Dance Your Ass Off

Years ago, S and I met Jean, and Jean changed our lives. Jean, if you don’t remember, was our dance teacher. Her  name was not Jean. Jean is the name S came up with when she was trying to remember her name, and it kind of stuck. Ahh, Jean.

The days of Jean eventually ended. However, the days at Jones Beach began. Nights, actually. There was free line dancing at the bandshell once a week. Then the consistent dancing faded away, and then the dancing stopped.

Basically, this story is exactly like Footloose only without Kevin Bacon and the Bible and everything else in Footloose except for the dancing.

I came across the bandshell calendar online the other day and there it was. Wednesday nights. Line Dancing. 7:30.

So on Wednesday at 7:30, I took myself on a dancing date. Muscle memory is miraculous (as are my mad alliteration skillz). I. Danced. My. Ass. Off.

I also made a friend, an older gentleman who turned to me after every dance and said, “You’re good!” At one point, he said it to the two women who had been following my feet, and then he leaned in and whispered something to one of them, and her face was partial shock and she laughed. I’m guessing he said something about my wiggle or my butt. I didn’t ask. He also pointed out to everyone around us how I could put so much energy into the dancing because I’m so young. To that I replied, “Yes, keep calling me young.” I don’t think he got it.

The two women who were following me were really fun. At one point, we wound up facing each other because they kept turning the wrong way, and we just laughed at each other. I tried to help the best I could by changing my spot to be next to them on the wall when they had no one to follow, but overall, I was there to learn, not teach. The “you’re good” guy told me I should be the teacher, though. I like to dance, but I’m not a dance teacher.

Funny, though. My yoga students also ask me if I’m a dancer. Hmm. Yep, I get it. I am soooo friggin graceful.

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Later on, when the dancers who dance year-round take to the floor without instruction and do all the more intricate dances I wish I could do, he found me again to let me know there would be more country line dancing soon. Then he left and came back with a flier for it. I thanked him. Now we’re, like, BFFs.

One dance that the dancers did without instruction is called “Toes.” Without instruction, I got out there and faked it hard. By the end, I almost got it. Almost. I think I got it more than I thought I did because one of the women who had been following me actually came out to stand next to me to see if she could pick it up. It’s not a difficult dance, but if you’ve never danced before, it can be difficult without instruction. I’ll probably spend more than a normal amount of time watching videos to see if I can get it right on my own. It’s in me somewhere. I’ve just gotta find it.

So now I’m readdicted. Every Wednesday evening, there will be a boardwalk and a bandshell and a step-together-step-scuff-step-together-step-pivot-cha-cha-rock-recover-clap-clap-clap.

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Mars Mission!

I’m going to Mars, y’all.

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Ooh, take in that NASA realness.

You can go, too. Read all about it here.

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.

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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.

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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.

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.

Ahem

Groupon knows me. I’ve always been interested in voice work aka voice acting aka voice over. I’ve never said this to Groupon. I rarely go on Groupon. For no reason at all, I went onto Groupon and the first thing that popped up was a voice over seminar thingie. That’s serendipity, right? I signed right up.

A few days later, I’m in a conference room in a weird hotel in Jersey with a few other people interested in voice stuff and one guy who’s been in the business for over 20 years.

I learned that voice acting is a job like any other job. You hustle, you get work. You don’t hustle, you don’t get work. There are lots of jobs out there, and the industry is growing, which means more jobs. Lots of voices get jobs because they know people from previous jobs, so getting known and being professional are two keys to the hustle.

I’m a hustler. I like being on time. I can do this.

We ended the session by recording, which was a lot of fun. We also were able to choose to get feedback the next day, which I did. I learned a few things about what my voice would be suited to. Then they told me something I already know–I talk fast. The guy on the phone told me that more than once. I talk faster than the average speed of conversation. I know this so well that I sometimes tell my classes that if they ever don’t catch something I say, they need to tell me to slow down. Really, though, why does everyone talk so slowly? There are so many words and only so much time!

New life plan: voice work side hustle possibly becoming voice work only hustle.

Dizzy Art

The Nassau County Museum of Art had an exhibition called Fool The Eye and as a way to continue the perk-me-up adventure, I took myself on the last day. The art was dizzying at times and a little creepy at others. Additionally, there was a film about eating paper.

These things below are not the actual things they seem to be. The cardboard looking stuff and paper looking stuff is made of wood. The toilet paper is marble.

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This looks like it’s 3-D and it’s not.

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The frame isn’t a frame. It’s part of the painting.

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This is made from Superman postcards and such.

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He’s not real, yo.

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Yeah, I don’t know how I took this upside down.

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The chocolates aren’t real.

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I became the art!

 

Free Stuff, By Popular Demand

A few people recently asked me how I get all my free stuff. Here’s how. Enjoy.

First, enter every contest you see, no matter what it is. I once entered a contest I saw after a rerun of How I Met Your Mother for a vacation in a tropical place that I don’t remember. Clearly, I didn’t win the vacation. A few months later, I got a call from my mom saying, “Your bike is here.” And I answered, “I have no idea what you’re talking about.” So she repeated, “Your. Bike. Is. Here.” And I was like, “Yeah, Ma, I heard you, but I still don’t know what you’re talking about.” Sure enough, there was a Nerve bike in a box outside with my name on it. I fretted at first, thinking somehow someone had stolen my identity, but then realized if that were the case, that someone would have gotten the bike; they wouldn’t have sent it to me. Then I saw in itty-bitty font on the shipping label How I Met Your Mother. I looked up the contest online and saw that the runner up prize was a bike.

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I entered a contest online for Hershey’s something or other. See? I don’t even know what it was for. I won a barbecue utensil set. I have no idea what that has to do with Hershey’s but it’s all mine.

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I found a code for a sweepstakes for Capn Crunch cereal. I won a cornhole game. Okay, fun. A few weeks later, a 70 pound box arrives at my door. It’s a massive cornhole game.

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Also, I won my backyard patio set through a random sweepstakes.

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There used to be a thing called Viggle, and it used to listen to television and I’d get points and redeem them. That’s how I got albums for free by Ed Sheeran, Andy Grammer, and Hozier. I also got a free toaster and a free crockpot. Alas, Viggle is no longer a thing.

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However, there are three sites I use constantly for free stuff–mostly gift cards for Amazon, Starbucks, AMC theatres, and Dunkin Donuts. Strong suggestion: create an email account separate from your main account and use it specifically for this stuff. That way you can avoid the inundation of emails from these sites in your normal account.

Swagbucks: Sign up using this link: http://www.swagbucks.com/refer/Zine454545

Buy stuff through SB. Just log on, find a store online (like Macys or Amazon or Harry & David or Sears or Staples or even Dominos–really lots of stores), and then shop. As long as you go to the website through SB, you’ll earn points on the amount you spend.

You can also earn points by watching videos, taking surveys, and answering a daily poll. Sometimes earning points is slow, but they add up eventually, and you can redeem points for gift cards. Thanks to S I found this.

MyPoints: Sign up using this link: https://www.mypoints.com?rb=23859038

Same thing–buy stuff, watch videos, vote, and take surveys. You can also print coupons, or even just browse coupons, and earn points. Redeem points for stuff.

Bing: Sign up using this link: https://www.bing.com/

The easiest thing you can do is search. You get 5 points a search for a max of 150 points a day. If you use MS Edge, you can get up to 170 points. You can also search on your phone daily for another 100 points.  There are also quick quizzes or searches of the day that you click on and get 5 to 50 points. If you buy stuff from the affiliate store, you can get points, but I don’t do that because I don’t buy video games or other tech-like things, but if you do, go for it.

Another website that does only surveys is E-Rewards. (e-rewards.com). It takes a really, really long time to accrue points, at least it does for me. I guess if you want free magazines, then those are easier to attain. For the bigger stuff–iTunes and Starbucks and hotel points–it takes seemingly forever. I also sometimes have problems with different browsers. If you have some downtime, hop on and take a few surveys. Eventually, you might earn something.

Now for credit cards!

Chase Amazon earns you points for everyday shopping, more points for groceries and gas, and even more points for shopping on Amazon. If you use Amazon, it’s a good card to have.

Amex, and Bank of America both have points and cashback options, and usually their gift card options for points is pretty good– CVS, The Gap, AMC, and lots of other places. Discover has cash back. They used to have an amazing points system where you could buy actual stuff with points, which is how I am the proud owner of a paper shredder.

I also get points from Fios. I usually redeem them for Dunkin Donuts cards.

Since I have TMobile, I downloaded their TMobile Tuesdays app. Again, lots of Dunkin Donuts cards from them.

I have the Dunkin app and the Starbucks app, and every time I get a gift card, I add them to the apps. That way, I earn points for buying things. I can get free stuff every time I get to a certain number of points (or stars for Starbucks). I don’t remember ever really having to pay for anything at either of these places.

I also have loyalty membership thingies for basically anywhere I’ve ever shopped. Dicks Sporting Goods, 16 Handles, CVS (I know their markup is insane, but when you get a sale, points, and coupons, you can get away with paying up to 80% off, which I’ve done), any grocery store, AMC, Regal, a bunch of hotels, and a bunch of airlines. Points add up, especially if they don’t expire.

There is a whole lot of free stuff out there in the world waiting to be owned. Go get some for yourself.

The World Is Sound

IMG_0625The Rubin Museum of Art brings the East to the West. The Himalayan art makes a strong impact in scrolls and statues. In addition to the visual, audio was the focus in The World Is Sound, an exhibit that offers chants, instruments, artistic snippets of sound, and a ceiling to floor soundtrack from the first floor to the top and back down. Really, sound is everywhere all the time, and in this exhibit, it’s electric.

Normally, I skip elevators, but since I was starting on the top floor and working my way down, I took it. The elevators played interviews with artists about sound. This is how all-encompassing this exhibit is.

IMG_0626The curators want everyone to experience sound with your entire body through all five senses, so some art appeared next to signs that read Touch To Hear, and you could hear the vibration of a chant that went along with a piece of art. I like museums that encourage touching stuff. I also like museums that don’t allow you to touch stuff so that I can try to touch stuff and feel a bit of a rebel when I pull it off.

I found the Om Room that plays recordings of people chanting om. I sat and hummed and listened. I went back a second time before leaving the museum because it was really neat and relaxing.

Next to that was a video that showed graphics of space and molecules and talked about sound vibrations. It was stunning with a vibrant gold statue of a bodhisattva next to it. A bodhisattva is someone reaching toward enlightenment who helps others do the same, one step down from being a Buddha, one who has attained enlightenment. See how much you can learn in one trip to the museum?

There was a bank of headphones to listen to short compositions of sound and song. I like almost all of them. While I usually refrain from putting on public headphones, these were necessary for the full experience and did not seem germy at all. The descriptions of the compositions were also artistic.

Then came my favorite thing in the whole exhibit aside from the Om Room. I did this twice. They had a recording of someone reading the Bardo Thodol, the Tibetan Book of the Dead. To experience the reading, there was a bench, and you lay yourself down on the bench to listen. Some people were sitting. I laid down. Then I went back and laid down again because I like laying down in places, especially in NYC (see: Yoga In Times Square and that trip to the Whitney where after you lie down you find out you’ve been temperature recorded). I want to find that recording because I would lie down and listen to it every day.

After taking in the permanents and other exhibits on the other floors, all the while listening to the sounds coming from the center of the museums spiral staircase, I headed back to Penn. On my way, I found the key to the city.

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A Panel Acceptance!

Poets Rita Banerjee, Christina M. Rau, Marlena Chertock, and Alex DiFrancesco will be featured in the panel “Fantasy As Reality: Activism and Catharsis Through Speculative Writing” at the 2018 Split This Rock Poetry Festival. Split This Rock: Poems of Provocation & Witness will take place from April 19-21, 2018 in Washington, D.C. You can read more […]

via Split this Rock 2018 Poetry Festival Panel feat. Rita Banerjee, Christina M. Rau, Marlena Chertock, and Alex DiFrancesco Announced! — Rita Banerjee