Living in NYC, from a Californian’s Perspective

Next week will be my five-month mark of living in New York City, and although I’ve already been here this long, there are some things I just still can’t get used to:

  • This city is obsessed with plastic bags.  Coming from Los Angeles, where plastic shopping bags have been outlawed, it is still a strange feeling for me to be offered plastic bags.  The phrase “paper or plastic” has been removed from my vocabulary.  The weirdest part, though, is when I go to buy something small like a soda.  I still get asked if I want a bag to carry my 20 oz bottle of soda!  It’s also weird when you get food delivered, and your food comes in a bag that is inside of another bag.
  • The trusty Trader Joes Wine Shop on 14th Street.

    You can’t buy liquor or wine at a grocery store.  As I’ve learned, this is very common in New England and along the East Coast.  If you ask any native Californian where is the best place to buy a bottle of Chardonnay or a handle of vodka, they will send you to the grocery store, most likely Pavilions or Ralphs.  Fortunately, Trader Joes, which serves as a mecca of cheap wine in California, has their very own wine shop in Manhattan.  Just imagine walking into a store that looks like Trader Joes, has all the cute chalk drawings and Hawaiian-themed decore, but the shelves are stocked from wall to wall with wine, wine, and more wine.  The best part is that two doors down, there is a real life, honest to goodness Trader Joes.

  • Times Square really is hell on Earth.  Most people think of the cute and bustling
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    The 2009 Broadway production of Guys and Dolls.

    depictions from Guys and Dolls or the Rhapsody in Blue segment in Fantasia 2000: a diverse group of people dressed in a coordinated color scheme, moving in a well-choreographed hurry.  This is not the case.  Trying to walk down 7th Avenue is like trying to drive on the 405 Freeway during rush hour traffic–except worse because you have to contend with people hawking bus tours and tickets to Broadway shows, being groped by a man in an Elmo costume, and lost tourists who just stop walking.  I usually end up making a detour around Times Square if I have to get anywhere in midtown, just to cut that stress out of my life.

Despite all of these strange occurrences, there is so much I love about New York City.  I love the subway system (as long as it doesn’t suddenly stop running from Manhattan to Queens, where I live, as it is sometimes prone to do).  I always tell people that there is something for everyone in New York.  It’s like that line from the musical Company, “If you don’t like it there, they got every subway you can name to take ya where ya like it better.”

Mad Scientist’s Kitchen: Vegetable Stir-Bake

I love a good stir fry.  No, not some mushy plate of frozen vegetables with teriyaki sauce haphazardly tossed on, but a true stir fry, where the vegetables are a bit charred on the outside, tender on the inside, and full of flavor.  Now, if you are somebody who knows how to make a good stir fry, you know that the number one rule is not to crowd the pan.  This means that in an average-sized wok or frying pan, you can really only make enough for one or two at a time.  I don’t know how many times I’ve made a stir fry at my parents’ house where I’d hear:

Them: “What are you making?”
Me: “A stir fry.”
Them: “Can you make me some?”
Another Them: “Me too!”

This limit of one to two servings also makes things difficult for someone like myself.  I like to cook four to five servings of a meal at once, so I can pack them up in my mason jars and eat them throughout the week. Last week, I roasted some sweet potatoes in the oven, and they came out just the way vegetables should in a perfect stir fry: 1. a bit charred on the outside, 2.tender on the inside, and 3. full of flavor.  So then, if the sweet potatoes came out just like that, why couldn’t I just bake the vegetables to be “stir-fried”?  Thus, I began an experiment.

Question: How can I make more than one batch of a stir fry without a commercial-sized wok?

Our Mad Scientist/Chef

Our Mad Scientist/Chef

Hypothesis: If I bake the vegetables, they will taste just as delicious as stir fried vegetables and without all of the extra cooking oil. Here is what I did: I planned to make a stir fry with broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, and bok choy.  Now, my original plan was to bake the bell peppers too, but because I was making so much food, I did not have room for them on my tiny baking sheets.  The bok choy would get too crispy in the oven, so I stir fried the bok choy with the bell peppers using the traditional method.

The Finished Product

The Finished Product

I chopped the broccoli and carrots into evenly-sized pieces.  This is important because they will cook more evenly this way.  Otherwise, you will get some broccoli pieces that are raw and some that are over-cooked.  I put all of the vegetables into a big bowl, tossed them in just enough grape seed oil to coat them evenly, seasoned with Mrs. Dash (Original Flavor), and placed them in a single layer on a baking sheet.  This detail is important too.  You can not have any pieces of vegetable overlapping.  Otherwise, you will run into the same problem as a crowded pan and that is the problem that we are trying to avoid in the first place.  I baked my vegetables in a 400 degree oven for fifteen minutes.  And that was it!  I tossed them in a little bit of a store-bought teriyaki sauce and mixed them all together.

The result: The vegetables came out perfect!  They tasted just the way they would as if stir fried in a huge wok full of oil.  Then, I made some brown rice, and placed a cup of rice in each jar with a huge portion of vegetables.  Now I have some delicious stir fried veggies to get me through the week.

The Ironies of Job Hunting

I went on a marathon streak of applying for jobs today.  Ideally, I want a job in film/theatre/television, but those are not always available, so I apply for other creative industries, such as design firms and music companies.  One such creative company that I applied for was a clothing distributor in the Garment District.  Later in the day, I got a call from a New York City phone number, so I knew it had to be about a job.

“Hello, this is Jaymie,” I answered cheerfully.

A man with a high pitched, foreign accent responded, “Yes, you responded to my job posting on Craigslist.”  I always hate when they start with that.

“Ah, yes, could you please remind me which one?” I asked.

He hesitates, “What?”

I spoke slower and enunciated, “Could you please remind me which company it is.”

“Yes, I’m hiring for an office assistant,” he responded.  Definitely not the specificity I was looking for.  He continued, “It looks like you are working in theatre.”

“I work mostly in theatre, film, and television, yes,” I replied.

“Oh, you see, this is a different industry,” he stated.  Here we go…

“What kind of industry is it?”

“I run an embroidery company, but you probably wouldn’t be interested.”

And here is the problem I have–if I applied to work for your company, why wouldn’t I be interested?  I saw on your Craigslist ad what kind of company it is.  Had it been a law office or a financial firm, I might have been less comfortable applying.  I’ve never understood why employers would think that I’m not interested in a job that I applied for.

What I did say was this, “Of course I am still interested.  While my experience is mostly in the arts, I am always open to broadening my horizons and trying new things.”

What I wanted to say was this, “Did you like my resume, anyway?  Did you see that I have a ton of experience as an office assistant?  Don’t all of those skills and experiences apply to any kind of office?”

The way he left it was that he was going to send me an e-mail with more information.  I still have not received that e-mail, though.  No worries, I do have a lead on a theatre-related job that I am very interested in, and I am going in for a second interview on Monday.  Now I just need to find a nice tie to wear.  I didn’t bring as many with me when I moved.

 

On The Bumpy Road

Wow, I can’t believe I haven’t written in almost two weeks!  There is a reason for that, unfortunately.  You see, about two weeks ago on one of my days off, a glass of water spilled all over my laptop.  I was enjoying a lunch that I had just made and was listening to Sara Bareilles’ new album while I was about to respond to an e-mail.  I went to pick up my heaping glass of water and unfortunately, my wrist knocked it over.  It was one of those moments where everything went into slow motion.  I swear, I saw my whole life flash before my eyes.  After all, for a poor 20something, a laptop with water damage is death.

My brain sort of shut down for a second.  I had no idea what to do.  I immediately texted a tech-savvy friend for advice.  He suggested that I shut down the computer, dry as much as I can on the outside, and then remove the battery.  Now, on the old Macbook models, the battery was easily accessible.  On the Macbook Pro, which I own, the battery is guarded by ten microscopic screws.  I searched my entire apartment to see if perhaps my room mate owned a very small screwdriver.  No luck.

The first place I could think of to find a screwdriver was CVS.  After all, there are two CVS stores, right across the street from each other, on my street.  The CVS employee was very helpful but alas, no screwdrivers.  She pointed me in the direction of a hardware store and told me that some of the dollar stores along the way might have them.  I dashed over to that hardware store to find a sign that said, “Closed today.  Death in the family.” Of course.

I turned around and decided to stop into every dollar store I saw on the way.  Now, they all had screw drivers, that is for sure.  The troublesome part about this was that I need a size #00 Phillips screw driver.  00 means that it is one whole size smaller than a size 0.  Very tiny.  Of course, none of these dollar stores had what I needed!

I finally found a hardware store, and they had this great little four-in-one screw driver with the size that I needed.  I bought it and went back home to open up my laptop.  I got through about six screws when it suddenly ceased to work.  I thought I might have stripped the screw, but it wouldn’t work on any of the other screws.  I decided that I needed another screw driver.  I didn’t want to walk all the way back to the other hardware store, so I had to find something else.  In a panic, I went to the RadioShack right under my apartment.  It was just my luck that they had what I needed, but it was included in a big set of screwdrivers. I bought it, of course, and went right back to unscrewing the back of my laptop.

I should add here a “Don’t try this at home” warning.  Apple does NOT want you to open up your computer.  It actually voids the warranty, I later learned.

Lo and behold–I open up the back of the computer and I can see it plain as day–little bits of water residue on the motherboard.  A Google search advised me that I should let the laptop dry out for at least twenty four hours but that I should let it dry for as long as possible.

For me, as long as possible ended up being about another week, since I was so busy with job interviews and working at my PA job.  Fortunately, I had applied for dozens of jobs the weekend before my laptop got fried, so I had a few interviews lined up.  It was tough not being able to apply for more over the following two weeks.  I think that fact is hurting me right now.

Back to the laptop… Long story short, I turned it on, and it turned on just fine.  Unfortunately, the screen did not light up.  I knew then and there that I had to take it to the Apple Store.  I got a “Genius” with a very “tough luck, kid!” attitude.  You see, Apple can’t fix just the pieces that are damaged.  They have to replace the entire “logic board,” mainly as a safety precaution in case there is any damage that can not be seen by the human eye.  The price tag for such a repair costs as much as a month of rent for my apartment.

I decided to get a second opinion at this place called Tekserve, which is basically an independent Apple store.  The employee at Tekserve suggested that even though they could fix it for about $100 less, getting it repaired by Apple would restore my warranty, of which I had about a year and a half left.  So, I decided to cough up the money to Apple so that they could repair it.  At this point, it was going to take almost a week to fix, and I just wanted my computer back.

And now it’s back.  Money is extremely tight right now, unfortunately.  I am still in the mix for a really big corporate job, and even though I feel like it would kill my soul, I really need the money.  I have one more interview lined up for Monday and hopefully there will be a few more in the week.

In other news, I stopped biting my nails on April 1st.  Nope, not an April Fools joke!  I have good feelings about this week.  Time to keep my head up and get back to work!

Stage Kiss

Here’s a little update on me: It’s been a busy week with the production I am working on.  I was put in charge of all of the wardrobe, which has been a huge undertaking.  The biggest part of that job is orchestrating all of the laundry, as some of it gets hand washed, some gets taken to a laundromat, and some gets dry cleaned.

Last week, I went to see Stage Kiss, the newest play by Sarah Ruhl, esteemed MacArthur Genius Grant recipient, Tony Award nominee, and my favorite playwright.  At first glance, the story of Stage Kiss is simple: two struggling New York actors are cast in the revival of tired, old 1930s melodrama, where the leading actors are forced to kiss each other again and again.  Naturally, this would lead to emotions stirring up between the two and a possible “showmance” would begin.  This gets complicated when the married leading actress, played by Jessica Hecht, meets her single leading man, played by Dominic Fumusa, because they are ex-lovers.  The rehearsal process opens up old wounds from the past between the two, as they struggle to keep their on stage story separate from their personal lives.

The bumbling director and supporting cast of the play within Stage Kiss make up the rest of the characters.  Most memorable among them was Michael Cyril Creighton, who plays the director’s assistant and who later fills in as the leading man’s understudy.  Creighton completely captures the essence of that actor who just doesn’t “get it” during rehearsal.  All of the laughs in Stage Kiss come from watching the scenes where the actors are in rehearsal for the forgotten, old play.  Their antics are all too relatable for anyone who has ever been inside a rehearsal room.

Ruhl is a writer known for rebelling against realism.  She writes in a poetic style and imbues her plays with surreal landscapes.  For example, Ruhl’s Melancholy Play features a languishing young woman who speaks in similes. There is also a scene in her play Eurydice where the heroine appears in a elevator, where it is raining inside.  In some ways, Stage Kiss feels like her most realistic play, yet Ruhl still manages to add her signature touches to the story.  There are a few bold moments that step outside of reality, such as a darkly tender musical number in the second act.  Other moments subtly walk the line between fantasy and reality, which left me wondering if what I was seeing was part of the play-within-the-play or the backstage life of the characters.

Ruhl and Playwrights Horizons have an absolute hit on their hands!  I foresee Stage Kiss to be the Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike of the next season; that is, the hilarious audience favorite that gets produced regionally all over the country.

A Little Update

Hi all,

It’s been a busy week.  On Monday, I began rehearsals for the play I am working on.  There isn’t so much for me to do, but it is great just to be a part of a professional production in New York City.  The cast is really inspirational, and I think I have made some great friends in the stage management crew.

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Chili and a burrito in a jar. Photo by Jaymie Bellous.

On Tuesday, I had a day off from rehearsal, so I cooked up some lunches and dinners to last me through my busy upcoming week.  I learned from this article how to pack salads and other meals into mason jars, where they can be preserved for several days.  It’s a great way to save money too because you buy a bag of groceries and use up every last morsel of food in a meal, rather than letting that leftover half of a carrot waste away in your fridge.  My meals included a Super Food Burrito in a Jar, Sweet Potato Chili with Kale, and a vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie based on this recipe and this recipe.

After that, I saw the Broadway revival of Pippin starring Patina Miller.  An overall really great production with some spectacular circus feats.  Rachel Bay Jones completely stole the show as Catherine, the quirky and spastic ingenue in the second act.  Her performance reminded me of a comedy legend like Carol Burnett or Amy Poehler.  While many of the Broadway regulars in the cast dazzled with splashy circus tricks, Jones is the lone member of the cast that does not partake in the illusions and gymnastics.  Her comedic prowess cuts through the flashy effects, leaving a lasting impression.

And finishing off my week of theatre-going, I saw the new play Stage Kiss at playwrights horizons last night.  But that is worthy of it’s own post–coming soon!

Kinky Boots

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The complimentary pin for winners. Photo by Jaymie Bellous.

I really don’t want to jinx it, but I tend to have great luck with winning lottery tickets to Broadway shows but not with getting rush tickets.  As of now, I am three-for-three.  Last year, I won lottery tickets to Newsies; this past fall, I won one seat to Matilda; and today, I won the lottery for Kinky Boots.

This 2013 winner of the Tony Award for Best Musical (among many others) was based on the 2005 film of the same name.  Following the plot of the film closely, Kinky Boots tells the story of Charlie, a young man who inherits a struggling shoe factory from his father.  The factory produces sensible men’s loafer shoes, and as Charlie soon learns, the factory produces the shoes even when there are no buyers.  One day after visiting his fiancée in London, Charlie attempts to help a woman, who is being harassed by a couple of hoodlums.  Charlie underestimates her self-defense abilities and ends up accidentally getting knocked out when he tries to help.

Cut to a vibrant bar, where Lola is the starring act in a drag show.  When she steps off stage, she greets Charlie, whom she brought back to the bar to rest.  Charlie, the shoe connoisseur, notices the broken heel on one of Lola’s boots and begins to hatch a brilliant plan.  The drag queens at the bar perform in women’s boots that could not possibly hold up the weight of a man’s body.  Why not create a heel designed to support the body of a drag queen?  In an endeavor to save his father’s factory, Charlie switches from making plain, leather shoes to extravagant and colorful stiletto boots that will stomp down the runways of Milan.

Billy Porter as Lola with the cast of Kinky Boots. Photo by Matthew Murphy.

Kinky Boots takes the audience on a roller coaster of emotions, from the exuberant joy over the prototypes of their new kinky boots to the painful apologies that come after accepting those we’ve judged.  You see, on the surface, Kinky Boots has the parts that make up your typical Broadway musical: flashy and ornate costumes, music that makes you want to dance in the aisles, and well-known source material. 

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The marquee of the Al Hirschfield Theatre. Photo by Jaymie Bellous

  Yet behind all of the sequins and eye shadow, the strongest scenes in Kinky Boots are the ones that tug hard on the heartstrings.  Tony Award-winner Billy Porter, who stars as Lola, ignites these moving scenes with unabashed honesty and vulnerability.  Those tears won’t last for long, though, with Porter on stage.  In the next moment, the audience will no doubt erupt with laughter from a Lola one-liner.

Jerry Mitchell’s direction and choreography were innovative and fanciful, featuring the actors performing acrobatic tricks on tread mills in the first act’s finale.  Harvey Fierstein’s riveting kept this viewer at the edge of his seat, and Fierstein’s script provides the actors with the right material to make their performances honest and grounded.  Kinky Boots features a rocking score by Cyndi Lauper with standouts like the seductive tango number “What A Woman Wants” and the inspiring finale that had the audience clapping along, “Raise You Up/Just Be.”