(The Fourth of July celebrates one of America's favorite pastimes: EATING. So at the first barbecue I attended last week, the big question was, "Whadda we eat?!" Here are a few menu options.)
(What better way to satiate the palate than with a beer or two? Isaac looms over the aftermath.)
(Bella is so delicious that you may want to eat her up, but she's a bit furry...and a dog. Why else would she be sitting at attention, waiting for food to drop to the ground? I could never get away with that.)
(Sure, the cake that Nicole made was delicious, but there were so many more unique menu options!)
(We don't need typical (and delicious) American fare when we could...)
(Eat Kristi's foot.)
(Or David's head.)
(Speaking of heads...light Marcelo's on fire and you've got Brazilian flambe!)
(But who needs food when you can dance! It's all the nourishment you need. (Cue "The More You Know" music and shooting star.)
One of my favorite parts about Met season was always the dressing room. Only, I had a habit of spending a lot of time in Marcelo and David's dressing room rather than my own. The accommodations for the corps are pleasant, but the Principal dressing rooms take the cake. During breaks I would wander down to their cushioned, private corner of the Opera House and spend time with two guys who not only inspire me, but make me laugh unlike anyone else.
It's rare that two Principal men are on for the same performance, so when I stopped by to catch David's debut in "Don Q" I couldn't help snapping a few photos documenting their preparation for the show!
You know something is wrong when one of the most exciting moments at a concert is the revelation that you look like Ira Glass. So describes the evening I spent watching indie songstress Feist at New York City’s Hammerstein Ballroom.
Ever since I stumbled upon Feist’s CD “Let It Die” three years ago, I can’t seem to get enough of the Canadian chanteuse. Not even a fraught over article for an upcoming issue of Movmnt profiling the director of her videos, Patrick Daughters, or his overplayed Apple-endorsed clip for “1,2,3,4” could put a dent in my love. So when I snatched up a trio of tickets and headed to the concert with Abby Ras and David, I expected to be wowed.
In many ways, I was. Feist’s voice has a way of escaping from her body directly to your ears; so clear that it cuts through the crowd like an indie angel descended from the heavens with the sole purpose of singing. There’s barely a hint of vibrato, and more power than would be estimated from her frail body.
Her powerful instrument was on full display from the moment she appeared behind a screen, straight hair tossing as gently as the white fringe that covered her dress. A powerful, amped-up rendition of one of my favorite songs, “When I Was a Young Girl,” got things going and for a while it was smooth sailing. Backed by a small (but loud) band of trumpeters, guitarists, a pianist and a drummer (I’ll get to the overhead projectionists later), she plowed through a collection of her up-tempo numbers in an effort to get the packed ballroom going; it was a feat she never fully accomplished.
Sure, there was the occasional romping womanager (woman who behaves like a drunk teenager) who bounced across the front of the balcony. But she seemed like a lone cheerleader hyped up on Red Bull in a sea full of people who had been slipped ruffies. Mid-way through the hour-and-a-half set, Feist descended into song after song chronicling heartbreak of the most wrist-cutting degree. In a venue a quarter of the size (or on my headphones) these songs would have been revealing and poetic meditations delivered by a skilled vocalist; in the cavernous Hammerstein Ballroom they were swallowed whole.
Perhaps most at blame for the uneven, and ultimately forgettable, evening was the venue of choice. Feist is an artist who has passed from indie to mainstream and is therefore capable of filling larger venues, but it doesn’t mean she should. The production of the show was so desperate to maintain its low-budget quirkiness that the enormous crowd of people seemed like a contradiction to the material being presented.
(David was jealous that I found my look alike, so he posed with Matt McConaughey.)
(Abby was even more jealous, so she posed with Mary-Louise Parker. This picture is 100% real. Not a bit of Photoshopping. Abby is just...)
Guitars rotated in and out of Feist’s skilled hands, but one thing remained constant: the only occasionally charming use of an overhead projector as the main design element. Taken straight from a third grade classroom, the projector screamed hipster-chic, and often required three or four people to operate it. Fireworks, toe-tapping legs, or feces colored waves filled a small square of light projected on the back wall but only added to the list of things that seemed out of place in the space.
A few high-octane songs crept into the last half of the set (a rollicking cover of Nina Simone’s “Sea Lion Woman” woke the crowd up) but as she closed the show with a trio of ballads I couldn’t help but feel a tad disappointed.
Making our way out of the theater, Abby, David and I bemoaned the late start and recounted our disappointment at the unmemorable show. Standing on the subway platform, I turned around to see my twin Ira Glass staring back at me from an ad for “This American Life.” Perhaps I shall begin a career posing in subway stations next to the ads. If I put on Feist’s album, I might be twice as lively as the concert.
(Check out a video of the proceedings above!)
ABT can’t seem to sit still. Ever since I got back to the city from my stint in
a correctional facility Montana, my friends have been dancing themselves silly…everywhere but here. It’s been over a month since I returned from the mountains, and I have yet to catch up with a majority of the people who used to populate my days. So when David suggested that I head to DC to spend some time with him a few weekends ago, I jumped at the chance.
Usually four days away from the city equals at least one, if not two, suitcases for me. I’m the king of over-packing, and with the size of my typical suitcases, you’d think I was toting my couch with me. So it was with a fair amount of struggling that I pared my luggage down to the essentials before I boarded the Chinatown bus for the nation’s capital.
Carrying a technological village with me can be daunting on long trips. I tend to guard my bag (housing both of my cameras, computer, and other electronic essentials) as if it was high on the endangered species list and the rest of the passengers were hunters.
Fortunately, my half-empty bus checked most of the crazy at the door. Save for a man in front of me who kept glancing back at the man across the aisle. I hoped that his anxious glances were for working up the courage to break into a musical number but, alas, I made it all the way to DC without a selection from A Chorus Line.
Instead I got bumper-to-bumper traffic and rain. I crossed my fingers that it would pass and my weekend would be blessed with
dancing reindeer sunshine. Ultimately, we got a mixed bag of weather but that didn’t stop us from reading porn to the blind exploring.
Since David was in town performing The Four Temperaments with Washington Ballet, I spent a few nights at the theater, which elicited the expected emotion from me. Dance continues to be a struggle for me to be around, and my newfound passion for Balanchine’s masterpiece (which I’d never seen before) tested my emotional strength more than ever.
Even though watching my best friend performing was a pleasure (as always), I decided early on to keep my theater time to a minimum. Therefore I was left with hours to explore DC in a way that hadn’t been possible during my previous visits.
People always state how wonderful it must be to dance and tour the world, but the truth of the matter is that so many times we don’t get to see the places we stop in. DC was always a place where I ended up being consumed by ABT duties, so I would stumble back and forth between the Kennedy Center and our nearby hotel. All of this added up to an image of DC that was far but complete.
After my time there last weekend, I still don’t feel like I’ve seen it all, but I’ve gathered more pieces of the puzzle. Here are some highlights:
(Apparently we hit DC at just the right time: cherry blossoms had exploded all over the city.)
(I wanted to make a wig out of them to wear to the ballet, but David wouldn't let me. Bitch.)
(He also wouldn't let me eat them. Bitch squared.)
(You see, he was busy contemplating life...)
(While I worked on upcoming articles. And by "worked" I mean strangled myself with hotel pillows. Same dif.)
(I took a break from my pillow pas de deux long enough to explore my first DC museum, and my future home, The Phillips Collection.)
(My old friend de Kooning even stopped by long enough for me to give David a lecture about why he should accept the abstract expressionist into his life. This painting, Asheville, is one of de Kooning's earlier masterpieces and one that I'd never seen in person before. Viewing his brushwork up close is unlike any other experience I've had with a painting.)
(I spent a lot of time sitting in Dupont Circle reading non-fiction essays in the incredible new book "The Kings of Non-Fiction." I even managed to read so long that I got a sunburn that was so uneven and scattered that it resembled a de Kooning painting!)
(It wasn't long until we had to head back to NYC. We took the Amtrack for this leg and the gorgeous train station sure beat the people barking at me in Chinatown.)
(Contrary to popular opinion, I was not reaching up to pick his nose. Eww. I can't believe I just typed that. DC took away my power for captioning pictures.)
One of the hardest things about being sick the past ten months is the enormous amount of guilt I carry around with me on a daily basis. As foolish as it sounds, there is a part of me that feels I should do nothing but sleep in a dark cavernous room and anxiously await my return to full health. For the first two months of my illness, that was what I did. Hibernating in my apartment took its toll on me psychologically and I realized that I had to instill some sense of normalcy into my routine.
Months pass and the ups and downs continue to come and go. Through an activity log I have attempted to find a correlation between the type of activity I engage in, and the repercussions it has on my health. Not surprisingly, higher levels of physical work, or draining social interactions, leave me feeling depleted. However, after a while I began to see that (to a certain extent) my ups and downs come and go as they please. I need to push on and try to enjoy life as much as possible in spite of the lingering fatigue, nausea, headaches, and brain fog that accompany me as frequently as my extended wear contact lenses; too bad I can’t take the symptoms out as well.
Regardless of the knowledge that I still have to live the fullest life possible while I’m saddled with this dilemma, it’s impossible for me not to feel guilty when I’m doing something that feeds my soul. When I was working, the social part of my life felt earned, while now it stands alone. There are days where mustering up a smile is difficult when I think about how long it has been, and may be, since I have danced professionally. Then I met the trampoline.
When I was a kid, I lived across from a family with a trampoline. I knew it was there, even though I couldn’t see it from the street, so whenever I could sneak away and steal a few bounces I raced out my door and through the trees. My mother was (rightfully) concerned about a young dancer spending time on what could easily be a dangerous device. One wrong landing and you’d fly off like a renegade popcorn kernel onto the hillside.
I spent more time thinking about jumping than actually doing it, and added "trampoline freedom" to a long list of things, such as skiing and bungee jumping, that I would save for later in life. I’ve never been one to throw caution to the wind, but I’m so happy that I did for a few brief minutes the other day.
I never realized how freeing a trampoline could be until last weekend up in the mountains at the Cloud’s house with David. After making our way back from a morning walk, we had planned on going inside to gather our things and then head back to Missoula; that was before David spotted the trampoline.
Before I knew it he was bouncing over to the spring-loaded fabric like a five year old racing for the tree on Christmas morning. He quickly undid his sneakers, grinning all the way, and then began to get a few preliminary hops in. Suddenly he was flipping through the air like a bona-fide gymnastic star and I grabbed my camera to capture the action.
(Sometimes I hate people that are perfectly turned out even while flipping in the mountains. One of my favorite pictures I've ever taken.)
There was no way I could resist for much longer, so I kicked my shoes off and cautiously started bouncing alongside him. We started to gallop around the circumference and I was completely in awe of the scenery that surrounded us. It’s not often that you can jump towards an open sky with enormous mountains towering all around you.
Not only did the mini-adventure result in some of my favorite pictures ever, but it put a smile on my face and got my mind off of things in a way I haven’t felt in the past 10 months. It may have just been for five minutes, but I’ll take it.
(Future star of "Billy Elliot" on Broadway?)
(Future star of...?)
(Being abducted by aliens.)
(Overexcited five year olds.)
It’s embarrassing when my friends know more about Montana than I do. That’s always the case with Sascha Radetsky, whose knowledge of the Montana terrain probably rivals Lewis and Clark. Even though I spent the majority of my childhood in Missoula, my family was always more prone to be watching art films than to be climbing mountains. Needless to say, we aren’t a “typical” Montana family.
Each time Sascha comes through Montana (and even at times when we are in NY) he finds some way to give me shit for my lack of outdoors expertise. In an effort to remedy the situation, I decided that David and I needed to get outdoors at some point during his brief visit.
Fortunately, my dear friend Anya Cloud’s family owns a house in the mountains where horses and “rugged” living rein supreme. It’s the type of landscape that seems to exist only on postcards. Once you set foot on their land and see that it is real, the experience is heightened by the fact that the Cloud’s are (without exaggeration) some of the kindest souls on the planet.
Every time you hug one of the five members of the family, it is a loving embrace that redefines how a hug should feel. Not just a way to say hello and goodbye, it becomes a way to feel each others energy and combine it for a brief moment. During our overnight stay, David and I both received a handful of these hugs and by the time we left we were in love with each and every member of the clan.
After arriving, we gorged on a Mexican feast before journeying out to the hot tub situated beneath Montana’s famous Big Sky. The frigid winter air provided quite the juxtaposition to the warm (and packed) hot tub, and as soon as pruning ensued it was time to race back across the lawn to reach the safety of the house.
(David and I on the front porch.)
We then wandered through their land until we reached the guest cabin where we all curled up to watch a movie. It wasn’t long until the sun was poking through the windows and David and I journeyed outside to see what the morning had in store. We couldn’t have asked for a more perfect day. The sun was out, the sky was clear, and there was a healthy layer of snow on the ground.
(David shows the horses some love.)
Another delicious meal led to the suggestion that we take some time to walk around the land and explore. Some of the family came out with us and before we knew it we had reached a small enclosure with a giant tree named the “Grandfather”. The branches spiral up the center of the tree so plentifully that climbing it is almost as easy as walking up a spiral staircase.
Since the opportunity presented itself, I figured that it was as good a time as any to climb my first tree, so armed with a camera (I had to blog it of course) I started making my way up behind David, Anya, and Alex. Once I made it about a quarter of the way up (it’s an enormous tree) I decided I was as high as I needed to go so that I'd had enough to put a smile on my face without pushing my health. As Sascha later texted me, "Climbing trees is vastly underrated." I can now say that I agree!
(Walking in the morning.)
(Stopping for a mini photo shoot...with a little bed-head.)
(Meeting Grandfather Cloud...he's the big branchy one on the left.)
(David starts the ascent.)
(As I creep along behind him...with bed-head.)
(Patricia was kind enough to take these photos for us.)
(David: Tree Conquerer.)
(Anya has made it to the top before, but she decided to stay low with the mortals during our climb.)
There is a dungeon in downtown Missoula and it goes by the name of AmVets. By definition, a dungeon is a labyrinthine subterranean setting, but to define it in such grandiose terms is to give it false representation. There is nothing remotely grand about Missoula’s only gay bar.
Even though, as the name suggests, it was intended to be a bar for American Veterans, AmVets has turned into a smorgasbord of small town gay culture that is truly one of a kind. Situated between a few bars that have been deemed “hick” establishments, the entrance to AmVets looks more like an abandoned hut than a welcoming nightclub. The wooden enclosure is a gateway to a rock staircase that looks jack hammered and unfinished and is usually scattered with smokers out for a quick puff in the frigid winter air.
The bar scene has been the last place on my mind over the past ten months, but when Blaine and David showed up in Missoula, I knew that I would have to make an exception. Being sober in AmVets presented it in an even scarier light than through drunk-goggles, so my two trips opened up my eyes in new ways.
Once you pass through the rickety wooden door, you are met by a bouncer who scans ID’s with the commitment of a supermarket attendant. His lackadaisical nature is made evident by the abundance of underage patrons who float around the cavernous space.
Both Blaine and David were immediately overwhelmed by the enormity of the bar, which has no natural light and is big enough that it could exist in a hollowed out mountain. Upon entering, there is a bar that offers Jello shots, Jaeger on tap, and cheap drinks served in plastic cups. Just beyond that is a collection of pool tables and if you step a little further you reach the dance floor, which plays a variety of top-40 pop.
It’s on the dance floor that the diversity of the crowd becomes apparent. Grinding against one pole you’ll find a lesbian couple dressed in overalls that are in no way an ironic fashion statement. Next to them you’ll see a leather daddy with a handle bar mustache observing the toothless men smoking continuous cigarettes. Every now and then a drag queen will make her rounds, cavorting with the crowd with an explosion of hair topping off a rainbow colored gown. Peppered between these icons of gay Montana are the college students with popped collars and beaded necklaces straight out of 1997.
(Jes and Blaine tear it up on the dance floor.)
Since I first discovered AmVets at eighteen, I’ve often wondered where these men and women are during the day. The diverse crowd meets only in the way that they party with such ferocity. Even though Missoula is a liberal college town, it’s not uncommon to be given dirty looks, get mocked, or at times even assaulted because of ones sexual preference. It’s a town that prides itself on being diverse and accepting, but one whose actions sometimes overwhelm its intentions. The suppressed nature of homosexuality in Missoula has only a few outlets where pretenses are disrobed, and the main one is AmVets.
To me and my friends from New York, it can seem like a very uncomfortable experience. Whereas we are free to be ourselves, sexuality and all, in our everyday lives, in Montana it’s still legal to be fired for sexual preference. Once ten o’ clock rolls around, the bar becomes scattered with people who are free to be themselves for a while.
Due to my sober lifestyle at the moment, I took the time during my past two trips to observe the crowd as much as possible. If I ever become a documentary filmmaker, AmVets will be one of my first subjects. It’s a fascinating study in gay culture on the brink of acceptance and the freedom that an overtaken bar can possess; it’s a genuine Montana experience.
(Blaine joins me at my observation post.)