Monday, October 15, 2012

SOB: Part One

(Sister of the Bride)

I've been trying to finish this post for weeks, but a combination of performing in a show every night of the week, having lots to say, and general laziness have kept me from doing so.  As a result, I have decided to recap the events surrounding my sister's nuptials in instalments.

I give you: PART ONE! (Being Maid of Honour)

So, my sister's married.

Let me not spend too much time saying that it's a little bit weird when one's sibling gets hitched -- let alone one's only sibling, let alone one's younger sister -- because I pretty much always knew Mara would get there way before I did, if I did.  Like, always always.  Pretty much since she was born almost 25 years ago.  Even then.

That said, when I got the text just under a year ago that said 'I'M ENGAGED!! Call me', I did have moment of hysterical, stereotypical, older sister life-choice-questioning.  This was only exacerbated when I went home over Christmas and spent an evening with my sister, her fiancé, my cousin and her husband, in which the entire conversation revolved around weddings and babies, and I thought (for a brief second), What is wrong with me? Why don't I want this? Why am I so weird?  There was no Lamaze breathing involved, but I did feel momentarily like an alien, and my life outside of my home town seemed to exist in another dimension.

Also, in my head, my sister is still this age, so it's hard to think about her doing anything grown up.

(She's the cute one, by the way.  I'm the one with the over-sized, unnecessary glasses that were prescribed by a quack eye doctor who was trying to make a quick buck.  We both, however, suffered the indignity of bowl cuts at the hands of our father.)

But I got over it, got over myself, and tried to be as involved in the conversation and planning as anyone who knows nothing about marriage and only has a vague, vacillating desire to procreate can be.

Before my visit home, when I finally got to talk to her on Skype, Mara asked me to be her maid of honour.  I cried.  Well, I teared up.  For some reason (possibly related to childhood nerdiness insecurities), I did not think that out of my sister's throngs of super cool friends, she would ask me.  Also, I live really far away and was concerned that -- aside from not grasping the concept of 'showers' or 'bachelorette parties' -- I would not be able to lend a hand or plan things very well from that distance.

My sister patiently responded, 'Of course I was going to ask you', and then assured me that I didn't need to do anything but show up.

And so, aside from a brief discussion at Christmastime, I proceeded to forget about the whole thing for the next 10 months.  Yes, I briefly considered joining (though never planning) the bachelorette party, until the other five bridesmaids informed me Mara wanted to go to Vegas.  That option was slightly out of budget/time constraints, plus I'm not much of a Vegas girl anyway.  At least, I'm pretty sure I'm not, having never actually been there.

I heard about the shower, sent some flowers, and also sent in my measurements for a dress.  A week before the wedding, Mara asked me if I wanted to do a reading at the ceremony and a toast at the reception.  I said 'Sure', because talking in front of people is my job.

I arrived the Tuesday night before the wedding completely jet-lagged, but ready to jump in and help with any last minute ribbon-tying or paper-folding, but as ever, Mara didn't want my help.  Or anyone's.  She's pretty self-sufficient, that sister of mine, and like me (I suspect), would rather do something herself than let someone else screw it up.

So all I had to do before the wedding day arrived was practice my reading, and write my toast.  The reading was fine.  I decided not to memorise it, because forgetting the words would be super awkward, so I just familiarised myself with the text, and then moved on to panicking over what I was going to say at the reception without talking for 9 years, forgetting to mention Ben (the groom), or embarrassing my sister or myself.

I laboured over my notebook for days.  What to say without sounding cheesy, or worse, inadvertently envious?  I wanted to joke about our fights and my jealousy when we were kids, but without making it seems like I still secretly resented her (I don't).  I did not want to be that Maid of Honour, the one who gets drunk and says, 'Isn't my sister pretty?', but with an evil glint in her eye.  I wanted to be funny!  I wanted to impress.

But then I remembered that it wasn't about me, and that made things a bit simpler.  This wasn't my wedding day, and it wasn't my stand-up show or my story at a party either.  This was about Mara.  I typed up a page of things I thought it would be nice to say, we did the whole wedding thing (more on that later), and I arrived at the reception, ready (if nervous) to say my piece.

I thought, based on the few 'traditional' weddings I've been to, that the toasts would be done right away.  I was wrong.  My sister and Ben spent an hour taking photos (as scheduled) while the bridal party hid upstairs so we could make a grand entrance together.  That was one extra hour to panic slightly, and not drink too much so as not to become nightmare MOH as described above.

(These photos happened much later in the evening, once I did allow myself to start celebrating.  Heavily.)

Once we did get downstairs, dinner was promptly served.  I expressed my growing concern to my sister, asked her whether or not I should bring up my bit of prompt paper, and once again, she responded patiently and sagely: 'Anne, you know what you want to say, and I know it's going to be fine.  You don't need the paper'.  I felt reassured, but still did not know when these toasts were happening.  I chatted and ate, all the while sure I would be called into action at any moment.  More courses kept arriving.

It felt as if hours were passing.  Mara and Ben had decided to try to get around to greet every one of their 180 guests.  The dinner had finished and the tunes were picking up.  It was the first wedding I'd ever been too where guests started dancing before the bride and groom had their first dance, but no one seemed to mind.

The best man and I were finally called up when I had finally relaxed into conversation and started in on a glass of wine.  Mara and Ben were with us by the DJ's table, and he handed me the mic.  As I do at a stand-up gig, I had a few notes written on my wrist in case I drew a total blank, but I'm pretty sure I got through most of what I wanted to say.  I don't really remember, as it really did happen very quickly, but I was praised later on the brevity of my toast, so I think it was as much reality as my adrenaline-clouded perception.

I saw my sister's face go cold for one second when she thought I was going to say something embarrassing, but I didn't, and she immediately looked relieved.  She hugged me afterwards and said, 'That was really good'.  And it was.  It was all really good.

Coming soon: PART TWO!  All of the other things that a sister's wedding entails. 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Prodigal Daughter Returns

To Vancouver, Washington.  For her sister's wedding.

(It's probably clear from that Biblical allusion that I know nothing of that particular story other than there was a guy who went away for a while and then came back.)

I am jet-lagged, fog-brained, and completely disorient(at)ed by the oversized roads, attentive sales assistants, and cacophony of American accents.

After 9 hours of plane travel, 3 hours of car travel, and 8 hours of time travel, I arrived at my mom's house last night just in time fall into a 10-hour coma.  I managed to get a Burgerville dinner in there somewhere, making every other harrowing part of the journey worthwhile.

My sister's wedding is on Saturday (more to follow), and I am doing my best to shove 9 month's of maid-of-honour duty into three days.  Today this meant buying shoes, getting a dress fitted, acquiring appropriate undergarments, and offering my time/energy/help to my super organised, slightly stressed-out sister, who promptly turned me down.  All she's asked is that I do a reading at the ceremony.  I'm sure she'll tell me what it is at some point, but doing cold readings is pretty much 97% of my job, so it'll be fine.  Oh, and a toast at the reception, but I'm an improv pro, so that'll all work out, too.  If all I have to do is show up in a dress that fits on the day and speak in front of a large crowd of people, I'd call that my ideal bridesmaid scenario.  If I don't trip or fart on the way up to the podium, nothing more need happen.

(I genuinely have a fear of farting at my sister's wedding that has cropped up in the last week or so. I often perform in front of large groups of people, I have never farted then, and I do not have a general problem with flatulence, so I'm not sure where this fear derives from, other than my certitude that I will do something inadvertent and absurd to ruin the perfection that will be my sister's special day.  But I won't.  I promise.)

It is weird to be home.  It gets weirder the longer I live in London, the more it feels more like home.  Do I really live 5000 miles away?  How was I just there and now I'm here?  Is this delicious boysenberry jam trying to convince me to stay?  Why does everyone hate healthcare so much?  These are the questions that have plagued me for the last 24 hours.

I felt nostalgic driving down the evergreen-rich stretch of I-5 between Seattle and Vancouver, and I love seeing my family, but this place doesn't feel like home anymore.  I guess it hasn't felt like home for a while, but it's a new revelation that somewhere else does.  Maybe it's just a product of living in the same place for more than a year -- which I haven't done since college -- but leaving London showed me just how much I want to stay there.

Saturday, July 07, 2012

The Curse of 27

A month and a half ago, I turned 27.

I turned 26 in a sleep-deprived, elated state whilst performing as part of a Future Cinema event at a party in Cannes.  It was at once the most exhilarating and confusing time of my life to that point.  The intervening year has brought huge changes -- the end of a relationship, a period of couchsurfing, settling into a new home and a new city, finding a job and more jobs, committing myself to my artistic pursuits -- many of which were precipitated by that fateful birthday night on the dance floor of the Stella Artois tent on the Mediterranean coast of France.

I sometimes look back at the previous year of my life and think, 'Shit, some amazing things happened, but I am so glad to be through that.'  I could look at turning 27 simply as a fresh start, another chance to recommit to myself and embrace all of the positive aspects of ageing and getting to know oneself better; but I also get it.  I get why 27 is the year of the curse.  I get why there is a '27 Club'.

Let me just preface the rest of this piece by saying that I am not suicidal, and that I do very much wish to reach my 28th birthday, and many more birthdays to come.  I am a mostly well-adjusted individual who is somewhat blindly groping her way towards the next big changes in her ever-evolving life, and I am scared shitless.

As a child, I imagined my 20s would be full of grown-up life.  I was convinced that 6th-graders were on the verge of adulthood, so imagining a person in his or her 20s as anything other than accomplished and omniscient was beyond my grasp.  Twenty-seven was grown-up, and grown-ups wore suits and and had families and took their kids with them to work so that they could see what they, too, would someday become.  Never mind that my parents were in their late-30s/early-40s when I was tagging along to the classroom and office to learn about their working lives, because to me, 25 and 45 were pretty much the same thing.

Thanks mostly to my (wonderfully supportive, non-granchildren-demanding) mother's insight, I also grew up thinking that 28 was the perfect age to start having kids.  The reasonable aspects of that deadline have begun to fade in the past few years as I realised that traveling the world, postponing career aspirations, and following the wrong men around are all valuable, life-lesson–rich pursuits, but they do not lead to financial stability, personal contentment, strong partnerships, or any of the other prerequisites (of which I was entirely unaware as a child) to starting one's own family.

Twenty-seven is an age where reality comes to a head with expectations.  I suddenly find myself closer to 30 than 20, but only marginally closer to mapping a route to my artistic career goals.  I get it, 27 is scary, even for those 27-clubbers who died in the throes of success and acclaim.  Even when you start to get what you want, knowing how to cope with that reality adjustment is scary.  A taste of success can be thrilling, but it can also spin back into self-doubt.  After all, a one-time success can be just that, and who's to say that the next thing you come up with will be any good?

The pressure of financial independence and worth begins to set in.  At 23 or 24, the temping and food service jobs seem, well, temporary.  At 27, I still have never had a job (that wasn't temporary) with any kind of financial security, let alone benefits.  I have scraped by, borrowed money, and moved to a country where at least access to health care is free and universal.

Instead of a blossoming career that unfolds seamlessly before me, I have the fruits of my own labour.  I suddenly find myself living by clichés and mantras.  'By doing things, things get done'; 'You get out what you put in'; 'Making things happen makes more things happen'. (Okay, that last, less eloquent one is my own, but it's true!)  The walls of my room are plastered with affirmations and reminders: 'Take yourself SERIOUSLY'; 'Stop being so CAREFUL'; 'LOVE and NURTURE yourself'; 'TRUST YOUR TALENT'.  I feel like a nut sometimes, and when I bring a guy home for the first time, I often wonder if I should quickly hide them away and pretend to be more normal and sane and together, but I'm not.  I am 27.  This is what I need right now.

What I have gained at 27 that I lacked at 23 is personal insight and the increasing strength to listen to my own desires.  I was always mistaken for someone older, a fact which led me to believe that I was mature and worldly beyond my years.  In reality, I was just desperate to grow up, to get to that place where I imagined I'd have it all together.  I was mature, but without the life experience to back my old soul.  As I grow older and begin to know more about myself, I only learn how much more I have to learn.  See the way I'm embracing cliché?

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Hackney Weekend

Having been slightly disappointed by Lovebox on the previous weekend, I didn't know exactly what to think going into BBC Radio 1's Hackney Weekend on Saturday.  Would I spend another two hours being outraged at the lack of variety of acts and fighting the urge to leave and walk home?  I mean, I like Drum & Bass as much as the next guy, but between the hours of 5 and 7pm, when you aren't on any Class A drugs, and that seems to be ALL that is playing on every single one of the five stages, it's enough to make you want to eat your £50-ticket and storm out.  If the Groove Armada hadn't swept in with one of the most engaging, beautiful, theatrical sets I've ever seen, I think I would have done just that.

But that was Lovebox, and this was Hackney Weekend.  For starters, the tickets for HW had been FREE (and well worth the faff of an endlessly crashing website on the day of release), so if it was terrible, I could just wash my hands of it, nothing lost or gained, and walk out.  That was the contingency plan.

We were warned by email, website, and news coverage to allow two hours to get through the queue.  This seemed outrageous, but we weren't worried about catching the early acts, so we moseyed up about two hours after the 1pm start, drinks in hand, prepared to wait.  I guess if you were trying to get in for half ten when the gates opened, then it might have taken two hours.  We ended up abandoning a Strongbow and half a Crabbies because we couldn't finish them before the bag search.

We were in by 3:30, having breezed through the hyped-up security points.  We arrived at the main stage and caught the end of Rizzle Kicks.

(A brief warning: All of my video footage from this event is pretty shoddy.  The iPhone 3GS does not agree with heavy, resounding bass, so I've done my best to trim and dull the sound, but please forgive the appalling quality.)

I have had a slight crush on these Brighton boys since I first saw this video, but my Brighton-boy date has some personal beef with them involving the ill treatment of a lady friend, so we didn't stick around for long.  I always try to side with the better treatment of ladies.

We did buy a £7 programme so we'd know what was on which of the six stages at any given time, and it was a valuable investment.  We could see right away that we didn't want to see much on the Main Stage until Jay-Z at 9:50pm, so we headed to the In New Music We Trust Stage, which proved to have the best lineup throughout the rest of the day.

After a wander to suss out the food situation, we settled in out of the rain with some terrible fish and chips to wait for the Maccabees.  This ended up being our first happy accident of the day (the waiting, not the fish), as we ended up seeing Rudimental.  The opening -- which I tried (and arguably failed) to capture in the video below -- was incredible.

Yes, I had to mask most of the sound from the above clip, and it's pretty shaky and blurry, but those drummers are wearing rabbit heads, and that's the kind of theatricality that I love.  They proceeded to play a fantastic set, including this song, which has one of my favourite music videos at the moment.  It was amazing.  I can't actually remember whether we saw the Maccabees.

We made another tour of the grounds, and stumbled on Nicki Minaj.  Now, I know that Nicki Minaj is not the most amazing singer, but I am a fan of her cheek (pun intended), and I expected her to put on a good show.  What I saw was not bad, it was just exactly how it sounds on the radio.  Because it was all prerecorded.  

See that woman in clear view singing along to the Nicki Minaj track?  That's what Nicki Minaj was doing.  Singing along (sometimes) to a recording of her singing.  Sometimes she just skipped around the stage, clearly not lip-synching to the track that was playing.  I still sang along to Super Bass, because hey, it's catchy.

We caught Jack White back at the In New Music We Trust Stage (why he was there is a bit confusing) with his all-male band.  We got there early, which meant we were up front with the die-hard fans, so we were in a bit of a jump-or-be-jumped-on situation; I chose jump.  Jack White was incredible, and finished just in time for us to get a drink on the way to the Main Stage for Jay-Z.

Jay-Z was... exactly as amazing as I expected.  He opened with 'Run This Town', and as he stepped out of the darkness onto a smoke-filled stage, who should step out from behind him but Rihanna.  It was an incredible, high-energy opening to a set of greatest hits.  Check it out here (somehow the BBC's footage is slightly better than mine).

This was one of my favourite moments, and also one of the only ungarbled bit of footage I have:

After 'Dirt Off Your Shoulder' and '99 Problems', the unmistakable opening of 'Paper Planes' began playing, and sure enough, there was MIA, guest star number two.  Unfortunately, her mic stopped working halfway through the one song she came to perform, but she managed to grab one off a backup singer (rapper?) and carry-on.  

Jay-Z's set ended around 10:15, but we all knew the license ran until 11, so we eagerly (and at this point, damply) awaited the encore.  Several minutes of theatrical silence from the stage and cheers of 'More!' from the audience followed, and then a gigantic American flag dropped down from the rafters.  It looked like this, only slightly less blurry:

Jay-Z stepped out onto the stage with his signature hoodie pulled low over his face, head bowed towards the audience, back to the American flag, hands clasped in front of him.  Suddenly, and with great flourish, he pulled back his hoodie, raised his head and began-- oh my god it's Kanye!!  It was Kanye West, not Jay-Z.  They pulled the old bait and switch, and they got us all.  

Jay-Z came back out, and the show finished up with several tracks off their collaborative 'Watch the Throne' Album.  At that point, I realised that all of my footage would not only suffer the inadequate technologies of an iPhone camera, but also the constant and uncontrollable movement of my dancing.  Lesson learned: enjoy the concert, don't try to capture it for others on your new toy.  

Other valuable lessons of the day included: even if you're sure it's about to rain and you really want to get some food and find shelter, don't go to the one food stand without a queue, especially for fish and chips; your fish will be microwaved and soggy and your chips will have been refried several times for similar, heat-retaining purposes.  Also, don't buy too much booze for the entrance queue if you're arriving mid-afternoon, and don't panic about the hyperbolised security warnings: I saw everything from bottles of vodka to much harder stuff inside.  I'm pretty sure the guy who checked my ticket was 16.  

Allow me to conclude by saying thank you to the BBC for creating this free event and giving access and priority to local residents.  It was great to be on what now feels like my home turf, enjoying East London in all of its drizzly glory.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

New foot!

Nearly six weeks ago, I stupidly and severely burned my left foot.  Today, the bandages finally came off.

It is discoloured and scarred for the moment, but I can't tell you how sexy it looks compared to the mound of exposed flesh/regrowing skin it was a few weeks ago.

I am off to take a shower with both of my legs inside the tub and then go to work.  Life is good.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

I am an actor.

I am practicing saying this out loud.  And also writing it in public spaces.

I have always had trouble answering confidently when people ask, "What do you do?"

My hesitation derives from a combination of self-doubt (every artist's personal demon) and the idiotic responses I get from people when I say I'm an actress.

Proof!  Look at me learning lines at the last minute!

Actually, let's start here: gender.  I tend to say I'm an actor.  To me, this is a gender-neutral term (although my friend Ariel did suggest the alternative use of 'actron', and I like that), and it leaves out some of my personal qualms with the diva qualities (personal prejudice) associated with the word 'actress'.
New Acquaintance: "So, what is it you do?"
Anne: "I'm an actor."
NA: "Don't you mean 'actress'?"
I don't remember getting this particular line so much when I was in the States, so maybe it's a British thing, but I find it infuriating.

To be fair, some of the people who ask me this question do not speak English as a first language, so it could be a sign of a genuine translation problem, especially for those whose native tongues include gendered articles and pronouns.  Nevertheless, if they continue to argue the point after I say, "No, I mean actor.  An actor can be a man or a woman," I generally sigh and walk away.

If we get beyond or bypass this first hiccup in the conversation, what usually follows is this:
NA: "That's great.  Been in anything I would have seen?"
It's probably because I have not been in anything you would have seen that this question perturbs me so (refer to aforementioned self-doubt), but I also find this type of comment naïve and reductive.

It's like when I tell people I do stand-up and they say, "Really?  Tell us a joke."  It's as though, if you told me you were an accountant, I'd say, "Really? File my taxes."  Because being an accountant means that you want to do my accounting.  Right now.  In this environment that is totally inappropriate for crunching numbers.

I also think that if I had been in something you had SEEN, you probably would have SEEN me in it, thus making the question moot.

As a result, when asked this seemingly uncontroversial question, I usually begin with, "Um..."  In that moment of verbal hesitation, I am considering whether I should just lie; whether I should tell this person that I am just a bartender (I am a bartender, so it's not an egregious falsehood), rather than delve into a lengthy explanation of an actor's struggle to be valued and paid as a part of a creative venture.

No more!  I am an actor, and a damned good one at that.  I landed a paid gig at my first London audition.  In the last year I have shot three short films (two of which I wrote or conceptualised), was flown to France to perform at the Cannes Film Festival, worked with two wildly popular and successful interactive theatre companies, and secured two commercial auditions, all without an agent or showreel.  Imagine what I'll do when I get the agent and showreel sorted.

I am an actor.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Wedding season begins

A few weeks ago, I went to my second cousin's wedding.

This is one of two second cousins that I only realised I had a few years ago when we reunited on my mom's recommendation whilst I was living in France.  I knew my mom still had cousins in the UK (my grandparents are Scottish), but I didn't realise there were any kicking around in my generation.

In the strange turn of events that has reversed the immigration of my family to the US (okay, not my whole family, just me, but it has that "full circle" sentiment), I have bonded with these cousins, and when the younger one decided to get hitched, he invited me along.

I didn't know many people at the wedding.  In fact, other than the half-dozen or so people I am directly related to, I only knew one person.  We created the false appearance of being together by arriving together, and I didn't want to cramp his style.

Weddings are obviously — if I understand movies to be an accurate reflection of life — rife with desperate (probably sexy), single women whose desperation and single status are being thrown in their faces by the ONE THING they want MORE THAN ANYTHING: marriage OR, if you get them drunk enough, any single dude in sight.

Anyway, I wanted to let my non-date get on with the mingling, so I had a lot of time for personal reflection.  Here are some things I learned (or was reminded) about myself:

1.  My camera is shit

Or I am a terrible photographer.  Or both!  My digital camera is definitely old, and when I bought it on sale four years ago before moving to France, I didn't know anything about appealing features, other than low price.

In any case, the only photos that turned out from that day were those taken by other people.

The good news is, I now have lots of fun pictures of me with relatives that I don't get to see very often, including one with a my Gran's sister's sister-in-law (you figure it out) whose name is also Anne!

The bad news is that I have no reasonable photos of the actual bride and groom, or of the ceremony itself.  Maybe I should stop taking my camera out of the house, altogether.

2. I am bad at turning off my hospitality-industry self

REALLY bad.  It is a special combination of social awkwardness and control mongering (sprinkled with a pinch of critical nature) that makes a person want to clear away champagne glasses and serve canapés rather than interact with unfamiliar human adults.

This was the first wedding I had attended in a year at which I was not a member of the service staff, and I found myself either gripping my own thigh to prevent myself from removing empty glasses from outdoor ledges, or engaging in conversations with strangers about what the service staff was doing wrong.  Because it's okay to be a dick about service when you're part  of the service industry.  Right?

3. I like holding babies and playing with children

In fact, I like both of those things way more than trying to make small talk with people I will never, ever see again.  (Refer to above feelings about interacting with unfamiliar human adults.)

I really like babies.  You might call it a 'maternal instinct' or my 'biological clock ticking away', but  I have loved babies since I was about 7 and saw myself fit to look after the 'smaller children' at family gatherings.  I was definitely not old enough to bear them, so there.  I get all warm and fuzzy when I see babies and I like to hold them and coo and cradle them back and forth.  (Also, holding a baby means no free hands to obsessively do the waitstaff's job.)  Sue me.

I also have a survival instinct.  I like to hold babies for a little while, and then I like to give them back.

Playing with children is something I probably enjoy more now than when I was a child.  Okay, that can't be true, but I was kind of an anxious nerd of a kid, and so many games seemed to involve a level of athleticism that I did not possess, so — as not to injure my fragile pride — I spent most recesses in the library.  In fact, I think they made a new rule limiting the number of recesses you could spend in the library per week because of me.

Now, though, I love playing with kids.  They are so much easier to win over than adults.  Instead of talking about the weather — and that painful, 12-minute conversation actually did happen — or explaining what it is you do, you can just be silly and make up games like Put Your Foot On a Rock!  Kids love it when you're silly.  Plus, I have become much more athletic in my 20s than I was as a child, and I can set the bar really low with games like the above-mentioned and by competing against a 4-year old.

4. I am softening on this whole marriage/wedding thing

I used to always say having kids was much more important to me than ever getting married.

I'm sure, if pressed, certain friends would recall me declaring, "I'll never get married!" in a highly impassioned manner.

I've definitely said that if I did get married, I would not have a wedding, "because there are better things to spend money on!"  I still think it's silly to spend what some people do on weddings, but I've been to some really special ones of late (discounting the ones I've worked at), and I guess I can kind of see the point.  Love and celebrating with friends and all that.

That's the end of the list but I just want to say one or two more things.

I had a lot of fun at this wedding.  My list makes it seem like all I did was complain to toddlers about the quality of service, but I only did that for a few minutes before I realised I was at the wrong table.

Thanks to the magical social lubricant that is alcohol, I did manage to have ongoing conversations with adults, and I might have even made some witty remarks.  I danced, I mingled, I ate a delicious dinner, and my trusty non-date let me pass out for the entire train journey back to London, ensuring only that I did not carry on sleeping and miss the last tube.

If more of my days were filled with holding babies, drinking pink Prosecco, and sleeping through long public transit journeys, I don't think I'd have much to complain about.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Home Sweet East London

I love my neighbourhood.

I crutched down to Roman Road today—an area known either for its tourist-attracting market or prevalent pick-pockets, depending on whom you ask—to return a library book and pick up a few grocery items.  It was (momentarily) sunny, the Cockney salesmen were shouting from their stalls, and my foot was feeling pretty good.

(I went for my latest check-up/rebandaging on Monday, by the way, and it's looking good.  Half of the skin has grown back, and my fingers are crossed for full coverage by my next appointment on Thursday.  I'm still using the crutches, but I'm able to put partial weight on my foot, as opposed to its previous state of too-sore-to-touch-ground.  Exciting stuff!)

I had completed my errands and was returning back down the road towards my house as two construction workers approached me.  One of them looked at me, made a sad face and said, "Aw, babes*, are you alright?"  I chuckled lightly and said, "Yeah, thanks."

A minute later, after a very old man briskly overtook me on the sidewalk—this probably would have depressed me last week, but today I just found it funny—, another man who was walking in front of me stepped into a doorway, turned, saw me and said, "Oh, sorry love, you alright?"

Now, British people do have a propensity towards being overly apologetic—the word "sorry" tends to be used  in place of "Excuse me", "Watch out", and "Oh my god if you don't move I will kick you"—and "Alright?" is a common East London greeting, rather than a genuine enquiry after one's well-being, but I still felt the love.

I've now been in London a year (as of the 1st of April), and I've been in my current place since July.  Moving to London was an exciting but rough transition, and it's taken me this long to finally start feeling at home.  I'm doing lots of writing and filming these days, I'm looking for new, less terrible jobs,  and members of my community call me "babes" and "love" and clear out of my crutchy path.  I may have a bum foot at the moment, but the cockles of my heart are toasty warm.

*It took me a while to adjust to the fact that everyone on this isle uses terms of endearment in a very familiar fashion.  I used to get a little bit offended and want to yell things back like, "I'm not your sweetheart!", but now I like it. 

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

I know it could be worse.

I almost cried at the hospital today.  It was not out of pain, though my foot has suddenly gone from being blissfully walkable to excruciatingly sore in the past few days.  No, these would have been tears of a control freak who has lost her grip on her own life; tears of frustration.

Today was my fifth hospital visit in ten days.  Things could be worse.  I could have burned both feet.  I could have burned the bottom of my foot, rather than just the entire surface of it.  I could be bedridden.  I could be dying of starvation in a small Ethiopian village.  I could have a huge, outstanding hospital bill or be refused treatment for lack of insurance (both of which would most likely be the case, were I still in the States).

Things could also be better.  I could not have an ongoing injury that is keeping me from working.  I could have a job that offered sick pay.  I could be rich.  I could be so rich that I wouldn't be having panic attacks about missing so much work at shitty hospitality jobs that I do not love.  I could be so rich that I could afford a butler!  A butler could go to the shops for me and bring me more codeine and call me "Miss," because I would instruct him not to call me "Ma'am."  A butler would mean that I wouldn't have to go on impeding the healing process by walking around on this stupid foot so much.

When the nurse unwrapped my foot for the fourth time today and it looked EXACTLY the same as it did the last two times — raw, pink, bleeding, swollen, generally really ugly — and then said, "Oh, wow, I didn't expect it to be that big," (one of the joys of a university hospital: you never seem to see the same person twice) I did want to cry.  

I wanted to scream, "Has no one made notes about the size or location of this burn?!  Why am I asked every single time where exactly on my foot it is and what they said last time?!  This is not my job!"  Of course, they usually ask out of kindness, to be sure not to graze it when they're cutting the bandages off.

I was spoiled for the first couple of days of my injury.  After my initial A&E visit, the pain was manageable with ibuprofen.  I was walking all over the place and marvelling at my proactivity in the face of adversity.  I shot a short film!  I worked two bartending shifts!  I told the anecdote of my pasta foot (I called it pasta foot) with the humour and distance of one who has made it through the worst part.

Even my first follow-up appointment on Tuesday morning was fun.  I was in a relatively good mood, despite having waited an hour for a scheduled appointment.  My nurse was goofy and friendly and from somewhere like Germany or Denmark.  I didn't ask him, but we had a good rapport as he "gently, gently" (his words) burst my new blisters and peeled away all the skin from the top of my foot like so much Elmer's glue.  It was dead!  It didn't even hurt!  I was convinced that all nurses were people I would like to get drinks with.  Maybe Maeve and Heke— (his name started with something like that) and I would go out together when this was all over and have good laugh about lancing blisters on my left foot!

Whereas walking around was good for my foot for the first few days — the nurse today explained that the increased circulation would have created more fluid under the "blister roof" (that is totally what it is called), thereby making the dead skin easier to remove on that second visit — it is now just bringing a lot of fluid (blood) to my foot and preventing it from healing in a timely manner.  She recommended staying off of it as much as possible.  She gave me crutches.

I always wanted crutches when I was a kid.  Or maybe it was a broken leg.  I think what I really wanted was the feeling of importance and popularity that comes with a cast and a Sharpie pen.  Crutches, as it turns out (and as everyone knows who has ever used them) are not so much fun.

The Standard European Issue are the ones with arms holes and handles at the front, as opposed to the more common underarm American model.  They are easier on the armpits, but harder on the hands.

I have only used them for one journey, so far: the one from the hospital onto the bus, the bus to my estate, and finally, the climb up the stairs to my flat.  That last bit was a bit awkward.  I hate them already for slowing me down and making me acknowledge that I have a real injury.

In an effort to stay positive, I will now make a list of things I can do from my current position with my foot elevated (I want to say levitated every time, it's so weird) on the back of the couch:

1. Write a novel
2. Eat snacks (which Jeeves should be brining me shortly)
3. Apply for jobs that offer sick pay
4. Find the humour in all of this and work it into my stand-up set
5. Watch disaster films and be glad that that hasn't happened
6. Become a caricature cartoonist
7. Do crunches

I threw that last one in because I am missing exercise, particularly cycling everywhere.  I don't even like doing crunches.  If you have any more suggestions for activities to be executed from a semi-recumbant position, please do let me know!

Monday, April 02, 2012

TG for the NHS

Last Sunday night was supposed to be a quiet one.  The bar I supervise was pretty dead, so I closed early and was home by 8pm.  My plan was to make some dinner and some food for the next day, and get a good night's sleep before my day-long rehearsal leading up to Tuesday's film shoot.

When I got home, though, two of my flatmates, Jerome and Lisa, were about to head out for a Sunday evening pint, and they convinced me (there was very little arm twisting involved) to go along.  We had a lovely drink together at the Hackney Pearl, and then I came home to make my pasta for the next day.

The three of us crowded up the kitchen, and when I took my pasta off the stove and over to the sink, I realised someone had moved the colander.  I set the pasta down on the edge of the counter, and as I reached for the colander, the pot teetered and then fell onto the floor, boiling water landing all over my foot.

I proceeded to swear and jump up and down as Lisa shouted, "Cold water! Cold water!"  I hobbled up the stairs, tearing of my socks and jeans en route, and stuck my foot under the cold tap in the bathtub.  My foot looked red and the skin was puckering a little in the middle, but it didn't seem too bad, and as long as it was in the water, it didn't hurt.  Still, Lisa thought it was best to look on NHS (that's the National Health Service, for all you Americans) Direct website for advice.  She asked me if the burn was bigger than the size of my hand.  I said it was the size of my foot, so yes?  This response to the symptoms questionnaire prompted her to dial 999 (that's like 911, guys).

So Lisa calls 999, and we're told that for burns, we need to go to casualty, a.k.a. A&E (Accidents and Emergencies, not Arts and Entertainment).  I reluctantly agree, as it's now after midnight and I'm supposed to be getting a good night's sleep before my rehearsal, plus my foot looks totally fine... until I take it out of the cold bath.

As I wait for Lisa to pull her car around, my foot really starts to hurt.  It feels a little bit like it's on fire.  I limp into some shorts, and Jerome insists on carrying me down the stairs, which is a little bit awkward, but very kind of him.  He puts his arm around my waist as I protest, but then cave and tuck up my knees like a child being lifted over a fence.  I get into the car and resume my string of expletives.

By the time we arrive and Lisa drops me at the entrance to A&E, my foot has started to come out in some pretty gnarly blisters.  I limp through what turns out to be the wrong entrance, and a sympathetic security guard, to whom I whimper, "I burned my foot," directs me next door.  I get to the reception desk and wince while I wait to be checked in.

Among the information I was asked to provide were my name, my date of birth, what the hell I did to my foot, and my postcode.  In what still seems a small miracle to me every time I seek medical care in this country, there was no question of insurance.  In all of my vacillating about my trip to the hospital, a consequential £20,000 bill was not one of my concerns.  The guy at reception didn't even ask for proof that I live in the UK, which is good, because I was way too busy trying not to cry when I left the house to think about bringing my passport.

I was told that the wait for a doctor was 3 to 4 hours, at which point I nearly did cry.  I was assured a nurse would see me within about 20 minutes, though, to assess the damage.

I couldn't sit still in the waiting room.  The inside of the hospital felt unbearably warm, and the only way to alleviate some of the throbbing pain in my foot was (strangely) to walk around on it.  Lisa stayed in the waiting area while I stepped outside to pace with my one bare foot on the cool pavement.  There were three police officers just inside the double doors, and one of them must have taken pity on me in my crazed, wincing patrol of the A&E entrance.

He came out and said, "Jesus, what did you do?  Burned your foot pretty badly."

"Yep," I whimpered, "boiling water."

"And they just told you to walk around on it?"

"No, they didn't have anything for it, and this is the only thing that's making it feel slightly better at the moment."

"Just a minute," the blessed man responded, "I might have a burn mask or something in the car."

And so the lovely police officer, my third hero of the night (after Lisa — for advice in the case of an emergency and hospital transportation — and Jerome — for feeding me dinner whilst my foot bathed and then carrying me down the stairs), fetched a burn mask from his car, escorted me back inside to a seat, and wrapped my foot in the gloriously cool, tea tree oil soaked cloth.

My remaining wait time, which came closer to 45 minutes in the end, was much more pleasant as the three kind officers joked with me.  When I heard my name called, I shouted "Yes!" and practically leapt out of my seat.  I apologised for the mess of oil I had left on the ground, but I was told not to worry about it, and Lisa helped me into the consultation room.

The nurse's reaction to my foot was also something along the lines of "Jesus, that looks like it really hurts," which was simultaneously comforting (as an affirmation of my pain) and worrying (as this woman sees a lot of injuries).  I described the incident to her, confirmed that I have no allergies that I know of, and watched her type all of this into her computer.  She finished, paused, looked at my foot again and said, "I'll be right back."

I knew this was the moment of truth.  Either she would come back and say I'd need to wait three hours to see a doctor, or she'd come back and sort it out herself.  I said a small prayer to no one in particular.

The nurse returned a minute or two later with a cart full of dressing.  As she wheeled it through the door, she explained, "I'm a Nurse Practioner, so I'm going to dress your foot for you."  I don't think I've ever been so grateful.

"I'm going to clean your foot, burst all the blisters, and dress it for you," she said gently.  I think she could see my eyes go big and crazy when she said the bit about popping the gigantic, numerous blisters on my sore foot.  She assured me, "Don't worry, all of that skin is dead, you won't feel anything."

WARNING, if you're squeamish, I wouldn't read the next few paragraphs.  The nurse was right: I didn't feel a thing as she lanced and drained each oversized pustule.  It stung a bit as she cleansed the wound with saline solution, but the co-codamol she had given me before going to town on my foot was starting to kick in, at least in its giggle-inducing side effects.

As she explained to me that all of that skin would need to be removed — probably when my foot was schedule to be redressed Tuesday morning — I started telling her how great she was, and how amazing it was that she was doing this for me.  I had asked her earlier whether she was just starting or just finishing her shift (it was the latter), so I felt that I had laid the groundwork for a real friendship.  Flattery is clearly the best way to make friends, so I carried on asking about her history as an A&E nurse (she's been doing it for 12 years, it's what she always wanted to do), and telling her what a great job she was doing with my foot.  As we were leaving, I asked her for her name (Maeve), and I might have asked her for her number if Lisa hadn't escorted me out of the room.

To be fair, Lisa (who was not high on codeine) agreed that Maeve was an especially personable and fun nurse, and also conceded the next day that it would be great to get a drink with her some time.

As we left the room, though, I looked deep into the eyes of my fourth hero of the night and said, "Thank you, Maeve.  You were amazing."  And I meant it.  Maeve is amazing, and so is not having to pay a penny for a late-night emergency hospital visit.  I will happily watch my National Insurance contributions reduce the size of my paycheck if it means my foot does not fester into a pile of gout.  Or whatever happens to burned feet that go untreated.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Publishing old posts: Installment One

Have I mentioned that I have a bad habit of abandoning projects?

As evidence of that fact as well as an effort to rectify my wrongs, I am going to start publishing old, forgotten posts, some of them in fledging form.

The first of these dates back to late 2010.  Here goes:

crise /kRiz/ (n. fem. French)
1. crisis
2. attack, e.g. heart attack (une crise cardiaque) /yn kRiz kaRdjak'/
3. fit, e.g. epileptic fit/seizure (une crise d'épilepsie) /yn kRiz depilɛpsi'/

I once read or heard somewhere that the English language contains thousands (maybe even tens of thousands? -- I don't want to exaggerate) more words than than its Germanic and Latin-based counterparts.  This makes sense, etymologically speaking, since English began as a Germanic language, but then -- due to the success of the Norman invasion and the development of an Anglo-Norman tongue -- was heavily influenced by and came to include much of the French language.  I never did take that A. P. European History Exam, but I remember a thing or two from the class. 

My initial attraction to the French language had to do with an accident of pubescent loyalty.  It was 1998, I was 13, and my junior high school was piloting three first-year language courses: French, Spanish, and German.  The latter, with its hackingly harsh consonants and emotional range of expression spanning stern to outraged, never even crossed my radar.

My best friend, Casey, was all about French: wasn't it a beautiful language? The guttural R resonating pleasantly in the throat, the ã and õ vowels exiting through the nose, creating an altogether unfamiliar n sound? 

I, on the other hand, was utterly convinced by the practicality of Spanish.  Why would I study a language as useless as French?  Didn't she know that within fifty years, half the country would speak Spanish as a first language?  Didn't she want a job after college?  It was a no brainer.

We spent the end of 7th grade debating the subject (as was our wont), but when it came time to choose my fall classes, Casey's bff status outweighed the long-term benefits of studying a language that would ultimately give me a leg-up in the 'real world.'  Besides, France seemed like a nice place to visit one day.

The matter was settled, and we spent the summer debating more frivolous things, like whether or not Rocky I through V merited our repeated viewing (I the nay-sayer, in this case).  She introduced me to Alfred Hitchcock, instilling in me a lifelong fear of low-flying birds.  We sneaked romance novels off her step-mom's shelf and read them by flashlight under the covers at sleepovers, prepared at any moment for the approaching footsteps of her father, ready to burst out of the covers and make a convincing show of staring at the wall.  French class just never came up.

Day one of 8th grade arrived, and I found myself in Ms. A's third-period French class, alone.  Not alone, alone -- there were a good 27 or so other students, many of whom I knew -- but distinctively lacking my best friend.  There had been some mistake, I was sure; she had gone to the wrong classroom.  It wasn't until later that day, when I saw her her in Advanced English, that the matter could be cleared up: she hadn't been in French because she had gone to Spanish class.

As it turned out, my powers of persuasion had been as strong as hers: we had convinced each other to take the classes that we were respectively promoting, without ever realizing our success. 

And thus began my love affair with French.  I suppose I could have switched to Spanish after that first class, or Casey could have moved over to French, but we were both too stubborn to change our minds.  Besides, I was sold -- completely taken in by the elementary aspects of this new and exciting language.

It's now 2010, the year that brought me my 25th birthday, and though that enthusiastically smart, but insecure, 13-year old seems like some

the duality of words

And that's where it ends!  An unfinished sentence followed by an undeveloped thought.

I imagine that the former would have ended with something like, "... distant memory, she is still a part of me, if only in that she brought me to where I am today [and am today, in 2012]: living in Europe, ever seeking to improve my comprehension of the French language."

As for the undeveloped idea, I think I would have made a clever and seamless connection back to the beginning of the post.

One of my favourite things about French words is their multiple meanings, due largely to their relatively small numbers.  Because French has so many fewer words than English, many of them necessarily have several definitions.

Vague /vag/ (n. fem.) means both "vague" (as one might expect), and "wave".  I love that.

I think I probably would have gone on to describe whatever my personal crise of the day would have been.  Late 2010?  Let's see, in 2010, I moved from Ireland (where I had essentially been freeloading -- unemployed and work-permit-less -- with my boyfriend at the time) to New York, where I moved in with my incredibly generous friends Neimah and Audrey.  What was meant to be a couple of weeks in their spare room/office turned into four months as I worked as a dancer/promoter in Times Square, saved money, and awaited my visa to live and work in the U.K.  I then moved from New York to Scotland, where I did find full-time work in a fabric store and settle into a new routine with the same bf.  Full-time work in a new country, however, after months of working my ass off to save enough money in the States to (as it turned out) last me about six weeks in the U.K. meant that all creative ventures were put on hold.  I wonder what my crisis might have been.

I might also have mentioned how I first learned the that crise had more than one meaning.  In my first couple of months in France, I was living with a host family.  One day, ma petite soeur came running to my room to say that Papa had had a crise.  He was okay now, and Maman was looking after him.  I couldn't figure out what kind of crisis required aftercare.  I figured it must be existential.  It turned out he was epileptic. 

So there you have it!  One post uncovered, unfurled, and perhaps undone.  Here's to finishing what I start.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

One down!

A winter-weight, autumn-coloured scarf, just in time for spring!


Knit on 10mm needles.  Easy peasy.  So much more yarn to go.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The hostess with the mostess (income)

Jobs!  I have many.  Hostessing is one of them.

As I mentioned in a previous post, I once showed up to a hostessing job only to find out on arrival that I would be serving light snacks and champagne to a group of European businessmen.  Oh whoops, I forgot to mention the fact of four-inch heels on the second story of a moving, vintage double-decker bus (thankfully not open-topped).

A little bit like this, I think.

That was exciting!  The thing about walking -- and let's just forget about the shoes and the service for a minute -- on a moving double-decker bus is that you cannot do it and NOT fall over UNLESS you are holding onto a pole or railing at all times.  Now, for fun, let's add those other factors back in!  Shoes just tall enough to make standing up straight contingent on a sideways bend of the neck; one hand holding a rail for stability: that leaves one hand free to hold a tray of snacks, a bottle of champagne, empty glasses, or anything else that an amused European businessman might try to hand you as you stumble past.  And stumble we did.  Luckily there were only two of us, but passing in the aisle was no easy feat.  London traffic meant that the bus jerked to a halt approximately every seven seconds, causing heroic and undoubtedly amusing lunges, grabs, and near-businessmen-lap-tumbles for stability. Miraculously, neither a drop of drink nor a single nut hit the ground on our account.

This was certainly my most ridiculous hostessing shift to date, but it was exemplary of the general experience in one way: I didn't have to do much, and I got paid stupidly well.  In that particular instance, we were booked for four hours, but only actually worked for about 40 minutes.  We got paid for four hours (standard minimum for agency work).

This is what does my head in about the hospitality industry.  The people who work the hardest get paid the least.  When I am bartending, wine-waiting, or serving food, I am generally running my ass off and taking way more crap from customers than I do as a hostess.  I have to think on my feet, problem-solve, lift heavy things, not spill red wine on fancy customers, and smile through it all.  For all of this work, I get paid a fraction of what I do to tease up my hair, wear some flattering makeup and maybe a dress, and smile at customers.  Same smile!  Same face!  Less pay.  The kitchen porters who are elbow-deep in greasy water get paid even less than my waitress self does.

Of course, the perversion of it all is that I enjoy the grunt work more.  I would so much rather run my ass off than stand around in heels, I just want to be paid the same.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Mad Crushin'

Jay Smooth, Internet Boyfriend.

Social consciousness is so sexy.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Let's knit some shit

Is the name of my new Saturday morning CBeebies show!

Or it should be.

Can I confess that I sometimes watch I Can Cook on CBeebies -- a channel, according to Wikipedia, aimed at children under 6 -- because I find it inspiring to watch small children crack eggs and learn what effect bicarbonate has on their baked goods?  Also, watching children's television is an excellent means of procrastination, which brings me back to my original point.

I have this bad habit of abandoning projects, not finishing what I start, getting distracted by new and more exciting ventures (or adorable 3-year olds in aprons), et cetera.  I do this with my writing and acting pursuits, though I've improved dramatically in the past couple of years at kicking myself into gear and making things happen.  On certain days (today, for example), I take my avoidance to the next level by refusing to clean my room, shower, go for a run, get dressed, and all of the other general practices of human beings that I was planning for myself.  I worked 15 hours yesterday.  I deserve a day of lazing.

Lucky for me, I found an ironic tactic for ignoring all of my other obligations/goals for the day: my backlog of knitting projects!


My knitting habits (or lack thereof) are certainly a shining example of my love of starting what I may never finish.  This problem was only exacerbated by my brief stint as a full-time employee of a fabric store in Glasgow.  I worked in the haberdashery and eventually took over the ordering of stock in the wool/haberdashery department, which basically meant that I had license to bring in whatever yarn I thought I -- ahem, I mean the customers -- would enjoy most.  My motives were thinly-veiled.  My employee discount was put to frequent use.

So now I have a bad full of wool!  More than one bag, if I'm being honest.  I have several lovely pattern books, amazing intentions involving cardigans and cabling, and one mostly-finished, but never-assembled bolero.  I have a back, two front panels, cap sleeves, and a trim, but I just can't seem to get around to putting it all together.

I also have lots of fat quarters of quilting cotton and an extremely well-traveled but idle sewing machine.  Working in a fabric store made me fancy myself something of a seamstress, but now that I've bothered to transport the aforementioned machine across a continent and an ocean, I seem to have lost interest.

My mother, clearly an enabler in my craft hoarding, recently mailed me a box of yarn that she wasn't using.

Thanks, Mom.  Thanks a lot.

So, new goal for today: get knitting.  Much better than my plan to clean out my closet, which is how I was accosted by my offending stash in the first place.  

But first I am going to get off my ass and go for a run.  I swear.  Or maybe just knit one more row of this hideous scarf... 

This post has been brought to you by Procrastination.

I might be a bad feminist.

Just try to stop me from drinking rosé in bed and blogging after a 15-hour hospitality shift.  I dare you.

I've decided that in order to make myself feel less shit about working terrible jobs only to toe the poverty line whilst indulging in my vague artistic pursuits, I should probably try to turn my experiences into witty anecdotes.  I almost just wrote 'antidotes' by accident, but I think that would also capture the sentiment.

Did I mention 15-hour shift?  And rosé?  Delirium is forgivable -- and expected -- at this point.

One of the funny jobs I do here in London is to prepare and serve tea and coffee to businesspeople (Is that really one word? Spell check is not questioning my decision.) in their fancy office buildings.  I don't know if this job exists in America.  In England, though, they employ people (like me) to hang out in a kitchen, brew a million pots of coffee, fill tea boxes and sugar bowls, and set up cups, saucers and teaspoons in meeting rooms for ever-thirsty corporate types who casually throw around offers of £10 million, because who doesn't have that kind of pocket change?

So that's one of the things I do.  Sometimes I also wear high heels and serve champagne on the second level of a double-decker bus, but that's a story for another day.

In the midst of maybe hour 6 or 9 today -- it's hard to pinpoint -- I suddenly had this funny realisation about my status as a corporate hospitality assistant and a lady in an office of mostly unmarried (or divorced), financially successful, middle-aged men.  I walk a status tightrope strung between sex and class.  Example:

When I arrive at a door with a trolley full of tea and coffee paraphernalia, and a businessman approaches the door from the other side, there's always this awkward moment of deciding who should hold the door for whom.  As the lowly employee, I should probably do the brunt of any labour (including door-holding), but these gents see me -- a lady -- and say 'After you,' or 'Ladies first.'

And do you know what?  I go for it.  Because I have a shit job, and I probably make as much in a day as they do in seven minutes, so if they want to hold doors or elevators or dirty cups for me, I'll take it.  So there you have it, in the small battles of the greater class war, being a lady wins.  I win.  I can get away with saying 'Hiya' instead of 'Good evening, Sir,' because I smile.  My thin veneer cheerfulness is invincible because it's endearing.  If I were a dude, they'd probably all see right through me and complain about my attitude, but I'm not, so I get away with it.

That is enough delirious musing for one night.  I hope never to work from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. again.  Even if I did wink and flirt my way through it.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Your name is "N"?

I can't believe I haven't written about this before.

So I have a pretty simple name: Anne.  Yes, it's with an "e", and I like it spelled that way (just like my namesake, Anne of Green Gables), but pronunciation-wise, it's straight-forward.


When I moved to Ireland two and a half years ago, I learned otherwise.

There's something about the way an American pronounces the "A" in Anne that just throws people for a loop over here.  I think it must be extra nasal-sounding, but whatever it is, two times out of three, an introduction on my part ends with the other person saying, "N?"  At best.  The alternative is, "Sorry, what?"

I've tried to correct for the problem by opening my mouth really wide and putting lots of breath behind my name the first time I tell it to someone.  The outcome seems to be looking foolish on top of people not knowing what I'm saying.

This might not sound like a drastic problem -- because it's not -- but it is exhausting.  I've taken to saying "My name is Anne," pausing for a moment as the look of perplexity arises, then, "A double n e" (because they say things like "double n" over here).  This helps about fifty percent of the time.

I was recently at a symposium where I bought a book by one of the speakers and asked him to sign it.  I said, then spelled my name for him.  I repeated it when he didn't understand, then spelled it out slowly.  He wrote A... m... m... i... e... and said, "Is that right?"

"No," I said, "A, n..."


"No, n.  N for Nancy."

"Oh, Nancy."

"No, Anne.  A, n, n, e."

I ended up with "Best Wishes, A[scribbled mess]."  He apologised.

An Irish police officer once did the same thing when I gave him a credit card I had found on the ground. He asked for my name and number for his records.  When I said/spelled my first name, he ended up with "Nan," which is both another words for "grandma" over here, and my actually grandmother's name.  I had to write it down for him.

It happened again tonight, but I have a new tactic.  As soon as the bewilderment shoots across their eyes, I turn to the person standing next to me (if there is a person I know already around) and say, "You say it."


"Oh, Anne! I thought you said 'N.'"

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Why are bad films so good on long flights?

Before making my recent 11-day pilgrimage* home, I was reminded of an airplane-travel phenomenon by my good friend Molly Knefel.  She and her awesome (now-not-then-recently-arrested-for-documenting-the-occupy-movement) brother, John, were on an episode of the podcast Ear Candy earlier this year, and shortly after hilariously discussing of the 'branding' of John and Molly†, the subject of romcoms was raised.
The Knefs on the 'cast.

One of the hosts mentioned having seen some terrible Sandra Bullock film on the plane, thereby exonerating himself of all responsibility in the viewing, a tactic that I have employed many-a-time.  Molly followed up with: "Romantic comedies are the best on airplanes...  I just watched 'He's [Just] Not That Into You'... I would never actually want to see that movie, but on an airplane, it's perfect, because it's just so stupid...."

The thing is, I watched 'He's Just Not That Into You' on a plane, which Molly goes on to accurately describe as a "parade [Or barrage? Or some awesome combination of those words] of gender stereotypes." I watched the whole thing.  I kind of hated myself, and I definitely hated every writer involved, all the stupid characters for making such absurd and contradictory decisions, and Ginnifer Goodwin for participating in such a shit show, but I watched the whole thing.  I could have been reading a book.

So why?  Why do we watch crap on airplanes?  I asked myself this question on the 19th of December, when I boarded my 10-hour flight home, and again when I selected 'Bad Teacher' as my first viewing choice on board.  'Bad Teacher'? I thought, Really, Anne?  Cameron Diaz?  You hate Cameron Diaz!  And I do, but Justin Timberlake can be funny, and I love Jason Segel, and he did totally rescue all the scenes in which he participated, but this doesn't change the fact that I do not enjoy watching Cameron Diaz on screen at all!  But I guess I do.  I chose to watch her over Kristin Wiig, Mya Rudolph and a crew of other hilarious women in 'Bridesmaids', which I've only seen once and totally merits a second viewing, especially in the context of my own sister having recently gotten engaged.

I'm pretty sure Cameron Diaz and Kate Hudson are my go-to, plane-only actresses; actresses whom, under any other circumstances, make me hate the industry for employing people like that rather than people like... well, me, but who seem to provide the perfect level of sedation/distraction on a long flight.

There are so many conveniently spliced together images of these ladies on the interwebs.

There are some films I haven't made it through, even given the strange alternate universe of movie-viewing in flight.  I could not stomach even the first half of 'Bride Wars'.  Apparently Kate Hudson plus themes of women's innate obsession with weddings -- the kind that overrides lifelong friendships -- was too much, despite my Diaz-Hudson rule.  I also started watching 'Horrible Bosses' on the same flight as 'Bad Teacher'.  I suffered through a good 20 minutes before conceding that my love for Jason Batemen, Jason Sudeikis, and Charlie Day could not possibly rescue the film from some of the worst writing ever spoken on screen, nor me from my mounting outrage that three such hilarious men chose to be involved in such crap.

I decided to follow up that particular disappointment with a film I felt more sure I would enjoy, so I watched 'Crazy, Stupid, Love' (whose title, by the way, evades my understanding with its two commas). Despite a sort of draggy middle section, I genuinely enjoyed it (duh: sexy/just-hasn't-found-the-right-woman-yet Ryan Gosling + inept but loveable Steve Carell + the student becomes the teacher plot line = heartwarming).  It was a departure from my usual choice to watch anything I wouldn't watch anywhere else, but I was pleased, and then I slept for the last leg of the flight.

I think watching a good film can be sort of emotionally exhausting, and maybe that's why I (we? can I speak for everyone here?) choose mostly not to watch them on planes.  I usually don't sleep well on flights, so the last thing I want is to arrive at my destination both shattered and distraught by images of the Holocaust, for instance.  I'm pretty sure they don't show 'Schindler's List' on planes.  Maybe that's why.  Also, I don't think good movies are done justice on a 6" screen.

I did go the light-hearted but well-made route with 'Midnight In Paris' on my return flight, but then I accidentally started watching 'Beginners', because I thought it was the terrible-looking Katherine Heigl/Josh Duhamel film I saw playing on someone else screen.  It was, of course, a rather serious film starring Ewan McGregor as a man whose recently-out father has just died, and I watched it because it was compelling, but I wrapped things up with 'Something Borrowed' (so Kate Hudsonly terrible) and 'Life As We Know It' (also awful and full of unbelievable character actions/transformations), which I had initially confused with 'Beginners', because I just could not put myself through something with subtitles or themes on the futility of marriage or life in general.  I wanted to arrive back in London with the emotional (if not physical) energy to go out New Year's Eve.

*Just a regular visit.  No actual pilgrims involved.
†If you don't know/follow the antics/comedy/insightful writings and broadcasts of John and Molly, you are missing out.