Saturday, 7 April 2012

Thursdays with Audra

I have turned 28. Though it's an uninspiring age, the birthday celebration itself was fantastic. Look who I met...

Yes, that's Audra McDonald. Though I know she's become famous for plenty of TV and recording work, I first fell in love with her when I was 16 and she starred in "Ragtime." It's my all time favorite musical and I was beyond excited to see her perform on my birthday in "Porgy and Bess." The experience didn't disappoint.

As an added bonus, the role of Porgy was played by Norm Lewis, himself a Broadway icon. He played an amazing Javert in "Les Miserables" a few years ago (and revived the role for the TV recording of the Les Miz 25th anniversary concert in London, which plays often on PBS), and he originated the role of King Triton in the musical version of "The Little Mermaid." I loved the score for TLM, and Norm sang one of my favorite songs from the show.

As you can probably tell from the above photos, I got the chance to meet the two stars after the show. They were nice enough to sign my program and talk for a bit with those of us milling around outside. They were both very kind and generous with their time and, if possible, I walked away loving them both even more.

After talking to Audra, I had absolutely no idea what I had said. Fortunately, Cory got a bit of it on video, so I can now say affirmatively that I sounded like a complete idiot. I blame giddiness. I've also added a few clips below of Audra and Norm performing two different songs from the musical. In the first, pay attention to how Sherri Shepherd looks once they're done singing. That's pretty much how I looked the entire show. There was mucho weeping.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Snowy Hollow

The blizzard that hit New York during a recent trip was shocking, mostly because the weather quickly moved from apocalyptic to bright and sunny, a la this:

That's Becky and Lauren above, who were in town for a quick visit. Lauren had brought our British friend Matt (who you'll remember from posts like this) for his first trip to the Big Apple. Before a tour of the isle of Manhattan, however, we went upstate a bit to the cozy town of Sleepy Hollow. What awaited us was a snow storm the likes of which I hadn't seen since my days in London. (In this post I explain how mine and Lauren's first snow sighting was so incredible, it knocked our glasses off). We managed to navigate the blanketed town anyhow, but not without plenty of slipping and sliding.

If you clicked on the snow post mentioned above, you may have noticed pictures of Becky teaching me how to make snow angels. Growing up in Florida, I was without the necessary know-how to properly make one of the things. Luckily, my northern friend was able to fill me in.

During this trip I pulled out that dusty tutoring session and put it to good use. The picture below is the end result, which looks fairly normal. The video below that is the entire embarrassing process. In my defense, I was remembering Becky's tips on how to avoid messy footprints getting around your pretty snow angel. My intentions were true but, as you'll see, my follow through left something to be desired.

PS: Again, if you read the past post on snowfall in London, you saw that it is typically Rebecca Dittmar's duty to remind me to wear gloves when playing in the snow. She was not here to remind me this time, hence my discomfort in the above video. In fact, I'm going to go ahead and re-post that video evidence. I just love Rebecca's irate voice as she yells "Those are my gloves!"

Saturday, 11 February 2012

New York Once More

It has happened. Cory and I have officially left DC and have set up our new residence in Manhattan. Readers of the blog may remember we both lived in NYC two years ago, then moved to DC while Cory did a two year rotation for work. Those two years are up and we're back in the Big Apple. We're very fond of our new neighborhood in the Upper East Side and I'll post soon on some of the goings on we've been up to since moving back.

For now I'll say our leaving DC happened in a flurry, as we had just one day after returning from our Sundance trip. That day was spent procuring furniture for our new apartment, so we didn't get much of a chance to say goodbye to the wonderful city we called home for two years. Upon pulling out of our building in the rented van we were driving up to Manhattan, Cory and I realized there was one important thing we had been meaning to do our entire time in the Capital. It was around lunchtime anyway, and so we made our last official DC outing to this iconic eatery:

I'm pretty pleased that this was our final activity in DC. Ben's Chili Bowl is way famous and delicious to boot. I enjoyed my half smoke, which Samantha Brown taught me was the thing to order when dining at Ben's. I was hesitant to allow Cory to snap the below picture, as I was trying to pull off the whole "I'm a local, I eat here all the time" thing. But I am glad to have the photo as a reminder of our last minutes in the city. Farewell DC, we loved you well!

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Ingrid Michaelson Likes Utah

This post is supposed to be about my recent trip to Sundance, but really it's going to be all about Ingrid Michaelson. Those two subjects go together naturally, don't they?

Before I go off on my tangent, I'll briefly get the film festival out of the way. Cory has gone to Sundance for many years now, and this was the third time I accompanied him. We saw some great (and some awful) movies and generally took in the loveliness that is Park City. Really, I like the town for how picturesque and quaint it is. It's quite a trial to Cory that the film and skiing capital he loves so much holds my esteem because of the pretty trees and icicles.

While at Sundance, we met up with some friends from New York. Kelly is a freelance reporter and was all over the place conducting interviews and receiving great swag. In between that, she was able to get us into some awesome events. Here we are below at a Paul Simon party. That's a weird sentence.

And I think that's enough about the film festival, don't you? Because everyone knows the real reason people go to Sundance is to see famous people. We saw a number of celebs (a highlight was when Lindsey, Cory and I stood next to Danny Glover and did that "Angels in the Outfield" arm wave thing at him), but it was all eclipsed for me when we went to the Music Cafe.

The Music Cafe is a small venue that Sundance hosts each year. Every day of the festival, a line up of artists plays for free. Those lucky enough to get in are treated to a very private, intimate concert, as the cafe only holds a small group.

It was with much giddiness that I learned Ingrid Michaelson would be performing. I'm a big fan. Yes, I know that's not unique. I've adored her for the past six years, ever since Rebecca played me "Corner of Your Heart" on her iPod. This was back when I thought an mP3 player was some sort of tape recording device, so you can imagine my surprise when I heard such beautiful music coming out of the earbuds. I love, love, love her. Have I said this enough?

I staked out my spot and held my breath. When she came onstage, I yelled like a crazy person. In fact, I couldn't seem to stop yelling the entire set. At one point I was shouting out song requests. She had to shush me. It was a very nice moment for us. In short, she sounded amazing and was also very, very funny. If possible, I love her even more now.

She ended the set with an REM cover I had never heard before. It was, without question, one of the most special songs I've ever heard live. She used these pedals at her feet to start recording her own voice, playing it back to create a chain. I've posted the video below and anyone who even remotely likes music should listen to it (this means you Rebecca).

I'll reiterate here, she is singing completely acapella, with no one doing back up. Also for disclosure purposes, this isn't my video. Cory's sister Lindsey took a vid but the file wouldn't send to me, so I've taken this from YouTube. It's the same performance though, I promise.

Afterward, I was elated. If this had been the end of it, it would have been enough. As we say at Pesach, dayenu. (Anyone?)

Two days later, Cory and I were at the Salt Lake City Airport getting ready for a long flight back to DC. We were already at our gate when Cory decided he needed coffee. I didn't want to go. It was a trek back to the Starbucks we'd seen all the way over at security.

Fine, we went. I waited in line at the quiet Starbucks, impatiently tapping my foot as a few other patrons milled about, when Cory spoke.

"Erica," he said slowly. "It's Ingrid Michaelson."

I looked up quickly. Me heart leaped. It was Ingrid Michaelson. She stood next to me, studying the coffee menu in a graceful manner. I found myself short of breath.

"Excuse me," Cory said bravely, tapping Ingrid on the shoulder. "We were at your performance Thursday and my girlfriend here is a big fan of yours."

She turned her attention to me. My eyes got big.

"Would you mind taking a picture with her?"

Ingrid said "Sure" and got in close. I began babbling idiotically: professions of love; lists of my favorite songs; confessions that I had been the one shouting at her days before, demanding tunes like she was a trained monkey there to perform for my pleasure.

"That's sweet," she said with a smile. This relieved me. Ingrid Michaelson thought I was sweet, not some maniacal stalker.

As she left, I got so flustered that I may or may not have caused Cory to spill an entire hot latte down his pants. Whatever. I was on a high for the rest of the day. In fact, I think I'm still there.

As I've mentioned in posts like this, Cory often spends Sundance weeks tracking down and taking photos with his favorite celebrities. I've always shied away from this, as if waiting for the perfect person to take my celeb-stalking virginity. Ingrid was well worth the wait.

PS: How awesome is it that Ingrid Michaelson walks around airports by herself, sans entourage, carrying her own instrument on her back?

Thursday, 15 December 2011

Brussels Rhymes With Mussles...

...but you shouldn't order mussels gratin. Despite learning this, I liked Brussels a lot. Mainly because the whole city looks like this:

And this:

Also, they have a royal family that lives here:

More fantastically, Anne of Cleeves, Henry VIII's fourth wife, was born in this building (it's a favorite spot for most people, isn't it?):

The city also has tiny, secret breweries all over the place, with specialty beers you can only find at that spot:

Brussels does have a head-scratcher of a monument; a little boy statue called Manneken Pis, which is the official mascot of the city. It's exactly what it sounds like.

The little guy is so famous, he pops up in plastic form throughout the city. Check him hiding out behind Cory as we enjoy some Belgian waffles:

This lady below is a bit more modest that our Manneken friend. Plus, if you rub her elbow, you're supposed to have good luck. Poor girl's whole arm has just about been rubbed clean off, and I added to the problem.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

French Fried

Je ne parle pas francais. I think I just said I don't speak French. Nevertheless, I love the French. J'adore le francais! I think I just said I like rubber boots.

This was the extent of mine and Cory's language skills during our recent trip to Paris. We were in the land of berets for a week-long trip, with some other fun stops I'll write about soon. During our time in gay old Pa-ree, we took in many sights and did much strolling along the Seine. Like here:

And here:

And once more with feeling:

Of course, we did plenty of eating: steak frites, pan au chocolate, lots of cafe au lait and vin rouge. Here's Cory enjoying some macarons from Lauderee, a French cookie store that was a favorite of Marie Antoinette.

When not snacking, Cory and I tracked down famous literary haunts. The Shakespeare and Company bookstore was a frequent haunt of Ernest Hemingway's, as well as Ezra Pound, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Gertrude Stein.

Here's where I have to admit that Cory and I spent a whole day of our trip at Disneyland Paris. Yes, I know this is an unconventional choice. Still, we loved it. Well, I loved it. Cory went along with it.

We learned a lot at French Disney. For example, Mickey Mouse can speak excellent French; Donald Duck cannot. And, for those of you wondering what Disney characters look like in French-i-color, check this out:

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Morris Market

You may recall from this post that I once had a lovely experience with England's morris dancers. For those of you who don't know, Morris is my surname, and so I felt a special kinship with these lively dancers. Today at our local market, we saw a troupe of men dressed in suspenders with bells on their heels. Cory thought they were fancy skydivers, but I knew immediately what they were. Huzzah! It was a bit of old blighty here on our colonial shores.

In other news, it's chilly in DC. Here are some lovely additions courtesy of the Dupont market: