Thursday, December 27, 2007

New York Holiday

I turn off the news quickly after finishing my coffee. Benazir Bhutto has been killed this morning, and if the headlines aren't shrieking about that, it's a more local atrocity, or fluff about New Year's Eve champagnes I can't afford. I've got an appointment at a job agency for creative tech workers soon, anyway, and I can't be late.

Exiting the subway, I fish out my umbrella to fend off the oddly warm drizzle. Bryant park looks festive, nonetheless, with a Christmas tree, shopping stalls, a skating rink tent and a small but ornate merry-go-round. I'm rarely in this part of town, so I wish I'd left myself more time to wander and brought my camera, but instead I silently hail Patience and Fortitude, the NY public library lions, over my shoulder as I cross the street.

Some kind of meeting is taking place as I enter the agency, and my interviewing rep asks me to wait outside for a moment. I take off my coat, pat my hair, and check to see if my laces are tied. I should be wearing my good brown shoes, but I couldn't find them, so I ended up in the fraying ones with the recalcitrant laces. They're tied, but I realize just then that these work pants that I haven't worn for weeks sometimes unzip themselves, and my hand flies to my lower belly. Wide open! I sneakily yank it up, but a woman rounds the corner as I finish, and I wonder if she saw me with my hand around my crotch. I turn to examine a nearby print on the wall of a Scottish castle and pretend I was searching my pockets, but I'm sure I'm sporting a giveaway blush.

When I'm taken in for the interview, the rep seems very nice. I'm encouraged, also, that this is a small agency that caters specifically to creative techie types, which is exactly what I've been for the last eleven years. I'm beginning to have a little hope that I won't have to start begging the regular agencies for corporate receptionist work, when she cautions me that while my resume looks good, clients usually look to hire people for a solid week of day hours, an option which my two mornings of classes will not allow. I try to remain upbeat and tell her that I am absolutely open for late night hours, weekends and one-day gigs, if they get them. In my mind, I am already rehearsing the call I intend to make to a local veterinarian, in hopes he has an opening in his office, instead, as a part time assistant or just to update his mess of a website.

Back out into the drizzle. I call my girlfriend and she's feeling so sick she doesn't want me to go to TKTS to look for show tickets, after all. She just wants me to pick up some vegetarian soup. I decide, since I am in the neighborhood, to swing by Grand Central Terminal to see if the holiday light show is still in swing. It is, and I perch on a balcony overlooking the throng in the glorious, historic main concourse waiting for it to begin. While waiting, I people-watch. Mostly I see what looks to be groups of tourists, clutching cameras. I begin a game of spot-the-gays and realize it's almost impossible to pick out gay people in Grand Central, at least today. Is my gaydar damaged? Where are they? I briefly imagine my voice ringing against the marble as I shout out "where my gays at?" à la Kathy Griffin. Fortunately, the light show begins first.

The show is pretty, mainly kaleidoscopic light effects with music, but I find myself disappointed that there are no lasers. What's a light show without lasers? The setting is lovely though, with dancing stars projected over the famous constellation mural on the ceiling. It is even more fun, however, to watch the children who are watching the show; eyes bright, laughing, dancing.

Better get home to continue sending out resumes. I treat myself to a piece of chocolate and a book at Hudson News. It's usually when I'm at my most desperately broke that I find myself compelled to buy fiction I can't afford, just to have some escape. The book is about a young man in veterinary school during the depression, who ends up caring for animals in a traveling circus. It's almost as if it were written for me. I almost wish for a life like that, except I know it would be incredibly hard, especially as a woman. I glance up and see a poster for a new cartoon movie about "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything." On second thought, that sounds more like my ideal lifestyle.

My mood is strange as I exit the subway and head out for soup. It's been a week of grey weather, and I've been alternately bored, wracked with fear and depression over job hunting, and filled with holiday spirit just by looking at our tree or outside decorations. It's almost a miracle I got all A grades my first semester, but I'm finding it hard to be proud of myself while I don't know what kind of work I'll find when, and everything is constantly in flux. As I head up the block I glance at the mini-yard in front of the house where the local evangelist lives. I usually think of the neighbor as a bit of a nut, as he has a giant, bloody cross on the front of his brownstone year-round. This time of year he also breaks out the lighted nativity scene, though, and I observe Joseph, Mary, the wise men and angels standing solemnly in the mist, grubby but steadfast. Suddenly, my pace falters as my eyes flick down at the manger. It holds just some straw and a sign: "please return the baby Jesus."

I know just how he feels.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Homebound Lesbians

It's that time of year - it's sit on our asses time!

Yes, we always plan to do festive stuff, but it seems that every year we are so exhausted from the stress of finishing stuff up at work (or school), that at least one of us gets sick, and we both lie around like cold-stunned sea mammals, intent only on resting and building up our blubber.

Despite our limited budget, we found a cheap performance of the Messiah to go to last weekend. But we ate the tickets, because Mrs. Nator didn't feel well. Then, this weekend, we had tickets to go see Jollyship the Whizbang do a dirty pyrate-themed holiday puppet rock opera. But we are so brain dead that we showed up a day late.

It's Christmas eve, and we don't even have a tree, yet. Mrs. Nator is starting to sneeze. And we keep turning to each other and asking, "do you want to do something," or "what do you want to do," and then replying "I dunno... (snifflemopeshnort...)"

But at least we're doing it together.

Here's some pyrate puppet ridiculous to cheer up your holidays. And remember, Santa likes rum in his milk.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Quandaries of a Privileged White Girl

So, the holidays are upon us. While I should be spending all my time looking for a job (okay, okay - I've started!), I am equally sentimental, hidebound and and premenstrual enough that I've decided to dedicate a few hours to making cookies.

Like many families, mine has a tradition of making Christmas cookies. My mother used to make dozens of dozens, filling large boxes full to send to people as presents (particularly the kids when we went off to school) and keeping plenty on hand to snack on for months. Sometimes there would still be some stored in the freezer by the time the next Christmas rolled around.

For a few years, I followed her example and would wind myself up into a tizzy of cookie making. However, eventually, she and I both realized that, while cookie making is fun in the short term, once you get past a couple hundred dollars' worth of ingredients and a half-day's worth of cooking, it gets overrated real fast. Neither one of wanted to have stress-related breakdowns over whether we'd get all the damn cookies done, or who burned what, or how to get them shipped in time, anymore. And so, every year we try valiantly to resist making too many cookies. Yet, every year, the urge to bake returns.

So, what to do? I want to make a few cookies - enough to make us feel cozy, indulgent and satisfied as we loll around over our break, despite not exchanging presents due to a tight budget. But which to make? When you have multiple kinds of cookies enshrined as family traditions, how can you choose just a few?

It's puzzling enough that Mrs. Nator and I are setting aside a particular time to talk about it. I happen to know that Ma Nator is making gingerbread and chocolate chip, and Sis and Bro-in-law Nator usually make pinwheels and ranger cookies, so those are out. For me, I think I'm going to set the rule that I am not going to make any cookies just because they're someone else's favourite. If the Mrs. & I can do without 'em, they're off the list. Also, we don't need multiples of particular flavours. One kind of chocolate item, like brownies, will do, as will one fruity item and one buttery item. And for heaven's sake, no kinds that have to sit around for several days, or be chilled overnight, or what-have-you, just to get done. Let's keep it simple, people. This is supposed to be fun and fulfilling, not a chore.

So, my short list this far? Brownies, macaroons and jewel brooches (a buttery cookie with jam in the middle). And possibly those white trash concoctions made of Saltines, butter, sugar and chocolate chips that my ex-roommate introduced to us. That's it.

Now watch me break these rules just because we "must" bring those pecan sandies and/or lemon cookies to Mrs. Nator's family in Atlanta, or everyone will cry and think we don't love them.

What are your holiday cookie musts?


Philly lost. Well, congratulations to all the choirs on COTC for working so hard and putting on a good show. I think everyone had a good time, anyway.

Now, let's go cheer ourselves up by playing addictive games to end world hunger (my highest score so far is 48 49) and making plans for Saturday.

Happy Eid al-Adha, everyone!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

GOOOO LIIIMUUUUU!!! (aka Reality TV is Weird)

I've been in studio audiences for shows before, but being there for the live broadcast of Clash of the Choirs last night and seeing my good friend perform was pretty bizarre. I mean it's just cognitive dissonance all over the place.

First of all, TV production sets are always way smaller and rattier than they appear onscreen. Even though I knew this, it surprised Mrs. Nator, and it still makes things feel a bit strange. The whole time you're wondering, "how can that chipped, spray-painted construction of particle board even hold together, much less come across as nice-looking on television?" I guess it can, although I wonder about it as HD becomes the norm. Considering that, it makes even more sense that they filled the room with some kind of artificial smoke or mist, to pick out the spotlights and give everything a soft-focus glow.

Secondly, they are almost always cold. David Letterman's set is notoriously freezing (I can attest to that), but this was outside-temperature cold. I don't think Mrs. Nator took off her coat once last night. Maybe they wanted everybody to feel like they were outdoors caroling for the holidays.

Then comes the lead-in comic. Pretty much all comedy or live contest shows have a lead-in, who tries to whip the audience into a frenzy of adrenaline while convincing them to follow his cues to clap, cheer or quickly become silent like a bunch of lemmings. He is sort of the extremely annoying, unfunny horse trainer to the audience. In this case, the guy was even more annoying and unfunny than usual. In short order, the audience were amusing ourselves by making jokes about him to his face. I'm sure he's more than used to it, however, and he gets the paycheck in the end, so whatever works, I suppose.

Now for the most discomfiting part. When we watch reality shows at home, Mrs. Nator and I, like most normal people, spend the entire show making nonstop snarky comments about the contestants, the judges, the production values, the hammy oversell of sob stories, poor choices of song and choreography and just about everything else. Yes, we usually end up rooting for someone, but you and I both know that the running bitchy voice-over from the couch is what brings families together. But when you're at a live event where people clearly are emotional in earnest, trying their best and sometimes even in earshot (and one of you has cramps), in makes it a little more difficult to bring the cynical observational humour.

Difficult, but not impossible. At the beginning of the show, Mrs. Nator stated flatly that she was not going to stand up and clap like a trained monkey (or horse or lemming, if they could clap) for just anyone. She would only reward actual good performances, or things she gave a crap about. She was surprised at how often I clapped, but I told her that in person one should be a wee bit nicer and show appreciation for people's efforts, even if they were not the best. I also told her that if she sung again at the office Christmas party this year, I would be sure to only be supportive of her if she sounded like Renée Fleming. She clapped a few more times after that.

Despite applauding, we were able to keep up a few closely whispered snark sessions between us. We had fun mocking the comic, of course, and the bizarre sinister version of holiday music they played for suspense during the voting results sections. However, the most maligned thing that evening was probably Michael Bolton's ridiculously obvious hairpiece, which looked like a yarmulke made of cheap carpet remnants. Everybody knows you have a bald spot, girlfriend. If you're going to go the short-hair route and try to make everybody forget about the (unforgettable) mullet years, why ruin it by slapping a dead monchichi on your pate? Embrace the bald, honey child, and live with it.

However, we couldn't mock everything. The most difficult part was reconciling our feelings of being jaded about and sick of the milking of sob stories with the fact that we knew the people who had been forced to talk about their sob stories were actually sobbing about them. In fact, my friend Liimu, the very person we were rooting for, actually broke down sobbing onstage twice that night.

So I found myself with these mixed feelings of being proud of her for her solo, and understanding all the backstory that made her cry (her father died of cancer, her mother survived two bouts with it, her association of the song with song seriously crappy parts of her life, she's worked all her life for the opportunity to sing for a large audience and her only chance could be taken away if the were voted off, etc.), but at the same time feeling oddly manipulated and like the whole thing was inappropriate. I wanted to protect her by getting the damn camera out of her face, and yet I knew she had worked to get it there. I knew that, overall, the important things were both this opportunity for her and the chance to bring home some money for the cancer charity Patti LaBelle had chosen, even while I knew any of those celebrities could have made a greater contribution out of their pocket change if they wanted to. Most of all, I had to appreciate her performance, emotion, and the awesome Philly choir, while they were singing Jesus Take the Wheel, one of the most appallingly hokey, eyeroll-inducing songs to come down the popular music pike in the last couple decades, at least. In the span of a few short minutes, I found myself going from loathing the song to cheering for it.

I think I sprained my brain, people. I slept until one in the afternoon today, and I still feel concussed. Doctor, will I ever be able to make fun of people freely again?

I will say, however, that there were some wonderful high moments. I was very proud of Liimu, and team LaBelle, and actually was impressed by how much better every choir and performer sounded live than on television. Seriously, they must have the dreaded awards-show bad-mixing problem on COTC, because watching it back at home on TiVo did not do them justice.

Also, seeing Patti LaBelle sing Over the Rainbow live with her choir has to be, as Mrs. Nator put it, one of the Top Ten Gay Experiences of our lives. Miss Patti is a force of nature, and she was spectacular. I cannot believe they missed some of the best parts on the live broadcast, where she hurled the mic stand across the stage and kicked her shoes into the sky during the climax of the song. They referred to it later, but the cameras missed it. And she knocked everybody else's shoes off, too. To quote Mrs. Nator again, Patti LaBelle is like a wonderful drag queen homage to herself. Halleluia!

Finally, I was thrilled that Liimu got such a long solo, and really did well with it, despite all the stress, hard work and emotion she has been going through for the past month over this. I really hope she gets more opportunities out of this, because she is awesome and deserves it. I love her a lot and am so proud of her! You Go, Girl!

I just hope she will still love me when she learns I really don't like that song.

P.S.: I actually feel a little uncomfortable sharing her emotional breakdown here, but since it's been on national TV and YouTube already, here's a video of her performance for those who missed it.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Hot Hot Hot!

What's so hot around here? Is it the fact that I just found out that I got all A grades in my courses this semester, despite the hospitalization?

Is it these views of the Pu'u O'o vent and flowing lava as taken by me from a helicopter over Kilauea volcano in Hawai'i?

(clicky makey biggy)

No! It is my stepsister and old friend Liimu and the rest of Patti LaBelle's choir on Clash of the Choirs, 8:00 PM on NBC, tonight and tomorrow! I mean, sure, the show's a little cheesy, but watch them tear it up in this video. Be sure to watch and vote, Vote, VOTE as Liimu is supposed to have a solo on one of the last two nights. Note: she's the one in the front left, light skinned with a black skirt and sparkly top, dancin' like a natural-born foo'.


Saturday, December 15, 2007


Two more of my photos got randomly picked up for, a travel guide site. No money in it, but it was another nice surprise. The odd thing is, I think the pictures they chose (this and this) are some of the crappiest ones I have up on Flickr. No accounting for taste, I guess.

Anyway, this may just have motivated me to finally process the photos of Hawaii and NYC I've had on my computer for ages, and get them up. I may have a bit of free time, now that I'm on winter break.

Also, maybe I'll take some photos of the Messiah concert we're going to at Trinity Church tomorrow. Unless I fall over and injure myself on the ice and snow we're supposed to get overnight. Hey, this is me we're talking about.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Things Made of Awesome

Last week of finals, my lovelies, but I haven't forgotten you. Here are a couple little things to entertain you in my absence.

1. I love the National Geographic Atmosphere podcast. Here is one filled with faboo cinematography and surprising animals. Bonus points if you know the name of the first critter without looking it up.

2. If that's not enough for you, spend some time perusing American Science & Surplus. It's not just the fun products and cheap prices; it's the little drawings and droll descriptions that get me.

Stay warm, kiddies!

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Can't Talk, Studying

Heading into finals. Will I ever be mildly interesting again? Talk amongst yourselves.