Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Over-Literal Mime-Dancing

Adam and I went to see Edward Scissorhands at BAM on Friday, and I had one of those theatrical experiences where I was left thinking “did I miss something?”

This production was directed, conceived, choreographed, and for all I know, lit and designed by Matthew Bourne. He’s allegedly one of those polymath types, who’s hailed as a genius in his native England for his bold steps in moving modern dance in a brave new direction. He’s done shocking – shocking! – productions of Swan Lake where all the swans, and the corps de ballet are – gasp!- men! He’s responsible for a ‘re-imagining’ of “Carmen” entitled – wait for it . . . – “Car Man.”

Adam saw “Car Man” when he was in London and was distinctly unimpressed with his introduction to over-literal mime-dancing. As per Adam:

-dancer indicating ‘it’s so hot’ - wipes brow torturously

-dancer indicating ‘but I must work on this car, man.’ – makes levering motion with arm -

And so on . . .

So when we went to see Edward Scissorhands at BAM, my expectations were already low. Over-literal mime-dancing just doesn’t really appeal to me. And over-literal mime-dancing is what Mr. Bourne does best – no, it is just what Mr. Bourne does.

Adam’s take on the show is far more insightful than mine, so I’ll limit myself to general bitchery. If I hadn’t seen the movie umpteen times in my youth, I would have had no idea what was going on, despite the O-L M-D. Maybe it’s just that this plot doesn’t lend itself easily to ballet, but that’s bullshit, because I’ve seen plenty of ballets in my day that have had complicated plots that were crystal-clear, despite their lack of scooters, slutty neighbors, and barbeque grills on-stage.

There’s the dream ballet towards the end of the first act, where Edward and Kim dance with the topiary-come-to-life, where the topiary dancers are wearing leafy cubes on their heads. If some costume designer came up to me holding a leafy tutu and a cube and told me that was my costume for the anemic attempt at an homage to Jerome Robbins scene, I would have jete’d my ass out of there, pronto. I know Jerome Robbins, sir, and you are no Jerome Robbins!

At one point during the dream ballet, Adam turned to me, forlorn, and mumbled, “Where are his scissor-hands?” They were just not on, but it wasn’t like they were dramatically removed to indicate Edward’s opposable-thumbed dreamscape, it was just like the dresser had forgotten to put them on for the scene.

I am a big believer in theatre etiquette, and that means dressing up for the theatre, sitting back in my seat instead of leaning forward, not making out with my companion for the evening, if my companion is someone with whom I make out (ahem, people sitting in front of us!). As such, 99.99% of the time I stay for the duration of the show, out of respect for the performers. I left at intermission at The Cape Man, but that was just so inexcusably bad I felt I had no choice.

When Adam murmured to me “It’s OK if you want to leave at intermission,” I heaved a sigh of relief, and felt oh so much better when we made our way down Lafayette and had drinks to restore us. Not sure how the second act went, and really can’t say that I give a damn.

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Tuesday, March 13, 2007

My Elevator Speech

I have one of those jobs which is kind of hard to sum up quickly in a sentence, like, “I’m a lawyer,” or “I sell counterfeit jewelry.” I’ve never been able to refine my spiel into the ‘elevator speech’ you’re supposed to have ready and waiting as a professional. Instead, I have to take the, “Well, it’s like this. . .” route, and tailor my account of what I do based on how much the person to whom I’m talking knows about digital media.

I am an SEO. I do search engine optimization for websites.

Here is the part where most people get the glazed, blank look where I know they have no idea what the hell I’m talking about. Let me explain: I make your website findable when people look for your stuff on Google or Yahoo! or whatever. It’s kind of the perfect job for me; a balance of creativity and technical proficiency that makes me decidedly dorky but highly evangelical about what I do. I could seriously talk about SEO all day, in a way that, as my audience is committing seppuku and leaping from windows, I’d still be happily rattling on, oblivious to the mayhem and carnage before me.

Today a colleague mentioned that my name had come up in an industry-related podcast. Now, the SEO world is pretty small, but still, I had no idea I was on such a short list. The podcaster was actually quoting this article about some of the 60 top in-house SEO’s in America. I was included on the list, and now I feel like a total bad-ass. A flattered bad-ass, but a bad-ass nonetheless. It’s nice to be recognized for what one does (and loves).

I’m leaving my current job, which I adore, in early April, as our offices are relocating far, far away, and commuting is totally not my thing. Without doing a lick of legwork, I was able to secure a new job at an awesome place, where I feel resources and support will be no problem. I’m a little heartbroken to be leaving my current job, but it was incredibly reassuring to walk into interviews knowing I DO know my stuff, and I AM an expert in my weird niche. I shall now go celebrate myself by buying shoes.

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Wednesday, March 07, 2007


According to our cab driver, the original name for Paradise Island in the Bahamas is Boar Island . It was renamed when it was developed as a tourist destination, but in my opinion, it is still chock-full of boars. Only the spelling has changed; it’s now full of boors, and/or bores.

Homonyms aside, fat American tourists on vacation are depressing. I can’t imagine why you’d go to the trouble of traveling to another country to do all the things you could do at home. In the case of my hefty countrymen, that thing is apparently eating.

A lot.

All the time.

With the eating comes the waddling, and the misappropriation of Spandex garments, and more of the eating. These people represent the worst of our culture. They have no curiosity about the country they’re visiting, the people who actually live there, the food they eat, their music, any of it.

No, they seem to want a tropical America with all-you-can-eat buffet, Starbucks, and McDonald’s in a one block radius so as to minimize any unwelcome walking from cruise ship or mega resort to bland and familiar dining establishment. They were all over the monstrosity of a hotel we stayed in, and all over Paradise Island in general, and all over only the main drag in Nassau. Presumably the rest of Nassau had a bit too much ‘native culture’ to make my fellow Americans comfortable.

Fortunately, I was with Reba and Anne, both of whom are great to travel with and go to new places to experience them, not to sit poolside and feed.

We left the morning after my birthday. I had gone out to celebrate, and didn’t get home ‘til about 12:30 AM. I dutifully set my alarm for 5:07, but apparently forgot to actually turn it on, so when Reba called at 5:20 to make sure I was up and moving, I was neither up nor moving.

We dragged in to the airport for our 8 AM flight to Charlotte, where we connected to our Bahamas flight. When we finally got to Nassau, we were delighted to discover a Bacardi stand handing out free Bahama Mamas. We were less delighted to discover the luggage for 50% of the people on our plane had gone missing, including all of our bags.

The Bahamian lifestyle seems to exclude both expeditious thought or action, so we fretted around for over an hour until the palette containing our luggage was finally located and leisurely unloaded on the floor of baggage claim.

The trend continued at the hotel, where we arrived to discover our reservation in no way meant we actually had a room waiting for us. 45 more minutes of us and our American getitdonerightnowforchrist’ssake vs. the Bahamian it’ll get done when it gets done at some point probably today.

A room was finally located for us, and we wearily dropped our bags and flopped down on the rather creepy private beach for a few drinks. By 9:30, we were all dead asleep.

The next day was significantly better. We were up early, grabbed breakfast, then headed out on rented bikes to explore the east side of the island, where we were told there would be fewer tourists. We’d only gone a few miles when we heard loud music coming from a park, so we turned in to investigate. We discovered an amazing local festival/regatta, and we appeared to be the only non-locals there.
Anne spotted some jet-skis, and after some haggling with the owner, the three of us were tearing around on the bay, whooping and hollering and jumping each others’ wakes. For once in my life, I was like, “Hell yes, fossil fuel!”

While we waited for the alleged regatta to start (we were there 4 hours and never saw one damn boat), we met Donnie, a guy selling conch salad that he made with live conch that squirmed as he cut it. To make conch salad, you take one conch, dice it, add onions and tomatoes, two kinds of Bahamian peppers (finger and goat), and lemon, lime and orange juice. It’s like the best ceviche in the universe. Totally fresh, totally healthy, and insanely delicious. Reba bought a big plate of meat from some people who were grilling nearby, which we shared with Donnie and his crowd, including a guy who had pot leaf bling, a pot leaf t-shirt. and jeans with little embroidered pot leaves all over them, which I found hilarious in its total lack of subtlety.

Washed down with a few cans of Kalik, the ubiquitous Bahamian beer, while sitting in bright sun, and smoking a Cuban cigar of dubious provenance, I can safely say that is an ideal way to spend an afternoon.

Cultural reference point: in Bahamian culture, the conch’s ‘jelly tube,’ or penis, is supposed to impart strength and virility to one who ingests it. After the urging of our new friends, I went and ate conch penis. This is the face you make immediately after eating conch penis:

We gave up on the bikes, which had three gears and coaster breaks, after my bike decided it didn’t feel like staying in gear, which means the brakes failed totally. Stopping a moving bike wearing flip flops sucks, in case you had any questions about that. The skin on your toes does serve a purpose, and you miss it when it's gone.

We went out snorkeling on a windy day, so the ocean was wave-tossed and silty. Outbound, I was fine. The divemasters invited Reba, Anne and me to sit up with them in the wheel house, which was fantastic. Once we were at anchor, though, I started to regret eating, anything, ever. I know I get seasick, and had even taken preventative Dramamine, but that was no match for the escape route my breakfast wanted to take. I was sick in the water, sick in the scary marine toilet, sick off the side of the boat, sick in my hand, sick in my hair. I spent the last part of the trip clutching the side of the boat, gazing at the horizon, hoping for death, and cursing the people still in the water for not getting back on the bloody boat so we could go back to shore.

Lots of Bahamian food is fried, which I can’t say I love, but those people know their seafood, and we had a great deal of it. My favorite was still Donnie’s conch salad, but Reba had some damn fine grouper, I had the kick-ass smudder fish, and we all ate really well at Traveller’s Rest, a fantastic restaurant Reba had found and added to her incredibly thorough and well-organized Bahamas travel folder. If I ever have to plan the invasion of a country, I want Reba with me.

All in all, I don’t think I’m a tropical island kind of girl, but it was great to get out of Dodge for a while, and better yet to escape my hideous countrymen. I’m also pretty fired up to have tan lines in March, and even though they’re fading fast, my memories of conch penis and projectile vomit are mine forever.

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Monday, March 05, 2007

My Public Face

I left work a litte early today; I had to make a very important phone call. I was walking down 37th, thinking about my day, about my evening -- nothing especially salient.

I was passing the church when I felt myself getting the full-body eye grope, the kind where you feel just a little dirty for being in someone's creepy sight line. He was a large man wearing a velour jumpsuit standing in front of a Catholic church. He had a moustache. Yeah, that guy.

"Whatchu lookin' so depressed fow-uh? Its sucha gawjus day!"

I flashed him a quick, tight smile and hastened on my way. In my wake, I heard, "Ey! That's bettuh."

Do I look so miserable walking down the street that complete strangers feel the need to comment on it? It happened when I was in college, too, as I walked across Washington Square.

I feel like I have a neutral public face, but apparently the look is funereal. Screw it -- for all people know, I was at a funeral.

I've been back from the Bahamas less than a week, and already this city is getting under my skin again. Maybe it's time for a change of scene.

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