Category Archives: Monday Crack

Monday Crack will be about music, culture, travel, food, media, etc. and will be my weekly indulgence, an indulgence of my choice big or small.

Thanksgiving Sunday, Baz Luhrmann, and Australia

It’s Thanksgiving Sunday and we made it through the first part of the holidays, even happily and gratefully.

I went to my niece and her husband’s for Thanksgiving this year.  They got married this past summer and wanted Thanksgiving in their home this holiday.  It was pretty funny because sometime during the day while dealing with all the preparation my niece looked at me and said how she needed to thank my sister because she finally understood what it took to put together a holiday spread like that even with others participating in the dinner.  I had also done it in past years and when she stood up and said they’d like to do it, I had no problems passing along the baton, actually it was quite nice in many respects to do so.

The holiday dinner they prepared was fabulous and included a natural turkey with stuffing, homemade cranberry sauce, homemade butternut squash soup with pumpkin seeds and sour crème, buttermilk mashed potatoes, my sweet potato casserole with pure maple syrup, butter, and pecans, pumpkin and key lime pies, and so forth.  Needless to say no one went away hungry, plus of course there were plenty of leftovers.

The rest of the weekend was spent relaxing, being lazy, continuing to eat well and enjoy, and maintaining the tradition of going to the movies and watching movies.  I also believe that avoiding “Black Friday” shopping helps to keep me in the good spirit of the holiday avoiding the stress that goes along with it no matter how well you do.  Instead we did our best to support the economy and ourselves by going out to eat several times, going to the theater, and spending $5 plus on popcorn.

For me Thanksgiving is about seeing epic drama’s or James Bond movies, etc.  I save the more serious and even what I think might be better movies for other times.  We ended up deciding to go see the new Baz Lurhmann (Strictly Ballroom, Romeo and Juliet, Moulin Rouge) film “Australia” with Nicole Kidman (Lady Sarah) and Hugh Jackman (Drover).  It somehow fit in to the holiday movie theme.  An expansive drama, and a love story that begins right before World War Two and uses Australia is its other leading lady.  It’s about personal relationships, parenthood, bigotry, love of country, friendship, honor and greed.  It was a perfect movie for this past weekend.  And spending two plus hours observing Hugh Jackman (People’s newest sexiest man), and Nicole Kidman is not a bad way to spend an afternoon.  (I’ve been on film sets with both of them and they are actually better looking in person, and I have to say Nicole was quite kind to me when I worked with her.)

The movie “Australia” I thought was good, but I didn’t think it was great although it had great moments.  I felt it was a little long and in my opinion the story could have ended about a half hour sooner.  I didn’t need every loose end to be tied up.  That said I enjoyed seeing the film and felt that both Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman were compelling in their respective roles as was the little boy who played “Nullah,” a challenging role that demanded a strong balance of character, emotion, magic, and sweetness.  I also found myself embarrassingly welling up with tears streaming down my face at various times during the movie.  Some of those tears I felt were warranted and others I felt were there because of manipulation, but I must admit they manipulated me good because I didn’t want anyone to see my face when the movie ended.

When choosing a movie this upcoming holiday I would say if you are looking for an afternoon or evening escape, if you love either of the two leading actors, if you want to see amazing landscapes of an Australia you don’t see in Sydney, I recommend this movie to you.  Also the art direction and costume design is quite good and could get Oscar nods.  If you are looking for a “Best Picture” contender I don’t think this will be it, but I could be wrong.

Over the next several weeks I will attend several Screen Actor Guild Screenings with Q&A’s with the actors, writers, and directors.  Those movies include, “The Reader,” “Revolutionary Road,” “Doubt,” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” to name a few.  I’ll keep you posted with updates.

Monday Crack – Thanksgiving Thursday

Thursday is Thanksgiving.  It was also my mother’s birthday and is my friend Rhonda’s birthday as well as my friend Joy’s, so it is definitely a day of celebration and a day full of memories.

When I was a kid there would be 25 to 30 people gathered around our table for the holiday dinner.  My mother would buy a 27 lb. turkey, which became the centerpiece of our feast, and I would spend the day basting the turkey for my mother.  We all knew that I took the job so I could nibble on the stuffing before anyone else.  My mother had pilgrim and turkey candles on the table every year that we never lit, and Thanksgiving napkins and other decorations.  My sister threatened to pull them out last Thanksgiving as neither of us could ever throw them away.  They represented our parents and happy funny times together as a family.

I think Thanksgiving was our favorite holiday at least for us kids. Growing up Jewish in the Midwest, this was a holiday everyone celebrated and so did we.  At Christmas time no matter how my father decorated our house for Chanukah, all my girlfriends felt sorry for me that I didn’t get to have a Christmas tree and that Santa skipped over our house.   So Thanksgiving was a big deal in our house and our family did it up big.  Our holiday dinner was a feast and a tradition that has continued with us kids, now the adults.  Of course we have added a few of our own favorite dishes, and my nephew is a great vegan chef so along with the turkey there is now tempe and lots of other wonderful cooked vegetables.  My sister has added a macaroni and four cheese platter to the already carbohydrate fat heavy dinner and my specialty is a mashed yam dish with lots of butter, pure maple syrup, chopped pecans or walnuts, a hint of cinnamon and a hint of cayenne, and on at least half the casserole there has to be melted marsh-mellows for my one niece.

Unfortunately this year for the first time we will all be scattered among NYC, Ohio, and Oregon.  Parts of our family will be together but this is the most physically scattered we have ever been.  We will really be stretched out among the three states.  Some of it is because new families have begun and there are other obligations, part of it is because of these economically challenged times.  But as happy as we will all be, there will also be a sadness in not being together, not sharing our one big holiday together.  I know it will be a good day, but there will be something missing, first off my parents.  I have no doubt they will be looking down upon each of us hoping that we’ll save them some leftovers but most of all they’ll be happy knowing they created a family that loves each other.  We’ll all be on the phone to each other probably multiple times, and that will be nice.  It is not the same but this year it will have to do.  I will miss them all especially my youngest niece and nephew Kaya and Sky.  They are so funny!

Thanksgiving is a day to show our gratitude, to be grateful for all our blessings big and small and if we’re lucky there is food on our table, we are safe, and surrounded by loved ones.  Just those three things are not small accomplishments, so I for one will express my thanks and gratitude for having in my life those important ingredients, and I wish to you all the same and a wonderful holiday weekend and a Happy Thanksgiving Thursday!

Warmest regards,
Audrey

Monday Crack – Bright Food Shop Where Are You?

For years in my neighborhood whenever I got the craving for pancakes there was always the Bright Food Shop, a little southwestern diner in Chelsea with high quality food and the best cornmeal pecan pancakes I or anyone else I know had ever eaten.  When you got that craving your mouth could water but you knew soon you could be satisfied with the thickest tastiest pancakes on the planet served with organic maple syrup.  Every one in my family was addicted and when they would visit from out of town they would be requesting Bright Food Shop for brunch before their arrival.

When I walked into the restaurant the waiter would know my order before I sat down, because rarely although every thing on their menu was good, did I order anything else.  I always assumed they would be there.  The restaurant had been a neighborhood fixture for many years.  I never dreamed I would need to get their recipe and think of fixing them on my own, they were so successful it didn’t enter my consciousness that they could disappear.  Then one day I was walking by and they were closed, they and their sister restaurant the Mexican take out place called Kitchen, also a neighborhood favorite.  I can’t begin to tell you my disappointment and shock.   To this day probably a year or so later I feel the pain.

I was in Vermont in October enjoying the fall foliage, but one can’t think of Vermont or go there without indulging in pure maple syrup.  This morning I was thinking of that weekend away and woke up knowing I had to have something with pure maple syrup.  I wanted to go to Bright, for it to still be there and for me to be able to taste my beloved pancakes once again. I wanted the opportunity to turn new friends on to their pancakes and see their faces after that first bite, when they would be transfixed and in heaven.  Ultimately I went to the Half King and had a delicious waffle with pure maple syrup.  It was very good and I love Half King, but still it was not the Bright Food Shop.

It is my understanding that they lost their lease or decided not to renew their lease as the landlord was asking for a ridiculous increase in rent.  I don’t know if it is true but that’s the rumor that’s been floating around and given the transformation and high costs of everything now in Chelsea, it would not surprise me.  So I’m asking all of you out there, does anyone know the pancake recipe they used?  Did anyone get it before they closed?  Does anyone who worked at Bright want to share it with us or does anyone have a pancake recipe they think could rival the cornmeal pecan cakes from Bright Food Shop?  I’m calling out to all of you.  You can help.  If anyone knows the true story of what happened to this neighborhood favorite and it’s sister next door, or if you know and are willing to divulge their wonderful pancake recipe you would be doing a community service and I’m certain it would assure you a good place in heaven and most definitely in this life.  The maple syrup gods and all your new friends would look upon you most kindly and I’m certain you would be highly rewarded.

Trust me when I say this is a puzzle worth solving.  Has Bright opened some place else, and more importantly where can we get their cornmeal pecan pancakes or ones of equivalent taste and quality?  If you have an answer, please respond with your recipes and thoughts for myself and other readers of this blog.  All of our Saturday and Sunday mornings could then be truly Bright.

I Dreamed of The Gershwin Brothers Especially George

For some reason I started thinking about the Gershwin brothers particularly George last night while sleeping.  I found myself returning in my dreams to a long ago place in my own life where I spent a summer performing almost exclusively Gershwin songs.  I had studied jazz at the University of California in Santa Cruz and a professor asked me to participate in a summer concert series honoring the Gershwin’s that he had arranged.  I was honored!

We played all over N. Central and Northern California.  The concert started off with the pieces Gershwin wrote for two grand pianos, and then the second half were his jazz standards and that’s where I came in.  I sang several songs as a duo with my boyfriend who was a great jazz guitarist, and later I sang with a jazz trio of piano, acoustic bass, and drums.  It was quite an event for me.  We played at some rather famous venues and were also broadcast live on the radio in San Francisco and Berkeley.  For about five months, between my preparation for the concerts and the shows themselves, I must have listened to the Nelson Riddle arranged, Ella Fitzgerald “Sings the Gershwin Songbook” albums at least a thousand times.  She was my bible.

The Gershwin brother’s Ira (born 1896) and his younger brother George (born 1898), were a formidable musical pair.  Together they wrote some of the most memorable and well-known Broadway classics and jazz standards ever written.  Some of the Broadway Musicals they wrote include “Lady Be Good,” “Strike Up the Band,” “Funny Face,” “Of Thee I Sing,” and “Let Em Eat Cake.”  George’s orchestral works included “An American in Paris,” “Rhapsody in Blue,” and “Variations on Fascinating Rhythm;” and his one opera “Porgy & Bess,” included some of my favorite music of all time.  I can hear  in my head as I write this piece Billie Holiday in the background singing “I Loves You Porgy,” an absolutely beautiful, sad, emotive, sultry arrangement!  And for me his most memorable film score was for the movie, “Shall We Dance.”  Everyone from Fred Astaire, Louis Armstrong, Frank Sinatra, to John Coltrane, Sam Cooke, Miles Davis, Julie Andrews to Janis Joplin, Nina Simone, Sting, even Amy Winehouse (see below) and countless others have played and sung the songs of these two brothers.

Ira the great lyricist of the two outlived his younger brother George who died of a brain tumor at the age of 38.  But the two of them together wrote some of the best songs ever written including such classics as “Someone to Watch Over Me,” “The Man I Love,” “Embraceable You,” “They Can’t Take That Away From Me,” “I Can’t Get Started,” “Love is Here to Stay,” “They All Laughed,” “Summertime” and every song from “Porgy and Bess.”   Their imprint on American music and jazz is something that musicians will be studying and emulating for years to come; and their audiences will have the opportunity to hear and be moved by their lyrics and melodies for many generations.

Last night I dreamed of the Gershwin Brothers, especially George….

To hear Amy Winehouse sing Gershwin’s “Someone To Watch Over Me,” either click on the link below or cut and paste it into your browser.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=54QBj0YyoI4&feature=related

Monday Crack – 5 State Fall Foliage Part 1

Mix the old with the new.Beautiful trees guard the Performing Arts Center of Albany.

Rockefeller reflecting.

Friday:
I’m in anticipation of the fall foliage.  I know it’s all around me, but all of it I’ve seen so far, are the vines that surround the window of my apartment.  They are beginning to change color.  I know this sounds sad and in a way it is.  You don’t get much of a fall in Manhattan.  You know it’s fall because the energy in the city changes and everything becomes more alive.  There’s an excitement in the crisp air and you know things are happening.  But if I’m going to live on the east coast and deal with all four seasons, I at least want to be able to appreciate the most beautiful one we have.  All outside Manhattan surrounding us fall is everywhere and I almost missed it this year.  But happily a friend of mine is renting a car and has asked me to go upstate and experience the season.  Tomorrow perhaps I’ll see my first red tree!

Saturday:

My friend got to my apartment around 10am and we started heading outside of the city.  We had an idea of what we wanted to do but nothing was set in stone.  As soon as we got out of the city color started to float past us.  It looked like a package of flavored lollypops were on either side of us as we drove.  Since I had never been to Albany and it’s in a pretty region and it’s New York’s state capital, we decided to start our trip with a quick glimpse of the city and a nice lunch; after all it is the home of my state representatives and governor.

It was different then I had imagined.  It was much prettier and more impressive, old married to the new, quaint and bold, a combination of opposites that somehow together work.  We walked around some beautiful older buildings and visited the Empire State Plaza (seen in photo) a series of modern state buildings, now referred to as Rockefeller Plaza.  In the middle of this complex sits a funny egg shaped building, that’s a performing arts complex.  I’m told, and I don’t know that it’s true, that when Rockefeller, who oversaw the construction of the plaza, viewed the initial drawings he thought the buildings all of the same design, needed something to break them up.  He was eating his breakfast, and supposedly he had a grapefruit in front of him.  My friend said story has it that he picked up his grapefruit, slammed it down on the table, and said to the people attending the meeting, “something like this!”  And so the “Egg Building,” (seen pictured above) was born.  An Albany landmark like Rockefeller imagined, it sits proudly in the middle of the Plaza breaking up the scene of the other buildings that all look much the same, viewing itself with the others in the reflecting pool that sits in the middle.  After a good lunch we decided to head up towards Lake George, where we would get a nice room, relax, see more leaves and trees, commune with nature and spend the night.

To Be Continued in Tuesdays “Daily Crack”

Monday Crack – Iceland, A Volcanic Adventure

The Blue Lagoon adventure. Hot steamy water, wonderfulf for a good soak.

Glaciers and Waterfalls

About three years ago I went to Iceland, a place I was interested in, but never really thought I would see.  My girlfriend Nadine from Santa Cruz was in NYC visiting and staying with me in my apartment.  We had been threatening to take a trip to Amsterdam together for years, but it had never happened.  Nadine mentioned during her stay that Icelandic Air was going to be starting non-stop service from San Francisco to Keflavik, the airport closest to Reykjavik, that May and that she and another friend of ours had talked about going.  Thinking of all the fun we could have, I said if you decide to go count me in.  When I said that I thought perhaps some time in the next year or 3 or 4 we might make the trip.  I can’t tell you my surprise when Nadine left my apartment and just days later I got an email addressed to me, and two of our other friends from California.  It appeared that she had booked flights for all four of us to Iceland, and included in her note, “you have four days to buy your tickets.”

All of the sudden this dream of an idea started to take real shape and form and none of us wanted to be the one left out of this adventure.  Each of us started to approach our work situation to see if we could get the time off.   Miraculously we were all able to and by day 4 we had each purchased our ticket and were committed to the trip.  Then came the communal decision about where to stay.

Being someone who likes to research things, I found myself absorbed.  I started reading everything I could about Iceland and exploring all our housing possibilities.  We threw all our ideas in a pool and finally we all settled on this great place called “Room With A View.”  It’s a wonderful apartment hotel located in the city center walking distance to everything, with great views and terrific hospitality. Everything we wanted was at our fingertips.  (I’ll do a piece on them some other time, as they deserve a page.)

It’s funny because I had seen so many pictures of Reykjavik and it looked colorful and green and beautiful, but when I landed in the Keflavik Airport although very excited I felt like I had landed on Mars.  It’s very barren and flat and all you can see for miles in any direction is a volcanic rock desert.  I couldn’t imagine Reykjavik fairly close by translating itself into the pictures I had seen, but some how it does.  FYI the population of Iceland is only about 320,000 with the majority of its residents living in the capital, Reykjavik.

When you look from almost any vantage point in the city, sitting on top of a hill in the city center, is the famous modern Lutheran church, Hallgrimskirkja, which houses a very large beautiful Nordic designed pipe organ.  I marveled when I saw it, so different from the big older church pipe organs you see throughout the rest of Europe.  Surprisingly to me, most the buildings in Reykjavik are new.  Iceland won their independence in 1944 and many of the houses and structures have been built since then.  There are also lots of brightly painted corrugated houses that if they were Victorian, with the hills and the water of Reykjavik, you could almost think you were in a neighborhood in San Francisco.

There is a thriving art, cultural, and music scene in Reykjavik.  In October for the past ten years a big music festival, the “Iceland Airwaves Festival” has taken place and even with the difficulties the country is now facing it is scheduled to go on as normal.  The people who live in Reykjavik also know how to party and do.  They are infamous for their weekend drinking and late nights.  I guess with extreme living (cold, with long days of sun or long days of darkness) comes extreme partying, but I found during the weekdays the population to be surprisingly sober and hard working.  Iceland has up until now, and I hope it continues, one of the highest standards of living in the world.  I also found the people to be very friendly and helpful and they all speak English.

At the time that I went it was very expensive!  Getting there was inexpensive, but being there made Paris and NYC reasonable and almost cheap.  With the recent financial collapse it is probably more affordable.  But the experience of being some place that extreme, in such a different way from Manhattan or California living, for me was exhilarating!  We walked all over the city, went to museums, ate at some fabulous restaurants, one in particular called “Siggi Hall” I remember, shopped, mostly window, and stayed up late into the night and early morning as when we were there it never got dark so it was harder to go to bed.   Your body just couldn’t register it was time to sleep.

While in Iceland we took a day trip to the hot thermal baths of the “Blue Lagoon” and swam in its waters soaking in all those good minerals.  It was strange to be at a place surrounded by big lava rocks, where you are going to be swimming outside, and you arrive dressed in your winter coat with scarves and gloves.   It’s difficult to imagine yourself soon changing into a bathing suit and splashing about.  But this is what you do and it feels great and is really a lot of fun! (see the above photos).  On another day we decided to be adventurous and rent a little car to explore some sites outside of Reykjavik.  Two of us became the pilot and co-pilot.  At one point it became quite comical.   We were trying to find these geysers and we didn’t know if we were supposed to take a right or left turn.  We made a collective decision to turn right and continued driving.  Then all of the sudden the road just stopped.  In front of us stood this massive glacier.  It became very clear to us that one couldn’t go further in this direction and that we had most definitely made the wrong turn.

We did eventually make it to these amazing geysers, and from there we drove to Pingvellir, the very first Icelandic Parliament built and formed in the year 930.  I think it’s the oldest parliament in the world?  On the way we met some Icelandic horses that are special to the country, brought in by the Vikings in the year 800.  They’re almost pony size with a long coat of fur.  Being animal lovers all of us, we of course stopped to take photos and talk to our new furry friends.  From there we drove to the beautiful waterfalls of Gullfoss (see photo).

I have to say it was a lot of fun driving around in Iceland.  There is so much open space, so much freedom, I wanted to open the windows of the car and yell out to the world in happiness and joy, and I did.

Needless to say we had a great time and it is a vacation I will always remember.  It was an incredible memory to make with my girlfriends, a wonderful adventure and experience to have shared together.  I think during our travels together throughout that week, our laughter could be heard all the way to NYC and on to California.

This is such a short article about the wonders of this country and what a terrific destination it can be.  To begin your discovery about travel to Iceland either click on the link below, or cut and paste it into your browser.

http://www.icetourist.is/

* The above photo’s are courtesy of my friend Karl Westman who took them on a previous trip to Iceland and was kind enough to share them with me.

Monday Crack – “Karito” an Audio Sculpture by David Barratt

Come together.I’ve been hearing about this project from my friend David Barratt for probably more than two years now.  I have to say it’s ingenious and I can’t wait to experience it first hand.  David, a songwriter/composer with gold and platinum albums to his credit, and a recognized world artist, was asked to install his audio sculpture, “Karito,” in the visitors lobby of the United Nations, and the day of his opening after years of anticipation, and many hours of creation, recording and hard work is just around the corner.  David’s installation will be up and open to the public from October 15th through November 19th and we should all try to experience it if we have the opportunity to do so.

“Karito,” the Esperanto word meaning “love of one’s neighbor,” was created from the national anthems of the 192 member states of the United Nations.  David recorded 1500 different pieces of music to put this sculpture together.  What he did was to record all of the anthems in the same key using the exact same instruments for each one; a violin, viola, cello, bass, brass, and a plucked instrument.  The themes were then mixed and individual music files were created and put onto several MP3 players.  He then placed the MP3 players around a room, and put them on random shuffle.

What David has created in the process is a unique experience for the participant.  “Karito” is designed so that when one walks through the space of the installation each step that you take you will hear different parts of a whole, meaning different parts of all the United Nations countries anthems blended together.  Your position and where you walk, will determine what you hear.  As a result each visitor will experience it differently.  With some instruments in the forefront or possibly the background, it will be impossible to determine whether you are hearing the beginning, middle, or end of an anthem, because mixed together they become a musical country of their own, without borders, beginnings or endings.  And since it is random and you cannot predict what you will hear next, you just have to move one foot in front of the other and enjoy the discovery.

Accompanying the audio are large panels that double for walls and written on these panels are the lyrics from the various nations anthems, again in a random order.  It is suppose to create a flow, a continuity that has no beginning or end, much like a circle.

This has been a very ambitious project, years in the making.  It is innovative, of beautiful sentiment, and exceptionally timely and I for one can’t wait to go.  During these uncertain troubling times I am happy to have an opportunity present itself where I get to reflect upon the possibility of peace, coming together, and the creation of a greater whole.

The United Nations Headquarters
First Avenue at 46th Street
New York, NY

To learn more about “Karito,” I have included a link to the website below.  I have also included a link to David’s personal website where you will find much interesting artwork and music.  Just cut and paste the link into your browser to access it.

http://karito.org/

http://www.davidbarratt.com/

Monday Crack – TKTS – Discount New York Theater Tickets

Broadway has gotten very expensive and sometimes we don’t take advantage of what for New Yorkers is in our own backyard, and for visitors what is available when you come to NYC.  It’s sad to think that money can mean the difference from experiencing culture or not, but it can play a big role in what we do and what we don’t or how much we do it.

This past weekend I had a girlfriend visiting from France and she had never been to a Broadway play even though this was her 4th time visiting me.  In her case it was because of the language difference.  But this time sort of last minute we decided to give it a shot as her English has improved.  Choosing a musical so if she didn’t understand all of the language at least she would be able to enjoy the music; between us we settled on the play  “Gypsy” with Patti LuPone.  And because we were already going to Times Square for her to buy souvenirs for her children, I decided to give the old TKTS booth a try.  It had been a long time since I ventured out amid all the tourists in NYC and went to Times Square and the TKTS booth on a Saturday.  What inspired me were all the trips I have taken to France and the many times my friend has gone headfirst into the height of traffic and tourism to show me something I wanted to see or to do something that she thought I might enjoy, like driving from Aix En Provence to Nice and Cannes on a weekend in the summer.  Armed with that as my context I ventured into the throngs of the tourist jungle in search of two tickets to the Broadway showing of “Gypsy.”

At first it was scary.  I haven’t seen that many people crowded together in a long time.  I have to say that a weekday in the winter is a lot easier to handle, but they are actually very organized and the lines though long move rather quickly, and if you put yourself in the right headspace you can turn it into an event.  In the cue with you are mostly people on vacation so they are already in a better place then most working New Yorkers.  Plus there is the excitement of Broadway, which truly does merit excitement.  Some times I think that my best New York experiences come when I have company in from out of town, because you find yourself looking at the city through their eyes and doing things that you don’t ordinarily do.  For example actually stopping at landmarks and museums you pass sometimes even on a daily basis.  Or another example in my case taking the time and dealing with the crowds to get ½ price tickets to a phenomenal show that was totally inspiring and fun.  For the cost of a moderate dinner out in NYC and maybe a drink or two depending upon where you go, you can enjoy some of the best talent in the world and in this case also some of the best “pit” musicians in the business play and sing their hearts out for your pleasure and experience.  Or you can choose a drama, an off Broadway play, or some other theatrical event they have listed that day.

Selling same day tickets, in other words the tickets that are left and haven’t sold for that day’s performance or the next day’s matinee’s you can buy tickets for 25 to 50 percent off.  With three booths, two in Manhattan (Times Square and the South Street Seaport) and one in Brooklyn (downtown), you can find dozens of plays to choose from each day.  Below is a link to their website to find out more information.  The hours and what they offer vary from booth to booth so check to see which one works best for your schedule.  Also note that in January and February some of your harder to get tickets some times show up on the TKTS board.  I’ve seen some wonderful performances this way.  So if you live in NYC or are planning a trip here, and money is an option or you just can’t justify spending so much on one ticket, or whatever your reason may be, I suggest going a little out of your way and giving yourself the experience of a live performance or two or three.  At these more affordable prices it’s something worth considering.  I know I’ve never been sorry.

TKTS Discount Booths website.  If interested cut and paste this link into your browser.

http://www.tdf.org/TDF_ServicePage.aspx?id=56

Monday Crack – New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival

Always the last weekend in April through the first weekend in May the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival celebrating the music and cultures of New Orleans and Louisiana is a music and food lovers dream come true.  With multiple stages featuring all kinds of music, fabulous ethnic food, arts and crafts; it is easy to say if you have the chance to go you will be happy and content finding most anything you could possibly want hour to hour and day to day during your festival stay.

If you’re wondering why I’m writing about this in September?  That’s because it is never too early to plan ahead for this event.  By December or January most f the good rooms in New Orleans and flights getting there will already be booked, as the festival has become quite popular.

I don’t know if it is still true or not, but years ago I was told that one couldn’t just have a food concession stand at the festival because they could afford it.  You had to earn the right to have one.  That meant you were in competition with others who made Crawfish bisque, jambalaya, gumbo and po-boys.  You had to make the best sweet potato pies or beignets.  You had to prove that you deserved to be there.  My first time attending I remember never having been to any festival or fair where the food was better then most 4 star restaurants.  And of course the music is out of this world!  With 10 or 11 stages and venues going at once, it is hard to choose where to go and who to see next, so you usually choose beforehand your absolute must sees and go from there.

Most people who go to Jazz Fest come for one weekend or the other, either the first Friday through Sunday or the second Thursday through Sunday.  The lucky ones stay the entire ten days maybe resting a bit midweek, although there is plenty of music happening in all the clubs throughout the entire 10 day festival period.  And if you’re wondering if the groups only play jazz, the answer is a definite no.  You will be pulling your hair out trying to choose between blues, R&B, Afro-Caribbean, country, Latin, zydeco, Cajun, gospel, jazz and rock.  You will be choosing between major headlining-talent, to smaller well-known signature players and bands of various styles and degrees of notoriety.  Let me tell you it’s a tuff decision as sometimes your favorite people are playing at the same time.

Tickets have definitely gone up in price.  They now cost $40 tp $50 a day, but you get a lot of music and a lot of culture for that 40 or 50 dollars, and there is so much to do in New Orleans, you don’t necessarily have to attend each day.  You can choose your top two days if money is an issue.   But if you can work this into your schedule and your budget, don’t miss it.  Besides my first trip to Europe I think the thrill of Jazz Fest is the only vacation that came close to equaling the enjoyment of that experience.

Next years festival will take place April 24-26 and April 30-May 3rd.  For more information either click on the link below or cut and paste it into your browser.

http://www.nojazzfest.com/

Monday Crack – Fire Island A True Escape

I went to Fire Island on Friday night.  It was pouring!  No one was on top of the ferry basking in the glory of the wondrous view and fresh air.  Everyone was huddled inside the ferry wishing they were in rain gear.

When we finally landed in the little town where I share a house with some friends, the rain still decided not to let up.  By the time I got to the house I was sopping wet and was greeted at the door by my friend with a towel, happy to be inside.  That night we had a big vegetarian stew, nice and hearty, and attempted unsuccessfully to make a fire, everything was too wet.  We stayed up and talked, watched a little TV, and then went to bed.  Saturday we woke up to clear skies and soon sunshine, it turned out to be a perfect beach day and perfect weekend!

Always great no matter the season or the weather, Fire Island is a special place.  A small barrier island off of Long Island it is the antithesis of New York.  Having moved to NYC from N. Central California I needed to find some place where I could relax, be outside, and have access to a beach, so about 12 years ago I researched this weird NY phenomenon of summer beach shares.  Before this I had never known that anything like this existed.  I had always had access to a beach, and I couldn’t believe New Yorkers had to work so hard to get there and then pay so much money on top of it to do so.  But now I was a New Yorker too so it was time I learned about these things.

So I investigated “The Hamptons,” all of them, east, west, and south, and several other communities out on Long Island.  I had already been to Montauk a few times which was lovely, and I had been to East Hampton a couple of times too, and I enjoyed myself at both.  Then I remembered that a friend had mentioned something about this little island off of Long Island called Fire Island, I got curious, and I started to learn about its various communities.  There are about 14 plus on Fire Island and each has its own distinct style and population.  There are family communities, younger singles communities, gay communities and mixed communities; towns with bars and restaurants, towns without bars and restaurants, towns that don’t even have a grocery store.  But one thing that all the communities share is that almost the entire population gets to the island by ferry boat, and in season no cars are allowed on the island with very few exceptions.

Somehow the lure of no cars, people bicycling and toting little red wagons instead of SUV’s appealed to me.  I wanted a place where I could truly chill and shed city life so I found myself taking a share with a group of people who at the time I did not know, and I took it in a place I had never been, Fire Island.  I couldn’t quite imagine how it was going to work.  A bunch of grown professionals, doctors, lawyers, musicians, writers, advertising creatives, etc., sharing bedrooms, bathrooms, cooking big meals together, and living together every other weekend for an entire summer.  But I was willing to give it a try.  That was now 12 years ago and I’d have to say it was one of my best NY decisions.

When people are out on Fire Island there isn’t much to do but get to know your neighbor, eat, drink, read, bicycle, take walks, run, go to the beach and plan your day around what you are going to fix for dinner that evening.   Then you might possibly think about going out dancing or maybe to a house party, but often dinner is so late and happy hour so long, that you find yourself just staying home and socializing with your own house.  The busy folks of NY drop their harder urban façade on Fire Island and I think it happens the second they get to the ferryboat landing.  They begin to let down their guard and they become approachable.  It’s really an environment and time where friendships can blossom and grow.  People say hi and acknowledge one another when passing each other on the sidewalks which act as streets.  And unlike NY where the first thing I did when I moved here was to install a Medico lock, on the weekends on Fire Island no one locks their house.  People come and go and they don’t worry.  I’ve also never known of anyone being robbed.  At the grocery store, we have one in my town, you can run up a weekend account, just give them your name, call at the end of the weekend for your total, and drop them a check on your way to the ferry on Sunday.  Fire Island is everything NYC is not!

With summer coming to a close I wanted to share with those who don’t know about Fire Island, this special place off of Long Island.  And for those of you who do know Fire Island, you know I speak the truth.  Easy to get to by the train, you can simply take the Long Island Railroad out of Penn Station to your stop on Long Island, for me, that stop is  Bayshore.  Waiting for you at the train station are buses who for a small fee will shuttle you to your ferry boat.  Very accessible time wise as a day trip, you either need to be visiting friends or go to one of the few towns that have public restrooms, like Ocean Beach.  There are a few small hotels in some of the various towns, but very few so check that out beforehand.  But if you want a day, a weekend, a week, or a month, consider a summer rental or a day trip.  The beaches are beautiful, the people friendly, you can walk to the Lighthouse or the Sunken Forrest, stroll the sidewalk shops of Ocean Beach, get some great baked goods from Amy’s, watch the sunset over the bay with your friends, or sit in a pub sipping beer thinking how lucky you are to be where you are.  Fire Island is a wonderful place to rejuvenate and a true escape!