Friday, May 31, 2013

Frances Ha, air conditioning, alone in the movies, a return to Freelance

Frances Ha, air conditioning in 90 degree NYC weather, alone in the movies. Need I really say more? (But I will.)

It was one of those days when I had a series of NYC appointments, but not all back to back, so the day got completely broken up, and if I wanted to get work done, I would have had to shlep my computer with me into Manhattan, on a day when I had to go to Flatiron, Union Square, Wall Street, and the Upper West Side, and did I already mention it was 90 degrees?

So I decided not to shlep my computer, and to heed the words of Abigail, who pointed out to me that I probably should be trying to take it a little easy right now. I haven't been too good at taking it easy right now, and I've got bags under my eyes to show for it. So in the middle of the day, with nobody looking over my shoulder, and just my own guilty conscience (I could be working on ....) I slipped into the movies at Lincoln Plaza, to see Frances Ha.

One of the hard things about freelancing is that you are at risk of never stop working. 6 AM, 11 PM—if someone needs something, it is hard not to respond. (Check my emails from just last night, and you'll see I was still sending them out til 11:30.) Do I sound like I am justifying my choice? Does it sound like maybe this wasn't so PURE of a selfish joy? Does it sound like I am protesting too much? OK. I hear you.

Frances Ha, air conditioning in 90 degree NYC weather, alone in the movies. Need I really say more? (But I will.)

It was gorgeously shot in digital black and white.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tyler will now dance for you

I know I am late to the (dance) party, but better late than never. When he was 20, Tyler Marcum videotaped himself dancing to the Dixie Chicks' version of Fleetwood Macs' song Landslide. Then 10 years later, when he turned 30, he (presumably) watched his video about 157 times, and then danced along with it. The result: a tender, vulnerable, silly, literal, awkward, and sometimes disconcerting dance conversation with his younger (and paler) self.

All that humanity? It is really quite joyful to watch.

Can I sail thru the changing ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?
From the perspective of someone who has handled 20 more seasons of my life than Tyler has, I wish him strong winds and smooth sailing.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pippin cast album, part 763

It's here! My Broadway cast album debut! Just scroll down to see the songs, and then scroll across til you get to No Time At All, and listen to me and 600 strangers sing together with no rehearsal. Oh, right. You also get to listen to Andrea Martin sing the lead.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

What happens here stays here. But nothing ever really happens.

After a terrific weekend in Maine and New Hampshire with Josh and James and Geof and Pat and Marina and Nathan and Steve and Julie (cousins and uncle and aunt) J, J, and I stopped in Harvard to say hi to my parents (grave) and to grab some lunch at the Harvard General Store (for the first time since it has an actual place to eat since I was a kid, when it had a lunch counter, but since lost it in a long and dull story having to do with town sewer). At lunch, we got to see Sue and Worth and Billy—who all work or live right in the center of town.  The weather was perfect, the company divine, and just before we left, we dashed back in to buy Josh a coffee for the road, and that's when I saw them. New T-shirts and sweatshirts. I am not much of an impulse shopper, and lord knows I am not a T-shirt buyer. But I just loved this, and decided that in the spirit of pure and selfish joy, this was going to provide again and again. Harvard. What happens here stays here. But nothing ever really happens.

Monday, May 27, 2013

I saw the Golem when I was his age, and I turned out ok.

This post is full of spoilers, but only if you read this link. Also, this post is going to be wicked short, because I am writing it from the road.

Josh, James, and I drove from Maine to stay the night at my uncle Steve and aunt Julie's in New Hampshire.  We hung out, ate dinner, gabbed about everything from bushy eyebrows to the five most famous people/things from Quincy MA (John Adams, John Quincy Adams, Zildjian cymbals, Howard Johnsons, and my Steve Simons (my uncle). At some point, I looked up and saw it was 9:55, and asked hopefully whether they like to watch Mad Men. Turns out Julie does (Steve, not so much)—and so we cozied into the corner and turned on the best episode of the season so far. I am a fairly staunch believer in the eventuality that even when a season starts out slowly, it will all add up. I think the writers know what they are doing, and that we need to look at the show in its aggregate, and not always episode by episode. I won't say a word about anything from last night's episode, except to say it PAYS OFF the season up to this point.

The link above is last week's recap. The title of this post is my favorite line from this week's. I'll discuss details and spoilers with anyone who wants, just offline so we don't ruin it for those who haven't yet caught up.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Lady slippers!

Geof and Pat and Marina and I took a long rainy walk in the woods. A long, rainy, muddy, drippy, verdant, beautiful walk in the woods. With lady slippers. Lots of lady slippers. Years ago, we would see lady slippers all throughout the woods. Then they became endangered and there were few of them to be found. Some years, none. (They take a long time to grow, and they were over-picked.) Then they became protected,  and slowly they came back. Now you can see hundreds in the woods on a good day. Today was a good day. After we walked in the woods, I walked on the road, and down to the cove, and everywhere I went, I saw lady slippers. Each time, each one brought me joy. Joy in the moment, but also joy in the recovery, the return to these woods. Joy that they did not go extinct, and that our protections worked.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Jande Tomelilla

It's funny, on a day like this—a day during which I made a delicious haddock chowder, and took two gorgeous walks in my favorite places, sat and watched the tide pull and push some seaweed in and out and back and forth, ate a lobster sandwich, de-greased kitchen screens (which was actually fun), and read One Morning in Maine aloud to Josh and James *while* I ate chowder—to declare that my moment of pure and selfish joy was making my NPR name. But it was. Serena posted it her Facebook, and I immediately got why this was a thing. Carl Cassel. Korva Coleman. Mandalit Del Barco.

Here's how you do it. Take the first initial of your middle name. Stick it somewhere into your first name. Then your last name is the smallest town you've ever been to. Turns out that's not so easy to remember, but I did remember that I was in the smallest film museum in the world, and it was in Sweden. So I looked up the town the museum is in, and suddenly I had a future with NPR. So. My real first name is Jane. My middle name is Deborah. So my first NPR name is Jande. (That's pronounced yon-deh.) The name of the town in Sweden is Tomelilla. This is Jande Tomelilla, reporting from the world's smallest film museum.

Friday, May 24, 2013


We left at 9 AM. We arrived in Brunswick by 3, so I could have a meeting with a filmmaker who might hire me for some work on his almost-finished film. We drove past Red's 15 minutes too late to get a grilled haddock sandwich. But when we pulled into Boothbay, Bet was there, and she still had fish, and we went for it. James' first trip to Maine! Josh's first of the season! Our first trip together as a family! Josh's and my 10th anniversary! Haddock! Whoopie pies!

(I swear to god, and Josh and James can attest to this, that I wore an actual dress with an actual matching sweater all day long, and I did not look like a mis-shapen hippie with jeans under and a sweater over my dress. I sweah da gawd. But then it was getting chilly and I was getting cold, and so OF COURSE by the time we took our second family photo, there I am again. But I was warm and happy!!!) (Also, I am going to figure out how to fix this photo upload problem I am having.)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Pickled Ramps

And then—somehow squeezed into a day full of copy editing, job applying, packing for a long weekend in Maine—I made pickled ramps!

(Which for some reason I cannot get to display right side up without becoming strangely foreshortened.)  (You get the picture.) (So to speak.)

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The pleasure of love lasts only a moment, but the pain of love lasts a whole life long.

As sung by Taylor Mac in his concert of popular music from the 1780s, (with the original French sung by Nina Mankin.) There's pretty much no way to convey the context of this song, or the direction that Taylor took it, without writing for about an hour now, so let me say, without worrying if I might confuse you, because Taylor pointed out that worrying is boring and undramatic—in fact, by definition repetitive—let me say that it's the 1780s, and the country has just come through the Revolutionary War, and we are figuring out who we are in peacetime, but we're too hepped up from war to know what to do with peace, and so we create drama where there is none, because we think we need to replicate a certain level of drama, and then some people do some things and then some other people do some other things, and all this is, of course, illustrated in spectacular song, and then a woman has a secret, and it's too vulnerable to share, but then she feels like maybe it's OK to share it in French, and she does:

Plaisir d'amour ne dure qu'un moment;
Chagrin d'amour dure toute la vie.

And then Taylor says, "OK, you said it in French. Now let's say it in English." And so they sing it in English, 

The pleasure of love lasts only a moment;
The pain of love lasts a whole life long. 

and then Taylor thinks, "That's not much of a secret. There has to be something else." And then he decides (or maybe he realizes) that the real secret is that she likes it. She likes the pain. She likes the life-long pain of love. And I wonder how many other people in the audience thought to themselves, "Yes, girl. That's right." 

But oh, that moment of pleasure. Made even sweeter because I was there with my son, his first time seeing Taylor, in all his brilliance, complexity, humor, and voice.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

One mussel

I thought it was going to be my joyful thing to go to the Madison Square Park food fair, but when I got there it turned out to be hot, crowded, expensive, and annoying. Still, points to me for trying, since I was in Flatiron in between a doctor's appointment and a production meeting, and needed to eat something. Later, I found out that Abigail had been there at the same time, which would have of course transformed the whole experience into one that was hot, crowded, expensive, and annoying to TWO of us. Even later, like much later, like at 8:30 PM, once I came home, and once Josh had made dinner, and once nobody was home to eat it, and I convinced Josh to go out for a run with me, I was able to meet up with Abigail (and Heath for a minute)—at a cute little cafe on Courtelyou Road. And that's when the joy came. A beautiful night, good friends, one mussel as an appetizer, and then home for Josh's dinner on the front steps. The unexpected trumps the plan.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Bad Lip Reading

So I was at the office all day long finishing up my work of two years, feeling sort of sad that it was so unceremonial while simultaneously feeling productive and grateful that I was there alone on the weekend and not in the midst of all the weekday chatter, and at some point I just needed some outside perspective that the world is bigger than making sure my paper files are in order to pass along to someone else, so I put the call out over Facebook, and asked for people to send me whimsy and humor. My people came through! Here's the first thing that arrived. Bad Lip Reading of the NFL. Hilarious. Delightful. Whimsical. Someone spends their time doing this so that other people can giggle. After I watched the NFL one, I watched this Bad Lip Reading of the Independent Spirit Awards. (I would WAY rather watch this version of Silver Linings Playbook.) Thank you friends, for coming through for me. Thank you Karen, for this orange peanut. I accept you.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Is your state bird a stupid bird?

OMG, I love this. I killed 30 minutes reading it and googling photos of the stupid state birds so I could compare them with the birds the author thinks would be not stupid state birds.

Here's an excerpt, but I think you should open up the link and read the whole delightfully opinionated piece for yourself.

3. Arizona. Official state bird: cactus wren
Cactus Wren is like the only boring bird in the entire state. I can’t believe it.
What it should be: red-faced warbler

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Fairy godmother

I moved to Portland when I was 27. My entire family lived on the east coast—my mom's family in Massachusetts, Maine, and New Hampshire, and my dad's family in New York and New Jersey. I don't think I truly understood what it meant to move so far away, but my mother did. I remember her telling me that moves at about that age tend to be permanent, and that while she was supportive of my choice (which was very cool of her, given that the choice was not actually a good one, even though I went on to build a wonderful life there) she was incredibly sad that I was moving so far away.

Over the years she and my father came to love my Portland friends. They came out to visit as often as they could, and after my father died, my mother came on her own. At some point, she decided that she was too far away, and that I needed a mother in Portland, so she appointed my BFF, Rupert, to be my mother. They would talk for hours on the phone without me, and truly adored each other.

Jump forward many years. (Not sure how many. Not sure when Rupe became my "other mother." I went for a run in the park, and talked with Rupert the whole way. ("You sound like you're out of breath.") (Dude, I'm running and talking at the same time! Give me some props for that!) And when I got back, I was finishing up my talk on the phone while stretching on the front porch, and James came outside. I grabbed the chance and put the two of them on the phone together. They had a short talk, but I could tell from overhearing James' side that Rupert was being Rupert, which means that he was connecting like only he can, and which gave me a huge sense of comfort, hope, excitement, and joy.

When they got off, Rupe and I wrapped up our talk. But before we got off, I said to him, "So, are you his grandfather?" Rupe asked for clarification. "If you're my mother, and he's my son, then you're his grandfather." And without missing a beat, Rupert said, "No honey. I'm his fairy godmother, and he's my fairy godson."


BTW,  if Rupert is my mother, and Scott is his partner, then Scott is my father, but Scott and I are born on the same day and year, making us birthday twins, and so as the old yarn goes, my brother is my father. Relationships are sooooo complicated.

Friday, May 17, 2013


I haven't had a lot of time to hang out with friends lately. I am finishing up my job at the JCC, while simultaneously doing 3 freelance jobs and also getting back to Josh's and my film, Parting the Waters, while simultaneously suddenly (and deliciously) being a parent. Not sleeping enough, not exercising enough, and not getting enough time to connect with friends. So as I walked from one appointment to another, I called friends. Simply that. One answered and we had a quick check-in; one texted back that she had been in an intense game of 'tennis baseball' in the backyard with her kid and couldn't talk; I haven't heard from the third. But I reached out, I connected with two out of three, and now I have to get off this blog and go do my coop shift, dash back for a site visit with a social worker, have a planned family meeting with Josh and James, take Josh to the doctor, and then come home and copy edit a new article (one of the freelance jobs I'm doing.) Keep your ringer on. Maybe I'll try to sneak in a phone call.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

They looked back at me, remotely, possessed by intense life.

Gatsby. (The great.)

Industry screening for the editors guild. Tribeca Cinemas. Me, Josh, James, and J├ęsus (James' BFF). Ran into wonderful friend/production supervisor, just finishing up a new Jim Jarmusch film. Settled in for a screening of The Great Gatsby. I was prepared for it to be visually stunning (it is Baz Luhrmann, after all, who made Moulin Rouge, another glitzy big trajedy with parties and dance numbers) and I was prepared for DiCaprio to be excellent, and I didn't know what I would think about the rest of the film, but what I wasn't prepared for was my actual, audible gasp at the music choice. I am not going to tell you the music choice. I want you to discover it for yourself. But there's a strong, innovative, completely mind-blowing (to me) music choice, and I adored it. I adored it so much that each time I encountered it, I just shook my head in wonder. I can't actually remember the last time a filmmaker took me to a place of such delight and wonder, and filled me with intense life. 

OK, I feel a little bad teasing you like this and not giving you anything to actually listen to, so here you go. This gorgeous song by Sia was playing over the credit roll.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013


James is the one who got me into Scandal. I'd been hearing my friends talk about it, and I'd been seeing people's FB posts when Scandal would jump the shark, but honestly? I didn't realize it was a Shonda Rhimes creation, and the marketing I saw—or maybe its name?—led me astray. I didn't know it was political. I didn't know it was set in the White House. I didn't know it was a legal thriller. In other words, I didn't know the scandal in the Scandal was linked to political intrigue, and not just people being slutty.

But then James started talking about it, and how much he loved the context of it all, and I of course wanted to check out whatever was this thing he was interested in, and gave it a shot. I was hooked from the first minutes.

Now I watch whenever I can. I'm at the beginning of Season 2, and dying to see what's gonna happen and catch up to where my friends are, so I can go back to reading their posts and get in on the discussion. Sometimes when I am too wired to go right to sleep, I watch an episode in bed. And that's what this post is about. Midnight, in bed, watching Scandal, literally starting the day—but still the middle of the night—with Olivia, (the mysterious) Quinn, Harrison,  Huck, and the rest of the crew, until my eyes close and I drift into sleep, and eventually the rest of my day.

And I love that I have James to thank for it. 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

I love this woman's mind

For the first time in ... well, potentially as long as the show has been running, I am behind on my Mad Men viewing. I am behind by one episode. Because by the time 10 PM Sunday night came along, my eyes were closing after the week I'd had. As I told James, he was cramming for finals all last week, and I was cramming for him. And then there we were, Sunday night, on the couch together, gonna watch Mad Men, and I just couldn't keep my eyes open. 

I'll get to it as soon as I can—probably next weekend—but in the meantime, there is nothing like reading Barbara Lippert's astute and hilarious recaps of old Mad Men episodes. (Her recap of the episode I missed is up too, but I have not read it yet.) I look forward to her recap almost (I said, "almost") as much as the episode itself.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Rise to the challenge and SHINE!

When someone asks you to sing, what do you do?  Most people say, "I can't really sing" or they give a half-hearted, somewhat embarrassed go at it.

But not this guy. This guy rose to the challenge, and then he got his wife involved, and she rose just as high.  What I love most about this is not just that they are very talented, but that they are so confident! My wish for everyone today is that if someone asks you to do something out of the ordinary, or even in the ordinary, that you can feel as confident as they do to SHINE.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

And now we are three

For my readers who have been reading since the very first posts in September 2010, today's post will come with a great deal of context. For those of you who are newer to this blog, today's post might feel sudden and out of the blue.

Yesterday I posted that I was up in Harvard, my beautiful home town. Late arrival. Walk in the moonlight. Dear dear friends with a generous open door.  What I didn't say was why was I up there. Josh and I drove up to pick up our new kid. Yep, you heard that right. This past week—Monday—a young man named James decided to come live with us, and to start the tender process of becoming family. He's 20, and just finished his freshman year at Brandeis, so we picked him up at his dorm, packed the car to the brim, and then drove out together to start our adventures.

Building permanent family has been a long process for me, a long process for James, a medium long process for me and Josh, and a fairly quick process for me, Josh and James as a trio. I'll write the lead-up some other way, some other place, some other time. Today's post is, as all posts this year are, dedicated to pure and selfish joy.

Every year since I was a child, I would walk up to the apple orchard nearest my house, walk through the rows of budding trees, and choose a tree to follow for the year. Sometimes I would even try to choose a blossom. I'd visit is frequently—as it bloomed, the bloom faded and fell, the tiny fruit would form, the fruit would grow, and eventually the fruit would ripen. In the Fall, when the apples were ready for picking I would take just one—the one I'd followed—and eat it then and there. (My parents were very strict about not taking apples from the orchards without paying for them. I'd love to hear from others how your parents dealt with that constant temptation.)

Over the past couple years, I've tried to restart this tradition. In 2011, Josh and I chose a bloom and followed it til fruit; I thought I blogged about it, but I don't see a post in my archives. Last year I missed the chance, but this year Josh, James, and I drove out to Harvard (after a stop at Erikson's for the first ice cream of the season and before we stopped off and had a wonderful visit with the Durrants and their menagerie of donkeys, sheep, chickens, peacock, doves, dog, and birds at the feeder) and went straight to my closest orchard.

We walked through, we talked about the life cycle of an apple, about how to graft root stock, unfortunately about poison ivy and ticks (which is why I am all covered up—wearing jeans, a skirt, a sweater, and a sweatshirt) and eventually we chose a tree, and we each chose a blossom to follow for the year.

There are many life cycles. New beginnings can start in unexpected ways. A bird might pick up a seed and drop it miles away, where it takes root and flourishes. A country mouse might travel north and west before surprising herself by making a home in New York City. A young man without a home might know someone who knows someone who knows someone who has a home and wants him in it.

And now we are three.  

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Moonlight walk in my home town

Worst traffic ever. Even worse than the last time I complained about the traffic from New York to Massachusetts. Two hours from Brooklyn to the start of the Merritt, and another four by the time we finally unfolded ourselves from the car. But. We unfolded ourselves from our car at our close close friends Pamela and David's spectacularly beautiful farm, and even though I couldn't see the sheep, I could hear their bells, and even though I couldn't see the peacock, I could hear its call. And even though I couldn't see the lilacs, I could smell their fragrance, and even though I couldn't smell the apple blossoms, thee they were.

And even though it was 9:30 PM (and there are no street lights where I grew up) I invited everyone out for a walk, and Josh and Pam said yes, and out we went with Tetley the best dog ever, up the road I grew up on, our path lit by diffuse cloudy moonlight, through birdcall and blossom fragrance, into the night.

This is a photo of the morning (sort of cheating; it's from the next day) just to give you an idea of why I love my hometown so much.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Riding the rails

This is one of those posts that I could really write. Like, really write. Because if you can't get all poetic about trains, what can you get all poetic about? But I don't have the time to really write, so I'll leave you with some images. New York to Philly. Rainy day. Rivers. Cities. Towns. The gentle soporific chug of the engine. Fantasies about a cross-country (doesn't really matter which country) train trip. Conductors, even surly ones. Arriving in a new city. The promise of it all.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Old Spock/New Spock

This is completely delightful, even if it is in the name of capitalism.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sing along with Pippin (part 2)

I cannot remember the last time I had so much fun.  Pure singing fun. Pure singing on the cast album of Pippin fun. Pure joining 600 people in the New York Society for Ethical Culture concert hall to sing on the cast album of Pippin fun. SO MUCH FUN!

The call went out last week. Fans of Pippin were invited to sing the big audience participation number, No Time At All, on a cast album recording. They got thousands of responses, and selected people on a first come first served basis.  I was lucky enough to get right in there with my RSVP, as I have previously written about.

I showed up at the Society for Ethical Culture at the time the doors opened, and the place was already packed. The vibe in the room was incredibly sweet—a combination of young giddy musical theater fans and older, well, more restrained musical theater fans. I found a seat with a beautiful young woman (who turned out to be an alto, like me) and waited for things to start.  It was a super good-natured crowd, buzzing with excitement. Really, it's not like there were going to be any disappointments.

Before long, producer Howard Kagen came out and introduced Adam Feldman, who was the MC for the day, which pretty much meant that after a funny and engaging moment, he introduced Charlie Alterman (musical director of Pippin) Nadia DiGiallonardo (music supervisor of Pippin) who were really running the show. Turns out that both Charlie and Nadia, along with many members of the Pippin cast, have the throat gunk that so many people have, so they were literally drinking hot ginger and molasses as they led us through some warm ups and made charming and engaging musical theater jokes.

We sang happy birthday. We sang a couple classic vocal warm-ups, and then a few where Charlie got us to play with pitch dynamic. The thing that was immediately clear is that the entire concept was going to work. This was a room full of people who knew how to follow a conductor, and for 600 people who had never met each other before, we sounded pretty great. Within my ear shot, there were no people who sang off pitch, or hung on to notes that should have been cut off earlier; I think that was pretty much the case for the whole room. So then Charlie brought out Stephen Schwartz, the composer and lyricist of Pippin, to thunderous applause. I'm not a big applauder when a great show has not ended. I am not a fan of the emotional support applause—you know, the one when someone reveals something vulnerable about themselves, and people don't quite know what to do so they applaud. And I'm not usually the person who bursts into applause when someone walks into a room, although I recognize it as a sign of deep respect and honor and I participate, telling myself the whole time that I am applauding their lifetime of achievements, and not the fact that they just walked into a room.

So Stephen Schwartz shows up, and Charlie starts to teach us a line from the song we're going to record, and the first thing that happens is that Stephen disagrees with him on the rhythm of the words "little of." It was a great moment. Charlie said that no, they had agreed to push "little of" and Stephen said that no, it was held back and syncopated, and so they went to the recording of the show we were about to sing along with, and Charlie had been right (of course) and away we went. Here's what we were singing:

We sounded great. I could practically hear the producers' sighs of relief as the audio technicians played back recordings, and discovered that we sounded great. Charlie and Nadia taught us some harmonies. We started singing those. We were still practicing our harmonies, when Andrea Martin (Broadway actress who sings this song in Pippin) breezed into the room in a bright red dress. One of the things I love about Andrea Martin is that she is from Maine. This always helps to remind me that even though people sometimes pretend that all successful New Yorkers are from New York, they really aren't. I mean, they really aren't. Of course I know that, but it's easy to get caught up in, and sometimes it takes a Broadway star from Maine to remind me. So Andrea came on stage and started being a Broadway star—full of self-deprecating humor and public admiration for her co-workers, and to be honest, she mostly got in the way of what we were trying to achieve, because she stood right next to Charlie and moved her arms around in a different pace from his conducting, and I had to mentally tune her out and focus very hard on him, because you see, once they started recording us for real, Charlie was listening to the track in headphones and conducting us, but we weren't listening to the track because they didn't want it to get picked up by the recording mics, and so Andrea's enthusiastic arms were a little distracting.  You can take the girl (me) out of the producing workplace, but you can't take the producer out of the girl.

So we started to record. We did four versions. One in unison. One in our harmonies. Another one with the same harmonies. And finally, an ending to the whole song, which was going to be in unison, but once they realized it all worked, Schwartz composed some harmonies on the spot, and we went for it. I nailed my alto lines, along with my alto neighbor. Before we left, they got us smooshed as far as we could into the center of the hall, which is to say that we were still filling almost the entire hall, and they got the creative team down in front of the audience, and they took a whole bunch of photos, with the intention of putting it in the cast album liner notes. So look out, once the Pippin soundtrack comes out, there will be a tiny silver-haired spec on the aisle of the orchestra, house left, about 10 rows back. That would be me. Smiling, just the way Stephen Schwartz taught us to, to make the vowel sound move forward in our mouths, and sound brighter and happier and like we are ready to just start livin'.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Shadow post

Sometimes when the thing I would normally write about is too private to write about, I write a shadow post instead. Suffice it to say it was a banner day, with big laughter over drinks, the most precious text messages I've ever received, and great hair.

The private stuff will become public in due time. Life is good.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Spring kale, overwintered

Up before 7. Out before tea. Blueberries. St. Johnswort. Basil. Caraway thyme. Two new garden beds. Shorts and a hat. A neighbor out early loading a strange, homemade pig bench into the back of his truck. A trip across the street to my sharecropper garden. Four stocky kale plants with delicate spring leaves. Later, dinner.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Paradise Found

Was it walking an hour through the park and my old neighborhood to get to the theater, and running into Naomi and Jill and Hannah and Eva, and then Glenn and Hana along the way?

Was it getting to be inside a church I've seen from the outside for 10 years, and discovering that it's gorgeous, capacious, light, and VERY multi-purpose?

Was it the sight of Michael Barakiva in his red apron, as he was about to serve up 10 hours of theater, along with two gourmet meals?

Was it the moment the Upstart Creatures started to perform all 12 books of Paradise Lost?

Was it sneaking out to read the synopsis in the middle of the first act (the first three books) because I was super lost, but coming back in feeling quite found, and suddenly following the story much much better?

Was it the first meal break, which was high tea? Noticing the meta-experience of (having pre-decided to eat and drink anything I wanted to, without worrying about if it contained caffeine, wheat, or sugar —three things I normally avoid) drinking a delicious blend of Harney's (caffeinated) Diamond Jubilee tea, and eating scrumptious tea sandwiches and little cakes, including an apple cake—my forbidden fruits—IN THE GARDEN during the 10-hour reading of Paradise Lost? ***DING DING DING! This one wins.***

Was it the growing understanding that in Milton's hands, Adam and Eve in the garden are metaphors for the oblivious middle class, who don't know how come they have it so good?

Was it the shifting light coming through the stained glass windows over the course of 10 hours?

Was it the moment I walked into the space that had previously hosted high tea, now transformed into a banquet hall with apples and votives at every place setting?

Or maybe the moment, at midnight, that the actors read the final words of the poem.

They hand in hand with wandring steps and slow,
Through Eden took thir solitarie way.

And we clapped, and Michael wept a little, and we went out into the night to walk home. Paradise found.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

No Time At All -- singing along with Pippin (Part 1)

The producers of cast album of the new Broadway revival of Pippin have put out a call for fans of the show to sing along with Andrea Martin on the cast album. This is the kind of thing that I would normally see, think, "That sounds fun," and then never do. But in this year of saying YES to things that I think will bring me joy, I clicked on the SIGN ME UP link, and immediately started to worry that I was already too late to get chosen. A day passed. Another. But then it came. The email I'd been hoping for.

Hello Jenny Levison!

Start practicing! You have been chosen to attend the very special recording session of 'No Time At All' with Andrea Martin and Stephen Schwartz and sing on the New Broadway Cast Recording of PIPPIN!

And so yes, I started practicing. In my bedroom, in the shower, in the garden, over breakfast. It's been completely fun. It reminds me of, well, it reminds me of myself when I was a kid. I used to spend hours on the living room floor, in front of the record player, singing along to my favorite musicals, imagining the sets, the action, the choreography—all from the photos on the covers of the record albums.  I might be older, I might have seen a musical or two, but it still feels the same to listen to a recording, and imagine myself in it.

When you are as old as I, my dear
And I hope that you never are
You will woefully wonder why, my dear
Through your cataracts and catarrh
You could squander away or sequester
A drop of a precious year
For when your best days are yester
The rest'er twice as dear....

What good is a field on a fine summer night
When you sit all alone with the weeds?
Or a succulent pear if with each juicy bite
You spit out your teeth with the seeds?
Before it's too late stop trying to wait
For fortune and fame you're secure of
For there's one thing to be sure of, mate:
There's nothing to be sure of!

Oh, it's time to start livin'
Time to take a little from this world we're given
Time to take time, cause spring will turn to fall
In just no time at all....

I've never wondered if I was afraid
When there was a challenge to take
I never thought about how much I weighed
When there was still one piece of cake
Maybe it's meant the hours I've spent
Feeling broken and bent and unwell
But there's still no cure more heaven-sent
As the chance to raise some hell


Oh, it's time to start livin'
Time to take a little from this world we're given
Time to take time, cause spring will turn to fall
In just no time at all....

Now when the drearies do attack
And a siege of the sads begins
I just throw these noble shoulders back
And lift these noble chins
Give me a man who is handsome and strong
Someone who's stalwart and steady
Give me a night that's romantic and long
And give me a month to get ready
Now I could waylay some aging roue
And persuade him to play in some cranny
But it's hard to believe I'm being led astray
By a man who calls me granny

Oh, it's time to start livin'
Time to take a little from this world we're given
Time to take time, cause spring will turn to fall
In just no time at all....

Oh, it's time to start livin'
Time to take a little from this world we're given
Time to take time, cause spring will turn to fall
In just no time at all....

Sages tweet that age is sweet
Good deeds and good work earns you laurels
But what could make you feel more obsolete
Than being noted for your morals?

Here is a secret I never have told
Maybe you'll understand why
I believe if I refuse to grow old
I can stay young till I die
Now, I've known the fears of sixty-six years
I've had troubles and tears by the score
But the only thing I'd trade them for
Is sixty-seven more....

Oh, it's time to keep livin'
Time to keep takin' from this world we're given
You are my time, so I'll throw off my shawl
And watching your flings be flung all over
Makes me feel young all over

In just no time at all....

(And also, in case you were wondering, the meta message of the song is not lost on me and my 'take life by the balls' approach to this year.)

Friday, May 3, 2013


A couple weeks ago I downloaded an ap called iBird Lite. I'm testing it out to see if I like it enough to spend $19.99 on iBird Pro. I LOVE IT. I sit on the subway and read about birds. Their range, their habitat, birds that are similar to them. I look at drawings and photos of them, and I listen to their calls. This has all been pretty great for me, until I came upon the Atlantic Puffin, at which point it became thrilling. I have been trying to see a puffin for, well, as long as I can remember. Admittedly, I haven't tried super hard. I've gone out on boats though, to places where puffins "always" hang out, only to find that "this is the only time we have come out and not seen puffins." Also, did I mention I get seasick? I have promised myself that this summer I will go out to one of the puffin breeding colonies in Maine, but in the meantime, iBird, take me away!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

I called in well

I took a personal day. I needed one. (I actually need about 7 more, and then I could get everything done I need to in the next 8 days.) I did a whole slew of things I could write about in detail, but the truth is, it was the moment of deciding that I needed the day, and that I could just tell the truth about it. That moment, at 8:30 in the morning, when instead of bracing myself for a day on the Upper West Side yearning to be ticking items off my list in Brooklyn, I shifted gears and went for what I wanted. It's not like I hadn't earned the day; last week I worked til 10 or 11 PM four nights. But still, knowing I have earned it and figuring out I can take it are two separate things. And when I figured that out, JOY.

Also, I planted collards and ranunculus. I started a freelance copy edit job. I worked on a freelance theater producing job. I winnowed files. I bought a mattress. I briefly stopped in on the May Day march in lower Manhattan. And at the end of the day, I got to see a Broadway show (Kinky Boots) in fantastic house seats that the musical director got me, and meet him backstage afterwards, where I got to see the stunning Al Hirschfeld theater from the front out.

I took a personal day. 

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Brooklyn Botanic Garden Members Plant Sale

For a few hours I feel like myself. A giant field and an even more giant tent filled with shade perennials, vine fruits, stalk fruits, annuals, vegetable starts. People carefully considering blueberry bushes, and filling their red wagons with native grasses. I took my time and found just what I wanted. I soaked in the gorgeous evening. I talked with volunteers and other members about what they are planting. I considered blueberries myself. When I was done, I pulled my own red wagon out to the road, and thought about last year's plant sale, when I walked home with Alexis, talking about our hopes and plans for our gardens. And with that, the joy became bittersweet.