Posts Tagged ‘New York City

24
Jul
09

Improv 101: My teacher abandoned us for Pop-Tarts

As many of you know (especially since I mentioned it before in this blog), I’m taking Improv 101 through the Upright Citizens Brigade this summer. It’s an eight-week course, and we meet once a week for a three-hour class.

I was absolutely terrified before I started the class. I haven’t done any improv since high school, and that wasn’t even real improv. (We had time to prepare scenes. We don’t have those kind of luxuries at the UCB). But I wanted to do something fun for myself while I was in the city, and I wanted the chance to meet new people who actually live here. It turns out that taking Improv 101 was the best decision I made all summer.

I really was terrified at the first class. But guess what? They don’t plunge you into scene work right away. We do warm-up exercises at the beginning of each class that are meant to help us learn to trust and respond to each other. By the time you’re done doing warm-up exercises, you’re not nervous about jumping into a scene anymore. The first thing I had to do was to learn not to be embarrassed. If I don’t do well, I don’t do well. I don’t let it bother me.

Our original teacher abandoned us after two weeks to tour the East Coast to promote Pop-Tarts. I didn’t make that up. We like our new teacher, though, so it’s all good. We are NEVER bitter about it. Never.

Although I haven't eaten a Pop-Tart in years, the ones without frosting are my favorite.

Although I haven't eaten a Pop-Tart in years, the ones without frosting are my favorite.

I absolutely love the people in my class! I’m even Facebook friends with a few of them now (big step!). A lot of them studied theater in college, and some, like me, are just doing it for fun. All of them are a blast, and I love laughing at their scenes. I know a few of them are going to continue on to 201, and I wish I could do it with them. Whenever someone tells me that they don’t want me to leave New York, my heart breaks a little. I don’t want to leave either!

But before I do go, I must perform in my class’ show at the UCB Theatre next week — in front of people. Yikes! So far I’m bringing 15 people. We have been told that the more audience members we have, the better we will perform, especially since the audience is made up of friends and family who are there to love and support us. If you are attending my show, please laugh even if I am not funny. After seven weeks, I’m still a bit terrified.

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08
Jul
09

Michael Jackson

I can’t speak for how the rest of the country reacted to Michael Jackson’s death, but I can speak for New York City. Of course, you probably already know about the many gatherings in Times Square and outside the Apollo Theater. These fan gatherings have been broadcast on national television since Jackson’s death. It’s odd to be watching the coverage and to realize that I’m only a subway ride away from Times Square or Harlem. I could have easily made my way to these gatherings, but I was most likely content with just watching it on CNN.

What has fascinated me most is that the city has been running on a constant Michael Jackson soundtrack for the last two weeks. The bars and clubs have been playing MJ music more than usual, especially that first weekend. Even Blockbuster is playing all MJ all the time. Both times I waited in line for Shakespeare in the Park tickets (and failed), the same flautist went up and down the line of people and played “Billy Jean.” Subway musicians especially have pulled from MJ’s songbook. Just today at the 86th Street stop on the 6, I saw and heard a man playing “I’ll Be There” on the clarinet.

Then there are those who are just trying to make a little money. Vendors who once only sold pictures of Times Square and the Empire State Building have added framed photos of the King of Pop to their stands. T-shirt vendors have popped up everywhere. My favorite was the vendor at Coney Island who will hand-paint an MJ T-shirt for only $20, even creepy ones like these:

 

T-shirt at Coney Island

T-shirt at Coney Island

 

I was at the office when I actually heard the news. I think it was rather fitting that I was at an entertainment magazine when I heard that one of the greatest entertainers ever had died. Thanks to Twitter, I was the first intern to hear about the cardiac arrest. I went numb when I saw that TMZ reported Jackson was dead. We waited and waited to hear word from someone besides TMZ, but when I heard the owner of the company declare that “TMZ is the best,” that pretty much gave me my answer. I decided to go home, and as I waited at the elevator banks, the receptionist’s radio announced that the LA Times had confirmed Jackson’s death. Just then the elevator doors opened, and I exited the building not knowing if the people swarming around me in Midtown knew what I knew.

I know a lot of you are tired of the media coverage, but prepare yourself because it won’t end anytime soon. Do you know why the story continues? Because Michael Jackson was the biggest and strangest figure in pop culture in at least the last 30 years. His death has an enormous cultural impact, and the world needs to come to terms with his absence. Maybe it’s just because I like seeing entertainment journalism in the spotlight or maybe it’s because I really like hearing MJ music in the subway, but I don’t think I’m going to get tired of the story for a while.

20
Jun
09

I wish all traffic lights were like this

 

Traffic light near Grimaldi's in Brooklyn

Traffic light near Grimaldi's in Brooklyn

27
May
09

My Birthday Weekend

I’ve been in NYC since Saturday, and it’s been a very comfortable transition from home. Two factors made sure I would fit in easily here:

1)   I’ve been here twice before (including a week in November) and have already done most of the touristy things.

2)   I have a group of best friends who have been here for a year and can give me all the advice I need.

But what exactly have I been doing since Saturday? Celebrating my birthday of course!

As most of my family knows, my birthday celebration usually extends throughout the entire month of May. This year was no exception. My grad school friends threw a birthday party for me before finals, my family and I celebrated in Omaha the weekend before I left for NYC, and this weekend I finally got to celebrate with my college friends (summer birthday here).

Even though my birthday was technically Monday, we celebrated on Saturday with a delicious triple chocolate cake from an Italian bakery in northern New Jersey.

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Birthday Cake #3

Then we went to a bar called The Delancey, which I enjoyed for its mix of Kelly Clarkson, Flo Rida and early ’90s dance hits. The reason I wanted to go to The Delancey is because it has a rooftop bar with a view of the Williamsburg Bridge. Unfortunately, there was a private party happening up there. But I suspect the party was Fleet Week-related, so I didn’t mind. (By the way, last week through Memorial Day was Fleet Week, which meant the city was filled with sailors. It’s a good time to be in New York!).

Sunday, I had my first brunch in NYC. We went to Sarabeth’s on the Upper East Side, and I had the spinach and goat cheese omelette. On Sundays, brunch is as important to NYC as church is to the rest of the country. Hopefully, I’ll be able to fit in both.

Brunch at Sarabeth's

Brunch at Sarabeth's

Monday was my actual birthday. Jess was in town from Jersey and Amy was in town from D.C., so the three of us trekked to Brooklyn for pizza at Grimaldi’s. Jess and I were sold on the place after we read that Frank Sinatra used to go there. You can tell that Grimaldi’s has a soft spot for Frank because they more or less devote an entire wall to him. The line outside was long, but a man was playing an accordion outside the restaurant, and it was a beautiful day.

Outside Grimaldi's

Outside Grimaldi's

We ordered sausage, onions and red peppers on our pizza.

One of the best combinations of pizza I have ever had

One of the best combinations of pizza I have ever had

 

We even had room for ice cream afterward at the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory (strawberry and chocolate chocolate chunk on a waffle cone). Both places are practically underneath the Brooklyn Bridge. The ice cream place is right on the East River, so we got some fantastic shots of the bridge and Lower Manhattan. It was so beautiful and sunny that my pale skin might actually have gotten a tan.

Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory

Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory

 

Amy, Me, Jess

Amy, Me, Jess

All and all, it was a relaxing first weekend in the city. I ate well, got a martini and a manicure for $10 (at Beauty Bar), walked through Central Park and spent much-needed time with my college friends. It felt good to even just watch TV with them.

I have more posts to come, including a recap of the concert I went to last night. (Preview: Elvis Costello showed up!) But first, I have to stop mooching off the hospitality of friends and move into my apartment!

23
May
09

Start spreading the news…

I’m leaving today!

20
May
09

Preparation #2: Researching bars

When I studied abroad in the spring of 2007, we had a habit of choosing bars that had the best descriptions in Let’s Go Europe. This method had mixed results. A bar in Salamanca, Spain that looked like the inside of a submarine was a total bust, but a nightclub in Florence, Italy called Space Electronic (complete with space decor) ended up being a wild success. Because I have my very own copy of Let’s Go New York City, I decided to bring back my old method when making my list of bars that I absolutely have to go to this summer. I picked the following five bars based only on the awesomeness of the descriptions. I have not looked at any online ratings. For your enjoyment, I have also included the actual descriptions that appear in Let’s Go. These bars could be total disappointments, but I have some lingering post-election hope that just won’t go away yet.

 

 

5. Beer Garden at Bohemia Hall (because I want to celebrate my heritage)

“Operated by the Bohemian Citizens’ Benevolent Society, this rowdy Czech restaurant and 900-seat outdoor beer garden is packed every night with a fun-loving, heavy drinking, heavy smoking crowd. If you’re hungry, try Bohemian staples like fried cheese with french fries ($8) and crunchy pork schnitzel ($10.50).”

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4. Pete’s Candy Store (because I want to be in a spelling bee again)

“This soda-shop-turned-bar hosts live music every night at 9pm and a quirky assortment of activities beforehand. M 7:30 pm alternates between spelling bees and stand-up comedy. Tu 7-9pm bingo night. W 7:30pm quiz-off. Every other Th 7:30pm prose and poetry readings. Sa 5-8pm partners Scrabble. Su in summer 5-9pm barbecue in the backyard. Pomegranate margaritas $8.”

petescandy070730_560

3. KGB (because I’ve always wanted to go to a Communist bar called KGB)

“Formerly a meeting place for the Ukrainian Communist Party; today a hangout for literati and Slavophiles. Many well-known authors and poets do readings her; recent appearances by Michael Cunningham and Jhumpa Lahiri. The bar retains its original Soviet furnishings, including a Lenin propaganda banner and candle-illuminated photos of factories, and serves over 20 kinds of Stoli shots.”

6a00d8341c68df53ef00e5514c808e8834-800wi

2. Employees Only (because of the handlebar moustaches)

“In this classy bar with a 20s feel, skilled bartenders in white chef’s uniforms—all with handlebar moustaches—mix up some of the best vintage cocktails in the city. The name derives from the establishment’s goal of mixing drinks so good that other bars’ employees come here for their own libations. There’s no sign other than the neon ‘Psychic’ in the window; one is often on hand.”

img_thegang

1. The Back Room (because I want to drink beer wrapped in a paper bag)

“This faithful rendition of a Prohibition-era speakeasy, housed in an ordinary-looking apartment building, is appropriately difficult to find. Go through the iron gate by the ‘Lower East Side Toy Company’ sign; there’s a bouncer posted there on the weekends. Head to the back of the courtyard, and go up the stairs to your right. You’ll find yourself in a classy parlor-like space, where 20- and 30-somethings drink hard-liquor concoctions out of teacups and beer from bottles wrapped in paper bags. A sliding bookcase gives way to a ‘secret’ 2nd bar. A fireplace blazes in the winter. Large groups, especially of men, could have trouble at the door.”

1thebackroom

18
May
09

Preparation #1: Signing up for a class at the UCB

I can’t quite believe it, but I leave for New York City on Saturday. I’m slightly terrified but also extremely excited. After all, some of my best friends are waiting for me with open arms, and we’ll be celebrating my 23rd birthday the night I get there. It’s a good way to start my two months in the city.

I haven’t started packing or shopping for new clothes yet, but I’ve been preparing for my summer in other ways. I decided I wanted to take complete advantage of my time in NYC, so I signed up for an improv class at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre.

UCB

The UCB is a place where you can see an improv comedy show for $5 or $10, and famous comedians regularly appear there. I went to one show in November, and Chevy Chase showed up. Quite a few people from 30 Rock and Saturday Night Live have performed there, so it’s a pretty quality place. The UCB offers sketch-writing classes too. If one of those opens up, I might switch over and drop the improv class. But the more I think about it, the more I think I should take the class that scares me more, which is definitely improv.




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A blog about my summer as an unpaid intern in New York City.

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