Project Optimism: Making Life Happen

I started Improv 201 on Friday and, dare I say, the class is even better looking than my 101 class. What’s with that?

“Do I have to get better looking too, as we move up?” I asked my new improv bestie Amanda as we left class.

“No, you’re already good looking.” she answered without missing a beat.

“Right back atcha.” I winked.

Jill-Amanda

proof. sort of.
my camera sucks since I dropped my phone down an elevator shaft (10 months ago)

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Alice Guest Post: Inspired By My Friends

Every once in a while, my commuter friend Alice gives me a day off by guest blogging for me. 
As you all know by now, Saturday was Jill’s improv showcase. Admittedly I had some trepidation about attending. One, it was on a Saturday – but I did say one of my New Year’s resolutions was to get out more on weekends. Two, no matter how funny and entertaining someone is, when they say “come to my improv 101 performance on a Saturday afternoon” you worry about a certain cringe factor. Well, I needn’t have been concerned about either. The commute was super easy being that Jill and I got a ride in together in the back of her parents’ car like we were 12, and I bummed a ride home with her and Tom. More importantly, the show was super good. I was really impressed. Obviously I could never ever do that. Even when I’ve taken dance classes that require 8 counts of improv I freak out. So kudos to Jill and I can’t wait for the 201 performance.

Afterwards we all went to a bar nearby for conversation and day drinking. I learned about the day jobs of Jill’s fellow improvees (new awesome word I just made up) and how much fun she’d had in the class. I also talked to our really cool friend Erika about some cake decorating classes she’d been taking. And I thought, what the hell am I doing? I’ve started taking ballet classes again which is great, but there are a ton of things I’ve wanted to learn and always found an excuse. “I don’t have the money” “I’m in grad school and busy” “I live in Arkansas” Ok, the last one was pretty legit. But I’m saving money now by not paying rent and my work hours have stabilized for a while and it’s about to not be cold and dark out so I’ve decided to take the plunge.

Today a bought a groupon for a ballroom dance studio ten blocks from my office – I get one group class, two privates and one zumba class. I figured this was a good first step since it doesn’t require a ton of commitment. But I’m pretty sure that come summer I’ll be winning dance competitions in a sequined mini dress.
**Note: I did not coerce Alice into saying my improv show was good. Some people just like me, okay? Also, Alice, way to come through with the word-coining. I’ve been slacking lately.**

Argentina Night, or, My Vacation Was Better Than Yours

Five years ago, three of my girlfriends and I went to Buenos Aires. It was the best trip ever.

It was one of those all too rare vacation experiences where we actually made friends with locals, some of whom we still talk to.

tango

After Tango


 
We went to one house party where we salsa danced on the balcony overlooking the Buenos Aires skyline until sunrise, then went out for pastries. We had the best looking cab driver anyone’s ever seen. (I told him that he was “demasiado guapo para manejar el taxi.”) We went tango dancing, horse back riding, sun bathing in Uruguay, and, obviously, drank a lot of malbec.

I would be remiss if I did not mention this awesomely bad novel that I made everyone read, not knowing how bad it would be.

babhc

The most unbelievable part? She starts a blog that instantly takes off! (I’m not bitter.)

 
But The Buenos Aires Broken Hearts Club just added to our fun because we could see a bar and go “That’s one of the places [the main character] Cassie went! Let’s not go there.”

It was a life changing trip for me. When we reluctantly came back to New York, we decided to reunite monthly for the sole purpose of reliving our trip and pretending we never left. While having become less often than monthly, Argentina Night has survived these last five years. Even through that time that Alice moved to Arkansas (weird).

Last week, we celebrated our five year anniversary at Buenos Aires restaurant in the East Village. For the millionth time, we relived that magical week, drank lots of malbec, and recited Cassie’s stupid toast from the above mentioned book.

“Here’s to the ones we love.
Here’s to the ones who love us.
Here’s to the ones we love who don’t love us.
Hell, screw them all. Here’s to us!”

(Rolling eyes.) So scandalous. “Hell”? “screw”? My virgin ears!

That’s the end of my story. Feel free to tell me about your favorite vacation, or how you’re totally going to do vacation reunions from now on.

Alice On The Edge

Another guest post from Alice, my commiserator in commuting…
 

While living at home has provided some good stepfather/daughter bonding I think I’m letting the commute slowly kill me. First there are the specifics of the LIRR trains themselves. The new ones aren’t awful but the old ones, which seem to be showing up much more frequently and which Jill has discussed here are the worst.

About a month ago I found myself on one where, and this is just my best guess at what happened though the gentleman sitting next to me concurred at the time, the toilet in the bathroom exploded. I did what any sane person with an olfactory sense would do and rushed to the next car at Jamaica, but of course it was packed. And then the doors wouldn’t close and as the prior post described there is a piercing noise that occurs when they go to shut them.

B&T crowd, for sure

B&T crowd, for sure

Another fun fact of this system is that the trains very rarely get you where you need to be when they’re supposed to, regardless of how many times you hear the auto tone voice say “the 7:32 is operating on time.”

Part two of the commuting equation is the people. Now I’ll admit that a few times my faith in humanity has been restored by someone giving me their seat (and no I don’t look pregnant from suburban weight gain) or moved so me and a companion can sit together; but more often they’re pretty much assholes.

There is the guy that shushed Jill and I on a morning train a couple weeks ago. Seriously, like we were in a library, and also like we didn’t know who he was even though he was sitting in front of us. And for the record we were speaking in normal voices about innocuous things.

There are the ones that scream into their cell phones for an hour – I’ve heard all about insurance problems, health issues, bad dates…And of course the ones with no concept of personal space, which is exacerbated when drunk – I’ve been encountering them more and more with the late hours I’ve been at the office. So, I need to figure something out before I become an angry person yelling at innocent young women during rush hour.
 

…after Alice wrote this, I received the following text from her:


“Gum on arm rest – I hate people”

So that pretty much sums it up.

Another *Badge* Of Honor… Get it?

Lovers and friends of Back Home Blog, it’s all really happening for us now.

We (ok, I) have been nominated for, and therefore received (I guess that’s how blog awards work) an award…

versatile-Image-green

I am just racking up the fancy-ass badges

 

To be honest, I don’t really know what the criteria for the Versatile Blogger Award is; apparently it can be anything. I guess that’s the versatile part. Anyway, I’m very honored.

I was nominated by Phil at The Regular Guy NYC (blog.theregularguynyc.com) which is exactly what it sounds like. Phil does it all: reviews restaurants, makes fun lists like the best speakeasies, shares embarrassing facts about his personal life, and even finds time to rant and rave about various things.

Now, just as with Miss America, this honor does not come without responsibility.

New York represent!

New York represent! (AP)


 
Here are the rules:

  • Thank the blogger who nominated you and include a link to their site. (check)
  • Add The Versatile Blogger Award picture to your blog post. (check)
  • Nominate 7 fellow bloggers that you’ve recently discovered or follow regularly and include a link to their site.
  • Let them know you have nominated them.
  • Share 7 random facts about you.

It was a tough choice, but here are my 7 nominees (and, therefore, recipients):

1. Cecile @ tryingtobeconscious
Formerly of Nice, New York, Zurich, and just recently of Christchurch, NZ. She’s also a journalism student and a brilliant writer.

2. Rhye @ 7SeasOfRhye
Left college to follow her high school sweetheart at age 18 and it actually worked out! Now a mother of 4 and multiple degree holder, living in the deep south.

3. Curly Carly @ That’s Just Ridiculous
Ah! 80′s flashback-tastic! Carly regales us with tales from her childhood.

4. WhenCrazyMeetsExhaustion
Hilarious, fed-up mom and teacher.

5. Anita @ The Best Life
Made a resolution to see everything in her life as the best, and is actually doing it.

6. Anka @ Keeping It Real
Anka is a mom that tells it like it is, in a way that still manages to make you happy.

7. Tragic Sandwich
Toddlers. Am I right?

…Now back to me. Here are my 7 random facts:

1. I hate onions. Don’t even get me started.

2. In 6th grade I wrote a poem for D.A.R.E. and got selected to read it at graduation. I peaked early.

3. I enjoy an annual (or semiannual or triannual) cigar.

4. One time, Alice and I saw Clinton Kelly of TLC’s What Not To Wear at Mexican Bingo and he told me he liked my trousers.

5. I rarely use nail polish remover. I prefer to slowly chip my polish off.

6. I have a forever crush on John Mayer. Yes, I know what he did to poor [insert female celebrity name]. The heart wants what the heart wants.

7. Whitesnake’s “Here I Go Again” once got me through a tough day in college.

(email readers click to blog to see the video)

Now blast this and go do something fun! Happy Friday!

 

Alice In Leopardland

Another guest post from my commiserator/friend, Alice

Living with my stepfather is not the easiest thing in the world, any 60 something thrice divorced man who has been living alone for over ten years is bound to get set in his ways. He also seems to not fully understand that I’m no longer 12. So comments like “it’s too cold out for you to be wearing that” or “that isn’t enough to eat for dinner” or my personal favorite “do you remember to put gas in your car?” occur pretty frequently and make me want to scream. Yes yes yes, I know, they come from a place of love; but when you’ve been independent and taking care of yourself, mostly succesfully, for quite awhile they can wear on you.

But that tendency has a flip side which manifests itself in things like making me coffee every morning, even though I have to be up at 6am. So, while moving in with him when I’m about to turn 30 was never part of my plan I’m thankful that he puts up with me. I’m trying to keep this both short and sweet so I will save the details of us living in a house he recently inherited and is still decorated with massive amounts of fake flowers and leopard prints and he won’t let me throw anything out for another time.

photo

Improv 101

Friday morning, on the train, I suddenly blurted out “oh fuck”, as I remembered I have that improv class tonight.

I had signed up at the recommendation of a writer friend that performs with UCB. And ever since, I’ve been dreading it.

I think it’s because of my experience at theater camp when I was around 12. We played this exercise called “TV” where we had to stand on stage and be funny, and every time the teacher pointed, we had to change to a different “channel”. After two channel changes, I froze. I couldn’t think of anything funny. And I never touched improv again.

Fail7

but at least I wasn’t responsible for the worst TV fail of our time
(thank you internet)

So, naturally, with Alice‘s blessing, I tried to leave time for a drink before class. But, it didn’t really work out, so I had to go with caffeine instead.

I walked in 10 minutes early to find about 15 people staring at the door. 15 strangely good-looking people. I paused, contemplating the odds of finding this many attractive people in one room at the same time. I mean, they weren’t all supermodels but they all had a distinctive *look*. Were they all actors? “Hi”, a couple people waved at me. “Hi.” Why didn’t I put on makeup? Why do I wear my hot pink sneakers, always?

I was so curious, I couldn’t wait until the part of the class where we go around and say why we’re here. Turned out, that’s not part of the class, so I still don’t know why they’re all good looking.

Eleanor

apparently there are attractive improv groups out there (http://bit.ly/13pNETF)

I knew the instructor’s name was David Siegel, so as the 16 of us sat staring at the door, I expected someone who looks like my gynecologist to walk in. Instead, it was some kid who couldn’t be older than 32. And, btw, he’s awesome.

Dr. Siegel / David Siegel

Guys, apparently, improv is not that scary. In fact, in long form improv, you’re not supposed to try to be funny. Perfect!

So, I’m not exactly Amy Poehler yet, but I’m working on it.

There’s a 75% chance that I’m later going to regret inviting the world, but if you’re interested in seeing me show off my Improv 101 skills, the performance is March 2.

 

 

Alice Gets Zen

In case you’re new here, sometimes my best commuter friend Alice helps me out by ranting about commuting so I can get a day off from doing so.

Alice And The New Year
I’ve been back home for a little over five months, which has simultaneously gone really quickly and really slowly. Originally I figured I’d be able to go back to being a normal adult (you know not have to call home for a ride every time I got back from the city) by January, the latest. Clearly that hasn’t happened and there are a lot of complicated reasons for why I will continue to be robbed by the LIRR, but Jill isn’t letting me write a novel here. Though seriously, if anyone is interested in buying my rarely driven 2012 Honda Civic leave a comment here, it would totally help me out.

My 2013 resolutions are to one, actually get off Long Island and live in at least an outer borough (Staten Island doesn’t count) at some point. And two, for the time being become a little more zen about this whole thing. In addition to the nonsense that is the LIRR (more on that later) I also have three subways and a 15 minute walk on one end and a 20 minute drive on the other, but whatever. Look, I don’t have much of choice at the moment, so I might as well stop bitching about it and try to make the best of things. I mean, the guys at the Penn Station wine store offer you cups when you purchase a bottle there, that’s a plus, right? I also resolve to start getting out more, so I can actually enjoy this amazing city that I’m in five days a week and remember why I moved back here – even if that means getting home later, sleeping on uncomfortable couches at friends’ houses, or even making a city trip on weekends.

Do I Look Like A Sucker?

sucker

Ok, yes. Yes, I do.

Yesterday, I read this awesome post on Oma’s Blurt Blog, titled “A Lesson In Panhandling And Communication“. Go read it now; I’ll wait.

Alright well, in case you didn’t listen, Oma begins: “I had a friend who pointed out that things happen to and around me that do not happen to other people.”, which reminded me that my sister Amy once said something similar of me. I must get it from my mom, who looks like a sucker too. Amy looks like she doesn’t take shit from anybody.

Pinnella ladies

Left-to-Right: Amy “The Boss of You” Pinnella, Sucker 1, Sucker 2

Oma goes on to describe how a panhandler approached him and, based on my interpretation, tried to scam him (only, Oma is probably not a sucker, because he walked away).

Anyway, his story made me reflect on all the ways I have been scammed, or otherwise taken advantage of, in my adult life. These are just the ones I thought of off the top of my head. Sadly, I’m sure there are others.

1- I once bought Chinese food for a woman, gave her 10 dollars, and listened to her life story (although I believe she actually needed it).

2- I once put an old woman’s long gray hair up in a scrunchy for her because she asked me to as I was coming out of the subway. I looked around for pick-pockets the whole time. This apparently was not a scam, but just proves that I can’t say no if I don’t have an excuse lined up.

3- Based on the same principle, I once gave my Skype phone number to an Hasidic Jew, who I did not expect to hit on me since he was an Hasidic Jew and I wasn’t. He then proceeded to call me 11 times in 24 hours and made me glad I didn’t give him my mobile number.

4- I was legit scammed out of $40 by some guy who gave me his car keys and told me he just needed the money to put a deposit on a gas can, then never came back. I felt really stupid after that one but he was a professional for sure.

5- This woman outside my building, who did not appear to be in need, saw me walking up looking like an easy target, and asked me for some money. “Even $10 would be fine.” Luckily that time I didn’t have any cash, or I probably would have given her whatever was in my wallet because I’m a sucker!

6- I have signed up for monthly contributions to every major charity that employs clipboard people on the streets of New York City. Four so far. Not technically a scam but not exactly a calculated decision on my part either.

7- I once asked my car service driver to carry my luggage up 4 flights of stairs for me. He said he would in exchange for a hug and a kiss. I laughed and said “No, that’s ok” but he parked at a hydrant and carried my suitcase as I nervously followed, clutching my keys. Sure enough, he came in with his toothless mouth for a kiss and when I rejected at him, he gave me the evil eye before turning on his heel and storming down the stairs. I was living with Alice at the time and she recalls how she heard me calling from the door “Thanks anyway but I’m not a prostitute!”

Are those enough examples for now?

Top 5 Reasons to Love The Old Train

As Alice pointed out, I haven’t complained about the LIRR in a while. Well, ok, if the readers demand it…

Background: the LIRR got pretty nice new trains about 10 years ago but every once in a while, you get stuck with an old one, which feature such lovely amenities as….


1. Every seat held together with duct tape.


2. The stylish “wood” paneling.


3. The Seal of the State of New York wallpaper.


4. The short seat on the end. Enjoy your nap.


5. Not pictured: the lights and heat turning off every time there’s a gap in the third rail (which is often).


I guess it makes me grateful for my regular train. How about you, lovers and friends, what’s your public transportation like? I bet you’re riding in style.