Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Sunday, November 27, 2011
Friday, November 25, 2011
- The first time, I went to an old friend's place in Chicago when the weather was ridiculous;
- The second time, I tried to host an orphan's Thanksgiving and one by one, everybody bailed. So in the words of Forrest Gump, "that's all I have to say about that";
- The third time, I went to the Trade Commissioner's house and had a huge roast lunch;
- The fourth time was actually my first truly American Thanksgiving, hosted by a Chicago friend at her gorgeous apartment;
- The fifth meal I cheated and hosted it in June, to celebrate my Aussie friend's visit;
- The sixth and seventh meals were, if you can believe it, both on the same day, this time in NYC when I flew in to visit K. We were more stuffed than the turkeys by the end of that day; and
- Now of course it's Thanksgiving Meal #8 and despite my fancy cooking class, I wimped out and did the heat-and-eat option.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
Monday, November 21, 2011
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
I stretched my legs out in bed and nothing seemed to ache or pinch. Feet on the floor, walking was not only possible but quite normal. I got ready for work without incident and even managed to strut on the way in – not hobble along in a hunched-over state, like I feared I would.
As the day has worn on though, my body has become increasingly sore. My legs are not happy, and when I try and flex my thigh muscles my vision blurs. Okay, that is overstating things somewhat, but you know what I mean. My back is also sore, but I think it has just gone out in sympathy with my legs. I have developed a headache but I think that’s just biological rebellion. I am so out of condition. Who signed me up to this running gimmick anyway? Oh yeah, me.
On the upside, the fact that my legs hurt surely suggests I used them properly last night. That’s got to count for something, right? I’m sure it does, but right now it hurts to think about it.
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
We missed that little pantomime this morning because the little boy was having a late breakfast on the go. As his nanny leant forward to hand him the piece of buttered toast, she uttered that truly international phrase “now, what do we say?”. Obediently the little boy responded, “thank you”. Okay admittedly, his response was more a “fank goo”, but I’m giving him some leeway here.
It’s so weird that kids all over the world are schooled this way. We all get conditioned with “now, what do we say?” (thank you) and occasionally, “what’s the magic word?” (please). Weirder still is how we all start this way, but as our adult personalities develop and change, so too does our observence of basic good manners.
Old school etiquette put a lot of pressure on men – holding doors open for women, walking on the gutter-side of the street, standing up whenever women came into (or left) a room or a dining table. Those practices haven't entirely disappeared but they have slackened off - sign of the times and all that. But hey, good manners aren't just the domain of men. Women can just as easily hold doors open for people, give up their bus seats for the ancients, and cover their mouths when they sneeze. And when I witness these simple acts of kindness in my modern day life, I ask myself “now, what do we say?”, and of course I respond accordingly. You can't undo that sort of conditioning.
When I lived in Chicago I adopted the very American practice of writing thank you notes. Is this an American custom? It seemed so to me – I don’t recall Aussies doling out too many thank you cards on a regular basis. I do recall however that when I lived in Chi-town, Hallmark made millions from me. I had boxes of thank you cards of all different designs and whenever I attended dinner parties or birthday parties, or even if friends just did something nice for me, I’d send a follow-up note to formally acknowledge the kindness. It wasn’t even forced either. For me, it had become another US custom that I’d adopted and it was borne of a sentiment so sincere, that it felt good to be able to express it.
While I take care to remember my manners at all times, I have admittedly slackened off on the card-giving these days. But as my attention turns to the fast-approaching Thanksgiving holiday, I’m wondering if I shouldn’t just reinstitute the practice. It won’t save me from the ghastly hand-holding, saying-what-you’re-thankful-for Thanksgiving lunch tradition, but it will be a nice thing to do. And let’s face it, it doesn’t really matter where you’re from – “fank goo” is always nice to hear.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Sunday, November 13, 2011
Saturday, November 12, 2011
Friday, November 11, 2011
When I turned 21 again this year, K & P were kind enough to gift me with four cooking classes at Home Cooking New York. I took a look at the online class calendar (which changes each season) and there are so many tasty classes to choose from! Fortunately the teacher agreed to let me book my lessons individually, so I can take my time and choose carefully.
Home Cooking New York’s Manhattan location is a gorgeous loft property in Chelsea, all polished concrete floors, exposed beams and industrial décor. And somebody actually lives there, can you believe it? While we took over the owner's apartment for our class, she and her wire-haired Jack Russell terrier hid out in the bedroom and watched TV. It probably would have been awkward were it not so awesome.
For my first class, I signed up to a Thanksgiving Tutorial. Despite not liking turkey all that much, Thanksgiving is one of my favourite US holidays. I love the tradition of it – the smells, the flavours, and all the pomp and pageantry that goes along with it. Due to my no-touch policy, I tend to draw the line at the hand-holding part (where you go around the dining table and say what you’re thankful for), but from a strictly culinary perspective, I do love it. So my motivation for joining the class was just to learn a bit more about how to take the stress out of Thanksgiving and confidently prepare some of the main traditional side-dishes typical of the holiday.
Behold the menu for last night’s class:
- Roast chicken with pan juice gravy (an appropriate turkey substitute)
- Cornbread stuffing with wild mushrooms & pecans
- Fresh cranberry-orange relish
- Maple sweet potato puree
- Pear tarte tatin
Our merry band of wannabe chefs included one instructor and eight students. I didn’t know anyone of course, and nobody made any effort to introduce themselves, which I thought was a bit weird. But we donned our aprons and gathered around the long tables in the kitchen, our knives and cutting boards in front of us, settling into casual small talk.
From what I could glean from the conversation around me, I was the only first-timer there last night. The other students talked about the classes they’d been to and I got the impression that the Indian (vegetarian) class was the most popular one by far. I made a mental note to look that up later on.
The class website encourages you to bring a bottle of wine (or equivalent) with you, because the idea is that you cook together and then you sit down to enjoy the meal afterwards. I had come prepared but because I couldn’t see any bottles of wine on the dining table or anything, I kept mine hidden in my handbag (as I so often do).
While the chef began his introduction and overview of the class, the two boys next to me went to the fridge and brought out their home-made infused vodka. It had some sort of wrinkly fruit swimming around inside it. They did not offer the rest of us any, but instead proceeded to pour themselves multiple glasses and talk amongst themselves – and to us – about how delicious it was. Well, we had to take their word for it, didn’t we? Another couple had bought a bottle of wine with them and again, they poured themselves glasses and put the rest of the bottle back in the fridge. I had bought a bottle of wine too but I was hardly going to pour myself one glass and screw the lid back on. So I offered glasses to the other students (and the chef) and felt better once we all had a drink in front of us. When the boys’ vodka ran out, they too cracked open a bottle of wine (again, without sharing any). For such a small class, I guess I was expecting something a little more collegiate, you know? A little more caring, a little more sharing...nope.
Anywho, once we were all boozed up, the class began and the chef took us through the menu, a shopping list, and the best ‘plan of attack’ for a stress-free Thanksgiving. He talked about the things we should do (up to 4 days before) and it was quite comforting to know that for such a seemingly-complex menu, so much could be done ahead of time.
In terms of confidence and ability, our class varied dramatically. One woman next to me was obviously afraid to even boil water. She wrote down everything the chef said and as he chopped, she picked up her knife and mirrored what he did (even though she was chopping invisible food). It was all a bit unusual.
We helped the chef prepare our meal, doing our share to dice fruits & vegetables, zest oranges, and season and stuff the chickens. Unfortunately the preparation part took so long, it was almost 9pm before we got to eat anything. Our stomachs were rumbling, all the wine had been drunk, and we were desperately ready to eat something…anything. Fortunately it’s the chef’s prerogative to eat while they cook, and while we got busy preparing the cranberry-orange relish, I got to taste my first fresh cranberry ever. It was very tart but actually quite refreshing. I much prefer them in their dried, sweeter form though.
Finally the time came to enjoy our dinner. The chicken was moist and tender, the two potato dishes we made were amazing and even though I’m not normally a fan of stuffing, it was delicious. My eyes were bigger than my stomach though and I struggled to get through all the meal. I couldn’t even face dessert – though the tart was a beautiful sight to behold.
I learned two really great things at the class last night. Firstly, I learned that all this time, I have been holding my kitchen knives incorrectly. I have been holding them by the handle (duh), but apparently that is quite bad because it puts strain on your wrist muscles and doesn’t give you the maximum control over your chopping and slicing. The trick is to hold the handle further down by the blade, so that your fingers are actually gripping the base of the blade itself. True enough, when I shifted my hand position it felt weird at first but then I realised I had much better grip and so much more control – it was great.
The second really useful thing I learned was how to chop an onion properly. I see how they do it on TV (cutting the onion cross-ways a couple of times to create a really fine dice), but I don’t even try that because I’m so afraid of slicing myself. When I chop onions, I usually send a lot of it skidding across the cutting board, or onto the floor (or both). This time the chef showed us how to cut the onion easily. Rather than slicing it across, you cut it in half and remove the skins. Taking half the onion, you first cut crescent-moon shapes, and then rotate the onion so you’re ready to dice it. But instead of cutting straight down (as I always do), you cut in a sawing motion following the contour of the onion. So your first cut is almost a diagonal one, and you keep following the shape of the onion around until you’ve sliced the lot. It is easy, and fast, and the onion stays put.
Oh and there was a third thing I learned. Even though I’m not a baker, I could TOTALLY make the pear tarte tatin that we had last night. Pears, vanilla sugar, a bit of cinnamon and some puff pastry? Dead easy, man. I just need a flat-bottomed cast iron skillet and I’m good to go. I wonder if Mr Le Crueset is feeling generous this Christmas?
Wednesday, November 09, 2011
But when I wasn’t blogging I was also walking miles on the treadmill, doing my best to make sure my work wardrobe still fits me for another season.
Naturally this focus on fashion-related fitness also left me vulnerable to a fundraising appeal I received in the mail one day. Before I knew what happened, I’d signed myself up to walk the NYC Half-Marathon in March 2011.
Do not adjust your computer settings – you totally read that right.
I am now dedicated to hauling my ass 13.1 miles to the finish line in support of the great work of the Leukaemia and Lymphoma Society. From now until March I will be under the expert tutelage of the LLS Team in Training, who have taken me under their wing and promise to help me achieve this new goal.
The Team in Training folks will host weekly training sessions throughout winter (Saturday mornings in Central Park!), and I meet my small group of fellow walkers to train and exercise together, and learn a bit about endurance along the way so that I don’t collapse during the event. Or worse, give up.
But as part of the event, I also need to raise funds for the LLS. I’ve set myself the rather conservative minimum goal of raising $1,000USD. The LLS has also set me up with a fundraising webpage, which I will gussy up shortly and then send out the link, to herald the start of the shameless but necessary cup-rattling and hat-passing. That’s where you come in, by the way.
So when the time comes, I would be really proud if you could help me reach – or even exceed – my fundraising goal. Plus if you have any tips for how I can stay motivated (and alive) on this latest fitness journey, I’m all ears.
I know how far 13.1 miles is, and I know that this half-marathon idea is a potentially crazy one, but I have to give it a go. Your support will give me the extra push I need to shuffle along.
Tuesday, November 08, 2011
Last night was another such memorable experience, this time at the 2 Michelin-starred SHO Shaun Hergatt in the heart of the Financial District and the gorgeous (but very confusing) Wall Street neighbourhood.
On the second floor of the impressive Setai Club and Spa, the restaurant boasts Asian-inspired décor that is uncomplicated, sleek and elegant. To get to the dining area, you walk through the most amazing wine cellar, displaying an amazing floor-to-ceiling collection of bottles all lit up and designed to impress. The centre of the hallway is decorated with what looks like a long black table with candles on top, until you realise that it’s actually a water feature – so gorgeous.
The dining area itself is quite unremarkable. The tables and chairs are comfortable and functional, no doubt so that the kitchen itself will remain the star attraction. A huge long (and soundproof) window allows diners to see right into the kitchen and admire the hustle-bustle ballet of chefs and wait staff. At first a spectacle, the kitchen blends into the background once the food service starts. Under the leadership of Executive Chef and Partner (Aussie) Shaun Hergatt, the kitchen is a constant hive of activity and an obvious example of organised chaos in living colour.
Fortunately (for me), the restaurant’s five-course dinner menu is set, so you just have to select one item from each course. As we perused the menu to make our choices, we enjoyed the amuse-bouche (aka fancy-pants hors d’oeuvres) that the chef had prepared. We had little foie-gras and potato balls coated in breadcrumbs dyed with squid ink; baby clams with sour cream sauce; and a ginger mousse creation that had a warm spicy aftertaste that I really liked.
Naturally there were multiple options in each course that tempted me but ultimately I enjoyed the following five dishes:
Chef’s Garden Beets Roulade
Little red and yellow beets with a hibiscus tuile (I don’t know either, but it had gold foil draped across it like a little blanket), horseradish marshmallow (a spicy pillow of awesome) and beet dust (yes, I stuck my finger in it).
Griggstown Farm Coxcomb
Veal tongue ribbons with chicken skin and an autum mushroom pave (I understand the mushroom bit, but not so much the rest). To be honest, the veal tongue was my favourite part of this dish. I’ve never eaten tongue before so I had to seize the opportunity. The meat was so tender – very much like carpaccio actually, and as long as I didn’t dwell on what I was actually eating, I could manage to really enjoy it.
Sous Vide Amadai
Next up was sea bass, with Blue Moon Acres baby turnips with a cockles-mollusc clarification. I really enjoyed this dish too, partly because leaning up against the sea bass was a crispy triangle of skin which was speckled and silvery and looked really pretty. The baby turnips were adorable and I had forgotten about the cockles – they were so tiny, they looked like pistachios on my plate. It was all so yummy.
Beef Cheek Wrapped in Iberico Ham
Course Number 4 turned out to be my hands-down favourite of the evening. The dish was served with baby leeks, and potato parchment (in the shape of a maple leaf no less) and a perigourdine (or truffle) sauce. The beef cheeks are marinated for 48 hours and the effect is incredible. Not only does the meat almost fall apart, the marinade is rich and decadent and almost jammy. It adheres to the beef so beautifully and the truffle sauce just adds to the earthy flavours. I am also a fan of miniatures so the baby leeks also appealed.
Black Mission Fig Vacherin
All good things must come to an end and I rounded out my meal with dessert, which included stewed, juicy black figs with Sicilian pistachios and Manhattan Rooftop honey. Perhaps this choice was inspired by Michael Moore’s figs & ricotta recipe I’d been reading about on the subway earlier, but it was totally the right idea.
The red and white wines that K selected complemented my dishes beautifully and with the complimentary petit-fours and strong espresso afterwards, I left SHO feeling almost buoyant. My wallet was quite a bit lighter so that probably accounted for some of the levity haha. But honestly, I don’t think I could fault the restaurant a bit. For my way of thinking, it’s not easy to navigate a fine dining menu when you don’t really understand 3 out of 4 of the ingredients in each dish. So for me, service is what I tend to remember the most. In our case last night, the service we had at SHO was exceptional. When I bumped into the hostess in the bathrooms at one point in the evening, I found myself raving to her about what a good time we were all having. As awkward as that was (for both of us), she was kind enough to pretended that she cared. Do you see what I mean? So nice.
SHO is certainly not the place I could go back to often, but I will certainly recommend it to anyone looking for a special dining experience in New York. The food was elegant, local and so creative and the service was excellent.
Michael Moore was busy running his restaurant, cooking on television, climbing the ranks of top chefs in the world and traveling the globe. He was already living with diabetes and for a top chef surrounded by great food, he faced the daily challenge of healthy eating. Then, one day out of the blue, he suffered a major stroke while he was out to dinner with his family, an event that changed his life and his outlook on food, forever.
Saturday, November 05, 2011
So Broadway happened and then life returned to normal for a while. Sure I was still watching too much “The West Wing”, assuming of course that there can be ‘too much’ of that. Before I knew it, October was almost over and I took off to Chicago for Halloween weekend.
I need to put it out there that I do not like Halloween. Well that’s not entirely true, I just don’t dressing up for Halloween. I have never been into the costume party thing ever, and I just can’t make an exception for Halloween. I know it’s not a particularly popular stance but there you have it.
And the thing about Halloween is that it’s a bit like in that movie “Mean Girls” (which starred Rachel McAdams and Lindsay Lohan when she actually had nice red hair and looked kind of normal). Anyway like Linday’s character in the movie, I always thought that Halloween in the US would be about dressing up as ghosts and zombies and vampires – except now I realise that costumes for women here are “sexy ghost” and “slutty zombie” and “buxom vampire pirate wench”. I mean, really? They’re our options? The scariest part about Halloween for me is seeing grown women who have shoe-horned themselves into those ridiculous costumes that you’d swear are actually meant for kids. And do men have these options? No, costumes for men are normal size. Of course. Ugh. Okay I know I'm ranting and I know that my point of view is not a popular one. So I boycotted Halloween this year and instead chose to go to Chicago, scheduling my return flight to coincide with the Halloween trick-or-treating madness 37,000 feet below. Yes fine, I was a party-pooper, I know. And nobody cares what I think about this stuff - I know. Jeez, can we move on already? Yes!
Landing at O’Hare just after 8.30pm on Friday night, I was almost dead on my feet but I had promised to meet L&D for a couple of drinks. My taxi driver either sensed the urgency or else was trying to quality for Le Mans, because he drove foot to the floor the whole way. I made it to my CBD hotel in just over 15 minutes. I am not sure that’s ever been done before, not that I didn’t appreciate it.
I decided to stay downtown at the Marriott on Michigan Avenue. When I lived in Chicago I never even went inside the property so I wasn’t sure what to expect. But I bargained on the whole “a Marriott is a Marriott” thing and figured it would be okay. Can you please just click on that link and check out the picture? I mean, I should have known better - but I was in it for the price and the location, okay? Anyway, the first thing that told me I was going to lose my mind was that there is a giant bar in the hotel lobby. I knew that from the hotel picture online but that could not have prepared me for the real life experience. I heard the bar before I saw it – the shrieks and boozy cackling of women who, by this point in the evening, were no doubt regretting their 4” stilettos. Then there were the red-nosed tradeshow delegates sitting off to the sides looking at said drunk women and taking bets on which of them would fall down first. Then there were the out-of-towners, in Chicago just for the weekend. You can pick them because they’re the ones doing shots straight off the bat. Then there was me – awestruck by the human zoo in front of her, horrified by the casino-style carpeting and irritated that the website had advertised the lobby chairs as “private oases” when in fact they were in between the noisy bar and the toilets. Plus I couldn’t find the check-in counter, but geography has always been a problem, so nothing new there. Fresh out of king rooms, I was put in a room with two queen beds. Faced with such an expanse of space, you would think I’d spread out, right? Nope. I basically lived in a tiny corner of the room and only crossed over to the other side of the room to open and close the curtains each day. LAME. I clearly don’t know how to life the hotel lifestyle, do I?
Dumping my bags I went out to meet L&D for a drink and some nibblies at Rock Bottom Brewery. And after the long day, air travel, white-knuckle cab ride, hotel culture shock and a couple of jumbo beers (delicious house brews no less), I was done for the night. Well by then it was just after 2am, and for an old bag like me that was a pretty good effort.
Saturday morning came a little too quickly for my liking. I tossed and turned, debating whether or not I should get out of bed and go on the Chicago Architecture Foundation boat cruise. Reason won out and off I went, bee-lining straight for the Argo Tea at the gorgeous Tribune Tower for a peppermint tea as big as my head. Stupid local brew beers. I got stopped at the Du Sable Bridge (also known as the Michigan Ave Bridge) because sailboats were lined up to get out of the harbour for the winter season. So the City was raising and lowering the bridges all day to give them safe passage. I stood on the wrong side of the Bridge, watching my cruise boat just across the River, steadily filling up with tourists. Fortunately some out-of-towners were ahead of me and told Mr City Official Bridge Inspector Guy that they also had tickets on the 10am cruise. They asked him to contact the cruise boat captain on his walkie-talkie and ask him not to take off without us. Genius, and hopefully something I would have thought of, had I not been quietly dying of Local Beer Disease.
Once I was safely onboard, the boat cruise was as wonderful as I remember. I didn’t sit outside though, as the morning winds off the River were pretty fierce. I found a sunny spot under cover downstairs and polished off my peppermint tea and chocolate cookie. It always impresses me how knowledgeable these tour operators are – not just describing the buildings we could see, but they offer up juicy morsels of info about the architects who designed the buildings and how the buildings fit in (or didn’t) with the City landscape as it was at the time. Even in my hungover and jet-lagged state I could appreciate the architectural beauty of the City. Peering at it through squinty eyes through dark sunglasses, Chicago is still gorgeous.
The boat tour must have been quite restorative because alighting at the Michigan Ave bridge I almost bounded to the bus stop to go and meet R&L at their place for lunch. With two adorable kids now, I was so looking forward to spending some time with the family and just catching up - particularly on all the goss of baby sister's wedding and my not-so-new job in New York. We went to a great little Mexican place and I stuffed in a giant burrito (naturally). Relaxing, delicious and a long-overdue catchup, which was great.
R&L dropped me off at my hotel/zoo and I had a little bit of downtime before it was back into get-ready mode, to meet LH. We high-tailed it out of my hotel lobby and headed straight to PF Chang's for dinner. The poor restaurant was having some problems with its lighting and every so often, we got plunged into darkness. Great atmosphere, but rather confusing. But hey, we figured that as long as the dodgy electrics didn't impact the kitchen or the bar, we didn't care what was happening. After dinner we walked to The Peninsula where LH was kind enough to share with me a gift certificate she got for the hotel's 'Chocolate At The Pen' enticement. That it is a chocolate buffet does not do the experience justice. This was a pretty fancy, la-di-da buffet and the chocolates on offer were like little works of art. Mini tiramisu, little parfait glasses with delicately-crafted layers of chocolate, fruit and cream - all so dainty and single-serve and very, very rich. I always make the same mistake with buffets - I go in too hard, too early and I end up stuffing myself. I had a take a break half-way through the circuit and I wished I were wearing elastic pants rather than my little black dress.
After this we waddled out to Michigan Ave and took the bus out to our old neighbourhood, to a dive bar on Broadway called Jaqueline's. In the four years I lived in Chicago I never went into this bar, but I'm the poorer for it I have to say. The bar IS a dive, sure (tacky Halloween decorations, dart board, scary toilets - but it's also a bit of a blast. We had parked ourselves right by the jukebox and subsequently took control of the musical entertainment for the evening. I probably spent as much money on music as I did on drinks, but at least I ensured that my terrible musical taste was experienced by as many people as possible. And fortunately our fellow patrons were on the right side of sober to seem like they were really enjoying our musical offerings. It was great fun!
Sunday morning came, as Sunday mornings often do, and I was actually feeling really good. I put myself on the train to J&D's house, where we had a couple of mimosas and then hit the Chicago Brauhaus for lunch. OMG how long had it been since I'd enjoyed a schnitzel?! Too long I think. A couple of beers, a delicious schnitzel with fried potatoes and green beans, and I was a very happy girl. It was a shame that the full oompah band wasn't starting until later in the day (when we would be long gone) but there was one little old man on the stage playing his keyboard and at least filling the place with some musical vibe. On a soppy note I really thought it was amazing how grown up people's kids get when you're not watching. J&D and A&L have such gorgeous, well-behaved kids and it's so funny to see what little adults they have become in just a few short years.
Monday morning was another early start because I wanted to spend the day at the Adler Planetarium, another place that I had never been when I lived in Chicago. Along with the Shedd Aquarium and The Field Museum, the Adler is part of what Chicago calls "Museum Campus", and it enjoys prime lakefront real estate. If you worked at any of these places, how do you not stare out the window all day at those amazing views? I have no idea. But I digress. On my trip to the Adler, I dragged L along with me so we could geek out together. We sat through a couple of really impressive video displays about our solar system and learned about our sun and the Milky Way and what will happen to the earth when the sun finally burns out. Sure, this is not likely to happen for another 4 billion years, but it still gave me the creeps. There is still so much I need to get done. I love chatting to L because he doesn't think I'm a weirdo for being addicted to "Ancient Aliens" on the History Channel. I was telling him all about the ancient astronaut theories and how I used to think they were crackpots but now I think they're onto something. L is a HUGE fan of Ancient Egypt so he (kindly) listened with interest as I talked about the idea that aliens helped the Egyptians build the pyramids so precisely aligned with the constellations. As we gazed up at the planets and stars around us at the Planetarium, I think we were both wondering what else was out there in that huge expanse of outer space. That of course led us to talking about religion and the meaning of life, which we could only do properly once we were in the cafeteria, stuffing in paninis and potato chips.
Before long it was time to get back to the hotel, collect my luggage and get back out to O'Hare. Whenever I visit Chicago I run myself ragged but I always have a really great time. This visit I did things and went places I had never enjoyed before - but it was so much fun. I was exhausted on the plane home, and almost dead on my feet by the time I got back to the apartment. Despite our best efforts to be welcoming to the little trick-or-treaters in our building, K said we only had two kids visit. Now we have a whole stack of horrible candy left in our apartment that neither of us want to eat. I'm sure it will keep until next year...
Friday, November 04, 2011
But when I’m not watching DVDs or going to work in a zombie-like trance, what have I been doing? I know you didn’t ask, but you were thinking it...
Well, Broadway beckoned a couple of times during my blogging hiatus. I dragged myself to a Sunday matinee to see Samuel L Jackson & Angela Bassett star in the production of “The Mountaintop”. I thought the play was fantastic, but after an amazing run in London it has been getting quite mixed reviews. You can read a synopsis of the play here.
My seat was almost in the back row of the theatre, but by happenstance I was sitting with a bunch of African-Americans and I could see a white family across the aisle from me. I don’t know why, but the white family didn’t find the play half as funny as I did. Sure the play touches on racial tensions, but they are the racial tensions of Dr King’s time. The characters debate about “what should be done about the whites” but it’s light-hearted and conversational and not at all intended to inflame white audience members. I mean how could it? Dr King was all about peacefully acknowledging the sameness of people, not violently magnifying their differences. Anyway for what it’s worth I thought Jackson & Bassett gave really powerful performances and I have been recommending the play left and right. It was just such a different interpretation of what happened at The Lorraine Hotel, the night before Dr King was assassinated.
A week or so later I went along to see “Venus in Fur” (again, with synopsis here). Starring the adorable Hugh Dancy – aka Mr Clare Danes – and the amazing Nina Arianda, the play is promoted as being quite erotic. Maybe I am just not sure what that word means, but for me the play was a smart study in human psychology, with a bit of Greek mythology and mysticism thrown in. The production was all about power plays (not exclusively sexual), and examines whether you actively or passively surrender your power to another person. I mean, how much control do you really have over your own emotions – or over somebody else’s? Sure it’s a sexy play (Nina rocks a bustier and stockings for a fair amount of it), but I thought it was so cleverly written and wonderfully acted that the sexy part was secondary to the intellectual battle raging between the characters. The oldies around us in the audience squirmed in their seats and coughed uncomfortably when the action on stage took a more, um “intimate” turn, but let’s face it, that just adds to the humour really.