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My Office and A September Challenge

Tomorrow is the first day of the rest of your life.

It’s also my first day as a TA, and with being a TA comes an office, so…I have an office! A real one! With four walls, three desks (one for me, one for my office-mate, and one for a computer), a sofa, bookshelves…and a whole lot of empty space. I need to change that. Being in the digital age, I don’t have a huge amount of photographs of people (at last count: three), so I have a bunch of random celebrity pictures up (Marlene Dietrich, the Supremes, some couple dancing the Lindy Hop), and Madame X, and that’s about it. I need some more fun on my wall, so if you’re reading this and want to send me a picture or a postcard or something for my wall, just comment here with your email address and I’ll send you my snail mail address.

And…an odd-numbered month challenge!

So this September, I challenge you to find nine blogs (for the ninth month), read a post, and make a comment. That’s it! Then tell the person to comment on eight more blogs (and nine, including commenting on your blog). So, I’ve picked a random selection of bloggers, listed here, so I’m going to go your blogs and leave a comment, hoping you’ll come back and comment on one of mine!

So, keep those comments coming, and wish me luck tomorrow!

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What Are You Afraid Of?

Today, I realized that there are certain things that I was afraid of when I was younger, that don’t scare me that much anymore, and then some things that used to not bother me, that really get to me now.

Here’s a few of them.

What I’m No Longer Scared Of

  • Showering/changing in public. Yes, I do avoid it when possible, but it’s not such a terrible thing. Growing up, I would always change for gym class in a bathroom stall (as did a few others). I guess I just realized that no one was looking at me. Now, I just sing in the shower at the gym because I can, and who really gives a darn?
  • The dentist. It’s a necessary evil, and dentists can be weird, but it’s temporary and if you’re lucky, you’re good for a year or so.
  • Going to bed late. I don’t know why this used to scare me, but I’d get really uncomfortable if I was awake too late.
  • Toilets that flush automatically. Got used to them.

What Scares Me Now

  • Heights. I was never really a huge fan, but I never had a problem with them. I have noticed lately that I get a little vertigo in high places
  • Riding a bike. Well, that scared me as a kid as well, but when Dan and I went biking on Martha’s Vineyard, I was about to have a heart attack.
  • Being yelled at in public. I used to be able to brush it off, but now it just makes me want to yell back, and make you uncomfortable.
  • Teaching my own classes next week. It’s kind of a mix of nervousness and excitement. I just hope I do well.
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Notes from a Lazy Saturday/A Story from ATHE

Hey there friends. It’s 11:25 PM here, and I’ve done just about nothing today. I tore up my closet looking for shit, then I cleaned some of it up, so now it’s a cleaner pile of shit, but I still have plenty of other shit that’s been there for a year in a box that I haven’t sorted through. I think I had maybe two meals total, because everything is fattening and I’m doing enough sitting as it is. I did manage to get out of the house to get my mail, and go for seudah shlishit at the Gellers’ new place.

Basically, I’m just kind of waiting for school to start back up again, but I’ve fallen a little bit into the Madison routine: waking up later than I intended to, spending too much time on YouTube and BuzzFeed, eating whatever, postponing exercise (two days running!), think about blogging something and watch Golden Girls reruns at night, which I’m doing right now.

Plus, it’s either super hot or super cold in my apartment, and right now it’s super hot, so I’m going to make this post quick and then adjust the temperature and get into pajamas.

I only gave broad strokes about ATHE, but I actually wanted to remember more details about Joan Lipkin’s awesome devising workshop, and the final performance of the three-hour session. Joan split us up into groups of five. My group consisted of me, Margaret from Nova Scotia, Sarah from Missouri, Christine from San Francisco, and Ron from Georgia. The assignment: share a story of a time when you were disappointed as a child, or you didn’t get something you wanted, then pick one story and make it into a short play. I told the group about six-year-old me, and how I wanted a really pretty cake from the store, with sea animals on it, and my parents refused to get it for me because it was way too expensive. We all shared our stories, and my personal favorite was Margaret’s, about her doll. She had a ragged doll that she slept with every night, until one day when her mother, not knowing its sentimental value, threw it away, devastating her. The doll also comforted her when her parents fought in the next room. When it came time to choose a story, Margaret said, “oh, not mine. It’s so silly,” but the rest of us saw a great story in it, so she reluctantly coalesced.

As soon as we started devising, the ideas flew. I’m usually not the leader in a group setting, or even listened to, but I felt validated when I offered opinions on how it should be. Christine is a director in real life, and I was surprised when she seemed glad to listen to others’ ideas; it was an exercise in devising, but also proved to be an exercise in collaboration and communication. Margaret played herself (a choice she later regretted, but we encouraged her to explore playing her own character). Christine and Ron, as the older couple, played Margaret’s parents, and Sarah, with her lovely red hair and blue and white polka dot dress, was a perfectly darling doll. As for me? I decided to be Margaret’s bedroom door. Inanimate objects suit me well.

We went first, and called our piece Teresa.

We began by entering in a line. I led, walking backwards, and then stood to the side to let Margaret and her doll into the room. Christine, as Margaret’s mother, kissed her on the cheeks, saying in Dutch, “Valtrusten (good night), Margaret,” and closed me. As Margaret sang a Dutch lullaby to herself and her doll, Christine and Ron pantomimed arguing in the background. We repeated the scene twice more, with Sarah getting gradually limper, Christine getting gradually wearier, the fight getting more hostile, and Margaret singing even louder. The next time we repeated the scene, after the goodnight kiss, Christine tapped Sarah on the shoulder, and she followed her out of the room and shut the door. Sarah hid, and then Margaret woke up. Looking around for Teresa, she threw open the door and engaged in this dialogue.

Margaret (to her father): Papa, waar ist Teresa? (beat)

Ron: Valtrusten, Margaret.

Margaret slinks away back to her room, and sings a few lines to herself before curling up to sleep, and the play ends as I creak from the open position (perpendicular to the audience), to closed position (back to the audience).

I think Margaret had it recorded on her phone. I hope it surfaces somewhere, because it was darn good, and I learned some Dutch.

And that’s how I portrayed a dramatic door.

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One Island, Two Musicals

And so it begins…

Not just the semester, but the laziness, the over-tiredness, the slacking on blogging that comes with settling back into the Madison groove.

Before I go back and edit my last Charlottetown travelogue post, here’s a review of the two main-stage shows I saw when I was there.

“It’s your garlic press.” Photo courtesy of https://twitter.com/steffid3

First up, Bittergirl, the story of three women in various stages of relationships – one dating (Marisa MacIntyre), one co-habiting (Steffi DiDomenicantonio – try fitting that on the back of a baseball uniform), and one married (Kathy Auerbach) – with one man (played by Jay Davis) representing all three of their partners. At the beginning, each of their respective partners breaks it off, and together and separately, they go through the motions of how to deal with the breakup through classic girl-group songs of the 60s, 70s, and 80s, and through it all, come out on top. It was performed cabaret-style, with the actresses sometimes walking around the audience, seated at tables. I saw it on Saturday night at the Mack. For $35, I got lucky enough to be seated front-row center with a lovely family from Boston. Together, we laughed at the jokes and I hummed along to such re-interpreted favorites as “He’s A Rebel,”  “I Hear A Symphony,” “Tell Him,” “Be My Baby,” and the finale number, “Too Many Fish in the Sea,” during which Kathy Auerbach came offstage and gave me a hug while she was singing!

Overall, an evening full of oldies and fun. The only weak spot was probably Jay Davis as The Man. Reasonably attractive, but no match for the three ladies, especially DiDomenicantonio, a combination of Anne Hathaway and Liza Minnelli who arguably was the star of the show. Davis’s vocals weren’t as on point, and I often found myself bored during his songs, but maybe that’s because I was just so entertained by the other three.

Two nights later, at the Confederation Centre for the Arts, it was time for Canada’s longest-running musical, Anne of Green Gables. The house was packed, but $50 got me a reasonably good seat house right, seated with three generations of women from Miramichi, New Brunswick – the town I woke up in without knowing where I was – who’d made this a yearly tradition. Of course, it was well worth it, and well-rehearsed. The strongest actors were those who played Anne, Matthew, Marilla, and Diana; very impressive. The plot followed the books pretty well, but left out a few key points, especially one of my favorite incidents, the one about Anne lying about Marilla’s brooch to make her feel better. The costumes and lighting were spot on, but the sets looked a little on the rickety side. On the downside, the songs were cute but not the most inspired, and the second act kind of veered away from Anne, until the pageant scene. Overall, it’s a show that was magical on Prince Edward Island, but probably would fall a little flat elsewhere.

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Charlottetown, Day 3: Green Gables and Graveyards

I can’t believe that tomorrow marks two full weeks since I experienced Charlottetown. I’m hopeless in my attempts to catch up on all my recollections, but here’s Day 3.

Wonder of wonders, I don’t set my alarm, yet wake up bright and early, actually on time for breakfast. Avery joins the group eventually, and we plan our day. Side note: one of the reasons Avery has come to Prince Edward Island, by car, all the way from Atlanta, is to find the graves of her great-great-great (and possibly great-great-great-great grandparents), who immigrated to PEI from Scotland in the 19th century. The night before, with a little bit of research on my laptop and one of the computers in the living room, we discover that not only is the cemetery where she believes that they’re buried indeed in existence and on PEI (St. Columba), but it’s also in the town of Marshfield, which is only twelve minutes outside of Charlottetown (even though PEI is Canada’s smallest province, it does take about seven hours to get across the island, and it very well could have been a day trip rather than an hour-trip). I suggested we get some crayons at an art shop and some drawing paper so that Avery could take home some rubbings of the gravestones for herself and her family, and she loved the idea. First, we found the cemetery, then we backtracked to Charlottetown for art supplies, and then returned. We saw a lot of McLeod/MacLeod (Avery’s ancestors’ names) gravestones, but were losing hope when none of the first names matched the information Avery had. Of course, the very last gravestone we looked at turned out to be that of John and Mary MacLeod, whose names and dates matched Avery’s records. Even though I had only met Avery less than 24 hours ago and I’m not related to her in any way, I too got emotional when we finally found the elaborate gravestone, which was a remarkably well-kept and beautiful white obelisk with not only their names but poetry. After a big, excited hug, we set to clearing away the few cobwebs, and set up crayons and paper for gravestone rubbings. I had peeled all the crayons in the car, so we were good to go. Even though the indentations in the obelisk were not especially deep, they were enough to make some good impressions on the paper after a few tries, and it was great fun to experiment with different colors and different parts of the gravestone; for example, a carved leaf at the top came our beautifully, but the poem ended up just being blobs. We made several copies of both names and dates in different colors, so Avery could keep a few and give some to her cousins and grandmother as souvenirs. After I left a few rocks at the gravestone, I took a short walk around the cemetery to let Avery have some alone time to communicate with her ancestors. After a few minutes, I came and gathered up our stuff while Avery wrote a letter to her ancestors and stuck it in a crevice in the gravestone.

After a snack break at Tim Hortons (they really are everywhere in Canada!) we returned to CBI to pick up Katherine, a Quebecer who was interested in joining us for the drive to Cavendish and Green Gables. She had gone to the beach with some other people, but that was fine because we met Leanne from Ontario, who had just checked in, and she hopped along for the ride.

The trip to Cavendish took about 35 minutes, and it was one of the most beautiful drives I’ve ever been on. Much like Iris and I imagined the pioneers hiking in Wyoming, I imagined Anne (well, Lucy Maud Montgomery, really) traveling along these idyllic island roads, which really were as red as her hair. Driving through PEI is like driving through a series of primary color paintings: red roads, blue skies, and yellow or green fields, with the occasional white house. Every turn provided us with a view of either a hill or a flat meadow.

We finally arrived in the town of Cavendish and at the Anne of Green Gables Visitor Center, and even though it was 11 dollars to get in, it was absolutely worth it. First, we explored a mock-up of Green Gables, laid out with rooms for Anne, Matthew, and Marilla, as well as other rooms as described in the novel.  Of course, “Anne” was there for photo ops, in character. We took turns sitting and taking pictures in the horse-drawn carriage, and visited exhibits about Lucy Maud Montgomery’s life there; she never actually lived at Green Gables proper – it was the home of her cousins – but many of the books were written on the property. We walked through the Lovers Lane Trail, which was, again, gorgeous around every corner, and not too overrun with tourists. We found an apple tree and helped ourselves. A Japanese family with selfie sticks (one of many) came up to us quizzically, and once we explained what we were doing, they tried the apples too. After we continued back down the trail, I looked back to see them collecting handfuls for later…heh.

Next, we took a walk through Haunted Woods to the actual location of Green Gables, across a street, stopping in a wheat field for another snack, and then saw the foundation of where Green Gables once was (the house we toured previously was a replica). At the small bookstore, we got to meet Jennie MacNeill, a lovely lady who was actually first cousin once removed to L. M. Montgomery. That was a treat. After visiting Lucy Maud’s grave, we headed back to the car to find out that we had spent three hours there, when they told us at the visitor’s center that it would be around one hour. No regrets though.

Before heading back to Charlottetown, we stopped at Cavendish Beach to walk along the red sand and feel the water on our toes, and then stopped to buy some groceries. By the time we got back to Charlottetown, I had to run to make it to the theatre, but I got there just in time to slide into my front-row seat to Bittergirl. More on that in another entry.

After the show, I came back to the hostel to eat the leftovers from dinner, which included Leanne’s salad and Yurie’s potatoes. I think that also might have been the night where Kaj and I went out for drinks at the Merchantman, which unlike the night before, was packed and loud.

Next up, Sunday-Wednesday in Charlottetown, then a brief Boston recap, and then…back to the random! I guess time does fly when you’re having fun, or at least it wises up and taps its cigar in the ashtray and goes, “Jacob, ya gotta live a little.”

A bientot!

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Unpacking and Unboxing

Thanks for all your kind words, friends of the blogosphere; I woke up at 6:00 yesterday morning in Itasca, got through airport security in 45 minutes – record time at O’Hare – thanks to being put in the priority boarding lane, and was dozing in my bed in Madison at 10:30 AM. After a brief lie-down, I remembered that I had to a) unpack, and b) get the mail.

Doing option B first, I went to the mailboxes to discover it overflowing, mostly with bills and junk mail, but also my cousin’s bat mitzvah invitation and my APO Life Member pin. Then, in the package room, a whopping six packages, which I opened in my living room while FaceTime-ing with my dad. Almost like one of those weird unboxing videos on YouTube. Anyway, my haul:

  • My APO Life Membership Certificate
  • A copy of the latest Ecumenica with my article in it
  • Three books (two for class, one as a gift)
  • Most excitingly…my German passport!

So it’s official: I’m published again, a Life Member, and a German, all in the same day.

Then, for the unpacking portion of the evening…

Suffice it to say that after laundering all my trip laundry, I was faced with the task of unpacking. Basically, that meant dumping everything out of my suitcase and onto the floor where it is and will be until I can sort it out.

Let’s see what I picked up along the way, shall we?

  • Postcards from EVERYWHERE (Utah, Wyoming, Maryland, Quebec, PEI, and Boston)
  • Partially-used toiletries
  • Barely-read books, including one I bought in PEI
  • An Anne of Green Gables windchime (PEI)
  • A teddy bear (PEI)
  • Catalogues and a program book (ATHE)
  • Business cards (ATHE)
  • A Canadian flag (PEI)
  • Maps of everywhere
  • Receipts
  • Pens and pencils
  • Miscellaneous pieces of garbage

That’s all folks.