Thursday, March 23, 2017

Raised Up By PBS

My earliest memory of watching PBS is getting to stay up late to watch the little black and white TV in my parents' bedroom.  Peter Paul and Mary had a concert on PBS, and because we were such big fans in my home, my dad let me watch the whole thing.  I laid on the end of the bed, chin resting my my hands, listening to all of my favorites.  To this day, I can still sing every song.  But nothing brings out my waterworks like Puff The Magic Dragon.  

My favorite episode of Sesame Street is still the episode circa early 80's when they showed crayons being made in a factory.  I was fascinated by the colors and process to go from bits of wax to a new, full box of Crayolas.  As a kid growing up in suburbia in a state that didn't have many factories, this was my first exposure to how things are made in mass production.  It's stuck with me.

My exposure to music and theater and film began because of three little letters.  PBS.  

But it didn't end in the 90's when everyone found their way to cable television and Internet.  PBS remained a staple in my life, as well as the lives of millions of Americans.  

PBS continues to be my connection to new music, theater, film, and news.  PBS was teaching us to cook long before Food Network was even imagined.  And I still find old episodes of Julia, Martha, and the fabulous America's Test Kitchen playing on the weekends.  

Raise your hand if you have seen the Les Mis 25th anniversary episode at least half a dozen times but still well up when all the Jean Valjeans are lined up onstage at the end.  I'm not the only one, right?  With the flags and each one taking a line and everyone singing never gets old!

But even if none of that played a part in your childhood, adolescence, young adulthood, and inching up on middle age certainly watched Downton Abbey.  I mean, by the final two seasons, it was super mainstream {where were you people for the first two seasons when it was just me and a girl I barely knew in high school talking about it?}.  

PBS is not just part of our lives, it's helps raise us up.  It teaches kids.  It teaches teens.  It teaches adults.  It gives us something that even with all the extra options available these days online, you still can't find anywhere else.  It's an untouched corner because it still does it right.  PBS pushes boundaries and broadens horizons.  PBS raises everyone up!

PBS is important.

Not just nice or fun.  Not just something to watch on a Sunday night.  Not just another channel.  It's important.

It's important to have PBS as a safe space in this world to learn that the world is a rainbow of colors and abilities and backgrounds.  It's important to have PBS as a welcoming place in this world to known you are not alone in your curiosity about animals and nature and music and culture.  It's important to have PBS as an encouraging champion in this world to expand your mind and grow as a person and to push beyond what you ever realized was possible.  

It puts a pit in my stomach to think that we are this close to eliminating funding for fundamental aspects of our American life such as arts and PBS, health care for all, Meals on Wheels, etc so that the Wall Street rich can get richer, and the racist monument wall can go up.  We are all better than that.  We as a nation are so much better than all of this insanity!  I'd rather see Big Bird than a big wall, any day of the week!

This country cannot afford to be materially rich and spiritually poor.  ~JFK


Wednesday, March 22, 2017

From September 11th To Broadway: Come From Away

On September 11, 2001, planes that were mid flight when American airspace closed, were diverted elsewhere until the US could get a handle on the emerging situation.  38 of those planes, carrying nearly 7000 people, were diverted to the tiny town of Gander, Newfoundland, population 10,000.

When I think about September 11th, I think of a few things.  The big picture of the Twin Towers, Pentagon, and the fourth plane in PA.  The little picture of where I was and what I did that morning and the rest of the day.  Or a few days later learning a friend lost his father in the Pentagon.  And finally the domino effect that would happen over the nearly two decades that followed that day.

But I have never thought about all the planes that were already in the air that day and how their stories would unfold.  What those planes and people would do and where they would go and what they must have felt like to have that additional connection to the bigger picture.

Come From Away, the new Broadway hit show, takes us to Gander.  We meet the people who were on the planes and the people who literally opened up their homes and hearts as their town nearly doubled in the middle of the night.  Come From Away highlights the hustle to find food and shelter for everyone on these planes, including babies and pets, the shock and fear that came over everyone as they finally learned what had happened when they were stuck on planes for over a day without information from the outside world, and how groups of strangers coped in the midst of it all.

As I mentioned yesterday, I read about this show a few weeks ago and immediately decided it was going to be a hit.  My visit to NYC to see my friends Hamilton and Eliza perfectly lined up with the opening week of Come From Away, further adding to the awesomeness of my weekend.  After reading exactly one NPR article and listening to the soundtrack, I boldly declared that Come From Away was the next Hamilton.  And then I hoped no one would remember me saying that.  

Everyone remembers me saying that.  But thankfully, I was right!

Come From Away is amazing!  The show itself is performed without a big set change, using minimal props, and without an intermission.  The cast members each play multiple characters, spectacularly portraying the passengers and the Gander locals, in a way that never once feels confusing.  The transitions are quick and seamless and I am still stunned how they manage to pull it all off.  When they were on a plane or bus or in a coffee shop, I felt it.  I could see that plane or bus or coffee shop, clear as day, despite using the same minimal set and chairs and cast members for each of those scenes.  It's brave and incredibly fresh!

This show is universally relatable.  Everyone in the world can tell you their own personal tale from September 11th.  It's not just an American story; it's a global story that is still playing out today.  To see these passengers who were not just American, but hailing from all over the world, go through this experience together in a tiny Canadian town, hits home in new ways.  It's unbelievable relevant today!

The music, the stories, the writing, and the cast are, in one word, brilliant!  I cried a few times, I laughed constantly, and I found myself grinning from ear to ear throughout the entire show.  

While I loved the complete experience, by far the stand out cast member was Jenn Colella, who so beautifully portrays Beverly Bass, the first female American Airlines pilot.  Her voice is incredible and has the power to take you through each new story without missing a beat.  I get emotional and inspired every time I listen to Me and the Sky.  

I feel so lucky to say I saw this new show at the end of it's first week on Broadway.  Not just because it's sure to be a huge hit and impossible to get tickets for now that the secret is out.  Mostly because Come From Away took me to places emotionally that are rare and special.  I both cried and laughed more than I expected, fell in love with the thousands of characters portrayed by about a dozen cast members, gained a broader understanding of the global impact of 9/11, and shared it all with Hamilton and Eliza.  

If you have the opportunity, I absolutely recommend seeing Come From Away!  You will love it!


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Squirrel Sisters And Silver Linings: I Had A Perfect Weekend

Some weekends are nice.  Some are productive or busy or fun or good.  But then once in a blue moon you find yourself in the middle of a tip to tail, truly brilliant weekend.  Where plans workout, and you laugh so hard and so frequently that you forget all the everyday stresses, but you fit in the deep conversation too, as well as the warm fuzzies.  And on top of all of that, you eat your way through the most fabulous city.

I had a perfect weekend.  

Friday was sunshiny and lovely up here in the North Pole, making the quick drive in the afternoon to the train station the start of my happy little weekend.  I hopped on a train down to NYC and soaked up all the pretty views of the Hudson River along the way.  Rivers and barns and nature and sunshine and old homes and abandoned ice houses and bridges, oh my.  My little nerdy heart was calm and smiling.  

I managed to meet Hamilton in Penn Station without issue, which is a crying miracle given the total chaotic scene that it was on Friday night.  Big hugs and smiles were had, with a side of my screeching high pitched excited voice for good measure.  And off we went to meet the lovely Eliza.

A few equally chaotic subway rides and an easy walk later, I found myself in the far calmer UES in a lovely building with terrazzo floors and archways that reminded me of my childhood home in the best possible ways.  Every train and subway car I rode on that day was blasted hot so I was equal parts excited to take off my coat and duck boots, and to meet the lovely Eliza.  I feel like I was the most disheveled representation of myself for a meeting that was so long in the making.  But thankfully, no one seemed to notice.

Hamilton and I are sorority sisters who haven't seen each other since shortly after college, but we now talk daily.  It's been the most fun to build a new friendship on an old foundation!  But Eliza, Hamilton's wife, and I had never before met.  I felt like I knew her because Hamilton talks about her so frequently.  And Hamilton's stories are always glowing, so I knew I would love her wife.  But there's still just nothing like putting a real human with all the stories.  

I didn't just like Eliza though, I loved her.  She's smart, funny, beautiful, and kind beyond measure.  Hamilton and Eliza are two lucky little lobsters to have found each other!  

Sushi and Old Hattans {Hamilton's hybrid of an Old Fashioned and a Manhattan that was flipping delicious} and laughter filled up the Friday night agenda.  While all the crazies were out on the town guzzling gross green beer for St. Patrick's Day, we were snug as bugs inside catching up.  It was delightful!

Saturday morning included two breakfasts.  Because our breakfast breakfast was scheduled for later in the morning, we had a pre-breakfast breakfast of pain au chocolat and coffee.  I mean, literally nothing bad can possibly happen on a day when you have two breakfasts.  The best meal of the day...twice.  The second breakfast was equally delicious and this time included a new, sweet friend and her little dog too!

And then we were off to wander about for a bit.  

Hamilton is so nicknamed on this blog because we are both huge fans of the musical and every geeky thing that goes along with it.  I'm zero percent embarrassed to tell you we have had countless conversations that start with "did you see this article" or "go read Lin's tweet" or "I just heard that..." So in true Hamilton awesomeness, she took me all over on a mini Alexander Hamilton NYC tour.  We saw their graves, which was extra beautiful given my love of old cemeteries.  But it makes this portion of the story telling odd given that I have nicknamed my friend and her wife Hamilton and Eliza.  Someone did not think this thing through...  Typical.

We also went to see Fearless Girl.  Y'all...she's amazing.  Next time you are in NYC, pop over to get a dose of inspiration!  As we were standing there with a misting rain coming down and 100 tourists making a good photo nearly impossible, Hamilton whispers, "What a little badass!"  I couldn't have said it better myself. {Photo courtesy of Hamilton who was more patient than I was to wait for a good shot!}

Next we made our way to Fraunces Tavern, where George Washington gave his farewell address to the Continental Army.  It a beautiful bar, restaurant, and museum with lots of small rooms that give it a very intimate and cozy feel.  We sat in deep, old leather chairs by a fire and sipped bourbon and never stopped talking.  It was perfection.  

I had a moment when I was talking to Eliza and Hamilton and thought to myself, I am having the best time.  It was similar to an exhale, where you just let it all go, feel comfortable and peaceful.  I felt like I could be myself all weekend and I'm welling up realizing how powerful that is.  

{Truth bubble, not everything was perfection.  The company and tour were amazing, but by this point in the day I was annoyed with my jean situation.  Like ever woman, I have the full denim tour on the top shelf of my closet.  Big jeans and little jeans, fat day jeans and skinny day jeans, wide leg jeans and boot leg jeans and skinny leg jeans and jeggings and ripped boyfriend jeans and all the jeans.  I'm between sizes {and have been for years}.  So when I went to put on my jeans while packing and realized the skinny day skinny jeans were not happening, I picked my fat day skinny jeans.  However, I didn't factor in that they grow.  So by mid day on Saturday, I felt like I looked a ridiculous hot mess again with jeans that were wonky and baggy, even though they were meant to be skinny.  I have no idea if Hamilton and Eliza noticed.  And it in no way changed my awesome day.  But I'd be lying if I didn't admit I was irritated with myself for not thinking through the denim decision before leaving home.}

Fraunces Tavern was great, but between the warm fire, comfy chairs, and Enya music playing, we either needed to settle in for a long winter's nap or head to our next stop.  So off we went to Sel Rrose for the most delicious meal.  We indulged on an insane amount of oysters, truffle fries and bubbly, which is the most brilliant combination of pure gluttony.  And this is where my very favorite weekend moment happened.  Hamilton just smiled and said "I'm so happy."  Eliza and I giggled because it was out of the blue and truly just the most sincere moment.  But I felt the same.  Some moments are just so good that you need to be mushy and tell your people that this is a special day and you're glad to be a part of it.  I felt so humbled right then because it was the kindest thing to hear someone say that a day spent with you and their wife made them happy.  How in the world did I get so lucky to be in that little, perfect, glittery spec of time?!

After more food than any of us needed {and the moans of being too full later}, we headed to see Come From Away on Broadway.  Because this post is novel length already, I'm going to give this spectacular show a proper review tomorrow.  I declared several weeks ago after reading exactly one NPR article and listening to the soundtrack that Come From Away was the next big hit.  Actually, I called it the next Hamilton. I was nervous and regretted such a lofty declaration because that's a pretty big statement for a show that at the time hadn't even opened on Broadway yet. It turns out though that Come From Away is even better than I imagined. Put it on your must see list, my friends! 

My only real request for my visit wasn't anything over the top.  It was simply to have a really good bagel, my true carb love.  So Sunday morning, my carby dreams came true, topped with cream cheese and lox.  I can't remember a time in my life that I didn't love bagels with cream cheese and lox on them.  Pure comfort food!  

Morning bagels and chatter left us just enough time for a leisurely walk in the sunshine through Central Park.  Which was bright and cheerful and brimming with life on a Sunday morning.  

It's funny how life works.  A year ago, I hoped a lot of things would look very differently than they do today.  But the world keeps spinning, regardless of whether we're having a good season or bad season.  So we do our best to relish the highs, and find the silver lining in the lows.  

Squirrel sisters and silver linings...these are a few of my favorite things!  


Monday, March 20, 2017

Hamilton, Exposed!

Some days are just so good for the soul that they fill your proverbial bucket right up.  I had three of those days this past weekend and I hope this lovely bubble of happy and calm never wears off.

I'm going to tell you all about my weekend tomorrow when I have more time to write it all down.  But today, I'm just posting a little shout out and thank you to my sweet Squirrel Sister, Hamilton.  She made this whole weekend possible and was the best host, tour guide, weekend planner, dog pimp, and friend a girl could ask for!

Hamilton also said she was okay with having her photo on le blog.  I didn't get it in writing, but there was a witness to the conversation.  

So Hamilton.  Sorority sister, dear friend, all around adorable human.  She lets me ramble on endlessly about buildings the world has long since forgotten, bands no one has heard of, and literally every tedious thought that happens between my two ears.  Also, the inventor of the next big gastronomy crazy {you heard it here first}, oysters and truffle fries.  

Tomorrow, the full story.  Today, just a peek at two grown up adults posing in front of a house that happens to be decked out in squirrels, resulting in my overuse of the word squirreltastic!  



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