Thursday, November 30

Ho, Ho...hum.

Whether it's 70-degrees in New York City or not, the holidays are upon us.

Here's how I know: those damned windows at Macy's are back.

Now, I have to admit, I am not really familiar with the tradition of the holiday windows at Macy's. I knew they existed, and I imagined them to be these lush, beautiful, artistic outpourings of holiday spirit. But I generally avoid heavily-trafficked retail areas like the plague, especially around Christmastime.

This year, however, one of my gigs (oh, the life of a freelancer!) has brought me to the Herald Square subway station, which is right by the Macy's windows, with some regularity. And a week or so ago, I came up from underground at 34th Street and was confronted--nay, accosted--by the spectacle that is the Macy's holiday windows.

Let me do my best to explain. There are a series of windows along a single block of the store, each filled with its own diorama, brimming with that special joy we get only from seeing automatrons repeat a single arc of motion over and over again. One features a giant child's head peering into some sort of Edwardian faerie conclave; another has a large furry creature (a polar bear? a dog? that thing from The Neverending Story?) licking a candy cane, up and down, up and down. It's disturbing. You get the idea.

In addition to these subtle visuals, each window has its own holiday soundtrack, which is, I guess, a neat idea. However, the sound design is wholly unsuccessful, and instead of creating a little aural world for each window, the speakers simply BLARE each soundtrack out onto the sidewalk with alarming intensity. The effect is total, migrane-inducing cacophony. It's as if Christmas has been in a horrible train wreck, and we're hearing the moans of dismembered survivors--some familiar holiday bells, a synthesized horn section--trying to clamber out of the smoldering wreckage.

The kicker, my friends, is not merely the windows themselves, but that there are SO MANY PEOPLE there gawking at them. Or, more accurately, Getting In My Way. There are grown men and women videotaping each diorama, presumably so they can remember what the roar of a giant stuffed lion sounds like once they've gotten home. There are school groups, throngs of cornfed teenagers all wearing the same puffy jackets, like a uniformed Squadron of Annoyance. There are all of these things. Before 9am.

Bear in mind that this sensory explosion happens to me post-subway rush and pre-morning coffee. It's no secret that I am not a morning person, and I have a particularly cranky window of time between the final push of my snooze button and the first delicious sip of sweetened caffeine each day. This same confluence of unfortunate events also explains my disdain for SpongeBob SquarePants, and particularly his theme song, sung yelled by a group of screaming children, which is often the first thing I hear when I turn on the TV in the morning to get the weather.

Don't get me wrong; I'm no Grinch. But my romantic idea of the Macy's holiday windows as soul-lifting works of art? Totally untrue.

If you don't believe I'm not Scrooge in disguise, I wrote a heartwarming finale for The Greatest Holiday Musical...Ever, a new musical revue, which you can check out soon here in New York.

'Tis the season for self-promotion.

Sunday, November 26

The Cloisters: They're Cloisterrific.

It was a gorgeous, spring-like day here in New York, and I spent it up at the Cloisters, a nifty wing of the Metropolitan Museum that lives waaaay uptown in Fort Tryon Park. The museum building is an authentic medieval cloister that's been transported from whatever European country it was from and plopped down on a tidy piece of New York real estate overlooking the Hudson River.

This was my third time to the Cloisters since I've been in New York. My visits to the Cloisters are always very purposeful, which is understandable, since it's pretty far to travel as far as Things in Manhattan go. My first time there was during my freshman year of college, when a teacher of mine had our class go up to the Cloisters to sketch. The architecture up there is amazing, to say nothing of the artwork within it, and there is a particular set of arched windows that funnels the sunlight in this unbelieveably spectacular way. That's what I sketched my freshman year of college, I remember.

My second trip to the Cloisters was one summer a year or so later, when I was working as an RA for a group of high school kids (we affectionately called them the "grommets") who spent their summer studying theatre at NYU. We took the grommets up there, and I still have visions of them frolicking along the stone terraces of the building.

Today's jaunt up to the Cloisters was on a date with a very nice boy. But since my identity on this blog is about as transparent as tap water, that's all you're going to read about that. ;)

The moral of today's blog entry? Go up to the Cloisters. It's beautiful and romantic and peaceful. And the train ride there goes remarkably fast, especially when you're on a date with a very nice boy.

Thursday, November 23

Remembrances of things past.

I'm at my parents' house in Baltimore for Thanksgiving (my favorite holiday!). Not too long ago, my parents finished the basement in their house, which they moved into when I was in college, and there's now this superfantastique entertainment room downstairs. I was poking around, looking at all the new furniture that's been installed since last I was here, and I saw that in one of the closets, my parents had put some old board games and the like, transported from a giant toy closet we had in the house where I grew up.

Memory is kind of an amazing thing; there are all these memories we have locked up somewhere in our brains, hiding, completely invisible, until the slightest trigger comes along to rematerialize them. I opened the door to this closet in my parents' basement and saw the most random objects I cherished as a kid -- my collection of MicroMachines, a Fisher Price magic show kit, some beanbags I used to teach myself to juggle, my neon green tennis racket. Suddenly, faced with items I hadn't remembered existed, my whole childhood appeared in front of me, like some strange, personal, virtual reality museum in my head.

Another thing I happened across which I had forgotten but now remember so vividly, was this small plastic-topped container that lived on the kitchen counter in my old house. It's a pink can, basically, which held, in its original incarnation, delicious hazelnut candies, wrapped in gold foil. I remember the first time I tried one of these as a kid -- they were a gift from some foreign relative or other -- being afraid of this new thing called hazelnut, but quickly finding out it was even better than chocolate. Anyway, we kept the can to keep things in -- coins, paperclips, etc. There was a collection of thumbtacks stuck through the plastic lid of the can, still there when I discovered it in the basement last night. I opened up the can, and inside was a collection of...pogs!

Does anyone remember pogs?! Perhaps the stupidest collectors item ever, but very popular among the middle school set back in the early 1990s. They were these small cardboard discs, a little bigger than a quarter, that us grommets would collect and trade. They were ubiquitous. Pogs were like the MySpace page of 1991 -- every company, restaurant, movie, TV show, consumer product, cereal brand, you name it, had pogs emblazoned with their logo for eager young 11-year-olds to hoarde. I think there was some inane game you were supposed to play with the pogs, but that wasn't what it was about. (For game-playing entertainment, we were too caught up with Nintendo and pencil fighting.) No, pogs were tokens of social networking for pre-teens with high bangs and French-rolled jeans. The real game: whoever had the vastest and most diverse collection wins. And you had to have *cool* pogs, too, not just any old ones they gave out at the 7-11.

I did a quick search on eBay, curious to see if there was a market for these relics of a more innocent time. As it happens, there isn't. There were lots of listings with people selling pogs, actually, but the most exciting auction seemed to be an $8.51-bidding war for a collection of pogs with Garfield, Power Rangers, and the band Poison.

I'd say that rush you get from opening up a can of your forgotten past is worth more than $8.51 any day.

Tuesday, November 21

You know you're overtired when...

I was taking a silly online survey, like the ones you'd find on a MySpace profile, and at one point, the questions and answers went something like this:

Do you smoke?


Do you swear?


Do you sing?

All the fucking time.

Ha! I thought that was quite funny! **Adam continues to chuckle to himself.**

Wow, I'm tired. It is way past my bedtime.

Sunday, November 19

Viva Volver!

Oh, Almodovar. Sweet, sweet, Pedro Almodovar. He makes me so happy.

This morning I took an "artist date" to see Volver, the new Pedro Almodovar film. An artist date is something they told us to do in college, where you go do something cultural by yourself in order to make yourself a Better Person. Every now and then I have a hankering to take an artist date, and this morning, it was Volver.

I'm a huuuuge Almodovar fan, and I wasn't disappointed. I don't know why, but his movies fill me up with goodness. I love the goofy glamour, the ethereal realism, the color palette that brings out the joys in sorrow and the sorrows in joy. I love that he loves music. (His composer, Alberto Iglesias, is amazing -- the soundtrack to Talk To Her in particular is just incredible.) I love that his life philosophy seems to be that a little bit of beauty can make everything OK. He finds beauty in the most unexpected places.

Of course, it doesn't hurt your beauty quotient to have Penelope Cruz in your movie. She is so stunningly gorgeous, I have to admit I forgot to read the subtitles at times, because I was so distracted by her face.

Volver was much more fulfilling than another movie I saw this weekend, the much-hyped, inevitably-disappointing Borat. The sketches I had seen on "Da Ali G" show were much better than the movie, I thought.

All in all, it was a Weekend of Culture, rounded out by a modern dance piece at BAM that I quite enjoyed. Perhaps this overload of Artsy Things was in preparation for the upcoming Weekend of Family, which will bring me to Baltimore, known for its culinary delights and crime statistics, but not particularly for its adventurous arts programming!

Friday, November 17

It was French. There were holograms.

That pretty much sums up my night at BAM.

Tuesday, November 14

Heaps of Imogen.

I went to the Imogen Heap concert on Sunday night at Webster Hall. It was so super cool. Liz pretty much covers the experience in her blog, so I'll let you read all about it there.

I've been rocking out to "Daylight Robbery" ever since.

Cool concerts in New York always lead me to take a moment to mourn the absence of my coolest music friends, Elaina and Mike, who moved away from the city to, you know, have a real life. I miss them! They have great taste in music, and yet don't make fun of me (well, not too much, anyway) for dragging them to a Maroon 5 concert.

(To give myself credit, this was *way* before Maroon 5 hit it big -- the concert was at Irving Plaza if that's any indication. And OK, I do think they make good music. So sue me.)

Mike got his revenge for the Maroon 5 concert, though, with our outing to see The Polyphonic Spree. Their music is innocuous enough, and the concert was in a old church down on the Lower East Side; very hip, we thought. Too bad The Polyphonic Spree is a crazy cult that had us frightened for weeks afterwards. Have you seen that movie "Jesus Camp"? It was pretty much like that.

But Imogen, though: good stuff. It's always nice to hear exciting music being made out there.

Sunday, November 12


I took the Chinatown bus up to Boston this weekend to see my uber-talented friend Lanna display her uber-talents in Heather Raffo's 9 Parts of Desire up at Lyric Stage Company. For some reason, I tend to attract the most unpleasant dramatis personae when it comes to bus travel. This trip was no exception, and included The Guy Who Liked To Sing Out Loud and Off-Key Whilst Listening To His iPod and The Guy Who Enjoyed Defying Conventional Notions of Personal Space.

Fungwah adventures aside, it was a lovely weekend in Boston, the autumn sunlight giving an orangey glow to all the Abercrombie-clad frat boys and well-dressed liberals walking their St. Bernards on Newbury Street. Did I mention that my friend Lanna is super talented?

Now I'm back in the city and killing time before Liz and I head off to see Imogen Heap at Webster Hall--which I haven't been to since an unfortunate incident my senior year of college, where a group of us decided to go clubbing there (for what reason I can't recall) and a particularly fiesty member of our crew got into a huge fight with the bouncer, at which point we were given our money back and told to leave. Ah, college.

Saturday, November 11

Brush up your Russian.

Folks: dust off your Russian dictionaries and run to BAM to see Twelfth Night, or What You Will, or The Greatest Romantic Comedy Ever Written. It's a stellar production.

My BAM subscription this year is off to an auspicious start. And it's official: not a single production I'm seeing there this year is in English. Not that there's anything wrong with that, it just wasn't what I expected. For some reason, I assumed that this Twelfth Night would be a British production, as it's directed by Declan Donnellan, artistic director of the English company Cheek by Jowl. Turns out, it's part of the Chekhov International Festival, and features an astounding Russian cast doing Shakespeare, in Russian. Go see it. It will amaze and enthrall.

Sunday, November 5

The loveliness of the long distance runner.

Through a confluence of random events, I spent my Sunday assisting a Somewhat Famous visual artist who is preparing to open an exhibition at a Trendy Chelsea Gallery. The artist's studio was up in Harlem and happened to be along the home-stretch of the New York City Marathon, which was today. Her third-floor studio overlooked the marathon route, and we spent a good deal of time with our heads thrust out of the window, watching the runners bound their way toward Central Park, walled in on two sides by crowds of cheering onlookers, three- or four-deep:

It is an amazing thing to watch the New York City Marathon. I've never done it before. When I arrived at the studio earlier in the morning, the marathoners had just started to trickle down Fifth Avenue. The first were racers in specially-designed wheelchairs speeding down the pavement. An hour later, the street was completely filled with runners, all with a surprisingly serene look of determination on their faces. You can't stop watching. You can't stop cheering. It is a thrilling thing.

There is such a Sense of Purpose on the faces of the marathon runners. Maybe that's what I like about it so much. As someone in my 20s, I am drawn with envy to those who exude a Sense of Purpose in any kind of obvious way.

On the subway later in the afternoon, a lovely young British couple got on the train in full I've-just-run-a-marathon regalia. Everyone chatted them up. Everyone was beaming with pride. "Amazing," the young woman said. "I'll never do it again. (It hurts, she later explained.) But, amazing."

Thanks, marathoners, for adding a little extra inspiration to the day.

PS: My old roommate from college ran in the marathon this year! I've added a link to his blog about the experience on my blog roll.