocolate walnut cake I baked yesterday.
Here are the four things I miss most about the West Coast, in no particular order:
In 'n' Out;
Why are they all food?
I do intend to make sourdough, actually. But you have to have sourdough starter, which means you have to have it at 75-85 degrees for a week, which means I will be waiting until May or June. And also - crap! - I will be gone for seven weeks over the summer (Long Lake Camp extended my stay), which means I will have to have someone feed it while I am gone. Blech. But it will make delicious bread!!! Yay.
Here is another stupid thing about the East Coast: The produce is all packaged. This means I have to get six bananas at a time and they are all at the same stage of ripeness, and because I can't eat six bananas in three days, this means that two to three bananas always get too overripe to eat. Some of them inevitably end up in the trash, because how much banana bread can one person make?
It also means that if I want to make something with mushrooms, I have to buy a whole pound. I don't need a whole pound of mushrooms. I never use a whole pound of mushrooms. I probably could, actually, if I committed to it, but so far, both times I bought mushrooms, I have made what I intended to make and then the rest of the mushrooms slipped my mind (the first time I just forgot about them even though they were in front of my nose; the second time I put them in the produce drawer to make them last longer, but that was even worse, because the produce drawer is not transparent so I forgot about them even more thoroughly) and I ended up throwing them out when they got moldy.
Anyway, the point is, packaged produce means more plastic is produced, means you can't choose individual fruits and vegetables to your own satisfaction, makes it easier to be wasteful, and costs more! I am against it.
Tom says that Whole Foods has individual produce, but who wants to go all the way to Union Square and pay twice as much every time they go grocery shopping? Well, actually, Tom does. But Tom is, of course, a chef. It is enough of an effort for me to go to Union Square to Trader Joe's once a month, and brave the epic lines (why is there still only one TJ's in NY? They would clearly make an enormous profit on a second one), and that is because many things there are cheaper and all of them significantly more delicious than the things at FoodTown, not to mention the wonderful variety, and also I have a gift card (thank you, Ruthy!). But Whole Foods every week for my produce? I don't think so.
This is about when Cheryl and I were waiting in line for the student rush tickets of Promises, Promises.
Student Rush tickets are available for many Broadway shows. They're usually $20-30, and you get them by standing in line before the box office opens in the morning and, when you get to the window (if there are still tickets left - you usually have to get there pretty early so as not to be too far back in line), showing your student ID, which allows you to buy up to two tickets (you get what seat you get).
So Cheryl and I decided to do this for Promises, Promises. The box office opened at 10; we planned to arrive at 8 but due to a slightly late start and then a mix-up transferring at 45th Road to a train that turned out not to be working at the time, which I would have known if I had checked HopStop, and then having to walk all the way back to the 7 and wait for another train and then have a slightly longer walk though (a delightfully empty due to it being the morning) Times Square, we did not arrive until 8:45. We were about the 15th people in line.
This concerned us. How many tickets were available? we wondered. I've done student rush a few times, but not enough to know what the standard number of available tickets is. Plus, everyone could theoretically be buying two; I was there myself to buy two, as Alex wanted to come but had to work at 10. But people kept filtering in behind us and seeming confident enough - and we remembered that there were two shows that day, a matinee and an evening show, and a lot of people seemed to be buying matinee tickets (we were headed for the evening show), so we stayed in line.
Then Cheryl realized that although she'd thought she had her UCI student ID, she actually had only her Arundel ID, which doesn't say specifically on it that she is a teacher, but we were not convinced that even little Cheryl could pass as an elementary school student. However, her Arundel ID conveniently (although for no reason either of us could guess) has an "S" on the bottom under her picture, which we figured could stand for "student teacher" in a pinch, right? But I texted Alex anyway, asking him to bring his student ID by on his way to work if possible.
We fretted for an hour, and then Alex arrived with a surprising amount of time to spare and his ID, which he gave to Cheryl. We all assumed that this would be fine, because as long as there is one person standing in line and one seemingly-current student ID, who cares if they match? It's not like any extra tickets are being gotten out of the deal.
Tell that to the angry ticket seller in the box office window! He was middle-aged and astonishingly angry. Here is how our interaction proceeded.
Cheryl: Are there still three tickets left for the evening show?
Angry Box Office Denizen: (growling) Yes. Where are your IDs??
(Cheryl and I produce IDs)
ABOD: (to Cheryl, after looking at Alex's ID) Who is that?
Cheryl: Um, that's my friend?
ABOD: (extremely sarcastically) Where is he?
Cheryl: (in a small voice) He had to be at work....
ABOD: (impatient and furious) Well, where's YOUR ID??
Cheryl: (in a very small voice, pulling out Arundel ID) Um, I have my student teacher ID, although it's not a proper college ID....
(ABOD grunts and turns away for about 30 confusing and nerve-wracking seconds, then turns back around)
ABOD: (growling) Sixty dollars.
(The website and also the sign said that student rush tickets were $30 each, so we are confused and concerned at this pronouncement.)
Me and Cheryl: (as politely as possible) Wait, how much?
ABOD: SIXTY. DOLLARS.
(I hand over sixty dollars. ABOD again grunts and turns away without saying anything for a nervewracking thirty seconds, then turns back around with 3 tickets, which he pushes to us.)
Me and Cheryl: Thank you, sir.
(ABOD does not respond, and we scurry away)
So that was astonishing and intimidating, but we got three tickets for less than we expected! All was well (despite our being somewhat shell-shocked), and I bought a grilled cheese sandwich from a cart and used the bathroom in a hotel and we headed for Battery Park! The end.
My mom and I were talking about words that get applied only to men or only to women.
She pointed out after I referred to Cheryl as "spunky" that no one would ever call a man "spunky." She also mentioned "bustling," in reference to an article she read about a female CEO. I mentioned feisty, which is about my least favorite word ever; it refers to a woman who shows spirit but no power; it's a diminutive disguised as a compliment, and it reinforces a man's position of power over the "feisty" woman. It's a sort of "oh, how cute, the kitten has claws" situation, and it makes me so mad.
We couldn't really think of similarly disempowering words used toward men, which makes sense. Men aren't thought of as inherently lesser; when one wants to degrade a man, one calls him a woman.
So Cheryl and Alex and I saw Promises, Promises, which is an oldish (70s, I think) musical revived on Broadway, still in previews.
The book to the show is by Neil Simon, who (very unoriginally on my part, I admit) very well might be my favorite playwright; naturally, it is brilliant. The dialogue is both hilarious and incredibly dramatically compelling.
The actors are delightful.* The leading man, whose name I have forgotten, has a lovely voice and a nice enthusiasm; Kristin Chenowith as the other lead is as predictably brilliant as the book. I never get tired of her and that weird-but-so-gorgeous voice.
The problem with the show, of course, is that the music is by Burt Bacharach.** There's just no getting around that, is there? The opening number, "Half as Big as Life," is fun and well put together but a little repetitive and a little anticlimactic. Fine, I can live with one dud song - until I discover that every song in the show is the same dud song! What was going on? The orchestration always had this identical laid-back dun DUH... duh dun DUH going on; every song was the same tempo, had the same melodic background, might very well have been in the same key! (On that note, I'm not sure I heard a single internal key change. I mean, come on, I might complain about the kind of clumsy modulations both musical theatre and pop composers so frequently use as a substitute for creating genuine drama in a song, but at least they've got something going on! And for god's sake, the answer isn't just to leave out not only drama but key changes as well!) Even the tango was super-chill! I didn't know it was possible for a tango to be so boring. "Say a Little Prayer for You" had nothing to do with its context in the show*** -- but at least it didn't ruin the moment it inhabited, unlike virtually every other song (have I mentioned yet that Kristin Chenowith had three identical solo ballads about the same thing, none of which had any dramatic arc whatsoever? She gave 'em everything she had, but I swear, even Carol frickin' Channing couldn't have given those songs any personality. At least they sounded pretty. Not that Chenowith's astonishing range was used at all in this show. I don't think any of the songs encompassed more than about half an octave). The show got to be very predictable: The script would seize me and build me up to a peak of either hilarity or tragic suspense, and then the orchestra would come in and I would plummet back down (or, by the end, sideways into the entirely wrong kind of hilarity. Laughing doesn't count if you're laughing at the music). If I were Neil Simon, I would have knocked Bacharach a good one for ruining my work. This is one of the few musicals I have ever wished was a straight play.
Actually, I take it back. "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" is a great song and is totally appropriate for its moment in the show, and the way the leads sang it together, sort of awkwardly, reminds me of when Ellen Page and Michael Cera sing "Anyone Else But You" at the end of Juno, which is my favorite part of the movie, and anyway I love it. It arrived about three quarters of the way through the second act, and I thought to myself, "Aha! The second song in the show!"
The choreography was good, in that it was fully appropriate for the music and the time period; I can't say much more. The dancers were talented but clearly still working hard at sticking together; I fully expect, however, that they'll be on top of it by the time they get out of previews. The set was period-appropriate. Basically, the production as a whole was great.
The show is based on an old movie, The Apartment, which I enjoyed a couple years ago and which I'm kind of proud of myself for figuring out. Unfortunately, it turns into an attempt at a sort of conglomeration of The Apartment, How to Succeed in Business without Really Trying, and Mad Men, and just falls so sadly short of all of them.
And that's about it!
P.S. I perhaps have not yet mentioned the song "Turkey Lurkey Time," which I would suggest was the pinnacle of the show's absurdity, and not in a good way. The title - and my snarky aside to Alex that it was the worst version of "Steam Heat" ever - I believe sufficiently explain the entire number, so I will leave it at that.
*I should mention that Katie Finneran as Marge MacDougall was the most hilarious thing I have seen in years, and absolutely stole the show, despite being in only one and a half scenes, and I hope to see her in everything from now on.****
**Here's what the New York Times said about the show when it first appeared: "Though the work featured memorable dance sequences by a choreographer on the rise named Michael Bennett, what really set it apart was its score, written by the solid-gold pop composer Burt Bacharach with lyrics by Hal David. Mr. Bacharach introduced to Broadway not only the insistently rhythmic, commercial-jingle buoyancy of 1960's soft-core radio fare, but also a cinematic use of Teflon-smooth, offstage backup vocals." No wonder I hated it. Those are for sure the last musical characteristics I would have asked anyone to introduce to Broadway. Just sayin'.
***I just learned via Wikipedia after writing this review that "Say a Little Prayer" and also one of Chenowith's innumerable ballads, "A House is Not a Home," were added for this revival so that Chenowith would have more to sing. While I appreciate anything she sings, I have to say that that was a TERRIBLE CHOICE. Were two big boring anticlimactic attention-losing ballads not enough? And if they were putting in "Say a Little Prayer" (maybe as at attempt at something upbeat? Given that both the ballads and the upbeat songs were actually all the same tempo?), couldn't they at least have added a key change or two? I'm afraid I have to subtract production points for this, which I previously had production quality/casting/directing/etc. in a relatively top notch on Shoshana's Broadway Ladder of Approval. Too bad.
****Oh shit! She was Sally Bowles in the Cabaret revival not too long ago! I bet she was wonderful and I wish I had seen it! And she was in My Favorite Year! I think she's my favorite actor ever.