School is a steady constant in most suburban children’s lives, but my experience was particularly steady for my first ten years of education. I went to a Catholic grammar school from preschool to eighth grade, seeing several new students arrive each year but essentially growing up alongside the same 40-ish faces for a decade. My entire world was within those brick walls, and now with a whole other decade of life under my belt, it’s mind-blowing to remember how confined everything was.
My morning routines before school were almost as predictable as the way I knew my mother would always pack my latest lunch craving (consistently a turkey sandwich by middle school) and how we could expect the rare father or two volunteering on Pizza Day to stack empty boxes as high as they could (“More, more, more!” the student mobs would chant). Each morning, I’d wake, dress in my uniform, and pick at a breakfast bar, frozen mini pancakes, or cereal as I flipped through our local paper. It didn’t occur to me until I was much older that waking to the sounds of your parents listening to the news on the kitchen radio and subsequently reading the paper as a kid sounded a little strange to others.
As with anything print nowadays, the paper’s current state pales in comparison to my favorite section back then: the comics. Like clockwork, I’d skip stories of Long Island political battles and car accidents to skim the celebrity section, packed with Lohan family news and tracking which local reality star was cut from their TV competition that week (JP Rosenbaum, an eventual Bachelorette husband, is still our crowning glory in my eyes). Then, the piece de resistance: the familiar, simple stories the comics told. As I pored over the quickly resolved, otherworldly strips — Stone Soup, Baby Blues, Blondie — one comic always stuck out as proudly different.
I have a soft spot for Broadway revivals. Depending on the season, I’m usually either excited or neutral about new, original musicals, but nothing beats seeing gorgeous, full-blown productions of the shows I grew up loving. I’m still waiting for a revival of The Music Man, but in the meantime, I had the pleasure of seeing My Fair Lady at Lincoln Center’s Vivian Beaumont Theater last week. While it’s never been one of my favorites, I’ve always adored My Fair Lady‘s score, and seeing it on such a grand scale was wonderful.
Following Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle’s mission to improve her dialect with lessons from linguistics expert Professor Henry Higgins, this revival originally opened in April. TV star Lauren Ambrose played Eliza Doolittle, and after scoring a Tony nomination, she left the production to film a TV series. Acclaimed Broadway star Laura Benanti, who I’ve grown to love for her humor and great social media presence, then stepped into what she has long described as her dream role. She joined original company members Harry Hadden-Paton as Henry Higgins and Norbert Leo Butz as Alfred Doolittle.
I don’t cry over books as easily as I do in reaction to movies or TV shows. To this day, I can only recall physically crying and even sobbing upon completing maybe two books ever. But I definitely register when I’m so emotionally impacted by a story that I feel numb upon finishing it and need to take a moment for that finality to sink in. No matter how long ago I read these specific books or how well I remember the plot’s fine details, I have a pretty solid memory of when I have that visceral, overwhelming reaction to a story.
I’ve read some great books recently that are relatively happy and engrossing, but the thought of talking about the sadder books that grabbed a fierce hold of me just popped to mind. There are spoilers mentioned below, so proceed with caution if you plan on reading any of these books.
1) Now I’ll Tell You Everything, by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor
I’ve definitely spoken about my intense reaction to the last book in Phyllis Reynolds Naylor’s Alice series before. The last story, Now I’ll Tell You Everything, was released early in my freshman year of college, and I read the entire book in one sitting soon after it arrived in my school mailbox the week of its publication. These books were in my life for so long that I genuinely have no memory of how I discovered the series or how old I was when I first started reading them. Unlike the previous books, which each usually covered a few chronological months in Alice’s life, Now I’ll Tell You Everything spanned from Alice’s college years to her sixties.
For me, it started with Shirley Temple movies.
In childhood, my local library was tucked away in a school district building, limited to a long stretch of a hallway and two cramped children’s rooms. The library has since become a sprawling, gorgeous building a block away from this old location, but my formative memories as a reader rest within visions of that confined space, its dirt-brown carpet, the holiday season’s glass case display of a wintry village, and the chapter book alcove’s solar system mural.
At the end of the long hallway were the shelves of VHS tapes, when DVDs were still a novelty, when your main hope for a movie selection was that the person who checked it out before you had rewound the tape. In a time when our movies now start within a short series of clicks, I marvel over how foreign rewinding seems to me now. God forbid you check out a dramatic epic that was split between two VHS tapes.
Thanks to the bitterly cold and snowy first two weeks of January and more free time than usual before I started a new job, I finished six books in January that were all downloaded onto my Kindle. I’ve recently found that I can get through a book much quicker by reading it on my e-reader — maybe it has to do with seeing a smaller amount of text on the screen than on a single page?
Seeing as I’m out of school now and working on my computer all day, I think I’ve felt more drawn to reading during downtime, so I’m very excited to see if I read a similar number of books in February. So, for the first time on my blog, I’m sharing my thoughts about the books I read this month!
Lunch in Paris: A Love Story, with Recipes, by Elizabeth Bard (★★★☆☆)
This is a travel memoir capturing the author’s budding relationship with a Frenchman and her transition to full-time life in France when their connection turns serious. It includes French recipes that Bard tried out while adjusting to the stylistic and cultural differences of a European kitchen. I skimmed through the recipes included in the book and enjoyed the author’s personal story.
Each month, in an attempt to keep up an active feature on the blog, I’m going to highlight a film I watched for the first time and, well, talk about it. Did it resonate with me? Was it over-hyped? Was it worth a watch? I’ve also kept a list of movies I watch in a year since 2011, so I thought this would be a fun way to highlight films that may have stuck out to me in a special way.
Moonstruck has been on my watchlist since it became available on both Hulu and Amazon Prime a short while ago. It wasn’t until the movie started that I recognized how familiar the characters and their cultural quirks were to me. Three of my grandparents were born and raised in New York City boroughs as the children and grandchildren of immigrants, and the fourth, from upstate New York, went to nursing school in Brooklyn. I’m half Italian, and my Italian grandfather grew up in Brooklyn, where the 1987 movie Moonstruck takes place.
In addition to that familial connection, growing up on Long Island exposes you to plenty of older people who grew up in Brooklyn or Queens apartments, watching their fathers renovate their homes on their own and one day becoming frequent DIY patrons of the Home Depot near their suburban homes. I’ve had an understandable fascination with mid-to-late 20th century New York for a long time, and this movie was the perfect dose of familiarity and discovery for me. Several weeks after I watched it, John Mahoney, whose character Perry I couldn’t help but grow fond of, died, which made this viewing feel even more coincidental.
I had the pleasure of seeing Waitress on Broadway back in October as a belated birthday present. My mom, sister, and I took advantage of the show’s “Buy One, Get One for $10” deal to grab discounted tickets for a Sunday matinee, and as much as I’ve gotten used to the post-evening show hustle through Times Square to make my train home, it was nice to drive in with people and leave the theater a little more relaxed than usual.
Waitress has been on my list of must-see Broadways show for awhile, and at this point, it was really the only new musical that I was interested in seeing. Even now, I’m more looking forward to next season’s revivals than its new shows. The cast recording became essay-writing music for me in my last semester of school, and I figured that, if anything, seeing the show would be a fun, girly afternoon with my mom and sister.
Based on the 2007 indie film, Waitress tells the story of Jenna, a diner waitress in a small southern town who finds herself pregnant by her abusive husband. In addition to feeling ambivalent about becoming a mother, she has a talent for baking unique pies, and schemes to raise enough money to enter a pie-making contest that could allow her to leave her husband and start anew. Things become complicated when Jenna starts falling for her married OB/GYN, and the plot also explores her coworkers’ experiences with finding love.
I was that weird twelve-year-old who had no problem watching the nearly three-and-a-half-hour long film Fiddler on the Roof. I’ve talked about my history with the musical before, but given that I’ve not watched the film in so long because of its length, I wonder what about the film made me so captivated. There’s always that one thing you love when you’re young that’s just weird or totally unexpected for your age – for me, it was probably fairly bleak movie musicals and Shirley Temple movies. It was likely the sisters’ relationship and the joyful music that hooked me.
I’ve wanted to see the most recent Fiddler on the Roof Broadway revival since I knew the production was happening. The earliest I remember hearing about it was probably winter 2015 – maybe even towards the end of 2014? I’ve followed its cast members on Instagram, watched the Broadway.com vlogs by Adam Kantor, and read or watched any tidbits related to this production.
In the last nine years or so of regularly watching award shows, a lot of ceremonies inevitably blend together. When an Emmys ceremony once again has Jimmy Kimmel as host – or any late night comedian, for that matter – it feels like something we’ve seen one too many times. Is it because, even if it’s only happened once before, any late night host at an award show is a safe and familiar prospect? Does our (perhaps daily) habit of watching their interview or viral clips give us the feeling that we’ve seen any and all things a host is capable of?
I found Jimmy Kimmel to be a strong host of Sunday night’s 68th Primetime Emmy Awards. I’ve given up on truly critiquing an award show host simply because, in today’s TV climate, I feel that the same old jokes will be recycled, no matter who is on that stage. This leaves me with no judging system besides equating host success to few cringe-worthy moments.
Much like last year, the recent announcement of Emmy nominations wasn’t even on my radar. After seeing the complete list, I understand why – nearly all of the shows nominated are just not on my spectrum at all.
I was out of the country for last year’s Emmys, so maybe I’m just out of the loop about what’s the norm now, but when did these categories widen to include so many slots? Although it’s great that this allows for more deserving people to be recognized, I almost find it overwhelming, particularly with the categories for Best Comedy and Drama. Although I’m terrible at keeping up with current shows, I do like to have at least some exposure to the nominated works and their actors, and that has become increasingly difficult to do with these kind of nominations.