Sunday, December 21, 2008

And now, a word about the weather

Before coming out here, Crissy and I had heard it a million times. “Wait till you see how much easier the winters are on the east coast. They’re much milder than the Midwest. We’re so awesome, the Midwest sucks.”

We weren’t buying it. How much warmer could it possibly be? I personally have gotten stuck in a New York blizzard twice, on two separate occasions, two years in a row. Seems to me I’ve been here plenty of times when it’s been cold, and I’ve been annoyingly unprepared for it every time, because people keep telling me about these alleged mild winters.

So it’s with deep regret that I inform you, our Midwestern brethren, that it’s true. As of the date of this entry, this winter has been a piece of cake (jinx, meet Kevin. Kevin, meet jinx), with a difficulty level ranging from, “mild” to “this ain’t sh#*.”

So what the hell does mild mean, exactly? It’s not like new Yorkers are sipping daiquiris and toe tapping to Cheeseburger in Paradise in the middle of November. People aren’t exactly playing cornhole in their Jams and cooking bonfire weenies. Nobody’s playing a sweaty game of slow-motion volleyball wearing backwards, upside down visors.

Really, all it means is I didn’t have to break out the puffy coat until this past week. To me, a winter’s not a winter until you gotta break out the puffy coat. Or the humungous duck boots. Or the man mittens.

Winter's when those pansy little skull-caps imported from LA boutiques and post-production houses go into storage until May, and you break out the real winter hat. The one that’s all function, zero form, and makes your brain sweat if you wear it indoors. That’s winter.

And I won’t lie. I kinda miss it a little bit. This time of year, it’s nice to cozy up indoors and blast through an entire season of 30 Rock in a snug room lit by Christmas lights and candles.

Which is one of the many reasons it’ll be fun to get home next week. But something tells me that after five days of Chicago wind chill factors, we’ll be ready to head back to, and better appreciate, New York’s mild n’ toasty high-thirty temps.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The Real NYC

So, this whole time I thought I was living in New York City. Uhh, yeah, I was wrong.

When most Downtowners joke about not ever needing to go above 14th street, I joke about never needing to go above Canal. For those of you who are familiar with New York, you understand how almost absurd that statement is.

I walk to work at a leisurely pace, bopping along to my ipod with my iced coffee in hand. I gaze at the pretty buildings and the cobblestone streets. I watch the nannies walking their employers in their Maclaren strollers and see the deliverymen making deliveries to the fancy restaurants on Hudson. It's such a peaceful start to my day.

But today I ventured to Midtown for work for the first time in awhile since we moved here. I got off the subway at 42nd & 5th and was immediately jolted into picking up my pace. People were on a mission in every direction. It was lunchtime, and I wanted to fill my belly before I went to my meeting. I ducked into the first soup/sandwich/salad cafe I saw. I grabbed my greens and gave it to the guy behind the counter. As I hemmed and hawed over what items I wanted in my salad, he quickly and loudly clacked his tongs against the counter to not-so-passive-aggressively tell me that I was taking too long to choose. When he was done mixing everything, he literally threw the salad at me to send me on my way. Paying for it was just as harried. I couldn't put my change in my wallet fast enough before the people behind me were on my ass. I shuffled over to the seating area to find a table but there were no vacant seats - just a sea of suits and business-folk. I was sweating and hungry and felt like there was a really strong possibility that I was on a candid camera show. I finally jockeyed for a seat and scarfed my salad down in 7.3 minutes flat.

When it was time for me leave, I stalled for an hour because I didn't want to go outside during rush hour. But in New York it's not actually rush "hour". It's rush "few hours". But I knew I had to suck it up and do it. I walked out of the building and into the throngs of people on the sidewalk like I was a car merging onto a crowded highway where all the cars are going 100 miles per hour. I walked swiftly and with a purpose, just like everyone else. I made it back to the subway and finally returned to what I will now refer to my neighborhood as - the suburbs.

Friday, December 12, 2008

story time

I’ve been maintaining radio silence lately because I was saving up all my creative juices for the Moth storytelling performance I was hoping to give on Tuesday night. What’s that? You’ve never heard of the Moth? Neither had I.

Basically, the Moth is a way to get up on stage and tell a good story to a bunch of strangers. It’s held twice a month, and anyone can get up there. It’s not stand up, it’s not performance art, it’s not ranting on a subject. It’s strictly storytelling.

The rules are simple: everyone puts their name in a hat, and if you get picked, you get five minutes. Plenty of people go over the five-minute mark, but sticking to the time limit is one of the criteria you’re judged on, so it’s not recommended. The catch? NO NOTES ALLOWED. Ten people in total get picked, and the judges are members of the audience who are determined at the beginning of the show. That’s it. Oh, and don’t suck.

So I’ll spare you the anticipation. I didn’t get picked. Which was certainly a bummer, but it was good just to get a feel for how the thing works. And we definitely learned a few dos and donts for next time:

Do: get there early. The line is down the block before the doors open at 7. As a general rule of thumb, if there’s a free podcast of the event on iTunes, it’s gonna be crowded.

Don’t: be at the end of said line. When the doors open, it’s a complete free-for-all for tables. They let everybody in who pays the six bucks, but the people who don’t get a seat have to stand in a tiny area by the bar, near the super hammered old Mexican dude groping anyone within ten feet of him, and sexually moaning at every syllable uttered into the microphone.

Do: have a good, tight, short story with a beginning, middle, and end. You wouldn’t believe how many people ignored this important detail in a storytelling competition. Just like in regular conversations, stories that ramble, blather on, or shamelessly go for a pity vote aren’t going to be well received. “Blah blah blah blah blah, mlah mlah mlee mloo, blee blee blah blah, my friend was HIV positive.” Next.

Don’t: forget to eat before you go. It makes the “emcee” who fancies herself a “comedian” supremely maddening. Also, it makes everyone jockeying for position in the standing area seem extra punchable.

Do: practice your story. Nothing makes people shift in their chairs faster than an unfocused tale. “We were at the store…and we were there…and there were people there…and it was a store...” Move it along. They blow a little flute thingy to let you know when your 5 minutes is up. Then they blow it again at 6 minutes, which means OK now, that’s enough. Then they blow it again at 7, which means get the f*$% off the stage, douchebag. Nobody wants to hear the flute thingy.

Don’t: get intimidated by the regulars. Some people are really really good.

So next time, we’ll be prepared. All in all, it was really cool to see. And we’ll definitely try again. If you get a chance, take a listen to a couple of the stories on iTunes (or check some out here)…they’ve been culled down to the best ones, and they make for great time-wasting at the office.

P.S. Oh, by the way, most of the stories on the site are from the mainstage, and are told by famous people or bigwigs. These are meant to be 10 minutes long. Enjoy.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Just Plain Happy

‘Tis the season to count your blessings and tell the ones around you how much you love and appreciate them. So to all you loyal readers, THANK YOU for keeping up with the green apples every day. Writing this blog challenges us and keeps our brain juices a’ flowin’ and in our opinion, that’s a good thing.

I would also like to take this opportunity to say how incredibly blissful and fulfilled I feel every day. I know some may think it’s cheesy, but I want to say (write) out loud that this might just be the happiest I’ve felt my whole life.

Let’s be honest, 2008 started out as a crap-fest. With many people close to us learning of illnesses, to the downturn in the economy, to friends unfairly losing their jobs, it feels weird to say that 2008 was the best year of my life. But it's because also in 2008 I got married to my best friend (and had the most kick-ass, true-to-ourselves wedding), we traveled and ate our way around Italy (and London!), and we packed it all up and fulfilled a life-long dream of moving to New York City.

So to all my awesome and inspiring friends and family, I LOVE YOU.
Here’s to a fantastic 2009.

*Please enjoy this photo – another thing that makes me happy!

Thursday, December 4, 2008


OK OK, enough of the laziness. We both truly apologize. How long does tryptophan stay in your system? Can we blame it on that?

Anyway, last Friday night I finally pulled off the surprise party for Crissy’s 30th birthday that’s been making my hair fall out since September.

Man. Planning a surprise party is for the birds.

Let’s just start with the fact that Crissy began asking me if I was planning a surprise party around July, with daily interrogations intensifying straight through October. And let’s not forget the fact that she pretty much guessed everything I’d planned for her.

“Are you throwing me a party at Alex and Christine’s house?” (not anymore)
“Are you throwing me a party at your sister’s apartment?” (I guess not)
“Are you throwing me a party at Portillo’s?” (I tried…goddamn it’s expensive)
“Are you arranging for me to pet a monkey?” (now wait just one damn minute)

Fact is, I WAS trying to arrange for her to pet a monkey. Crissy’s told me on several occasions that it’s one of her biggest goals in life to pet a monkey.

And I TRIED. I’m telling you I tried. Most of the people reading this post know this story by now, but let me just repeat this general rule of phoning strangers: if you ever want to get someone to hang up on you as fast as possible, start the conversation with the phrase, “Hi, it’s my wife’s dream to pet a monkey.”

So, short of taking a weekend trip to Bali (next time hon) monkey-petting was out. Instead, I threw the old lady a monkey-themed surprise party. And boy did we get her good.

We started the night with a fakey, extra half-assed “surprise” party at my sister heather’s apartment. It was sloppy. It was unorganized. It was pathetic. When we opened Heather’s door, 5 guests were waiting inside to surprise her. One of them was the Ramona the dog.

But I gotta give the missus credit. She did her god DAMNdest to hide her disappointment. Which made it so much sweeter when we got to the real surprise, which was in the party room at our friends Matt and John’s condominium complex down the street.

We told Crissy we were going over there to watch the Michigan avenue lighting ceremony from their rooftop deck, and the lameness of the fake plan was made even sweeter by John’s two genius improv lines when he met us in the lobby:

1. “I hope you brought warm coats…it’s really really cold on the rooftop.”
2. “There are a ton of little kids out there already, I hope you don’t mind.”

When we got up to the room, she said she suspected something was up thanks to the smell of the Portillo’s catering wafting out of the party room, but still…she had a satisfactory freak out moment when everyone screamed “surprise,” running back down the hallway to compose herself before returning to the festivities.

After plenty of booze, hotdogs, beef sandwiches, cheese fries, monkey balloons, kid n’ play choreography, and one decapitated monkey piñata, we headed back to Alex and Christine’s, where we were spending the night. Though we did wake up scratching our heads as to how we got there.

Which, when it comes to 30th birthday surprise parties, is a good thing.

P.S. Check out the monkey piñata. It’s so scared it’s shitting streamers.