Friday, December 31, 2010

2010: Stuff That Soared Above the Turkeys

2010. This was the year destined for greatness, wasn't it?

But then, to paraphrase the Passover Haggadah, why should this year be like any other year?

Because it had to be. It just, Had to. 2009 was just... well, it sucked.

And unfortunately, the better part of 2010 was Girl Loses Job, Girl Finds Job, Girl Loses Job, Girl Goes On Whisky Bender and Eats Like Someone With a Much Faster Metabolism. And a very promising romance went up and down more times than the Cyclone, and made seven months feel like they were in dog years.

But some truly amazing things (and yeah, that romance with a cute Mexican man 12 years my junior can be counted among them I guess) happened. As most of you know, I hate Top Ten Year End Lists (and somehow the upcoming Royal Wedding has made every one this year, even if it's a Top 10 worst outcomes of the Gulf oil spill). But screw it. I do have a countdown of sorts of the year's highlights, images and lessons learned. In no particular order:

1. Scotland. The trip came together like matched jigsaw pieces. My friend Dan would be there to host at just the right time of the year and air miles became available to me. It almost didn't happen due to a menstral volcano in Iceland wreaking havoc on European air travel, but on a rainy NY May day, I made it out. When I arrived, almost immediately, there was an unforeseeable tragedy in my host's girlfriend's family that could have spoiled everything, but in the end, we made it to almost all the locations we'd planned. Dan, to whom I am forever grateful, was an amazing guide and I truly fell in love with Edinburgh, the Highlands, and most of all the Isle of Skye. Of the four distilleries we stopped at, we had a dream visit to Auchentoshan on the outskirts of Glasgow. Master Distiller Jeremy Stephens, whom I'd met in NYC at an industry function and who Dan had met several times at the distillery, gave us the golden ticket tour, and then invited us to taste anything we wanted from vast containers of cask samples dating back to the sixties. Truly, one of the best moments of my career and an amazing trip I desperately needed. Plus, it didn't hurt that I happened to catch the country's most perfect week of warm, sunny weather for the year.

2. Working at the NY Philharmonic Archives. Though it was temporary and paid little, I got to hang out with a fantastic bunch of people three days a week and have access to an amazing collection of priceless correspondences, music scores and vintage programs. I learned so much there and it awakened my inner librarian again as well as getting me re-acquainted with classical music. I still crack up when I think of the name Thadius G. Crapster.

3. Drinking Nancy's Wines. Last April, we finally made that day trip out to CT to visit Max's step-grandmother in her crazy, Escheresque house with the big wine collection left by her late husband. We had free reign of the cellar and got to taste some incredible vintage Burgundies, Bordeaux and German wines while listening to stories, looking through some of her husband's old Playboys and generally cracking each other up. The house was almost entirely windows, which made a gorgeous country backdrop to all this. Sadly, Nancy passed away last month after a sudden stroke. But she went with dignity and living by her own rules. I'll never forget that incredible afternoon and her generosity.

4. The Manhattan Cocktail Classic Three Hour Tour. My boyfriend suddenly went all Telemundo telenovela (the first time. Why didn't I listen to you people?) and it looked like that trip to Scotland wasn't happening because of that volcano, plus I had a screaming hangover. But I dragged myself to the Pier and got on that boat. Good call. What followed was a crazy fun afternoon and evening with great friends, libations and picture perfect sunset scenery.

5. A visit from Ruth and Yasmin. Leave it to my Israeli cousins to show up in New York City in January during one of the season's most wicked cold snaps. But we bundled up against the elements and managed to have so much FUN! The highlight being when, after dinner in the hood at Watty and Meg, where Yasmin and Jason got into a Dainty Ladies Contest (first one to break form and belch loses. The neighboring tables loved us), everyone ended up back at my place. And in my bed. Yep, Ruth, Yasmin, Jason, myself and my cat Bruce all piled into bed and read Eloise aloud to Yasmin (Bruce only sight-reads). As my friend Rob said, "You can't plan that." One of the best nights ever.

6. My birthday. My friends knew I needed a great night out for the last birthday of my thirties and that's exactly what John, Stephanie, Jason, Rob, Malaika and Ricardo gave me. From rooftop drinks at the Rock Shop, to a delicioso dinner at Palo Santo to nightcaps at Jakewalk and, so help us, Boat. We had a blast. Plus Malaika gave me the Nelly Olson book and Alison Arngram became an e-pal for a few weeks (long story). Awesome.


7. Chicago!!! If you read my posts about this trip, then you know my bestist pal John and I painted the Windy City haute red last October while visiting Liza. From brunch at Hot Chocolate to dinners at the Bristol, the Publican and a fab Mexican joint in Pilsen, to cocktails at the Violet Hour, essential dive stop at Mike's Takeout and final nightcaps at Silver Cloud. Plus a long double-decker bus tour, a Steppenwolf play and good first trip to the Museum of Fine Arts, with some help from Liza's mom, Anastasia, we did it all in three days except pizza. Hey John? Next time? Pizza.

8. Dad's 75th birthday, August 13th. How do you fete a guy who treats any given Thursday like a major landmark birthday? I was in charge of the electronic invitations and unofficial head of the planning committee (the other two members were my parents). But unbeknownst to my dad, Jason and I also had designs on showing a roast in video form during the party. Putting that together was no easy task. I managed to lift some great pics from photo albums unawares and after a lot of emails and a long night in Jason's office clunkily editing on the Mac, it came together. The well-attended party on 30th St. was a smash despite a gray day. And ended like any great Schusterian gathering: the main crew listening to old records (some courtesy of Dennis), popping open some gems from the cellar, grazing on left overs from Marianne's catering and the telling of classic stories. Here is a link to the short video Jason and I put together, now on Youtube.

9. Hosting my first Thanksgiving dinner. The announcement came around Christmas time last year. For the first time in 39 years, my parents, who were offered the business trip of a lifetime to Spain and Germany, would be missing Thanksgiving at home and I was on my own. They let me have the use of their apartment to cook and host. It was a lot of coordinating, heavy lifting and gravy panic, but I managed. Well, I better than managed, with the help of Malvina, my sous-chef (who ran home for a working baster and made the gravy in the end). It was kind of great. A rich sense of accomplishment. Seven smiling faces. Yummy sounds. Completely worth the effort.

10. Right about nowish. OK, so yeah. Here I am back to square one. I've had a monthlong jump on a couple of major self-improvement strategies, unlike last year. I don't think New Year's resolutions work. Honestly, I think most gyms should just be open in January and be a bar for the rest of the year. So that's why I started early, while it's still this year. A realistic goal: not letting 2011 totally suck. Happy New Year everyone!!!!

Friday, December 10, 2010

NY Philharmonic Archives: a Tribute

Soooooooo. What has two thumbs and just got laid off for the third December in a row?

Sigh. They just simply ran out of work for us to do on the digitization project. It didn't pay much, but I really enjoyed the job, the people and even to an extent, the routine. Some of the work could be very dry, but there were great moments that couldn't come with any other job. I came across some quite entertaining letters between orchestra members, concert goers and staff, controversial ones and some that were compelling simply as a historical testimony. Like the pre-World War II letter from an orchestra board member who had been in Germany in 1933, praising Adolph Hitler for "restoring hope" to that country. The countless letters of either praise or consternation against conductors for playing modern music. Even the complaints written because of the new air conditioning system in Avery Fisher Hall, and the poor old biddies who caught cold because of it. It was always a thrill holding actual music scores with Leonard Bernstein's own handwritten notes, or in some cases, poems or lewd illustrations. For weeks on end, myself and my much younger colleagues would burst into giggles when we found documents written by or for the 1960s Promenade catering coordinator, who rejoiced in the name Thadius G. Crapster. Sometimes he was just Thad. Or T.G. But we always knew. Sudden laugher? We'd glance at each other knowingly. "Crapster."

And so, a roundup of some favorite images.

Part of our job was to remove staples and old paper clips from documents as we put them in chronological order in folders to be shot for digitization. We started throwing these into an old vase and collecting them, and it became like a giant, robotic hairball by autumn. By now, the vase is nearly three quarters full! I hope someone thinks to weigh it.

Here's Grayson holding it up in its glory.

Grammys make the perfect paper stop.

I loved coming across vintage ads in orchestra programs.

Ah, the 60s. Smoking is good for you! Yikes.

I thought that was what David Bartons were for?

Drink this and you'll get laid and trip out! Creepy.

 How to visitors guide to communism. Given to orchestra members before a Soviet tour.

I'm sure the routine was positively electric!

Wow, what a time for Broadway! 

And, finally, a photo of a long lost family member. Who knew there was a cousin Earl?

Many thanks to Barbara for being a way cool person of wit and wisdom to work for. And Mitch for his boundless enthusiasm for the slightest technical achievement, patience, and being a really fun person to take to Chilean wine tastings.

I will surely miss it, but the show will go on as it does. Every year.

Seriously? December? Again?