Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The last of the year

Happy holidays!  I spent Christmas weekend with my family, which somehow entailed my mom's old tap dancing/baton twirling notebook being dragged out.  My mom was a tap dancer and baton twirler as a child, earning billing in various recitals at the age of three as "Baby Tapper."  The notebook kept track of her various routines, sporting a foil star next to each step she mastered.  Based on a quick perusal of that notebook,  I give you:

Tap Dancing or Baton Twirling Moves That Could Be Sex Acts

1. Stir the soup
2. Shuffle ball
3. Slap ball
4. Airplane around knees
5. Coffee grinder

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The best soy latte that you ever had

It happened again last week!  The yearly 24-hour Letters to Santa benefit at Second City, featuring all manner of great musicians, wacky comedy, dance routines, field trips, interviews, and  - this year - a little wrestling.  Here's an incomplete photo retrospective:

6:30 p.m.: The 24 hours didn't officially begin until 7:00 p.m., but we got a bonus this year.  These guys came out to play a selection of heartfelt tunes they "wrote" ... which turned out to be four songs by Train.  A painfully hilarious start to the evening.

10:00-ish: I didn't take any pictures during Jeff Tweedy's annual set, but this is his guitar, Bob.

11:01 p.m.: Steve Albini interviews Andrew Mason, CEO of Groupon.  Later Andrew played piano for a rollicking set of Billy Joel covers.

12:00 a.m.: J.C. Brooks and the Uptown Sound take the stage and inspire a room full of comedians and comedy fans to shake their groove things.

2:17 a.m.: Joan of Arc plays, loudly

2:42 a.m.: Human caterpillar!

5:03 a.m.: Jeff Parker treats us to some dreamy guitar

5:38 a.m.: TJ tells the instant classic "101 chairs walk into a bar" joke.  For about twenty minutes.

7:07 a.m.: The babies and children come out to don various hats, eat muffins, and charm us all

7:36 a.m.: Jon Langford and Sally Timms drop by to sing some songs and shake a little maraca

9:25 a.m.: Actors are challenged to consume various food items, including a cup of scrambled eggs and a huge muffin, during a scene

1:00 p.m.: Former WWE wrestler Colt Cabana performs his finishing move on one of the actors, not to be let up until he names every U.S. president in order ... and predicts the next six

1:14 p.m.: Robbie Fulks and Gerald Dowd play a poignant "Dancing Queen"

2:59 p.m.: Bill Callahan nearly lulls me to sleep, through no fault of his own

4:44 p.m.: Improv!

5:04 p.m.: Our table.  Clockwise: Starbucks peppermint mocha, napkin, Second City menus, Bible, Boston Market fountain drink, trail mix, brownie wrapper, gum wrapper, broken hair clip

5:18 p.m.: The Blisters rock us for the eighth straight year

And that's the last picture I took.  Things finished up at 7:00 p.m. with the annual game of audience-participation freeze tag and an onstage reprisal of our second choreographed dance routine, "Magpie."  The event raised nearly $100,000 for charity.

Viva la benefit!

See also:
Letters to Santa 2009

Sunday, December 12, 2010

New York in winter

Last weekend in NYC was the perfect getaway.  Only one vacation day used, and three full days in the city.  We stayed at the Solita Soho (yes, there's a Solita now), with an excellent view of the Museum of Chinese in America ... just plain MOCA for short.

Friday night my flight got in at 8:20, and by 9:15 I was at the Red Lion on Bleecker, enjoying the last hour of the last Friday Night Campfire of 2010 with Martin Rivas and Craig Meyer.  I think I saw at least fifty of the songs they played that night, in medley form.

On Saturday, Paul and I walked around the Lower East Side in search of food, eventually finding some ... but not before being driven from our first two choices by huge crowds.  Memo to self: Christmas weekends in NYC bring the tourists out in droves. (Holla!) I wandered around Little Italy and Chinatown in the afternoon, before heading to the Bowery Ballroom for Jeff Tweedy and the Autumn Defense.  I hadn't seen the AD in awhile, and I enjoyed some of the songs from their newest album.  I also appreciated hearing "A Full Five Paces" live again for the first time in years.

Jeff Tweedy, the night's headliner, played an enjoyable set.  There were plenty of little flubs and mistakes, the kind that make things more entertaining for the crowd - at least, for me - but don't necessarily make a great show for the performer.  However, Jeff didn't seem phased.  I realized I've been spoiled by the marathon solo shows for charity I've seen in recent years - the respectable 1.5 hour set seemed short in comparison.  But whenever I get to hear such songs as "Bob Dylan's Beard," "Chinese Apple," and "Country Disappeared," there's nothing to complain about.  The Bowery is a tiny place, and we were very lucky to get in.

I spent Sunday with Allison, from brunch at Shopsin's to dinner at an Indian restaurant in Park Slope.  In between there was shopping in Soho, a visit to a friend's store in Brooklyn Heights, perusing Christmas trees on the street, and delicious smoothies.  I think I'm nearly as excited about Alli and Olli's impending new arrival as they are!  (Okay, that's totally not true.  But I am very excited.)

Monday, I finally experienced Momofuku.  Paul and I went to the Noodle Bar, and I now get what the fuss is about.  The ramen was amazing, but I think the pork buns were my highlight.  That pork belly!  I wouldn't be surprised if it appears in my dreams.

Sunday afternoon it was off to Tarrytown for Jeff Tweedy and the Autumn Defense again.  I have to admit that one of the most exciting parts of going to Tarrytown, for me, was its proximity to the former home of the fictional Draper family from Mad Men.  If we just stayed on the train, I exclaimed to Paul, we could go to Ossining!  So as you might imagine, my favorite part of Jeff's performance may have been his announcement about wearing a suit to honor Eugene Draper's birthplace of Tarrytown.  I was most impressed because I couldn't even have come up with that particular bit of trivia.  So, Jeff, or the person who told Jeff ... my hat's off to you.  The show itself was good, though shorter than Bowery, and our seats were in the acoustic sweet spot.  "What's the World Got In Store" was a welcome surprise.

Early Tuesday morning I flew home.  I was back at work by mid-morning, and by the end of the day it was hard to believe I'd ever left.  But I had!

For the first time in recent memory, I don't have any future flights scheduled.  I'm not sure how long that will be true, but I'm enjoying it for now.  Still, I'm looking forward to whatever 2011 might bring in the way of trips, concerts, or (my favorite) both.

(Update: the whole "not having any future flights scheduled" thing was true for exactly eight days.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Now it's December

It's true!  This past weekend, I went to the Badgers' last home game of the year at Camp Randall.  Because I'm one of the biggest cold weather wimps I know, I was a little worried.  As it turns out, though, as long as you wear about four layers of clothing, the 20's aren't so bad.  Seeing Wisconsin crush Northwestern, earn a share of the Big Ten title, and hopefully secure a Rose Bowl bid was definitely worth it.  And at the end, there were fireworks.

This coming weekend, I will be in New York City.  Even though I didn't make it to California this year, at least I'll hit NYC twice!  December is in the danger zone for travel weather ... we've now entered the time of year when I can never count on being able to get anywhere.   (Also see above re: cold weather wimpitude.)  So far the forecast looks okay, so fingers are crossed.