Monday, April 30, 2007

Thursday, Part Four: The Afterparty

Let's say you have approximately five hundred authors and assorted hangers-on in a room and you release them simulatneously. Let us further state that the building where they are being held also contains a bar. If you arrive at the bar approximately thirty minutes after the release, how long does it take you to get the attention of the bartender and convince him to make you your overpriced lemon drop? *(See below for answer.)

Preparties are fun, and banquets are where the business happens, but everyone knows that the real stuff goes down at the afterparty. That is, assuming you can manage to get yourself a drink before everybody goes to bed.

Our little clutch of revelers colonized a table in the middle of the restaurant (several tables pushed together, acutally, we weren't that little of a group) and stole chairs to squeeze around it and had a grand old time until, at some point after the Dutch dentists asked us to rate their friend's ass but before the fight broke out, the alcohol and the exhaustion caught up with me and I gave up and went to bed.

*Approximately seventeen minutes, at which point a man will walk up to the bar and be served immediately, causing you to say (perhaps not quite as far under your breath as you intended) "But I've been waiting here forever", and the bartender will finally notice you and serve you next, but you will be so embarassed that you will add an overlarge tip to your already rather expensive drink. Did you get it right?

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Thursday, Part Three: The Edgar Awards

First, the bad news: Despite being entirely deserving and despite the fact that I not only clapped very hard but also said "whoo!" when her name was called, A Field of Darkness by Cornelia Read did not win the Best First Novel Edgar Award. But Cornelia said the guy who did win was good, so I guess that’s something.

The good news: Well, the food wasn’t bad. And by this point I was so far off my diet that I couldn’t even see it from there, so I went ahead and enjoyed. Also, I got to embarrass Karen by saying "Omigod, it’s Dave Barry" (in what I thought was a completely non-audible-to-him voice) as he walked by on his way to set up for the speech/roast he and Ridley Pearson were doing of Stephen King later in the evening. And the people at our table were nice, and everybody got an Edgar Allen Poe bobblehead to take home and the ceremony didn’t go on that long, even though there was no orchestra to play the recipients off the stage after their 4.8 seconds of speech time. And at the end of the evening they rolled out table after table of free books, and I took as many as my little Edgar Awards tote bag could hold, plus a couple more, because I have no shame when it comes to free books. And they were good books, too. I’ve already finished two.

Some Important Lessons

Never put on makeup while drunk.
Or fix your hair.
Or try and paint your nails.

Thursday, Part Three: The Preparty

Before the main festivities were to start in the evening, we were all invited to an unofficial preparty thrown by Cornelia’s friend Rae in her hotel room at the Four Seasons. Sharon and Jullain begged off, pleading travel- and tourism-based exhaustion but Karen and I both showed, the first to arrive and severely underdressed. Everyone else arrived in their clothes for the banquet, including Cornelia, who showed up in a very sharp tuxedo with a very complicated collar. We ate delicious appetizers and drank perhaps a bit too much champagne and I (pre-champagne) asked Sarah Weinman if the panels on her dress were see-through, which I meant as a compliment but realized later that it could be taken the wrong way. And somehow the conversation got around to telling stories of inappropriate content, none of which I will repeat here, except to say "Sparkles".

Afterwards, Karen and I made our way rather unsteadily to the subway station and from there back to my hotel to get ready.

Since I was staying at the banquet hotel, we had all agreed to meet in my room to dress, which gave me the added advantage of having three extra people to help me decide on my outfit. (We settled on the skirt with the beads and the black top, which unfortunately seems to make me look as wide as a house in the pictures but actually looked quite nice on. I hope.)

Thursday, Part Two: The Hunt

After lunch we split up, Cornelia and Freya to go back to their room and start getting ready, Karen, Sharon and Juliann to stop by Karen’s friend’s fabulous apartment and then get some rest and me to head off on a quest to the World’s Largest Macy’s.

This was no casual shopping trip; I was looking for an off-white silk camisole. You would think this would not be a difficult thing to find. You would think that, upon walking into the World’s Largest Macy’s, all you would need to do is to ask a friendly salesperson where the Basic Items of Clothing Department was, proceed directly there and ask them to direct you to the camisoles and then select your item for purchase. You would be wrong, but thanks for playing. What actually happens is that you wander from floor to floor, occasionally ending up in the Men’s store, asking alternately unhelpful, uninterested or clueless people with nametags, until a nice lady from the DKNY boutique takes you in hand and walks you over to Ralph Lauren, where you locate something that’s expensive and not quite right but you buy it anyway, because you’re running short of time, and then you don’t end up wearing that outfit anyway. But we’ll get to that later.

Thursday, Part One: The Group

Slept. Late, but not that late. Had time at least for a shower and a brief (but, sadly, failed) attempt to do something to my hair before Karen called and we agreed to meet up on our way to Cornelia’s. Had a little more time to stop at a Starbuck’s for a drinkable breakfast, because I walk fast.

Sociological Theory of the Day: Proposed: That New Yorkers do not jaywalk at any and all opportunities, including but not limited to when the light has just changed, when the light is just about to change, when the light may at some point change and when the oncoming traffic is far enough away not to hit them as long as they slow down, because of any outlaw spirit of the city but because with so many people to move so much of the time, the traffic must be maintained at the maximum possible flow or the entire system sill collapse. It’s one theory, anyway.

Cornelia, her sister Freya and her friend Heidi (not present) were staying at a very lovely and chic midtown hotel, the name of which escapes me for the moment but I’m pretty sure it begins with a W. Sharon (writing group) and Juliann (Sharon’s partner) were already there, and we all proceeded to badger Cornelia into a maximum state of nervousness by telling her she had nothing to be nervous about until it was time to go to lunch.

Lunch was at the Carnegie Deli, famous for being famous with the random celebrity pictures coating the walls to prove it. The dining rooms twisted around on themselves through the building and we got a cool little nook way up in back, along with a waiter who had some comprehension issues and framed photos of Florence Henderson, Roy Shneider (promo pic from Jaws), John Stevens (redheaded kid from American Idol a couple of years ago) and many, many others.

Sample conversation with the waiter:
Sharon: I’d like the chicken soup and a diet Pepsi.
Waiter: It’s only Coke.
Sharon: Okay, that’s fine.
Waiter: One Coke.
Sharon: Diet Coke.
Waiter: Diet?
Juliann: She can taste the difference.
Waiter: Okay, diet. But you still want the beef soup, right?
(Everybody laughs. Waiter does not laugh, looks confused. All assembled realize that perhaps he was not joking.)
Sharon: No, chicken soup.
Waiter: Okay, chicken soup.

I will say, though, my bagel and lox were delicious.

Wednesday: The Drowsy Tourist

Having survived, barely, my overnight flight, even getting a minimal amount of sleep, I made it into JFK just before dawn broke. After a couple false starts I managed to get myself on the right train, and only overshot my transfer station by two stops, but it was still a good two hours between the time my plane landed and when I finally staggered in the door of my hotel. Which I would shortly have to stagger out again, because hotels very rarely have rooms available for check-in at seven in the morning, but not before the very nice lady at the front desk gave me some toiletry items (toothbrush, toothpaste, mouthwash and deodorant), directed me to a bathroom where I could try to shape myself into something more resembling a human being and promised to call once a room became available. So I proceeded with my plan (see below), adding a visit to the Empire State Building and a stop by Penn station to buy my train ticket for Friday to the space between breakfast and ticket purchase.

Did you know that there is no line at all to go to the top of the Empire State Building at 8 am on a Wednesday? And there isn’t much of a crowd at the top either; you can linger as long as you like. Those are the good parts. The bad part is that they have taken down what interpretive signs there were, in a clear effort to force as many people as possible to pay for the ludicrously expensive "audio tour". It seems to be working.

The other point at which I deviated from my stated schedule was that I did not proceed directly from the TKTS booth to go shopping on 5th Avenue, I proceeded directly back to my hotel, because I had gotten the call that my room was ready and there was a bed and a shower in my future.

A couple hours later, moderately rested and refreshed, I emerged and made my way back down 42nd Street to Times Square and the theater. The show I had settled on was "The Drowsy Chaperone", which had just opened the last time I was here, and it sounded appealing. And, clearly, I was not the only person who thought so, though I may have been one of the youngest. The scene in the theater was incredible—old ladies as far as the eye can see. (Why do old ladies all have the same hair? Do I have to have that hair when I’m old? I really don’t want that hair.) The two previous plays I had seen in New York being Avenue Q and The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee, I wasn’t quite aware of the powerful attraction Broadway shows held for the elderly.

I enjoyed the show a lot; a combination of the charmingly frivolous and the sad. The conceit is that we are listening to a record of an old Broadway show from the twenties, with all the standard elements of romance, slapstick and comic misunderstanding. The narrator lives alone in his shabby apartment, divorced, almost certainly closeted with some clear mommy-issues, finding happiness only by putting on his records and locking out reality. Basically, it’s a non-escapist show about the joys of escapism. With some good songs.

After the play I did some shopping (largely window) up Fifth Avenue, eventually getting myself captured by the Yves Saint Laurent makeup lady at Bergdorf Goodman’s and spending way too much money on pretty makeup I didn’t need. And that was the end of my less-than-epic day of shopping in New York.

A Useful Travel Tip

It is generally a good idea to arrive at the airport more than fifteen minutes before your flight is due to leave.

Just FYI.

Regarding the Delay

Apologies for the belated blogging. Why is it that every Best Western, La Quinta and Motel 6 in America has free wireless internet in every room, but the New York Hyatt expects you to pay ten dollars a day and sit in the lobby? At any rate, here's what I would have been writing for the last week, if I wasn't too cheap to pay to get on the internet.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Presumed Schedule- Day 1

9:15 pm PST: Leave Oakland par avion, having taken sufficient Excedrin PM, wrapped myself in all available blankets/jackets, put on my eyemask and earplugs.

Next 5 hours: Time spent sleeping: 35 minutes. Time spent worrying about not getting enough sleep: 4 hours, 20 minutes. Earplug adjustment: 5 minutes.

5:25 am EST: Arrive JFK.

5:45 am: Collect baggage, or remains thereof, locate train.

6:18 am: Realize I took wrong train; am now in Queens, or possibly Pennsylvania.

7:00 am: Locate correct train, by random walk approach. Remember what it is I forgot to pack.

7:30ish: Arrive at hotel. Check in, change (in bathroom) out of homeless person costume/travelling clothes, leave bags at front desk.

8:00 am: Breakfast, possibly bagel-based. Try to think of something to do between now and when the stores open. Store bagel in purse for lunch.

10:00 am: Visit half-price ticket booth. Buy ticket to matinee of something (subject to availability).

10:30-2:00 pm: Shopping! (Well, looking, anyway. Maybe shopping.)

2:00 pm: Rush back, late, for show.

Third Act: Fall sound asleep.

5:00 pm: Woken by cleaning staff, removed from theater. Return to hotel to nap.

7:00 pm: Call Karen and/or Sharon, demand to be included in their evening plans.

8:00 pm: Eat takeout in hotel room, watching Idol.

9:00 pm: Lights out.

Monday, April 23, 2007

New York, Round 2

When I got back from my trip to New York last year, I thought it would be a while before I went back, to the point where I lent out my guidebooks and map and didn't bother getting them back. Then My Close Personal Friend Cornelia Read happened to get herself nominated for a major literary award right before my cousin Jake is getting married in Baltimore, so off I go again. Not that I mind, of course, quite the contrary. I've even been thinking vaguely that it might be nice to be the sort of person who makes an annual trip to New York City catching a show or two and working my way through the stores and museums. But then I remind myself that there are a lot of other places in the world to see, many of which have hotel rates that average less than two hundred dollars a night. But I am definitely going to enjoy this trip, brief as it is.

That is, assuming my choice to fly in on a redeye tonight doesn't backfire on me and I end up spending the majority of my two days half-asleep and cranky. But that's just a chance I'm going to have to take.

Friday, April 20, 2007

"You're no Sanjaya! You have to board like everyone else."

Paula Abdul has trouble with the concept of no frills.


Warning: Video contains terrible sound and worse language. And yes, Dad, I think it is necessary. (The language, that is. The sound is just unfortunate.)

Friday, April 13, 2007

Makes American Idol Look Tasteful and Restrained By Comparison

Flying Bulgarians?
Israeli rap?
Bellarussian boybanders?
A Swiss vampire rave?
Andorran pop-punk?
A Danish drag-queen Cher?

Clearly, this can only mean one thing: The Eurovision Song Contest is upon us.

That, or the end of days. Possibly both.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Reason #586 Why I Am A Bad Person

So, last night I went to see blues singer/guitarist John Hammond, with Abigail, who digs them blues (I don't, really, but I believe in expanding my horizons). But that's not why I'm a bad person. I'm a bad person because, as I was sitting there at Freight and Salvage, listening to what I am sure were fine blues and watching the middle-aged white people attempt to locate the downbeat, all I could think was "What is Melinda singing tonight on Idol? Please let her do something a little younger this week. And god, I hope Phil can manage to pull it together and outlast Haley. The way she's going, if she makes it another week she'll be coming out wearing nothing but a scarf and a couple of strategically placed kumquats."

See? Bad person.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

The Mind Boggles

What, exactly, do you suppose is involved in a Lutheran seder?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Are You the Manager Or Aren't You?

In honor of the return of BASEBALL! (see below), a classic of American comedy:

Some things just never get old.

Monday, April 02, 2007




(p.s. go A's!)

Okay, not the best start. But hey, it's a long season.