Sunday, November 28, 2010

Friday, November 19, 2010


I'm convinced that the majority of my family is certifiably insane. It's not that they're psychopathic serial killers or those people that sit in corners fingering greasy strands of hair and talking to the wall. They're not. They're just...strange. Allow me to illustrate:

Yesterday my mother had to go to the doctor's office for same-day surgery on her knee. Several weeks ago she had a total knee replacement and apparently there were some complications that I don't really understand because I know very little about the human body, especially the knees; I just know there was an infection and some other stuff and it was wrong. So they took her in and did another surgery that involved things like "nerve blocker" and "manipulation" and "make sure you eat and go to therapy tomorrow."

Of course, whenever anything happens to anyone that I'm related to, the entire family immediately descends on the scene of the event like a flock of loud, baking, well-meaning chickens. Chickens that never shut up.

Now, I should clarify that this is mainly my mom's side of the family. My father's mother and two sisters all live relatively close to each other on the Ohio/West Virginia border and pretty much take care of themselves. They have a decent sense of something called "personal space" that my mother's side can't seem to grasp, and they live too far away for us to see them more than a few times a year. My mother's side, on the other hand, pretty much all live within an hour of each other. My grandma lives down the street from my parents, and my aunt and her family live in State College, where I go to school. This turned out to be pretty convenient, especially recently since my mom has had so much trouble with her knee. There are plenty of people to help out when she needs to go somewhere, especially since my dad is travelling a lot right now, my sister can't drive, and my brother is at school like me. I should also probably insert here that my grandmother has started seeing a nice man recently and this gentleman friend has been worlds of help to us and is pretty much included in every family function these days.

But back to the chickens. When we do get together -- and we use anything as an excuse to see each other: surgeries, graduations, plays and musicals (my cousins and I are all involved in theatre on and off), just passing through town, business trips, holidays, you name it -- when we do get together, we greet as if we haven't seen each other in years and descend on each other like a smaller, more Irish version of Toula's family from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Instead of a million of us, there are ten, but that does mean we're any more quiet or eat any less than her family does.

I could write an entire book on the things that my family does that they think are normal. Just last night we all went to dinner after my mother got out of her surgery. We promised the nurse that we would get her to eat, so we took her to Perkin's; but not because we couldn't cook anything ourselves. On the contrary, Grandma actually had a casserole in the back of her car. The problem was that the casserole needed to cook for an hour, and Mother needed to eat now. So we went to Perkin's. But just because we couldn't go to Aunt's house to eat didn't mean that no one was going to get casserole. Instead, Grandma came prepared: two Tupperware containers and a spoon. After dinner she popped open the trunk and stood there in the dark parking lot, spooning servings into the Tupperware and passing them around like some sort of casserole pusher.

This is just one example of the things we do. We also (mis)quote movies obsessively, refuse to take money from each other, and fight over who pays the bill when we all go out to eat. This usually results in someone threatening the waiter to a) not give them a tip, or b) forcibly tie them down, if they don't give them the check. This also results in a lot of frightened waiters that we leave behind when we're done eating.

Seeing as I'll be going home for the holidays soon, I'm sure that I'll be experiencing a lot more of these antics over the next several weeks. I'll keep you posted.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Les Misérables 25

Throughout the course of today I walked over two miles in three-inch heels and got massive blisters on both my feet. I put on makeup (which I hardly ever do; and even by makeup I just mean a couple swipes with the mascara wand) and wore a fancy and uncomfortable shirt. I left a meeting early. I skipped dessert. And for what?

One of the most amazing experiences of my life.

Tonight was the showing at a local theater of the 25th anniversary concert performance of Les Misérables done at the O2 Arena in London. I'll just let that not sink in for a moment for those of you who have no idea what I'm talking about or why it means so much to me.


Ok, we're good? Good.

The plot involves some people doing some things around the time of some Parisian uprisings (early 1800s), but the story of the show is actually about love (and God -- but isn't all religion just about love anyway, in the end?). It follows Jean Valjean, a runaway convict; the girl he adopted, Cosette; the police officer that pursues him throughout their lives, Javert; and the revolutionary student with whom Cosette falls in love (and who falls in love with her), Marius. The musical version is an opera and the anniversaries are done in abridged concert fashion.

The concert tonight was nothing short of magical. It's not that every singer was amazing (they weren't) or that the theater I was in was packed (it wasn't) or that I actually got to see it live (I didn't). It was more about the experience (ask me about the Bob Dylan concert sometime). It was the experience of seeing the performance of a show that I've grown up with, that has shaped my love of theatre and music since I was a child. Not just any performance, but the anniversary performance. A performance that was specifically produced to mark the passage of time and commemorate the years that this show has existed -- existed to touch millions of people all over the world. It was the experience of watching an extremely talented group of individuals breathe life into one of my favorite stories of all time.

Now is probably a good time to mention that I've also seen the 10th anniversary concert that was done at the Royal Albert Hall in London in 1995 (the official title, Les Misérables: The Dream Cast in Concert, might give you an idea of why I like it so much). I've think I've seen this concert once. Or twice. A year. For the past ten years. Like I said, I've grown up with the story, the show, the songs, the singers. I've fallen in love with the characters again and again through the power of music and theatre (which, if you know me at all, you must know that one of my maddest obsessions is with musical theatre). I also tried to read the book once, but I was too young -- I'll try again sometime soon.

Perhaps the most exhilerating part of the show (though it's hard to pick just one) was the end. Isn't the end always the best part? For those of you who don't know (or can't count), the musical Les Misérables was first performed (in English at least) in 1985 at the Barbican Arts Centre in London. It was produced by Cameron Mackintosh, written by Claude-Michel Schönberg, Alain Boubil, and Herbert Kretzmer, and the original cast starred Colm Wilkinson (most amazing man alive) as the leading role. Now forget for a moment that the high school girls sitting behind me didn't know who any of these people were, what the plot was, or that this was the cumulating event of my musical-watching career so far. Forget for a moment that Nick Jonas played the role of Marius tonight. Forget for just a moment that I was going through all of this by myself because I'm the only person I know who is both free on Wednesday nights and crazy enough to spend $15 on a ticket to a show about singing Frenchmen. Just focus on the fact that after the finale, just when everyone was thinking about grabbing their coats, peacing out to avoid the rush, and wondering why no one was leaving, the cast parted to the sides of the stage, and out walked the original 1985 cast from London. I put that in italics for you in case you wouldn't have understood without them how much of a mind blower this was for me.

By that time I thought that I was cried out. I had already cried off all my mascara ten minutes into the first act, and it just kept going from there. I really thought I had no emotion left for this show. Boy, was I wrong. I could hardly contain myself. Out walked Colm Wilkinson himself, looking a little old and grey for a Jean Valjean, but still obviously capable of the role. Beside him strode Michael Ball, showtunes singer extraordinaire and original Marius. My grandmother likes his voice almost as much as his dimples, but in my opinion the dimples play second fiddle. The man has the voice of an angel. The rest of the cast was there too, and just in case you thought it couldn't get any better -- and I couldn't be any more surprised and blown away -- Colm Wilkinson stepped up to the microphone and began singing the most famous solo of the role. But instead of a solo they turned it into a quartet with a few other Jean Valjeans, including the man who acted the part tonight. The two (or three? I couldn't tell) casts sang a couple more songs together, the Important Men (Mackintosh,
Schönberg, et al) said a few words, and then they shot off fireworks, as it appears is becoming customary at these anniversary things.

I attempted to stand. I clapped at a screen, forgetting where I was. I furiously wiped my eyes, hoping the high school girls behind me (why were they there?) wouldn't notice my tears. I walked home, decided that that ticket was the best $15 dollars I had ever spent. Thank you, Cameron, for producing such a beautiful and enchanting show. And thank you, State Theater, for broadcasting it, allowing me to experience the magic along with the 23,000 audience members in the O2.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Post Script

I forgot to mention in my hockey rantings how much The S.O. loves that sport. This is an important fact as I probably wouldn't even watch it if it weren't for him (and my dad, who always has it on at home). Not only did he used to play, but I'm pretty sure he's certifiably obsessed with watching/listening to it on TV or the radio. This strange S.O./father combo of sports obsession is also why I watch golf and frequently make a complete fool of myself in front of them at the driving range.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My Last Five Weeks

This room has somehow come to mean so much to me. These four white walls, not exciting or comfortable or intrinsically meaningful, have seen so much within the past 18 months that it would be impossible to be completely detached from them.

In this room I see the sun rise every morning and the moon come up every night. I can see the lights from the apartments across the street, and if I lean a little to the right I can see the complex I lived in the one year I wasn't in this building. I can see what used to be Hooters, now an Irish pub; I watched the employees there go from plastic under-dressed girls to slightly more realistic, slightly more clothed girls and a beefy bouncer.

In this room I've slept with the bed facing every direction; in this room we made love for the last time; in this room we made love for the first time; in this room his picture sits on my window sill. Into this room are packed all my possessions (except the bag of stuffed animals under my bed at home and the books on my bookshelf). In this room are reminders of the friends I've had, the boys I've loved, the girls I've watched over, and the classes I've taken. This room holds the memories and the things I've learned, the laughter and tears and breath of my entire last three semesters of school (nearly half of my higher educational career). The holes in the wood from my pictures and calendars. The marker on the walls. The dust on the floor. The feel of the air.

In this room, this 20 x 30 ft space, I studied, procrastinated, created, destroyed, learned, was entertained, and lived.

To the new inhabiter of this room, I leave my legacy: a leader that everyone loved, an acquaintance that most will miss, a teacher, an employee, a co-worker, a lover, floormate, friend. A girl about to move on with her life, about to make the next step into the world. To this room's new occupant, I leave my love for this job and my passion and caring for the others who live here. May you live up to the shoes you have to fill.

It's no simple task, living in this room.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Why Hockey Rocks My Socks

Some of the greatest debates of our time revolve around the issue of sports. Not only about which teams are better or who has the best draft picks or who's going to win the championship this year, but also about which sports, in general, are better. As a general rule, you have two groups of fans: those who like football, hockey, and basketball, and those who like soccer, baseball, and tennis. Then you have the people who love all sports and the people who hate all sports. We'll leave these two groups alone, as they don't really play into the discussion. There are the groups who like really random sports, like cricket, rugby, and, curling. And there's the group that will watch most sports, but they really have a soft spot in their hearts for just one.

I would fall into this last group. I will watch many sports, including swimming, football, water polo, figure skating, some gymnastics, etc. A lot of things. But there's one sport that I'm currently having a full-blown love affair with, a sport that I could watch all day everyday and never get bored of. That sport is hockey.

Now I used to have a relationship with Football, but when I met Hockey, it was love at first sight. I haven't quite been able to end it with Football yet, so what I usually end up doing is sneaking around behind Football's back and spend a lot of time with Hockey. I feel really terrible about it; all my friends like Football so much more (and every girl knows how important it is for her friends to like her significant other), but I just can't get Hockey out of my head. To help me sort things out, I'm making a pros and cons list.

In reality I'm just going to discuss why hockey is better than football in general.

Now, I have to preface this by saying that I really don't have anything against football. This is especially relevant and dangerous right now, as Joe Paterno just won his 400th game two days ago; as a Penn Stater, I have to take pride in that on principle. So let me reiterate: I don't have anything against football. I just like hockey better.

For starters, hockey is just more interesting. Football is great, but it's extremely stop-and-go. No matter what, after someone runs a play or throws a pass, the game will inevitably stop while they line themselves back up and get ready for another go. The longest a play ever lasts is 10 seconds or so, and that only happens if it takes an exorbitant amount of time for either the quarterback to pass the ball or the runner to get it down to the end zone for some crazy 80-yard touchdown run. In hockey, the clock doesn't stop nearly as much. Yes, there's always that situation where a team feels like they need to ice the puck every time they have possession and the game gets a little jerky. But theoretically speaking, the play can go on forever, until there's either a penalty or the official loses sight of the puck. This gives the game a lot more potential for continuous action.

Now, this whole herky-jerky thing wouldn't be so much of a problem in football if they handled it like they do in hockey. In hockey, when the whistle is blown, they blast exciting rock music and show replays of the last interesting thing that happened before the play stopped. The announcers talk about fun things or tell jokes or use big words (I'm looking at you, Ralph Strangis) as the players beat the crap out of each other on the replay. In football, on the other hand, when a play stops for an extended amount of time, nothing interesting happens. They either show a replay of something kind of boring (but they try to make it interesting by drawing all sorts of colored squiggles all over the screen), or pan the camera around to dull places, like the box with people on mics or a disgruntled coach scowling and pacing the field. I'd rather listen to Crazy Train.

Another thing is the fights. I know that this is the single most overused reason for loving hockey, but I don't really know what to tell you there. The fights are great. The feeling you get when one of your players socks the opposing team a good one is indescribable. The anger that stirs in your gut when some punk from the other team makes one of your boys bleed is undeniable. Girls seeing young fit guys go at it is kind of the equivalent of boys watching girls wrestle in cherry-flavored Jello. As for the men, they just like to see a good fight.

The fights bring me to my next point: attractive young males in amazing physical condition. I'm sure that football players are attractive; at least some of them. But I know that some of them really aren't. You're not guaranteed a really in-shape player with football. And whether or not they're really hot, they all have to wear those pants that look like stockings with pads shoved down them in weird places.

Hockey is a different story. I don't know if it's the sweaty feet smell, or the shoulder pads that make them look extra broad, or that their helmets allow you to see more of their faces; maybe it's just the fact that anyone that size who is that graceful on two blades that are less a quarter inch thick is instantly attractive and impressive. Every hockey player I've ever seen is hot, even if their face is ugly.

In short, I can't think of a reason that I don't like hockey. But despite all of the previous infallible logic and evocative illustrations, I have to say, secretly, that the real reason that I love hockey the most is because of my future husband.

Chris Kunitz.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Look At My New Hat

life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans

The bully never remembers that event which most humiliated the bullied.

Have You Ever Noticed How Qs Look Like Elephants?

You don't think so? Quiggley the Elephant, yes?

And Gs look like cats! Greg the Cat.

And Ms kind of look like bats. Milton the Bat?

...but S's look like snakes. Sylvester the Snake...

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Three things I dislike very strongly (We don't say "hate" in this house. Often.):

Getting up early

So naturally, what do you think I've been doing this week?

That's right. Getting up an hour early to go walking/jogging/running in the freezing cold.

Real post later, promise.