Thursday, December 31, 2009

there's a change in the air...

Anyone got any amazing plans for New Year's Eve? I always go one of two ways: either I'm in a super low-key mood (i.e. be in pj's by 9 am and have a Die Hard marathon) or I'm up for some serious partying. And I never know which one I'm gonna feel like until the week of. Sometimes it's fun being a Gemini.

So this year I was all about the high-maintenance, way-too-many-people-in-my-comfort-zone kind of New Year's... so Benni and I are joining two of my closest friends for, are you ready for this much awesome?

A Flogging Molly concert. Tonight. To ring in the new year.

I KNOW, right?

We'll be partying at The Wiltern as they "Flog in the New Year" and we've got pit tickets so I'm bringing my A-game and my combat boots. And leaving my really expensive camera at home.

And did I mention the opening act for Flogging Molly is a Johnny Cash cover band? Excuse me while I die and go to music heaven.

So I hope that each and every one of you has a safe and wonderful New Year's celebration and I'll meet y'all back here when it's 2010.

Happy New Year!!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Christmas by the pictures

As promised... all the pictures fit to print :)


This is what we stared at for an hour and a half as we taxied at the airport. ::Sigh::


Alice's Tea Cup - where even the Mad Hatter can hang up his hat.


Picture of the four of us - me, Benni, Mike, and Kat (Benni's awesome sister)


FAO Schwarz in NYC - build your very own legless Muppet!


The entirely way too horrifying tutu aisle at FAO Schwarz. Was not ready for this.


Lifesize Batman made out of Legos = nerdgasm.


The famous FAO Schwarz keyboard you can play with your feet.


Star light, star bright...


Horse drawn carriage, anyone?


Oh Christmas tree, Oh Christmas tree...


Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center in all its glory...


Empire State Building under the lights of Macy's


South Jersey: two things you couldn't get away from - cats and snow.


Shiny!

So them's my pictures. Hope you all had wonderful holidays and have some exciting plans for New Year's Eve!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas by the numbers

Today you'll get the math; tomorrow you'll get the pictures, I promise :)


Number of inches it had snowed when our plane arrived in Newark, NJ: 18 inches

Number of hours it took us to get off the plane after we landed in Newark because the doors were frozen shut on the airport terminal: 1 1/2 hours

Number of trains we had to take to get to a station where Benni's sister could pick us up because the roads weren't paved through to the airport: 2 trains

Number of hours total that it took us, after landing in Newark, to get to Benni's sister's house which was a thirty minute drive: 5 hours. Our plane landed at 9:50 pm. We arrived at her place at approximately 3 am.

Number of pictures I took when we went into New York City later that week: approximately 4 million (or so it felt like) pictures

Cups of tea consumed at Alice's Tea Cup, an Alice in Wonderland themed tea house that we went to for dinner in NYC: 4 1/2 cups (I had the decaf Irish blend...SO yummy)

Cups of hot chocolate consumed on the trip, in total: (including Starbucks and WaWa): 4 cups

Number of pictures I took of just the TREE in Rockefeller Center: 15 pictures

Number of trains we took to meet Benni's parents in Philadelphia: 4 trains (yes, we are aware that we re-enacted Planes, Trains, and Automobiles this Christmas)

Number of times Benni tried to convince me that Cheez Whiz is the ONLY acceptable cheese to get on my Philly Cheese Steak at Pat's: 8 times

Number of times I actually ordered Cheez Whiz on my cheese steak at Pat's: 0 times.

Number of times the guy behind the counter made fun of me for NOT ordering Cheez Whiz on my sandwich: 1 (PS Benni got Cheez Whiz on his...and yes, it was better. Don't ask me HOW or WHY, it just WAS.)

Amount of time it took to drive from Philadelphia to South Jersey, where Benni's parents live: 1 hour

Number of times I almost slipped and landed on my ass because of all the snow and ice at Benni's parents' place: 23 times

Number of cats currently living at Benni's parents' house: 7 (8 if you count the stray that they feed but it refuses to come inside their home)

Number of cat scratches I have from staying at Benni's parents' house with 7 cats: 1 scratch, just above my right eyebrow as a kitten aimed for my hair wispies and instead sliced open my forehead.

Number of times Benni told me that he was getting me a Snuggie for Christmas after I made fun of it on The Big Bang Theory: 5 times

Number of Snuggie's I now currently own thanks to a smart-ass boyfriend: 1

Number of days I plan on listening to nothing but Benni's Remastered Beatles albums, all of which he got for Christmas: approximately 82 days

Number of Dunkin Donuts munchkins I can fit into my mouth at one time: approximately 3 1/2

Number of hours we spent in security at the airport heading back to LA because of course we had to travel two days after some idiot terrorist sews explosives into his underwear and takes a flight to Detroit (seriously: who does that??): 1 hour

Number of hours our flight was delayed heading back to LA: 2 hours

One beautiful, adventurous Christmas: priceless.

I hope all of you had some lovely holidays - I'm gonna spend this week catching up on your blogs and I can't wait to hear all your stories :)

Monday, December 21, 2009

I believe...

...that Tay over at Totally Tay asked me to guest post over at her blog about what I believe...and that it's been an insane last couple days (I haven't gone to bed before 3 am since landing at the snow-covered Newark airport Saturday night) so I didn't get a chance to post about it until right about now.

Got lots to cover, lots to talk about, lots of pictures to share, and lots of blogs I can't wait to catch up on. But that'll have to wait until it's not 1 am EST and I have to catch a train in seven hours to head down to South Jersey. Also, did everyone else know the East Coast is really cold during the wintertime? And that when it snows, it SNOWS? And that trying to make a snowman while wearing fingerless gloves isn't actually the best idea? And that Avatar is actually what would happen if they combined FernGully with Dances with Wolves and threw in a little Braveheart?

Anyways...go check out Tay's wonderful blog, feel free to leave some love on my guest post as well as everyone else's, say hi to Tay for me, and have yourself a merry little four days before Christmas.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

lights and buzz

So what is everyone doing for the holidays? You guys going out of town anywhere, or staying in? (My friend Joe used the phrase stay-cation and I had to restrain myself from smacking him. I have a firm belief that words like stay-cation and convo and 'rents [short for the word parents] firmly belong to the 14 and younger crowd.)

I am so incredibly excited - I am heading out to the East Coast and I get to finally see New York at Christmastime! It's been on my to-do list forever, so Benni and I are flying into New Jersey, spending a couple days commuting into New York to see how much the city lights up during the holidays, and then spending Christmas with his family in South New Jersey. Squeee!

Posting next week will be light (however, I am guest-posting over at Tay's early next week...hey, all the cool kids are doing it) but I'll make sure to take tons of photographs of the city (my New York girl Kris says that's allowed as long as I'm not obnoxious about it) and I'll post them when I get back.

Benni was asking me the other day what I was the most excited about for our trip - was it seeing New York during Christmas, the possibility of snow on Christmas day, scarfing down Dunkin' Donuts, all of the above?

And I had to really think about it, because I grew up on the East Coast but never saw New York at Christmastime so there's a bit of nostalgia blended with a really big fat sense of adventure, but I also think that what can really define the holidays is the people you spend them with.

I've met most of Benni's family before, albeit under less-than ideal circumstances, when, waaaaay back in July for Benni's birthday, I was making my first trip out to meet everyone...and Benni's father fell 20 feet through a roof two days before I showed up, ending up in the hospital for 12 days. (You can read my posts about it here and here; Benni's take on it is also a very worthy read.) So by the time I arrived, everyone was in full Chaos Mode and somewhat less concerned with bonding with me over our mutual love of Battlestar Galactica.

On day five of me being in New Jersey, the last full day I was there, I was finally allowed to meet Benni's father, after having spent the last four days reading Margaret Atwood in the hospital lobby, alone for hours while various family members attended to him. Benni's father was heavily medicated, weak, exhausted, bruised and battered when I walked into the room, so I wasn't quite sure what I should do or say.

And then of course there's my smart-ass factor. Keep in mind that when someone is raised in a household of violence, as I was, I find the sick and twisted incredibly hilarious. Hi, coping mechanism, party of one. So yes, I have a very strong sardonic edge to me, which trumps my edit button quite frequently.

And that smart-ass factor, the one that I rely on so often to just get me through life without crying, made me say, instead of something NORMAL and polite, like, "Hi, lovely to meet you, I'm so sorry for your accident," something so completely inappropriate that I still can't believe it.

I waved hi and said, quite literally, the first thing that popped into my head:

"So I hear you do your own stunts."

Stupid, stupid, stupid!

But Benni's dad just grinned while the nurse glared at me. Benni just shook his head, like, Yep, that's my little social retard, isn't she adorable, and to this day Benni's dad remembers meeting me in the hospital when he doesn't remember much else, so I like to think I make an impression. Or that maybe the drugs had been wearing off.

When it finally hit me what I was the most excited about for our trip, I called Benni.

"I got it," I said. "I know what I'm the most excited about."

"Yeah?" Benni said. "Is it the big tree in Rockefeller Center?"

"Nope." I said. "I'm excited that I get to meet your father when his brain isn't on drugs."




Happy Holidays, everyone! :)

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

You made my best friend cry!

...and I cried a little too.

You guys really are way too good to me. Thank you so much, everyone, for your kind words and support regarding yesterday's post, and for those of you who donated, Alyssa is making you a mix CD and I'm making you something special as well, so please email me your mailing addresses to cliftontracy(at) gmail(dot)com. (Apparently when you use the actual words "at" and "dot" it throws spammers. Who knew?)

I'll keep this post short (for once) and catch up with you guys tomorrow or Thursday. In the meantime...here's Alyssa's blog post with her take on it. She's a much better writer than I am and she quotes Shakespeare a lot more. :)

Hugs to each of you and thank you, every single one of you, again, for all the ways in which you make me really damn happy to have started this blog in the first place. I'm telling Santa to put you all on the Nice list (unless you WANT to be on the naughty list...sometimes you get better presents that way).

::HUGS::

Monday, December 14, 2009

dear best friend,


Alyssa and I met my sophomore year of college during summer theater. Back in those days nobody in the theater department at my college would cast for me for anything and I frequently got pulled into the offices of well-meaning professors telling me to choose another profession. I came across as shy and uncertain, they were looking for "star quality" and were fairly confident I'd never make it as an actor. But that's a blog for some other time.

Alyssa's father was my professor and and the only one who ever believed in me, for which I'm still utterly grateful, and his daughter was dutifully volunteering for ushering or concessions or whatever odd job he'd talked her into. I saw her out the window, this girl, and I sort of fell in love right there on the spot. I don't know any other way to say it, but sometimes when you meet someone you know almost immediately that you want that person in your life for the rest of it and you want to get started as soon as possible, and I saw Alyssa outside that window and I knew her. I can't explain, but when we finally said hi to each other it wasn't a "nice to meet you" greeting, it was a "I know you! I've known you before and I'll know you again and thank god we found each other this time around because we've got twenty-plus years to catch up on!" kind of greeting. Luckily, Alyssa felt the exact same way.

So we became best friends, right there on the spot. And we have remained so ever since; we have never stopped laughing and talking and emailing and phoning and texting and being bluntly honest and having life-changing conversations at 2 am and crying in each other's arms when life sucks and having each others' backs when the shit hits the fan. There aren't too many days that go by where I am not completely and wholly thankful to the universe for bringing us together for yet another life to share.

And right now, my best friend is hurting, and there is not much I can do about it. First and foremost, Alyssa works for one of the most renowned Shakespeare companies in the United States for the pure love of it - finances are tight and she is paid a very small stipend on a weekly basis while working up to 18 hour days through the week and weekend to help get shows off the ground. A lot of the time, Alyssa is going out into schools in Massachusetts and directing kids in Shakespeare productions. It's a huge emotional reward with not a lot of monetary payoff, as theaters are hurting right now financially.

Here's the other thing: Alyssa is in love. With a wonderful, adorable elf-like girl named Liz who might even be able to quote Buffy better than I do, and unfortunately Liz lives in Canada. And all Alyssa wants, as Alyssa's family is spending the holiday in London without her, is to be able to spend Christmas in Canada with the girl she loves.

So she asked her friends who were going to get her Christmas gifts to instead contribute to a "Christmas in Canada" fund so she can afford to buy a plane ticket, and I convinced her to set up a paypal account. And I've been trying desperately to get my friends and family and everyone I've ever met to contribute as well, even if it's just $5, because it might not seem like $5 goes a long way, but when ten people decide to contribute $5, trust me. It goes a long way.

And on top of everything else, I just found out that Alyssa had to put the family dog, Lady, to sleep last week (you can read Alyssa's incredibly heartfelt posts about it here and here). Lady, the family dog of fifteen years, was recently diagnosed with lymph node cancer, and her body had been showing signs of slowing down and functioning less and less.

So here's my letter to my best friend.

dear best friend,

I love you. I hate feeling powerless when I see you hurting, when I see you missing the ones you love and grieving, knowing that there is not much that I can say or do to fix any of it. I'm not always really good at not wanting to fix it and I feel bad that I don't live closer so that I can't come and pick you up and take you out for a bacon cheeseburger and a strong hot chocolate. I wish I could promise that you'll get to see your girl on Christmas Day, or that I know that things are going to be alright, or that I know that one day you'll see Lady again, but we both know I can't promise those things.

What I can tell you, and promise you, is that you are loved, so incredibly fiercely, by your best friend up in LA, and I'm never going to stop trying to show you how much I adore you or trying to help you have the best life possible, because yes, it is what you deserve. You deserve so much happiness after everything you do and give to others. And I am so proud to be your friend, to know you and have your back and know that you adore me and have my back. It means the world to me.

Love,

your best friend Tracy.

UPDATE: See Alyssa's comment below (she's Radical Bradical). Whether you donated money or simply offered your amazing kindness and support of this post, I thank each and every one of you - you helped send my best friend to Canada with your love. It's all about you, guys :) And I am humbled and grateful beyond words to know each of you.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

spreading the love, aka Did You Just Call My Hot Chocolate a Bastard?

Do you guys know how much I love you?

I really, really do.

You all say the kindest, coolest things on my blog, so much so that while I was hanging out with my friend Kristy last night on our Hot Chocolate Crawl (more on that later) she said, "Your followers always say the nicest things on your blog. Sometimes it makes me want to leave a comment that just says 'You Lying Bitch.'"

Which I believe she has before, isn't that charming? So if you see a totally sarcastic comment here or there on my blog, believe it or not, it's usually one of my real life friends. Feel free to return the favor and visit their blogs and call them lying bitches as well. (Just a friendly suggestion!)

Anyways, I'm in the mood to spread the love because over the last couple weeks I've been getting a lot of love. I'll start with one of my favorite bloggers, Nichole, over at littlebrownpen. She takes incredible photographs of her adorable family, she finds the cutest stuff on Etsy (my addiction) and is one of the most genuinely kind and funny people I've had the pleasure of following. And a few weeks ago she blogged about being in Vermont and picking up gifts for family and friends and like a total jerk I left a comment that was all, "That's awesome, wish I could be on your gift list!" or something to that effect.

Next thing I know I've got an email from her that's asking for my mailing address and a short explanation that says she's engaging in some random acts of kindness.

And last week, a small package from Little Brown Pen arrived. When I opened it up, I saw this:


And what Nichole did was take photos while she was in Paris of individual numbers and letters, then print out photos of each and make an adjustable calendar out of it. Like this:


And I'd seen this on her website (you can check out the direct Etsy link here) and I'd been yearning and pining to find a way to make room in my budget for this...

And instead she sent it to me for free. For being a smartass.

Nichole, je t'aime.

So if you like what you see and want to own one of your most very own, last I saw, she had three left on her Etsy site....

And next up is my darling Clarity, who is my British counterpart. We have way too many things in common and I think if we ever actually sat down to tea together we probably wouldn't leave until they elected a new Queen. Also, Clarity can make the bed and blog at the same time, a feat which I liken alongside dodging bullets and having x-ray vision.

So Clarity gave me the Kreative Blogger award,

(it looks like this)

...and I'm supposed to pass it along, for whatever that means to y'all. And I'd like to pass it along to my aforementioned You Lying Bitch friend Kristy, because she is another one of those incredible writers who needs to blog more ("I only write when I'm inspired," she said. "Then be inspired MORE," I said) and takes words and turns them into poetry in a way that I fear I will never be able to - her words fly off the page and burn little paper hearts into your skin and the back of your neck. It's incredible, her writing, so please, go check her out, and maybe if she has more followers she'll feel pressured to write more.

I am also giving this award to my blogger friend (whom I will get to meet in person in January) Dionne, who not only writes incredible posts but also does all her own illustrations to match each of her posts, and she takes amazing photos, AND she makes the most amazing food ever. So she already has globs of followers, for good reason, but if you haven't checked out her blog, please do so, because she's a wonderful human being, amazing and kind, and when I asked her for her recipes she friended me on Facebook so I could find them.

You don't get any cuter than that.

As for our Hot Chocolate Crawl: when you don't drink alcohol you have to come up with creative ways to hang out with people (no, designated driving does NOT count) so I came up with a Hot Chocolate Crawl for Kristy, myself, and Benni, because Kristy had not met Benni yet and since I'd known her since college her approval was crucial.

So we hopped from one place to the next practically making ourselves sick on all the chocolate and getting into loud political and social discussions until almost 1 in the morning, because that's the kind of friends I keep around. Rest assured that the other patrons of this place know how I feel now about Michael Vick and health care and whether it's possible to have true democracy if you have more than nine people in a room. And it was around 9 pm at our first stop here that Benni had a White Hot Chocolate and called Kristy's Vanilla Hot Chocolate a bastardization between regular Hot Chocolate and White Hot Chocolate and Kristy said, "Did you just call my hot chocolate a bastard?"

And then I turned to her and said, "I am SO naming my next blog that." And then she called me a lying bitch.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

meh.

I had a slightly rough weekend of not feeling so well, which made me miss not one but two parties that I'd been looking forward to for quite a while, so I'm a little bummed. And I've really got no real reason to be bummed, as I've got good and great things happening in my life that I will be sure to post on this blog later, but I won't today- today is a day for a little perspective. Let me tell you a true story from a couple years ago, okay?

**********

It's my first year of being out of college, living on my own in LA for Christmas, and it's hard. I have three jobs that I work at seven days a week, one of which is holiday retail, and I'm barely making my bills and surviving off of ramen and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and lots of macaroni and cheese for dinner. One of the jobs I'm working is at an accounting firm as a file clerk/girl Friday, and I've been sent off, along with my best friend Stacey and her then-fiancee-now-husband Ben, to find authentic Mexican decorations for our company's Christmas party. And even though at the time I've been in LA for less than a year, I already know where to go: Olvera Street.

So off we go, the three of us, and Stacey wants us to take the Metro instead of driving. Okay, fine, whatever, we take the underground train, we get there, have dinner, shop for some party favors and leave fairly late at night. The train ride home is quiet, each of us resting and exhausted from the day, and the train stops, people board, and there's one girl in particular that grabs my attention: she is fairly intimidating in size, she is aggressive as hell, and she is obviously hopped up on something. Her friends provide her with an audience as she loudly berates and makes fun of every single passenger that makes eye contact with her. Nothing is off limits - their race, their clothes, they way they stand or sit - she aims to humiliate everyone who dares to cross her path. I ignore her and close my eyes, daydreaming of a sun-washed beach on a warm spring day.

An older man boards the train at the next stop and finds nowhere to sit, so he plants himself almost directly in front of me as he hangs on to the handle bars. In this tired, worn out man, the girl finds an easy target - his clothes are torn and faded, his hands grimy from a hard day of labor, his eyes cast down at the floor.

One stop goes by, and another, and then another as she continues to focus her taunts on this particular man. It's making the rest of us slightly uncomfortable now, as the man just stares up at her (she is almost twice his size) with confused and tired eyes. He shifts where he is standing, looks around the rest of the train at all the rest of the tired people who have spent the day holiday shopping in the cold and just want to get home. And as I have a perfect view of his backside, I am the only one who sees him pull out a knife from his back pocket.

It's one of those moments that you tell yourself, if that ever happened to me, if someone ever pulled out a knife and I happened to see it, I'd be totally cool, I'd be able to pretend like I never even saw it. Yeah, I could totally do that.

That's what I used to tell myself. Now I know better, because he turned ever so slightly towards me, to see if I'd seen it, and here I am, this barely out of college IDIOT, staring at the knife. I can't look away. I look at him. He looks at me. He looks at the knife. I look at the knife. We finally look back at each other.

His voice is quiet and tired and if I could put a voice to all of the exhaustion that I feel sometimes, it would sound like his.

"I work hard." he says, flicking the knife nervously. "I work hard and long hours and all I want to do is get home to my family and this is what I get?" He nods towards the girl, who has moved on to another unlucky subject and has yet to notice the knife. In fact, no one has noticed it except me, and I feel like I'm in a completely different universe from the rest of the oblivious passengers.

Think think think think think. Say something. Think. God, help me do this better. Think and THEN say something. Don't do it the other way around like you do all the freakin' time-

"I know," is what I end up saying. "I know you're tired. But you don't want to do this. It's not worth it. Your family needs you to come home tonight." I have no idea where I got those words, but I managed to choke them out.

He looks at me, and I look at him, and it has not even occurred to me for a second to be afraid of him. There simply isn't enough time. Years pass before he answers.

"Okay," he says, and that's it. He puts away the knife, the girl and her groupies get off at the next stop, and he gets off on the one after that. About three stops after that, I remember to start breathing again.

When someone asks me what I love most about the holiday season I have to admit that I don't say it's giving and getting the perfect present, which is what I used to say. The reason I love the holiday season so much is that for approximately one month, we remember that each and everyone of us is innocent. And as we see that innocence in each other, it is reflected back as our own innocence. We are all good people at heart, I really do believe that, just trying to get from one place to another, just trying to get home to our families at night, and even if we forget it the other 11 months out of the year, at this time of celebration we always remember how similar we all are, and how easy it is to love one another.

Friday, December 4, 2009

guest blogging bookends

Let's all flash back to Monday, shall we? When I wrote about how my blogger-friend Jonas had emailed me and asked me to guest post something on his blog, no one had ever asked me that before, wasn't that wonderful?

And a ton of you (very awesome people) left super kind comments and encouragement. And then I get to my friend Krista's comment:

"tracy...did you get my email?"

So what happened is that I was asked on the exact same day to do two separate guest blogs, by two different people, on two separate email accounts, both of which I rarely ever check because, let's face it, I'm slightly technophobic. In fact, I've been known to yell, to no one in particular when my email server is down, "Why can't we just go back to using carrier pigeons?!" And then my friends point out that if we did that not only would it take 4 to 6 weeks to deliver a single letter but there'd probably be avian flu all over it as well.

Anyways, my friend Krista had emailed a group of her blogger friends asking them to write about what inspired them, and of course, my first thought was to simply write back an email to Krista that said, "You."

Krista is one of those people who can take a noun, a verb, and an adjective (and sometimes an adverb when she's feeling all crazy) and out of those simple bricks build a literary cathedral. I read her blog and and I relearn how to use the English language because she crafts sentences that are pure poetry. I leave her comment after comment telling her exactly this, too, and she very graciously never calls me a stalker and I have yet to see a restraining order appear on my doorstep.

I'll leave it up to Krista to explain how and where we met (she introduces me on my guest blog) and I can tell you, without a doubt, that Krista is that friend we've all been waiting for; she's The One who probably answers the phone at 2 am and never judges you for acting stupid and probably doesn't have to be that person that just talks to fill in the silences. And even though, after finding each other again after spending a few years apart, we still have yet to be able to hang out and see each other due to our busy lives, I refuse to let Krista go a second time as my friend. I'm just sort of greedy that way.

So please, if you have the time to go check out my guest blog over at My Life as I See It, (it's titled Radical Moments of Love) I'd love that, and feel free to then poke around and read some of Krista's beautiful prose and note that yes, she is the mother of the cutest little girl on the entire planet.

Krista, I adore you. Thanks for asking me to guest post. It means the world to me, it really does.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Holiday songs that don't suck.

Once upon a time, when I was younger and therefore slightly smaller I worked at a calendar store for the holiday season. It was one of those Show Up in the Middle of the Night stores that open up shop right after Halloween and disappear again around mid-January, and if I was a nerd I'd tell you that those stores totally remind me of Something Wicked This Way Comes.

But, uh...I'm not a nerd. No really, I'm not. That literary reference didn't even occur to me, I don't know why I typed that.

So we were allowed to play approximately one Christmas CD while we worked there, continuously looping on our five hour shifts, and I am not kidding when I tell you that this one CD was Christmas with the Chipmunks. To this day, if I hear that line "Me I want/A huuuula-hooop" I turn all Manchurian Candidate, black out for a few hours, and wake up with blood on my hands.

So in the spirit of giving you guys some winter and holiday music that doesn't want to make you kill people and that you might not have heard before, here's thirty-seven songs, some completely original and new, some awesome covers of those classics that you might not necessarily hate. Yes, my music taste is varied enough that not everybody is going to like everything on this list, but pick and choose and stop being a Grinch.

And please, please, please - if you have a favorite holiday song and I didn't put it on here, or if you know of other places to get kick ass holiday music, leave me a comment and let me know. :) Me? I'm a sucker for the entire soundtrack to A Muppet Christmas Carol. There, you caught me.

1) Carol of the Bells by Celtic Woman

2) Blue Christmas by Bright Eyes

3) 2000 Miles by Coldplay

4) Ruldolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer by Jack Johnson

5) Old Borego by Switchfoot

6) Give the Jew Girl Toys - by Sarah Silverman

7) A New York Christmas by Patrick Green

8) Love Like Winter - AFI

9) O Come, O Come Emmanuel by Enya

10) Star of Bethlehem by Angels & Airwaves

11) O Holy Night by Eric Cartman (Southpark version)

12) Stop the Cavalry by Cory Band

13) Lights and Buzz by Jack's Mannequin

14) Winter's Carol by Tori Amos

15) A Jagged Gorgeous Winter by The Main Drag

16) 12/23/95 by Jimmy Eat World

17) Twelve Days of Christmas by John Denver and the Muppets

18) Happy Xmas (War is Over) by Sensefield

19) Horchata by Vampire Weekend

20) Christmas Song by Dave Matthews Band

21) A Great Big Sled by The Killers

22) Soul Cake by Sting

23) Winter Song by Sara Bareilles and Ingrid Michaelson

24) Star of Wonder by Tori Amos

25) Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Coldplay

26) God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen by Barenaked Ladies, ft. Sarah McLachlan

27) This Time of Year by The Mighty Mighty Bosstones

28) Snow by Loreena McKennitt

29) Winter Wonderland by Phantom Planet

30) White Christmas by Aimee Mann

31) Morning has Broken by Neil Diamond

32) Carol of the Bells by Trans-Siberian Orchestra

33) Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy by Bing Crosby and David Bowie

34) Blue Christmas by Elvis

35) Baby, it's Cold Outside by Leon Redbone and Zooey Deschanel

36) It Feels Like Christmas by The Muppets ( A Muppet Christmas Carol)

37) My December by Linkin Park


You're welcome. Oh, and if you're always on the lookout for new holiday music like I am, Amazon.com is giving you 25 days of free holiday mp3s here.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Thanksgiving conversation

So we're all sitting down to Thanksgiving dinner and we have this tradition where after everyone has dished their food but before we're allowed to eat any of it we all go around the table and say what we're grateful for, so this way we can all listen to each other ramble and stare longingly as the food on our plates get cold. I like to think my mom came up with this idea as a way to teach us willpower, or patience, the former of which I have tons of, the latter, um, not so much. In reality, though, especially after she reads this, she'll probably come back with something like, "It teaches you GRATITUDE for your food."

Which is true, I am much more grateful for my mashed potatoes when they are room temperature.

So as usual I make some smart-ass comment at the table so everyone elects me to talk first and I say how I'm grateful for the food that we have on the table and that I'm able to be with the ones I love on Thanksgiving, and we go around the table and we finally get to my mom, who mentions a few things she appreciates about all of her children and when she gets to me she notes that she really enjoys reading my blog (Mom, I keep forgetting you read this damn thing) and really likes my writing style, even when I call her weird.

Six more pairs of eyes at the table swivel towards me as the following conversation happens at the dinner table during Thanksgiving.

Brother: You called mom weird on your blog?

Me: Wait, what? Can we start over?

Mom: You called me weird.

Me: I did not.

Mom: You did too. There's a picture of me with Bobby (the kitten we got her for Christmas last year) and underneath it says "Weird."

Me: No, no, no. You've got it all wrong. The blog TITLE is called "Weird" and I put that picture up to make me happy. It's your mother's day blog, remember?

Mom: Well, then, why do I keep seeing that picture with the word "weird" underneath it?

Me: I didn't put the word "weird" underneath! The picture isn't weird, I wouldn't do that!

Cousin: God, Tracy, why do you have to be such a dick?

Me: Okay, we're going to get to the bottom of this RIGHT NOW.

(By this time everyone else is eating).

So I head over to the computer in the living room and sign into my blog, and pull it up on the screen.

Then I call everyone over from eating their dinner, because sometimes I really am a dick.

Me: (pointing) Look. LOOK. It does NOT say "weird" underneath the picture. The "Weird" is the BLOG TITLE.


Mom: Well, then it shows up somewhere else in your blog, a lot smaller, where it calls me weird.

Me: (starting to get a bad feeling) Wait, do you mean...this?


And sure enough, when it comes to the smaller little links at the bottom of my posts that show related posts with the same labels, there it is. A picture of my mom with the kitten and it says "weird" underneath.

DAMMIT.

Me: Okay, fine, would you like me to change the title of the blog?

Mom: YES.

Me: FINE.

So I did.

I changed the blog title to this. And the punchline is? When I look at that blog in the "You Might Also Like" section, it STILL says "weird." Even though I've changed the title.


God hates me.



PS If you want to read my mom's response to the questions I asked her in the "Weird" post, they're here, and they're adorable.

Monday, November 30, 2009

guest posting and new blog look

So how was everyone's Thanksgiving weekends? Cooking disasters, dog ate the entire sweet potato dish, somebody stole your parking space, I want to hear all about it. One of my best friends once had her aunt break a plate over her father's head during Thanksgiving dinner...I really don't think anything can compare to that story. Gotta love family!

My Thanksgiving was lovely - I spent it with the people I love, I wasn't in charge of cooking anything except heating up appetizers, I introduced about half my family to the glory that is pita chips and hummus, and my family thoughtfully brought brownies for me while they all munched on pie for dessert (I'm not a pie person most of the time).

I also avoided Black Friday like the plague, mostly because a) I love people, and b) I want to continue to love people. And c) I'm not a shopper. I don't go into a store to lovingly browse or try on every item of clothing for two hours, I'm a Get In Get Out kind of shopper, unless I'm at a book or music store. If you're at a book or music store with me, I am so sorry, I hope you brought along your copy of War and Peace to read through.

In other news, I changed my blog look and I'll be adding more pictures and quotes in the next few days. I've been itching for a change for a while, and yesterday I finally had some free time to just sit down and find a new blog background and add some more pictures I've taken over the years. I like how it looks so I hope you guys like it too.

And finally, FINALLY - I was asked to do my very first guest post, by the always wonderfully creative and adorably affable Jonas over at Beyond Wunderman. I got the email yesterday, he asked if I could guest post today, and I was so incredibly excited to be asked to post on someone else's blog (oh the thrill!) that I immediately said yes. And then wondered what the hell to write about. Jonas' helpful suggestion was, "Whatever you feel like."

(Jonas, I adore you!)

So I hope you guys like my travel story over on his blog and continue to check out his writing in the future - Jonas likes to meld fantasy, reality, alcohol, and occasional threesomes into his blogs, and I always get a kick out of the way he spins his tales. And if you're in the mood for some straight-up fiction, check out the novel he's working on, Pomponne. I think you guys might like it.

Happy Monday and I'll be back tomorrow with more weekend and Thanksgiving details - including the blog title that my mom made me change. ;)

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

giving thanks

“Herein lies the well of life; let us laugh and let us sing for in truth we are blessed by everything.” - Isadora James


Sometimes, when I am stressed, I take a very deep breath and let the air fill every single inch of my lungs and then I am able to find myself deeply affected and moved by how beautiful the world really is. In reality nothing has changed, but when I breathe I find myself looking at the world differently. Time slows and where once there was impatience and frustration in my heart, I look again and find grace. There is enough, there is always enough; enough time to do all the things I want to do, enough love so that I don't have to worry about competing for it with others, enough space to move around in, even if it doesn't always feel like it in Los Angeles. Enough supply to help me get through each day without feeling lack, enough challenges to keep my mind and body working hard, enough meaning in what I do, even in the smallest of actions, so that I am able to move confidently through this world, knowing that I have a purpose.

When I inhale and exhale and follow my breath as it moves through my body, uncurling and relaxing muscles I didn't even know were tense, I suddenly feel very small, but not in a bad way. My body has made room for all the little surprises and small moments of happiness that flitted my way during the day, the ones I brushed off impatiently because I had different expectations or didn't want to be bothered with such tiny acts of kindness. I am aware, almost simultaneously, of how unimportant I am, and how much I have to offer to this world.

I think this is the nature of gratitude as well. It helps me make room in my busy life, it stills the pointless noise in my head and refocuses me; it reminds me that my drama is unimportant but my love for others is more needed than ever.


Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone.

Monday, November 23, 2009

closer to where we want to be

I'm not a cook... I'm a baker.

Yesterday, for our own private Thanksgiving before we have 3000 miles between us on the actual day, Benni and I cooked cornish game hen, a green bean casserole, corn, stuffing, and for dessert: Trader Joe's Spiced Apple bread.

So freakin' good, that meal. And then we watched Elf, which I'd never seen before, during dinner, and it just made everything absolutely lovely.

And as Benni whisked around the kitchen doing eight things at once (I can't even do one thing at at once) and eye-balled olive oil and milk measurements (I have to measure out EVERYTHING) and as he substituted dry vermouth for white wine ("But it's not the same thing," I said. "Doesn't matter," he said) I realized that I'm not a cook. Not at heart, anyways.

Cooks can improvise, and substitute, and guesstimate measurements, and do eight things at once and look at a fridge full of random food and leftovers and somehow come up with an amazing meal to create out of it.

I can't do these things.

I follow the recipe exactly, I don't taste my food until it's done, I don't snack and sample while cooking and I can screw up a grilled cheese sandwich. I can't substitute, I can't improvise, I can't make it up as I go along. I can't look at a bunch of pieces and make a whole out of it. All I can do when it comes to cooking is follow orders and look at what is supposed to be versus what actually is.

Thanksgiving is hard for people like me. And not just because of the cooking.

I'm betting, against all odds, that your family is weird, and complicated, and layered, like mine. It's got a past, it's got a present, nobody's quite clear on the future, and these are all people you're supposed to feel close to but don't always quite understand. Sure, you love them...but you don't always like them.

How am I doing so far? Guessing fairly accurately? Yeah, I figured.

This Thanksgiving is going to a particularly weird one with my family. I'm doing my best to hang in there, to let people be who they are (as a friend once said to me: "You have to forgive people for not being you.") and to be a cook, not a baker. Oh sure, I've got gravy and cranberry sauce and some appetizers to contribute the day of, but that's not what I mean.

What I mean is, when it comes to family gatherings, it's much better to be able to improvise, play along, guesstimate, drop your expectations and not stick to the recipe as much as listen to what other people actually need from you.

Toss the recipe out, sample and snack as you go along, and just let it be what it will be...and let people be who they are.

Bakers tend to follow directions and measurements exactly, place it all gently in an oven and trust that because they did everything right, it will turn out perfectly, and they only get to taste it once it's done (unless they lick the batter, like I do.) And there IS a time and place for a baker's attitude and instincts.

But spending time with your family requires the flexibility and spontaneity of a cook, not a baker. It asks that you look at all the random and leftover pieces (and people) and make something amazing and unique out of it.

Thanksgiving demands that we leave our expectations at the door and leave room for something greater - and therein lies the reason for our gratitude. Because what we usually get out of life, and our family, and the people we love, is infinitely better than anything we could have planned.

I think that's what family, and cooking, and Thanksgiving is all about.

Friday, November 20, 2009

screwing with your work productivity...

So most of my friends who can actually bake are huge fans of this website because it's too damn hilarious to witness other baking disasters...especially when disasters are covered in frosting and are supposed to be for a special occasion. And instead they make you want to run in terror or slap your local bakery with a public indecency fine.

Ladies and gents, check out Cake Wrecks...and just be prepared that at some point, one of your co-workers or your boss IS going to catch you laughing hysterically.

You have been warned.



Creepiest engagement party cake EVER:



Okay, who gives someone a birthday cake with tombstones on it? RUDE.



I...I have no words.


Happy Friday, everyone! Have a great weekend :)

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

what a wonderful world...

Apologies again to all of you guys not in SoCal...but here's the coolest stuff going down for the next month or so in LA and the surrounding areas. Please note that not all the prices are under $15 this time, due to the fact that when it's the holidays, apparently people get to charge whatever they want. But I made sure to include as many free and super cheap stuff that I could here, so don't throw any snowballs at me, k? :)


Nov. 17th - Yes, we all know how awesome the concerts are at the Hollywood Bowl. So why don't you go check out the concert posters for the Bowl's Poster Art Show, premiering at the Hollywood Arclight movie theatre tonight at 7 pm - there are 13 commissioned posters from the Bowl's 2009 lineup, along with vintage works from the Hollywood Bowl's earlier days. And since you're at the Arclight anyways, check out a movie or stop by Amoeba Music, the coolest record store in all of Los Angeles. Admission is free; the exhibit starts tonight and goes through Jan. 5th, 2010; and if you attend the opening party tonight you gotta RSVP to this email address: hbposter@gmail.com with the subject line RSVP to Hollywood Bowl Poster Show Party 11/17


Nov. 15-20th - Get your art on for free! The Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) is celebrating their first 30 years by doing two awesome things: a) putting on an amazing exhibit showing off more than 500 works by over 200 artists (the exhibit goes from Nov. 15th to May 3rd, 2010); and letting you in for no admission charge during their regular hours all this week until Saturday, when the price goes back up to $10/person. MOCA's hours are Mon: 11am - 5pm, closed Tues and Wed., Thurs: 11am- 8pm, Friday: 11am-5pm, and Sat. and Sun.: 11am - 6pm. You should also know that if you miss this free week and don't have $10 to spare, admission is free every Thursday after 5pm as well, so no worries.


I've blogged about this in one of my previous About Town blogs, but if you haven't checked out this venue yet, you really should: The Edison Lounge in downtown LA. Yes, driving and parking there are hellish, but hear me out:

Every Wednesday in November, the Edison hosts DJ Imagika and a group of what they call "Fliers and Eccentriques" for Incandescence: The Dark Side of Light, to entertain you and bring you back to the old days of cabaret-style entertainment - it's $10 to get in, but if you bring an unwrapped, brand new toy in before 9 pm, you get in for free.

Every Thursday from 5-7pm at The Edison, they have a mixologist on hand creating a unique happy time drink - that they sell for only 35 cents. Yes, 35 cents.

And every Friday, they serve FREE grilled cheese sandwiches and tomato soup, depression-era drinks at depression-era prices, give 25% of the proceeds to a local soup kitchen, and forward on any letters the customers wrote about their feelings on the economy to LA's Congressional reps. Kick ASS.


Maybe tea is more your style - ever checked out the Huntington Library and Botanical Gardens? It's a wee bit on the expensive side - general admission into the gardens is $20 for adults (parking is free) and it's an additional $24.95 to take high tea at the Rose Garden Tea Room, but I've heard the food is amazing. And good GOD but are my nerd senses tingling - two exhibits are on rotating display in their library, and I don't know which one to freak out over more: a) The Ellesmere manuscript of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales (c. 1410) or b) Original poems, notes, and manuscripts from one of my favorite cranky and bad-ass poets of all time, Charles Bukowski.

I am in nerd heaven.

Also, admission to the Huntington is FREE every first Thursday of the month during its regular visiting hours (10:30 am to 4:30 pm) but you do have to make a reservation for their free days.


Nov. 21st - Dec. 27th - ever wanted to see How the Grinch Stole Christmas, performed live? Sure you did... we all still do. :) If you're in Orange County or the San Diego area, go catch it playing at the Old Globe Theater in San Diego - tickets range from $39.00 to $49.00, and kids aged 3 -17 years cost $20.00 to $30.00. Is the price of admission probably worth it? I'm betting yes.


For those of you who still get all warm and fuzzy when a Christmas tree lights up for the first time - I know I do - The Grove in Hollywood is celebrating their annual Tree Lighting ceremony on Nov. 22nd at 7:30 pm with musical performances and maybe a few celebrities - all you gotta do is pay for parking and somehow withstand spending the rest of your money at the Crate&Barrel store.


If you haven't gotten your fill of museums lately, or you need a place to take visiting relatives over the Thanksgiving weekend, consider this - from Nov. 26th through Dec. 9th, 20 different LA institutions threw this together: Holiday MADness (Membership Appreciation Days). Basically, a bunch of museums and other art institutions in Los Angeles got together and wanted to give back to their membership - so if you're a card-carrying member at any of these museums, you can get in for free on the days listed - AND you get 20% off all merchandise at the museum stores, which we all know is the coolest place to get gifts that nobody else will have.


Thursday, Dec. 3rd - the annual Griffith Park Light Display starts up again! For one night only on the 3rd, bicyclists are the only ones allowed to tour the Crystal Springs Drive light displays - and then for the next two weeks, Friday Dec. 4th through Thursday, Dec. 17th, it's only pedestrians. Finally, beginning Friday, Dec. 18th through Dec. 30th, cars will be allowed to cruise slowly through the brightly lit streets. This is a huge hit with most Southern California residents, so do NOT wait until the last minute to do this one :)

Dec. 5th, Saturday - if you've ever felt particularly crafty during the holidays, hop on down to Descanso Gardens in La Canada and for the (somewhat steep) price of $35, materials and an instructor will be on hand to help you make a beautiful, fresh Christmas wreath to hang on your door and greet your holiday guests.


Whether you celebrate Hanukkah, are curious about celebrating it, or just looking for a really good party, look no further than Fiesta Hanukkah!, which is the Skirball's way of blending Jewish and Latin American traditions into one really awesome party. Join the festivities on Sunday, Dec. 6th and learn how to play Jewish Latin games, taste yummy food, and listen to Latin American bands put their own spin on traditional Hanukkah songs. Adult admission is $10, children under 12 years old are free.


And finally - if you are in a singing mood this holiday season but don't want to get made fun of (or dress up like an extra from Scrooged) this might be just the thing: The Walt Disney Concert Hall puts on two performances of Handel's Messiah - and YOU'RE the chorus! Whether you want to sit in your seat and just enjoy the music or stand up and sing along, you're welcome to either way - just make sure you've got your ticket for either the Dec. 12th, 2 pm performance or the Dec. 20th, 7 pm performance, then sit back, enjoy the soloists and full orchestra on stage, and sing along with all your heart if you feel moved to do so. Tickets start at $24.


So there you go, folks! Long blog, as usual, but tons of stuff to do this holiday season. So go forth, eat, drink, and help others be merry.

Monday, November 16, 2009

two weddings and a refund

Happy Monday, everyone! And I can wish people a happy Monday because I had a kick ass weekend shooting not one, but TWO weddings!

Both weddings were set in Malibu, and as I was driving in the late afternoon sunshine on Friday afternoon heading to the Bel Air Bay Club for the first wedding, my car cruising down Pacific Coast Highway as it overlooked the Pacific Ocean sparkling in the sun, I got all grateful and mushy for how awesome my life is and how many cool opportunities I have already had - and how many more I'm probably in for.

I'm also grateful that for both the Friday and Saturday weddings this weekend, the brides were just about the coolest, most laid back ladies I have ever met. The bride on Friday, who wore The.Most.Gorgeous.Dress.Ever (it was made entirely out of cream-colored peacock feathers. I know it sounds like it wouldn't work, but trust me, it worked) kept exclaiming, "Everything is so beautiful!" And it was. This wedding had the feel of a dance party, especially when, for the first dance, a choir came out of nowhere to sing the couple's song, then burst into a rendition of Ain't No Mountain High Enough and welcomed the guests to jump up and dance and sing along. So the happy couple went from dancing alone on the dance floor to surrounded by a choir and hundreds of guests who were singing and dancing and laughing and crying and I got to photograph all of it - it was an incredibly perfect night.

Saturday night's wedding also had a total party-vibe feel to it after the bride and groom were married in the Stauffer Chapel at Pepperdine University (if you are in Southern California and you haven't been to this chapel you are missing out - huge, gorgeous stained-glass windows overlooking the ocean in the afternoon sunlight - one of the most beautiful places in all of California), then moved the reception to one of Hollywood's hottest clubs, the kind where they don't have the address or any sign on the building - why does LA think that if it's hard to find, it makes it cooler?

I think the highlight of Saturday night's wedding (besides the swanky club and amazing food) was me helping the chief bartender tape up the wedding coordinator's sprained ankle with electrical tape, all while being stuffed into a small utility closet so no one would notice. Yup, definitely the highlight of the night. I got a free Shirley Temple out of that one.

I didn't take this picture. But this is what the Pepperdine chapel looks like on the inside. Gorgeous, no?

So those were my two weddings - I had a fantastic time, took tons of photos that I'm not allowed to show any of you (wah! Client releases!) and spent half my weekend in hip, trendy clubs and beautiful chapels, listening to sentimental toasts and photographing crying family members and stealing slices of wedding cake. Um...scratch that last one.

:)

And in other news, do any of you remember that total BS speeding ticket I got way back in June of this year? I blogged about it here and finally decided that I wanted to fight it in court - something about 98% of the rest of my family and friends (and my insurance agent) told me not to do.

I fought it anyways. Maybe it's a New Englander thing to want to naturally do what other people tell me I can't, or to fight back against what I feel can occasionally be a corrupt bureaucracy of people more interested in creating excess paperwork to get more money for the city than in the general safety of the public. Whatever happened to that catchy slogan "To protect and to serve?"

Either way, civil disobedience is in my blood, so I started doing some research. And I have to apologize to my non-Cali readers here because the following laws I'm going to be talking about are only California Vehicle Codes, so you guys that live in the rest of the United States can feel free to go grab a soda or something while I give my fellow Californians a quick lesson in Fighting Your Speeding Ticket 101. Ready?

1) Let me guess. You were told that if you fight your ticket and declare yourself Not Guilty you waive your right to go to traffic school, thus making it appear that fighting your ticket is a huge gamble that you can't afford. In reality, when you make your argument to the judge, you can ask that if in the event that you are found guilty in a court of law, your monetary fine be reduced (hey, it never hurts to ask) and that you be allowed to go to traffic school if you do not have a violation on your driving record within the last three years.

2) You were probably also told that it's a pain in the ass to show up in court and fight your ticket. Contrary to popular belief, police have a few very good reasons to show up in court if you decide to fight your ticket in person, the main two being: a) a cop gets paid OVERTIME to show up in court, and b) the court date scheduled on your ticket is always going to be one of the officer's days off.

What you might not know is that to initially contest your speeding ticket, you DO NOT have to appear in court. Pay your fine in full once you get it in the mail (declaring yourself Not Guilty on the check and in a letter), then request a TWD in that same letter - a Trial of Written Declaration. The court will mail you a pre-existing form (bet you didn't know they had those lying around) where you get a chance to explain your side of the story and offer up any proof, including recent road surveys, photographs of the speed limit sign, the road, etc. Instead of being paid overtime to show up in court and intimidate the hell out of you, now the police officer's job is to prove that the violation he issued you was correctly and legitimately issued - and he has to work to gather the proper paperwork on his own time.

3) I was issued a speeding ticket for going 61 mph in a 55 mph zone while accelerating up a hill - and I used these two CVCs (California Vehicle Codes) to argue my case. The first being CVC 22400, the Minimum Speed Law. The Minimum Speed Law asserts that a) No person shall drive upon a highway at such a slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, unless the reduced speed is necessary for safe operation, because of a grade, or in compliance with law. Using this law, I argued that because everyone else behind and around me was driving faster, if I were to actually drive the speed limit posted, I would have been a hazard to the traffic behind me and attempting to pass me as I would have interrupted the flow of cars heading up the hill, so I instead chose to increase my speed and thus stop being a burden to the traffic behind me.

4) I also used CVC 22350, the Basic Speed Law, which states that if weather conditions are dry and clear, and traffic conditions are light and easy, I am allowed to drive at what I may deem a safe and reasonable speed. I noted that the officer failed to mark down what the weather and road conditions were on my speeding ticket, as he is required to do, and then I sent in my TWD (along with a copy of my ticket to show where he failed to note the weather and traffic conditions) via certified mail and waited nervously.

This weekend, I received a letter in the mail that notified me that I was found Not Guilty in a California court of Law and that my traffic fine was being refunded to me. Wooohooo! Who's got money for holiday presents now? (::points at myself::) I do!

And that, my friends, is how each and every one of us can sow just a tiny little bit of anarchy into a world that has long forgotten to put common sense above legality.

Thus endeth today's lesson. :)

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

birthday layers

Today is my oldest brother's birthday. I've got two older brothers, so I'm the baby, and the only girl, and before you think yup, she was a brat may I also ask that you add tomboy to that mental picture. So I'm a brat tomboy, which should explain a lot. Rest assured that if I ever break my hand punching someone's face, I'm gonna pitch a fit.

Growing up, whatever my brothers did, said, wore, or listened to, I desperately wanted to as well. I grew up wearing black and refusing to wear skirts and listening to heavy metal music and rocking out to Anthrax, Metallica, and Motley Crue, and then as my brothers' tastes varied as they got into college, I started getting into Pink Floyd, the Beatles, Led Zeppelin, etc. Come to think of it, I STILL wear black and refuse to wear skirts and am still listening to all those bands. Hmmm...

Anyways, both my brothers are amazing guys, honest and direct, hilarious and stubborn, hard-working and incredibly talented (one is an 3D effects animator, the other focuses on graphics. I can't even draw a stick figure very well). I look up to both of them very much, but here's the thing...I don't know them very well.

Oh, it's not for lack of trying, I promise. But there's a bit of an age gap, and I'm, well, a girl, and I've got my own stuff going on in LA. But most of all, there's a little bit of distance because that's how we were raised. And this isn't going to turn into a post about my crappy childhood, because this isn't a blog where I dump that stuff on you guys. But I will say, of all the things that make me the most heartbroken about how the three of us were raised, you know, besides the physical abuse and stuff, is the fact that my father pitted the three of us against each other. We were taught that our siblings were never our allies -- they were our competition, our threats, and it was made very clear that there was only so much love to go around and that we had to compete for it.

Fuck that. And I hardly ever swear on this blog so you can get how pissed off this makes me.

Anyways, I'm steering this post in the wrong direction, as I'm trying to make it lighthearted and instead heading really quickly towards an Epic Fail on that one. Because the point is, of all of this, of everything that I am saying here:

If you really, truly want to get to know someone, check out their wish list on Amazon.com.

We had asked my brother a while back to get us a list of stuff he wanted for his birthday, since we usually try to celebrate it on Thanksgiving because that's the date closest to his birthday when we're all gathered around the same onion dip, and lo and behold, Sunday night an email appears in our in-boxes with a link to birthday bro's Amazon wish list. And I'm scrolling through it, noticing the usual stuff, like some Godsmack albums and Pink Floyd posters and Boston Bruins gear, and then there's the Salvador Dali print of Swans Reflecting Elephants WAIT WHAT?

And there is it, both Swans Reflecting Elephants and Van Gogh's Starry Night, on his wish list. And I know my brother is incredibly intelligent but I'm still like, How does he even know who Dali is? In my entire not-that-long life we have never had a single conversation where he expressed interest in any type of art that was created long before computers, in the dark age of paint and brushes and women who weren't the size of starving Abercrombie and Fitch models.

And as someone who loves art (in a pedestrian, hey that looks familiar, must be whats-his-name kind of way) this absolutely blows me away.

But then I think about it - isn't my Pink Floyd, Boston Bruins, Battlestar Galactica and Godsmack loving brother allowed to have layers, just like me? I wouldn't want someone to look at the things I like and assume I don't know a Jackson Pollack from a Monet. Or that I'm just some air-headed blond who doesn't know the difference between Picasso and LOL Cats.

It got me thinking - what else don't I know about him? What else will I find out about my brother, if we just keep talking, if I don't let my busy life and my brat tomboy persona and the past get in the way?

So happy birthday, big brother. Here's to keeping people on their toes, and never, ever apologizing for being yourself. Your talent and your drive make me so incredibly proud to be your little sis.

And can I borrow that Godsmack album sometime?

Monday, November 9, 2009

Saturday is alright (for fighting)

Okay, so did everyone have a good weekend? Because I spent 8 hours on Saturday working with Escrima sticks and training knives and I can barely type, my fingers and knuckles and hands and forearms are so sore.

So this post is gonna be short (by my standards) because I'm a whiner. And a wimp.

I've been studying Escrima for about three years now with my friend Isaac as my instructor, and one of the things I love most about Escrima is that I don't have to be incredibly strong or huge to be able to take someone down. I have to be fast, and I have to be efficient. I also have to not flail my arms as much, but I'm working on that last one.

Escrima (sometimes referred to as Kali) originated in the Philippines because, um, lots and lots of countries were lining up to try and slaughter their people and take over the country, and the Filipino people were all, um, no thanks? So they borrowed from a ton of different martial arts and whenever they'd be taken over for short period, the Filipinos would practice their sword work in the fields along with practicing it through, ahem, "dancing." If you guys know anything about Capoeira, you'll notice some similarities - mainly, a subjugated group of people pass along their martial arts training through the art of dance so that their stupid masters don't notice anything, then one day they rise up and kick ass and everyone's like, Wow, didn't see THAT one coming. I just thought they were being moved by the holy spirit.

Anyways, my point is, Escrima is bad-ass and it teaches you not only sword fighting, but because it's based off fighting concepts and not fighting techniques (something our guest instructor, Guro Lewis, kept drilling into us on Saturday), you can use it at any time with any object. Our Guro demonstrated this by taking down one of our students using a pen - and if you've seen The Bourne Identity, you get to see Jason Bourne use Escrima to kill someone with a rolled up newspaper. Finally, a use for all those old Wall Street Journals you've got lying around.

So Saturday was a good day of working sword and then knife fighting techniques, because, again with the idea that any weapon can be utilized with Escrima concepts, Escrimadors make really, REALLY good knife fighters. I learned how to stab, poke, hack and slash my way through the human body, and I had an absolutely fantastic time doing it.



And this is my blog post about how I spent my weekend learning how to kill people more effectively. Why can't I just scrapbook like everyone else?

Thursday, November 5, 2009

rollercoaster

Monday night I found myself irrationally angry. I'm not really an angry person, as I was raised in a family of angry people so I sort of side-stepped that whole thing by becoming an Uber-Communicator. You know who we are, we're the ones whose buttons are impossible to find and we talk about our feelings and we drop our egos and focus on solving the problem? Or when we're really upset we go for a walk and come back and everything's okay? Yeah, we're an endangered species. Sorry, I'm working on a breeding program as I type this.

And Tuesday night I was really super sensitive and kind of...sad. Benni and I are brushing our teeth and I sort of turn to him and say, "I'm irrational," almost in a curious observer kind of way, because the thing is, most of the time I am not irrational. At all. I am the cool, collected pragmatist who likes to combine organized with spaz and see how many people I can weird out. Like, yes, sometimes I end up wearing two different colored socks the entire day without noticing (I only did that once), but I have never missed paying a bill on time in my life and my entire book collection is organized according to genre and then the author's last name. This really freaks people out.

So I know what's going on and what's coming up, so to speak, and I don't have to get all TMI on any of you. I guess I'm writing this because it can be treated as a kind of field/survival guide for girls and guys. So listen up as I give myself advice that you too can benefit from.

Girls: just because you feel an emotion doesn't mean you have to ACT on it. The anger might be there, the moodiness, the sadness, the urge for a bacon cheeseburger, whatever. I don't know where society got this "It's okay to express whatever you're feeling, whenever you're feeling it" mantra but NO. You don't get to throw a temper tantrum like a small helpless hungry 2 year old when you're 25, you don't get to act fully INSANE and expect your loved ones to have any sort of coping mechanism set in place whatsoever. You also don't get to say a bunch of really mean crap that you don't mean and expect it to blow over the next day once you feel fine. That's not cool, ladies.

You're an adult. Take responsibility for your actions. If you are in a bad mood, tell people you are in a bad mood and apologize in advance if you feel you are going to take it out on them. Or better yet - don't take it out on them! Create some sort of happy space for yourself, go out for frozen yogurt, go work out, snuggle with your puppy, kill lots of people in Halo 3 or go watch Quantum Leap re-runs. It doesn't matter. Just don't justify why you are entitled to go from mostly sane human being to raging bitch, because guys have bad days too and we chicks don't put up with their crap for very long.

Guys: Calm down. Nothing sets off an already-emotional woman like fear, or panic. This whole "Oh my god, is this what the rest of my life is going to be like" thought process does NOT help. Oh, and I know you want to fix it. Of course you can fix it! You fixed the dryer, didn't you?

No. You can't fix it.

You have to just shut up and listen as we sob uncontrollably about the latest love triangle on Grey's Anatomy or rage against the injustice of push-up bras or whatever other stupid thing has set us off, and you cannot fix it, you can only support us as we sit in the weird, irrational emotions and let them pass like a storm in the night. You don't have to be the hero, you don't have to rationalize our irrationalities and above all do not tell us we are overreacting. BE YE NOT SO STUPID as to tell us we are overreacting. Breathe. It will pass, we will feel better, and everything will go back to normal.

Unless you're dating a bi-polar chick, in which case all I can do is say I am very sorry and they have support groups like that for a reason.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Halloween town

Sorry I'm late with this post - there were a ton of photos for me to upload over the weekend and the first of the month is always a little crazy for various reasons, but here you go! As promised! Photos! Yay!

Thursday night Benni and I carved pumpkins while sipping hot chocolate and humming the Nightmare Before Christmas theme song to ourselves, because we're cool like that. Here's me carving my pumpkin:


and here's Benni's pumpkin:

and here's the four of us, creators and creations, together:

but let's face it, jack-o-lanterns look better in the dark :)


On Friday night we headed over to our friend Zak's party, where we ate too much and watched cheesy slasher flicks playing in the background while bobbing for apples and generally pointing and laughing at other peoples' costumes. Most people got that I was Harley Quinn except for one chick that guessed that I was Mrs. Incredible.

Really? Really?? Last time I checked Elasti-Girl did not wear fishnets. Of course, Harley technically doesn't either, but still...

Benni was kind enough to take some pictures of me getting ready for the party, most without me noticing:



And then we were off to the party!





Benni and I had decided to go into West Hollywood for Halloween - every year, up to 400,000 people (nope, not making that number up) show up and crowd into three or four blocks and it's supposed to be absolutely insane. It's also supposed to be a fantastic way to celebrate Halloween if you can deal with the crowds and parking and insanity and riots and male nudity (West Hollywood is, uh, very liberated). Having been warned to show up early and make a day of it, and having never planned this sort of thing before, that's exactly what I did. If there's one thing us A-types are good at, it's getting into Tour Guide/Cruise Director mode. I can plan with the best of 'em.

So Saturday morning I decided to make breakfast for Benni (see? I do my share of cooking!) and made him poached eggs on english muffins spread with goat cheese, and fresh homemade chocolate croissants right out of the oven. It was yummy.

We headed down to W. Hollywood early, arrived at noon, and parked in a parking structure so we wouldn't have to deal with drunk jay-walking pedestrians when we tried to leave that evening, then we walked up to Sunset Blvd. and caught a movie (New York, I Love You) at the movie theater.

After the movie, we headed back to our car and got changed into our costumes. Now, as an actress, I am fairly skilled at changing my clothes and putting on makeup in my (parked) car, but my costume involved a skirt, two layers of tights, boots that reached to mid-calf and a corset, so there was some...maneuvering. Let's just say I got a good abs workout.

We barely made it to our 5:30 dinner reservation on time, so this is us finally leaving the parking structure, fully (and finally) in costume once again:


and as we headed out of the parking structure towards the restaurant, we literally crossed the street, walked ten feet...and were there. Can I plan like a bad-ass or what? I'd had no idea the restaurant and parking structure were that close. Apparently I'm just that good. (And yes, incredibly humble.)

After making the reservations, I had called the restaurant (Cafe La Boheme) to make sure dining in costume was okay, and the guy who answered the phone practically screamed, "Is it okay? The entire wait staff is going to be in costume!!" So I already knew this was our kind of place.

We walk in, and I kid you not, we are the first ones there - so the staff lets us choose where we want to sit. We end up choosing a small, intimate table on the balcony of the restaurant, over-looking a huge fireplace and gorgeous, blood-red chandelier - this place was practically MADE for Halloween, and it's decorated with spider-webs and glowing pumpkins everywhere. As we pass our waiter, he exclaims, "Awesome, I get to wait on Super-Villains!"

We loved our waiter.


The food was incredible, we were waited on by a shirtless cowboy, the dessert was to die for, and the restaurant was about fifty feet away from the start of the celebration. It was absolutely perfect.



So after dinner, the carnival was well under way, so we started at one end and just slowly walked down to the other, making our way through the thousands of people crowding the streets. The best thing about the costume parade was the fact that everyone was supporting and loving each other's outfits - there was very little ego, just tons and tons of people taking pictures of costumes they thought were cool. And guess who was the hit of the night?

You guessed it. Out of the thousands of costumes we saw, Benni was the ONLY classic Joker, and people went nuts. People followed him down the street, yelling "Joker, over here!" before pulling him aside to take pictures with him. Most of them didn't know who I was at all (HUGE bummer at first) but I got over it fairly quickly because I was just really happy to see Benni getting a ton of attention for his fantastic costume.

There were a lot of Batmans who wanted to take pictures with Benni, and a rowdy group of Australians found him and pulled him into their group for a picture (they had a Batman in their group), but when I tried to step out of the picture all the guys started yelling, "No, you too, you too!" So that was nice. Somewhere in Australia there is a picture of me looking surprised.

Here's a very sweet girl who wanted her picture taken with both of us:


And yes, I'm aware the picture is a bit blurry, but this is what happens when you let 6'4" drag queens use your camera.




That's a West Hollywood Halloween for ya! How was everyone's Halloween??
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