“Lanterns”

When I hear lanterns, I think of nighttime in the Old West and a barn fire from a horse kicking over a kerosene lantern and then an old man in a nightgown grabbing his own lantern and running onto the porch and his eyes going wide at the blaze and then cowboys and lanterns and fire.

Also, I think of Chinese lanterns. Those are pretty!

Winter Lantern Festival sounds like the pretty kind. Over in Snug Harbor on Staten Island, lanterns were ablaze! Except that they weren’t kerosene fueled and weren’t really lanterns. S and I headed out on a not-too-cold winter night to see the lanterns which turned out to be lights, and the lights were pretty, so it all worked out.

Snug Harbor is pretty small compared to the number of people who were swarming to see the pretty lanterns. That meant a lot of driving in circles. When I was about to make a fifth loop, the security guy beckoned my car over and asked why we were there. S was like, To see the lights. He was like, Okay there’s no parking inside but you can park right in front of my car. He indicated a very tight spot for which I would need to parallel park. And it took me under five minutes, which is highly impressive. I also sweat out maybe a pint of parking sweats, which is expected. (If y’all thought there would be no sweating, y’all have forgotten key elements of my soul).

Not pretty was the soft mud beneath our feet as we walked through. We wore boots. We were smart. I’m including this link here– https://gothamtogo.com/winter-lantern-festival-2018-on-staten-island/ — to show how the photo envisions the ground as magic unmuddy tiles, which is the opposite of what we were walking on. There were paths made of some sort of outdoor pathway building materials, but to get closer to some of the displays, there was lots of mud in the dark. But it was lit by these pretty non-lantern lights, so, in turn, it was kind of pretty, too!

The lights were LED sculptures and Eastern themed. There were large flowers, a panda, and a dragon at the beginning. The Chinese zodiac lit up another pathway. There was a shimmery peacock, which I suppose is not necessarily Chinese, but more worldly. Other worldly things were the Christmas tree and some butterflies. And we walked through a shark. It’s hard to explain, but it was also pretty.

A small section of candy appeared, and we saw it from across the way. I was like, That was made for you. S was like, for sure. When we got to it, she kept turning towards me as I was taking pictures of her from behind, and finally I was like, Hey you’re ruining it! And she was like, Ohhh, yes, good idea.

A few years back, we went to a Will Cotton exhibit and I snapped a quick photo of her from behind looking at the painting, and it was pretty amazing. Since then, whenever we come across a candy-themed exhibit, I usually recreate the magic of S In Awe Of Sweets. Here in the dark backlit by candy, it does the trick.

winterlanternfest 2018 (40)

#SouthpawSweets

Then there was another panda. Like a person in a costume panda. I stopped short and then told S we had to walk quickly. When she saw what I was avoiding, she cackled and then tried to get me to go back twice to take a picture. No, no thank you. I am not going near adults in costumes that don’t speak. It’s weird and awkward and I stand by my choice.

She also found some lanterns for me! Lantern success!

winterlanternfest 2018 (32)

Look At All Of These LANTERNS!!!

After we were lanterned out, we headed to the car. Only we couldn’t find the car because once we were out of the exit, I was like, We’ve never been on this street before. S asked a security guy about exits, and he was like, Did you park on Blah De Blah? And I was like, I have no idea. So he was like, That means you did. He gave us directions back into the park and then out again. I had to parallel out of the space halfway because by the time I’d maneuvered back and forth a bunch of times, the other security guy pulled his car away. More success! Very little sweating!

And all by the light of the pretty lanterns.

Advertisements

Official Voice Over-er

Remember back in June when I joked around about that Groupon I got for that voice acting workshop and I was all like This could be my side hustle ha ha ha? Yeah, so fast forward to the next few months when I find myself deep in commercial and narrative scripts and on three separate phone calls devoted to learning about the industry and my own voice. Yeah, that’s right. I signed up for the course.

Fast forward to October. Instead of a phone call, I was up for a face-to-face session of recording several of those scripts using the voice I’d been working on for those few months. Voice Coaches set up some studio time for me on a Friday  as per my request to make it “before the snow comes.”

Now,  you may remember the last time I drove upstate for a reading at Bright Hill Press and Literary Center. That’s located in  Treadwell, NY. Do you know where that is? If you’re answer is “no,” then you’re not alone because the GPS didn’t know where the heck it was, either. There was a lot of drive-crying when I missed a turn and wound around some mountain roads and double-backed a few times until taking myself to Oneonta via the road to Delhi because the road to Oneonta from Treadwell was closed. I mean, the reading was totally worth it. And I also ended up drive-crying on the way home when I didn’t even get lost; yes, there was drive-crying because I was so proud that I didn’t get lost on the way home.

That little refresher is to inform you that there was no drive-crying on this trip! There was a case of Wow, I forgot to bring extra deodorant so let me find a CVS to buy some because the Great Natural Deodorant Experiment of 2018 sometimes doesn’t pan out so well. But there was no drive-crying and there was no CVS-crying or Where’s The Deodorant At-Crying. Overall, no crying. The studio was in Albany, so the GPS knew where that was and it also found the CVS without a hitch.

VoiceOver (8)

Instead, there was a whole lot of being completely psyched to be recording my demo. When I got to the studio, I was even more psyched because they had awesome mints and fun fish.

Then we recorded. Oh, btw, “we” is me and the producer-tech-voice-over-er-instructor Josh. That guy is the definition of pumped up. Like, every phone call started with Christina, are you ready??!!??!! The same thing with the demo. Christina, are you totally ready??!?!?!!!When I got into the booth after a tour of the absolutely gorgeous studio and found the mic magically at my height, I asked him how short the person before me in the booth had been. He probably wasn’t expecting this question, but I notice when things are actually my height because that rarely happens. Turns out he lowered it a whole lot after briefly meeting me in the waiting area. Ha! Stealth. Also we found the smallest headphones because short gal’s got a small head, too, yo.

We plowed through script after script. Every take was exhilarating. It went by so fast. Seriously fast. I can read! Out loud! All those years of being an English Professor, paying off in a little booth in Albany.

After we finished recording, we started talking about when my demo would be ready, how to land jobs as voice talent (that’s me! I’m the talent!), and networking. The conversation derailed into hockey and tiny towns where there’s nothing to do. We got back around to the voice stuff and then it was done. And done!

I knew I’d get the downloads for the demo in a few weeks. I knew I would get demo CDs in the mail around the same time. When the email arrived with the link (it’s here!), I was excited. When the CDs arrived, I was thrilled.

But then? Then! I got a certificate! It’s got my name on it and everything! Okay, okay, so I have diplomas and certificates for stuff I’ve completed. Usually, I’m like, oh that’s nice, here’s a frame. This one, though, was totally unexpected. I didn’t know I’d get a certificate, so I squealed like a five year old and danced around my kitchen when I saw what it was.

VoiceCoachCertificate

And that’s the story of how I’m now an official voice over-er. Thank you, Voice Coaches, for the motivation, the fun, and the voice adventure.

Sob Story

[This may be more for me than for you. Or maybe I just want pity.]

I’m down to my last pair of contacts. I’ve been wearing my glasses. I need a new eye doctor. My old one retired and the one who took over basically told me I’m old and listed a bunch of things that were about to go wrong with my eyes. I already have terrible vision so this information was not doing any good. Also, they offered a test that insurance didn’t cover but they said would replace a dilation. I did it and paid for it. Then they told me I needed to come in for a dilation. I explained how I did the other test. They said it wasn’t the same. This is not a way to be a medical professional.

The check engine light came on in my car. I brought it to the mechanic who says it’s a faulty sensor. He suggested I take it to the dealership because I might get them to fix it for free because of a recall several years back.

I call the dealership. They tell me my car has a current recall. I say I got it completed. They say, no, there’s a second part to the current recall. I say, okay I work from home on Fridays so I can bring it in then. They say, we don’t do recalls on Fridays. Then they go to check to see if they can make an exception. Then they say they don’t have the part for the recall and they will call me.

Then I drive around with the check engine light still on. I feel like Penny.

Then I can’t get into my house. The door is locked. I have the key. The key won’t open the lock. I can open the screen door with the key. The inside door won’t open. All the other screen doors lock from the inside only. I call the locksmith. I sit on my side step and cry. The locksmith says he’ll be there in 25 minutes. An hour passes. I call the locksmith. He says his GPS says he’ll be there in 15 minutes.

In a half hour, the locksmith arrives. I show him the door and the key. He tries the key. It doesn’t work. He asks to see the other doors. I show him the doors. He says that he will try the front door. It will cost $600 in the end if he needs to drill through the lock and then replace it. I say, what about breaking into the side screen door? He looks at me puzzled. I say, this key will open the inside door if I can get by the screen door. He says he will try.

He uses a rudimentary system of inflatable balloons and tubes. It looks like a blood pressure checker for doors. The door pops open. If it hadn’t, I was ready to slash open some screens and unscrew some hinges. Screen doors be gone.

The key works on the inside door. He tells me I can check the front door and asks if he can come in. I tell him to come in as I grab the door knob of the front door that’s jammed. It simply opens. I look at him. He looks at me. I’m like, You know it was jammed. He’s like, yes it was.

Because otherwise, why are we here?

Then we play around with the lock. We try to replicate the problem. We can’t. I say that I’m getting new screen doors that can unlock from the outside in case this happens again.

Then I pay him much less than $600. While we wait for my credit card to go through, he becomes mesmerized by the poster in my kitchen. It’s a play, I say. He asks, Shakespeare? I say, yes it’s a full play on a poster. He says it’s cool. Then he leaves. In the mailbox is a postcard from the car dealership about the current recall. Again.

A red light on the dashboard in my car pops on along with the words CHECK MANUAL and a loud dinging sound. The red of this light compliments the orange glow of the check engine light that’s still on. The manual tells me that the engine is too cold. That can’t be right. Then it says not to drive too quickly or carry a heavy load. I realize that I need an oil change, so I hope that’s what it is. The rain is teeming and I go back to the mechanic and ask for an oil change and tell him about the new light. He doesn’t seem concerned about the light and doesn’t ask follow up questions about possible noises, and that makes me feel better about it. I remind him that the engine light is still on and he says he’ll ignore it.

The rain is still teeming when he calls me and says that the car is ready to go. I go get the car. My plan to get into my jammies early and watch movies has been spoiled but now only one light glows on my dashboard again.

In a few mornings when it’s no longer raining, I decide I really want to walk outside even if it’s cold. I bundle up. I walk outside. It’s sunny and cold but by the end I’m a little sweaty. Things are feeling good. After my walk, I come inside. My glasses fall on the floor and snap in half. I sob. Literally sob. I cannot see without them and I have just the one pair of contacts left and I can’t wear contacts every waking moment. I call in sick to work. I cry some more.

I go to the eye doctor. Everyone there is so very nice. The doctor talks about how he loved an English class he took one summer and how he hosts a sci-fi radio show. This is refreshing since most people who first learn I teach writing tell me about that one essay-writing course they had that they hated. Instead, as we check out my eyes, we talk about Stan Lee and new kinds of contact lenses. He says my eye sight has gotten a little better. He doesn’t tell me what might go wrong with my eyes and doesn’t insinuate that I am old and falling apart.

I find new frames that are almost an exact match to my now broken frames. I shell out a pretty penny for the exam and the contacts, but the contacts have a huge rebate and insurance is paying for my new glasses. I give the doc my card with the astronaut to tell him about my sci-fi poetry, and he gives me a CD of his show plus a website where I can listen to the archives. I’m going back later this week to check out how the new contacts fit my eyeballs.

Then in my night table, I find an old pair of glasses. They seem to be my current prescription. They can tide me over. I can see.

Happy ending.

Dim All The Lights

Summer. No, not the season. The Donna. Donna Summer! S and I saw her in concert at Jones Beach together once. Last night, we saw her music and life on the Broadway stage.

Before getting to the theatre, let me back up for a side story about how I am a giant. I stopped in Penn to grab a snack. A few people stood on line in front of me. At first, I thought the person with the large backpack right in front of me was the daughter of the women in front of her because the person in the backpack was tiny.

Like I felt at least a foot taller than her. I was wearing heels, sure, but I towered . When I saw her face, I was amazed that this was not a child. She was a petite adult.

Waiting and waiting, I pondered the snack options. Waiting and waiting, I chose and then changed my mind and then chose and changed my mind back to the original. With all the waiting and decision making, I jumped into action upon being called next.

Only I wasn’t next. I’m so not used to having to look down to see anyone because no one is ever shorter than me that I totally did not see Petite Backpack still standing in front of me. We’re all probably lucky I didn’t bowl her over. The guy at that counter was like, I think she was before you, and I turned and saw her standing there, not angry, but with a look that said, This happens to me a lot.

This does not happen to me a lot. I said a quick, Oh my mistake! and walked back behind her as she passed by me, a smile on her face. I hadn’t ruined her evening. However, I now have an experience that I will probably never have again–being the tall one.

After feeling ten feet tall, I headed out to the theatre. On my way, I found myself walking behind a man who was at least seven feet tall. I thought in that moment, If he changes direction at any moment, I’m crushed. And now I’m back to shorty short short.

More importantly, Donna Summer. S found me on line even though I was wearing my orange coat and pumpkins from a restaurant’s outdoor decor surrounded me. She said something about the show being an hour and forty five minutes. I said the email I got said it was an hour and forty minutes. Then I overheard a bartender tell a customer the show was an hour and a half. We decided to quickly get to our seats before the show was simply over.

Our seats were high up but we had a perfect view. Then that perfect view was destroyed by four people who did not know how to sit still and be quiet for an hour and forty five/forty/thirty minutes. The two people not directly in front of us kept kissing every few minutes. The woman in front of me kept talking to the man in front of S, which meant we had to keep leaning in the opposite direction. Basically, S and I watched Summer slanted way too the left.

Other than that, the show lived up to the disco and beyond spectacle it promised to be. I learned a whole lot about Donna Summer’s backstory that I never knew. I got a little confused with time shifts and which actress was playing which version of Donna Summer at times. That doesn’t matter, though, because the music and dancing and shimmery costumes and lights of dazzlement kept us entertained for that entire hour and however many minutes, and now all I want to do is listen to Donna Summer over and again.

Why Donna Summer? Years of belting out her lyrics in our bedrooms, on carrides, everywhere we could. Years of dancing at all those parties ending in “Last Dance.” Years of big hair and simple glee. Let this legacy live on.

Frankenstein Is Alive! At The Morgan

Since going to see the Frankenstein exhibit was a literary-infused outing, I wound up writing about it for Book Riot instead of blogging about it here. There are probably other things I could be blogging about, but I’m finding myself in a whirlwind or vacuum or some other kind of place where moving air is a consuming factor. So for a taste of a jaunt into NYC, head over to Book Riot to read all about how I did not get kicked out of the Frankenstein exhibit. It’s right here: Frankenstein Is Alive! At The Morgan.

A World Of Color, or Everything Worth Doing Ends With A Ball Pit

Another day in NYC, another pop-up museum. But not just any other. Color Factory NYC stands as my favorite pop-up museum, temporary exhibit, and all around way to spend an evening. Immersive in color from room to room. Adding sweet treats along the way. Some poetry. Some movement. Some drawing. Some drumming. Some spinning. Some labyrinth walking. Something for every sense and then something more. Throw in some banter with a factory worker about guessing how old I am (we agreed on anywhere between 28 and 52) and that same worker letting S and me grab an extra marshmallow before heading to the next room, and throw in a free coat check that would hold my great big orange bag (courtesy of S — 45% of our friendship is giving bags to each other that we have to then hold for the rest of the time we hang out), and throw in a map of NYC that shows where to find colors specific to NYC, and there you have it. My fave by far. Also, a ball pit. I didn’t get stuck, but when I got neck deep, I also go claustrophobic and had to get out of the ball pit quick. Ever try to get out of a ball pit quick? It’s kinda slow. But still, my fave.

Color Factory Balloon Room 1

These balloons flew around.

Color Factory Dance Floor 1

Dancing!

Color Factory Secret Color Booth 1

There’s a long explanation of this photo but I’m going to let the psycho scare speak for itself.

Color Factory Drawing (1)

Listening

Color Factory Drawing (2)

Drawing

Color Factory Labyrinth (3)

Choosing A Path

Color Factory End (1)

Color Factory End (3)

And for the record, pre-claustrophobia:

Color Factory Ball Pit (18)

Best of LI Nomination!

I’ve been nominated for Best Author on Long Island through Best of LI. Hooray!

You can join in the fun of voting if you wish. Here’s how:

  1. Go to http://bestof.longislandpress.com/
  2. Sign up or sign in (just your email and no spammy stuff).
  3. Select the Arts Category.
  4. Select me! Christina M. Rau
  5. Submit your vote.

If you have that much fun the first time around, then it gets better. You can vote every day!

Mark you calendar for this coming Monday, October 1! It’s fun! Voting is fun! It really is!

Otherwise, it’s fantastic to be nominated.

Miss Chocolate Bar

Candytopia is exactly what it sounds like, so let’s jump right in.

I get to the city and need to walk only across the street and I’m where I need to be. How often does that happen? So, I’m walking my one block to Candytopia, and a guy and I pass each other, and right as he’s almost past, he says, How you doin, Miss Chocolate Bar?

Took a second to realize, oh, that’s me. I’m Miss Chocolate Bar. [Flashback to when I was Eskimo Boots. ] It was too late to correct him, but for the record, it was a Larabar. Larabars look like chocolate bars because their main ingredient is dates. So they’re brown. Seeing one for the first time jarred me a bit because I was expecting more nutty looking than brown looking but I eat them for health reasons, not for what they look like reasons. If they look like a chocolate bar, so be it. So now I’m Miss Chocolate Bar.

I met S outside and we stood in line until it was our time to enter what seemed to be a little town with a taxi out front. Then the gates opened and into the tiny town we went. It felt like a cross between Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory and Harry Potter’s Diagon Alley (Fun Fact: usually I’m a lazy writer, but I just looked up the spelling for Diagon Alley because HP fans scare me). Here, I ate a piece of taffy.

We then gained entry into a room of clocks. Hello Alice In Wonderland inspiration. I loved this room. There was a man in a hat who was telling us all about what time it was across the world. It was hard to hear, though, so I walked around taking in the clocks and the things made out of candy. This is the really cool part–there are a lot of things made out of candy and signs that explain how much candy is involved. Like thousands of jelly beans to make a fox or millions of Gummy Bears to make a real bear.

The other really cool part was the clock coming down from the ceiling to reveal Lindt chocolate truffles. I ate one of those, too.

There’s a graffiti room where we found Jackie Sorkin, the Candy Queen and the reason Candytopia is a thing. S gave her some Southpaw Sweets cookies that the Candy Queen immediately posed with for pics. She has such magnetic energy and is so so sweet. The room had a wall that you could write and draw on. And there was a dragon.

Oh, did I mention the big purple blow up thingie that I almost had a panic attack in? Yeah, so, there’s a big purple thing that you have to walk through between rooms and I thought I was going to die in it because it just kept going. Think of a hallway made of a bouncy house that inflates towards the center while you have to push through it. Then imagine it goes on for what seems like a mile. When I finally kind of fell out of the end of it, I looked at the Candytopia worker standing there to direct us, and told her, That? Was not fun.

Everything else? Tons of fun. Here are the highlights.

A room I’ll call a Candy Land. There’s a Katy Perry Madame Taussaud’s-esque statue there along with gumdrops to sit on and trees made of lollipops.

There’s an art gallery where portraits of famous people hang. These are made of jelly beans.

One room has an Under the Sea theme. Some sharks. Some seahorses. All blue hued.

Underwater (12)

Then there’s a room dedicated to unicorns and confetti. Here’s what happens. You pose for a picture and a Candytopia worker shoots confetti at you. And it’s awesome. I spent the rest of the day with unicorn confetti all up in my hair. And in my pockets. And falling out of my clothing. And then I found it in my bra. [P.S. It’s been a while and I’m still finding it around my house, falling out of drawers even after I’ve washed my clothes]. I grabbed a bag of gummy worms to nibble on.

Another room is a playground. We climbed up on the swing set because we’re clearly 100%. And then I became the proud owner of two pixie sticks.

Swing (3)

At some point, I also had some Airheads. It’s a sugary blur.

One of my most favorite sweet treats in all the land is marshmallows. I don’t eat them often because I usually want only one and no one sells singular marshmallows. I didn’t get to eat marshmallows at Candytopia but I did get to jump into a whole pit of them! They weren’t real so it wasn’t sticky. They looked very real, which is what counts.

And then? We got stuck in the pit. I did a pretty good job of staying above the surface, which I considered the day’s workout because my legs were on fire. But then I sunk in. And then I couldn’t exactly get out. Wanna see how the struggle is real? Click the link below.

S was drowning almost the whole time. She was in up to her shoulders for the long haul.

We were by a wall luckily so I pulled myself up. And then I sunk back in. And then I pulled myself up. And this went on until I got to the edge and very lady-like hoisted my ass up in to the air and flung myself out in a shower of fake marshmallowy goodness! How sweet! A bit later on, I found myself in the lobby of a building where a gentleman came in, exclaiming to the doormen, Fellas I brought you some cookies! He handed them cookies. Then I hear, Can’t leave you out! I look up and a variety of cookies appears in my face. How sweet! Again! PS: The next day I had to go to responsible adult stuff, but in the lobby, there was another sweet surprise!

Catacombs, Pudding, and Holland Taylor

Maybe rats and other creepy crawlies come to mind when thinking of the underground world of New York City. You take the subway? You’ve probably seen a rat. In fact, you take the subway, you’ve probably seen some things. Lots of things. Anyway, this is not about subways. This is about what’s underground in NYC, and if you go to the old St. Patrick’s Cathedral, you’ll find catacombs. You can tour them by candlelight, and you can keep the candle and keep lighting it as long as the battery has juice because it’s not a real candle because there was already a fire there once, so the non-fire candle is a safer way to take a tour.

Tommy of Tommy’s New York came into the air conditioned holding room across from the church to say hello and explain that the tour is so popular that he splits up the groups and has two guides go in opposite directions. It seems that everyone wants to see a catacomb by candlelight. What you may not be expecting is that in addition to catacombs, the tour goes through a church and through the cemetery grounds and you get a tour guide who has a tiny projector to show you neat pictures of people who were buried. You learn gossipy history. You learn stuff while underground holding a candle!

Things we learned (oh! “we” refers to my officemates and me):

  1. People used to bury their loved ones in the catacombs and then go into the catacombs to pray because the catacombs were kept open.
  2. People learned that open catacombs could start to smell, so the catacombs were sealed and reopened and sealed and reopened.
  3. Exit signs glow in the eeriest way underground.
  4. The Ancient Order of the Hibernians protected old St. Patrick’s so no one could set fire to it, and the wall surrounding the cemetery is a fortified wall.
  5. I cannot spell cemetery correctly on the first try. I keep writing cemetary. I’m a teacher.
  6. The Italian family that started Italian restaurants in NYC is buried there.
  7. There’s a crypt that was left unlocked which means it’s accessible and no one has come back to lock it and it’s got Edison light bulbs in it along with some very expensive marble and tile because, although you can’t take it with you, you can for dang sure come close.
  8. Boss Tweed came up, and it was super interesting, and I can’t remember any of it (grief fog!), but I do remember that two guys who didn’t like each other very much are buried next to each other.
  9. Getting buried there is way expensive.
  10. I would not want the job of cranking the wheel to make the Erben Organ make sound.
  11. Sheep need a vacation.

After the grand tour, we got coupons to places to eat nearby! Though we didn’t use the coupons, we did head over to Rice to Riches for rice pudding. The signage alone overwhelmed me. I had to order at a counter–one of my top non-favorite things to do in life–and there were vats of pudding to choose from and then more signs. Worth it. I finished almost all of my pudding before realizing that my insides might try to climb out from the effects of eating so far out of the  norm. However, a bowl of Be My Banana Coconut is simply irresistible and worth anything that could possibly happen as aftermath–and nothing happened so I clearly make good choices.

Rice

Like I joined Entertainment Weekly’s panel and got invited to the Crosby Hotel for a preview of the second season pilot of Mr. Mercedes. It’s a show on the Audience Network through AT&T Direct Now. That means I cannot watch the show at home, but it sure was thrilling. After the viewing, there was a Q&A with three main cast members and a producer: Brendon Gleeson, Holly Gibney, Holland Taylor, and Jack Bender. Thrilling again! I was especially gleeful to see Holland Taylor. Don’t ask me why. I simply got giddy. She’s so elegant!

Mr Mercedes 2

Let’s add this all up, okay? Three things in one day. This might go down in history as the day I did the most things ever. And also a day when I learned I can eat a vat of rice pudding, watch one episode of a show I’ll likely not see again, AND tour the underground of NYC without bumping into a rat. A good day, right there.