Category Archives: Musicals

On sharing elevators with gay celebrities.

There comes a moment in every New Yorker’s life when her attempts to remain calm, cool, and collected in the presence of a noteworthy celebrity completely and utterly fail. For me, said failure occurred today when I encountered Neil Patrick Harris in a Chelsea elevator.

In the days before both he and I knew he preferred boys, I was devotedly watching him parade around as a sixteen year old doctor on Doogie Howser, M. D. I was only three or four years old at the time, but I distinctly remember placing my face within a foot of the television screen so I could soak in his wit and wisdom and boyish  good looks.

And when he abandoned medicine for life as a playboy in How I Met Your Mother, I politely followed. I was particularly pleased when the writers stated the objective of the show: “let’s write about our friends and the stupid stuff we did in New York.” Coupling my favorite city and my favorite actor sounded like the ideal comedic experience.

But then the unthinkable happened: the Writer’s Strike and the cyber-response from Joss Wheadon, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along BlogI then discovered that Harris could both sing and dance. Suddenly I knew I was in love… with another gay man. He inspired me to begin my one and only unfinished musical: Why Are All The Good Ones Gay?

Consequently, when I found myself enclosed in tight quarters with him yesterday, I felt obliged to pull a stunt similar to my Justin Timberlake encounter, and acknowledge his existence. “Um, excuse me, Mr. Harris. I hate to intrude on your quiet time, but I just have to say how excited I am for you to host the Tony’s this year.”

He responded how sweet I was, but then reverted to a more serious tone: “Could you really tell it was me even with the sunglasses and baseball cap?”

And without a second of thought, I said, “You never forget your first.” Instantly I realized I had should have rephrased my sentiment. I should have said, Of course, I recognize you. I’ve been watching you on television since you had braces and I had diapers. But I didn’t.

He grinned and whispered, “You know I’m gay, right?” And just as the elevator doors opened, I said, “All the good ones are.” I think it’s time I finish my musical.

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Defending my thesis, one dancing queen at a time.

Everyone needs a little Meryl Streep now and then. I find I call upon the Oscar award winning actress in moments of distress; for example, in the minutes leading up to my thesis defense.

Despite the fact I had spent over a year researching and writing my thesis, the prospect of academic interrogation still made me shudder. No amount of Starbucks could calm my nerves. No friendly pep talks could convince me I was about to experience anything short of an inquisition.

And so I did what any Jew with an ounce of rhythm would do: I broke out the Mamma Mia soundtrack and danced to the sweet tunes of Ms. Streep. As a child I distinctly remember Mama B breaking out the Broadway show tunes when faced with adversity. Together we would sing “I feel pretty and witty and gay. And I pity any girl who isn’t me today.” And somehow I would come to believe I was the luckiest little Starbucks fiend around.

Only today I decided to assume the identity of a dancing queen– “young and sweet, only seventeen.” Little did I think passerbys would share my appreciation for Meryl Streep or ABBA. But within seconds there was a knock on my door.

Now when one finds herself using her diet coke bottle as a microphone, belting out a 1970s Billboard 100 song, she hesitates to let anyone interrupt her groove. However, I was feeling charitable and so I shouted, “Enter, but only if you are ready to shake it like a polaroid picture.”

Of course instead of being one of my hallmates, it was the lovely cleaning lady Maureen. As a devout musical junkie herself, she asked if she could join in on the celebration. Giving her a spare coke bottle, I provided her with the means to join my spontaneous dance party.

The fun did not stop there. A few first years, having completed their first finals, knocked and asked to join in jubilation. Within minutes, I had a full-fledged musically  themed dance party happening in my humble dorm room. Women of all ages rocking out to Mamma Mia in a myriad of interpretative manners.

Sadly my spontaneity came to an abrupt conclusion when I realized my defense was in less than ten minutes. Shuttling my fellow partygoers out, I promised to repeat this magic sometime in the near future. For now, I had to Swiffer and head to the Political Science Department.

And currently, an hour post defense, I can honestly say I am ready for another musical adventure. I received honors, and if that doesn’t call for a little West Side Story sing-a-long, I don’t know what does.

The intellectual capacity of a peanut.

I tend to seek guidance from Broadway musicals, particularly in moments of emotional duress. In the midst of final projects and New York apartment hunting, I found myself blasting Footloose highlights when few in the library would notice. My song du choice: “Heaven Help Me,” performed by a Bible Belt preacher who has banned all dancing in his small southern town.

Though I never suspected I would come to identify with a musical version of Mike Huckabee, I nonetheless have. And at 11:45 last night, I was singing, “If heaven can’t, who can?” rather loudly from a deep dark corner of the digitizing room in the library. Though none paid me any attention, I found it liberating to engage in a little preacher-inspired karaoke.

When I subsequently received my first ever ill-intentioned blog comment in my however brief blog career, I attempted to sing– a la Lucy Ricardo– “Heaven helps the man who fights his fears.” Said commenter stated that I was a fool to adore Howard Schultz, Starbucks CEO and Coffee God, because he was just another example of the capitalist caffeine agenda at play.

Now as a woman who takes her coffee extremely seriously, I was quite frustrated by the insinuation that only a person with the intellectual capacity of a peanut would endorse the mermaid-loving caffeine establishment. I subsequently responded that only an individual with the emotional capacity of a peanut could post such a comment. Then, as all bloggers lacking thick skins do, I deleted the egregious comment– sending it into the permanent depths of cyberspace.

At this point I was prepared for the midnight warning library bell to shake me of my blogger jubilation, and so I determined to blast one final song: “Time Warp.” After sitting in front of a computer for eight hours, I was ready for a jump to the left and a step to the right. And yes, I’ll admit it, even a pelvic thrust.

In the words of this lovely poster– courtesy of my favorite cinematic partner-in-crime:

This little coffee addict is ready to collect her diploma and take the city that breathed life into her by storm.

I wish I believed in Santa Claus…

because then I could comfortably make a list of items I would like to be found underneath my Christmas tree. However, as a Jew, and one who will conveniently be traveling on December 25th, I imagine I will have to resort to alternative methods of capitalist perpetuation. Perhaps I can pray for a Chanukah miracle.

Since Chanukah starts obscenely early this year– December 1st to be precise, it may be a quicker means to material attainment. And yes, as a senior on the verge of a nervous breakdown, my list is rather long. I have abbreviated it for the purposes of maintaining reader interest.

1. Tickets to Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, the Broadway musical based on the 1988 Pedro Almodovar film of the same name. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I love musicals. They infuse an otherwise mundane reality with a choreographed form of spontaneity that inevitably makes my otherwise pessimistic state a little more optimistic. Yes, basically they make me smile; kind of like a grande skinny vanilla latte, but only calorie-free.

And this particular musical also captures some important life lessons about being a woman– in this case, in Spain– but in a more generalized sense, in a society on the verge of its own sort of post-modern feminist reawakening. Over the course of a 48 period, the lives of four women unfold on stage, and the power of sisterhood is both challenged and reinforced. Or so the online description claims.

I identify with the woman in red.

2. An Anthropologie gift card. I admit that gift cards tend to result in new obsessions for me. I mean my mother gave me a Starbucks gift card for Chanukah my senior year of high school, and well, she basically created a monster of the hyper-caffeinated variety.

However, as someone in the midst of refurbishing my wardrobe for my impending introduction into the real world/work environment, in which jean skirts and turtle-covered cardigans do not scream, “lean, mean, and professional,” I believe investment in clothing to be more of a necessity than anything else. And, as Michal can attest, I am fully capable of walking into and out of Anthropologie without charging my mother’s credit card.

Of course, in addition to purchasing appropriate professional attire, I am also kind of craving a certain Christmas-esque sweater that involves the Wellesley mascot: the Fearless Squirrel

3. Pre-order of the SmittenKitchen cookbook. This, in my opinion, is the most practical gift. Since SmittenKitchen is the reason I tamed my inner Western feminist and began enjoying the experience of being a 21st century woman in the kitchen, I feel it is only appropriate to purchase her official cookbook (set to be released early next year).

I suspect my grandmother may pay for this little culinary conquest, as she has countless of times reminded me, “Yaffa, dear, no man will marry a woman who can’t cook.” I know it’s wrong to play the marriage card, but if it going to be a constant matter of discussion between my grandmother and myself (the one she refers to as the “barren grandchild”), then I might as well find a means to profit from this inevitable pre-Sabbath phone conversation.

And seriously, who can resist sweet potatoes with pecans and goat cheese?

4. An apartment in the Webster Apartments— a relatively affordable means of living in New York without paying the egregious rents. Yes, I am still bitter that the Rent is Too Damn High candidate did not win the race for governor. The only catch with the Webster Apartments– no men allowed. Now I am almost certain my grandmother will not support this residential endeavor, but I believe that after four years of the ya-ya sisterhood, I can survive in a testosterone-less residence– at least temporarily.

Also, it strongly resembles a brownstone, which is what the Beloved Roommate and I aspire to own– ideally on the Upper West Side, but we are open to geographical, Manhattan-based suggestions.

5. A blackberry that is not possessed by some evil, developmentally slow spirit. My current blackberry, which I should mention is only a month old, has a tendency to act disabled. It freezes up on command– kind of like those fainting goats, who “faint” or fall over every time their muscles are about to contract.

And while I know I should probably drop by my neighborhood Verizon store, I am holding out for a Chanukah miracle. Or, at least waiting until I finish my finals period, at which point in time I can pretend to embrace the land of the living once more.

Distractions, or, the reason I may not pass my human biology midterm.

There is a disease common to most of my 21 year old peers that find themselves in their final year of collegiate conditioning, and it is called senioritis. The symptoms are fairly universal– a tendency to procrastinate on academic assignments, the ability to be distracted by the most mundane of earthly observations (think: leaf rustling in the wind), and the inevitable increased dependency on caffeine because between the time wasted not doing work and the actual work alternative means of energizing are needed.

I am the perfect example of an individual plagued by the epidemic, which seems to be spreading throughout Wellesley this days. Only in my case, I resort to blogging as a means of procrastinations. And have, despite my looming biology midterm at 8.30 am tomorrow morning, decided to share my latest distractions with a larger cyber-based audience.

I begin with a review of last night’s festivities: the Sara Bareilles concert at the House of Blues in Boston. This woman may actually be my fashion idol. She wore suspenders and heals, and frolicked about on top of grand pianos. Did I mention that her lyrics also kind of rock my world? My inner feminist was particularly pleased with her number “Fairytale,” in which she rejects the notion that every princess needs a prince charming to redeem her. Sometimes princesses, she reasons, can redeem themselves. And under certain circumstances, Bareilles even conjectures that a single princess is better than a claustrophobic happy ending:

Now for you, dear prince, I’m tired today,

I’d rather sleep my whole life away than have you keep me from dreaming

I may just have to turn her lyrics into bumper stickers.

My new girl crush: Sara B.

Upon returning from the concert that made me shout “girl power” on repeat, I happened upon a film newly released in New York and soon to arrive in Boston: “Guy and Madeleine on a Park Bench,” which all the film critics have categorized as 1930s Hollywood musical meets 1960s French New Wave. In other words, it’s a black and white documentary-style film, in which characters break into spontaneous musical numbers.

For me, it is the ideal combination of my new favorite genres, and I think excellent preparation for my seminar on Godard and Varda, two New Wave directors who I will be studying in depth next semester. Of course, I should probably focus on the directors I am endeavoring to write about this semester first, but as I stated above, I am a victim of senioritis, for which the only cure is graduation.

Then there is the inevitable book for leisure. Such books assume the reader has leisure time at her disposal. I don’t. Nonetheless, I have secured a copy of the book The Journalist and the Murderer by Janet Malcolm. It details the true, but difficult story and task of each journalist: to write a provocative story, while staying true to the essence of the subject. And, as much of the book is devoted to, it details the repercussions of sensationalizing through the narrative of a court case– in which the murderer sues the journalist for falsifying his story. It’s the mixture of journalism and law that made it a must read for me. And fortunately, it is less than 200 hundred pages.

And now I must be off to engage in another symptoms of senioritis: caffeine. Wish me luck as a I make my way across a rather rainy, leaf-covered terrain. The bright side of this gray day is that all the Starbucks baristas– in both Wellesley locations– now know my drink. It makes the process of ordering go extraordinarily quickly, and despite my ailment, I value efficiency.

The Yaffa Plane: Attempting to defy gravity

Though I have no recollection of the following incident having transpired on several occasions, photographs in my baby book confirm that, in fact, the description I am about to share is factually accurate.

As a child, I would often find myself sitting on top of my family’s microscopically-sized Queens, New York refrigerator. My father– for his own sheer amusement, or perhaps to avoid his diaper-changing duties– would place me on top of his favorite technological invention of the 20th Century. Then he would proceed to engage in his usual hyper-intellectual activities, such as reading The New York Times or perusing his 1000+ page  biography on some obscure American president, all the while consuming a favorite beverage in the Fredrick-Blumenthal household: coffee.

Inevitably my mother would return home from a strenuous day at the lab/in the grocery store/on the Starbucks line and have a mild panic attack when she witnessed her one and only daughter on top of the refrigerator– particularly because said daughter would be given little parental guidance from her father, engaged in otherwise literary activities.

Words, er, loudly articulated expressions would be exchanged. And then my father, true to his Mr. Clown sense of humor, would lift me off the refrigerator, exclaiming, “Behold! The Yaffa Plane!” His point, if one can surmise one from his failures of supervision, was that I was capable of defying gravity, reaching impossible heights, indulging my inner metaphorical mountain climber.

Through the years, both my parents encouraged me to continue to fly, and often without the requisite parachute or experienced co-pilot beside me. Placing me in new and creative summer “camps”– ranging in content from African dance to digital photography to rocketry and science– they challenged me to challenge myself.

And though I kvetched about constantly having to reorient myself to new people, obscure places, and unorthodox surroundings, I realized the other day just how much I have internalized the message 6 month old Yaffa could not fully comprehend on top of the family fridge.

In a meeting with my favorite Wellesley professor, who is both outside my two majors and not from New York, Jewish, or in love with coffee, I found myself admitting to him just how much I craved England. Having just begun my London School of Economics MSc in development journalism application, I had Old Blighty on the brain.

Said professor, Professor M, could not help but comment, “My dear, you have this wonderful restlessness in you; it’s the mark of a good journalist. You are ready and willing to enter a globalized world, and to cite one of your favorite musicals, defy gravity.”

I paused, uncertain of whether it was the appropriate time to share my baby story, and instead opted for, “Well, I can’t imagine that trying to defy any other cosmic force would be both as rewarding and as disappointing as gravity is.” And as a senior growing accustomed to the sound of rejection– hence the sudden transition to graduate school applications– I know quite well about the positive and negative consequences of new experiences.

At this point, however, it’s impossible to imagine the costs outweighing the benefits. After all, I’ve been challenging Sir Isaac Newton since I was in diapers.

Meet me in London.

The Magical Mystical Tree Tour, or, the story of my adventure in the Wellesley Botantical Gardens

Though a few weeks delayed, I feel it would violate all rules of blogging etiquette if I were to promise to compose an entry on a particular topic, and then never fulfill said promise.

There are times that I mysteriously forget that I go to college in a quaint New England town, which embraces  all sorts of beautiful little traditions, including the yearly celebration of the Fall Equinox. This year Wellesley decided to conduct a musical tree tour, linking the plants that grace the college’s botantical gardens to musical numbers, performed by men and women who do not face the same challenges I do in holding a tune.

Now normally I would see an advertisement containing the words “trees” and “grass” and proceed to run towards the nearest slab of concrete. After all, my true home is the concrete jungle where dreams are made of. But something about this particular ad caught my eye– perhaps it was the promise of warm, caffeinated autumn flavored beverages. Or, perhaps it was the prospect of engaging in impromptu fruit picking beneath apple and cherry trees. Regardless, I mustered up enough energy, ala my new drink of choice: anything that is sized vente, and convinced my favorite Asian, Allison, to accompany me on said Magical Mystical Tree Tour.

Of course, not being accostumed to spending time out doors and in the presence of plants, I did not wear appropriate attire. I assumed that a light fall skirt and flip flops would suffice– both in terms of warmth and protection from insects. Not surprisingly, I was wrong on both accounts. Not only did I feel the tingly sensation that precedes frost bite, but I also faced the wrath of several large scale mosquitoes, who left my legs looking like an astronomy lesson in identifying constellations.

There were perks, though. Perks that made me regret dropping Horticulture as a sophomore, and may ironically result in me auditing Horticulture as a second-semester senior in the spring. First, the ladies beneath the apple tree, who in addition to supplying crunchy Gala apples, performed a little ditty from 1942 known as “Don’t Sit Under The Apple Tree (With Anyone Else But Me).” Ah, love in the 1940s– characterized by romantic rendezvous in the gardens, rather than cyber-stalking on the internet.

After Allison and I experienced the wonders of the Andrews Sisters (the performers of the aforementioned song), we journeyed onto the cherry tree, under which I was introduced to the wonders of dried cherries. Now I will be the first to admit it– I have an addiction to dried fruit, particularly mango, dates, and pineapple, and particularly those fruits when acquired from a certain Spanish market place. However, given that Europe is no longer my backyard, I have taken to indulging in the finest dried fruits Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s have to offer. And now, after my encounter with dried cherries, I have a new addition to my shopping list.

The highlight of my brief encounter with nature, however, was a less healthy alternative to fruit. In fact, it was one of those moments I could imagine my grandmother sighing and then saying, “A moment on the lips, forever on the hips.” It happened beneath the maple tree. And though I no longer can recall the specific song associated with maple, as I was introduced to the edible delight known as maple cookies, “Heaven Must Be Missing An Angel” played distinctly in the foreground of my mind.

New England Comfort Food

The maple cookie is your standard high-glucose baked goods, but with maple syrup. And being as how said syrup is derived from trees unique to New England, it is only natural to apply the wonders of the sugary sap to my new favorite comfort food: the maple cookie.

Inspired, I adapted the recipe, or conducted an experiment of the culinary kind. Upon consulting a new adorable blog about country bumpkins, entitled “I Live on A Farm,” I came across an improved version of the cookie– maple AND peanut butter. And let me just say, I haven’t smiled this much since Starbucks came out with its whimsical holiday red cups. Happy Fallidays!