What are we talking about today?

I used to have theme days. I've stopped doing that for now. My husband died in February and I'm trying to find a new normal. You'll probably read some sad stuff here for a while, mixed in with my usual ranting about bicycles and buses and books. I like 'B' words.

03 August 2015

Not Much to Look at, Nothing Posh

Many, many moons ago, I saw some Les Mis melted crayon art kicking around on Pinterest, said out loud that I'd like to try that, and someone gave me a bunch of old crayons they were wanting to get rid of anyway. Result!

As is my wont, I hung onto the crayons for ages before I finally went out this weekend to buy some canvas and finally get on with it. My first idea was a French flag that said "One Day More," but I changed my mind and went with a line from "One Day More" instead.

"There's a new world for the winning," in case it's not exactly readable.
My apologies to any French readers for what I've done to your flag.
This was not just a fan art project, although it obviously is fan art and it was a lot of fun doing. This was also an upcycling project. You'll see a lot of crayon art out there with beautiful, gleaming new crayons, but I didn't have any of those. And really, when it comes to Les Mis fan art, what better to use than broken crayons to build the little melty barricade? 

While choosing the red crayons, I noticed I had a lot left over, so I went ahead and worked up a "Red and Black" version, too. Once again, I backed away from the original lines I was going to use ("The blood of angry men/the dark of ages past") and went for the slightly more hopeful second half of the verse. I need hope more than despair right now.

This one obviously did not turn out so well with the letters. Not sure how or if I'll fix it. Messy, remember?
"World about to dawn" and "Night that ends at last."
 I have one more plotted for myself that's not Les Misérables themed: a rainbow background with the line "Follow the person who follows a dream" from Finian's Rainbow. That's slightly edited from the line in the actual song, where "person" is "fellow," but I'm opting for inclusiveness over fidelity to the text, being as I'm not a fellow and I may well be the one following a dream.

And I'm waiting to see if Denise wants to do a Stargate or Doctor Who melty art. Or both. Oooh--crossover!

Sticky Situation

I came home from New York with sore legs and feet from so much walking and standing around, and it resolved itself pretty quickly-- in my right leg. I waited to see if my left leg would get better, and when it was still sore and started swelling on Thursday, I gave in and started looking for a doctor.

Why? Because I had a blood clot in one of the deep veins of my leg many years ago, I recognize the symptoms, and I was really anxious to avoid another three-day hospitalization like last time. Ugh.

Here's the culprit! By some miracle,
I didn't take a selfie in the ER.
From sanja gjeneroon freeimages.com.
Here's my problem: Like many people on a fairly tight budget, medical care is for emergencies for me. I don't have a PCP right now, and didn't even have health insurance for the first couple of years I lived here. Unfortunately, not having a PCP means there's no one to order the test that would rule out a blood clot, so I was stuck with walk-in clinics. The first clinic turned me away because it was overcrowded, the second one because they didn't have the equipment to check, which left me with the oh-so-exciting option of heading to the ER. Ugh. 

To keep myself amused and upbeat, I started tweeting the experience, so I will refrain from a play-by-play here--but I finally left the ER at 10 PM with a confirmed diagnosis of a blood clot, in a shallow vein this time (translation: not the kind that's likely to send a clot to my lungs), and a prescription that I still haven't been able to have filled because I don't have a PCP. (I plan to fix that tomorrow, so no worries.) But at least I know what's wrong, and the medication should sort everything right out so I can be back to my usual walking/riding/running all over the place that I've had to put a slight hold on for now.

Not exactly the homecoming I was hoping for.

01 August 2015

NYC, What Is It About You?

See, from time to time I can quote musicals that aren't Les Misérables!

When I first started scheming this little adventure and I was thinking I would be going alone, my plan was to get an Airbnb somewhere for a night or two, see Les Mis, visit the Strand Bookstore, and then take in whatever I could of New York in whatever time I had left. (MoMA & FAO Schwarz were high on the list, until FAO closed the week before we went. I'm still mad.) And while I agree that's a crazy way to attempt one's first trip to New York, my only reason for this trip was to see Ramin Karimloo as Valjean while I still could, so the rest could wait.

Of course, that turned out to be not quite what happened, because Keely was able to come along and "a day or two" in NYC quickly turned into a long weekend in NYC, which meant we could add a second show (It Shoulda Been You, recap of which is coming eventually, I promise!) and add a few more things to our list.

We ran across the New York City Pass and ultimately decided that it was a good way to see a whole bunch of things in a short period of time. We were able to hop from one attraction to another without feeling like we were wasting money on entrance fees to only be places for an hour or two. (And while we could have spent an entire day in places like the Met or MoMA, other things like Top of the Rock or the Empire State Building are really not places where you'd spend a while day, no matter how much money you hand over to get in.

So, here's what we did with our five days (I am so not looking up the links to all of these, so you're on your own for Googling):

Grand Central Station
Rockefeller Center
Top of the Rock
Central Park
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Guggenheim Museum
Times Square
It Shoulda Been You at Brooks Atkinson Theatre
The Museum of Modern Art
Les Misérables at Imperial Theatre
Discovery Times Square
Madame Tussauds
Chelsea Market
A Chelsea Market bookstore's
plea for people to stop stealing.
The High Line
City Sightseeing Cruise

Brooklyn Bridge Park
Bryant Park
Went by the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building (New York Public Library), but had just missed closing time
Empire State Building
Strand Bookstore
Forbidden Planet
And Strawberry Fields in Central Park before we headed out on Monday
This is actually the Sheep Meadow in Central Park, but we
walked through Strawberry Fields to get here.

Obviously, with packing this much stuff into so short a time, I am probably the wrong person to ask for recommendations on anything. But if you do want my thoughts on what I did see, ask away & I'll do my best to answer.

29 July 2015

But Tomorrow Never Came

Yeah, I know, I promised you other New York things. And you believed me? That was just silly. It's still coming, but I'm trying to get my photos off my phone and into a more usable spot, and in the meantime it's always a good day for more Les Misérables. Yes, believe it or not, I left things out yesterday and still have more to say.

Saturday night, Keely was reading Broadway news or something and mentioned that Kyle Jean-Baptiste had been Valjean just a couple of nights before (making Broadway history as both the youngest and the first African-American man to play Valjean). And to think of all the times that I've wondered if Ramin Karimloo wasn't a bit of a young Valjean... never mind about that, then. (Since the character ages 20 years in the course of the show, I suppose there's a wide range of right ages to be to play Valjean, after all.)

Incidentally, the people next to us in the theatre had tickets for Saturday's show without knowing anything about the cast, they didn't know Ramin is leaving soon and Alfie Boe is joining the cast--they just love Les Misérables and were able to enjoy the show without all the obsessive whatever it is that I do. While we were chatting, the guy said, "I really wasn't expecting to see a 30-year-old playing Valjean," and it took everything in me not to correct him with Ramin's actual age. (I swear, I only know it because he and I were born in the same year. I've no idea how old anyone else on Broadway is.) (Except Kyle Jean-Baptiste, but that's because it's been in the news for a couple days. I'll forget soon.) Instead, I just agreed that Ramin is young and we moved on to talking about other stuff.

Anyway, Keely said it was a good thing we hadn't gotten tickets for Thursday, I said I wouldn't have done anyway since I knew Ramin always has Thursdays off, Keely might have said something about me being a weirdo stalker. (Just kidding, I'm the one who says that. But she wasn't surprised that I was so well informed.)

After the 25th anniversary of Les Mis in 2010, the show has been re-orchestrated, re-imagined, and re-whatevered so that there are significant differences from what the show is now versus what it was the first couple of times I saw it--the characteristic turntable, for example, is gone. (See more changes through the years in this article.) I noticed the Broadway version also has a couple lines from the 2012 movie that I've never heard on stage before. Every show is in a constant state of tweaking, obviously, because that's how you get an amazing product night after night-- by refining what's not working, changing things as needed, etc. But the changes as the show gets older are one reason I keep going back to see it every couple of years--it's literally never been the same show twice.

One final thought before I really do leave this alone for a while. In the 2012 movie, as well as the book, Courfeyrac is Gavroche's big brother among Les Amis. In the stage version, it's usually Grantaire who looks after Gavroche. I don't know if this is a change from before-- the first couple of Grantaires I saw were comic relief, with hardly any emotional swings (although "Drink With Me" was always a low point). At least one of them sat at a table drinking throughout the barricade scene, and that's where he was shot, so there wasn't a lot of time for noticing whether he interacted with the smallest Ami. For that matter, there's not a lot to distinguish movie Grantaire from the other Amis, except that he climbs the stairs at the end to be killed alongside Enjolras. (Sob!) So for Grantaire and Gavroche to have that connection on the stage does make Grantaire more interesting, more emotional and less comic, even if it does leave Courfeyrac without a lot to do except take the watch since they might attack before it's light. (And by the way, it was in part Grantaire's interactions with Gavroche at Saturday's show that made me go looking to see if this was the same actor I'd seen before.)

And with that, I really am done. Other New York adventures still coming, once my phone starts to cooperate.

28 July 2015

Here They Sang About Tomorrow

This post is going to be long. Here's the short version: I went to see Les Misérables on Broadway over the weekend, was completely blown away, as I so often am, and am now here to tell you about it. Feel free to skip to the end if you're not into the details, of which there are many.

Outside the Imperial
Theatre. Yes, he does
rip his shirt open during
the show. Yes, he does
work out a lot.
So! It all started when Ramin Karimloo, who is currently playing Valjean, announced that he's leaving the show at the end of August and he has no plans to play Valjean again. So I called up my friend Keely, we started plotting, and the upshot was that we planned a fun weekend in New York that would include watching Les Misérables, and for good measure, we threw in a trip to It Shoulda Been You. (Yes, I absolutely should have known better than see two plays in a single weekend. My brain is more addled than usual.)

Here we go, all the stuff I loved:

Earl Carpenter (Javert): I had already bought our tickets before he joined the cast, but was pretty excited to see him. He was one of Chadwick's favourite actors, and sometime a few weeks ago I thought, "Oh, I haven't told Chad yet that I'm going to see Earl Carpenter! Oh..." So it was special for me to see him, even though, and perhaps especially because, Chadwick couldn't.

Brennyn Lark (Éponine): Holy smokes, what a gorgeous voice. And she came to stage door, so I have her autograph on my playbill.

I've never been to stage
door before this weekend.
Definitely going to do that
more often.
Chris McCarrell (Marius): Early on in my Les-Mis-loving days, all I cared about was Marius and Cosette, but once I started paying attention to other characters (i.e., Enjolras), I realised that Marius can be kind of annoying, a perception that was not helped by reading the book, where he's even worse. This Marius, however, is delightful and not annoying. He sings a phenomenal "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables." Also, he's quite possibly the prettiest Marius I've ever seen.

Wallace Smith (Enjolras): Enjolras will always be my favourite. Wallace Smith has a beautiful voice, fantastic stage presence, and is altogether awesome.

So, a quick note: in 2012, the national tour of Les Misérables came through Austin, and Chadwick and I went to go see it. Back then, inexplicably, I hadn't yet started my current tradition of following cast members on Twitter right after seeing the show... which is a pity, because if I had, I'd have been a lot more familiar with a lot more of the cast that I got to see this weekend. Also inexplicably, the 2012 Les Mis is the only show that I've seen in the last 15 years that I don't still have the playbill for (or if I do, it's hidden deep in the bottom of goodness-knows-what). Based on some intense Googling the last couple of days, at least four people I saw in that cast in 2012 are on Broadway now. (And yes, I really am that obsessive. If it helps, I'm like this with all my hobbies.) And with that in mind...

My new favourite Grantaire.
One result of all this intense
Googling is that I've been
reminded that I of all people
shouldn't make assumptions
about someone else's age.
Joseph Spieldenner (Grantaire): is one of the people I'm almost positive I saw in 2012, also as Grantaire. Why am I so sure of this? Chadwick and I were up in the rafters for that show, so we couldn't see faces, just body language, but we were so impressed by that Grantaire's acting choices (which were significantly different than any other Grantaire we'd seen up to that point) that we talked about him most of the way home. On Saturday, it started kicking against my attention that this Grantaire was acting in similar ways, but since I was close enough to see his face, my first impression was more about how emotional he was. (What I actually thought to myself was, "Wow, this is a really weepy Grantaire.") It wasn't until I got back to the hotel and Googled a few of the cast that I saw that he was in the touring company about that time--and the other shoe dropped. I was so curious that I even tweeted him to ask, which I normally don't like to do, because that's one step too close to creepy stalker fandom for me. (Although given the length of this paragraph, that ship may have sailed.)

Anyway, after seeing some 2012 tour press and one magical cast list, I'm almost positive it's the same guy. I spent some time searching for the old playbill, with no luck, and finally had to stop to wonder why this is so important. This weekend, this experience of my first Broadway musical(s), were more things that Chadwick and I should have had together but didn't. But since we were both impressed by Grantaire in 2012, if it was Joseph Spieldenner we saw together, that's one less thing he missed and one more thing we shared. And that's why it matters. It's a small thing, but I'm hanging on to small things right now.

And speaking of... "Empty Chairs at Empty Tables": It was one of Chadwick's favourite songs, and that alone was enough to make me pay extra attention and already be a bit emotional before it started. At the end of "Turning," the women all left candles sitting on the stage, which had me wondering what was happening next. All the students who died on the barricade come on stage during "Empty Chairs", and each one took one of the candles and blew it out before leaving the stage again. My description can't possibly do it justice, so let's just say it's a good thing I had a hankie. It was a powerful moment.

"Lovely Ladies": This has always been the saddest part of the show for me, ever since the first time the line, "Only joking, dearie knows her place," first registered in my brain during a show (it's not in the soundtrack I own). Incidentally, you know Bamatabois, the guy who gets Fantine arrested after this song? Also played by Joseph Spieldenner. I was in awe when I re-read the program and saw that-- I mean, I get that the audience isn't supposed to catch on to who all each member of the ensemble plays, but I try to keep track of them on purpose because I like being awed by the range of abilities Les Mis actors have. In this case? I did not even notice, because the characters were so different. (And Bamatabois was standing right in front of me, close enough for me to see all the blood on his face.) I'm still both blown away and heartbroken at the same time that such a captivating Grantaire is also such a vile bad guy.

I was cool with just getting a pic with
the poster instead of getting one
with Ramin at stage door. His
autograph is one of the ones on my
playbill, but no live pic. 
And finally... Ramin Karimloo (Jean Valjean): He's the reason I went, so naturally I was not surprised at how amazing his performance was. I saw him in concert a couple of years ago on his Broadgrass tour, which was delightful, but seeing him live and in character is something else altogether. Three hours is just not long enough, which is probably why I've spent the last three days in a fog thinking about this show. I'm definitely grabbing any chance I get to see him live again.

So, if you're still with me, you deserve a medal! Unfortunately, Thénardier stole them all. Anyway, that was my experience at Les Misérables on Broadway. Totally worth it, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

And since Jenni asked so nicely, other highlights of my New York trip are coming soon. I did see a few things in between trips to the theatre.

11 July 2015

Perchance to Dream

I have dozens of pictures of my
grandmother and I together. Can I find
any of them? Of course not. So, my
granny is on the left and her mother
(who passed away a few years ago) is
on the right. Did I inherit the genes to
have such nice dark hair well into my
70s? I did not. 
I don't know if I ever mentioned this on the blog, but my paternal grandmother passed away two weeks before Chadwick did. Denise & I made a mad dash up to Indiana when the docs said she had less than a week left, only to arrive a few hours too late to see her alive. Of course, we knew when we saw her last September that we were probably saying good-bye, and that this is one of the life choices we made when we decided that a couple states' distance never hurt anybody, but that doesn't make it any easier.

But of course, that loss was overshadowed by the much closer and much less expected loss a couple of weeks later, so much so that I have a hard time remembering that she's gone. When I ordered Mother's Day flowers this year, I was halfway through typing in her address before I remembered that no one was there to receive them. I've lost count of how many times I've thought about calling her, only to realise that hers is one of the phantom numbers in my phone. And, just this week, I've started dreaming about her again.

For years and years, this has been my favourite pic of my
paternal grandparents. My granddad died when I was five
months old. He & I shared a birthday, and I get physically
ill when I think about all the joint birthday parties we missed
out on and all the fun we could have had. So I try not to think
about it a lot. (My dad is the kid on the far left that Grandpa
has such a tight hold on. If you know my dad, you know that
was probably out of necessity.) 
I've started dreaming about Chadwick, too, which has led to a bout of not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. I only see him when I'm sleeping, I can only talk to him then-- or rather, that's the only time he can answer me. And that being the case, why on earth would I ever want to wake up?

I'm not really surprised I'd start dreaming about Grandma and Chadwick at about the same time, considering how close together their deaths were. My grandmother and I don't really talk in my dreams; she's just there, the same presence she's been all my life. The reality that I'll never again open my mailbox and find one of her letters is starting to settle over me. Even into her 80s, she had beautiful handwriting, the kind that's so pretty it's almost unreadable. :) Even into her 80s, she wrote long letters full of the kind of insider information about various family members that none of them would ever tell me themselves. Now my only news source is what they're willing to tell me on Facebook.

No dreams can bring back what we've lost.

01 July 2015

Wow, July 1?

I'm 14 hours into Camp NaNoWriMo and I still haven't decided what I'm writing. Thank goodness for the variable word count goals during Camp NaNo. Missing a couple days won't hurt too much!

(Yes, I know, blog posts from me four days in a row. There must be some sort of apocalypse happening.)

I just dug this up off my blog archives.
I don't remember where I found it.
I can't narrow it down in Google images.
Basically, this is not my pic, so thanks
to whoever made it.
At least there's a copyright on it.
My real reason to post today, though, isn't to be frantic about Camp NaNo. Rather, I'm here to say HAPPY CANADA DAY!! to all my bloggy friends from the north. I hope you're having a fantastic holiday. If you're Canadian and Camp NaNo-ing, then may your celebrations inspire you to write like you've never written before.

So, my narrowed-down choices for Camp NaNo? Either carry on with my thing about a professional knitter that I abandoned during NaNoWriMo last year, or pick up my favourite set of characters who will never see the light of day but who are so much fun to write and see what I can do with them. I may have to flip a coin.

30 June 2015

One Last Thing...

... and then I'll be back to blogging about whatever comes to mind instead of Supreme Court cases.

The positive comments I've gotten from Christians have well outnumbered the negative ones. Some of them from surprising people. Most of them have been shared privately, because not everyone is in a position where they can rock the boat without losing the influence they have, so they have to be more subtle. I get that and totally respect those who can do subtlety.

I speak what I do, at least this time, because I can. I'm not going to lose my job over this. I may lose friends, and while I'm willing to fight to keep friendships intact, my best friend in the whole world is already gone beyond reach, so it's not like I have to be scared of the worst that can happen there. A bunch of strangers have suddenly found out how disjointed and nonsensical my writing can be when I'm trying to get a lot of thoughts out in a hurry, but hey, better I hear that now than after I've self-pubbed something awful, yes?

But here's something: I'm not brave. I'm frustrated. I'm not a good ally. I came along late in the game to ask people to find something else to complain about for a while. I haven't even bothered reading the comments I've gotten on Facebook past the first few, because the private messages I was getting were a lot more interesting. These are not the actions of a brave person. It's just me, and I'm pretty boring.

Anyway. So Camp NaNoWriMo starts tomorrow. I've never done any kind of NaNoWriMo without also having background homework. I don't know how one does just NaNo, but I'm about to find out.



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