Friday, November 30, 2007

Whaddaya think of that?

Seen on the street in my nabe today: Laurie Berkner! She did not -- I repeat, did not -- have a pig on her head.

That will have to pass for a blog entry today -- I've spent the whole day doing boring stuff, and also cutting and gluing while watching TV. The best part about all this wedding planning is that it's a good excuse to go to craft stores and buy stuff! Once it's over I should be back to making some bitchin' greeting cards.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

To love and honor, yes, but not "obey"

We're 45 days away from the big event, and because my brain is too crammed with wedding-related nonsense to assemble sentences and paragraphs, I give you these lists:

Words/phrases associated with weddings that I dislike having to use

"Announcement is made..."
"Together with their families..."
"Two thousand and eight" (I caved to convention in the end, but I still think it looks dumb)
"...and guest"
"fiance" (someone come up with an alternative, please)
"matron of honor"
"pew bow"
"belly band" (our invitations had one, but I refuse to call it that)
"escort card" (we'll have them, but I still hate the term. It sounds dirty)
"tiara" (I prefer to call it a "headpiece")

Words/phrases that I refuse to associate with our wedding

"junior bridesmaid" (to paraphrase Arrested Development: the very fact that you call it that tells me you're not ready)
"The Seating of the Grandmothers" (not really an option for us, but even if it were I wouldn't actually call it that)
"Mr. and Mrs. [Man's Name]" (what century is this?)
"sweetheart table"
"Please be seated at table X"
Any use of the word "garter," especially "garter toss"

Old-fashioned words/phrases that I enjoy having an opportunity to use

"betrothal" (and its variants)
"groomsman" (so much better than "usher," no?)
"atelier" (this would be the workplace of my "couturier")

And finally:

Words/phrases about which I am undecided

"honeymoon suite"

Do you have any you'd like to add?

ETA: I want to add this postscript, because this post occasionally gets hits from people searching for a "matron of honor" alternative. (Most recently, on April 17, 2008, a search for "Do I have to call someone matron of honor if she is married" led here.) We ultimately decided to call my married-but-not-matronly sister the "best woman." It's a solution I recommend!

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Private Practice recap: episode 8

While you were relaxing, or possibly shopping, on Friday, I was hard at work on this week's recap!
At St. Ambrose, there's no change in Sister Virginia's condition, and Father Mark asks for privacy so he can administer the sacrament of the sick. They watch through the window as he puts on his stole and begins the rite. "The way he looks at her..." Naomi begins, and Sam says, "I know." The captions add, "Something's not right," although nobody actually says that. Perhaps the person who entered the captions was a liturgist, and this is his way of protesting the fact that Father Mark is "anointing" Sister Virginia without any oil. Otherwise I don't see anything odd about his ministry of this sacrament, but I guess I'm having trouble viewing extreme unction as sexual in any way.
The answer to the eternal question -- "What are the writers underresearching this week?" -- was, at least in part, the practices and lifestyles of vowed religious people in the Church. But there were a few big things they got right. Read the whole thing to find out what. (And note to Susan: more TV nuns!)

Monday, November 26, 2007

Even though she be only a woman and a Christian and therefore unworthy of your interest

I returned to NYC last night, and the city welcomed me this morning with rain, fog and unexplained subway delays that made me 15 minutes late for work. In my experience, in terms of refusing to communicate with its customers, the MTA is rivaled only by the Martz Trailways bus company. Aren't I lucky that I was able to make both a part of my holiday travel! I was at work for about an hour before I realized I had my sweater on inside-out. In my defense, it's one of those sweaters (popular last season) where the seams are designed to make it look inside-out when you're wearing it correctly, so it looked fine -- except for the tag sticking out of my hip. And the one at the back of my neck. And I'm not wearing anything under it, so I had to sneak away to the bathroom to fix it. This is going to be some week, I can tell.

I really love the cafeteria in the building where I (sometimes) work. I love that there is one, first of all, and the food is generally very good. Every day there's a theme for the hot-food options, and today it was "Global Vegetarian Indian." Music to my ears! After waiting in a slow line, I was finally helping myself to some tofu and eggplant masala when a couple of women stopped behind me to read today's theme. "Global vegetarian Indian -- ugh," said the first. "The only word I like there is 'global.'" Her friend laughed and said, "I don't trust vegetarians." Hello, I am standing right here, filling my plate with said food. I'm sorry if my meal choice disgusts you, but maybe you could save the insulting generalizations for when you're more than a foot away from me? I'm used to being basically invisible when I'm working as a freelancer, but that's just bad manners.

That reminded me of an experience I had at St. Patrick's Cathedral, the beautiful but regrettably zoolike seat of the Archdiocese, on Fifth Avenue. Once not too long ago, I found myself with some time to kill in the area, so I stopped in to look around and say a prayer or two. There's a side altar dedicated to St. Elizabeth Seton, with a striking, modernist bronze sculpture of her. (You can see a picture of it on the artist's website -- if you're standing at the main entrance to the church, it's on the right side aisle.) Mother Seton happens to be my patron saint, so I went over to say hello and light a candle for my intentions. As I was standing there, head bowed reverently in prayer, a couple of teenagers who were making their way around the church stopped behind me. "Ugh! What the hell is that?!" scoffed a boy, referring, I presume, to the sculpture. Even though I managed not to shout, "That is a shrine in honor of my patron saint, and you might have noticed that I and others are praying beside it. Which is what one does in a church. Which is where you are, in case you weren't aware," I'm afraid my prayers didn't get very far after that interruption.

Nowadays I know better than to go to St. Pat's and expect to pray. And that girl who doesn't trust vegetarians -- well, something tells me I wouldn't trust her either. But am I wrong to expect people to keep their negative opinions to themselves until they're out of earshot of others who might love the very thing they scorn? I've sat through some truly terrible theatre in my day, but I try to wait till I'm outside the lobby before I share my opinion, so as not to offend the strangers nearby who actually thought the show in question was a masterpiece. And I think Go, Diego, Go! is just about the most irritating background noise I can imagine, but I wouldn't say so in front of my very devoted nephews while they were watching it. (Even though they wouldn't hear me, because when Diego is on, nothing else matters.)

Ooh, and while we're on the topic of annoyances: the guy at the 96th Street subway station who plays the electric guitar and whines his way through standards and Christmas songs? His rendition of "Misty" makes me want to throw myself on the tracks. He can go away now. People leaving the subway who go through emergency exits and set off the alarms because they don't feel like standing in line for the non-emergency exit like everyone else? I don't feel like listening to the alarm blaring after they're gone, and I hope someday they get stuck in a floor-to-ceiling turnstile for hours. And people who hold up cafeteria lines by selecting their food very slo-o-owly and placing it on their tray very meticulously, as though they were planning to enter their completed plate in a food-photography competition? They need to get over their obsession. Because I get cranky when I'm hungry, and someday I am going to grab the tongs out of their hands and stab them in the neck.

Phew. I think I might need another holiday weekend.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

I just met a girl named Maria

You are so jealous, because guess who I saw on the street yesterday, just a block from my apartment? Maria from Sesame Street! I was dragging myself to Duane Reade -- I woke up with some sort of short-lived ailment yesterday, possibly a reaction to something I ate -- and I heard a familiar voice (not talking to me), and when I looked up I saw: Maria! I felt better right away.

I know she's not really Maria. In fact, a small, geeky part of me was excited to be walking past Sonia Manzano, member of the original Off-Broadway cast of Godspell (you can hear her singing "Turn Back, O Man" on the OCR). But the child in me was more excited to be spotting Maria in the flesh. I fondly recall her wedding to Luis (although I did not remember that it involved appearances by Jose Ferrer and Lillian Hurst), and the birth of their daughter, Gabriella. And what human-puppet pairing is more compelling than Maria's love-hate relationship with Oscar the Grouch? (See, for example, both videos linked to above.) And there we both were on the Upper West Side (though not on one of its most Sesame-like blocks, I admit). So can you blame me for being excited when Maria herself walked by?

Last night I had a recaplet to turn in, so I didn't head home to Scranton until this morning. On the way home, my iPod Shuffle called up an appropriate showtune: "All Good Gifts" (speaking of Godspell). Now I'm home, looking forward to a weekend of food and family and a few wedding-related errands, and feeling grateful for all my gifts. I'm happy to be blogging, and I'm grateful that you're reading! Wherever you are today, I hope you've got lots to be thankful for.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

They're playing our song

For our “first dance” song, the fiancé and I have chosen “Time After Time,” a sweet standard by Sammy Cahn and Jule Styne. There wasn’t a lot of deliberation involved; really, it seemed like the song chose us. Early in our relationship, the fiancé pulled his copy of The Best of Chet Baker Sings for me, correctly guessing it would be a perfect intersection of my love of showtunes and standards and his love of jazz. I was already a Chet fan, thanks to TCM -- I’ve been known to turn on the TV in the morning just to catch their “Sunny Side of Life” intro, which features Chet’s version of “Look for the Silver Lining” -- and I particularly loved “Time After Time”; it felt like it was written with us in mind. The fiance felt the same way, so “our song” was settled well before we were even engaged.

Once our wedding went from hypothetical to imminent and we had to start making plans (have I mentioned that we have a wedding coming up?), we found ourselves at pains to clarify that we’ll be dancing to “Time After Time (Not the Cyndi Lauper Song).” I feel bad having to make this distinction, because Cyndi Lauper’s “Time After Time” is marvelous in its own right. And every time I clarify that we will not be dancing to that song, I am forced to consider how awesome it would be if we did choose that song, and then wowed our guests with elaborate choreography, in homage to the brilliant climax of Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion.

Finalizing our arrangements with the band presented a new problem: Chet Baker’s rendition of “Time After Time,” though lovely, is much too chill for dancing. So we turned to the iTunes store to find a more upbeat version for them to imitate, and the search results turned into a very entertaining game of “Guess Which ‘Time After Time’ This Artist Covered?” It was more challenging than you’d think. Which would you have expected Carly Simon to tackle? What about Eva Cassidy? Ann Hampton Callaway? Willie Nelson? They all took on Cyndi’s hit, I’m afraid. I also would have bet wrong when it came to Miles Davis, although the fiancé was familiar with his (awesome) Lauper instrumental. The biggest, and most hilarious, surprise was Paul Anka’s version of the 1980s "Time After Time," which is funnier than anything by Richard Cheese.

Meanwhile, improbable and/or unacceptable interpreters of the Jule Styne song include Placido Domingo, Rod Stewart, the Temptations (“revisionist” is a nice word for their mid-90s R&B version) and -- my favorite -- Ricky Nelson. There are a number of other versions we had to rule out because of their slow and/or irregular tempos -- honorable mention goes to Dinah Washington, who sets the song to a slow 50s shuffle. And it seems R.E.M., Crosby & Nash and Ozzy Osbourne have songs of their own called “Time After Time,” further complicating the search.

We finally settled on an up-tempo cover by Ella Fitzgerald, although we’ve asked the band for a more straightforward and Chet-like vocal. Now that that’s finally settled, we’re rehearsing our fox-trot… And if, in spite of all our efforts, the band plays Cyndi Lauper anyway? I’ve seen the end of Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion a whole bunch of times. I’m sure I can wing it.

(I was hoping to link to said scene on YouTube, because I never get sick of watching it. But I didn’t find it, although I did uncover several videos of high school students performing the dance themselves. You can decide whether that’s something you need to see. I will link to Cyndi Lauper’s music video for “Time After Time,” but I’m not sure I recommend it -- in fact, the high-school talent-show footage is probably a better bet.)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Private Practice recap: episode 7

Back at Oceanside, fat, irresponsible dad Patrick comes into Ashley's birthing room, psyched about having "another little dude." But he walks right into an intervention… Violet calmly summarizes, "Ashley needs you to do more parenting." See, this is where a Supernanny crossover would really pay off. Naomi channels some of that no-nonsense Jo Frost spirit and tells Ashley, "You know, you need to grow up, too." Ashley's stunned: "What did I do?" Naomi tells her she made the decision to "populate," and she knew she could end up with another boy. She makes me laugh out loud by concluding, "You get what you get and you don't get upset," which is exactly what the teachers at my nephew's preschool say when they're passing out cups at snack time. You know, I think my four-year-old nephew might be moonlighting as a writer for this show. It would explain a lot.
Also referenced in this week’s recap: The Baby-Sitters Club, Reno 911, Roseanne, Sergeant Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and the Duggar family. Because sometimes you have to make your own fun.

Our team will never fail

Yeah, um, about that.

This wasn't the year for me to learn about football, as it turned out. The fiance tried to clue me in: "That's bad, because Harvard gets another first down." "That's bad, because now Harvard gets the ball very close to their end zone." "That's bad, because Yale is already down 30 points, and Harvard's about to get another touchdown." You get the idea. I had the opportunity to learn a lot about how not to play football. And even I know it's bad when a Yale player goes for a crucial interception...and then drops the ball directly into the hands of a Harvard player who is lying on his back. Sigh. On top of that, there was a sloppy, boring presentation in honor of people who gave money to renovate the Bowl that should have been done before the game started, and instead took up ten minutes of halftime, so the band's show got cut off. I just wanted to see what "ELI YALE" looks like from the stands! I just wanted to hear "Ashtar"! Is that too much to ask?!
I'm from KBB!
But this is why I said it's not about the football. I was really excited to be back at the Bowl, surrounded by the sights and sounds of my Bright College Years. It was a very Ghost-of-Christmas-Past experience, seeing familiar faces, and seeing unfamiliar faces doing familiar things. Puh's family put on a splendid tailgate spread, which was a very nice upgrade from the gameday eating I experienced in college ("Here's a box of cheese slices, some mayonnaise packets, and an apple. Go sit on the ground and eat them with your dirty hands"). I got to hug some people I hadn't seen in years, and I got to sway and sing "BCY" (the band always wins, as they say), and I got to show off the fiance. So I'm glad I went. And I'm really glad I didn't place a bet on the game, because... I would have lost.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

We're here to win again

This weekend I am heading back to New Haven for The Game, the first Yale-Harvard matchup I've seen since college. After all that time away, I'm looking forward to tailgating with my friends, pretending to follow what's happening on the field, admiring the newly renovated Yale Bowl, and generally partying like it's 1999 (the year of my very first, and most fondly recalled, Yale-Harvard Game).

Football is the one major American sport I can't follow. The rules-to-action ratio is just too high for me; I try to take it all in, but my mind wanders. My ignorance has persisted in spite of a very faithful record of football-game attendance as a member of my high school's pitiful marching band, and then as a sometimes enthusiastic Member of (here's where you yell) the Yale! Precision! Marching! Band! Maybe things would be different if I'd attended schools with very skilled football teams, but probably not, because if I had, I probably wouldn't have attended the games. What I loved about football was being outdoors (at least in the early part of the season), hanging with friends, blowing off steam, participating in rituals like the third-quarter playing of "Jump, Shake Your Bootie" (in high school) or post-halftime invocation of Ashtar (in college) as if they were Very Important, while knowing full well they were of no actual consequence. In college, the vigorous exercise of school spirit was a terrific stress-reliever, and I think it helped that I knew almost nothing about how the points on the scoreboard got there. (I'm a much more informed spectator of basketball, and our team's bewildering refusal to rebound the ball caused me more anxiety than writing my senior essay.) When we played "Down the Field" (the stateliest of Yale's many football fight songs), I loved shouting the final line: "Harvard's team may fight to the end, but Yale! Will! Win!" The lyrics didn't change when we were playing a team other than Harvard, because they weren't really about football anyway. It was a nice bonus when that assertion actually came true on the field, but even if the Cantabs posted the higher score, I got to leave for Thanksgiving break right from the Bowl, and by the time I reached home it didn't matter what the scoreboard had said. The Game was about celebrating the college experience, and throwing off the stress of the fall semester; I went home exhausted and exhilarated, and I returned to campus energized and ready to propel myself through my final exams.

My life is no longer portioned out according to an academic schedule, but the past few "semesters" of young adulthood have had their own stresses, and a trip to The Game may be just the thing to restore my equilibrium and psyche me up for the next big adventure. I'm excited to be going back there now, the same but different; I'm looking forward to digging out the KBB T-shirt I designed many moons ago, and the Saybrook hoodie that boasts of a "Tyng Cup Dynasty" to which I contributed nothing, and I'm looking forward to cuddling with the fiance in the stands and introducing him to the many wonderful people I knew in my college days. I'll have to get up very early to catch the train, and I plan to wear many warm and unglamorous layers, so in that respect it will be just like old times. But I'm also looking forward to acknowledging, and celebrating, everything that's changed for me since I last set foot in the Bowl. I have no doubt that "Yale will win" -- whatever the final score may be.

I'll leave you with a few links to get you in the mood, or to tide you over till I get back. First, the New York Times online archives include this hilarious old-timey article about The Game, published in 1894 (that link opens a .pdf). Sample quotation: "Of the visitors the Yale men seem to be in the majority, and they are walking about the streets shouting their college cries and flaunting the blue in the eyes of every one." Doesn't that make your heart swell? And don't miss this stirring quotation from Ray Tompkins himself, here named as "one of the coachers" (typo or archaism? You make the call!): "If Yale wins, and I think she should, Harvard will be badly beaten." And I bet she will holler boola-boo.

Second, I really enjoyed this recent Onion article: "U.S. Military Wasting All Its Victories on Notre Dame." It reminds me what a blessing it is that the true significance of the Yale-Harvard rivalry, even on a symbolic level, is virtually nil. That utter lack of consequence is what makes it so much fun, at least for me. But then, I also really enjoy those cartoon "competitions" they broadcast at baseball games, where you cheer for your favorite hot-dog condiments as they race toward the branded finish line. So make of that what you will. (Also, not that it matters now, but that's sparkling cider I'm chugging up there. So, again, my idea of "fun" may not match up with yours.)

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

I follow Winchell and read every line

I finally got around to watching Phffft!, DVR'd from TCM two months ago. I learned from my TV friend Robert Osborne that the title comes from Walter Winchell's gossip column; "phffft" was his onomatopoeia for the dissolution of a noteworthy marriage. A lame title for a very lame movie, I'm afraid. I thought it was a good sign that Phffft! was released in 1954, like two of my favorite movies, It Should Happen to You and A Star Is Born, and has much in common with both. Like the former, it pairs Jack Lemmon and Judy Holliday in a Manhattan-set romantic comedy; like the latter, it features Jack Carson at his smarmy best. Unfortunately, it seems 1954 had only so much film magic to go around. But Phffft! does have one thing you can't get anywhere else, at least to my knowledge, and that's an inspired and deeply bizarre comic performance from Kim Novak. Yes, Kim Novak! From Vertigo! I bet you didn't know she could be funny. (In truth, it's a little bit unsettling to watch.) Of special note is the scene where she performs an enthusiastic dance -- with pom-poms! -- while a crowd sings "Boola Boola." Yalies owe it to themselves to check this out, before this Saturday's Game if possible. What better way to get in the spirit?

Speaking of previous entries: Remember when I complained about the useless angel tokens I keep getting in the mail from CRS? Well, I was flipping through a Sundance catalogue the other day, and much to my surprise, I discovered that they aren't useless after all. It turns out little coins with angels on them make terrific gifts! I love this: "We'll send you 20, enough for everyone you love." I suppose they're assuming, if you're the sort of person who would give these out as gifts (and spend more than a dollar on each), you couldn't possibly have more than 20 loved ones.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I only send you my invitation

festive, no?Our wedding invitations are out in the world at last! I took them to the post office early Thursday morning, and by Friday they were arriving in mailboxes (or so I am told). I was in Scranton this weekend for my bridal shower -- and my new niece's baptism -- so I was actually on the scene when my parents' invitation showed up. Gee, I hope they can make it. It would mean a lot to me.

I spent a lot of time putting our invitations together, from font-downloading to rubber-stamping (the fiance was responsible for ribbon-cutting). Time I might have spent blogging. Or doing interesting things I could later blog about. But my free time is spoken for these days. And since all my favorite Weddingbee posts are about stationery, I thought I could at least tell you all a little bit about my own low-tech process. The craftily inclined should read on, and the rest of you can go check out the latest LOLcats.

So, first of all, the text itself. As I mentioned previously, I did all the design and layout work in Microsoft Word. If I had to do it over again, I'd probably invest in some actual design software, because in the time I spent trying to get Word to do my bidding I could certainly have learned to use something new and ultimately more efficient. Once we settled on our wording -- and I swallowed my copyeditor's aversion to beginning a sentence with the awkward phrase "Together with their families" -- I spent an embarrassing amount of time trying out different font combinations. And justifying, centering, bolding, playing with character spacing... It was a blast. I had to use the fiance's Mac to convert the final designs to .pdf's, and the longstanding mutual animosity between me and Apple computers was only amplified by this back-and-forth process (but why are the margins different now? Why?!). But I emerged victorious.

When everything was ready at last, I took my printouts and my .pdf's to my favorite local print shop, Village Copier on Broadway at 112th Street. It's not the closest or most convenient option, but I'm very loyal, because they're always pleasant and helpful, and until I found Village Copier I thought poor service in copy shops was a given. There were a few such shops on my college campus, and every time I conducted any business at any of them -- making photocopies, ordering a course packet -- the staff treated me (and everyone else) with a combination of impatience and outright disdain, as though there were a "NO STUDENTS" sign on the door and I had chosen to defy it. Some options were less awful than others, but it was simply expected that the transaction would be grudging on their part, in spite of the fact that they depended utterly on our business. I thought it must be this way everywhere, but every time I've been to Village Copier I've had a positive experience. I mean, they're not serving me tea and polishing my shoes while I wait; it's just basic, decent service. But I appreciate it deeply. And they did a fine job printing my invitations on parchment cardstock, and cutting them, too. And I had them back the morning after I dropped off the design! Here's a peek at what I came up with: the honor of your presenceIt's not so blurry in real life.

Meanwhile, I did some shopping for the other necessary supplies: A trip to Michaels yielded, among other things, a rubber stamp of a Celtic cross (to set that Irish Catholic tone) and green and gold ink pads, which created the effect seen above. I purchased "pocket folders" from the cheapest source I could find, Cards & Pockets. Their website leaves much to be desired, but I guess that's how they keep their overhead low -- and I had a better customer-service experience than you'd expect, given their shoddy web presence. The envelopes (outer and response) came from Paper Source, a website that seems much more professional until you actually try to use it. I initially tried their letterpress design tools, and gave up in frustration; while I was trying to decide which envelopes to buy, the site suddenly emptied my shopping cart, leaving me to start from scratch. So Paper Source gets many demerits for their pretty but infuriating website; still, I like their envelopes, and I'll probably shop there again. Finally, I bought a mess of ribbon from Kate's Paperie, taking advantage of a sale that left me feeling brainy indeed. The fully assembled set, with all these items, looks like this: open me!Ordering everything in pieces left me with one more puzzle -- how to get our return address on both sets of envelopes? My solution was to order an address stamp from Vista Print. I uploaded my own .pdf, using the same font I'd used for the invitations, because I decided I just couldn't live with the fonts they had available. (Invitation recipients: Please take note of my efforts.) And it worked out great. And we can keep using the stamp until we move, so I figured it was a solid investment. Here's a glimpse at how it looked, although of course in real life you can read the address:Then I just had to put all the pieces together. I won't bore you with adhesive recommendations, but drop me a line if you really want to know what worked for me! I laid out the inserts for the truly curious:please respond The hardest part of all was the envelope-addressing. I always thought the "inner envelope" -- the practice of placing your invitation in an unsealed envelope, writing the guests' names on it, and then placing that in a slightly larger outer envelope on which you write the guests' names (following different rules of etiquette) and address -- was a pointless and wasteful formality. But now I see its usefulness. When you have an inner envelope, you can use it to write the names of the invited individuals, so there's no confusion about to whom the invitation is extended. So people don't invite random extras -- I know, who does that? But apparently it happens. And our guest list is on the huge side already, so we're trying to take precautions. Anyway, having an inner envelope also makes the wording on the outside much less awkward; I declined to use the "Mr. & Mrs. Man's Name" construction on principle, but that made some of our combinations a tad unwieldy. On top of that, you have the standard scrambling to update your address list, and some confusion about people's full names (there were a few cases where I knew the full name but went with the nickname anyway; we're inviting friends and family to a party, after all, not presenting strangers with the Congressional Medal of Honor). So I was very glad to finally cart the whole mess to the post office.we have big familiesIf you poke around on wedding-related message boards and discussion forums -- and I hope you don't, at least not until you need to -- you are likely to hear a lot of talk about the mailing of invitations, and specifically about "hand-canceling." You see, if you just hand over your finished invitations to the postal clerk, he or she will run them through the stamp-canceling and sorting machines, and the machines can leave ugly marks and smudges on your envelopes, thereby RUINING YOUR WEDDING. So fussy brides know they should request to have their invitations "hand-canceled," which means someone (possibly you) cancels each stamp by hand in an aesthetically pleasing fashion. The only problem with this plan is that it requires a visit to, and the cooperation of the employees of, the post office. And -- hard as this is to accept -- the integrity of your wedding design concept is not as important to the average postal worker as it is to you. So the internet is littered with the pained cries of brides-to-be who tripped off to their local post office, a-tingle with bridal excitement, ready to present their lovingly prepared invitations to the people who would guide them to their neatly calligraphed destinations, and encountered the very same joyless atmosphere and surly customer service they should have recalled from every other visit they'd ever paid to the post office.

I vowed I would not be one of these brides. Our invitations had no wax seals, tassels or irregular bulges; the envelopes were not square; I didn't pay for calligraphy. And you've already heard my feelings on the stamps. I separated out the handful of international invitations, and calculated the postage beforehand. I didn't want to have them hand-canceled or otherwise coddled; I didn't want anyone to congratulate me or smile at me or even make eye contact. I just wanted to drop them off. And I did, with no trouble. I didn't even have to wait in line, since they were already stamped. (As I said above, I saw the invitations that arrived at my parents' house on Saturday, and I think they're much improved by the big mechanical cancellation across Margaret Chase Smith's noble face.) So now I'm hoping the postal gods will reward us by speeding our response cards back to us.

After all that was finally finished, I couldn't wait for my shower -- an event I could enjoy and not have to plan! It was a blast. Now I have lots of thank-yous to write, so if you'll excuse me...

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Please address all correspondence to "One Mollie Lane"

This week's New Yorker has an amusing "Talk of the Town" item by Ben McGrath about "vanity addresses" -- you know, when a building's entrance is on a cross-street, but the address misleadingly places it on the avenue around the corner. (Although in certain neighborhoods, like my future home of Hell's Kitchen -- aka midtown west, or "Clinton," while we're on the subject of vanity labels -- it's apparently more desirable to be on the cross-street. The Hearst Tower, for example, claims to be at 300 W. 57th, although the main entrance is on Eighth.) Or when an office building has a made-up address that gives you no information about where exactly it's located. Vanity addresses are just one of Manhattan's little irritations, and everybody seems to want one!

The summer before my senior year of high school, I attended a program for English-lit geeks at Pace University. It was, among other things, a good crash course in finding my way around the city; by the end of the week I was getting around on the subway like a pro. (On the last day, a couple of friends and I strayed a bit too far and, thanks to unanticipated delays getting back downtown, were at least 20 minutes late for the program's closing ceremonies, but I realize now that had very little to do with our novice status, and everything to do with typically lousy weekend subway service downtown.) When I first arrived in the city, though, I had no idea where I needed to be, and I relied on my sister to point me in the right direction. "Where is Pace?" she asked me over the phone, and I looked at the paperwork they'd sent, telling us where to report on the first morning. "Um... It says here it's at 'One Pace Plaza,'" I replied. And this was in 1998, when colleges had lousy websites (if they had websites at all), and there was no Wikipedia, and you couldn't just look up the real address on Yahoo maps. (Also, try telling a cab driver you're going to "One Pace Plaza." Just try.) I got there eventually, thanks to Amy, but I was forever soured on vanity addresses.

That experience wasn't the first that came to mind when I started reading this story, however. No, I was thinking about my very first visit to Conde Nast headquarters, and I laughed out loud when I read this paragraph:
Borelli had a map of midtown on his desk, and noted that this magazine story was likely to be written and edited in a building whose address is 4 Times Square—an honorific that predates his taking office, two years ago. “You could say that it’s across the street from 1 Times Square or 6 Times Square in order to help your friends find you,” he said, and paused before continuing. “I’m being facetious, because where are those places?”
After I survived my week at Pace, went on to get my English degree, and moved to NYC with vague plans of putting it to use, I was invited to Conde Nast for what is known as an "informational interview." Exciting, right? So I scheduled the appointment over the phone, and the person I spoke to (someone in HR, I guess) ended by saying, "You know where we are, right?" Maybe it will give you an idea of my naivete when I say I had no clue where the Conde Nast offices were located. I didn't even know I was supposed to know. In all my years of reading and writing and editing and working to become a good, educated, well-rounded person, the location of the Conde Nast building had never once come up. But this woman's tone made me suddenly embarrassed to have to admit, No, actually, I don't know where you are. "We're at 4 Times Square," she said, and because I felt I'd already started things off on the wrong foot, I pretended that was a sufficient answer. Of course! 4 Times Square! Then I hung up and signed online (via dialup, no less) to try to translate that into actual, useful information.

Anyway, on the topic of pretentious addresses this piece stops just short of being self-aware, but it was a kick to read a "Talk of the Town" story whose shape and angle was directly influenced by the interviewee, for a change. And in case you're wondering, the Conde Nast building is actually on the corner of 42nd Street and Broadway. I guess my having to ask was just another sign that I'd end up where I am now: a blogger, but not a writer.

Fill the bowl to overflowing, raise the goblet high!

Attention, theatre lovers: Speech & Debate has been extended at the Roundabout's new Off-Broadway black box space! Did I mention that the playwright, one Stephen Karam, and I go way back? Oh, yeah, I did. But did I mention that I saw the show a few weeks ago, while it was still in previews, and enjoyed it very much? No, I didn't, because wedding nonsense has turned me into a bad blogger generally and a bad theatre blogger in particular. Fortunately, Speech & Debate doesn't need my help, because it received lots of great reviews after its opening last week. Hurrah for Steve!

Back in our own high school speech-and-debate/drama-club days, we used to email back and forth about theatre coverage in the NYT and on, so it's exciting, and deeply surreal, for me to be reading about Steve in those same spots now. And nothing has been more surreally thrilling than these opening-night pictures of him with Mary Rodgers. Stephen was probably too modest to tell her this himself, but take it from an assistant stage manager (with evidence to prove it): Once Upon a Mattress has never had a more charismatic and lovable Prince Dauntless.

Photo by Walter McBride/Retna Ltd. for

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Private Practice recap: episode 6

What happened on the Halloween episode of Private Practice? Well, not Halloween, unfortunately. But lots of other stuff.
Naomi sits down and says, "Angie's here." Then we cut to a shot of Naomi from the back as a completely different voice, obviously added in postproduction, says, "She finally responded to our phone messages," very quickly, to fit it in before we cut back to Naomi's face. I guess they decided at the last minute that Angie's returning on her own was just too implausible. Unlike the other, much more plausible elements of this story. (Let this be a lesson to you, show: there is no substitute for Audra McDonald's voice.)
Read the rest at TWoP, won't you?

Sorry it's so quiet around here -- we're a little snowed under at wedding central. Invitation madness. Save yourself!