Friday, April 23, 2010

A Little Night Music

I had a friend in town last weekend, so of course the voice in my head telling me I really ought to update my blog (the voice has an English accent, kind of like the one that seems to be used for all GPS systems) became softer and softer until it was more like a British ant squeaking unintelligible gibberish at me from a far-away corner on my dirty kitchen floor (thus further muffled by dust bunnies).

So, long story short, here I am sitting at my computer, guilt-ridden and eager to make it up to anyone who noticed my week-long lapse.

My friend Tyler and I spent the weekend drinking cheap red wine out of champagne flutes (recently broke my wine glasses… all two of them…sad, but true story) and preparing for his big-kid job interview on Monday. We’re hoping he lands a gig in finance up here and we can be roomies and have entirely too much fun living together. It will be probably the most beautiful train wreck ever seen.

Looking forward to it, Tyler!

One thing I noticed this weekend between suit fittings and hipster parties in BK was the awesome and eclectic music scene up here. It’s not something I really think about a lot (I’m tone deaf and, at best, a horrible karaoke singer so I’m not exactly equipped to be a proper music junkie) but New York really has some highly talented, highly underappreciated artists, and Tyler and I stumbled upon several over the course of one of the evenings he was in town, some purposefully and some randomly, but all were noteworthy in their own quirky ways.

Take the “saw lady” we discovered in Union Square subway station. There are actually a lot of musicians down there, including a pretty impressive tap group, but I’ll focus on the one with the sharp instrument (couldn't resist) for obvious reasons. She was pretty amazing and after looking her up I discovered she has a blog where she writes about what it's like to be a busker in NYC.

We were heading from the subway to a party in Brooklyn, and then after that to the Lower East Side to see a band my friend is in, The Eliki and Lalo Project, play at Nuyorican. I found this youtube video of them at rehearsal, not sure if they're rehearsing for the gig that they played that Saturday, but they're singing a song they sang that night and sound just as awesome (even if the camera work is a little off...) She has a really throaty, Amy Winehouse/Sara Bareilles-ey voice I could listen to all night long, and Lalo's guitar accompaniment was perfect for her sound.

After their set, Lalo, a friend of mine from my first job in NYC (a waitressing gig at a Mexican restaurant) came out with us to a nearby bar.... my memory's a little fuzzy as to exactly which one, but, other than that, I remember this next part of the evening perfectly.

A street band I later found out that calls itself The Stumblebums crashed the bar unscheduled, unannounced, and, out of nowhere, commenced playing their horns and belting out lyrics at the top of their lungs. The bartendress and patrons looked confused at first, but soon everyone was caught up in the energy of it and started yelling right along to lyrics they never knew they knew. Here's a video of them singing the song they graced us with that evening.

They only played two songs, and when they were through the crowd chanted "One more song! One more song!"

"Can't," explained the frontman. "Gotta go to the next bar."

And a part of me wanted to follow.

So, all in all, it was an evening of very varied, very original musical talent. And, next weekend I get to go see Ill Pastel, another friend's band, play a show at Connolly's Klub 45 from 9-midnight. Anyone in the area who can make it should definitely come out!

***I'm dedicating this post to my brother, a student and busker down in New Orleans where he plays for tips in the French Quarter. Though he may now change his tune (again, couldn't help it...) he once told me he wasn't interested in the NYC music scene. Too commercial. Well, Haydon, I think the Saw Lady might see things differently. And you should probably listen to what she has to say. I mean, she does carry around a saw...

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Contraception for the Politically Active

Although the temperature's a cool 58 degrees, you wouldn't know it by the abundance of bare legs and tank-topped tanners milling about Times Square. The skies are a crisp, happy blue and the sun, though often blocked by an unfortunately located tall building, is shining bright, bright, bright.

It's a beautiful spring day in the city. One of our first, and I ventured out amongst the masses in search of 5$ sunglasses to celebrate the occasion.

During the course of my search I came across a character very common in the Times Square area that you probably can't find anywhere else in the world and who I've been meaning to write about because, the man's occupation is funny enough to be it's own television show theme, let alone the main subject of a measly blog post. This person is the Obama Condom Saleman, or, although a bit rarer, Saleswoman.

When I first came across this guy with his clever political quips and human-sized poster strapped to his back yelling "Obama condoms! For hard times!" and "Obama condoms, your very own stimulus package!" (they get progressively raunchier... I should probably stop here. You get the gist.) I had to laugh out loud. 

He looked ridiculous and knew it and rocked it. And was one of the most popular vendors in TS. And still is.

The enterprise has since grown to an entire crew of Obama Condom Salespeople scattered throughout the 4-6 block radius that encompasses Times Square. I've heard all the sales pitches by this point and rarely laugh, although most tourists get a kick out of gimmick. Not all, though.

A few months ago I was walking back from my local grocery store, lugging a week's worth of food past the stand that always asks me to donate to the homeless, usually stationed half a block away from an actual homeless person.... I always think it's ironic that the homeless shelter charity is competing with their own beneficiaries for revenue... but I digress.

After the charity stand there's usually an Obama Condom Salesman on the next corner. That day there was. He was giving his usual spiel, grinning and waving the condoms yelling something like "Obama condoms! You're not a true supporter unless he's inside you!"

Most people laughed, I gave a weak grin and trudged on, nearly home, with my heavy, heavy groceries. Then something happened that made me stop in my tracks and set them down on the sidewalk beside me.

Apparently, somebody didn't find our Obama Condom Salesman nearly as funny as everyone else did and, to express his personal displeasure at this mockery of our president, ran at the Salesman like a bull charging a torero and side-tackled him to the ground.  

And, just as quickly, hopped up and proceeded to flee the scene of the crime.

Well, our Obama Condom Salesman, a young redheaded man of 23 or so, probably a struggling actor or comedian only donning this undignified career hat to financially support his dreams, was rightfully shocked. He seemed to have trouble getting up, what with his human-sized poster strapped to his back making him top-heavy and movement awkward.

When he finally got to his feet the culprit was a block out of range. Obama Condom Salesmen then called out to one of his own, a fellow dealer of racy rubbers at the opposite corner, screaming, "Hey, Mike, get that guy!" 

He and Mike took off "catch that thief" scene-style in hot pursuit of the unfortunately misguided political activist practicing violent protest.

After that, I laughed harder than I ever had at their zany sales pitches and watched the chase until they were swallowed by the TS crowd. Then I picked up my groceries and continued on my way.

This is one of two fights I've witnessed in Times Square that happen to also be the only two fights I've ever witnessed in my life. 

The second one involved a man sucker-punching another man in the face who then fell into the middle of an active intersection. The first man had yelled mid-swing,"You need to respect human life!" I'm convinced it was an antiabortionist and got a kick out of the fact that he tried to teach respect of human life by injuring a fellow human being.

Who knew Times Square was such an active political forum?


Weekly question of utmost importance:

Is there a political issue that you feel strongly enough about that you'd come to very public blows over? What, if anything? Comment below or click on a response in the poll to the right.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

The Sunday Side of a Road Trip Weekend

Right now I'm wrapped in a blanket, computer propped up on my knees, in a state of the sheerest of exhaustion. The first thing I did when I got home from work today was brew an entire pot of coffee. I'm pausing every three typed words or so to take a swig of the liquid anti-sleep in hopes of a boost, but it's like trying to light a match rescued from a puddle. 

I really can't complain too much. My grandfather used to say 80% of our problems are self-induced, and, in this case, it's definitely my own damn fault.

Last weekend I flew to Dallas for Easter. My Dad, older brother and my (new!) sister-in-law all live in the DFW area and my mom, her parents and my younger brother (who is somehow now 21 years old...?) are a few hours drive over in Louisiana. Everyone, including my sister-in-law's parents and grandfather, planned to meet for a big Easter shindig on Saturday in Dallas and I was really excited to see them all.

The trouble is, Dallas isn't just where my family lives. I graduated from Southern Methodist last May, and so it's also home to a lot of my friends I went to school with there who happen to be absolutely amazing and some of my very favorite people in life.

So, basically, I had a whole lot of catching up to do with many, many people and three and a half days to do it in. In such situations, sacrifices must be made. Mine was sleep.

My flight got in at 11 Thursday night. The drive to Dad's house took about 20 minutes. There I dropped off my suitcase,  threw on some makeup and hopped in the car with my brother Haydon. We made it to Ozona's around midnight-- 2 hours before the bars close in Dallas.

Thirsty Thursdays. That's what we called Thursday night when I went to SMU. I rarely go out Thursday nights anymore (I'm old and work is early). I found that most of my friends who graduated with me last May had also given up Thirsty Thursdays, but the ones still in school were out in full force, God bless 'em, ready for a fun time before their day off for Good Friday.

We stuck around Ozona's for a couple of drinks until somebody reminded me that on Thursday night, everybody goes to Home Bar. Home Bar is a bar that's really called The Green Elephant; it used to be called Home Bar, and everyone refuses to use the new name. 

Home Bar's a big deal because it's basically impossible to get into with a fake ID. They scan them and shine blue lights over the holograms and sprinkle magic fairy dust that turns green and causes everyone around you to point and laugh mercilessly if it isn't yours. In other words, it's exclusive. This is where all of the seniors (and juniors who turn 21 spring semester) go out because they can and before they could not... a right of passage of sorts.

It's packed every Thursday night. Any other time of the week the bar is dead and, with it's half broken couches and sticky floors, empty it looks downright seedy. But Thursday nights you can't walk from the front to the back of the bar without spilling half your drink bumping into dancing bodies. I like to go to the back of the patio outside where they sell beer for a dollar cheaper if you pay cash to a guy standing in what looks like a converted lemonade stand.

Hanging out there again on yet another Thursday really brought back memories... But then, so did most of this trip.

Haydon and I stayed until they kicked everyone out. By the time we got home it was close to three and we were tired, but happy. Another theme on this trip.

The next few days were filled with fun, awesome, and exhausting activities. 

First of all, love is in the air. Two of my closest friends were recently engaged and I, being in New York, missed all the juicy details. I accosted Meg at dinner for the story first-hand and a chance to ogle her ring. Jake has great taste in both rings and women. He makes terrible punch though... three solo-cups of that and you never know where the night will take you. You may well end up playing Wii Mario Brothers and Sonic until 5:30 in the morning... The cooler should really have a warning label.

AND another great friend of mine got engaged on Friday. Because I was in town, I got to be a part of the whole thing and go to a surprise engagement party set up by her boyfriend and close family members. 

Never mind that I scored the invitation by nearly ruining everything when I kept asking Emily to hang out with me this weekend not knowing about her boyfriend's plans for the evening. He sent me a frantic facebook message last week to the effect of "Dear Leigh, please stop making plans with Emily the night I want to propose to her!

They both looked so happy and so cute together at the party her parents threw at Reunion Tower after he proposed. Very excited for you guys! Way to go Derek!

Then the next day another friend of mine had a surprise birthday party (her 3rd 21st, we're calling it). It was Mexican themed-- her amazing roommate (another one of my closest friends) threw it for her and equipped it with plenty of mini-maracas, streamers with dangling sombreros, mardi gras beads, chips and delish salsa queso and guac. Basically, all the ingredients of awesome. We went out afterward in uptown until the bar closed. Then we went for coffee.

On Sunday I met up with everyone who could make it to Black Friar for farewell drinks. It was hard to say goodbye. I knew I had to be up early in the morning and I was running on about 9 hours of sleep collective for the entire trip, but I didn't want the night to end and stayed out with a friend just shooting the shit until they closed. (Starting to notice a pattern...)

And those were just the nights.

Saturday my entire family came in town for Easter. Big Daddy, my grandfather on my mom's side, once said to Haydon and me, "you can't fly with the night owls and expect to soar with the eagles the next day." Well, maybe I wasn't soaring but I did manage to thoroughly enjoy flapping gracelessly through the day. From 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. we talked over delicious home-cooked food and mimosas until, upon running out of orange juice, some switched to straight champagne. We ended the day playing our annual epic Monopoly tournament complete with Texas Weekly Grand scratch-off tickets (put in the center for whenever anyone lands on free parking).

It was beyond wonderful to see everybody. I've missed everyone so much. It was just so great to be able to catch up with my mom, grandmother and grandfather, sister-in-law, brothers, and Dad and Taka face-to-face. Over the cell phone just isn't the same (especially with the constant wail of ambulances and taxi horns in your ears).

My mom and grandparents drove back to Shreveport that afternoon, but with Sunday came another round of family-- this time from my dad's side. His nephews and their wives went with Dad, Taka, Haydon, me and a couple of Dad's former SMU Law students to Dim Sum at Royal Court in Richardson.

I just discovered Dim Sum with Taka a couple of years ago. It's a kind of Chinese brunch with lots of little dishes you share around the table, like dumplings, sticky rolls filled with pork, shrimp balls, and all manner of greasy, scrumptiousness. That day it was exactly what the doctor ordered.

They were also gone too soon. They drove back to Oklahoma early that evening. This weekend time seemed to just run. Sprint, really.

I flew out Monday afternoon, after waking up early to get my haircut by Sharin, the most freaking amazing hairstylist on the face of the planet and the only person I'll go to no matter how many months I have to wait to get back down to see her. She's just fun and sweet and very genuine. And excellent at cutting hair.

Back in New York I'm glad she took off a few inches. For some reason the weather's hotter than in Dallas, and I'm feeling more than a little disoriented by the whole thing.

I'm thinking what I really need is to do that whole sleep thing everyone's been talking about. I hear it's popular in some circles... 

Headed to bed now to make my eyes stop burning... They've been doing it for so many days now I'm beginning to feel like this is their natural state.

To any of my friends and family who happen to be reading this blog (and who have made it all the way to the end of this LONG post), thanks for such an amazing weekend! I'm so lucky to have you all in my life!


Weekly question of utmost importance: When exhausted to the point of near mental breakdown, what's your caffeinated drug of choice? As always, if you don't see your pick in the poll options on the right, leave it in a comment!