Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Porcupine Tree

It's been a pretty eventful six days since my last post, starting with last night when I had sex for the first time since about August 2005 (depending on how you define "sex"). Of course, details are personal since there are other people involved, but suffice it to say that it was a long time in the making - last night was the culmination of a courtship that started in November 2005, but had been complicated up to now by other factors that were finally resolved this past weekend.

Of course everything else kinda pales in importance to that news, but this weekend I did get to see one of my favorite bands Porcupine Tree at the Nokia Theater in Times Square with two of my loved ones. It wasn't a perfect concert from a set list standpoint, as they left out some of their big hits like "Lazarus" and "Arriving Somewhere," but it was still a rockin' show. The big downside was all the people in the audience smoking pot and tobacco, and this crazy Peruvian guitarist who was standing next to me and kept bumping into me while doing his air guitar dance. Plus it was a little taxing standing up for three hours, but it was also the closest I've ever been to the stage of a rock concert, so that was pretty cool. The inflated condoms bouncing around the audience also made me chuckle - fortunately they didn't land on me.

The rest of the weekend was a wash - I had to come in Saturday to the office to work. Fortunately it's much easier to drive into the city and park nearby than take the train, and it worked out well for me because I was going to be in the city anyway for the concert Saturday night. Plus, I got to bill the parking fee, mileage and bridge toll to my client. I even got a free lunch out of the deal since the client ordered takeout Mediterranean cuisine, which I love and was appropriate since they were from Saudi Arabia. I met up with my family at the Met museum and we drove down to Times Square for a bite to eat at McDonald's, then staked out a space on the floor of the concert hall. After the concert I got a souvenir black hoodie and we took a cab back up to my office so I could take some stuff home, like my kneeling chair that I don't use in the office anymore, but I can use at home now.

Sunday was nice and restful, with my usual trip to the library and then we had a backyard barbecue as the clouds rolled in over the golf course. As it got dark we went inside and watched the Yankees play the Mets and come out with a rare win, while at the same time finishing the groundwork that led to yesterday's events.

I might also mention that Friday night I watched one of my favorite movies, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, with my (strictly platonic) movie buddy from the Polish Film Festival, and we ended up talking about it for several hours afterwards. She was so inspired by the movie that she's already booked a trip to Prague for this upcoming holiday weekend to meet up with her sister there, who is going to school in Poland.

So lots of good stuff happening here, and I feel better in my heart and spirit than I have for a long time. I'm looking forward to better times ahead, and hopefully at a bit slower pace than the past week.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Home Entertainment Expo

I had a big turn of events with my family this week. I'm not going to discuss it here because it's personal and there's a lot of pain involved right now, but eventually I'm confident things will be better than they were because of it.

On Saturday I came into the city to visit the Home Entertainment Expo 2007 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel near Grand Central Station. As many of you know, I am somewhat of an audiophile and although I've read countless reports from the annual Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas and similar events, it was the first time I'd ever been to this kind of show in person. It was kind of fun, but in a way, it also revealed that I am definitely in the wrong demographic for this hobby. It was about 95 percent men at the show, and some of them smelled a little ripe, to be honest. They tend to pack people in pretty tightly in audience chairs to audition gear, so you wind up sitting pretty close to people at these things. On the positive side, it was rather easy to bat a few eyelashes and get free stuff that other people weren't getting, like a logo cap and CD zipper case.

One good thing about the show was that I found some audiophile CDs in the marketplace that I wanted to replace, such as Dick Hyman's From the Age of Swing (check out "Topsy" track 3 my favorite) and Amanda McBroom's Growing Up in Hollywood Town (she wrote Bette Midler's song "The Rose" and does a better job singing it, I think). Also picked up a Chesky demonstration disc with songs from artists such as Rebecca Pidgeon and Sara K.

The best demo at the show was a clip from the movie Vertical Limit in a "home" theater set up in one of the larger conference rooms at the hotel. It was a demonstration of Outlaw subwoofers (I own two that survived the fire) and four were used in the room. I have one hooked up at home, and it is already way too much bass for my neighbors, so I have to use it carefully. The demo at the show was quite awesome in a testosterone-fueled kind of way - it was literally shaking the excess fabric on the legs of my jeans. Plus the picture was a pristine 1080p (that's 1,080 lines of progressively scanned resolution) on a 12-foot wide screen. I also saw a wonderful performance by Omar Hakim on drums playing in 7.1 surround on the new high-definition DTS standard in another demo room by Aperion Audio (I own their rear channel speakers at home).

After the show I went to Tall Girl and bought a new jacket, intending to use it for a new business presentation on Tuesday. However, it needs to be altered, so I ended up wearing my old standby black blazer (which must be good luck, because we won the pitch). Monday was rather busy preparing for the pitch – our team rehearsed it until about 6 pm then walked across the street for dinner. It was one of the most expensive dinners I've ever had, partly because of a $60 bottle of wine – it came out to $100 a person! I got home about 9:45 pm and rehearsed a couple more times in front of my three stuffed animals as an audience just to make sure I was comfortable. This was really my first presentation since taking this job, so I wanted to be extra-prepared, and it paid off. The new client is one of the world's largest industrial companies, and the deal will probably be for about $500K for the remaining half of the year.

No rest for the weary though - now another client is moving up the timetable on a major acquisition, which they might announce on Friday (which means I might have to work this weekend). So with that, I'd better get back to work now.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Adam Pascal

It's been a busy week, and it's not over yet so I'll keep this short. The highlight so far was going to see Adam Pascal in concert on Wednesday at B.B. King's in Times Square with a new friend. He plays Roger in the original Broadway play and movie versions of Rent, and he has a blossoming solo music career as well with his latest album Civilian. He played bass and acoustic guitar and had a piano accompanist. He's really a very funny guy and let his personality show through in his performance. It was just weird seeing him in a buzz-cut since I'm used to seeing him on screen with long hair.

While the music and the company were nice, I didn't much care for the venue, which could best be compared to a comedy club in both layout and operation. There was a $10 minimum food purchase per person, per set, and the 15 percent gratuity was added automatically, which in my book is pretty cheesy. At least the service was good, so I wasn't as peeved about it as I could have been. My companion noted that they lost money on her, since she normally tips between 18 and 20 percent, but wasn't going to add any extra tip beyond what was required since she feels the same way I do about the practice. At least they didn't have a two-drink minimum, as some comedy clubs do (although they did try to push bottled water instead of tap water).

Acting class was cancelled last night, which was fine with me because I'm going out tonight to see a movie called Copying Beethoven at the Polish Film Festival, and I don't think I'd do well being out late three nights in a row. I'm going tonight with a couple more new friends - this will be our first meeting. It seems like it's been ages since I've been to a movie (the last one was 300) so this will be a nice change of pace for me. Also, it's nice to meet new people socially and continue emerging from my self-imposed cocoon a bit and see what the world has to offer.

I was walking down the sidewalk last week and a woman was walking the other way toward me. She stopped me and introduced herself as a spiritual reader and gave me a card. She said she could "read" that one of my chakras was blocked, and it's true that I had been dealing with some pent-up anger last week (but fortunately had a chance to expunge it last Saturday). I'm still a bit amazed that she could read that on me just from a quick glance on a busy sidewalk. I guess I have one of those auras that stands out like a beacon to people attuned to it.

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Smells in the City

I've been devouring Bill Willingham's comic Fables in the trade paperback format (I'm up to Volume Five of eight that are currently published), which depicts a world where the characters of classic children's fables are immortal beings living in New York City. Snow White is the deputy mayor, Little Boy Blue is her assistant, Cinderella runs a shoe store, and the Big Bad Wolf has been transformed into a human named Bigby Wolf, the town sheriff who has to smoke tobacco continuously to dull his senses to over-stimulation in the non-Fable world (referred to as the mundane, or "mundy" world).

One thing I really don't care for in this city are the smells. Scents in New York assault you like muggers used to, lurking around every corner, in subway cars, on sidewalks - everywhere. There's a section of Penn Station that I pass every evening that smells like cheeseburgers that have been left on the grill too long, then wrapped in brown paper bags and left out in the rain for the afternoon. I wish I didn't have to walk past that spot every day, but it's the most direct path from the subway to the New Jersey train gates, and usually I'm in too much of a hurry to take an alternate route.

The worst example of this is when homeless people commandeer a subway car and use it as their personal toilet. This has the effect of emptying the entire car into adjacent cars, which become terribly crowded. It's almost comical when you see a train where one car is nearly empty and both cars on either side are stuffed like cans of sardines. The same thing happened several months back on a NJ Transit train when the woman sitting in front of me vomited all over the floor.

Just walking on the streets you encounter less than pleasant scents, like the incessant cigarette smoking, the garbage piles on sidewalks, charcoal fires from street vending carts, even the heavy cologne and cheap perfumes people wear can be annoying. It all almost makes me wish I could turn off my sense of smell as easily as I can block my hearing with my noise-canceling earbuds connected to my iPod.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Return from hiatus

So, it's been a month since I took off from this space, and I think it's time to start talking again. My time off has had some ups and downs. In some ways I feel better, and other ways I feel worse, but at least I feel like writing again.

Most of April was dominated by fire clean-up and replacing what I lost as best I could. That's not to say that I didn't have any fun, because I did. But I devoted at least half of every weekend to doing stuff related to the fire, like bringing my messed-up cable box in, unpacking the last of my boxes, cleaning files, organizing my closet, shopping for little things like cleaning supplies and bathroom products, etc. etc. I would say last weekend was the end of that as a major activity in my life when I finally bought a receiver and tested my damaged speakers to find that most of them still worked and set up my makeshift home theater, using a DVD player I had previously loaned my family and hence was not destroyed in the fire. I also found a table and chair by my apartment dumpster that now serves as my computer desk. I haven't replaced the brand-new Dell desktop I'd bought just a week before the fire, so I'm just using my old laptop for now, along with a new printer/scanner. But I still don't have cable or Internet at home, simply because I've spent so much money on recovery I have to cut down on my bills wherever I can.

On the fun side, I went to Lincoln Center to see La Traviata by the New York City Opera, and made my first trip to Shea Stadium to see a Mets game (my company has a box there and I managed to score some tickets from a co-worker who couldn't use them). We also took another fun trip out to Connecticut for a band gig. I've also been taking my weekly acting classes, which have been fun and challenging at the same time. Right now I'm doing a scene with another girl playing two women at a gym talking about relationships.

Work has been extremely busy for a number of reasons, and I've been having to stay a little later on some nights to cover things. One of our vice presidents left and I've had to pick up some additional work and responsibilities from her absence, plus one of our entry-level girls left this week, leaving us a bit short-handed until they can hire someone else. Then I have a large pharmaceutical client in New Jersey that is ramping up an internal GLBT program, so I've been involved in helping them with that, which involves taking a car out to New Jersey and back a couple times a week (a real time-sucker). At least it's work that interests me.

Speaking of busy-ness, I'd better get back to work now or I'll be stuck here late on a Friday. If anyone is still reading, I wish you a happy weekend!