Home Again, Home Again, Jiggity Jog.

So Christmas was....AWESOME. So much fun spending time w/ Joy and Joey and Mom and Dad, and all the rest of the lovely peeps that make up my New York mafia of loved ones. You have not lived until you have seen my motley crew of family play Cranium. Let's just say Gavin, my salty dad, and my 85 year old Grammy were on one team. I haven't laughed so much in I don't know how long (at one point, Dad had to use Gavin as a living puppet so Grammy could guess the clue "lawn mowing). And it was really cool that my VERY divorced parents were both willing and happy to have a combined Christmas dinner and play silly games together like fools. My parents rock.

My one regret is that I never got to see Ash, what with work schedules/fam schedules/the powers of the universe conspiring against us, but I think I will be able to see her in the Fresno in a coupla weeks.

In baby news, my belly has decided to make an appearance. Really, the difference is startling for only a few weeks time having elapsed since last photos. I will post sumthin of it in the next day or so, once I get my camera unpacked. Oh, and everyone, man, woman and child, should go out and get some maternity jeans. They are jeans, but with cozy stretchy tee-shirt material band instead of a zipper or button. AHHHhhhhhh. So comfy.

SO back in LA, where it is a balmy 70 degrees and the palm trees are a'dancin. Not such a bad deal.


Quicky Preggo Update- 15 weeks

Hi. All is well in baby town. Tonite we get to go the hospital and see where fitzbaby will be born and probably get a sales pitch for birthing classes. I'm excited because this is supposed to be one of those "family friendly" hospitals where you get a private room and labor/deliver/recover all in one place thats decorated like a guest bedroom (if your guest room had creepy medical stuff in the corners).
I have been experiancing a little "Round Ligament Pain" which is preggo-ese for "bizarre twingy pain in belly area"- particularly when I sneeze, which I just did. Ouch. Apparantly this is due to the weight of my womb pulling on all the ligaments attached to it. Who knew?

I have a doc apt next week, but not a cool ultrasound appointment (BOO!!!). We do get to listen to the fitzbaby's li'l heartbeat though, which should be nice.

I go in for some dental treatments the day before. I was nervous since I didn't want to do anything that could hurt the baby, but my doc signed a waiver saying all was cool. I guess second trimester, in addition to not sucking like first trimester, means your baby is a lot more developed and durable, so a little novacaine on mom's teeth wont hurt him/her.

And then!! Next week!! I go home to NY for what I hope is the best Christmas to date!! I miss my family SO much, and I SO need a Lucy-hug- I really can barely contain myself!!! I particularly miss my Mom- It's weird, but being pregnant really makes me just want to hug her. A lot. Also, NY food. There are no words for how much of you I intend to eat, and how much I intend to enjoy it. I have only gained 5 lbs so far (right on target), so I feel like I am entitled to a foody good time.

I'll try to get a new belly-pic up this weekend- things are DEFINITELY a'changing on that front.

That's all the news that's fit to print. Lerv and kisses.



Contributing to the World's Lexicon

It's not all fun and baby-making here in fitzlosophy land- from time to time I will still endeavor to solve the world's problems. Case in point, there are many situations that arise for which we have no words. Below, I shall describe some and attempt to name them:

1. Shletz- When you are in the shower, and you realize you have left something, like the soap or shampoo, or other necessary shower-object on your kitchen counter (like you just bought some from the store), and you have to make that mad, drippy, possibly stark naked dash across your house, in a shletz.

2. Porf- When you and another person are on a phone call, and the call drops, and both of you call eachother back at the same time, resulting in a buzy signal or going straight to their message. You both then wait 10 seconds to for the other person to give up, and then both call back again at the same time, with similar results. You have both porfed, twice.

3. Funt- (This one's kinda gross, but we've all been there) You are on the toilet and realize the toilet paper roll is out, but there is a fresh one in the cabinet across the room. You await an alotted time to account for...ahem...drippage, and then complete the awkward lunge (the actual funt) to grab the tissue while trying to leave your rear in vicinity of toilet.

4. Pintle- When you are singing along to a song, usually with great conviction, and you totally sing the wrong part, or come in early, and lamely trail off into silence. You pintled. All over yourself.

So that's all I have for now. I'm glad to add somthing to the world's lexicon, which has given me so much.


Me and Mr. Turkey...We have a thang going on!

Happy belated Thanksgiving everyone! We had a lovely one with Gavin's family in Fresno. I ate a ridiculous amount of Thanksgivingness, and it was AWESOME. Gawd, I love starchy side dishes. Everyone was very excited about the beanster, and nearly everyone had a guess as to gender. For the record, the predictions are as follows:

Girl Side:
-My Mom
-My Dad
-Gavin's cousin Amanda
-Our 2 year old neice Isabella, who when asked what was in my belly, said "girl", though she may have been referring to me, not the baby. It's a little confusing.
-Anthony (Still not used to calling him that)
Boy Side:
-Annie (mom of Ash)
-Gav's Mom (though maybe this is just so she wont be disapointed as I know she longs for girl-type)
-Optimus Primate

Feel free to hazard your guesses in the comments section- I will update the standings as your vote comes in so we have a record of who was right and who was wrong, for better to rub in your faces later on. Whee! Gav and I go back and forth on our "gut feeling". We will know for sho sometime in January, so lay your bets now. For the record, I really have no preference at all. I think of both flavors and get equally excited for each.

In other news, Gavin came home late one night last week and I was already asleep. I awoke to him petting my hair. I said "Why aren't you sleeping? It's so late!" He told me I had been having a nightmare and sighing and mumbling in my sleep. "I wasn't having a nightmare," I said. "I was dreaming about cookies." Ahh, pregnancy.

Here's a belly pic, last day of week 13:


To Catch Everyone Up

I waited a pretty long time from knowing about the impending bean-birth to tell everyone- just wanted to let Gav and I get used to the idea, plus I think it was better to wait until we are out of the "danger zone". Having said that, not blogging about the thing that was obviously first and foremost in my mind for the last 7 weeks has been hard. So I'll catch y'all up now.

First, we found out the night of the first presidential debate. I took a test at home by myself on a hunch- and lo and behold, my hunch was extra hunchy. The test I took was one with lines, and the experience was so surreal I swore I was dreaming it up. So I walked myself to the CVS around the corner, mumbling "No way. Can I be? No way." the whole walk. I bought a pack of digital tests, figuring they are less ambiguous than a faint pink line. Here was the result:

SO yeah, pretty clear, huh? So now came the elation (we had decided this was the year we wanted to have a baby) and the fear (SOOOOOO much could go wrong! It was still super early -I was only 1 day late! I drank coffee and had a few glasses of wine the night before! GAHHH!!). Once Gavin was home, I told him and he, as one would imagine, flipped out. He made me take the other tests in the box so he could "see them change!". All positive. All awesome. It was one of the best moments of our married life. But then the waiting game- hoping the pregnancy would stick, and trying not to get too attached (it turns out that almost half of new pregnancies don't last, but they end so soon, women didn't even know it had happened- their cycle just continues like normal).

At first, I didn't really feel any difference except for the most crippling fatigue I have ever had in life. I would drop for 3 hour naps in the middle of the day and still sleep another 9 hours at night. By week 6 though, I was getting pretty nauseous- like a bad hangover that doesn't go away. I had to constantly munch on saltines to keep my belly from punishing me. I think I always thought I'd magically dodge this part of pregnancy- my belly has up until now been a pretty loyal compatriot. Traitorous belly.

And then, our first ultrasound. And wow. Really. It was incredible. There, in my belly, was this little potato with a heart beat. It didn't really look much like a baby, but I heard its heart beating big and loud and knew this was really, truly happening.

We gradually told our immediate families (only the ones that lived far away and we couldn't tell in person). We met my sister at the airport with a sign that said "Welcome Aunt Joy!". After that we got to tell Gavin's folks- on Halloween as a matter of fact. When they walked up to our house Halloween night, this is what they saw:

I can tell you, it's harder than it looks to carve words in pumpkins! So now, here we are, just beginning week 13. The nausea is tapering off, but my appetite is still running rampant. I just try to eat as much healthy stuff as I can, with occasional allowances for junky cravings. So now, I will finish up with a couple of very unimpressive belly pics. First, 6 weeks, to use as a control so to speak:

And this, from the same week (6). I am including this because I am making a face that indicates how silly I feel taking these pictures:

And then this one, at week 10 I think:

I confess- some of this was certainly the result of bloated food-belly, another fun symptom of early pregnancy. But somethin's a brewin' in there...fo sho. I will post another belly pic sometime this week, and behold, you shall see my bump. So there you have it- my first trimester in a nutshell. So, onwaaaaaaard!!


A Bean in My Belly

So the time has come to tell you all, I am having a baby!! HOORAY!!! I am almost 12 weeks along- I waited to tell my extended network of friends until we were in the "out of the woods" phase and got our second ultrasound. We are so excited and nervous and elated and silly all at once. Here is the ultrasound we got done yesterday- if you look closely, you can see the baby is doing a tiny "Go Obama" fist pump.

Our little bean is due June 5th (if you believe the doctors- my calculations have us at June 7). I am currently pretty damn nauseous, but that should be ebbing soon (jeez, I hope so- it's sort of like being hungover all day, every day). So there you have it- we have created life. Cue that shitty Creed song!

OH, PS, I wanted y'alls opinion- should I make a seperate baybee blog? Or just do my thang on here??


Green Guilt

I have been pondering my "greenness" of late. As much as I love both the concept and the color green, I realize I fall short. I heart the earth, I love that we are moving towards fixing what little of it we can, and yet, when I am completely honest, I rather suck at my personal greenness.
First, the good news.

1. I do recycle, pretty religiously. I have been known to pluck wine bottles out the my neighbors regular trash and drop them in the correct blue bin. I even began recycling the REALLY hard things, like peanut butter jars. I know, right?

2. I currently take the train instead of buying a second car. Not too shabby, right? I mean, i may need to get another car in the future (I currently walk thru a semi-shitty neighborhood, and due to Daylight Savings ending, I do so in the dark, much to Gavin's eternal frustration). But in the now, I take the LA Metro system. No emissions from me, baby. And when I do get a car, it'll be like a focus or a civic or something w/ great EPA ratings.

3. I turn of lights/unplug chargers/turn off unused electronics pretty religiously. My coworker is genuinely sick of me walking into her office and unplugging her cellphone charger.

And now, the bad news.

1. I use bags from the supermarket to pick up m'dogs poo. I know, I know, I could go buy those 10 dollar biodegradable jobs at the pet store- but remember the not having a car part? The only pet store within walking distance sells puppies, which I am opposed to (the selling of puppies in pet stores, not puppies themselves. C'mon, who are you talking to?) and doesn't sell the bags any damn way. And my dogs poop, like every day, twice a day. So I end up using the Ralph's bags, which I guess is sort of re-purposing, right? Right??? Crap.

2. I can't get CFLs for my light bulbs because every light in my house is on a dimmer. This is to my eternal shame, as it was I who made my MIL get on the CFL train, and it is I who gets on her high horse about it to others. I tried a CFL in our sockets, and they strobbed like disco lights, even on the highest setting. They have dimmable CFLs now but they are FOURTEEN BUCKS A PIECE!! That's over 84 dollars to replace the bulbs in my house! Give me an effing break! But as soon as we have another place, or the price goes down just a smidge, I SWEAR......I will get my precious coiled lovelies back in bidness.

3. The car we do have is an SUV. A tiny SUV, but an SUV all the same. We had to get it to move from NY to CA, and I don't regret it for that reason alone. Plus its super convenient w/ the dogs....It only has a 6 cylinder engine, and actually gets decent gas mileage, but I feel like a douche in my SUV. Like a hypocritical douche.

So there you have it. I suck. And to be honest, other than the poo bags, I don't really know what to tell you. Maybe I can do something like plant some trees to offset my evil...I dunno. Sorry for peeing in your pool, oh Great Mother Earth.


Fun excercise for foodies and foodie-poseurs (like me).

Here's a fun little excersise I swiped from this blog.

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.

2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.

3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.

4) Optional extra: Post a comment at www.verygoodtaste.co.uk linking to your results.

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos Rancheros
4. Steak Tartare
5. Crocodile (well, Alligator)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24.Rice and Beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce De Leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi ( I had a mango lassi....does that count?:)
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken Tikka Masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly Pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini - not a big fan- I HATE gin
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S'mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu (I've had soju, is that close?)
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant. (I feel Blackberry Farm should count for something here, but alas)
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse - not gonna happen, sorry.
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft Shelled Crab
93. Rose harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermador
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain Coffee
100. Snake

I got 62 out of 100.


It's almost here....break out your robo coupes!

I seriously cannot wait for another season of this:

Seriously, if you've never gotten into this show, and you are even a semi-foodie, I encourage....nay, urge you to watch. It starts on Wednesday. I love reality tv when actual talent is involved, rather than a parade of shitty personalities we would never abide in real life. Bravo is really the only station that makes such shows, especially now that America's Next Top Model has so thoughroughly jumped the shark that even I cannot bear it (and I will watch damn near anything with pretty photos at the end of it).

Thank God for my DVR. Which, ok, if you don't have one, get one. Mine costs me 10 bucks a month, and actually allows me to get use out of my cable tv, which would otherwise be a giant waste. All that is ever on when I'm home is that show about the Little People and reruns of misnomered "Everybody Loves Raymond" that harpy Rachel Ray. Oh, and they show the movie "The Mummy Returns". A lot. Which makes me feel like this:

SO yeah, Top Chef. Hallelujah.


This Year's Pumpkin....UPDATE!

So here's our entry to this years pumpkin carving contest in our building. You can't really see from the pic, but there's a live goldfish in there! I'll post an update later to let you know how we did in the contest. Click on pics for bigger version.

Here's our biggest competition, in my opinion:

Now, I grant you, the Kiss pumpkin looks awesome, but really, they just painted it. So I feel we have the creativity vote. It's funny, we talked about doing the pacman thing too. Glad we didn't- would have been just a bit awkward!
UPDATE!: We won second! Which meant a pretty large basket o'treats. Stupid Gene Simmons got first. Boo. I think if we would have painted ours, we'd have it in the bag, but oh well. I get to eat a huge basket of candy, and I don't even have to trick-0r-treat for it! :)


I love....

-Being married to a true friend. The kind who knows you have no books for the train the next day so he goes out and gets you a new one he thinks you'll like. I wake up every day next to this person and wonder how we found eachother in such a big world.

- New York Pizza.

-Finding new things in a monologue I have done for over 12 years.

-Pumpkin carving contests. We plan on winning the GRAND PRIZE this year in our building. Mwa ha ha ha ha!!!!!!!

-Friends that are passionate about their beliefs, whatever they may be. Unless, of course, they are passionate in their belief in killing me, or taking my aforementioned pizzas. Then, not as much.

-The taste of water from the bathroom tap when you get up in the middle of the night and clear that gross sleep taste out of your mouth.

-My sister. And the fact that we can spend a whole week together doing everything or nothing and still have a kick-ass time.

-Cheesy scarey movies all halloween week long. 'Jeepers Creepers', anyone?

-Paying off debt.

-Dogs in costume.

-Babies in costume.

-Sour Patch Kids, by the pair. One at a time are never as good. Jelly Bellies, on the other hand, are meant to be eaten one precious bean at a time.

-Obama, before he becomes president and screws it all up.

-Slipper Socks.

-The year to come.

That is all. Well, not all the things I love, but all the things forefront in my mind right now. Bitches.


Life Update: Abridged Version

1. Joy Marie, my sister and one of my BFFs, is coming for a whole week starting next Tuesday!! We are going to the Disneyland, thanks the a sweet deal from a sweeter friend, and I can't wait. I just want to sit back, and drink the kool-aid, and learn to love the mouse for a day. And then look in disbelief at my empty wallet.

2. I did an audition for Oregon Shakespeare (again, my Holy Land) today. Even though they are only looking at people for 2010, there was a line around the block this morning. That's how awesome they are. I felt it went very well, so keep those fingers crossed that 2010, I will get one of my fondest wishes!! or at least a call back....

3. Gavin re-quit smoking and has been on the waggon for four weeks!! Let's hope he does all right when Joy the Chimney is in town.....

4. Emmy has an arch rivalry with Momma, the mix breed next door. They mutually attack the gate that separates them and make all sorts of terrifying noise at one another. Well today, the gate was unlatched, and when they went at it, it swung open. They looked at each other in mute disbelief, and then ran into their respective houses. Cowardy custards.

That's all, other than why the F is it warm here today??? What happened to my fall? It was going so well!!


Spitters and Preachers and Everyone In Between

When you ride the subway every day, especially in a city as chock full of weirdos as Los Angeles, you are bound to take a walk on the wild side every now and then. Homeless guys that sing country music, the people that feel the need to talk to someone, ANYONE the whole ride long, the random people dancing quietly to some internal rhythm the rest of us are not privy to- all of these are a daily occurrence. But I had one day last week where the planets aligned in just such a way as to bequeath me with every nut case on the LA train system at the same time, in the same car.

Weirdo Number One- Preacher:
Woman dressed in traditional Indian garb who is vacillating between speaking in tongues and preaching in broken English the Word Of God to everyone on the train in her frantic and hoarse voice.

Weirdo Number Two- Spitter:
African American woman who is making the "hocking a lugie" noise every 45 seconds (not exaggerating) and spitting what she brings up between her feet onto the floor of the train.

Weirdo Number Three- Spitter's Lover:
Spitter's Lesbian Lover who was sitting next to Spitter, and whom I mistook for an anonymous train goer and made a sympathetic face at which was mistook for something else entirely.

After I looked at Spitter's Lover, I noticed her say something to Spitter, who was radiating that "ness" of a person who really wanted to have words with someone over something, like she was just looking for a fight. I don't know if Spitter's Lover was talking about me, but luckily someone got up just at that moment and I got a seat out of Spitter's eye line.

A few uneventful moments passed when all of a sudden, over the din of Preacher Ladies preaching, I hear Spitter say "What the fuck are you looking at. You with the headphones!". Now, I was wearing headphones, so I quailed a bit, but came to realise she was in fact talking to :

Weirdo Number Four-Creepy Guy:
Caucasian Creepy eye contact smiley guy. To be fair, this guy did not come off as a total weirdo at first. We had actually commiserated over the noise of Spitter and Preacher before I sat down- but he came to reveal himself as in fact being a Weirdo later. But I digress.

Creepy Guy: "Why? What's your f**kin problem?"

Spitter: "You my problem. Who the f**k you think you is?".

Creepy Guy: "I think you're a f**kin weirdo!"

Spitter: "You the weirdo!"

Preacher: "Shonda da BOMBA!! You should be ashamed! Shonda da BOMBA!!!!"

Who knows how long this delightful diatribe would have continued but for Spitter and S. Lover's stop having been reached at that exact moment? In any case, Spitter and the Missus left with nary a blow exchanged, and I was mostly just glad I never got directly involved. I do so hate confrontation with the crazy. I stood up because my stop was next, only to over hear Creepy being congratulated by all on the train for standing up to Spitter. He got to talking with YET ANOTHER Creepy guy, and they ended up comparing where they'd been recently incarcerated:

Original Creepy Guy:
"So where'd they send you?"

New Creepy Guy:
"Up to Mondo(?), which I don't know why cause it was only a misdemeanor!"

Orig. Creepy:
"Probably you had a 288"

New Creepy:
"What's that?"

Orig Creepy:
"Violent Sex Offense."

Whereupon I exited the train and began making plans to buy a new car in January. Cheers.


The Greatest Celebrity Sighting, Ever.

Living in Los Angeles, one sees celebrities from time to time. Most often, it's reality show peeps (I have now run into Santino from Project Runway in two completely different places). But yesterday, as I had lunch in Studio City, something truly magical happened. I saw this man:

Yes, that's right, Stephen Root, who (among many other roles) played "Milton" from Office Space. It's kind of an odd coincidence, as A: I recently re-watched Office Space for shits and giggles, like less than a week ago, and B: A coworker gave me his orange Swingline stapler as a gift (thanks Ian) three days after said viewing. And now, the trinity is complete. Thanks, LA. You certainly are bizarre, aren't you?

PS: He is a lot better looking in person. He'd have to be, huh?


"A List from Nicole: It's a Good Thing"- M. Stewart

I was feeling in a bloggerly mood with nary an important life event to blog about and SOOOOOO.....

A List of My Favorite Movies as a Kid

1. Has to be Neverending Story. I wanted to be that freakin Childlike Empress so bad, i went around with one of my mom's necklaces hanging between my brows affecting a crappy Madonna-British accent. And remember turning up the volume and putting your ear to the TV to figure out what name Bastion screams? It's Moonchild. I read the book just to find out. And now that you know, you can totally hear it in the movie. I think they added the line about using his mother's name and then forgot to edit the final name choice. Either that, or Bastion's mom was a major hippie. Maybe that's how she died- overdosed on some shrooms or something. Of course, none of this makes sense if you never were into this movie. But really, if you weren't, I don't care to know you anyway. Just kidding. Come over and we can watch it.

2. Anne of Green Gables/Avonlea: OMG, lovely story, innocent Victorian high-jinks, Coleen Dewhurst, Gilbert the-original-McDreamy-Blythe, and Anne! Oh my red-haired strong-willed lovely "she doesn't know she loves him yet" Anne! What more does a romance addicted little girl need? Granted, there are some super cringe-worthy moments (I am looking at you, "White Way of Delight") but all in all a night watching these movies with some brownies and wine involved is still a wonderful night in my book. And now, thanks to a generous sister, I own the whole boxed set. So again, come over if you haven't seen it. Unless you are male as this movie will cause your testicles to shrivel up and blow away like so much dust in the frosty Canadian wind.

3. The Last Unicorn: Japanimation loveliness. This story is so bittersweet that my little 7 year old heart could barely take it. Plus, the Big Lebowski (or is it really the Little Lebowski?), Jeff Bridges, voices the prince. Oh! And there's this mortifying soundtrack done by the band America..."She's the laaaaaaaast Unicorrrrrrrrrn!!!" Perfection.

4. Pee Wees Big Adventure: We recently re-viewed this wonderful movie, and it's only gotten better now that I am old enough to get all the jokes. A fun contest my hubbster and I like to play is "Who can remember the most quotes?". This contest is best when slightly drunk. "Annnnd knitting, annnnnnnnd knitting, annnnnnnnd knitting........"

5. The Labyrinth: David Bowie gave me my first "funny feelings". He is so bizarrely and incomprehensibly hot in this movie. Plus, Jennifer Connelly gets to wear a big poofy dress with eighties hair and one of the aforementioned head-necklaces. This movie was a bit scary at times, but so worth it. Remember that scene when she thinks she's home at last but it's all bullshit?? That's some hard and fast reality for a little kid whose parents are going through a divorce, let me tell you.

6. The Little Mermaid: This movie made me and every other little girl within hearing distance of it's music want to live Under the Freakin Sea. There is somewhere a cassette tape of me trying to sing "Part of Your World" at 11, and failing miserably, I might add. Thanks Disney, for giving us little girls realistic body proportions to aspire to... Oh, for eyes the size of saucers, fifty pounds of red hair, and a 7 inch waist!!


A Message From the Management

I, Nicole, Queen of...well...this blog, do herebye declair a moratorium on the following words/phrases/semantical practices:

1. The word "fierce", except when in reference to wild animals.

2. The use of the surname "licious" added to words. Girlicious, bootylicious, f*&kingstupidwordlicious, all of you are done. Delicious, you are still ok. For now.

3. Rhyming "Obama" with "Mama", or any other "ama" word. Its lame and not as clever as you seem to think. Stop it.

That is all. We reserve the right to add on as we see fit. Thank you.

-The Management



I am often disappointed in myself for not taking further advantage of the awesome cities I have lived in; it seems sometimes that you put off going to things in close proximity simply because they're are so close- you could always do it another time. So I am very glad to have finally gotten to the Getty Center this weekend with the hubby and the in-laws.
What an awesome day! First, unlike every other museum I've been to, this one is very modern in design(it opened in 1997), so it is exceptionally easy to navigate and the flow of the place naturally guides you from room to room and exhibit to exhibit. I listened to a tour guide talk about the designer, Richard Meier, using visual clues to guide the museum-goer. He used glass walls on some exhibits to make them feel more open and accessible, and light-sensitive louvered ceilings so the paintings can be observed in natural light as God and the painters intended. All in all, lovely. The collection is not as extensive as the Met, but in a way, it's relative sparseness actually helps you fully digest what you are seeing. You are not jumping around to so many eras and regions and you get a real feel for the time and place of the artist. They had lovely Greek and Roman sculpture ( I tend to like those best) and a great variety of paintings/sketches. One of my faves is this piece by Jean-Ettiene Liotard, created with pastel crayons(!):

I liked her so much (and her little dog too) that I sprung for the fridge magnet. How bourgeois piggish of me! There is also a sketching room where you can use provided paper and easels and draw sculptures all set up for you. Gavin really enjoyed doing that.
So anway, go! It's FREE (parking is 10 bucks) and a great way to spend a day!


Audition # 876- Cell Phones and Stage Moms

Commercial audition yesterday, for a European cell phone spot. So I curl my hairs, and put on my best attempt at an "urban, but not LA- more NY-quirky" outfit, and travel the three odd miles to Studio City.

I pull up to what looks like a normal store front in a strip mall, but bears the name "Xanzabar Studios" or some such crap. It looks sort of like a hair salon from the outside, except it is BURSTING AT THE SEAMS WITH SMALL CHILDREN. Like seriously, dozens of 5 year olds, the child-actor overly precious kind. I try to get thru the door but a small Korean lad is doing a sort of break-dance on the welcome mat. His mother watches me trying to get around her spin kicking son and does nothing. Nothing at all. I get in and there are kids just freaking everywhere. And they are all turned up to 11. Like, all smiles, and loud snarky "Kids Say the Darn'dest Things" type proclamations and Gap Kids clothing and kiiiiiiiiiiiillllll me now please. 'Studied Precociousness' is the most painful of all false personas. Except 'Studied Earthiness'. I am looking right at you, Mssrs. Obama, McCain, Palin, and Biden....
Anywho, turns out, Disney is holding an audition there too. Here are some vignettes:

1. Totally awesome Kid-Wrangler calls up three cherubs and jokes with them while learning their names. One very ironed and polished little child with hair so shiny I could do my makeup in it says to her "My mommy said if I do my best she will take me to Color Me Mine. And a restaurant." The nonplussed wrangler says something like "I'm sure you always do your best...". And I am thinking, "Your Mommy is kind of a beotch, because you are a little child, and you should just 'do your best' to have fun, as you have the rest of your life to work like a slave like the rest of us suckers. So your Mommy should take you to Color Me Mine regardless. And I hate your Mommy, a little".

2. A young blonde boy named Brayden or Jayden or Skayden is sitting next to his plump blonde Momma, taking up four available seats in this crowded room cause Fill-in-the-blank-den is sliding his little fanny all over the bench like a dog with worms. And then he licks his Mom's bare arm. To which she says in a chipper voice "Hey! Are you a cannibal??". Blank-den then bites his mother, repeatedly, while she says "Are you a doggy?? There are no dogs alowed in here!!{giggle} We have to stop taking you to that Pirates of the Caribbean ride! Now my arm smells bad." WTF? First, tell your kid to sit the F still in a public crowded place so all the other people there can sit down. Second, your child just bit you. Maybe we shouldn't throw him an Affirmation Parade and instead tell him that his behaviour is inappropriate. Third, your arm smells? Eww. Brush that kids teeth!

3. But for the fact that my good best friend would never foist a career in the show-biz on her small lovely girl, I saw a kid who was totally Ash's daughter at 5. She had long red-blonde hair, and glasses, and the biggest blue eyes ever. She was also wearing a hot pink and black arm band, neon green polka dotted leg warmers, and every article of jewelry I presume she owns. She had clearly picked out this awesome ensemble for herself, and she rocked it. Her name was Elizabeth, and i almost abducted her, she was so stinking cute.

The audition itself was kind of fun- improvy, and I think I did pretty well. I'll keep you posted if anything comes of it. Anything that is besides the magic that was this blog entry.


Sunday Musings

I fancy that when I am an old albeit tall gray lady, I will have time to compile weekend musings and relate them to my reluctant grandchildren. In preperation for that time, I strung a few together here, for practice:

1. Have you ever noticed how pigeons make sex noises when they are roosting together? When you walk pass all you hear is "Unhh, unhhh, uhnhh", all low like maybe their parents are in the next room and they don't want to get caught.

2. In keeping with a bird theme, why do owls always look pissed? Wise, but pissed. Like Hillary Clinton:

3. I saw a boy of about 7 walking on the subway platform w/ his mom in that spazzy way 7 year old boys walk, like he is listening to his own private scat session. He pointed at a gray haired woman to his right and yelled "Hi OLD LADY!!!!" and then cracked up as his red faced mom dragged him away. It was hillarious and awful. Like Tyra Banks.

4. A lizard no less than 9 inches from nose to tail walked right in our front door the other night (no, not a sex euphemism- a real lizard). My husband did as most modern males would in this situation- he lept up like an outraged old woman at bingo and shusshed the lizard back out by gesturing towards it with a couch pillow. Him Tarzan. Me Unimpressed.
Thats all the musings we have for today, folks. Have a lovely Sunday.


The 'Liberal' Media and Why Everyone Can Go Suck It

Ok, so I just need a vent blog. And here it is. Ok. Are people honestly, really and truly saying that all this media coverage about Palin's daughter is because of sexism and a media bias against the GOP? I climb to the top of Mount Sinai, take a deep breath of crisp mountain air, and cry "Buuuuuuullllshhhhiiiiiiiiit!!!!".
Let's all close our eyes and go to our Honest Place. Are you there? Good. Ok. Do you (the hypothetical you that writes editorials on this nonsense) honestly beleive that if Joe Biden's 17 year old was, to use the parlance of our times, 'knocked up', we would not hear about it with the same fervor in the news? Do you REALLY think he would get a pass because he is a liberal and a male? Do you?
"But Nicole", you say, "Biden's son is involved in a money scandal and we are not hearing about it is much, what do you say to that, hmmm???" Well, my heart, I say this: If there is a bias in the media towards certain presidents, it would be towards the presidents printed on our money. And I am sorry, which story is "juicer", more "Perez Hiltony", more bloggable: Biden Jr.'s mismanaging of a hedge fund, or Bristol getting in a fambly way w/ a self proclaimed redneck hockey player?? Am I saying these are news worthy, informative stories? Hells no. But the reason they get play is not because the media wants Barack to be president (which I'm sure many of them do) but because the media is....wait for it.....in the business of MAKING MONEY! It's that precious "Free Market" many of you worship so very devoutly- 'if the people don't want it, they wont buy it'. Unfortunately, Bristol's Baby (which sounds like the title of a Harlequin Romance novel) is the sort of trashy, lucrative fluff that people will double click on their lunch break.
And then my fave, my absolute FAVORITE, is all the crusty old white dudes jumping to her rescue because this scrutiny of her is "sexist". You know what's sexist? Feeling the need to play Old Crusty Knight in Shining Armor to a woman who is a self described "Pitt Bull in Lipstick". She can take care of herself, thanks very much, and has to weather the storm just as Barack had to suck down Jeremiah Wright and Clinton had to live down his Oval Office BJs. She doesn't need your help just cause she's a girl. That's sort of the whole point. (And while we're here, might I point out that the "Hot VP" and "Babraham Lincoln" pins are kind of defeating that point.)
Do questions about her ability to lead while being a mom point to a pervasive sexism in our society, as those same questions are not directed to men with families? Yup. Just like mistrusting Barack because "his name sounds Muslim" or because he's black points to pervasive racism in that same society. And the way to address both these problems is not to wring our hands in mock outrage, as thought we are suprised by this, but to use these historic nominations for some self examination, and watch these two people break those stereotypes in the American consciousness forever through their actions.
"But her daughter is an innocent victim!!!" Well, where was all this outrage when Elizabeth Edwards, innocent victim of all time, and her equally innnocent kids were having their personal lives smeared all over the walls while battling terminal cancer? Where were the Old Guard then? Look, I am not saying this sort of news coverage is right, and personally, I don't give a tin shit what the candidates or their families do in the bedroom, so long as their politics are good and they don't try to moralize to us all about not doing precisely what they do. I'm just saying this: EVERYONE NEEDS TO STOP CRYING FOUL AND FLYING INTO FAKE MORAL OUTRAGE WHEN THEIR DIRTY LAUNDRY BECOMES PUBLIC BECAUSE IT WILL HAPPEN TO EVERY PUBLIC FIGURE SOONER OR LATER. The GOP does not have the market cornered on this ersatz righteous anger- the Dems do it too; but guess what, potential Leaders of the Free World? YOU chose this life. By proxy, you thrust your family into an unforgiving and often cruelly bright public spot light. That's unfortunate, but it's equally unfortunate for both sides. The public loves to see people fall from on high. It's been that way for all of recorded history- that's where Greek tragedy came from. Our new VP nom is fresh meat, and that's all there is to it. Stop trying to be the victim because you think we all "love an underdog". We see through you. Get back to the issues. The issues. The precious, precious issues. It will make my next eight weeks so much more delightful.
That is all. Sorry.


Does Anyone Else Think....

...That McCains Veep pic looks like the Baroness on GI Joe?

Come to think of it, McCain's got kind of a Destro thing going on:

Mazeltov to the Happy Couple!


A Wee Small Cottage in North Hollerback- and Pug Tails

Hi friends! So this is the big weekend- we are moving into our super-cute guest house in the north hollywoot woot. We got to walk thru it yesterday w/ out all the previous tenents stuff in it, and lemme tell ya, I lerv it. It is super-small, even littler than I thought, but it's just so well laid out and modern, that i don't mind it at all. And the backyard is perfect for us- super high fences all covered in ivy and such. I can't wait to get decorating.

Also this week, I went to a pretty cool little seminar at Equity. The lady who casts for Oregon Shakes (and for those of you who don't know, I would kill a baby unicorn to work at Oregon Shakes) did a long Q&A, and she was the bomb. I submitted my head shot and res, and don't really expect much from it (though you praying types need to get on this one) but it was good to realize casting people are just like you and me, except with a sick amount of power over actors, and a penchant for worshipping the Dark Lord. Just kidding. Or am I......

We pick up the couch Saturday morning, and I feel like i am picking up a lover at the airport. I'm so excited. Oh Graybones, how I love you. How I long to....well....sit on you.

Some bad news- Emmy, with her knack for finding new and exciting ways to injure herself, may have sprained her tail. You know how pug tails are all coiled like a spring? Well, hers is droopy. She shows no pain at all, even when I tug it or squeeze it, and she is getting better movement, but it's not its tightly coiled self. I talked to the vet who said as long as she was in no pain, to give it a few days before bringing her in. I also looked online and it said some dogs lower thier tales when they have impacted anal glands.....and so...


I put on some yellow kitchen gloves, plopped her in the tub, and EXPRESSED her glands. This gooey gray-green stuff came out, and it smelled like Satan's a-hole. Really, it was the Worst. Smell. Ever. You cannot begin to imagine, unless you have done this to a dog. In my Dad's colorful lexicon, it "would knock a buzzard off a shit wagon at fifty paces". It didn't fix her tail, but it may help with her problem w/ gas w/ oily discharge. I soooo threw those gloves away. Gavin was flying everywhere w/ Lysol like he was putting out a fire. And there. I have written the grossest blog in the history of blogging, certain porn pages excepted.

So that's my update for this week. I am very stressed out w/ all the misc. crap going on, but today, I am in relatively good spirits. Relatively. Someone call me up for pizza and beer on Sunday night, wouldja?


Me and Phelps Current mood: amused

First, a conversation that occured at 3:45am this morning as I drove Gavin into work:

Him: "Thanks for driving me, babe. {sings in bad Irish accent} 'And I love her soooo.....I wouldn't trade her for gold...'"

Me: "That song is kind of lame. Like, 'I love my woman so much, I wouldn't trade her for money.' Wow, how big of you."

Him: "Yeah, but it's a leprechaun song, and leprechauns like, NUT for gold. So it means more".

Me: "Good point. So leprechaun porn would just be pictures of piles of gold, and on-location photo shoots from fort knox..."
In other news, quite a few friends have pointed out to me that Gavin has a passing resemblance to Michael Phelps. This actually helps me out a bit, morally, as I do so lust after the Phelps. I can kind of see what people are talking about- they have some similar features, and both can look either kind of hot (in my 'umble opinion) or charmingly goofy depending on how the camera grabs them:


Whaddya think?


Come Sit On My Couch

So, all is well in the world of Gav and Nicole. I am, however, finally starting to feel the pinch of our current shitty economy. Grocery bill is higher, gas is kicking me in the ass, and there seem to be less bargains in the world- which for me is like cutting a junky off from her smack. I do so love to find "a good deal".

I did, however, score one such deal last week. Many of you will recall the saga of our futon,and how much I hate it with the white hot fury of a bonfire fueled with unicorns. I hate the awkward angle one must affect to sit on a futon. I hate the cheap pine arms of it. I hate the fact that it broke 3 days after we got it home and I fixed it with a metal plate from Home Depot and some finishing nails. Most of all I hate the "We-are-in-Undergrad-come-over-and-have-whatever-beer-happens-to-be-on-sale-and-don't-worry-if-you-get-too-buzzed-to-drive-we-have-a-FUTON-you-can-sleep-on-just-don't-vomit-on-it" vibe it gives off. I am, afterall, a woman grown.

Well, we finally took the plunge and got a new couch. A couch I have named Graybones. Cause it's gray. I got it at 60% off from Pier One- they added an extra 10% cause I pointed out it was a floor model (in perfect condition, nonetheless.) They also agreed to keep it till we get the uhaul for the move next week! Such a deal! It is swoopy and neo-classical and I lerv it. Or him. I think he's a boy.

So come over and sit on my couch in September. We are thinking of doing a house-warming brunch, if funds/schedules permit. You haven't lived until you've had Gavin's marscapone blueberry stuffed French toast and mimosas on Graybones, the Wonder Couch...Couch of Redemption and Light. Couch of the Ages. Couch of my Heart.


The Montauk Monster! And other News You Can Use!

So, a bloated raccoon/dog thing washed up on the shores of Montauk, and everyone is pooping their pants over it.

I dunno, I think it's a raccoon that had a REALLY shitty day, but I also love self-delusion as a life-philosophy, so I'll go along for the ride. It's a wingless Griphon!! Huzzah!!! Or, perhaps, as one skeptic suggested, the answer is closer to home:

*NOTE: Pug is sleeping, not dead. That's just how pugs roll.

In other news, we found the CUTEST new apartment in North Hollywood. It's a little guest house, with, get this, its OWN fenced-in yard. There is a lemon tree and grapes growing off the fence that you can actually eat. I don't know how you California types feel, but this little New Yorker beotch is pretty jazzed about fruit in her own yard. It makes me feel exotic and privileged. Maybe I'll get a pet peacock to wander the premises.

Anywho, it's a bit smaller than our current place, and like 150 bucks more expensive, but in a more "young", artsy area of LA, and I think it will go a long way towards making us more socially active here. Glendale has been peaceful, but in that retirement village sort of way. It was a nice antidote to the madness of our LOUD apartment in the Brooklyn, but now we are like Grizzlies emerging from social hibernation. We seek honey and berries and a good dive-bar.

We move in Sept 1st. Who wants to give us a couch for free??? HMMM?? Yeah, that's what I thought. God, I hate the fuckin futon, but it is my destiny for a while I think. Gavin has forbade me to spend our discretionary income on such Feminine Frivolities as presentable furniture. Instead, we must see all 12 super-hero related movies that come out this summer. Bastardo. No, really, he's right, we need to save our sheckels. So there you have it.


A Movie that Sucked. A lot.

OMG, my husband picked out "10,000 BC" from the little red dvd dispenser (hey, it's only a buck to rent) at our grocery store the other night, and madness ensued, in the form of the shittiest movie I have seen in a long, long while.
I will not enumerate it's many historical inaccuracies, since that has been done. I will also not spend too much time on one of my biggest pet peeves, i.e. having people speak English, but with a non-commital 'accent' so we American's get that they are foreign from a foreign land. I will however, point out that this movie is not only badly written/acted/directed, but is also rather racist in that blunt way that movies were racist in the 40s and 50s- like, it's almost as though they just don't know any better.
Case in point, a bunch of caucasian-type Olde Time Cave Men Beings are squatting in their houses (Houses, mind you, made of mammoth bones. They look like gigantic piles of birdshit) when what to their wondering eyes did appear but a little girl. And they worship her, because, get this, she has BLUE CONTACT LENSES. Ok, this plot line was lame when it appeared in Big Trouble in Little China, but it's utterly asinine and repugnant here.
Like, is whitey so obsessed with his own whiteness that we WORSHIP people because their eyes are light? Ridiculous. But on it's own, it wouldn't make this movie a paragon of racism...until....UNTIL.....
White Cave Man's Blue Eyed Woman is stolen by some pseudo-Eqyptian/Arabs and he has to journey "afar" to go get her back. On the way he stumbles on a whole shit load of black tribes in the desert (he walked three days and goes from the Tundra to the Desert. And both locales have Wooly Mammoths. Ok). These black tribes have been tolerating having their women/children/etc stolen for decades by the same weirdo race that stole Blue Eyed Woman . But then White Cave Man shows up to lead them. And suddenly, they are all ready to Fight the Power. Like, in the end, the army that fights the bad guys is composed of 99.99% black folks, with 3 white leaders. Why did they need these assholes to lead them? Why couldn't they just get their shit together on their own? Was it their undesirable brown eyes? Give me a f&*%ng break.
And then we jazz the whole mess up with some magic and voo doo and prophecy and spirit animals. And the whole movie can just suck it, in my humble opinion.
But because the universe loves balance, I finally read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith. Ashley hearts this book and I was looking for a good one to read and there you have it. What a lovely, simple memoir. The writing is plain and honest, and you just kind of find yourself gently lulled into the world of the book. I laughed out loud a couple of times and had a good cry after one chapter. And as a bonus, it is set right next to my old neighborhood in Brooklyn (albeit in like 1912). The family actually moves into a railroad flat with the exact same layout our apartment had. And they hated it too. Seriously, reading this book is like eating a lovely little petit fours- just perfect in it's small deliciousness. So read it. Go on. Like, now.
Ok. That's all. Have a great weekend!


Let's Get Physical!

Ok, this may shock some of you. Actually, it will shock none of you. I don't really like working out. I know, right? Of late, I have had to come to terms with the fact that I must, for pretty much the rest of my days, do something I really don't like to do. And I mean I really, really, don't like it.
I don't like being out of breath. I don't like the naked chicks who saunter through the locker room, boobs flying every which way. I don't like the salty, basketball PE Class smell of the whole thing. I hate the crappy tv they invariably have on while you do your cardio (re-runs of "Charmed" and whatever sports is in season), and the oily looking men with their weight belts and excessive grunting as they lift barbells. I hate the upbeat dance music I must have on my Ipod in order to have any hope of getting thirty good sweaty minutes on the elliptical. I hate the weird moments of eye contact you make with strangers when we are both in extremis, faces knotted up in pain. But the only thing I hate more than all of this, is feeling flabby and tired and generally out of shape. So I go. And I suffer. I martyr myself for fitness. St. Nicole of 24 Hour Fitness. Patron Saint of bitching.
I have discovered through the years that I must engage in a series of psychological tricks and traps to get my ass to actually show up the the gym. For example, I must tell a lot of people I plan on going, so the shame of admitting I didn't will push me out the door. I must have the ipod fully charged, with one or two new songs a week to kick my own ass. And lately, the ultimate mind-trick, I must go immediately from work, to the gym across the street, before I even think of home and the couch and nice dinner with my hubby.
Yesterday, I tried a new one- "class with a friend"- I figured having someone go with you can only be a motivator, and besides, it breaks up the monotony of my usual tired routine. So Jen and I geared up straight from the office to take "24 SET"- a class, according the online schedule, that is conveniently at 5:30 and taught by someone named 'Smitty'. We get there, guns blazing, and notice that everyone has like every peice of equipment the fitness room has to offer set up in front of them. I shit you not- 3 sizes of hand weights, a barbell, 2 sizes of weights for said barbell, a mat, and a step. We grab all this crap, scratch out a territory for ourselves, and await Smitty, who, by name alone, I have assumed to be a squat, square muscular man, maybe like a human bull dog.
When what to my wondering eyes do appear, but a heavy-set lady about 60 or so, dressed head to toe in black spandex. This is Smitty. And Smitty sounds like Cartman from South Park. I have no words, just thoughts. And those thoughts are "Wha??".
The class begins easily enough, hopping cheerfully up and down off our steps, holding free weights (I haughtily chose heavier ones than most of the class. I am a stupid ass who deserves what I get). And then slowly, surely, things get hard. Squats. Lunges. Chest Fly. Pelvic Pushups. Crunches of all persuasions. And all of it intermingled with that giddy stepping up and this woman's weird voice: "Singleeeeees!! Push it!!!! Howya feeeeeelin?". At one point, my response to the "Howya feeeelin?" was something like "Yargghhhmehh!".
After an hour, I am utterly, utterly spent. Smitty has rocked my world. Jen and I vow to return next week, and maybe even to try kick boxing on Thursday with "Kip", who by the logic of 24 Hour Fitness Instructor names is no doubt an ex-marine covered in ink and muscles.
So today, I am sore like I had been in a car accident. And happy. I will never pre-suppose old ladies named Smitty who talk like Cartman cannot and will not kick my ass. And I have found yet another method of sneaking excercise onto my psychological plate. Hoorah.


An E-mail From Me To the Hoosier State

From:Nicole Fitz
To: Indiana
CC: North Carolina

Dear Indiana,How's it going? See any good campaign ads lately?? Har de har har! Well, I just thought I'd drop a line and see what's shaking, Oh Land Of My Husband's People. I drove through you once. It rained. Anyway, I'll get down to business. I know you have been up to your eyeballs in candidates putting on their "blue-collar pants" lately- bowling, drinking, having Blizzards at the local DQ. I assumed you would see through all this lame pandering and just shake your collective heads at the shitty acting going on (seriously, I have seen better performances in Pauly Shore's canon of work). But lately I have heard a few of you saying on the news that you feel Mrs. Clinton is "more in touch with you.". If that is your true feeling, Via Con Dios, but I fear you may have been swayed by the storm of bullshit currently situated directly above Indianapolis. Just so's you know, Hillary is not an "everyman". She does not pump her own gas. If she really does shots of Crown Royal, its out of a golden chalice like the ones rejected as being "too grand for Christ" at the end of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade:

I'm not saying Mr. Obama (who, you may have inferred, is my choice for Pres) is necessarily a "man of the people" either- because you see, this whole "being in touch with the everyman" thing is kind of a myth, when you really get down to how politics works. No one who is carted around in a private jet in an attempt to become the leader of the free world "gets me", and I am just fine with that- I would make a patently shitty leader of the free world. I don't need Obama to understand the rising cost of tampons or know my bra size. I don't care if Clinton uses her Vons Club card and rejoices, as I do, at the little summary on the receipt of what I saved. I just want the candidates to put forth good ideas and plans and then do the things they say. I don't want trash and fairy lights, and I hope you don't either. It is insulting to you to assume that one can "get where you are coming from"- to understand the scope and breadth of your life- through whirlwind tours of factories and gas pumps. It is insulting to you to assume you will be blinded by the pomp and grandeur of a gas tax break that amounts to aproximately thirty dollars disbursed over 3 months. It is insulting to you when candidates suddenly end all thier "ing" words with "n'"- workin', thinkin', shootin', prayin', etc. It's like when you hear an actor unaccustomed to swearing hit the "F" word a little too hard; just kind of lame and transparent. Don't get me wrong- it is important for candidates to be aware of the plights and concerns of the people they plan on governing-to understand their own removal from the reality of most people due to privelage- they just don't have to put on a "me" costume and play-act my life with me. Because that's silly. So anywhoo, just vote for the person who has shown through their actions and plans that they are the best person for the job. Pretend they never came to your state at all, never bowled or drank beer or made any of the palsied attempts to kiss your collective asses. Just vote your honest guts, and we will all be ok.
Nicole Fitz


Things I Learned This Week, in Convenient List Form

So, let's get right to it:

1. If you smell an awful funky tuna smell coming from your kitchen three days after you made tuna, and you find no tuna anywhere, it may just be that your husband used a paper towl to pat-dry some sea scallops the week before and tossed that paper towl into the recycling bag, where it festered and dreamed dark and stinky dreams.

2. If your check engine light comes on, it could just be that you have a shoddy gas cap. Flirt with the man at Hyundai, and he will diagnose this for free w/ his li'l computer and then sell you a new one for only 16 bucks!

3. Big Lots almost always sucks. Like, usually, all you find are expired donuts and hair nets (2 for 1!) and posters of kittens in baskets of peonies. It just doesn't suck the one time before you write it off forever, because it knows you are on the verge, so it tosses you a bone to keep you coming out there (20 dollar hibachi gas grill, a 3 dollar pillow). And then it sucks the next 8 times you go.

4. I will never like salmon. I just need to set it free.

5. My sister nearly always comes thru for me. Like, if I say "Joy, somewhere in your basement is a box of my costume items and from that box i need you to fed-ex me a pink Victorian skirt and a white corset" she will say "Ok." and then she does it. That's true love and friendship, and we have the same genetic code to boot! Sweet!

6. I can never have too many dogs. Even now, with limited space and time, I fantasize about completeing my flat-faced breed collection with the addtion of a French Bulldog I will name Mr. Smee.

7. Most movies that people fall all over themselves praising, like No Country for Old Men, or Juno, turn out to be good, but not the wonderful near religious experiance you are led to beleive they will be. So you kind of go thru your netflix list being perpetually slightly disapointed. Like they way you felt the day after your birthday when you were a kid.

8. Jazz is not bad, when you know someone in the band and you are slightly buzzed. If you don't know someone in the band and you are sober, I don't know what to tell you.

9. If you end up with a 6.99 credit at Auto Zone, you can get an air freshner, a key chain, and a multi-pack of Airheads. And you will still have 14 cents left over.

10. While a 102 degree temperature in April sounds good to someone living in Cleveland in January, in actuality it kind of blows.

And now, onto a new week.


Sometimes A Cigar...

Conversation at Work,Yesterday:

Co-worker One: "What I never got was that whole deal with Monica Lewinsky and the cigar. Like, that's just weird".

Co-Worker Two: "It wasn't a cigar. It was the case"

CW1: "What the hell were they doing with it??"

CW2: "Dude, do you want me to draw you a fucking diagram??? What do you think they did with it?!"

CW1: walks away and goes back to his office. He is silent a while as he Googles a few things. And then:

CW1: "Dude, it wasn't a cigar box. It was a cigar tube!!"

CW2: "Of fucking course it was a tube! What did you think I meant?"

CW1: "Well I didn't know, I thought you meant the box. Thats why I was confused."

Nicole: "Dude, did you seriously think they were using a full cigar box?? How the hell would that even work? What did you think they were doing with it???"

CW1: {angrily} "Well, cigars usually don't come in a tube. They come in a box. So that's why I was confused! Clearly you guys know nothing about cigars. "

Nicole: {laughing her ass off}"Well, just so you know, there is no orrifice on a woman that could accomodate a cigar box. Clearly you know nothing about women."


Smokers Who Wont Quit- an admittedly ranty rant

Ok, you know whats lame? The era we live in, that's what. Because now we all have access to this pop-psychology Oprah Love's Me This I Know bullshit that we trot out to conveniently explain and justify all our character flaws. Case in point, quitting things, like oh, say smoking. How many times have i heard "I can't quit until I am ready" or "I have to do it for ME" or "I don't really want to quit yet." And I mount my soapy soapbox and I cry in ringing tones "BUUULLLLSHIIIIT!".
Ya know why? Because heres a news flash, kids. You will NEVER REALLY WANT TO QUIT. You will know you should. You will intend to quit. But you are an addict, and your body wants you to stay that way and keep supplying the sweet sweet nicotine. The people I have known that have successfully quit almost always do it because they simply get fed up with the shitty aspects of smoking (cancer, massive expense, the fact that they smell like burnt dog hair) not because the fucking Blue Fairy visited their dreams and took their hand and walked into the light with them. There will never be an easier time- a time when you wont be stressed, or going on vacation, or planning on a party where you have to drink. It will always be hard.
Your moment of beauteous religious epiphany where things become clear and quitting comes naturally? It's not coming. You will instead have a moment like my dad had recently, where he could not breathe and nearly crashed his car. Or a moment like my mom had when her doctor told her she had the lungs of a 50 year old at 28 (Joy, aren't you 28 now?). Or you will realize your kids go to school smelling bad, or that you spend 70 bucks a week on a habit that's killing you, or so many laws will be passed that you will be reduced to smoking lying on your own bathroom floor in a tent you have fashioned out of bath towels, praying the secret police don't find you out. And you will choose to quit in that moment, or not.
I know that some people put it off because they don't want to try and fail. But for Christ's sake, TRY. In the end, it doesn't matter whether you "do it for yourself" or you do it for your toy poodle, just do it. Keep doing it. Quit and quit and fail 1,000 times until you figure out how to make it work. WE COULD WIPE OUT 30% OF ALL CANCER BY ELECTING NOT TO USE TOBACCO. Think about that. Think about the people who love you. Think about what it will feel like for them to lose you- to watch you suffer. Fuck thinking about quitting for "me". Quit because you must. It's becoming a fucking joke at this point.
Sorry you guys. I just quake at the health of some of my family. And it makes me sad and angry. So sorry. Just needed to vent.


The Subaltern's Love Song

I decided to post this poem today after reading an article that the woman who inspired it has died at the ripe old age of 92. It's just one of the most lovely, lyrical poems ever- rife with juicy imagery and with a great history. Take a look at the article after to see a pic of the woman who is the inspiration and read the great story behind the piece. Incidently, can you imagine inspiring something like this? Wow. Enjoy!

The Subaltern's Love Song
By John Betjemen

Miss J. Hunter Dunn, Miss J. Hunter Dunn,
Furnish'd and burnish'd by Aldershot sun,
What strenuous singles we played after tea,
We in the tournament - you against me!

Love-thirty, love-forty, oh! weakness of joy,
The speed of a swallow, the grace of a boy,
With carefullest carelessness, gaily you won,
I am weak from your loveliness, Joan Hunter Dunn.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
How mad I am, sad I am, glad that you won,
The warm-handled racket is back in its press,
But my shock-headed victor, she loves me no less.

Her father's euonymus shines as we walk,
And swing past the summer-house, buried in talk,
And cool the verandah that welcomes us in
To the six-o'clock news and a lime-juice and gin.

The scent of the conifers, sound of the bath,
The view from my bedroom of moss-dappled path,
As I struggle with double-end evening tie,
For we dance at the Golf Club, my victor and I.

On the floor of her bedroom lie blazer and shorts,
And the cream-coloured walls are be-trophied with sports,
And westering, questioning settles the sun,
On your low-leaded window, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.

The Hillman is waiting, the light's in the hall,
The pictures of Egypt are bright on the wall,
My sweet, I am standing beside the oak stair
And there on the landing's the light on your hair.

By roads "not adopted", by woodlanded ways,
She drove to the club in the late summer haze,
Into nine-o'clock Camberley, heavy with bells
And mushroomy, pine-woody, evergreen smells.

Miss Joan Hunter Dunn, Miss Joan Hunter Dunn,
I can hear from the car park the dance has begun,
Oh! Surrey twilight! importunate band!
Oh! strongly adorable tennis-girl's hand!

Around us are Rovers and Austins afar,
Above us the intimate roof of the car,
And here on my right is the girl of my choice,
With the tilt of her nose and the chime of her voice.

And the scent of her wrap, and the words never said,
And the ominous, ominous dancing ahead.
We sat in the car park till twenty to one
And now I'm engaged to Miss Joan Hunter Dunn.


Incredible Social Experiment

The following article won the Pulitzer this week. It’s one of the best things I’ve read all year.
Heres a link to original, case you need it. It has video of this event.

Pearls Before Breakfast: Can one of the nation’s great musicians cut through the fog of a D.C. rush hour? Let’s find out.

By Gene WeingartenWashington Post Staff WriterSunday, April 8, 2007; W10

HE EMERGED FROM THE METRO AT THE L’ENFANT PLAZA STATION AND POSITIONED HIMSELF AGAINST A WALL BESIDE A TRASH BASKET. By most measures, he was nondescript: a youngish white man in jeans, a long-sleeved T-shirt and a Washington Nationals baseball cap. From a small case, he removed a violin. Placing the open case at his feet, he shrewdly threw in a few dollars and pocket change as seed money, swiveled it to face pedestrian traffic, and began to play.
It was 7:51 a.m. on Friday, January 12, the middle of the morning rush hour. In the next 43 minutes, as the violinist performed six classical pieces, 1,097 people passed by. Almost all of them were on the way to work, which meant, for almost all of them, a government job. L’Enfant Plaza is at the nucleus of federal Washington, and these were mostly mid-level bureaucrats with those indeterminate, oddly fungible titles: policy analyst, project manager, budget officer, specialist, facilitator, consultant.

Each passerby had a quick choice to make, one familiar to commuters in any urban area where the occasional street performer is part of the cityscape: Do you stop and listen? Do you hurry past with a blend of guilt and irritation, aware of your cupidity but annoyed by the unbidden demand on your time and your wallet? Do you throw in a buck, just to be polite? Does your decision change if he’s really bad? What if he’s really good? Do you have time for beauty? Shouldn’t you? What’s the moral mathematics of the moment?

On that Friday in January, those private questions would be answered in an unusually public way. No one knew it, but the fiddler standing against a bare wall outside the Metro in an indoor arcade at the top of the escalators was one of the finest classical musicians in the world, playing some of the most elegant music ever written on one of the most valuable violins ever made. His performance was arranged by The Washington Post as an experiment in context, perception and priorities -- as well as an unblinking assessment of public taste: In a banal setting at an inconvenient time, would beauty transcend?

The musician did not play popular tunes whose familiarity alone might have drawn interest. That was not the test. These were masterpieces that have endured for centuries on their brilliance alone, soaring music befitting the grandeur of cathedrals and concert halls.

The acoustics proved surprisingly kind. Though the arcade is of utilitarian design, a buffer between the Metro escalator and the outdoors, it somehow caught the sound and bounced it back round and resonant. The violin is an instrument that is said to be much like the human voice, and in this musician’s masterly hands, it sobbed and laughed and sang -- ecstatic, sorrowful, importuning, adoring, flirtatious, castigating, playful, romancing, merry, triumphal, sumptuous.
So, what do you think happened?

Leonard Slatkin, music director of the National Symphony Orchestra, was asked the same question. What did he think would occur, hypothetically, if one of the world’s great violinists had performed incognito before a traveling rush-hour audience of 1,000-odd people?

"Let’s assume," Slatkin said, "that he is not recognized and just taken for granted as a street musician . . . Still, I don’t think that if he’s really good, he’s going to go unnoticed. He’d get a larger audience in Europe . . . but, okay, out of 1,000 people, my guess is there might be 35 or 40 who will recognize the quality for what it is. Maybe 75 to 100 will stop and spend some time listening."
So, a crowd would gather?
"Oh, yes."
And how much will he make?
"About $150."
Thanks, Maestro. As it happens, this is not hypothetical. It really happened.
"How’d I do?"
We’ll tell you in a minute.
"Well, who was the musician?"
Joshua Bell.

A onetime child prodigy, at 39 Joshua Bell has arrived as an internationally acclaimed virtuoso. Three days before he appeared at the Metro station, Bell had filled the house at Boston’s stately Symphony Hall, where merely pretty good seats went for $100. Two weeks later, at the Music Center at Strathmore, in North Bethesda, he would play to a standing-room-only audience so respectful of his artistry that they stifled their coughs until the silence between movements. But on that Friday in January, Joshua Bell was just another mendicant, competing for the attention of busy people on their way to work.

Bell was first pitched this idea shortly before Christmas, over coffee at a sandwich shop on Capitol Hill. A New Yorker, he was in town to perform at the Library of Congress and to visit the library’s vaults to examine an unusual treasure: an 18th-century violin that once belonged to the great Austrian-born virtuoso and composer Fritz Kreisler. The curators invited Bell to play it; good sound, still.

"Here’s what I’m thinking," Bell confided, as he sipped his coffee. "I’m thinking that I could do a tour where I’d play Kreisler’s music . . ."
He smiled.
". . . on Kreisler’s violin."
It was a snazzy, sequined idea -- part inspiration and part gimmick -- and it was typical of Bell, who has unapologetically embraced showmanship even as his concert career has become more and more august. He’s soloed with the finest orchestras here and abroad, but he’s also appeared on "Sesame Street," done late-night talk TV and performed in feature films. That was Bell playing the soundtrack on the 1998 movie "The Red Violin." (He body-doubled, too, playing to a naked Greta Scacchi.) As composer John Corigliano accepted the Oscar for Best Original Dramatic Score, he credited Bell, who, he said, "plays like a god."
When Bell was asked if he’d be willing to don street clothes and perform at rush hour, he said:
"Uh, a stunt?"
Well, yes. A stunt. Would he think it . . . unseemly?
Bell drained his cup.
"Sounds like fun," he said.
Bell’s a heartthrob. Tall and handsome, he’s got a Donny Osmond-like dose of the cutes, and, onstage, cute elides into hott. When he performs, he is usually the only man under the lights who is not in white tie and tails -- he walks out to a standing O, looking like Zorro, in black pants and an untucked black dress shirt, shirttail dangling. That cute Beatles-style mop top is also a strategic asset: Because his technique is full of body -- athletic and passionate -- he’s almost dancing with the instrument, and his hair flies.
He’s single and straight, a fact not lost on some of his fans. In Boston, as he performed Max Bruch’s dour Violin Concerto in G Minor, the very few young women in the audience nearly disappeared in the deep sea of silver heads. But seemingly every single one of them -- a distillate of the young and pretty -- coalesced at the stage door after the performance, seeking an autograph. It’s like that always, with Bell.
Bell’s been accepting over-the-top accolades since puberty: Interview magazine once said his playing "does nothing less than tell human beings why they bother to live." He’s learned to field these things graciously, with a bashful duck of the head and a modified "pshaw."
For this incognito performance, Bell had only one condition for participating. The event had been described to him as a test of whether, in an incongruous context, ordinary people would recognize genius. His condition: "I’m not comfortable if you call this genius." "Genius" is an overused word, he said: It can be applied to some of the composers whose work he plays, but not to him. His skills are largely interpretive, he said, and to imply otherwise would be unseemly and inaccurate.
It was an interesting request, and under the circumstances, one that will be honored. The word will not again appear in this article.
It would be breaking no rules, however, to note that the term in question, particularly as applied in the field of music, refers to a congenital brilliance -- an elite, innate, preternatural ability that manifests itself early, and often in dramatic fashion.
One biographically intriguing fact about Bell is that he got his first music lessons when he was a 4-year-old in Bloomington, Ind. His parents, both psychologists, decided formal training might be a good idea after they saw that their son had strung rubber bands across his dresser drawers and was replicating classical tunes by ear, moving drawers in and out to vary the pitch.
TO GET TO THE METRO FROM HIS HOTEL, a distance of three blocks, Bell took a taxi. He’s neither lame nor lazy: He did it for his violin.
Bell always performs on the same instrument, and he ruled out using another for this gig. Called the Gibson ex Huberman, it was handcrafted in 1713 by Antonio Stradivari during the Italian master’s "golden period," toward the end of his career, when he had access to the finest spruce, maple and willow, and when his technique had been refined to perfection.
"Our knowledge of acoustics is still incomplete," Bell said, "but he, he just . . . knew."
Bell doesn’t mention Stradivari by name. Just "he." When the violinist shows his Strad to people, he holds the instrument gingerly by its neck, resting it on a knee. "He made this to perfect thickness at all parts," Bell says, pivoting it. "If you shaved off a millimeter of wood at any point, it would totally imbalance the sound." No violins sound as wonderful as Strads from the 1710s, still.
The front of Bell’s violin is in nearly perfect condition, with a deep, rich grain and luster. The back is a mess, its dark reddish finish bleeding away into a flatter, lighter shade and finally, in one section, to bare wood.
"This has never been refinished," Bell said. "That’s his original varnish. People attribute aspects of the sound to the varnish. Each maker had his own secret formula." Stradivari is thought to have made his from an ingeniously balanced cocktail of honey, egg whites and gum arabic from sub-Saharan trees.
Like the instrument in "The Red Violin," this one has a past filled with mystery and malice. Twice, it was stolen from its illustrious prior owner, the Polish virtuoso Bronislaw Huberman. The first time, in 1919, it disappeared from Huberman’s hotel room in Vienna but was quickly returned. The second time, nearly 20 years later, it was pinched from his dressing room in Carnegie Hall. He never got it back. It was not until 1985 that the thief -- a minor New York violinist -- made a deathbed confession to his wife, and produced the instrument.
Bell bought it a few years ago. He had to sell his own Strad and borrow much of the rest. The price tag was reported to be about $3.5 million.
All of which is a long explanation for why, in the early morning chill of a day in January, Josh Bell took a three-block cab ride to the Orange Line, and rode one stop to L’Enfant.
AS METRO STATIONS GO, L’ENFANT PLAZA IS MORE PLEBEIAN THAN MOST. Even before you arrive, it gets no respect. Metro conductors never seem to get it right: "Leh-fahn." "Layfont." "El’phant."
At the top of the escalators are a shoeshine stand and a busy kiosk that sells newspapers, lottery tickets and a wallfull of magazines with titles such as Mammazons and Girls of Barely Legal. The skin mags move, but it’s that lottery ticket dispenser that stays the busiest, with customers queuing up for Daily 6 lotto and Powerball and the ultimate suckers’ bait, those pamphlets that sell random number combinations purporting to be "hot." They sell briskly. There’s also a quick-check machine to slide in your lotto ticket, post-drawing, to see if you’ve won. Beneath it is a forlorn pile of crumpled slips.
On Friday, January 12, the people waiting in the lottery line looking for a long shot would get a lucky break -- a free, close-up ticket to a concert by one of the world’s most famous musicians -- but only if they were of a mind to take note.
Bell decided to begin with "Chaconne" from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Partita No. 2 in D Minor. Bell calls it "not just one of the greatest pieces of music ever written, but one of the greatest achievements of any man in history. It’s a spiritually powerful piece, emotionally powerful, structurally perfect. Plus, it was written for a solo violin, so I won’t be cheating with some half-assed version."
Bell didn’t say it, but Bach’s "Chaconne" is also considered one of the most difficult violin pieces to master. Many try; few succeed. It’s exhaustingly long -- 14 minutes -- and consists entirely of a single, succinct musical progression repeated in dozens of variations to create a dauntingly complex architecture of sound. Composed around 1720, on the eve of the European Enlightenment, it is said to be a celebration of the breadth of human possibility.
If Bell’s encomium to "Chaconne" seems overly effusive, consider this from the 19th-century composer Johannes Brahms, in a letter to Clara Schumann: "On one stave, for a small instrument, the man writes a whole world of the deepest thoughts and most powerful feelings. If I imagined that I could have created, even conceived the piece, I am quite certain that the excess of excitement and earth-shattering experience would have driven me out of my mind."
So, that’s the piece Bell started with.
He’d clearly meant it when he promised not to cheap out this performance: He played with acrobatic enthusiasm, his body leaning into the music and arching on tiptoes at the high notes. The sound was nearly symphonic, carrying to all parts of the homely arcade as the pedestrian traffic filed past.
Three minutes went by before something happened. Sixty-three people had already passed when, finally, there was a breakthrough of sorts. A middle-age man altered his gait for a split second, turning his head to notice that there seemed to be some guy playing music. Yes, the man kept walking, but it was something.
A half-minute later, Bell got his first donation. A woman threw in a buck and scooted off. It was not until six minutes into the performance that someone actually stood against a wall, and listened.
Things never got much better. In the three-quarters of an hour that Joshua Bell played, seven people stopped what they were doing to hang around and take in the performance, at least for a minute. Twenty-seven gave money, most of them on the run -- for a total of $32 and change. That leaves the 1,070 people who hurried by, oblivious, many only three feet away, few even turning to look.
No, Mr. Slatkin, there was never a crowd, not even for a second.
It was all videotaped by a hidden camera. You can play the recording once or 15 times, and it never gets any easier to watch. Try speeding it up, and it becomes one of those herky-jerky World War I-era silent newsreels. The people scurry by in comical little hops and starts, cups of coffee in their hands, cellphones at their ears, ID tags slapping at their bellies, a grim danse macabre to indifference, inertia and the dingy, gray rush of modernity.
Even at this accelerated pace, though, the fiddler’s movements remain fluid and graceful; he seems so apart from his audience -- unseen, unheard, otherworldly -- that you find yourself thinking that he’s not really there. A ghost.
Only then do you see it: He is the one who is real. They are the ghosts.
It’s an old epistemological debate, older, actually, than the koan about the tree in the forest. Plato weighed in on it, and philosophers for two millennia afterward: What is beauty? Is it a measurable fact (Gottfried Leibniz), or merely an opinion (David Hume), or is it a little of each, colored by the immediate state of mind of the observer (Immanuel Kant)?
We’ll go with Kant, because he’s obviously right, and because he brings us pretty directly to Joshua Bell, sitting there in a hotel restaurant, picking at his breakfast, wryly trying to figure out what the hell had just happened back there at the Metro.
"At the beginning," Bell says, "I was just concentrating on playing the music. I wasn’t really watching what was happening around me . . ."
Playing the violin looks all-consuming, mentally and physically, but Bell says that for him the mechanics of it are partly second nature, cemented by practice and muscle memory: It’s like a juggler, he says, who can keep those balls in play while interacting with a crowd. What he’s mostly thinking about as he plays, Bell says, is capturing emotion as a narrative: "When you play a violin piece, you are a storyteller, and you’re telling a story."
With "Chaconne," the opening is filled with a building sense of awe. That kept him busy for a while. Eventually, though, he began to steal a sidelong glance.
"It was a strange feeling, that people were actually, ah . . ."
The word doesn’t come easily.
". . . ignoring me."
Bell is laughing. It’s at himself.
"At a music hall, I’ll get upset if someone coughs or if someone’s cellphone goes off. But here, my expectations quickly diminished. I started to appreciate any acknowledgment, even a slight glance up. I was oddly grateful when someone threw in a dollar instead of change." This is from a man whose talents can command $1,000 a minute.
Before he began, Bell hadn’t known what to expect. What he does know is that, for some reason, he was nervous.
"It wasn’t exactly stage fright, but there were butterflies," he says. "I was stressing a little."
Bell has played, literally, before crowned heads of Europe. Why the anxiety at the Washington Metro?
"When you play for ticket-holders," Bell explains, "you are already validated. I have no sense that I need to be accepted. I’m already accepted. Here, there was this thought: What if they don’t like me? What if they resent my presence . . ."
He was, in short, art without a frame. Which, it turns out, may have a lot to do with what happened -- or, more precisely, what didn’t happen -- on January 12.
MARK LEITHAUSER HAS HELD IN HIS HANDS MORE GREAT WORKS OF ART THAN ANY KING OR POPE OR MEDICI EVER DID. A senior curator at the National Gallery, he oversees the framing of the paintings. Leithauser thinks he has some idea of what happened at that Metro station.
"Let’s say I took one of our more abstract masterpieces, say an Ellsworth Kelly, and removed it from its frame, marched it down the 52 steps that people walk up to get to the National Gallery, past the giant columns, and brought it into a restaurant. It’s a $5 million painting. And it’s one of those restaurants where there are pieces of original art for sale, by some industrious kids from the Corcoran School, and I hang that Kelly on the wall with a price tag of $150. No one is going to notice it. An art curator might look up and say: ’Hey, that looks a little like an Ellsworth Kelly. Please pass the salt.’"
Leithauser’s point is that we shouldn’t be too ready to label the Metro passersby unsophisticated boobs. Context matters.
Kant said the same thing. He took beauty seriously: In his Critique of Aesthetic Judgment, Kant argued that one’s ability to appreciate beauty is related to one’s ability to make moral judgments. But there was a caveat. Paul Guyer of the University of Pennsylvania, one of America’s most prominent Kantian scholars, says the 18th-century German philosopher felt that to properly appreciate beauty, the viewing conditions must be optimal.
"Optimal," Guyer said, "doesn’t mean heading to work, focusing on your report to the boss, maybe your shoes don’t fit right."
So, if Kant had been at the Metro watching as Joshua Bell play to a thousand unimpressed passersby?
"He would have inferred about them," Guyer said, "absolutely nothing."
And that’s that.
Except it isn’t. To really understand what happened, you have to rewind that video and play it back from the beginning, from the moment Bell’s bow first touched the strings.
White guy, khakis, leather jacket, briefcase. Early 30s. John David Mortensen is on the final leg of his daily bus-to-Metro commute from Reston. He’s heading up the escalator. It’s a long ride -- 1 minute and 15 seconds if you don’t walk. So, like most everyone who passes Bell this day, Mortensen gets a good earful of music before he has his first look at the musician. Like most of them, he notes that it sounds pretty good. But like very few of them, when he gets to the top, he doesn’t race past as though Bell were some nuisance to be avoided. Mortensen is that first person to stop, that guy at the six-minute mark.
It’s not that he has nothing else to do. He’s a project manager for an international program at the Department of Energy; on this day, Mortensen has to participate in a monthly budget exercise, not the most exciting part of his job: "You review the past month’s expenditures," he says, "forecast spending for the next month, if you have X dollars, where will it go, that sort of thing."
On the video, you can see Mortensen get off the escalator and look around. He locates the violinist, stops, walks away but then is drawn back. He checks the time on his cellphone -- he’s three minutes early for work -- then settles against a wall to listen.
Mortensen doesn’t know classical music at all; classic rock is as close as he comes. But there’s something about what he’s hearing that he really likes.
As it happens, he’s arrived at the moment that Bell slides into the second section of "Chaconne." ("It’s the point," Bell says, "where it moves from a darker, minor key into a major key. There’s a religious, exalted feeling to it.") The violinist’s bow begins to dance; the music becomes upbeat, playful, theatrical, big.
Mortensen doesn’t know about major or minor keys: "Whatever it was," he says, "it made me feel at peace."
So, for the first time in his life, Mortensen lingers to listen to a street musician. He stays his allotted three minutes as 94 more people pass briskly by. When he leaves to help plan contingency budgets for the Department of Energy, there’s another first. For the first time in his life, not quite knowing what had just happened but sensing it was special, John David Mortensen gives a street musician money.
THERE ARE SIX MOMENTS IN THE VIDEO THAT BELL FINDS PARTICULARLY PAINFUL TO RELIVE: "The awkward times," he calls them. It’s what happens right after each piece ends: nothing. The music stops. The same people who hadn’t noticed him playing don’t notice that he has finished. No applause, no acknowledgment. So Bell just saws out a small, nervous chord -- the embarrassed musician’s equivalent of, "Er, okay, moving right along . . ." -- and begins the next piece.
After "Chaconne," it is Franz Schubert’s "Ave Maria," which surprised some music critics when it debuted in 1825: Schubert seldom showed religious feeling in his compositions, yet "Ave Maria" is a breathtaking work of adoration of the Virgin Mary. What was with the sudden piety? Schubert dryly answered: "I think this is due to the fact that I never forced devotion in myself and never compose hymns or prayers of that kind unless it overcomes me unawares; but then it is usually the right and true devotion." This musical prayer became among the most familiar and enduring religious pieces in history.
A couple of minutes into it, something revealing happens. A woman and her preschooler emerge from the escalator. The woman is walking briskly and, therefore, so is the child. She’s got his hand.
"I had a time crunch," recalls Sheron Parker, an IT director for a federal agency. "I had an 8:30 training class, and first I had to rush Evvie off to his teacher, then rush back to work, then to the training facility in the basement."
Evvie is her son, Evan. Evan is 3.
You can see Evan clearly on the video. He’s the cute black kid in the parka who keeps twisting around to look at Joshua Bell, as he is being propelled toward the door.
"There was a musician," Parker says, "and my son was intrigued. He wanted to pull over and listen, but I was rushed for time."
So Parker does what she has to do. She deftly moves her body between Evan’s and Bell’s, cutting off her son’s line of sight. As they exit the arcade, Evan can still be seen craning to look. When Parker is told what she walked out on, she laughs.
"Evan is very smart!"
The poet Billy Collins once laughingly observed that all babies are born with a knowledge of poetry, because the lub-dub of the mother’s heart is in iambic meter. Then, Collins said, life slowly starts to choke the poetry out of us. It may be true with music, too.
There was no ethnic or demographic pattern to distinguish the people who stayed to watch Bell, or the ones who gave money, from that vast majority who hurried on past, unheeding. Whites, blacks and Asians, young and old, men and women, were represented in all three groups. But the behavior of one demographic remained absolutely consistent. Every single time a child walked past, he or she tried to stop and watch. And every single time, a parent scooted the kid away.
IF THERE WAS ONE PERSON ON THAT DAY WHO WAS TOO BUSY TO PAY ATTENTION TO THE VIOLINIST, it was George Tindley. Tindley wasn’t hurrying to get to work. He was at work.
The glass doors through which most people exit the L’Enfant station lead into an indoor shopping mall, from which there are exits to the street and elevators to office buildings. The first store in the mall is an Au Bon Pain, the croissant and coffee shop where Tindley, in his 40s, works in a white uniform busing the tables, restocking the salt and pepper packets, taking out the garbage. Tindley labors under the watchful eye of his bosses, and he’s supposed to be hopping, and he was.
But every minute or so, as though drawn by something not entirely within his control, Tindley would walk to the very edge of the Au Bon Pain property, keeping his toes inside the line, still on the job. Then he’d lean forward, as far out into the hallway as he could, watching the fiddler on the other side of the glass doors. The foot traffic was steady, so the doors were usually open. The sound came through pretty well.
"You could tell in one second that this guy was good, that he was clearly a professional," Tindley says. He plays the guitar, loves the sound of strings, and has no respect for a certain kind of musician.
"Most people, they play music; they don’t feel it," Tindley says. "Well, that man was feeling it. That man was moving. Moving into the sound."
A hundred feet away, across the arcade, was the lottery line, sometimes five or six people long. They had a much better view of Bell than Tindley did, if they had just turned around. But no one did. Not in the entire 43 minutes. They just shuffled forward toward that machine spitting out numbers. Eyes on the prize.
J.T. Tillman was in that line. A computer specialist for the Department of Housing and Urban Development, he remembers every single number he played that day -- 10 of them, $2 apiece, for a total of $20. He doesn’t recall what the violinist was playing, though. He says it sounded like generic classical music, the kind the ship’s band was playing in "Titanic," before the iceberg.
"I didn’t think nothing of it," Tillman says, "just a guy trying to make a couple of bucks." Tillman would have given him one or two, he said, but he spent all his cash on lotto.
When he is told that he stiffed one of the best musicians in the world, he laughs.
"Is he ever going to play around here again?"
"Yeah, but you’re going to have to pay a lot to hear him."
Tillman didn’t win the lottery, either.
BELL ENDS "AVE MARIA" TO ANOTHER THUNDEROUS SILENCE, plays Manuel Ponce’s sentimental "Estrellita," then a piece by Jules Massenet, and then begins a Bach gavotte, a joyful, frolicsome, lyrical dance. It’s got an Old World delicacy to it; you can imagine it entertaining bewigged dancers at a Versailles ball, or -- in a lute, fiddle and fife version -- the boot-kicking peasants of a Pieter Bruegel painting.
Watching the video weeks later, Bell finds himself mystified by one thing only. He understands why he’s not drawing a crowd, in the rush of a morning workday. But: "I’m surprised at the number of people who don’t pay attention at all, as if I’m invisible. Because, you know what? I’m makin’ a lot of noise!"
He is. You don’t need to know music at all to appreciate the simple fact that there’s a guy there, playing a violin that’s throwing out a whole bucket of sound; at times, Bell’s bowing is so intricate that you seem to be hearing two instruments playing in harmony. So those head-forward, quick-stepping passersby are a remarkable phenomenon.
Bell wonders whether their inattention may be deliberate: If you don’t take visible note of the musician, you don’t have to feel guilty about not forking over money; you’re not complicit in a rip-off.
It may be true, but no one gave that explanation. People just said they were busy, had other things on their mind. Some who were ..phones spoke louder as they passed Bell, to compete with that infernal racket.
And then there was Calvin Myint. Myint works for the General Services Administration. He got to the top of the escalator, turned right and headed out a door to the street. A few hours later, he had no memory that there had been a musician anywhere in sight.
"Where was he, in relation to me?"
"About four feet away."
There’s nothing wrong with Myint’s hearing. He had buds in his ear. He was listening to his iPod.
For many of us, the explosion in technology has perversely limited, not expanded, our exposure to new experiences. Increasingly, we get our news from sources that think as we already do. And with iPods, we hear what we already know; we program our own playlists.
The song that Calvin Myint was listening to was "Just Like Heaven," by the British rock band The Cure. It’s a terrific song, actually. The meaning is a little opaque, and the Web is filled with earnest efforts to deconstruct it. Many are far-fetched, but some are right on point: It’s about a tragic emotional disconnect. A man has found the woman of his dreams but can’t express the depth of his feeling for her until she’s gone. It’s about failing to see the beauty of what’s plainly in front of your eyes.
"YES, I SAW THE VIOLINIST," Jackie Hessian says, "but nothing about him struck me as much of anything."
You couldn’t tell that by watching her. Hessian was one of those people who gave Bell a long, hard look before walking on. It turns out that she wasn’t noticing the music at all.
"I really didn’t hear that much," she said. "I was just trying to figure out what he was doing there, how does this work for him, can he make much money, would it be better to start with some money in the case, or for it to be empty, so people feel sorry for you? I was analyzing it financially."
What do you do, Jackie?
"I’m a lawyer in labor relations with the United States Postal Service. I just negotiated a national contract."
THE BEST SEATS IN THE HOUSE WERE UPHOLSTERED. In the balcony, more or less. On that day, for $5, you’d get a lot more than just a nice shine on your shoes.
Only one person occupied one of those seats when Bell played. Terence Holmes is a consultant for the Department of Transportation, and he liked the music just fine, but it was really about a shoeshine: "My father told me never to wear a suit with your shoes not cleaned and shined."
Holmes wears suits often, so he is up in that perch a lot, and he’s got a good relationship with the shoeshine lady. Holmes is a good tipper and a good talker, which is a skill that came in handy that day. The shoeshine lady was upset about something, and the music got her more upset. She complained, Holmes said, that the music was too loud, and he tried to calm her down.
Edna Souza is from Brazil. She’s been shining shoes at L’Enfant Plaza for six years, and she’s had her fill of street musicians there; when they play, she can’t hear her customers, and that’s bad for business. So she fights.
Souza points to the dividing line between the Metro property, at the top of the escalator, and the arcade, which is under control of the management company that runs the mall. Sometimes, Souza says, a musician will stand on the Metro side, sometimes on the mall side. Either way, she’s got him. On her speed dial, she has phone numbers for both the mall cops and the Metro cops. The musicians seldom last long.
What about Joshua Bell?
He was too loud, too, Souza says. Then she looks down at her rag, sniffs. She hates to say anything positive about these damned musicians, but: "He was pretty good, that guy. It was the first time I didn’t call the police."
Souza was surprised to learn he was a famous musician, but not that people rushed blindly by him. That, she said, was predictable. "If something like this happened in Brazil, everyone would stand around to see. Not here."
Souza nods sourly toward a spot near the top of the escalator: "Couple of years ago, a homeless guy died right there. He just lay down there and died. The police came, an ambulance came, and no one even stopped to see or slowed down to look.
"People walk up the escalator, they look straight ahead. Mind your own business, eyes forward. Everyone is stressed. Do you know what I mean?"
What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.
-- from "Leisure," by W.H. Davies
Let’s say Kant is right. Let’s accept that we can’t look at what happened on January 12 and make any judgment whatever about people’s sophistication or their ability to appreciate beauty. But what about their ability to appreciate life?
We’re busy. Americans have been busy, as a people, since at least 1831, when a young French sociologist named Alexis de Tocqueville visited the States and found himself impressed, bemused and slightly dismayed at the degree to which people were driven, to the exclusion of everything else, by hard work and the accumulation of wealth.
Not much has changed. Pop in a DVD of "Koyaanisqatsi," the wordless, darkly brilliant, avant-garde 1982 film about the frenetic speed of modern life. Backed by the minimalist music of Philip Glass, director Godfrey Reggio takes film clips of Americans going about their daily business, but speeds them up until they resemble assembly-line machines, robots marching lockstep to nowhere. Now look at the video from L’Enfant Plaza, in fast-forward. The Philip Glass soundtrack fits it perfectly.
"Koyaanisqatsi" is a Hopi word. It means "life out of balance."
In his 2003 book, Timeless Beauty: In the Arts and Everyday Life, British author John Lane writes about the loss of the appreciation for beauty in the modern world. The experiment at L’Enfant Plaza may be symptomatic of that, he said -- not because people didn’t have the capacity to understand beauty, but because it was irrelevant to them.
"This is about having the wrong priorities," Lane said.
If we can’t take the time out of our lives to stay a moment and listen to one of the best musicians on Earth play some of the best music ever written; if the surge of modern life so overpowers us that we are deaf and blind to something like that -- then what else are we missing?
That’s what the Welsh poet W.H. Davies meant in 1911 when he published those two lines that begin this section. They made him famous. The thought was simple, even primitive, but somehow no one had put it quite that way before.
Of course, Davies had an advantage -- an advantage of perception. He wasn’t a tradesman or a laborer or a bureaucrat or a consultant or a policy analyst or a labor lawyer or a program manager. He was a hobo.
THE CULTURAL HERO OF THE DAY ARRIVED AT L’ENFANT PLAZA PRETTY LATE, in the unprepossessing figure of one John Picarello, a smallish man with a baldish head.
Picarello hit the top of the escalator just after Bell began his final piece, a reprise of "Chaconne." In the video, you see Picarello stop dead in his tracks, locate the source of the music, and then retreat to the other end of the arcade. He takes up a position past the shoeshine stand, across from that lottery line, and he will not budge for the next nine minutes.
Like all the passersby interviewed for this article, Picarello was stopped by a reporter after he left the building, and was asked for his phone number. Like everyone, he was told only that this was to be an article about commuting. When he was called later in the day, like everyone else, he was first asked if anything unusual had happened to him on his trip into work. Of the more than 40 people contacted, Picarello was the only one who immediately mentioned the violinist.
"There was a musician playing at the top of the escalator at L’Enfant Plaza."
Haven’t you seen musicians there before?
"Not like this one."
What do you mean?
"This was a superb violinist. I’ve never heard anyone of that caliber. He was technically proficient, with very good phrasing. He had a good fiddle, too, with a big, lush sound. I walked a distance away, to hear him. I didn’t want to be intrusive on his space."
"Really. It was that kind of experience. It was a treat, just a brilliant, incredible way to start the day."
Picarello knows classical music. He is a fan of Joshua Bell but didn’t recognize him; he hadn’t seen a recent photo, and besides, for most of the time Picarello was pretty far away. But he knew this was not a run-of-the-mill guy out there, performing. On the video, you can see Picarello look around him now and then, almost bewildered.
"Yeah, other people just were not getting it. It just wasn’t registering. That was baffling to me."
When Picarello was growing up in New York, he studied violin seriously, intending to be a concert musician. But he gave it up at 18, when he decided he’d never be good enough to make it pay. Life does that to you sometimes. Sometimes, you have to do the prudent thing. So he went into another line of work. He’s a supervisor at the U.S. Postal Service. Doesn’t play the violin much, anymore.
When he left, Picarello says, "I humbly threw in $5." It was humble: You can actually see that on the video. Picarello walks up, barely looking at Bell, and tosses in the money. Then, as if embarrassed, he quickly walks away from the man he once wanted to be.
Does he have regrets about how things worked out?
The postal supervisor considers this.
"No. If you love something but choose not to do it professionally, it’s not a waste. Because, you know, you still have it. You have it forever."
BELL THINKS HE DID HIS BEST WORK OF THE DAY IN THOSE FINAL FEW MINUTES, in the second "Chaconne." And that also was the first time more than one person at a time was listening. As Picarello stood in the back, Janice Olu arrived and took up a position a few feet away from Bell. Olu, a public trust officer with HUD, also played the violin as a kid. She didn’t know the name of the piece she was hearing, but she knew the man playing it has a gift.
Olu was on a coffee break and stayed as long as she dared. As she turned to go, she whispered to the stranger next to her, "I really don’t want to leave." The stranger standing next to her happened to be working for The Washington Post.
In preparing for this event, editors at The Post Magazine discussed how to deal with likely outcomes. The most widely held assumption was that there could well be a problem with crowd control: In a demographic as sophisticated as Washington, the thinking went, several people would surely recognize Bell. Nervous "what-if" scenarios abounded. As people gathered, what if others stopped just to see what the attraction was? Word would spread through the crowd. Cameras would flash. More people flock to the scene; rush-hour pedestrian traffic backs up; tempers flare; the National Guard is called; tear gas, rubber bullets, etc.
As it happens, exactly one person recognized Bell, and she didn’t arrive until near the very end. For Stacy Furukawa, a demographer at the Commerce Department, there was no doubt. She doesn’t know much about classical music, but she had been in the audience three weeks earlier, at Bell’s free concert at the Library of Congress. And here he was, the international virtuoso, sawing away, begging for money. She had no idea what the heck was going on, but whatever it was, she wasn’t about to miss it.
Furukawa positioned herself 10 feet away from Bell, front row, center. She had a huge grin on her face. The grin, and Furukawa, remained planted in that spot until the end.
"It was the most astonishing thing I’ve ever seen in Washington," Furukawa says. "Joshua Bell was standing there playing at rush hour, and people were not stopping, and not even looking, and some were flipping quarters at him! Quarters! I wouldn’t do that to anybody. I was thinking, Omigosh, what kind of a city do I live in that this could happen?"
When it was over, Furukawa introduced herself to Bell, and tossed in a twenty. Not counting that -- it was tainted by recognition -- the final haul for his 43 minutes of playing was $32.17. Yes, some people gave pennies.
"Actually," Bell said with a laugh, "that’s not so bad, considering. That’s 40 bucks an hour. I could make an okay living doing this, and I wouldn’t have to pay an agent."
These days, at L’Enfant Plaza, lotto ticket sales remain brisk. Musicians still show up from time to time, and they still tick off Edna Souza. Joshua Bell’s latest album, "The Voice of the Violin," has received the usual critical acclaim. ("Delicate urgency." "Masterful intimacy." "Unfailingly exquisite." "A musical summit." ". . . will make your heart thump and weep at the same time.")
Bell headed off on a concert tour of European capitals. But he is back in the States this week. He has to be. On Tuesday, he will be accepting the Avery Fisher prize, recognizing the Flop of L’Enfant Plaza as the best classical musician in America.
Emily Shroder, Rachel Manteuffel, John W. Poole and Magazine Editor Tom Shroder contributed to this report. Gene Weingarten, a Magazine staff writer, can be reached at weingarten@washpost.com. He will be fielding questions and comments about this article Monday at 1 p.m.