Saturday, October 31, 2009

Songs For A New Run

In case you were thinking "Owen, how do you occupy your mind for 26.2 miles?" I'll tell you the answer: I focus on my Marathon Playlist. There's some overlap from last year, because if it was a good song to run to last year, it remains a good run song this year. But there are some songs that came out in the past year that have made their way to the mix. There's an influx of songs from Hair, Les Freres' Dance Dance Revolution, Third Eye Blind and Kelly Clarkson. Hopefully I will have finished the race before I reach the last three songs, but if not, hopefully these classics will help carry me through. So here are the 74 songs (plus three bonus tracks) I plan to listen to during the 4 hour run.

You Can't Take No For An Answer, Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem
Empire State Of Mind, Jay-Z Ft. Alicia Keys
Go For It - Saved by the Bell Soundtrack
Final Fantasy IV - Main Theme
Happy Birthday Darling, Bright Lights, Big City (Studio Cast)
Outer World Theme, Final Fantasy VII
Vertigo (Single Version), U2
Is It Any Wonder?, Keane
Breakthrough, Hope 7
I Do Not Hook Up, Kelly Clarkson
Let Me Be A Kid, Runaways Soundtrack
Zip A Dee Do Dah, Les Freres Corbusier Dance Dance Revolution
Fake Your Way to the Top, Dreamgirls
Roam, The B-52's
Some People, Patti LuPone
Hair, The New Broadway Cast Recording
Chim Chim Cher-ee, Les Freres Corbusier Dance Dance Revolution
One Minute, Kelly Clarkson
Going Down, Will Swenson & Tribe
Hot 'N Cold, Katy Perry
So What (Main Version), P!nk
That Green Gentleman (Things Have Changed), Panic At the Disco
Donna, Will Swenson & Tribe
Don't Waste Your Time, Kelly Clarkson
Hounds of Love (New Mix), The Futureheads
The Goonies R Good Enough, Cyndi Lauper
The Flesh Failures (Let the Sunshine In), Hair Original Broadway Cast
Sharp Knife, Third Eye Blind
Spaceman, The Killers
The Water Song, Julia Meinwald
Suddenly I See, KT Turnsall
BTW - Write Back, Andrea Burns
Mickey Mouse March, Les Freres Corbusier Dance Dance Revolution
Superboy and the Invisible Girl, Next to Normal
Breakaway, Kelly Clarkson
Barrel of a Gun, Guster
I'm Black / Ain't Got No, Tribe Hair
Music Is The Victim, Scissor Sisters
The Shape Of Things To Come, Battlestar Galactica
Where Do People Go?, Runaways Soundtrack
She's A Rebel, Green Day
Oh My, Mellowdrone
Since U Been Gone, Kelly Clarkson
Blinded (When I See You), Third Eye Blind
It's A Small World (Bows), Les Freres Corbusier Dance Dance Revolution
Can You Picture That?, Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem
Motorcycle Drive-By, Third Eye Blind
Mr Brightside, The Killers
Alone (American Idol Performance), Allison Iraheta )
Buffy Theme, Nerf Herder
Run This Tour, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Karen Olivo & Kyle Beltran
bleeding love, leona lewis
Sexx Laws, Beck
You Could Have It So Much Better, Franz Ferdinand
U & Ur Hand, P!nk
Take My Temperature Kaiser Chiefs
Last of an Ancient Breed, The Warriors Soundtrack
Bones, The Killers
March of the Witch Hunters, Wicked
Gone, Kelly Clarkson
Funplex, The B-52's
End Credits, Star Trek Soundtrack
Where Are Those People Who Did Hair, Runaways Soundtrack
If I Can't Have You, Kelly Clarkson
Pounding, Doves
Bastian's Happy Flight, The Never Ending Story Soundtrack
Who Knew, P!nk
Saved by the Bell Theme
I Got Life, Gavin Creel & Tribe Recording)
Sex On Fire, Kings Of Leon
Carnaval Del Barrio, In The Heights Soundtrack
Don't Stop Believing, Glee Cast
Macho Duck, Les Freres Corbusier Dance Dance Revolution
The Simpsons Theme (From "The Simpsons Movie"), Green Day
My Life Would Suck Without You, Kelly Clarkson
Don't Stop Me Now, Queen
Eagle Fly Free, Helloween

Marathon Sunday Approaches!

Tomorrow morning is the Marathon. I hope I am ready! I'm putting the finishing touches on what I'm taking with me in my bag. Thankfully I do not have an insanely early bus time like last year, plus we get an extra hour to sleep with Day Light Savings Time. Here's the info one more time on how you can follow me online or come out and support.

New York Road Runners club, which hosts the marathon, now offers two distinct ways to track athletes like me!

First, you can sign up to receive an e-mail or text alert on the official marathon site to track up to four runners. After registering, you can search by runner’s name, bib number (mine is 45641), team or other criteria, and then simply add them to your list. On race day, you’ll receive alerts that include my time and split when I cross the Start and Finish lines, as well as the 5K, 10K, and 15K markers. After the 15K split, you’ll need to track me online if you want to see my stats for miles 14 through 26. The other day the website said registration was full, but try it again on Race Day. it might work.

The second application is the Web-based Athlete Tracker. Fans can track up to 10 racers, and it doesn’t require advance registration like the e-mail alert. The app will be live on race day at (the link will not work until Nov. 1). In addition to showing the 5K splits, you can also track miles 14 through 26. Its map feature will show their race pace and other stats. While there isn’t an smartphone app yet, you will be able to access the tracker from a mobile device on its browser.And you can also come out and watch in person. Sunday should be fairly warm weather for the 1st of November! Thanks for your continued support and encouragement.

When? After we’ve finished cheering Owen on… Approximately 2:30 or 3PM (after he gets his bag and finds his family, he'll make his way over.)
Where? Sarah’s Home
What? Please BYO Beverage and a few bucks for pizza.
Why? Because Owen will have just run 26.2 freaking miles!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

SYTYCD: Sizing Up Season Six

So You Think You Can Dance finally got to revealing its Top 20 Finalists after three long weeks going over the Vegas callbacks. We made it to the next round, but were not quite ready for voting (thanks, horrifying 1st game of the World Series! A 6-1 Yankee loss? really?) and then again this week with the Top 18 we find ourselves in the same situation (but with the Yanks leading the series 3-2! Bring it home, Yanks!). Last Monday we got to see the Top 20 perform in their preferred styles on Monday and then they partnered up for real on Tuesday. I really liked the Monday show because there are always a few people who make it to Top 20 that the show has shortchanged in terms of screen time. This way America gets to see what makes them so good. I'm not a huge fan of the new set though. The camera work feels weird. It's like the dancers are too far away in the wide shots, but in the close ups they can't get both of them in the same frame. I dunno, maybe I just need to get used to it.

It has to be noted that the show has suffered some strange losses between the Vegas callbacks and now. Mia is no longer choreographing, one dancer is out due to illness and another has an aggrivated knee injury. At least Cat Deely looks healthy, beautiful and unharmed. Here are my thoughts on the Top 20, even though several of them have already been cut.

Name: Billy (Elliot/Jamie) Bell

Deets: 19, New York, NY

Dance Style: Contemporary


Analysis: So Billy got mono or swine flu or something this week and had to bow out under Doctor's Orders. Having had mono, I can tell you there's no way he could've competed, especially if he was just coming under the effects. Swine Flu is also no joke, though lasts nowhere as long. It's sad that he's gone because he was a very strong dancer, but I'm especially sad because I loved the nickname Billy (Elliot/Jamie) Bell. I was looking forward to getting a lot of mileage out of it. No such luck. Hopefully he rests up, goes back to Julliard and shows up here again next year.

Name: Ariana Debose

Deets: 18-year-old from Wake Forest, NC

Dance Style: Contemporary


Analysis: When the Top 20 were announced, she was the one where my reaction was "Who?" I had no idea who she was. There's one in every season. Usually, there's more than one. But she's one of four contempo girls and nobody knows her, so her odds of making it far were already really low. When it came to the judge's making the first cut, I had a strong feeling it'd be here and I was right. She seems like a real sweetheart though!

Name: Brandon Dumlao

Deets: 21-year old from Concord, CA

Dance Style: Hip Hop


Analysis: I don't think Brandon ever had a shot in hell, especially since the judges were picking who went home the first week and they ALREADY decided to kick him off the show before the Top 20. This substitution for sickly Billy (Elliot/Jamie) Bell gave him a few more minutes of screen-time and I hope they let him audition again next year, because he clearly got shafted in this deal.

Name: Russell Ferguson

Deets: 20-year-old from Boston, MA

Dance Style: Krump

Status: ACTIVE

Analysis: Russell was in the Bottom 2 last week, but it was a total set up by the judges to have Russell do an amazing krump solo, because they would never in a million years eliminate the 1st Krumper ever to make it on the show in the first week. Plus he danced well this week and he's a total fan favorite and has a great personality. He'd be my pick to win except for the fact that front runners almost never walk away with the title. But if anyone can pull it off, Russell can.

Name: Mollie Gray

Deets: 18-year-old from Upland, CA

Dance Style: Jazz

Status: ACTIVE

Analysis: She's got potential. The judges usually knock the female dancers when they look too mature, but Molly is in the opposite case where they think she dances too young. It's a fair criticism for her work in the audition rounds, but her work last week seemed more mature. She appeared in all three of the High School Musical films. so I guess it takes time to get the electric youth vibe out of your system.

Name: Noelle Marsh

Deets: 18-year-old from Sanford, NC

Dance Style: Contemporary


Analysis: BFF with Mollee although they've known each other all of 6 seconds. She hurt herself dancing with Russell which is too bad because even though I think she's strong, I don't think she's a sand out, I think Russell will prove to be immensely popular and she might still ride his popularity into the top 10. It would've made life easier on the judge's if she couldn't recover this week, since the decision on who stays and goes isn't supposed to be completely in their hands at this point in the season. But she danced like crazy for her life and they spared her the axe over Bianca! Inconceivable!

Name: Ashleigh Di Lello

Deets: 26-year-old from Orem, UT

Dance Style: Latin Ballroom


Analysis: She's never really wow'ed me. She had a couple of advantages in getting into the Top 20, with one female dancer who made it in before her declining for a movie deal, and the fact that her inclusion marked the show's first married couple in the Top 20 along with husband Ryan who has probably a better chance than Ashleigh to making the top 10. It makes for a good storyline. Hey, what happens if only one of them makes the tour? Dun! Dun! DUNN!!! She's an underdog, but this show LOVES underdogs and the Judges sing her praises more and more each week, so don't count her out.

Name: Bianca Revels

Deets: 20-year-old from Los Angeles, CA

Dance Style: Tappa Tappa Tappa


Analysis: Talk about underdogs, we're just about getting to the tappers this season! For Bianca, the third time was the charm (come back and audition again, Natalie! Please!!) as she finally made the Top 20. The show still doesn't really know how to showcase tap solos and she was never gonna pull "tap" out of the hat, so she'd never get to be seen partnering in her own style. Still, Bianca has personality for days and I saw her making the top 10 as other contempo girls fell by the way side, but then after an uninspired Broadway number and a solid solo, the judges dumped her. Uncool, Judges. Uncool.

Name: Channing Cooke

Deets: 18-year-old from Haverhill, MA

Dance Style: Contemporary


Analysis: Blonde and Athletic is a winning combo to me, but the Judges seem all too ready to label her as having not enough chemistry with her partners nor enough personality on her own in solos. It's hard to tell how popular she might be though since we haven't been able to vote for anyone yet. If it came down between her and one of the other contempo girls in the Bottom 2, the judges will send her packing first.

Name: Ellenore Scott

Deets: 19-year-old from Brooklyn, NY

Dance Style: Contemporary/Jazz


Analysis: I totally dig Ellenore. She has a shot to challenge Russell for the title and I really think she should make top 4 based on talent... but then I remember Janette and I know that the votes don't always go the way you hope they will. Still I won't be surprised if a large number of my favorite routines this year wind up featuring Ellenore. Represent for New York, baby!!

Name: Jakob Karr

Deets: 19-year-old from New York, NY

Dance Style: Contemporary

Status: ACTIVE

Analysis: The Laertes to Billy (Elliiot/Jamie) Bell's Hamlet. things got easier for him when Billy bounced due to illness. They were very similar but the show was already positioning Billy to be the top Contempo boy to whom all others would be compared. Now Jakob has a shot to be his own man and could find his way to the top 10. New York Pride!

Name: Karen Hauer

Deets: 27-year-old from Queens, NY

Dance Style: Latin Ballroom

Status: ACTIVE

Analysis: Queens in the house! If one ballroom female makes it to the Top 10, I hope it's Karen. She's sexy and she's got the skills, but in a season stacked with big personalities, I worry that she may get lost in the shuffle. Hopefully she gets hooked up with a choreographer who will highlight her in a great routine to help put her on the map, sooner rather than later.

Name: Kathryn McCormick

Deets: 19-year-old from Burbank, CA

Dance Style: Contemporary

Status: ACTIVE

Analysis: I don't know about this one. Maybe I just think all of the contempo ladies are on thin ice this year. Kathryn's voice gets higher and higher as she gets more nervous and emotional which could make for some amusing pre-dance interview segments. The jury is still out for me on her chances. But so far she's doing a good job partnering with Legacy.

Name: Kevin Hunte

Deets: 23-year-old from Brooklyn, NY

Dance Style: Hip Hop

Status: ACTIVE

Analysis: I like Kevin Hunte. Another strong contender from the BK. He's got a great energy to him and I think some great break-dancing solos will save him if he has troubles in the early rounds. I think the hip hoppers have a better shot at going further than the male tappers and I hope Kevin takes it pretty far.

Name: Legacy Perez

Deetsts: 28-year-old from Los Angeles, CA

Dance Style: Hip Hop/B-Boy

Status: ACTIVE

Analysis: I'm cool with Legacy. I think he brings a unique dance perspective to the show. I don't think anyone else in the crowd has the b-boy flair. It's hard to tell how popular it will be or if he'll get overshadowed by Russell's krumping or if his personality will come off as attitude in performance. He definitely wants to compete though. It's good to have him around.

Name: Nathan Trasoras

Deets: 18-year-old from Downey, CA

Dance Style: Contemporary

Status: ACTIVE

Analysis: This kid could be going places. He's kinda goofy but has mad skills and energy to back it up. He's barely at the age requirement for the show but his dancing doesn't come off as immature. He's strong. All the guys are strong this year.

Name: Pauline Mata

Deets: 19-year-old from West Covina, CA

Dance Style: Jazz


Analysis: She's got spunk. I dont hate spunk. She got injured before the Top 20 but still made it. Then her partner got sick and left and she got the replacement on two day's notice. She's still fighting though! It's like SYTYCD is a mechanical bull and she's the rider, and she's getting bucked around but won't be thrown off so easily.

Name: Peter Sabasino

Deets: 22-year-old from Philadelphia, PA

Dance Style: Tappa Tappa Tappa

Status: ACTIVE

Analysis: Peter has some good solo tap skills, but I'm unconvinced he'll be able to bring it in the ballroom numbers. With three tappers originally in the mix, he's the last one standing. Not what I would've expected, and I'll be surprised if he makes it to the top 10. He's got a lot of character, but he seems pretty tight. I dunno. We'll see. The tappers have it rough.

Name: Phillip Attmore

Deets: 25-year-old from Los Angeles, CA

Dance Style: Tappa Tappa Tappa


Analysis: I really liked him in the audition rounds but I wasn't so sold on him in the first week of Top 20 competition. My thoughts on Peter also apply to Phillip. If he gave the judges an opportunity to send him home, I believed they'd seize on it. And they did this week. Hearing post elimination that his father passed away during the competition, you can see where the lack of focus in his dancing was coming from these past two weeks, and my heart really goes out to him. Everyone was so upset to see him go, but based on performance it was probably the right choice.

Name: Ryan Di Lello

Deets: 28-year-old from Orem, UT

Dance Style: Ballroom


Analysis: Ashleigh's better half... literally? I think he'll probably make it further than his wife. The judges really seem to like him and I think his ballroom background will really help him communicate in partnering.

Name: Victor Smalley

Deets: 21-year-old from Miami, FL

Dance Style: Contemporary

Status: ACTIVE

Analysis: I think after Billy (Elliot/Jamie) Bell. Victor is probably the strongest of the Contempo guys. I'm not sure what will happen with him though. As I've mentioned before, i think the talent level of the guys is really high. And with two weeks where America doesn't vote it's really hard to see who is most popular.

And that's everyone! I'm not making a full predicition for the Top 10 because America's Vote doesn't always make sense and can be very furstrating and disappointing (here's lookin' at you, MAINE!) and the judges decision on someone like Bianca also seems out of left field. But they're good dancers and fun personalities. I hope the choreographers bring them some top level routines. I'm still waiting for something to jump out at me. Hopefully next week!

Whether the Weather Be Cold...

Dear God, or Jeebus or Mother Nature, or Storm or Whoever is Currently overseeing weather patterns up there in the cosmos:

Please copy this past Sunday's or Monday's weather, and paste it into the forecast for this upcoming Marathon Sunday. These two straight days of rain we're currently having won't do for the weekend. I know the weathermen aren't saying rain for Sunday right now, but that's still several days away and we all know none of them passed their Divination O.W.L.'s back in their Hogwarts Days. Last Sunday and Monday were beautiful. In the words of Tina Fey: I want to go to there.

Thanks for your time and consideration of this matter.

Best Regards,

Monday, October 26, 2009

Birthday of Champions: 30 Songs For 30

Today is the Birthday of Hillary Rodham Clinton, Pat Sajak and me. Thus it is known as the Birthday Of Champions. It is also on this date in history in 1985 when Marty McFly met Doctor Emmet Brown in the parking lot of Twin Pines Mall at 1:15am, at which point Marty drove a DeLorean DMC-12, that Doc converted into a time machine, 88 miles per hour generating the 1.21 gigawatts of power required to travel back in time to November 5, 1955. Doc was subsequently gunned down by Libyan terrorists.

If you happen to see me on the subway today, I will most likely be rocking out to one of the following 30 songs playing in a loop on my ipod. And yes, I will be bopping my head and semi-singing out loud like a crazy person, because it's my 30th birthday and that's what I want to do.

30 on 30 playlist (on random shuffle):

1. I Got Life - Hair
2. The Goonies R Good Enough - Cyndi lauper
3. Die Vampire, Die! - title of show
4. Revolution - The Beatles
5. Run This Tour - Lin-Manuel Miranda
6. I Want It Now - Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
7. Don't Stop Believing - Glee Cast
8. Sex On Fire - Kings Of Leon
9. Macho Duck - Dance Dance Revolution
10. Fidelity - Regina Spektor
11. Since U Been Gone - Kelly Clarkson
12. Happy Birthday, Darling - Bright Lights Big City
13. Pounding - Doves
14. Your Fault/Last Midnight - Into The Woods
15. So What - Pink
16. I'm Not Afraid of Anything - Songs For A New World
17. Cheer Up, Boys - Foo Fighters
18. That Green Gentleman - Panic at the Disco
19. Bastian's Happy Flight - Never Ending Story
20. Bigger Than My Body - John Mayer
21. Where Are Those People Who Did Hair? - Runaways
22. Guavaberry - Juan Luis Guerra
23. Hey Ya! - Outkast
24. Only The Good Die Young - Billy Joel
25. Al Otro Lado del Rio - Motorcycle Diaries
26. Waters of March - Jane Monheit
27. Last of An Ancient Breed - Desmond Child
28. Rock Lobster - B-52's
29. The Magic Store - The Muppet Movie
30. Would You Like To Buy An O? - Sesame Street

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Ace of Cakes

This is my birthday cake, from my 30th birthday party celebrated on Saturday Night, actual birthday this monday (now only about 6 minutes away.) The cake was made by Gracie who is really a mad genius when it comes to baked goodies. I have, for a long time, nagged her for a mint chocolate cake, because i'm a big fan of that particular flavor combo. She has made me mint chocolate brownies in the past and will sometimes add mint chocolate to peanut butter cookies (another favorite flavor combo of mine) but a mint chocolate cake proved a tricky order to fill and up until now I hadn't gotten one. But a special birthday requires a special cake, and this year it happened!

This cake is crack. Seriously, it's delicious. It's chocolate cake with mint chocolate filling with delicious icing as well. You can't really have a big piece of it or you go into a sugar rush like you have never before experienced. I am not kidding. I had a buzz from it well past 3am. I woke up and had a piece for breakfast topped with mint chocolate chip ice cream (hey, i had to start my last day of 29 in style, no?) and I was again jumping out of my skin until the afternoon. I ran six miles today on nothing else but that piece of cake.

Grace won't directly answer questions from the press as to whether or not there is crystal meth in this cake, but I'm definitely planning on taking a piece with me to eat before the start of the marathon next sunday. You don't crash from the buzz in less than four hours and by that time I will have finished the race. And no, I don't consider this doping.

This ranks up there with the best birthday cakes I've ever had. Thanks so much for your efforts, Gracie!

Roman Holiday Part 1: Taking Flight

I’ve had a hard time figuring out how to write about my trip to Rome, but it was definitely worthy of several blog entries. I took a lot of notes of what happened during my visit, so I decided I’d just go back through the notes I wrote down and then expand upon those details. We will start with my trip to the airport, since airports are always worth a story all their own. Has their really not been an airport show since Wings? Wait, I have a faint memory of a short-lived LAX. Well, TV developers, I bid you make a couple less hospital and procedural shows next year, and give me a good airport show.

Anyway first note: Fabby and Luis suggest bus. So I had come up with a somewhat complicated but inexpensive way to get to JFK. Instead of taking a cab in rush hour traffic to the airport, I was going to take the R train right outside of work and then switch to the E at Queensboro and then take the E all the way to Sutphin Boulevard-Archer Avenue, and then catch the Airtain to JFK. Estimated travel time about an hour and 15 minutes. Estimated cost. 5 bucks. At the end of the work day I mentioned to Fabiola and Boss Luis that this was my chosen method of transportation. They were not impressed. “Take the express bus from Grand Central.” I was told/ordered. I was doubtful. The bus will get stuck in traffic! They claimed it wouldn’t be that bad and considering I still had three and a half hours before my flight, I’d be fine. I have a thing against buses though. It’s my least favorite way to travel. I’d rather be on a cramped subway than a packed bus any day. This distaste mostly comes from a hatred of school buses, but I don’t like coach buses that much better. Even though the bus is a little more expensive, they are adamant I take that instead of the subway. So I abandon my own plan and go with the bus. I figure from here on in there will be no one around to suggest or demand I choose a different plan other than my own.

I get to the bus outside Grand Central about 7:02 and get on the 6:51 bus which has not left yet. When putting my bag in the luggage compartment the bus guy asks “what airline?” “Alitalia” I tell him. His face goes blank and then he says “Terminal… 4.” “No.” I say. “Terminal ONE.” “Okay, Terminal 1!” he replies and chucks my bag in the bottom of the bus.” I am pleased with myself as I board the bus that I remembered to check the terminal. We head out about 7:08, so already this plan seems super speedy. We get caught in a little traffic on the way. The coach bus isn’t crowded, but I’m never really comfortable in my seat. I check my travel pouch repeatedly to make sure I have my passport and my Euros with me. I do, I do, but I can’t be SURE they haven’t gotten away somehow. Nerves.

(On the bus to the airport. So nervous I can barely keep my eyes open!)

So as we pull into the terminal, I notice these signs about how tipping the drivers is appreciated/required, so I go for my wallet. This older person across from me (man? Woman? I cannot tell.) starts fishing through his/her change purse. Really, guy/lady? You’re gonna give this guy a dollar and nickels and pennies? That’s something else. I’m sure they love that. Anyway, I hop out at terminal 1 (not, 4) tip the guy and head in to get my ticket. I have a little less than 2 hours to my flight (note this time for when I get to my return trip.) I check in and get my ticket and I’m on my way!!! To sitting at the gate for an hour. I am nervous and excited. I buy myself a water and take some decongestant so that my ears don’t explode during the flight. I have very sensitive ears when it comes to ascending and descending during flight. If I don’t take something the pressure builds and becomes so intense I can feel the pain from my inner ears all the way down my throat. It’s excruciating and there’s no real relief until we’re back on the ground. But I take a Claritin and my ears are fine. So that’s what I do. I also sent a few last minutes texts and emails on my phone since I will not have service during my trip. 4 days without my phone. How will this work?? I did download an Italian-English dictionary app that I could use offline over the weekend, so I’d still carry the phone around with me even if I wasn’t calling anybody. Then, before I know it, they announce boarding for rows 33-40. I am in row 20 so I sit back for a minute. But everyone else gets up. Line jumpers! Apparently, the airline decides to drop all pretenses and announces boarding for all rows. No more countdowns. No more priority for first class. Just everyone pile onto the plane. Oh, Italy. I think you and I are gonna get along just fine.

I get to my row and I’m the first there! But there’s still not enough space in the overhead compartment in my row. So I jack the space in the mid-section bin across from my room. First come,First serve! And then I cozy into my window seat. As I sit, I peer over the headrest of the seat in front of me and see a child no older than 3 or 4. Oh no. I think. This could get loud. For a very very long ride. What’s next? A gigantor fatty to come sit next to/on top of me? Luckily, this was not to be the case. I was blessed by the travel gods and perhaps a Guardian Angel Mommy and got seated next to a very delightful mother and daughter travel team, Carolyn and Mary. I did something I never do while traveling next to strangers and introduced myself. We said hello and then they immediately offered me mint-chocolate chip candies! HELLO? Do you see what I’m saying about divine intervention? We discuss our reasons for going to Rome, they are visiting family and I am being a weekend adventurer. They think it sounds very exciting and I giggle because I’m doing something cool (and in the process of giggling I once again make myself uncool). We spend our time taxiing on the runway looking through our entertainment guide and trying to figure out these remote controls that look like wii controllers attached to our arm rests. We’ve got seats with individual screens in the backs of the seats in front of us and about 1001 different entertainment options to choose from (games! movies! TV shows! Music!) if only we can figure out how to work the controller. But that has to wait until we’re up in the air. We take off on time and zoom into the air without my ears going crazy (thank you, Claritin). Once we’re at the right altitude, it’s back to fumbling with the wii-ish controllers. I figure out how to work mine first and without a moment’s hesitation start watching Star Trek. HOORAY! Best. In–Flight Movie. Ever. Carolyn and Mary are more than a little amused by my… enthusiasm for the movie. But it’s SO GOOD and they just don’t know cuz they haven’t seen it. For some reason, Carolyn and Mary can’t get their controllers to go “interactive” so I help them up by bottom mashing in the classic Contra-style formation and before you can say “B-A, start!” I’ve somehow guided them to the Flight Entertainment Promised Land.

As my movie starts, the captain comes on to tell us we’ll be getting two meals and snacks and drinks during our flight. I had been wondering about this. I haven’t flown internationally in several years and all of the domestic flights I’ve been have included nothing – maybe a cup of soda. Any sort of trail mix snack they had to offer was sold to you at unreasonable prices. To learn that I would be given several food options over the next several hours which were already included in the fare made me very happy. So far, Alitalia was treating us right. I watched my awesome movie had a glass of soda with my snack, then about an hour later they brought dinner and I had the beef instead of the fish, because if Airplane! Taught us anything (and let’s face it. That movie taught us many things.) it was that we don’t order the fish, if we want to stay healthy. The food was really really good and I had a nice glass of red wine with it as well. Am I certain I’m sitting in economy? If not for the lack of leg room I’d be really unsure. After dinner, I got a bit sleepy and missed most of the section of Star Trek when Kirk and Spock are trying to rescue Pike from the Narada, but I woke up for the end and the great Credit Sequence. Since it was now about 1am, I figured time for bed, so I put on a Bug’s Life for some restful background noise and dozed off. I slept well, only waking up to watch the grasshopper get ripped apart by the hungry baby birds. Good times.

I wake up later and it’s breakfast time. Hooray! More food. Breakfast is not really as good as dinner was. But that’s mostly because my sandwich had melted cheese and I’m not a fan of melted cheese as a breakfast ingredient. I mostly eat it anyway. I continue talking with Carolyn and Mary and it turns out that they are taking the train from the airport into the subway system in Rome as well, so we decide to all go into the city together before we go our separate ways. I’m thrilled by this because getting from the airport to the subway was the part of my trip of which I was most unsure. These ladies rock. They also tell me to eat lots of pastries and pizza and gelato throughout the day because it's an inexpensive way to snack and then have a big dinner when everyone else leats ate between 8-10pm. I make notes of all this in my book. I also make a note to see the "Mouth Of Truth" which they tell me is fun and is also featured in Roman Holiday.

It’s time for another movie, and I have just enough time to watch X-Men Origins: Wolverine. I’m not sure about this movie, because I did not hear good things from X-Men fans. I figure this is my best shot at not needing to pay to see it while still being a captive audience. Suffice to say, I did not like this movie. I mean, as an action movie, I guess it’s fine. But in terms of character, it has nothing to do with The X-Men comics and also really nothing to do with the other X-Men movies. So it’s weird. I couldn’t get into it. First I watched it full out, and then I turned the sound off and just watched the images, and then I turned it off altogether about halfway through. Better luck next time, X-Franchise.

We start our descent and I fear my ears will go through the typical super-pain, but it’s not so bad and I’m able to hold my nose and blow them out and it’s all good. We actually arrive in Rome an hour ahead of schedule! Hooray. We taxi for a good 15 minutes and then finally disembark. Halfway off the plane, I realize I’ve dropped my blackberry in my seat and I have to fight against the current to get back there and reclaim it. I rejoin Carolyn and Mary when we get off the plane. We turn the corner to head toward customs and WHAM! – We walk into a wall of people. The entire customs area is filled to capacity. Carolyn is amazed. She’s never seen it like this. It was too early for the customs officials to take lunch. What could be going on? Apparently 3 planes got in at the same time (thanks to ours being early), so several hundred people all crammed into the customs area at once and the customs staff didn’t have enough stations open to handle the influx. As more and more people crammed into the room I got separated from Carolyn and Mary, who got swept up towards the front while I was pushed to the side. I felt like Christian Bale at the beginning of Empire of the Sun. It was bad news. I was lost! What if I never got out of here and had to spend the whole weekend looking for land mines? Anything’s possible.

The room was gross. Everyone was wearing clothes that were too heavy for the Rome weather, plus we’d been on the plane for the last 8 hours so everyone needed a shower. It took about a half hour for me to make my way to the front of the line. Once there I walked up to the official, who said nothing to me, didn’t look at my passport, stamped a random page and passed it back to me without making eye contact. It was anti-climactic to say the least. I wanted him to at least inquire about the reason for my visit or my length of stay. But I was super excited just to get it over with. I zoomed down to baggage claim to look for my friends.

When I find them, I see they have encountered a problem. Though the probably got through customs 15 minutes before I did, the luggage carousel for our flight is busted. This is not an issue for me, who only has carry on luggage, but they can’t get their extra bags. The conveyor belt unloading the luggage is still working but someone’s bag landed in a way that it won’t drop into the carousel and all the rest of the luggage is stuck behind it. People are being driven to distraction. Who knows when an airport technician will come and fix the bags? No one around here seems to be rushing to do anything. A couple guys decide to chance climbing on to the carousel but just as their bravery comes to ahead the technicians arrive and release the luggage. We grab the bags and head out for the train.

The train station at the airport is kinda cool. I thought to take a picture of it, but I felt like it wouldn’t have looked like anything in a snapshot. There was really just a long tunnel that led out into the sunlight. It was cool though. The trains were old school passenger cars, some covered in graffiti. It was like something you might think you saw in Empire of the Sun if you hadn’t seen that movie in the past 20 years. We get our tickets and there’s a train to Termini just about to leave. Mary reminds me that i have to stamp my ticket at this little stand before I get on the train, otherwise I can get a big fine if the conductor asks to see my ticket on the train. I remember having read this in my travel book, but with all the excitement of getting through the airport, I wouldn't have remembered that detail at all. So we stamp our cards and we race toward the train. Everyone is shoving into the closest rail car before the train leaves. There is no way we are gonna try to cram ourselves in there and we let it go. Carolyn and Mary explain to me that there is no AC on the train and attempting to ride all the way to Termini in what we are now realizing is really unseasonably warm weather in Rome in an over packed car would be uncomfortable… and smelly. So we walk down the platform so we’re away from the crowds for the next train. The next one comes in about 15 minutes and we’re on our way. We sit in our only little booth by the door and our train turns out to be an express instead of a local. Hooray! After several stages in the airport that took longer than necessary it was exciting to make up some time. While we’re sitting and relaxing, Carolyn warns me about gypsies. I am very curious about gypsies, since I’ve heard many stories about them and the crazy things they may try to do to rob tourists. Carolyn says that the gypsies will come through the train asking for money, and I’m like “please, this is NYC you’re talking to. I can handle the rails." But no gypsies come by during our train ride, and no conductor for that matter either, so I didn’t have to worry about the timestamp after all. Go figure.

When we get to Termini we make our way from the train station section to the subway section which takes longer than you think it might. Mary introduces me to the Rome version of the Metrocard Machine and tells me not to get the daily or weekend passes because there’s no way I’ll be using the subway enough for to financially make sense. This is sound advice. The subway for me was pay as I went and I think I spent only 4 Euros on it my whole trip. Once we were in the subway though, it was a sad moment because I was going in the opposite direction from Carolyn and Mary and we had to say our good-byes. We wished each other well and they said I was brave for going on a trip all by myself and to have fun. It made me feel good to be called brave, but also a little nervous because I didn’t feel brave and was hoping bravery was not really the trait I would most need to rely on for the rest of my weekend. As I headed off on my own to metro line B, I thought about how thankful I was to have been next to them on the flight and how nice it was for them to help me get through the initial confusion of being in a different country. I wondered if I’d ever hear from them again. (I did! Upon returning home I found them on Facebook! Hooray!)

(Look, it's Rome! For real!)

I climb on the blue line and make note that I like the subway cars in Rome. They have these poles that have half ovular handles in the middle so there are more places to hold on to and also denying folks the ability to wrap themselves completely around the pole while reading a book… not that I ever do that on the NYC subway or anything. I go two stops to Colosseo and head out. I climb to ground level and – oh look, there’s a gelato stand! It’s in front of the Colosseo! I have made it. Let the adventures truly begin!

TO BE CONTINUED… in PART II – Rome Wasn’t Built In A Day but I Saw It In An Afternoon

Thursday, October 22, 2009

So You Think You Can Win an Emmy?

I am confused. Last night during the SYTYCD Top 20 reveal, I was pretty sure they referred to Tyce Diorio as an Emmy-winner and I didn't know when he could've won an Emmy on the show. It couldn't have been this past year, because when the Creative Arts Emmys were announced in September SYTYCD didn't win Outstanding Choreography despite dominating the nominations in the category. In an upset win, it appeared (this award wasn't televised, so i didn't see it myself) that the "Musicals Are Back" Segment from this year's Oscars won, and it seemed SYTYCD suffered from some split-the-vote scenario between it's four nominated routines. The press releases from that time and the official Emmy website both agree that SYTYCD did not win.

HOWEVER, when I went to the SYTYCD website to get some background info on the Top 20 for a future "Season 6 Predictions" post, I found a featured story posted there celebrating not just one, but TWO Emmy wins. One for Tyce and one for Costumes For A Variety/Music Program Or Special . This doesn't make sense. Who is wrong? I mean, obviously Tyce would know if he won or not, but why would the Emmy people have it listed incorrectly? Furthermore, The Emmy Website doesn't even list the Costume Category - but they make some distinction that the Costume Category is a Juried Prize, so maybe that's different? What's going on Emmys? Did something happy to "Musicals Are Back" that it couldn't fulfill its duties as an Emmy Winner and therefore runner-up "Adam & Eve/Silence" stepped in to take its place? Did Musicals Are Back say something bad about gay marriage and opposite marriage? Someone please explain this to me.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Tis NOT The Season

No, CVS. No. It is barely mid-October. It is NOT CHRISTMAS SEASON. I have not even received my Halloween costume in the mail yet. I walk in your store to pick up a bottle of ginger ale and some Tylenol cold&flu and it's like I'm in some nightmare Winter Wonderland. You need to get those motherfucking tree ornaments, stockings, bows and wrapping paper rolls off of your end caps, and stock them instead with HALLOWEEN CANDY. I mean, seriously, what is going on? Can't you wait til 5pm on Oct. 31st, like you usually do to mark the beginning of the Winter Holiday Season? It's too much. It's ridiculous. It's enough to make me want to join the annual War on Christmas neo-cons are always complaining about. Is it too much to ask that we focus on one Holiday at a time? I mean, Halloween is such a fun one. Let's not prematurely knock it off the shelves. There will be enough time in November to buy discounted Christmas crap in your store. I promise you, CVS. I promise.

Thursday, October 8, 2009


I'm so excited that this got posted before I left. If you've never seen the original video, check it out here. We filmed it on Sunday, so it was a hell of a quick turnover. Lin, Alex, Paul, and Bill really out did themselves. Karen, of course, is fantastic and it was wonderful meeting and working with Kyle. And Robin's cameo... man. Too too funny. Usnavi youtube videos are always the most fun projects. Thank Jeebus it was a warm night. If you are not NYC-based check out when the In The Heights tour is coming to your neck of the woods and see what these crazy-talented kids can do. They are gonna run this tour for Heights!!

Leaving on a Jet Plane

I am just a few hours from heading off to Rome. I am nervous and excited. I'm hoping for a successful trip filled with pizza, gelato, wine, pastries, art and a bunch of beautiful ancient buildings. I am putting an away message on my work email! A first for me! I am turning off my phone! A first for me! I will be taking my computer. Not a first for me. But I don't really plan to use it! A first for me!

Certainly there are a few things I will miss while I'm away. A couple Yankee games, a couple Rafa matches, a Project Runway recap from Sassy in the doldrums of the Friday afternoon workday. I would also especially like to give a shout out to all those who will be attending the National Equity March in DC on Sunday. You have my full love and support. Let your voices be heard! The time is now.

One thing I will NOT be missing this weekend is the totally eff'ed up system wide subway work that's going on in NYC during Columbus Day weekend. Apparently they scheduled work on every line except the M. Good luck with that, friends!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Open and Shut Cases

It has been a very active week for businesses on my block. One bit of good news, one bit of bad news and one bit of news that I'm not so sure about.

First, the good news. After a long period of renovation the Queens Library across from my apartment building has finally reopened. Goodbye, Borders and Barnes and Noble! Your services are no longer required (don't worry, Midtown Comics. Our love affair will last forever). For some reason, the branch across the street is the Steinway Branch. We don't live near Steinway so I don't know why that's what they call it. The building itself looks cool and is architecturally unusual, but the inside was way out of date and not user-friendly. When I realized the library closed, I was intrigued at what they would do to improve it. Honestly, I thought they would never open it again, hard economic times being what they are. But it did!

And things inside are... better? I guess? It feels like they opened a little earlier than planned. Not all the sections are labeled, making it hard to find books. Also making it hard to find books? There are no computer stations specifically set up to search the library catalog! How can this be? There are computers for internet purposes, but none to find books within the library. It's weird. You're also now expected to check out your own books at automated check-out stations. The staff can't be bothered with checking you out anymore! They are too busy trying to help people find books in sections that got moved around on the floor, but are now unlabeled. I guess they'll find a book for you, but it's your responsibility from that point on. Still, it's nice to have the library open again. I was able to find the book I wanted after a few minutes of sleuthing. Now I just need to remember to return my book on time, because those late fees are STEEP.

On the same day that the Library opened, the bakery next door shut its doors forever. This came as a shock and disappointment as that bakery made really awesome cakes and didn't charge an arm and a leg for them. I was planning on getting my birthday cake there in just a few weeks! I was very sad to walk out of the library and see that the sign had been taken down and the whole inside GUTTED. Seriously, is something new coming in there, like November 1st? I can't believe how quickly they ripped it apart. And couldn't they have had a going out of business cake sale? I'm still harboring a dream that it will just come back s a completely redone super-fantastic new bakery with the same great cakes... but it doesn't look good, folks. Sigh.

And now for the new store that has me a little nervous: Game Stop. A new Game Stop is moving in right by the entrance to the subway. They just started loading in the games yesterday. In the past year or so, I've been pretty good about not spending too much time and money on video games. A lot of that though has had to do with the fact that there was no fast outlet to buying games near my house. There was no visual temptation. But now? Everyday when I get off the subway?? This is not gonna be easy. And I really did want to pick up Batman: Arkham Asylum... no! Resist! (Or at least put it on my birthday list for the family.)

You know what they say, when Jeebus closes one store, he opens another. I wish Game Stop well and whatever takes over for the bakery as well. It's much better to walk by new stores on your block than a bunch of for rent signs. So keep those registers ringing!

Friday, October 2, 2009

The Most Wonderful Month Of The Year

It is October. This makes me happy. It mostly has to do with the one-two punch of my Birthday and Halloween that comes at the end of the month, but I find the weeks leading up to these two main events to be my favorite time of the year. Autumn is my favorite season, I love the fall air and the foliage, and everything seems to hit its peak in October. September's still warm and always has the sting of back-to-school associated with it. November gets a little too cold for my liking and gets swallowed up by Thanksgiving. October is just right. Plus, I have always had an affection for words starting in "O." The fact that my birth month starts with the same letter as my name is very satisfying to me.

Halloween is my favorite Holiday. I like the traditional Halloween colors of black and orange (another word starting in O). I like planning my costume every year. This year I really wanted to go as one of the Warriors, but every place I try to buy the vest is out of stock. I started looking for the thing back in June (a month with no O's - perhaps that was the problem) but the in-stock date for online costume retailers keeps getting pushed further and further back. I have to assume it's not gonna happen this year. But I'll think of something. Other great things about Halloween included buying yourself candy under the guise that kids might come by trick or treating. No one has ever come by my apartment looking for candy in the 6 years I've lived in NYC. So if I was going to buy candy "just in case" you'd think I'd limit it to one bag, instead of three or four, just so that I - I'm mean the potential trick-or-treaters - have some variety. Another great thing about Halloween I enjoyed as a kid was that before Channel 11 turned into the WB and then the CW, it just played scary movies every night in October as part of its "Shocktober!" programming. That's where I first saw Nightmare on Elm Street 3. Ahh memories...

Other highlights of October this year include my first trip to Rome, the end of another season of marathon training and my 30th birthday. So much to celebrate and enjoy this year! I'm very happy it's finally October.