Off-Off-Broadway

Work travel is exciting the first few times but when it becomes a habit, to the point you are spending more nights in hotels than your own bed, it changes. It stops becoming exciting and instead you are faced with the prospect of finding ways to create habits that would mimic being a resident of the cities to which you travel.

The city where I have been spending an unusual amount of time is New York City.

Sexy, Exciting, Cool, right?

More like sweltering, interesting and packed. Those aren’t negative’s, simply reality.

So what to do to escape the heat and the tourist crowds?

Off-Broadway/Off-Off-Broadway Theatre, baby! New Yorkers take their Off-Broadway seriously.

I arrived in plenty of time to collect my will-call ticket at the 59E59 Theatres for my Off-Off-Broadway show. I made my way up to the second level and settled myself on one of the hard wooden benches while I waited for the theatre to open. The closer to the shows start the more the small lobby filled with people. Women, chatting in groups of two’s, cleverly studying their fellow theatre goers; Men, mostly on their own, fidgeting with their paper stubs.

7:00pm sharp the doors opened and I made my way in. The usher greeted me and pointed to the first row of seats in the theatre.

I looked down at my stub “AA6”, easy enough and counted 5 seats on the left and 5 seats on the right of the aisle. Perplexed. Which direction to start counting?

“Sir, can you help me with which seat is AA6,” I asked quietly.

“Hmm,” he replied and then started counting in what seemed a random pattern followed by, “this one, this is yours.”

I turned to thank the usher but was interrupted by a gentleman briskly brushing between us.

As he stormed by he said to the usher, “I don’t need your help, I know exactly where my seat is.”

And with that I settled in for the performance to begin.

Oh Germany

imageI forgot how much I enjoy Germany.  If this was my final destination I’d be excited.

I even wore my gazelles, so they don’t hate me for my Nike and UA gear. Sorry in advance.

But what is so intriguing about Germany?

They are stoic and it amuses me. I tried, I couldn’t keep a straight face.

There is just something when people are so serious that their face might crack if they smile, I can’t help myself and when they smile back it’s a beautiful thing.

It’s a small triumph when I get a smile, a wink, a “have a happy Easter”, out from underneath the quiet sterness.

Now, I am curious is this advertised book about smiling and immediately facing disaster? Because if so, that might explain my life!

I am kidding,  half kidding, no I am fully committed to having just made a joke ☺

The Book Club

Where do I start. At the end perhaps.

I was walking quickly towards my car. Down the one way street.

The man standing on the patio, smoking his cigarette called out to me, “You look cold.”

“Yes, I am but I suppose it’s winter!”

“True,” he responded and I kept on marching.

I was shivering, I was cold even though my feet continued to sweat from being in my boots and indoors for two hours, having participated in a book club.

I can’t quite say I actively participated. I participated to the point of laughing when things were funny, shared small talk with the person on my right and on my left, when appropriate (only pre-book club, during break and post-book club) and typed tidbits on my iPad.

I was the only one typing and I am sure that was obvious. I noticed other people jotting things down in their note pads, but no typing. Just me. Typing, smiling, laughing, sometimes looking serious (or at least in my head I was serious) and enjoying my time in a circle full of strangers.

Strange. I know.

The discussion around the book was lively with many different ideas and insights shared. I particularly enjoyed the diversity of the group. This is not a “group think” club. At times it was so academically informed that I was having difficulty keeping up with the concepts that, thankfully, were then followed by light-hearted jokes.

And real funny jokes. I always got the jokes!

I arrived a few minutes early. There was a small group of people waiting outside of the auditorium. The librarian was rustling with the keys, finding the one that fit the lock to open the door. Inside the room I sat down on a chair in the circle and willed myself NOT to pull out my phone. The point of a book club is to be social, no place for my phone. It felt awkward (really, I know) so I rationalized with myself that my iPad would be acceptable – I needed access to Google Books in any event!

The man two seats away leaned over towards me.

“DId you read the book?”

“Part of it,” I replied

“It didn’t like the book. I don’t know who picked this book. Look how big it is,” and he pointed to another book club member who had brought along a library copy.

I nodded towards him not sure what to say to keep the conversation going, but no worry, he continued, “They could have at least picked a book about relationships and marriage. EVERYONE likes reading about THAT,” he emphasized.

I didn’t know how to respond. I clammed up. Of course everyone likes talking about relationships and I imagined in my head what the next bits of conversation would be like and I shyly turned away to my open iPad. All of a sudden I couldn’t bring myself to be social.

Shortly after a second gentleman arrived and sat between us. It didn’t take long before the two strangers were talking up a storm.

“There is a woman I know,” the first man was saying, “She met a Canadian man and moved to Canada. She’s a widow now.”

“Oh yes,” replied the second gentleman

“I can, you know, set up a date for you but she’s older,” and then he stated her age.

The second gentleman nodded and I didn’t catch his reply but I’d like to think he said yes to a set-up to the man who likes talking about relationships and marriage!

🙂

Favourite lines of the night:

  1. “Life is random.”
  2. “We tend to blow things out of proportion.”
  3. “If you want to be happy, join a book club don’t buy a fancy car.”

I enjoyed my night and recommend joining a book club even if only to be a smiling typist.

In The Eyes

I joined a MeetUp Group this past December. This is the 3rd or 4th MeetUp Group I’ve joined but only the 2nd one where I am likely to show up to one of their outings. I admit the groups I’ve joined tend to be a little nerdy and one in particular had some full-on nerd humour in the comments section about the planned events.

“I am busy but I totally want to be there, can you move the event to another evening.” Followed by a reply “If you know how to program, create a clone object of yourself.” Doubting, “Will the object inherit the knowledge?” Reassurance, “Of course if you make an exact copy and you can merge the two so you can consolidate learning from both sources.”

Funny? Eye-roll. It’s funny.

And if I had of been able to make the event, I would have been the creep at the back of a room of 200 people, grinning broadly, being amused to exhaustion.

I missed the event, sadly, but this next event I am going to make. It’s not about data or programming and from the comments section, its going to be much more serious.

This time it’s a book club. Not a “regular” book club. Like the one’s where people show up to a house, 7, 8 people trickle in with food in their hands, no books in sight. This is a bona-fide book club. They have rules. Rules on how long you are able to verbally express your thoughts regarding the book along with other general behaviour do’s and don’ts.

I can do this and the book is intriguing, interesting even.

The book, “Thinking Fast and Slow” discuses how our brains use two distinct functions to process tasks. Fast processes and slow processes, just as the title suggests.

What I have learned up to chapter two is that tasks that require slow thinking are “pupil dilating” and they take more effort to perform. Tasks so demanding that “In the first 5 seconds, the pupil dilates by about 50% of its original area and heart rate increases by about 7 beats per minute. This is as hard as people can work—they give up if more is asked of them.”

Seriously.

So when that person, with whom you are interacting, pupils dilate to 50% of their original size and their heart-rate increases during a slow thinking task, requiring effort, they are on the verge of having given up.

I’ve about given up on this blog post.

The Tale of the Yarn Dog

Recently, I took my two nieces on a little road trip.  They are at the perfect age where they want to be involved in what the adults are doing, even if it’s just eavesdropping.

Both were in the backseat of the car chatting away with each other. I was paying attention to plowing through the snow drifts that had crept up onto the highway when the youngest asked me,

“Auntie D, do you remember the time you helped me make the Yorkshire terrier dog out of yarn?”

Ahh, do I remember! A birthday gift from Grandma. An Arts & Crafts project that I was elected to help supervise that turned into me putting together the Yorkshire terrier yarn dog itself. The instructions for the craft looked simple enough but simple instructions don’t always translate to a simple, well-crafted project!  Auntie D’s Yorkshire terrier yarn dog in no way resembled the picture in the instructions booklet. “I wish Grandma were here, she’d be able to make this better than you!” the same youngest niece had flatly informed me as I fumbled with 5 stray strands of yarn that went flying across the living room floor. You get the picture of what the yarn dog ended up looking like? And how my niece felt about the final product? A big lump of indistinguishable yarn!

So as I was driving along, I smiled broadly and replied “Ah yes, I remember!”

How could I forget?!

She continued with a little hesitation in her voice, “Do you want to know what I named my yarn dog?”

“Of course, what did you name it?” I asked expecting an answer.

Nothing.

Complete silence from the backseat.

You know when two chatty ladies go completely silent, SOMETHING is going on. I tried thinking up a logical scenario for such silence and couldn’t imagine a suitable reason.

The oldest niece couldn’t take it any longer and she piped up “Do you want me to tell her?”

Obviously it was BAD!

The youngest continued in her silence and I could only imagine she was making faces at her sister.

“OK, ok I will tell her for you, I will tell auntie D what you called your yarn dog,” she reiterated for emphasis, maybe even for approval.

More hesitation and a long pause.

“She called him MATZ**!” my eldest niece exclaimed loudly but firmly.  There was no joking in her voice, simply a sense of urgency to get a terrible message out and then retreat as far back into her seat as possible.

I burst out laughing! I could hear the relief from the backseat of the car.

“Well he is a nice man, just not the man for me,” I said and continued, curious, “why did you call him Matz?”

“He just looked like a Matz,” my youngest niece said flatly, no expression.

And so if the Yorkshire terrier yarn dog is any indication of what a Matz looks like, it is indistinguishable, misshapen, and poorly crafted!!

**Name changed.  Why so funny? He was someone I had been seeing a year ago. I am not sure if my nieces were concerned that I would be upset at the choice of name? Or perhaps the youngest just really thinks her yarn dog looks like a human being. Needless, it was important for her to let me know of her Yorkshire terrier yarn dogs name and that in itself is really funny.

Valentines Weekend Coffee

A real weekend isn’t complete without at least one trip to the coffee shop.

What could be better than sitting in the bay window of the shop, enjoying a quiet moment, sipping my coffee?

Well of course the only obvious answer: having a random conversation with another patron.

Trust me, I mind my own business while in the coffee shop and this particular day I was busy writing a personal note to myself.  Something along the lines of: “while coaching my students on being faced with possible failure, what is worse, the fear of failure or the failure itself – and here I am sitting sipping coffee more concerned of failure itself.” I don’t know where that thought was going because I was interrupted by an older gentleman.

“May I sit in this chair?”

“Why of course,” and I turned back to my tablet in an attempt to finish my grand thought when I was interrupted a second time.

He wasn’t about to sit there across from me and let me “play around” on my tablet while I could have a real conversation with a real human being and not my conscious mind.

And so there I sat conversing with a man, a recent retiree who has figured out how to have the best of both worlds.  He told me stories of his adventures and at some point I believe it turned into a game of how much he could make me laugh, my sides hurting, me twisting in my chair to alleviate the discomfort of sore abdominal muscles.

In any event he told me of sweet Maria, the Brazilian, so classy, to be clear – not sluty.

“You know, similar to Sônia Braga,” he paused “who was linked to Robert Redford, Maria has that same…” he twisted his lips into a pout as he thought of an appropriate descriptive word.  I wanted to blurt out “sensual” but I was intrigued by how he made his lips form a perfect rectangle.

‘How does he do it?’ I thought distractedly, ‘Does he practise this in the mirror? Is it genetic?’

He found his word and proclaimed “Sensual!”

He paused a moment looking up to the ceiling.  He nodded yes, agreeing with himself, then re-formed his lips into a perfect rectangle and said once again with confidence and all the passion he could muster, “Sensual, she is s-e-n-s-u-a-l.” he dragged it out.

And there you have it, sweet Maria, the Brazilian who would remind you of Sônia Braga, is classy AND unbelievably s-e-n-s-u-a-l.

Community

Community

Ingraham ClockYou might know it as the smart NBC comedy that follows a tight-knit study group at a community college called Greendale.

I know it was my neighbourhood.

My weekends have mostly been reserved for walks to my coffee shop in an attempt to keep “last summer’s feeling alive”.

What a great summer that was. Mostly unemployed, basking in the sun, riding around on the GO train to keep entertained and taking up the Ukulele. The best part of last year is the people I met.

Last Sunday turned out to be a wonderful morning to go for a walk under the cover of sunshine and I choose a route that would take me through the local GO station. I couldn’t have imagined that I would end up in a cemetery, talking to locals about the history of my little patch of community!

But that is the fact of this little story.

I was heading towards my GO station, marching along with a mission to see the station again when I spotted to my right, the gates to the cemetery – OPEN. If you know something about me, I like to wander through cemeteries looking at the headstones deciding what these people’s lives might have been like. I suppose one day I’ll end up in a cemetery and perhaps someone will come by and read my headstone and they’ll say “She used to be SOMEBODY!” Aren’t we all “somebodies” 🙂

I wandered through the open gates and was checking the headstones as I strolled along the path when I noticed a man with a red cap, walking my way.

He introduced himself as the guide and he gave me a history lesson on all the Somebodies buried in this particular cemetery. There is only so much “cemetery” conversation two people can have, even if one of you is a guide and quite knowledgeable, after a solid 20 minutes I made way towards the main entrance.

Two older gentlemen stood at the entrance, seemingly lost in conversation and ignoring them I walked on by when the taller of the two shouted in my direction, “I have a trivia question for you!!”

I turned, looked at him, I might have even smiled, I can’t remember and said an unsure “Sure.”

“What was the original name of this road out here?”

Hmmm, this was tricky. How was I suppose to know? I guessed “Mimico?”

“Close,” he gleefully replied, and I MEAN gleefully. He had a twinkle in his eye and he wasn’t about to blurt out the original name of the street, “do you have another guess?”

“No,” I am not really good at guessing games.

He conceded, “It used to be called Church Street,” and with that he launched into a history lesson, tailored just for me, of the surrounding area starting with 1942.

I want to say my favourite part was learning why the names of some of the streets in the area are a little odd like, “Chimes” and “Clockwork” but the very best part was when the guide joined us and randomly blurted out a woman’s name adding “she’s a fantastic fundraiser!!”

I couldn’t believe my ears that we could possibly know the same dynamic, amazing woman that’d I’d only just met 15 months ago!

But she was one and the same and that made my day. I’d made three more connections in my Community 🙂 and to think it all started with open gates and my curiousity of cemeteries.