Tuesday, June 29, 2010

European Adventure Days 1 & 2

So I kept telling myself that I really needed to write things down while I was abroad over the past two weeks (the 10th - 24th of June). I kept reminding myself over and over that I would forget all of my favorite things if I didn't take the time to write them down.

But if there is anyone I have a very hard time listening to - it's myself. So I didn't. I wrote 2 postcards and that's all. Which means now the memories are already starting to slip away. I'm forgetting what things felt and tasted like. Luckily - its Europe, its not too far/too expensive to return to someday. But there is something about your first* memory that is so important. They should really all be written down.

To readers- these blog posts will probably be unendurably long. Due to my tendancy to overwrite. Feel free to not read, or skip around...you won't miss much.

So my vacation started in the airport - as they all seem to do. I hope that when/if I have kids, they are awesome, fearless fliers. That they completely and totally trust in the magic of airplanes. Because I just don't. I hate every second of take off, and every bump of turbulence. As we desend I tend to tear up because I am sure that death is imminent and I've gotten so close to home/this other place it just doesn't seem fair.

But I make it to airport one, and then airport two. Where I proceed to wait. Luckily, my waiting is made less miserable by a Chipotle vegetarian fajita bowl (with guac, no sour cream). Dulles is easily the worst airport in the DC area, but I like that they're trying to win me over with delicious food options.

Naturally because we're flying commercial airlines, and its 2010 - there is a problem with our flight and so instead of spending moments in JFK, those moments will now be spent in Charles de Gaulle. And by moments, I mean actual, countable minutes as we race from plane to customs to security to gate, a race that would have been easier in English, but luckily the French (despite what I'll say about them later - have a very foreigner friendly airport).

Once we land in Rome, Rachel has her first panic about Something Bad. This time its that we did not go through customs a second time after getting into Italy. No amount of reassurance from various sources would pacify me. We were seconds from being deported.

Also we meet our first Cousin. Lei Lei (pronouced exactly like the necklace, except twice). Lei Lei drives like a blind bat out of hell, wears a fanny pack and a gold chain and speaks some English. But most of the car ride is spent listening to Dad and Lei Lei speak the gibberish of Italian while the three kids sit in the back, silently (and not-so-silently) fuming that we don't know the words.

Santa Severa has that wonderful mediteranian landscape of business in the front

and party in the back.
So its gorgeous no matter which way you turn.

Santa Severa is a wee little beach town, but it has its own castle, which is probably more impressive in the US than in Europe where castles are a dime a dozen. This one was nice though.
Our first day (Friday) was pretty lowkey. We got to the house and then went out for lunch. We had radicchio lasagna which was delightfully cheese-y and didn't taste nearly bizarre as it looked. I also had my very first bottle of carbonated water. Mmm. I love that carbonated water is so common in civilized parts of the world. Its such a better addition to the meal.

After lunch we tried to get Bear's and My Eurail pass all in order. This was the first of many times that the Italians were not cool with me wanting to be prepared. My cousin insisted that all of these reservations and validations could be made later, later and I shouldn't worry so much. But I kept pushing - which was good, because I think we may have gotten two of the last bunks for our overnight train to Paris. Everything else, I probably could have been a little more lax about, but that's not really my travel style.

Friday night we went for drinks and which come with various short eats (olives, potato chips, peanuts) which is kind of a nice deal. We drank Corona, which was absurd, especially when they put a lemon in it. But my taste for Italian beer had yet to be developed before dinner and gelato.
This is the kind of gelato that people write love poems about. Its so amazing. This particular flavor (Chocolate Fondant) was so dark and rich. It was easily my favorite part about Santa Severa. It felt so indulgent and hedonistic to eat something so good. Especially when (later in the week) it was combined with world cup soccer and free wi fi.

Day two was dedicated to beach lounging and eating more delicious, yet simple food. Day two's shout out goes to the prosciutto crudo e mozzarella panini we had for lunch. It was just a pre-made sandwich sold by the beach stand near our house, but it was by far one of the best sandwiches I've ever eaten and I have a wicked thing for sandwiches.
At this beach apparently you don't bring your own umbrella and beach chair - you rent them from the establishment, which is pricey but hands-free.

There were far too many kids in the water for it to be an acceptable option for a grouchy senior citizen like myself. So we just sat, and read and napped. And then when it got to hot we went back to the house where it was dark and cool and sat, and read and napped.

I had forgotten how nice it was to be on vacation and not feel like it was necessary to *do* stuff all the time. And the rest of this vacation was so manic, that these first couple days of quiet were, in retrospect, kind of perfect.
Stay tuned for days 3 - 14.

Wednesday, June 09, 2010

Masters of our domain

I've been taking classes, working and performing at iO for over 3 years, which is like 6 months in improviser time. Most people here are lifers, if they're for longer than just a year. Its a little different for me because my focus here has been on working rather than performing. For many reasons - but one of the simplest is - you get paid to work here, and you have to pay someone else to perform. And I am an economical girl at heart.

When you perform you spend most of your time before the show hiding from people to "prepare" (read: start drinking) and then after its mostly people fawning over you and trying ingest your harold team Aura.
My job is all about interacting with people and for the most part, it leaves me wanting to claw my eyes out - but it has it's highlights. Talking to tourists is always way more fun than you think its going to be. And they all take everything you say as the word of God. Also people ask me my opinion, and who doesn't love dishing that out? Improvisers pretend that they like/remember me so that I'll give them free tickets for their friends and put up with their tedious requests. Sometimes I see new friends, and even better - old friends and have a nice opportunity to catch up. And there are long stretches when I don't have to talk to anyone.

All this being said - I love this place. I talk a lot of crap about it, but it was one of the first places that made me happy in Chicago. And it consistently has been a place full of people who get me, and so make me feel comfortable in my own skin...something that happens less than you may think.

So there is this certain subset of people I've noticed when they come in. They're almost always students - most students who have gotten past their third class in level one, understand the student protocol of just going where you want and not actually bothering to pass go. But they're students who are bringing non-students in - and so must stop by my door and buy my wares (not dirty like...I'm just trying to keep my job as vague as possible). While its fun to watch students explain to their muggle friends how exactly buying a ticket works - as if the friend is some sort of imbred ginger... its more fun to watch students bring dates to iO. I don't see it very often because I only work week nights - but occasionally it happens and most nights the crowd is slow enough for me enjoy the show.

These students are so full of pride for themselves, for the performers, for the building. They ask me who is playing and then nod knowingly, occasionally throwing a trivia nugget to their muggle date about someone, just to show that they know everything. The student always pays - even if its a girl. As if to say - "I'm bringing you here as my date, this is a special gift. More special than a V-card. You get to go to an iO show with someone who Knows."

I'm sure throughout the show they lean over and whisper explanations of what is happening. "See how he said that? Its called a callback - and its funny because he's now said it twice, but it'll be more funny when he says it the third time." They'll buy the beers - explaining that iO is superior because of their wide variety of specialty brews and perhaps you would like to try this one, its called PBR - they serve it in a Mason Jar here. Its so funny and improv-y"

At the end of the show they'll stick around and talk to the one person they know who has just performed. And by know, I mean, maybe saw once in a workshop. Or had for a class. Or if they're really lucky, got obliteratingly drunk with at 4 in the morning one time in this very room before a taco bell run and an endless wait for the 22 bus. That celebrity will patiently talk about whatever you can come up with, because improv people (for the most part) are totally awesome like that.

And then that iO student will take their date back out into Wrigleyville. Occasionally I get a half-hearted wave as they brace themselves for the drunkenness waiting outside. I always wonder what happens to them. How the dates feel about this place. Do they get it? Do they get the magic? Do they know why we come and sit and watch shows until all hours? Or why we sit (or stand) and wait on parents from Rockford or bachelorettes from LaGrange?

I hope so. I really hope that they walk home with their iO catch - and maybe give them a hug (don't give away the milk, people - its just a $12 ticket) and say goodnight. And assuming their iO student is not a horrifying ass bucket in real life...they keep them around. For the how to be funny lessons and the education on imports and microbrews and the opportunity to come back to this place every now and then.

Monday, June 07, 2010

Steps of Knowledge

We're sitting on the couch watching youtube clips of old Nickelodeon shows this evening. A few things -

The hosts of these shows were cracked out of their minds. Kirk Fogg has cocaine dripping out his eyeballs. Also the host of Nick Arcade could not look more ridiculous. He basically spent the whole show wearing Bill Cosby's hand me downs. But more white.

You Can't Do That On Television is maybe the most unfunny thing ever. Like state funeral unfunny.

The aggro crag was really just a junk heap. I used to think it was made of like, synthetic mountain material but its really just razor wire and old CPUs. All those kids had tetanus.

Why were kids so terrible at the wave pool on Global Guts? They were filming this in Florida (California?), one would think they had experienced water with some current to it at one point in their lives.

Seriously - it was like the part of SNL after the music act plays unfunny. So terrible.

I don't quite understand the mechanics of Nick Arcade but 1 - apparently neither did any of the kids and 2 - that show was just a desperate plea for kids to buy video games. I'm going to go out on a limb and say that show is why the kids of today are build like baby elephants.

There was a moment in time where the show was called "Super Sloppy Double Dare." That sounds like the beginning of a very low budget creeper Porno.

Also! On double dare there use to be a challenge where you had to pop balloons?! Ugh.

I would have never taken the physical challenge, because I seem to know the answer to every single question on that show.

Wild and Crazy Kids was just a gratuitous waste of resources. Apparently we didn't really care about the world when that show was on. No need to conserve anything. Just pour it all over each other while people laugh at your misfortune.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Sing sing

Excuse the extended break - I've been trying to be better about posting at least a few times a week but I went home to the land of crab cakes and football (with a quick stopover in the land of moose and lakes) and did not have a ton of blogging time.  My younger-but-not-smaller siblings both managed to maintain the family average by graduating on time from various academic institutions.  Buttmunch from Plymouth State University and the Bear from our local High School.  I am very proud of both of them, mostly for actually graduating and also not puking/falling during the ceremony (our family standards are pretty low).  

After the graduations (which themselves seemed utterly endless.  Seriously - so so so boring listening to people's names) there was the obligatory graduation party.  Thanks to father time and uh, mother tedious there was an obligatory 4 day lull between the last graduation and the party itself.  Which was good- because it gave everyone time to prepare and call maids to come clean the house (the maids themselves should really be their own blog post - maids are awesome).  It also gave me time to see people I love and hardly ever see - also eat crabcakes, play bar trivia, imbibe a little too much and spend some serious quality time with my siblings.   

My siblings and I are exactly 4 years apart in school - which is convenient if you think that it means my parents only paid for one college education at a time, but also craptastic, because it means they're paying for a college education for 12 years in a row.  2 sides to every penny, Amigos.

Since we're this far apart, our friend circles don't overlap at all.  In fact, there are a fair number of my sibs friends that I used to make sweet, sweet money baby-sitting for.  And we've always given each other a serious hard time.  Buttmunch for being a lazy boy, Bear for being the baby, and me for being the bossy (always right) big sister.  But in general, these days, we get along pretty well.  Which is kind of awesome...but there are still some things that give me flash backs to being little.

Once upon a time, millions of years ago (when leggings were cool the first time around) - Buttmunch and I told Bear that she was under no circumstances allowed to sing in the car unless she knew every single word to a song.  This was the law and it would be followed.  Mostly by her.  Not so much us.

And now, my sister knows every word to every song on the radio.  Which is impressive (although not that impressive when you consider the lack of variety on the radio these days).  Its nice that we could give her this gift by being bossy d-waffles.  You're welcome, Bear.
Anyway - the rest of the 10 days back East were also really lovely (there was a zoo and a wine/beer tasting - at the same.time), but that kind of stuck with me.  The fact that my baby-sister is all graduated from high school and still follows my stupid rules.

In other news - My summer is going to be very awesome, and I'm very excited.  Also exciting? Nora Dunn just walked into my place of employment.  I get excited from the weirdest celebrities

She's pint-sized and amazing.