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April 18, 2016 — We just shot a TV pilot (a long overdue long update)!
Happy New Year! I apologize for not sending an update email this year, but I have been waiting till we wrapped shooting on the pilot of the TV sitcom of Every Day a Little Seth because I did not want to jinx it. But as we have actually pulled it off, I can now give you a long overdue… long update of my life! So sit back, relax, and be prepared for verbosity, hilarity and verbose hilarity!
EVERY DAY A LITTLE SETH: THE TV SHOW
It is with such relief that I officially announce we have finished filming the pilot episode of my new sitcom! I cannot tell you how much time, sweat, blood, tears, money, anxiety, frustration, happiness, elation, stress and faith have gone into this project, and I’m thrilled to finally be able to talk about it.
As most of you know, I always started the web series as a jumping point to TV. However, given budgetary and creative constraints, I opted for the video blog with crazy montage format. I am very proud of the web series. I think it’s very funny, and I think by season 5 I really found its footing. It helped me get used to being on camera. It helped Smee be used to it, as well. But we all know that I am meant for more than just a web series. So when last year, a friend sent me a link to an HBO Diverse Writer’s Program, I thought: “This is it!” However, I knew that I was lacking the skill set to turn my show into a sitcom. I might not be the most modest person (#understatement) but I am very self aware and very astute about my limitations. Thus, I posted on the Facebook looking for a potential TV collaborator. This girl I went to high school with suggested her husband, and it was kismet.
Shai (he’s not actually shy) watched my web series (twice) and knew exactly what I meant about turning it into a sitcom. See, the problem is that it takes a leap of A to B to C for someone to envisage its potential. So, we were going to do that Diverse Writer’s Program, until we read the fine print on what diverse meant (aka non-white). But we wrote the pilot anyway, submitted it for a bunch of pilot contests, and got into nothing (though we were in the final cut for one that we are re-applying to with a fully filmed pilot). This fall I was talking to my intern, and he was like – why don’t you just film it yourself? And that to me, seems to be my solution to everything in life. Just doing it myself. Isn’t that the American dream, after all?
So, since, as I said the pilot itself was only B, to get people to see C (as opposed to a carbon copied email), we decided to just make C ourself.
It is by far the largest thing I’ve ever done – I mean the 3 week run of Love Quirks looks like a walk in the park by comparison at this point – and I could not be prouder of myself and the 40 or so persons (and feline) who helped make my dream come true.
We are still figuring out the launch details, but if you have any connections to any TV writer agents, TV producers or network/ streaming site programming people, now would be a good time to tell me so. Besides the festivals we are applying to that we couldn’t have applied to before because they require a filmed pilot, I intend to go on linkedin and imdbpro and write thousands of industry people in the hope of getting the pilot to someone who can green-light us for a full season on actual TV/ streaming platform!
To whet your whistle, here is a still from production. Please don’t picture putting things in my mouth:
EDALS: THE WEB SERIES FINALE
So, it seems like the web series has run its course. While I still might use the YouTube channel to post random videos on occasion of Smee or if I have something important to say to the world, it is with a heavy heart that I have decided to end the show.
To this end, Smee and I are filming a special finale episode next weekend, which will air MONDAY, MAY 31ST. (Happy birthday, Sarah!) This will follow a month of daily postings of the episodes counting down to the big finale at the end of the month. So if you’re not caught up on all 5 seasons (which is most of you), you should binge before the finale!
And what a finale it’s going to be!
EVERY PAGE A LITTLE SETH REVIEWS
So my new book, Every Page a Little Seth is up to FIVE FIVE-STAR reviews! Everyone I know who has read it has been giving me (hopefully not false) praise, and I feel like if I was famous, it would be a NY Times Bestseller. Shouldn’t you read it before, so you can say you were ahead of the game?
You can click on the link for the full reviews, but here are some pull quotes: “Seth writes with side-splitting humor, wit and intelligence!” “It’s all very honest and very humorous.” “Filled with humor and honest emotion, the book is a very entertaining read.” “It is definitely with a read!” “He writes what we are all thinking (or at least a lot of us), but are too afraid to admit to. Bold and funny.”
400 IS A LARGE NUMBER
And after nine years of doing mostly weekly showcases, I have hit 400 this spring! So as usual, we are doing 5 concerts of my work featuring 70 or so singers:
And while I’m here, save the date for the 8th Annual Broadway Meows: Monday, July 18th! Besides that, there will be mostly weekly showcases through December at this point.
LISTEN TO ME IF YOU’RE BORED
For those who don’t actively follow me on social media, you might’ve missed that I did a 2-hour podcast about my career. Just in case, here are the links! I think it’s pretty informative and a fairly amusing listen:
I’M WITH HER
Well, you can guess who I am voting for tomorrow in the NY primary. If not, you can get a better sense of it by clicking here:
I spend too much of the day defending myself (and Hillary) from baseless accusations, and I assume you are pretty much decided on whom you’re voting for (or have voted already). However, if you are on the fence (or know someone who is), this is the best and most thorough article I have seen debunking Bernie Sanders. Please give it a read if you are considering voting for him:
Every fact in that article is unbiased.
I’M READY FOR MY CLOSE UP, MR. DE-MEOW
Smee wants you know he is staring at me right now. He is happy that no one else is here today because yesterday he worked really hard on the film shoot. We had various containers of cat treats around the room, and we had to train him to follow them. However, he did a REMARKABLE job, and don’t you worry, I told the director/editor who everyone is really there to see! He will be prominently featured in the pilot (and eventually in every episode).
Smee is also happy it’s nice enough out for the window to be open, though sadly it won’t be long before I have to have the air conditioning on 24/7… goodbye, cheap electric bills!
Oh, yes! I am going on some ‘olidays this spring/summer.
First up, I’m heading down to DC for a weekend in May for the Washington Post Hunt, which is always a jolly good time running around DC.
Second up, I’m heading to CT for a weekend in June to go see Anastasia at Hartford Stage – as some of you know, that’s always been my favorite animated musical, and I’m THRILLED they’re finally turning it into a Broadway one!
Third up, I’m going to Poland and Austria late June/ early July. The Poland trip is with the group that co-sponsored my Germany trip in 2014, Classrooms Without Borders. It’s going to be very education, historical and Holocausty. You can look forward to my next ledger being filled with lots of poignancy and candid descriptions of places like Auschwitz (where my grandmother was). To that end, the week after I am taking myself to Austria, where I am going to detox and see Vienna and Salzburg – where I will re-create the entire Sound of Music movie – and then just because it’s actually cheaper to fly out of, I’m going to spend 24 hours in Prague. (That sounds like a movie title…)
Fourth up (assuming we don’t get into the Montreal festival in July), I will be going to California mid-August. My plan is to start up at Oakland/ Palo Alto/ San Fran, then drive down the scenic route on the coast with my friend, Charise, to LA where I hope to go to Harry Potter World and then be a contestant on The Price is Right. Then I can check that off my bucket list before I’m too famous to be on it! I also hope to win a really, really, really big TV, but I’ll also accept vacations or cash. In fact, if I win a lot of cash, then maybe we’ll film a few more episodes of my TV show!
READ IT AND WEEP
Here’s what I’ve read since the beginning of the year:
Boy’s Life – Lauren leant me this book without having read it – it wasn’t my favorite, but it wasn’t horrible.
Purity – OMG I love Jonathan Franzen – I took this book out for a week in January (it’s new so it was only 1 week, no renewal) and binge read it on the bus to and fro Boston for the Mystery Hunt – it’s a fantastic piece of writing. Highly recommended.
Old Man and the Sea – I thought it was time I read one of the 40 or so classics I have in my closet – of course I picked the shortest one. Not my favorite read, but I did it just to impress y’all.
The Magician’s Trilogy – Since it got a TV show, I decided I should read all the books first. The first 200 pages are slow, but then it picks up. The story is better than the writing itself, and more on the TV show in a sec.
The Waterworks – Look at me reading classics! This is a book by E. L. Doctorow (who wrote Ragtime), and it’s great, if a little slow.
With the pilot shoot, I’ve gotten behind on my Time and Entertainment Weekly magazines, so I have been focusing on catching up, but I might start this other book Lauren leant me: The Memory Keeper’s Daughter – anyone read it? Other than that, I still need to read The Girl on the Train but I have to get that out of the library. And I have the first 2 of J.K. Rowling’s Robert Gilbrath books. And I got a few Stephen King novels for 50 cents from the Strand… um, I have a lot of books I could read next, if only I could stop watching so much TV!
MOVIE-ING RIGHT ALONG
Anomalisa – This was a fantastic movie featuring live action puppetry
My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding 2 – I don’t know why this got such bad reviews – I mean I went to a free screening so I didn’t have to pay, but still, I laughed SO MUCH!
The Witch – Kind of slowburn horror movie with a nice pay off in the end.
Zootopia – This Disney movie was just overall wonderful. I highly recommend it.
Allegiant – Well, this movie didn’t end like the book, and then I realized they were going to do a 4th? Stop the madness! I can’t suffer through a 4th!
The Sense of an Ending – I saw an early preview of this movie that probably won’t come out for 2 years (it didn’t have credits yet), but it’s remarkable, and I have the book to read now!
Midnight Special – Wonderful Sci-Fi movie. Like ET meets Contact.
THE GOLDEN AGE OF TELEVISION
I love TV so much! It’s been so good lately. I’ve decided to avoid having to italicize titles in this section like usual, I’m going to change the format to look like the other sections down here. A list! So here is a list of TV shows both old and new that I adore – comedy, then sci-fi, then drama, then talk shows:
The Muppets – I know it’s probably not going to be renewed, but I still think it was the funniest thing on TV this year. I laughed more at this show than Modern Family, and that’s some feat!
Angie Tribeca – New comedy alert! This show is SO funny! I can’t even handle how stupid funny it is. Go catch up!
Superstore – This is another laugh out loud, fantastic new comedy!
The Carmichael Show – Any TV show that dares to do an episode about Bill Cosby gets my attention. I really enjoy this show a lot for its controversial topics.
Mozart Jungle & Kimmy Schmidt – these are the streaming shows with 2nd seasons I am looking forward to eventually getting to.
The Magicians – While the trilogy was kind of meandering and dull in places, the TV show transformed the books to be exhilarating! This is my top choice for new science fiction this year.
Colony – This is my second top choice for new SF, and my top choice for alien-based SF!
Lost Girl – RIP to Lost Girl, a consistently great SF program that ended its 6 year (5 seasons, one split) run this spring.
The Americans – HANDS DOWN THE BEST DRAMA ON TV RIGHT NOW. You are missing out if you’re not watching this show!!!!!
Better Call Saul – Runner up for most engrossing drama; however it is much more of a slow burn.
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee – this is the newest post-Daily show show and has become my favorite. It is time for a woman in late night, just like it’s time for a woman in the White House.
Tappin’ Through Life – Maurice Hines lovely mostly one-man show about his career.
Angel Reapers – Show Off-Bway.
Pagliacci – One of my favorite operas!
Dot – Great play Off-Bway, but I don’t remember what it was about. Oh, I remember now – this is actually ironic – it’s about a woman with Alzheimer’s.
Allegiance – George Takei and Lea Salonga in a musical about Japanese interment camps
Old Hats – revisited this wonderful clown show starring Bill Irwin and David Shiner
Smart People – I really liked this new play off-bway about race
Cabin in the Sky (Encores) – clunky revisal of this old chestnut but LaChanze and Norm Lewis made it worth watching
Smokefall – fantastic play off-bway starring Zachary Quinto
Broadway by the Year (1930s) – this year is by the decade at town hall!
Robber Bridegroom – remarkable revival of this 1975 musical – so much fun!
School of Rock – I actually kind of enjoyed this show – it doesn’t try to be more than it is, and Andrew Lloyd Webber knows what he’s doing in terms of writing catchy music.
Noises Off – great revival of this farce
She Loves Me – another great revival of one of the best written shows in the last century
A Little Night Music (Theater2020) – small-scale revival of a Sondheim classic
Broadway and the Bard – speaking of Sondheim, I saw the original Sweeney, Len Cariou, do this fun evening matching Shakespearean soliloquies with songs.
The Woodsman – this was such an innovative off-bway show which featured amazing puppets and puppetry – highly recommended!
The Way West – good play off-bway about poor people
Buried Child – creepy revival off-bway – the title pretty much says it all
Stupid Fucking Bird – hilarious modernization of Chekov’s The Seagull off-bway
Marriage of Figaro – 4 hours of Mozart at the MET is a lovely way to spend an afternoon!
Broadway by the Year (1950s) – jumping 2 decades for the 2nd concert this year
1776 (Encores) – color-blind casting in this weekend revival of a great classic
Nathan the Wise – F. Murray Abraham is such a joy to watch in this new translation of an old, old play (so old that it has almost incest in it – like in every old, old play!)
The Dingdong – great new adaptation of this French farce at Pearl Theater…
Just a final thanks to everyone who was involved in my pilot. THANK YOU.
A few of my friends have recently bought houses/ getting married in the next few months. I never know if people want to be called out by names in public forums, so I err on the side of not mentioning them. However, I would like to offer my public congratulations to said people who know who they are. I no longer feel bad about such things, as I just completed a sitcom pilot, which is a much harder thing to do.
As usual, if I haven’t heard from you for awhile, please shoot me a note!
Happy Spring, everyone! Enjoy the weather before climate change makes it too hot to enjoy.
July 16, 2016 — Poland, and Austria, and Prague… oh, my!
What follows is a recap of my 2 weeks in Poland, Austria and Prague. I have 38 pages (front and back) of notes in my little notepad, so I suspect this will not be short. I will be going chronologically because that makes the most sense to me. I put the day’s itinerary in BOLD CAPS, such that people who do not want to hear really intense things about concentration camps can easily skip over those days. Furthermore, people who are anti-Sound of Music, can skip that whole Salzburg bus tour, if they desire.
I have posted 1401 pictures from my trip on the Facebook. I know there are a handful of non-Facebook users on this list, so I am putting together the best dozen or so in a separate email. If you would like a copy of the best-of-photos, please let me know!
Before we start the trip, I just wanted to remind those of you in NYC that we are doing the 8th Annual Broadway Meows concert for the Humane Society at 7PM on Monday night at Don’t Tell Mama.
We are premiering 3 new pieces: a song I wrote for my friend, Dani, about her anxiety disorder; a new duet, which in theory will be the final new song for Love Quirks; and an instrumental piece I was inspired to write in the gas chambers at the Majdanek Concentration Camp.
This piece will also be featured in the documentary about the Poland trip, which was captured by an Emmy-Award-Winning filmmaker! He also is going to send me the file of my speech at Auschwitz-Birkenau about my grandmother’s life. Hopefully I will post that and (assuming they come out alright) the new 3 songs on youtube.com/sethbh42 in the next few weeks.
Other than that, I have 6 shows in 2 weeks upon being back, and by the end of this summer, I hit Showcase #423.
I am going to be vacationing to California for a week in August: the Bay Area then LA (to go to HP World and hopefully be the next contestant on The Price is Right!). If you are in CA, and want to see me, contact me for more details!
You should’ve already watched the trailer for my sitcom in the last email, but as there are new people on this list; here it is again: EDALS Sitcom Trailer
Finally, if you haven’t bought my 2nd book, Every Page a Little Seth, yet, what are you waiting for? Seth’s Author Page
QUICK TRIP RECAP
Alright, so let’s take a TARDIS back to 2014 when I went to Germany. That trip, as you should remember but probably don’t, was a free trip sponsored by the German government to foster American Jew relations. Since my friend, Jen, is a teacher we went on the August trip, which was co-sponsored by a group called Classrooms Without Borders that works mostly with teachers to bring them to Germany, Poland, Israel, etc, to learn about Jewish history and present. The woman who runs that group, Dr. Tsipy Gur, and I became very close. When she heard that my grandmother was in Auschwitz during the Holocaust, she proclaimed that I had to come on the Poland trip (which she does every other year) in 2016. When Tsipy tells me to do something, I listen.
The week-long Poland trip was mostly designed for teachers; however, there were a few of us invited who weren’t (including my friend, Mollie, who also joined us on the Germany trip). Since it was very education heavy, there was a handful of didactic, pedantic discussions that I opted out of. There was also a separate bus of 16-18 year olds who got an at-times dynamic presentation. I kind of shuffled back and forth taking the best of both: the amount of knowledge the two tour guides had about the subject was phenomenal. Thus, since I am a type-A nerd, that’s how I ended up with so many notes. As a writer I think it’s my duty to relay all this information I accumulated to you, but if you’re not interested in learning about the Holocaust, feel free to skip to the Austria section, which is very music-museum filled!
So, as you all know, my grandmother passed away a few weeks before my trip. Tsipy asked me to commemorate her life at Auschwitz where I gave a speech and lit a candle. It very emotional, but we captured it, tears and all, and as I said, that’ll hopefully go online sometime in the next few weeks.
Included in our group to Poland was an 87-year-old survivor named Howard Chandler. I don’t know how he manages to make this trip every other year, but he told his story throughout the week. We visited the house where he was raised, and he talked about his own experiences at Auschwitz while we were there. There aren’t really words to describe what it’s like to be at Auschwitz with someone who had been there, so I won’t even try to illustrate it.
Alright, so we started in Warsaw, went to Lublin, next: Howard’s hometown of Wierzbnik-Starachowice (try saying that 5 times fast) and ended up in Krakow. In total, we saw 5 concentration camp sites (2 which are just memorials now – more on that later), a few synagogues, countless memorials and finally in Krakow did some life-affirming things like the Krakow Music Festival and the Salt Mines.
After a trip like that, I smartly decided to take another week in Europe to have a less intense half-of-vacation. I visited my friend, Maya (who I met in Frankfurt, Germany on the 2014 trip), in Vienna, Austria – took a 2 day trip to Salzburg where I visited the house Mozart was born in and took the official Sound of Music tour! And then, I spent my final day in Prague. (Spoiler alert: I hated Prague.)
So, if that’s enough of a recap for you, you can stop reading, but for the rest of you, here is the detailed itinerary of my 2-week-long trip to Poland, and Austria, and Prague… OH, MY!
DAY 1, SUNDAY, JUNE 26TH: ARRIVAL, WARSAW
The journey really began on Saturday. I had some subway issues with the E train not working, but I managed to get to the gate with plenty of time to twiddle thumbs. I do not recommend LOT airlines; I found them pretty disorganized, and the film selection was paltry. However, the flight left and landed on time. The only annoying thing was the Polish woman next to me was freaking out most of the plane ride, especially any time we hit turbulence. Then again, having someone anxious next to me made me far less anxious, since I couldn’t possibly be the anxious one if she was filling that role. So, there’s the upside. It was hard given how little English she spoke, but her poor young daughter spent most of the trip calming her down.
Upon arriving to the airport, Mollie and I took out some cash, then took the bus to the Centrum station, which is as you imagine in the center of town, where our hotel was. The best thing about Poland is how cheap everything was! We get 4 zloti for every dollar. The bus was 4.40 zloti, which was only $1.10 = cheaper than NYC! The bus system was really easy to use, much nicer than NYC buses. They had a nice display that kept telling us which stop was next and listed the stops in order, much like the newer subway lines here.
Warsaw is very grid like, so it is fairly easy to navigate. We dropped our bags off at the hotel, and proceeded to explore the city. (My notes say the wifi password was 4sf39 in case anyone happens to be by Hotel Novotel.)
I had looked up museums and stuff, and there were a few that are free on Sundays; obviously, those are the ones we decided to see that day. Nothing opened till 11, so we had a leisurely stroll while trying to stay awake. The truth is being a night owl, I can last till 7am fairly easily without getting tired, but by 8am or 2pm Polish time, it started to hit me.
While walking, we were right by the huge theatre Wielki, so we took some pictures of that. We strolled into The Saxon Garden with some pretty fountains and lakes and statues, etc.
We got to Old Town and went to the Royal Castle in Warsaw. There was a 40 minute queue to get in, but when we got in, it didn’t take us too long. I’ll tell you, I think all European castles and palaces are pretty similar, and I might just not go to anymore. They all have the same types of rooms: drawing rooms, bedrooms, throne rooms, dressing rooms, studies, knights halls, chapels (I mean this castle had a green room, a yellow room and a red corridor?! wtf!) etc, and there are lots of portraits of people I’ve never heard of.
It had said in the guide book there was an Art Gallery with some Rembrandts… so by some they meant 4. But I guess that’s better than the DC Museum that Jess and I went to in May that said it had DaVinci and only had 1… so we took pictures of the Rembrandts to show we saw them, then we promptly went to brunch. Even though I knew approximately where we were going, since Mollie had a foreign sim card for the week, we used to her google map app. I don’t know if anyone else has heard of this, but it actually tells you where to go like you are a car! What will they think of next?
Now, I had found this interesting brunch listed with different food carts. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find it. We were around where it was supposed to be, but no one we (I mean Mollie b/c I refuse to ask for directions) asked had even heard of what we were searching for. Eventually exhaustion and hunger got the best of us, and we just settled down into a cute restaurant. The food was SO CHEAP. I had a $15 steak – how can you not order the steak when it’s only $15!? Also, some green tea to wake up.
It took awhile to decipher the bill, which was in Polish: apparently food and drinks are taxed differently in Warsaw, and then there’s a line for total tax. Anyway, well fed, we headed over to the Chopin Museum, which was also free but definitely a must see.
The Chopin museum had a lot of articles from Chopin’s life, a lot of facsimiles of scores, some great listening booths and a lot of panels to read. They had a cute piano where you could switch the score, then watch a video of someone playing that particular piece. What I found most fascinating is that Chopin improv-ed most of his pieces. He would just futz around, and then notate it – not structured at all.
So, the plan was to head down to the Park and the Chopin statue to hear a free concert at 4pm of Chopin music. Unfortunately, around 3:50 it started to downpour out of nowhere! It had been quite a deloverly day, and the weather app on the smartphone-thing hadn’t said anything about it even possibly raining! Obstinately, I refused to believe the concert was going to be canceled because I had told multiple people that I was going to see a free Chopin concert in Warsaw. Mollie didn’t share my stubbornness, and instead grabbed an uber back to the hotel. I kept going in the rain, drenched, and didn’t actually manage to find the statue – turns out we were on the far northeast side of the park, and it was in the southwest. Eventually, I decided around 4:20 that the concert was probably not going to happen, and I walked home in the rain. Of course, by this point, my entire map was destroyed, so I had to find my way just on my own GPS in my head. Thankfully, my head GPS is spot on, and I somehow found the hotel without any help!
I showered and changed, then Tsipy called us and said she was in the lobby. We went down to hang out before dinner and catch up! By this time, we were pretty tired – by the end of the night, I stayed up 29 hours straight, and I don’t even remember the end of the night – I think I was pretty punchy (but not punching) by dessert, and was almost begging to be allowed to go home and sleep.
Tsipy took those of us who had come early (mostly the handful of non-teacher guests and the guides) to a fancy dinner at Rosana Restaurant. It was absolutely delicious, and on the way out I saw pictures of the chef with Angela Merkel, the Dali Lama and Sting. They had a jazz pianist, so it felt like home to me. And I had this delicious duck and then some Polish cheesecake before we finally went home and slept.
DAY 2, MONDAY, JUNE 27TH: WARSAW
I think we went to bed around 11pm and woke up around 10am. There was free breakfast at the hotel till 10:30, so we made it just in time. I basically just had 4 breakfasts at once most days in case we weren’t getting free lunch or dinner. There was a waffler maker and some croissants and a whole fruit bowl and eggs, etc…
It turns out the plane from Pittsburgh with most of the educators and all of the kids was delayed a few hours, so our Polish guide, Viktor, took us on a quick bus tour of Warsaw, which helped solidify my GPS. We stopped by a few things we weren’t going to get to, and then ended up stranded at a mall for 3 hours.
I guess it’s time to start putting in some facts, so here are some notes from that tour:
During the war, 85% of Warsaw was destroyed, so most of what we were seeing was built post war. The Soviets took over Poland post-war, so there was a lot of communist buildings, aka really boring ones. So if you looked closely, you could easily see which buildings were pre-War, which were Communist, and which were modern since 1989 after the fall of the USSR.
We went down the main street: Ujazdowskie Ave and saw a lot of embassies… there’s a Ronald Reagan statue we passed. We saw where the Chopin Statue and Chopin Park actually is. There’s also a Charles de Galle statue we passed on our way up New World St, which later we would visit for nightlife. There were a lot of churches, as my pictures attest to.
More history: in 1937 17K Polish Jews were expelled from Nazi Germany, but Poland refuses to take them, so they’re stuck in a no man’s land.
We visited where the old Temple used to be, and now it’s a Met Life building. Next to the temple, there’s the Jewish archivist building. During the war, a Jewish man named, Emanuel Ringelblum, started a project in the Warsaw ghetto to archive what was happening. His underground movement gathered testimonials, diaries and journals to document what was happening. They would send blonde Jewish girls who could pass for Aryan out of the Ghetto via the sewer in the cemetery to find what was happening. Obviously, they couldn’t send the boys since in those days only Jews were circumcised. They also smuggled goods and food in.
Anyway, so in April 1943 before the Ghetto Uprising (more on that later), Ringelblum buried in the entire archive in 10 metal boxes and 3 milk cans featuring 17,000 documents. The entire ghetto was erased and reduced to rubble in May and only two people survived, but after the war those people knew where to find the archive, and they dug up 10 metal boxes and 2 milk cans. The third milk can is still lost, and this one guy a few years ago was convinced it was under the Chinese Embassy. They tore up the whole grounds, but never found it. Nowadays, the entire archive is online.
Thus, the Holocaust is the most documented genocide in history between Jewish archives, and the fat that the Germans kept meticulous notes.
So, back to the ghetto – there used to be 400 synagogues there; today there only 1. (We would go there the next day.)
We also stopped by the orphanage that was established by Janusz Korczak. Korczak was a famous Jewish educator, children’s author and pediatrician. He was a pacifist and was a big proponent of the motto that kids are people, too, and should be treated as equals. He was against smacking kids, and had a weekly radio program and even wrote kid plays.
Before being deported, he was offered multiple chances to be smuggled out of the country. He refused to abandon his kids, had them dress up for a picnic, and joined them in Treblinka (see the day 3).
Today his house is a halfway house dedicated to his memory.
After this mini-tour, I went to the Jewish cemetery, walking around and reading on a bench by this really nice guy’s tomb, as opposed to being trapped in the mall across the street. Eventually, the other group arrived from the airport, and we got a more guided tour of the cemetery. My joke was it was a pretty grave time.
Notes from a cemetery: Poland has always been pretty Catholic, but after WW1 30% were not Catholics, 10% Jews. President Wilson forced Poland to give them minority rights, but they were resentful. Unlike America, where it’s a melting pot, non-Catholic Poles were not really seen as Poles. And some Jews didn’t even know Polish, so it was hard for them to assimilate. Most of the tombstones were in Yiddish, and in the old days men and women were separated.
People are still buried there today. There were some famous Jews buried there, like I. L. Peretz and the playwright S. Ansky. Also, there’s a mass grave that is thought to have 50K Jews.
The tombstone pictures reflect the careers – there was a moyel’s grave with a little snippy sign, and then of course, the priests had the “Live Long and Prosper” symbol that Leonard Nimoy repurposed.
Afterwards, we got back to the hotel. Before that we tried to get tickets to a show, but when we got to the box office it turned out the entire run had been canceled. This really didn’t make me like Warsaw much. I couldn’t find anything to see Monday or Tuesday nights = very dull city. Anyway, we had an hour before dinner, so I walked down the path the bus took so I could actually get pictures. I successfully found the Chopin area of the park. I took pictures of that statue and then found a Chopin bench.
I love Chopin benches much! They are spread out throughout Warsaw, and if you sit down, you can press play, and it will play a Chopin song. If you have a working smartphone thing, you can scan the bench and find out more info about what’s playing.
We had a good buffet dinner in the hotel, then went out to a bar on New World Street. I would’ve preferred a show, but what can you do? I obviously didn’t drink, and then we watched the Polish people watching a soccer match and getting pretty excited about it. Shrug.
DAY 3, TUESDAY, JUNE 28TH: WARSAW GHETTO, TREBLINKA, OLD TOWN WARSAW
Tuesday began with a walking tour in the Warsaw Ghetto. This is where the trip got pretty historical. Let’s see how many of my notes I can decipher for you!
When Germany conquered Poland, the first thing they did was to remove all the Polish government and elites, including the clergy, doctors and lawyers – anyone educated. That way they would have much less resistance.
They cordoned all the Jews off in the ghetto, but unlike other ghettos, it wasn’t very tightly sealed, which is how they could get out via the sewers. In fact, the borders of the ghetto weren’t even symmetrical, and at times had to be formed around train tracks and buildings. (One of the outlines, literally forms a very tiny penis.)
Also, it doesn’t help that the Nazi plans unfold and change throughout the war – in fact, different people had different ideas of what they should do. Some just wanted to sterilize the Jews, some to just exile them. In fact, some people weren’t even Anti-Semetic, they just wanted them removed from the economy so they could share the wealth (though, without Jews in the economy, most of them became disheveled – the Polish economy completely collapsed without Jews). Anyway, it took awhile before mass execution became the standard, so that’s why there even are survivors.
The Warsaw Ghetto is a great example of lack of planning. In September 1939, there were 3.3 million Jews, 10% of Poland. In May 1940 they created the first ghetto and moved all the Jews from Warsaw and the neighboring towns into it.
It only took the Germans one and a half weeks to conquer Poland. Warsaw was the only city that really fought back, and that’s why it ended up so bombed. At that point, the Jews were fighting with the Poles till they were conquered. They were told they had 3 days to move all 150K Jews into the Ghetto or they would be killed, but that proved to be completely impossible, so they ended up with a year. The problem was there was competition in the hierarchy and one person would say one thing, and another would rescind it.
By November 1940, the ghetto was closed and all the Jews were in there. A lot of people ask why the Jews didn’t just leave – the problem was no one knew what the Nazis plans were. There had always been a lot of regime change in Poland, and the thought was just to wait it out. There was never a genocide like the one that the Nazis started, so there wasn’t even an acceptance of that as a possibility. When reports started coming back from Treblinka about what was happening, no one could even believe it. (These were days before cell phone cameras… or even cell phones.)
Anyway, the people who do leave Poland are the younger people with no kids, who can more easily pick up and go to a new country. A bulk go to the USSR – Russia is pretty bad for the Jews, but at least they’re not being mass-murdered. However, if they don’t leave immediately, pretty soon all of the borders are sealed. And of course, you can look back with 20-20 hindsight now, but at the time: how could you really fathom what was about to happen?
So the cemetery wall was incorporated as a border for the ghetto, and they connected buildings, but they weren’t hermetically sealed, which is how news and goods got smuggled in.
As they started removing Jews from the ghetto, they made the borders go inwards, decreasing its space. They would cram 5-7 into a room, 35 people into an apartment, usually with one toilet and no cleaning material, which would lead to overcrowding and disease epidemics – about 5000 would die pre month just from that.
By September 1942 only 50K Jews were left, and they were deported to Treblinka.
In May 1943, there was a ghetto uprising, and after that, they completely burned down the ghetto till it was only rubble and sent the remaining Jews directly to Auschwitz. Getting to the uprising was hard, because even though not all the Jews were passively waiting for the war to end, there were sparring opinions about the best way to revolt and to uprise. There was a Jewish counsel, and then opposition to the counsel – some wanted to revolt, some to flee, some to assassinate the collaborators… there were also differing political parties: communists, socialists, zionists, and it took a long time to create a unified front.
However, the main options were to fight and die or to hold out hope and have faith that the Nazis would eventually be defeated. And it took a lot time to internalize the reality of those two choices, especially when people would crawl out of the mass graves and warn people and would not be believed.
Anyway, so they put a Jewish leader, Adam Czerniakow, in charge and tell him that his family will be killed if he disobeys anything. Then, he becomes in charge of incentivizing people to work as efficient slave labor. Thus, the rich people start paying the poor people to work, and start running smuggling rings. Czerniakow runs everything, but eventually when they start asking him to pick out people to kill, in July 1942, he takes a cyanide pill rather than having to make those tough choices. He left behind 9 notebooks of a diary that were found in the 80s in Canada.
After Czerniakow’s death, they put Chaim Rumkowski in charge. He said: “You have to lose the arms to save the body” and complied with the German orders to start weaning the herd. He oversaw the beginning of killing off the Jews who couldn’t work: the kids, the sick, the elderly… apparently they even defenestrated the sick at one point. His working with the Germans made him a lot of enemies, and eventually he was murdered by Jewish inmates in Auschwitz for his role as a collaborator.
By the end of 1944 only 70K Jews were left in Poland over of the 3.3 million. It took the Soviets 2 months to get organized, and they could’ve saved more if they had been more efficient.
While we were in the Ghetto, we passed the courthouse – apparently they still had courts going, and they had separate entrances from both sides of the courthouse to and from the ghetto. We also saw the Femina, which was where they still had theatre during the Ghetto years. There was also a Catholic church in the ghetto because even if Jews had converted to Catholism, if they had Jewish ancestors, they were still considered Jews. So even if you were raised Catholic and had no idea one of your grandparents was Jewish, you could find yourself in the Ghetto.
We went to a few memorials including Pawiak where there was a tree and memorial for the archivist, Ringelblum. We saw Umschalgplatz which is the “place of being taken away” to the camps. There’s a memorial there with all the first names of the people who were taken. Then, we walked down the memorial route where they have little plaques for some noteworthy Jewish heroes, including a few women.
On the bus ride to Treblinka we watched a documentary of an unfinished propaganda film called “The Unfinished Film”. It turns out the Nazis hired filmmakers to make it look like the Ghettos were not so bad, and that the Jewish people were still living their lavish lives. The filmmaker interviews some people who survived and remembered the filming, while juxtaposing the actual footage. This footage would prove very useful in the trials against Nazis, as would a commemorative album this Nazi leader, Kurt Franz and had made called “Beautiful Times” to showcase the steps they took to exterminate Jews in Treblinka.
Alright, if that wasn’t enough to keep you from reading this recap, it’s time to talk about the death camp, Treblinka.
Treblinka was built in an isolated forest far away from anything; it’s 50 miles from Warsaw. It was part of Operation Reinhard. Reinhard was the architect of the whole plan to wipe out the Polish Jews. He was assassinated by an underground Jewish movement, so the operation was named after him.
Treblinka was the 2nd most efficient camp at killing after Auschwitz (see day 6). About 957K Jews were murdered here.
There were 3 types of camps: concentration camps for holding Jews, slave camps for making them work, and death camps for extermination. A lot of the camps served more than 1 of these purposes. Treblinka was purely a death camp, and there were very few survivors. If someone could break out, they would have to get passed the German guards, then there was a minefield surrounding the camp. If by some miracle, one survived that, they would be wearing hardly any clothes, look sickly and have no IDs and be stranded in the middle of nowhere. There is known of a breakout of 300 prisoners, in which 74 survived because of kindly non-Jewish Poles hiding them, but 74 out of almost a million is not a lot. One of them named Chil Rajchman wrote a memoir, which is apparently very detailed but obviously a tough read. It’s called Treblinka: a survivor’s memory (it’s on amazon).
Just like in all the camps, men and women were split up, stripped, given haircuts, and sent to the gas chambers. They would receive tickets for all the items they brought so that they would think they’d get them back, and behave calmly. They would use truck engines with carbon monoxide and then burn the corpses in open pits. They had to stop burying the bodies because blood kept oozing up from the ground. In fact, they had to have Jews exhume the bodies for burning after that started happening. Then, they had 3 enormous pits where they would dump the ashes.
You might ask how they could get people to be so desensitized to killing? They had a T4 program in Berlin that had started as a euthenasia program. The churches protested about it, so it became a secret program from 1933-1945. It was there that they trained doctors and honed their efficiency. They started with disabled people, and after awhile doctors would become numb and think they were doing the murdered a service by putting them out of their misery.
In fact, the guards, in general, seemed to have no problem feeling superior and torturing the prisoners. There are many accounts of abuse, where the guards would drill into their legs, or a girl would be left out freezing till she froze to death.
When they had succeeded in exterminating all the Jews from spring 1942 till fall 1943, the Germans completely dismantled Treblinka so that there was no evidence left since they had completed their mission. Thus, today there is only a huge monument memorial built by the Soviets, and then a lot of tombstones to mark what happened there. It is surprisingly idyllic to walk around the green grass and the trees. It’s not at all like the camps coming up where you can see what happened. Somehow the abstract of it all is far less disturbing.
Anyway, that night we visited the Warsaw synagogue and the funny rabbi was a former New Yorker talked a little about Jewish life in Warsaw today. He says that he often has new members who have recently found out from a dying grandparent that they were actually Jewish. Surprise! While the Soviets were in charge, most people hid their Judaism; it wasn’t till 1989 when they started coming out again.
After that, we actually had free time to spend in the Old Town of Warsaw! It was a very nice area to walk around. I had some delicious pierogis with spinach and cheese. I saw the statue that was on my postcards – oh, I bought postcards, too – and just enjoyed the evening. I saw this little kid accordion player busking and also there was a soprano singing outside of the Warsaw Castle who was pretty good. I walked home, and found another few Chopin benches, and then kind of took it easy after the day we had.
DAY 4, WEDNESDAY, JUNE 29TH: LUBLIN, MAJDANEK
Alright, on the way to Lublin on the bus, we watched the movie, Conspiracy starring Kenneth Branagh, Colin Firth and Stanley Tucci. Branagh portrayed Reinhard Heydrich, the aforementioned person the Reinhard Operation was named after. It’s an accurate movie that is based on the transcript from a meeting that was supposed to be destroyed but hadn’t been where the high ranking Germans discuss the solutions to their Jewish problem. As I previously said, some of them objected to mass extinction, some wanted sterilization, some just to exile them, etc. The movie ends with placards about what happened to everyone. It’s a really well written and well acted movie, but obviously the subject matter isn’t for everyone.
We stopped by a synagogue in Lublin which was renowned for its rabbinical school. They had a huge library that was burned during the war.
Next we went to the concentration camp of Majdanek, which I found to be the hardest one. It was here that I started feeling the emotions I used to write the haunting instrumental piece for the documentary.
Majdanek is completely intact, in fact, it could be used today still. It was liberated by the Russians, and the Germans were caught completely by surprised, so they didn’t have time to burn any evidence. The whole camp is completely there, still, and there is another communist statue monument at the entrance. Also, the Soviets were able to use the camp as propaganda to show the rest of the Allies what was going on. And after the war, the Soviets would continue to use it as a prison camp during the post-war Polish Civil War.
Before we went in, we were given another history lesson… As you may know, I really hated history in high school – I didn’t even take AP History – but here are the notes I took for this writeup for you:
In January 1933, Hitler won the German election with 40% of the vote. 40%. This is not a clear majority. In fact, this is the exact reason why we do not have a 3rd party in the USA.
The first thing Hitler did was open up Dacau and put all of his political adversaries in it. Thus, the next time he was elected he won 97% of the vote because he had no competition.
Dacau and then Sachenhausen (the one I visited when I did the Germany trip in 2014) were, thus, mostly used as concentration camps for political prisoners, but also eventually higher ranking Jews, communists, gypsies and homosexuals.
Since the German people would’ve been really upset if they found out what was going to happen, they put all of the 6 death camps in Poland, ie “not in our backyard”. Poland was a much less integrated society than Germany, so separating out the Jews from the rest of the population was much easier. Poland became Hitler’s playground where he could brutalize the whole Jewish population.
Majdanek had a few escapees in 1944 – they cut the wire, and 10 at a time would crawl under sheets, and a few survived. At the end of the war, the Jews were told to dig ditches as a defense moat, and then were shot and buried.
So, we were left to walk around on our own for an hour, and it was not easy. I went into the first building I found, and it turned out to be the gas chambers. It was eerily spooky, and I was all alone for a bit. I kind of started to cry, and had a little trouble breathing, so I went back outside after a short time.
I walked around the barracks, which were tepid and dry and smelled like old wood.. being inside them was hot, stale, dank, almost nauseating. The beds were made of straw and wood-carvings and they had to fit 5 people per mattress.
There were a few sculptures that prisoners had made to “beautify” the camp in case anyone drove passed it. There was a tortoise and a “Little Castle” that apparently has the sculptors names buried inside somewhere. There was also a column of 3 Eagles with ashes secretly inside the base.
At the museum there, they showed that there were handmade cards.
I visited the mausoleum and crematorium. That was also pretty hard.
We had a memorial ceremony by this big memorial, and then drove to our charming little Hotel Korona in the country where we had buffet dinner.
That night, I wrote the documentary theme “Meandering Majdanek” on a piano app I got for my iPad and watched the Smurfs in Polish! I needed the Smurfs at that moment, but when I posted the video on the Facebook someone said they’re Anti-Semetic… I will always love them, though.
DAY 5, THURSDAY, JUNE 30TH: WIERZBNIK-STARACHOWICE
Thursday we went to visit Howard’s hometown of Wierzbnik-Starachowice. After making the trek back to Poland with Tsipy a few times, Howard and his family started petitioning the town to put up a memorial plaque in the town square where he used to live. After five years, they finally did, and this was the first time that Howard saw it. So, there was a little ceremony for him. It was really sweet.
Howard told his story and emphasized the importance of luck for his survival. I didn’t take specific notes during his speaking, but here is the gist:
Howard grew up in the small town of Wierzbnik-Starachowice. They didn’t have much contact with the outside world. There were no radios or anything. His family had lived in that down for generations, and the Jews were pretty much their own community and didn’t really talk to the Poles too much. In 1938 there was a change, and a rise of Anti-Semistim, and by 1942 there were rumors of things coming.
Howard is the same age as my grandmother, and around 13 the Nazis came to his town. His father was able to get work papers for him, but they were questioning his age. The guy that signed them, eventually said okay because he knew Howard’s father, but then they had orders to lose the younger workers. However, Howard hid behind a gate, and was able to stay with the workers instead of being separated out to death. This is what he means by luck.
He ended up in Auschwitz then Buchenwald. He told us a horrible story about being beaten after smuggling some vodka. He said he got to go to the woman’s camp as part of his job, and that was really nice. He mentioned that there were Soviet prisoners and he tried to stick with them because they were stronger.
He told us of a march in the snow that only 500 survived, and said the Russian prisoners started becoming cannibals on the walk.
And after the war, he told us how some Jews went back to Wierzbnik-Starachowice and were murdered by the Poles who had taken their houses because they didn’t want to bring them back. That was something I didn’t know about.
There are no Jews left in Wierzbnik-Starachowice at all. It was touching going back to Howard’s house. He is friendly with the current owner now. He pointed out where all his neighbors were, and it’s just incredible that he comes back to Poland so often, as my grandmother never returned to Europe at all.
We also visited the Jewish cemetery there, and then had a great dinner at a nearby hotel including delicious raspberry ice cream.
On the bus to Krakow we watched the movie Sunshine starring Ralph Fiennes as like 4 different men in different generations of this Jewish family in Hungary. I had actually seen this movie before as a free preview, but I hadn’t remembered it. (It wasn’t the best movie, but it was based on the writer’s actual family story.)
When we got to Krakow, Mollie and I dropped our stuff in the hotel room, and I sprinted to get a cab (something I’ve never done before and probably won’t ever do again) so we could get to this pianist concert! We ended up only about 5 minutes late, and we only missed part of Chopin’s Waltz in A flat major.
I was so, so, so relieved to make it in time for this concert after missing the other one. It was so wonderful to get some culture, and I vastly prefer Krakow to Warsaw mostly because of this reason. The concert was apart of the Barbakan Music Festival, and was in a castle wall. (Viktor said it was really the “defensive walls”.) It was so beautiful and the ambience was so lovely. There were birds flying above our heads.
The pianist’s name was Piotr Kosinski and he played 2 Chopin pieces, then 9 preludes by Szymanowski (who I still haven’t heard of but is obviously a Polish composer – wikipedia confirms), and after intermission 12 Etudes by Claude Debussy, which are some of my favorites.
We had a lovely walk back home down Florianska Street, and then the main road over the river back to our hotel (Qubus hotel).
DAY 6, FRIDAY, JULY 1ST: AUSCHWITZ, KRAKOW SHABBAT DINNER
We had to be on the bus by 6:30am for our big day at Auschwitz to get there right when it opens at 8 because it gets super crowded. They wouldn’t let me bring in my little bag, so I had to go water-less for the few hours of the tour. Btw, 6:30am is really atrocious as a wake up time. It was mostly 8am, which is bad enough, but that’s one of the downside to group trips. However, when would you choose to go to these locations not on a group trip?
Anyway, I think this is the hardest part of the trip for me to relive, but after this, it’s almost all fun, fun, fun, I promise!
Auschwitz is a camp in 3 parts – the first 2 are still there. Part 1 is the main part of Auschwitz where we went first. Part 2 is Auschwitz-Birkenau where both Howard and my grandmother were. We went there second.
The location of Auschwitz was picked because it’s at a central hub. There are railroad junctions from all directions. Also, there are 2 rivers on each of the sides, so it is easily isolated. It was the largest camp, and the first one used, at first for Polish political prisoners. Auschwitz I is pretty nice to look at because it was repurposed.
Upon entering there is the sign: “Arbeit Macht Frei” or “Work makes free”.
Next, when you enter there is the area where they had the camp orchestra. The camp orchestra would play all day to keep everyone calm. These prisoners were probably treated the best since they had a useful skill. Of course, my brain went to the fact of me being in a camp orchestra. How could it not?
Auschwitz consists of 28 brick buildings, where they would house 1000 people in each. Auschwitz I contained a lot of non-Jews, all the high educated Polish elites, Soviet prisoners, etc.
Upon coming to Auschwitz, prisoners were told they were going to start a new life. They made it sound like a better life. People would bring all of the belongings they could carry, and there is a room with lots of stuff they brought. There was also a display of glasses and of the hair they cut off, shoes, kitchen stuff, prayer shawls, 40K pairs of shoes and luggage with names. All the stuff they stole off the prisoners were put into warehouses they nicknamed Canada.
They split the men and women, and they were selected out to either work or die The children and subhumans (disabled) and elderly were all split right off to the gas chambers where they were told they were going to take a shower. 200K Jews were sent to the chamber where they were killed with Zyklon B Pesticide. At peak efficiency, 10K bodies a day were burned.
The workers were all given tattoos, like my grandmother had. Apparently, this only happened at Auschwitz; they were also given triangles to sort them. Star for Jews, pink for homosexuals, green for criminals who they would put in charge of their fellow prisoners because they were very masochistic.
There were pictures of the starved prisoners. Prisoners only received three tiny meals a day, if you could call them meals. They were basically living skeletons working 11 hours/ day.
We also went into the offices of Josef Mengele, the angel of death. He would especially like to experiment on twins and also pregnant women. He escaped to Argentina and was never punished.
We went to Block 11 which was used for prisoners before execution. We saw the basement punishment cells, where people would have to be cramped in a tiny space before being killed. We saw the death block where they were executed. These people would be executed for any number of reasons, ranging from large to small.
There is a Poland film of the escape of Kazimierz Piechoswki called “The Runaway. It tells of 144 out of 800 prisoners of an escape attempt who survived by grabbing some of the uniforms from Block 11 and pretending to be officers.
Next we went to Szao Shoah memorial where they had videos of Jewish footage pre-war, then some traces of life artwork, videos of people reading diaries and then wall of names, which is a book with millions of names of the Holocaust victims. I tried to find my relatives’ names, but I’m not sure if I actually succeeded because the hometowns listed didn’t quite match up.
Next, we saw the spot where they publicly executed Rudolph Hoss, the first commandant of Auschwitz. He lived there for 3 years with his wife and 5 kids.
Finally, we stopped by the incinerator where they burned 350 bodies/ day. The Jews had to bury them, and then every 3 months, they would kill those Jews so that they didn’t report what was going on as witnesses.
In 1945, they evacuated the remaining 65K Jews via death marches, and burned as much as possible. When they Soviets came they only found 7,000 left. And a lot of those Jews died because they ate food too quickly upon rescue.
The museum first opened in 1947, which is really soon after the war if you think about it, and the first few guides were survivors.
Next we went to Auschwitz-Birkenau, which was a few miles away. Here, Howard continued his story, but I put all my memories of his story up in his hometown. Some random facts the guides and Howard mentioned, are as follows:
There were separate barracks for men and women. The train would come straight into Birkenau. There was an actual freight train on the track still. People always say they were in cattle cars, but it’s really not true because cattle cars have windows, and these freight trains didn’t. At Birkenau, people who wanted to work were selected out for usefulness. Doctors would check for deterioration and lice. Daily there would be a roll call and then work. Cigarettes were the currency. They had some pools of water that they would throw people in and laugh at. These pools were there for insurance purposes in case of a fire. At one point, the Soviet prisoners revolted and were all gunned down. If this happened to them, how could the Jews have fought back?
After Howard walked us around, we parked in the shade, and it was time for me to talk about my grandmother. I had prepared two pages of her history included with anecdotes from my memories. It was very hard to get through, and I cried a lot, but I’m glad I did it. I think it is very important for me to keep my grandmother’s story alive. I ended with a poem I wrote her, then sang the song she used to sing to me “Chew’n Gum”. It was all very emotional, and then a lot of people hugged me afterwards. I had mentioned that my grandmother used to give me M&Ms all the time, and coincidentally it turns out one of the teachers had a packet of them. He presented it to me afterwards, and it was really sweet. I ate them all very quickly. We then did a memorial service, and I lit a candle in her honor.
Afterwards, we were left on our own for an hour. Birkenau is much larger and wider open than any of the other camps we visited, and there was a lot of grass. I walked around for a bit, and kind of got stuck behind barbed wire, and had to limbo my way out of it. I walked through Canada (where they used to store Jewish goods), saw the destroyed remnants of the incinerators and made sure to pay a visit to the female barracks where my grandmother would’ve been.
That night, we had Shabbat Dinner at the hotel. Tsipy invited her friend, David Krakauer, who is a world famous clarinetist who lives in NYC. He was there for the Krakow Music Festival (see day 7). I had a great time talking to him; his daughter also does cabaret in NYC. She also brought this couple that talked about how the guy found out he was secretly Jewish on both sides, but only after he had fallen in love with his wife, who was Jewish. It was a really dynamic story.
After dinner, Mollie and 2 of the other adults on the trip went out to Harris Piano Jazz Bar. We missed the most of the act at the Summer Jazz Festival, but we were able to pay a discounted cover for the final set. The guy actually said we could pay 15 zloti, but when the hostess asked what he said, I said 10. The ticket also included a free shot, and given the day we had, I decided I would have it. Of course, I woke up with a huge headache because it was very cheap Polish vodka.
DAY 7, SATURDAY, JULY 2ND: KRAKOW: WALKING TOUR, MUSIC FESTIVAL
Miraculously, they let us sleep until 10am on Saturday.
We did a brief walking tour of Krakow. We went to the Umschalgplatz Memorial which was a bunch of empty chairs (but no empty tables).
A few historical facts, for you (at this point, I stopped taking copious notes – after Auschwitz, I was pretty much done with this part of the trip mentally):
Krakow was the seat of the Nazi government in Poland, so the Old Town is all original and not destroyed like Warsaw. There was also a much lower Jewish population, so the ghetto was outside of the main city. It was used mostly for people who slept there and worked in the factories – so they were not trapped as in Warsaw. They were sealed in, but not as starving.
The story of Krakow is told very truthfully in Schindler’s List.
There was a Jewish underground that was causing mischief, but the whole operation was killed because a tortured couple gave up the whole ring.
After the war in 1946, a child went missing and 41 Jews were killed; he was eventually found fine, so after that sort of thing 150K Jewish survivors moved to the USA or Israel, which is why there are so few Jewish people left in Poland. In fact, the ones that did stay after that incident were mostly purged after Stalin’s death.
We saw a piece of the ghetto wall, then went to the synagogue where there was a Jewish Museum that was basically Jew 101 (this is a menorah… this is what Hanukah is…)
Next we went to the Jewish Community Center where we heard the story of a Polish woman who saved a Jewish woman’s life. Even though her husband had been killed for trying to shelter a Jewish family, she still found the courage to rescue a girl who had escaped from the camps and kept her safe through the remainder of the war. She was given an award after the war for her humanity.
After lunch, we had free time, so I went out on my own for a long, meandering walk down what was called The Royal Route.
Before getting to the start, I went through this really large, circular park. The walk started at St. Florian’s Church, then passed Grunwald’s Battle Monument… I went right by the Florianska Gate where my concert had been, and took pictures in the light. I made a detour to take a picture of the Slowacki Theatre, then continued through Market Square and took pictures of Wawel Hill and more churches and the Wieloposki Palace. I walked down the Wisla (Vistula) river for a bit, and then it was so super hot that I went back to the hotel and fell asleep.
I met Tsipy at 5:15 in the lobby, and we headed over to save spots at Ariel Restaurant for the Klezmer Festival. I had some yummy lamb, and I ended up staying at the festival for the entire time, 6pm-1:30am. It was fantastic! A lot of eclectic styles; I obviously prefer the more classical type stuff. After a few hours, a lot of people were going into the actual mosh pit, so I finally followed Tsipy in, and we were dancing up a storm. The final act was the orchestra David Krakauer plays in, and it was the highlight – he was out of this world on the clarinet! So crazy!
I walked back to the hotel with Howard’s nephew, Leslie, and got to bed a little after 2. Incidentally, I was at the festival when the news broke about Elie Wiesel passing away. It felt very strange to be in Poland hearing that news, a month after my grandmother passed, and a day after I visited Auschwitz, where both they and Howard were 7 decades ago.
DAY 8, SUNDAY, JULY 3RD: KRAKOW: SALT MINES
8am start time for the Salt Mines. I almost didn’t go since I went to bed so late, but I’m glad I went. They were really fun!
We went 400 steps down these tiny steps, and then got a grand tour of these salt mines, which I believe are the largest in the world.
Our tour guide was hilarious, and led us in a chorus of “Heigh Ho!” (though I also sang “March in a Military Style” in my head – Veevs, are you reading?)
I actually had to pay $2 to take pictures down there, so I took a lot. I took some really great ones, though, and hopefully people appreciate that $2 I spent for your sake.
They stopped mining actual salt 20 years ago, but they still collect the natural brine and boil it for 15K tons of salt/ year. There was salt all over the walls (it tasted salty – we were encouraged to lick), there was some cauliflower salt on the ceiling. There were salt sculptures, including mustached gnomes that were supposed to be good luck if you kissed them (the tour guide joked that when the mustaches were rubbed off, the tour guides all grew mustaches so that girls could kiss them instead).
There was also the largest underground church, where people are still married today. There were figurines and altars all made out of salt. There were lots of statues throughout the mines actually, and one was of Goethe who apparently was the minister of mining before he was an author!
Our tour guide also says he can say “Watch Your Head!” in 154 languages – the most impressive was Zulu. He didn’t know Klingon, though (or even what Klingon was).
We ended up being 430 feet underground, 850 steps, but there was another 6 levels below us.
The Nazis built airplanes down there because you couldn’t bomb it, but there was a Jewish star etched on the wall that was apparently hidden behind equipment.
Oh and apparently the reason they don’t allow bags anymore is because a couple tried to camp out in the mines for 3 days on their honeymoon.
Finally, they had wifi down there! Anyway, we got into this super fast (faster than my building even!) elevator which was supposed to fit 9 people but was super cramped with 8, and then we were out. Oh, our wonderful Polish tour guide, Viktor, got us all some salt as souvenirs!
Since it had been pouring that day, we didn’t get out at the Plaszow Concentration Camp – we only saw the memorial. This was another one that was completely dismantled, so there wouldn’t have been anything to see anyway. It was used for harsh labor, and is depicted in Schindler’s List.
I skipped the afternoon discussion for a much needed nap, and then I had time to a free string quartet concert in St. Joseph’s Church. I had trouble finding it on the map for awhile because I was looking for Jozefa, and then I realized that was Joseph in Polish. The string quartet was fantastic. They played mostly the greatest hits – a Bach Brandenburg Concerto, Handel, Hadyn, Mozart… even Sunrise, Sunset! One composer I hadn’t heard of: Czajkowski … but then they started playing the Nutcracker and I realized that’s how they spell Tchaikovsky in Poland!
I walked up to the Old Town for the delicious farewell dinner, said my farewells, then walked around a bit with Mollie and 2 of the adults. Getting back to the hotel early, after packing for Austria, after an hour of trying, I finally found the Game of Thrones Season Finale illegally (HBO Go doesn’t work in Europe). I was really relieved to have seen it before I got spoiled!
DAY 9, MONDAY, JULY 4TH: OFF TO AUSTRIA
The hotel didn’t make us check out till noon, so I came down at 11:59. Howard’s daughter, Heddy, remarked she hadn’t seen me in a good smiley mood all week, and it’s because of all the days starting before noon! I was also super excited to go to Austria. The 6 of us who didn’t go back with the huge group, took a large cab to Krakow airport, then Mollie and I separated off for our flight. We had a few hours to wait, then we had to take a bus to the plane (so annoying). The plane ride was less than an hour, and we were in Austria! Somehow the Austrian airport ATM overcharged me for my Euros (by $26!?) but I didn’t know that at the time.
Maya had given me instructions on which bus to take to the center of town (it turns out Maya lives in what I’d call Times Square, and Mollie and Lauren (who joined Mollie for her second half of the trip, since they split off from me and went to Budapest on Wednesday)’s hotel was a 3 minute walk from her apartment.
Quite an uneventful bus ride, we walked through the main area of Old Town in Vienna. Maya lives 30 seconds from the huge church – Stephansdom which is in the center of Vienna in Stephansplatz.
20 minutes later, I picked Mollie and Lauren up for dinner from their hotel, and it turns out the hotel lobby had one of Wagner’s original pianos!
We had a lovely dinner at Weibels Wirtshaus – a restaurant the guide book I got for $4 on ebay (and eventually left with Maya to lighten my load) had recommended. I had beef stroganoff, and it was okay, but I prefer my mom’s. We also passed a Strauss plaque and JFK memorial at some point.
That night we went to the Haus der Musik which is a great music museum. It was really fun and interactive (and possibly for kids in some parts). We went up stairs that made notes, went to a room about the Vienna Philharmonic and found letters written by Brahms and Strauss to them about their pieces. We did this little dice waltz game where we created a waltz randomly. There were some really great interactive displays, like one about the shepard scale, which keeps going but never sounds like it’s not in the same octave as itself. There were composer rooms for Mozart, Hadyn, Beethoven and Strauss. We got to conduct the Vienna Philharmonic in this interactive game, but it was very much like that horrible game, Rock Band – when I tried to actually conduct, it kept stopping me and saying I sucked, where as Mollie just waved her names back and forth in rhythm and made it through the end. Oops!
After we had Zanoni and Zanoni ice cream, which was only 1 euro a scoop! I had banana and cookies & cream the first night. And I would have it every night I was in Vienna.
DAY 10, TUESDAY, JULY 5TH: VIENNA, PART 1: MUSEUMS AND MOZART
I think here is a good point to say how much I love Vienna, so… I LOVE VIENNA. Seriously, it might be the only city in the world that I felt at home in besides NYC. It doesn’t hurt that they had 4 music museums, but I just really liked the vibe. It was pretty frenetic and quickly paced. And while Maya says it’s expensive, I found it cheap compared to NYC (though expensive compared to Poland). Vienna was a beautiful city to walk through, and everything was walkable, and the people were fairly friendly.
Alright, so I did 4 museums on Tuesday.
First, I went to the Mozart Haus which is an apartment where Mozart and his family lived for 2.5 years. It was there he wrote Magic Flute, so there was a whole display of various productions playing at once in one room as a multimedia experience. There was an audio tour, but they didn’t let us take pictures. I think most of the Mozart facts are already in Amadeus, so I didn’t really take many notes. I mean we all know that Mozart was really into gambling. This museum said that he could’ve been poisoned, but the one in Salzburg contradicted that and said he definitely wasn’t. And he definitely was still writing his Requiem on his death bed, and kept singing parts up until he passed. He idolized his wife Constanze; they had 6 kids and only 2 survived. I mean, really, you can read his wikipedia page, so I think I’ll leave this paragraph here.
Next I went to the Clock Museum. The guide book had said to get there at noon for all the chiming, but they had only set one clock that day, so it was kind of underwhelming. I could take pictures, though, so I went a little wild. The clocks were way cool, though. There was a room of music clocks that played music, and there were ones that were apart of paintings… and the coolest one was a dog-eye clock. The clock was actually in the dog’s eyes.
Next up, I went to the Freud Museum. Freud lived and worked here from 1891-1938. Again there was an audio tour with a lot of information. Some random facts: Freud paid a lot of money to emigrate to London with his stuff, but his sisters stayed behind and were killed. The Nazis used his apartment for Vienna Jews before sending them to the camps.
I saw his actual couch that he used – his daughter returned it to the museum. And his actual cigar, even though he had to stop smoking because of lung cancer. They had original copies of his two books: Dream Theory and Ego & the Id. Also, they had a special exhibit of his daughter’s work with child psychology.
Finally, I went to the Beethoven Museum – it was really not a museum, though. It’s called Pasqualati House and is basically where he had an apartment once. In fact, the sign said that he didn’t actually live in the apartment where the museum is! However, it was in the building he lived 1804-1808 and 1810-1814 and he wrote the opera, Fidelio (which would become Leonore), Symphonies 5, 7 and 8 and Fur Elise there. They had a piano and pics and facsimiles and a listening station of all the things he wrote there. It was actually pretty lame, and thankfully fairly cheap.
I had a lot of trouble finding the apartment building because it was hidden behind some trees, up a hill and I had no idea that was part of the same street. I actually had to stop into Starbucks for free Wifi and then just asked someone who pointed. So I lost like 20 minutes that day, but I did accidentally pass the Judengasse (Jew St) and the Judengasse Museum, so there’s that. I didn’t actually go in, though, because after the Poland week, I figured I covered the subject enough.
Post-museums I walked around all the pretty parks and gardens: Volksgarten and Bundesgarten, then Stadtpark. I saw the main museum area, the huge Parliament building, saw a lot of street museums.
Also, I went on a journey to get pictures of all the composer statues: Mozart, Brahms, Schubert and Beethoven.
I met up with Mollie and Lauren for dinner and a concert. I dragged Mollie to a low-rated Italian restaurant just because I was craving pizza and minestrone soup.
The concert was in the Musikverein Goldener Saal concert hall. It was of the Wiener Mozart Ochestra (yup, wiener). They actually were all dressed as Mozarts and they played the Best of Mozart including Eine Kleine Nachtmusik. It was almost exactly my Very Best of Mozart CD live! But I love that CD, so I was really fine with it. They also had a male and female singer and did the best of arias from The Magic Flute and Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro. Their encore was not Mozart, but instead Strauss’s the Danube Waltz.
Afterwards, Lauren and I had ice cream again. (Mango and pistachio for me.)
DAY 11, WEDNESDAY, JULY 6TH: SALZBURG: SOUND OF MUSIC TOUR
On Wednesday, I took the 10:30am train to Salzburg! I LOVED SALZBURG SO MUCH. It is the most adorable town EVER, and I had the BEST few days!
I took the Metro in Vienna to the train station, but I didn’t have change, so I had to buy a croissant since the machines don’t take 20 euro bills. I validated my ticket, even though, I probably could’ve just not paid since it’s on the honor system. One of those weird quirks of some European cities… like the fact that no one jaywalks. (Ah, how nice it was to be back in NYC where everyone besides Sarah does.)
I got into Salzburg at 1pm, and my Sound of Music bus tour wasn’t till 2. It took me awhile to find a non-pay bathroom (one thing I really despise about Europe is the pay bathrooms – I refuse to pay to pee! I do not live in Urinetown, and thankfully I always found free loos when I needed).
I made friends with a family from Georgia so I would have someone to take photos and videos of me reenacting the movie. I actually just had the movie on, but as it’s only 3 hours and I’ve been writing for almost 6 now, it’s over. It was great to see everywhere I’d been in the movie, though, and as it is my grandmother’s VHS copy that she would watch every day in the last few years of her life, I think the whole trip comes full circle together.
Anyway, so unlike how it looks in the movie, Salzburg is far more spread out. And it turns out the hills aren’t anywhere close to town, and the other side of them don’t go into Switzerland! In real life, the Von Trapp family took trains to get away before the Nazis actually took over the town. There were obviously a lot of changes, including the children’s ages, and the fact that Maria was like 40 years younger than the father in real life. (Good for him!)
The bus took us around to a lot of the sites used in the movie; we also had a singalong on the bus for awhile. I must say that if you really listen to the 2 songs Rodgers did the lyrics for (“I Have Confidence” and “Something Good”), you can really tell. (Things I notice during a singalong.) Besides that, we saw a documentary of Liesl returning to town, which juxtaposed all the spots we were going in real life to the actual movie scenes. Our tour guide (dressed as Maria) told us some things about filming, like how Christopher Plummer was drunk a lot of the time, and that his and the Mother Abbess’s singing voices were dubbed. In fact, the Abbey couldn’t get the lips in sync for “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” so they had her turn her back, which worked well dramatically. Also, Julie’s trip in “I have Confidence” was an accident that they left in. Also, Julie went to see the marionette theater, and that’s when she convinced them to turn “Lonely Goatherd” into a marionette number!
So, the Von Trapp house was actually two different houses – one yellow facade for the front, and then the back was another building on a lake. We went to that building with the lake first. And we passed the other one on the road. We saw the outside of the Abbey. We went to visit the Gazebo, which is in a public park now. Before you get into the park, there is the alleyway where Julie sings “I have Confidence”. I took a picture of myself doing a bit of it. The gazebo was built specifically for the movie and they left it where the lake building was, but people would break in to take pictures, so they eventually moved it to the park. I took a picture outside of it since we couldn’t go in since they have to keep the doors locked b/c someone broke their legs trying to jump on the benches like in “Sixteen Going on Seventeen”. In fact, the interior of the gazebo was actually much larger in the movie and filmed in LA. We went to the hills, or as close as we could, and I (as most of you have seen) filmed a little of myself singing “The Sound of Music”. (It took me 30 minutes to upload that to the Instagram with the hostel’s crappy wifi.) We went to the Basilica Minor St. Michael church which was where the wedding scene was filmed. It’s actually in a whole other town! Finally, we ended up at Mirabell Gardens where a lot of Do Re Mi was filmed. I went around like a dork and took pictures of all the spots of the park featured in that sequence!
After the tour, I walked down the Mozart Bridge, which was also featured in the movie. On the other side of the river, I walked around a bit passing Mozartplatz. I grabbed a burrito at a taco cart, and then I had some apple strudel, which wasn’t that crisp, so it wasn’t really my favorite thing.
I had tickets for a concert at the Salzburg Fortress, so I took the funicular up to the castle. I took some really great photos. It took awhile with my selfie attempts, both on my phone and on my actual camera. There were a lot of stairs to go up, so it made me feel better about not going to the gym for a few weeks! For some reason programs always cost $$, so I just took a picture of the set list. It was another string quartet, though they were joined by a pianist for a few songs. The concert featured Beethoven, Hadyn, Mozart (including the Salzburg Symphony and then again Eine Kleine Nachtmusik), Dvorak and Strass. It was great, and the view from the top of the Fortress was lovely.
Afterwards, I walked to my hostel, about 20 minutes outside of town. To get there, I had to go through a mountain. I was confused about the map b/c it literally sows the road going through the mountain, but I needn’t have worried. There was a tunnel through the mountain, and there were even little advertisements along the way. It was a cute hostel called Snooze Hotel, and I had my own little room with my own little bathroom. I even had a TV, and ended up putting on the Hitchcock movie, Torn Curtain, on in German starring… Julie Andrews, of course!
DAY 12, THURSDAY, JULY 7TH: SALZBURG: MUSEUM DAY
Check out was by 11, so I left at 10:59. While some people like to “hit the ground running” I instead tend to “hit the ground crawling”.
Since every museum I wanted to see was included in the Salzburg card, I decided to get it. Seeing what I wanted to see, I saved a few euros, but adding as much as I could possibly see I saved a lot, so that’s my excuse for letting myself rush through all the museums. (Given my attention span by day 12 of a trip, it’s a miracle I managed to get myself to all of them.)
First, I went to the Toy Museum. I hadn’t realized how much for kids it was. There were a lot of toys for kids to play with. There was a slide which I was not allowed to go down. I had to change my shoes, and I had no idea what my size was in European sizes, so I picked 42 since that’s always the answer, and they fit fine.
There were some old toys throughout the years. They had displays of: dolls, toy trains, legos, teddy bears, books. It was cute, and didn’t take much time.
Next, I took the Monschberg Lift which is an elevator that goes through the mountain to the Museum der Moderne which is basically Salzburg MOMA. There I saw some modern art which defies description, I went through a tunnel made of cardboard boxes designed for kids, and I saw an exhibit of Toulouse-Lautrec and the Poster around 1900. I took pictures of all the cat posters! Sadly, the top floor exhibit on Art, Music and Dance had closed the weekend before I was there.
So, I went to go to the other branch of the Salzburg MOMA, and it was closed for the month. And then I wanted to take a tour of the Festival Halls, but there was a huge music festival I was missing by a day, and there were rehearsals.
Instead, I went to the Salzburg Museums – first the Panorama Museum which had some cosmoramas, which are “visual infotainment” depicting Salzburg from all angles, in a circle. There was also a huge panoramic photo of Salzburg filling a whole circle.
The main Salzburg Museum had a few floors. There was a floor about the history of Salzburg (snoozefest). The basement had a treasure room, but sadly I wasn’t allowed to take pictures down there. They had some really cool statues and a gold scepter. There was also a Griffin’s Claw which supposedly could do magic. The top floor had a music museum, and that’s where I spent the most time. As usual, I took pictures of the strange instruments: grossbass, trumpet marine, square piano, steel piano, claviorgan, nail violin, octave spinet… and a zither. There were listening booths of people playing all these weird instruments, too, which I really enjoyed. Salzburg since 1803 has always been a hub for music. They also had Haydn’s piano and a lock of Mozart’s hair!
So, I was going to go to the Salzburg Weihnachts Museum till I realized that translated to Xmas Museum.
I was right by the Mozart Statue, so I had a random person take a picture of me with it. This is the only problem with going alone. It is really hard to do selfies in general on a regular digital camera, but when it’s a wide shot, it’s pretty impossible. So I had to constantly rely on the kindness of strangers. And that’s fine, but strangers are really incompetent. And no one knows how to zoom in on a regular camera. So a lot of these came out too wide, or framed wrong, and people didn’t tell me when I was facing the wrong way. Alas, what can you do?
So I went to Mozart’s Birthplace next. No pictures allowed, so I took notes. Thankfully there wasn’t an audio tour (though there was as the residence…). I was actually in the room where Mozart was born. It said on the wall “Mozart born here January 27, 1756.” So that’s cool. They had his first violin. It was a lot of photos and portraits of his family. They had some pianos and batons he supposed owned, but really, how can you actually know? (It reminds me of the historicity of The Man in the High Castle.) And in one room with furniture it actually said: “according to passage in letters the Mozarts own similar furniture”. I mean how lame can you get!? There was also an opera room with a lot of paraphernalia from productions over the years.
So I went back up to the Fortress since all the museums were closed when I went for the concert. First, I beelined to the marionette museum. It featured lots of cute marionettes. I got to play with one, and there was a dead one in a case, when you opened it – it made spooky noises. One woman actually screamed. The Salzburg Marionettes were founded in 1913.
I took a brief castle audio tour, going up to the top of the castle. We saw a torture chamber, which is a room they stored the torture devices in, not a jail. We went up these stairs to go to the top of the lookout which was called the “recktum” . I’m not kidding – the audio guide actually said “it’s a tight squeeze up to the recktum” and then afterwards, they said “after exiting the recktum, walk down the hall till you come to a large organ”… which was a large organ. It was a very nice panoramic view of the recktum, btw.
Since I had been eating so unhealthily that day (I believe I had more ice cream and a chocolate covered pretzel for lunch), I got a fancy salad at this cute place. It was yum!
I crossed the river again to go to the Mozart Residence, which is where Mozart moved with his family after marriage. It was much larger. There were no pics allowed till the final room, and it was an audio tour. I was not in a hurry, so I sat and listened to the whole thing, but again, it’s mostly things you could find on wikipedia.
Random things: his father sold pianos. He was NOT poisoned according to this museum. There were actual letters he wrote his mom on display. He went on a European tour for 3 years at 9 and wrote his first opera at 12. There was another violin he owed. He liked Vienna far more than Salzburg. He worked all day 6am-1am (more than I work!) but led an extravagant lifestyle which kept him in debt… there was a lot of music in the audio around the rooms he actually lived in. The letters have an authentic autograph. It’s actually crazy b/c nowadays we just email. They also have a death certificate for his parents. He was really close to his older sister, Maria-Anna who had her own room and was also a prodigy. I was able to take a picture with a picture of Mozart at the end, and he was way, way short!
After, I had a few hours till my train, so I walked to the Salzburg Synagogue – the one remaining. It was behind a fence, but I took a few pictures. I sat in Mirabell Gardens for a bit, having to switch benches a few times because of smokers – this is another thing I HATE about EUROPE – smokers EVERYwhere. It’s absolutely insane that it’s legal to smoke in public parks there! Insane.
My Salzburg Pass included the bus, so I took the bus 2 stops to the train. They actually have clocks on every bus in Austria – very nice – and also they had a sign that posted the times until the next ones were coming, like they have on only a few subway lines here. Europe transportation trumps NYC every time!
I took the train back to Vienna, and the guy sitting across from me kept coughing and not covering it up. And that’s probably where I got my cold from.
DAY 13, FRIDAY, JULY 8TH: VIENNA, PART 2: MORE MUSEUMS, DANUBE RIVER
By Day 13, I was so ready to be home. I think from now on, I need to limit my vacations to 12 days at most! I had 2 more museums I wanted to see, but one of them was in a group of 4 of them, so I ended up seeing 5 more, even though I was a little museumed out.
Oh while I’m here, I never mentioned how easy it was walking around Vienna! The whole city is kind of built on a circle. There are roads that just circle the whole old town area, so if you just walk outwards, you eventually hit one. And if you walk inwards, you eventually hit Stephanplatz where Maya’s apartment is. So it was very easy, and kind of nice to just saunter around looking at all the shops and statues and fountains.
So, my route actually took me right by the Jewish Museum (not to be confused with the Judengasse one of the other day). Of course, I didn’t go in, but I took a picture of the outside. I also stumbled upon the large library, the Nationalbibliothek, which is funny because Tuesday I had been actively looking for it. I followed very well-marked signs to get to Heldenplatz where the Neue Burg Museums were. In particular, I wanted to go to the Historic Musical Instrument Museum (duh), but the pass for that included entrance to the Ephesos Museum, the Collection of Arms and Armour and then the large Kunst Historisches Museum, which I think is Fine Art of History.
All the captions in the first 3 were in German, so I really don’t know what anything is, but I took pictures of weird musical instruments (just like I did in Germany), and I think they’re really cool. In particular, there was a really old Ethiopian one called a Kissar with a Jewish star on it, plus seminal instruments of every genre.
The Arms and Armour were, as you’d expect, arms and armor. The Ephesos museum was a few rooms of Roman sculptures.
The Fine Art Museum had lots of paintings and there was a coin room… and old statues, and there was an Egyptian section, where I swear they had the mummy tombs that inspired the Ernie and Bert in the museum sketch! There was a figurine that reminded me of a scene in Game of Thrones with Melisanda (see my pictures) and a crossbow that reminded me of Daryl from The Walking Dead. There were paintings by Peter Paul Rubens. I had heard of him, so I took pictures of a few, including one featuring Medusa.
So, then I walked across the canal to the Kriminal Museum. Everything there besides one plaque per room was in German; however, I didn’t want to pay more money for a whole thing I could read. I wasn’t going to read anymore. I just wanted to be done with museums, but this was on my itinerary, so I had to do it! #stubborn There were some really gruesome things in this museum. First there was a lot about different murderers in Vienna over the years. There was some torture stuff, and there was an actual guillotine and hangman machine. There was a mummified head of a murdered. There was an actual bloody glove (it wasn’t OJs), a poison case, some whips by the prostitutes. They had a lot of actual evidence from various cases, and some graphic pictures of murder victims, some really gorey, some with weird dismemberments, which I didn’t take photos of because there is way too much violence on social media as it is. The exhibit was very nicely labeled with letters, and went through a really creepy basement, which felt right for that kind of museum. It was chronological from the 1800s through the 1900s and very well organized.
Afterwards, I decided that I was in Vienna so I should see the Danube River. I walked another half hour of so, only to find out that I couldn’t really get to the river unless I used this very winding walking bridge. It was very curved, and very much designed for bikes. I went over a few bridges because the river was cut in half in this section. I saw a lot of people sunbathing and swimming in the river. It was quite beautiful, so I’m glad I made the trek. I was following the Danube Tower. I had intended to go up it, but when I got there it was 4 Euro, and I didn’t want to pay for a view of the city when I had had plenty of views already. Besides, I’ve never gone up on the Empire State Building and didn’t bother with the Eiffel Tower, why bother now?
I did end up in Donaustadt Park. It was a charming park, full of residents, not tourists. Pretty much like Central Park. Instead of the tower, I did decide to take a 20 minute train ride for 4 Euro around the park just so I could get off my feet for a bit. There was a mini-waterfull, some playgrounds, lots of trees and gardens. It seemed like a lovely place to hang out, however, I had dinner plans, so I needed to head back since it was going to be an hour and half walk.
I got back to the flat with a half hour to spare. That night I had planned to take Maya out to dinner for hosting me. Also, we met up with Emmai and Patrice, who I met on the Poland trip. Emmai is the filmmaker I mentioned before, and he is the one who has to still send me the video of my speech! I don’t know that he’ll take the time to read this whole thing, but I’m betting Patrice will. So, we went out for Asian Fusion, and it was really yummy and affordable enough such that I had $$ leftover for… you guessed it Zanoni & Zanoni ice cream! This time I splurged since I had no reason to spend more Euros, and got 4 scoops: all my favorites in one cone.
We got home relatively early, and I prepared myself for my fifth city in two weeks…
DAY 14, SATURDAY, JULY 9TH: PRAGUE
As I alluded to earlier, I did not like Prague. I am not quite sure why that is. It had been highly recommended to me by many people. I found Prague to be way too crowded, way too full of smokers and way too full of bathrooms you had to pay for. I also found the streets completely inane: there were barely any street signs, and they went in strange directions. I have a great internal GPS, and I found myself lost a few times, and accidentally going the wrong way another few times. I found the people to be rude. I found it to be a very party-town with lots of young drinkers on the street. Also, it was way too couply for me. And yes there were beautiful buildings and architecture and castles and churches, but that’s just the same in every European city!
In Prague’s defense, I had a sore throat all day, which was probably the beginning of my cold. Plus, given the lack of air conditioning and lack of free water at restaurants in Austria, I was really dehydrated. Also, my feet were super sore from all the walking from the past 2 weeks, and my whole body was aching in parts. Not to mention, I had to get up super early for the bus, and I was cranky and very much ready to just be home. I did like Prague much better at night, but that could also have to do with the fact that I like night better and hate the sun.
Anyway, so I got up early to go to the bus station to take the Flexbus which is basically Europe’s Megabus. The main reason for going to Prague was that the plane flights out of Vienna back to Warsaw were ridiculously expensive. Austrian Airlines has a monopoly flying to and from Vienna, so it was not going to be cost effective to fly out of there. The Flexbus was only 10 Euro, and it let me see what the city many people told me was their favorite city.
I went back to sleep on the bus until we hit the border of the Czech Republic when they woke everyone up and checked all our of passports. I guess that’s because the Czech Republic is not in the EU. I definitely fell back to sleep because it was an hour later (very nice that this bus also had a clock) when I regained consciousness. I had a huge crick in my neck, which made the rest of the bus ride a little annoying. We ended up getting to Prague 30 minutes later than advertised even though there was no traffic, so I feel like they lied about it.
I had printed a google map to get me to my hostel from the train station, but Prague’s street signs leave something to be desired, as I’ve mentioned. Also, they have maps some places, but you can’t even read the street names because the print is so small. So, I was able to find my way by matching the curving of the road, but I got confused. I asked someone for help, and that person was an idiot and sent me in a complete wrong direction! But I passed an ATM, so I got out $$ – they wouldn’t let me get fewer than 1000 koruna, so that’s what I did. Thankfully my hostel took most of the cash so I didn’t end up with extra. Anyway, I ended up going into a Hilton and getting one of those nice touristy maps. Using that, I navigated myself back to where I had been, but instead took the really curved left that I had completely written off as a stupid way to go. I prefer traveling in grids so I always know what direction I’m heading in, but Prague had other ideas.
My hostel in Prague was sucky suck. I mean it only cost me $32 for the night, so I guess you get what you pay for. I had my own room in a 2 room suite with a shared bathroom with this really shy Asian girl. I tried to say hi to her and she kind of freaked out and locked her door. Anyway, there was a lot of noise outside the window, which I’m fine with given that I’m a New Yorker, but the whole hostel was thin walled and creaky. And again, no air conditioning. This one had no TV, which I like for background noise even if it’s not in English. And the bed was horribly uncomfortable. But whatever, I got through the night.
So that was jumping ahead, so jumping back, I tried to get to Old Town Prague. I somehow picked the wrong street – there were 2 that looked like they were going in the same direction, but the one I ended up on curved north unexpectedly. Eventually, I hit the river, and was able to walk down that using it as a landmark. I saw the Prague Castle across the river, so I knew where I was trying to get to. I crossed one of the tourist bridges, and I had to pee really badly, but couldn’t find a bathroom that didn’t charge so I held it. I was also super hungry at this point, which you can add to the list of reasons I could’ve been cranky – all I had had that day was a granola bar. I didn’t even look at a menu or prices, I sat at this little cafe that looked cheap and had goulash with an iced tea (so dehydrated) and garlic bread. I was shocked at how expensive the food ended up being (I mean it’s 23 koruna per dollar so it was really only about $10), and that pretty much was it for my cash. I got a 25kr magnet and then later that day I used my last 25kr on one ice cream (duh) scoop of strawberry cheesecake.
Anyway, after eating, I kept following signs for the castle. I didn’t end up finding the easier route up; instead I walked up stairs and stairs and stairs and stairs. I finally got to the top, took some pictures, and then walked around the castle grounds. It was very crowded. I saw another of those huge churches, which by this point failed to impress me in the least. I ended up finding a little cafe, and sneaking in to use their bathroom for free. I was going to go down into this huge park, but it was closed for a Renaissance Faire. I saw some non-smiling guards of the castle. Then, I went to sit in the South Gardens for a bit. I was an hour behind the schedule I had set for myself, but it turned out you can really see all of Prague in only 3 hours because there’s that little to see!
Oh, and around this point my iPod’s battery died. So that added to my horrible mood.
I walked down the other set of stairs, took a really cute shadow pic, and followed the signs for the Charles Bridge. That’s the famous bridge in Prague. It wasn’t much different than the ones in Paris. There were locks again – I don’t get this fixation with putting a lock on the bridge. It seems like a waste of $$. Also, when you get divorced, you have to come all the way back to the city and chop it off!
I finally found the Town Square after zigging and zagging in the curved streets of Old Town. It was so crowded! It was way worse than Times Square. I took pictures of the big astronomical clock, which was surrounded by more people than the Mona Lisa had been. But it was just a clock!
I took myself on a little tour of the Jewish area. I took a picture of the Kafka statue. It was indeed Kafkaesque by definition!
I saw the Spanish synagogue, then three other synagogues. I saw the cemetery, but it was closed, so I could only peak in a bit. Apparently the Jewish museum has a wall of Czech Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust. I would’ve liked to see it, but even if I had managed to get there before 6pm, it was actually closed on Saturday for the Sabbath. Not that I had any cash left or interest/energy for another museum.
Speaking of museums, I saw a few tiny ones that I might’ve visited had I had the gumption: the love museum (eh, sounds fleeting), the apple product museum (I posed my cracked iPhone 4 with it), the diamond museum (probably would’ve skipped b/c they’re not my best friend b/c I’m not a girl) and most especially the sex machine museum, which I almost went into, but passed on just because I was so exhausted (though maybe the stuff in the museum could’ve helped with that?).
I ended up sitting by a fountain for a half hour before my show. After enough people took its water and drank it, I finally gave in and had some; in psychology they called this disinhibition. I was so thirsty, I filled up my water bottle 8 times and downed it. I didn’t die, so I guess the water was okay! This one girl asked me if the water was okay, and I said I thought so. She said she saw signs that said not to drink at a few others, so she thought since this one didn’t have it, it was safe. I mean it was good enough for the homeless people who used it, and for quite a few people with water bottles. Also, sitting at the statue, somehow I had free WiFi. So, it was just nice to sit for a bit. Btw, Salzburg had NO Wifi anywhere. It was kind of nice to unplug, but it could be annoying if I had had to check email. Vienna, on the other hand, has free Wifi almost everywhere. Have I mentioned how much I liked Vienna?
Anyway, that night I went to see Don Giovanni performed with marionettes! Since 1991, they have done almost 6000 performances. There was an actual alarm bell that went off before the show was going to start, and they started completely on time.
I thought the production was really well done. I mean, I knew the basic plot of Don Giovanni and refreshed my memory, but it would’ve been nice to have subtitles. They did truncate the show a bit, as I don’t remember the opera only being 90 minutes.
During the overture and in between scenes while they were changing the set, they had a Mozart marionette come out and do a lot of schtick. There was a big with an umbrella… there was some bits with ambient noises and then there was a bit where he had too much wine and then fell asleep while conducting. There were even violins popping out of the pit during the overture.
The plot was a bit hard to follow because all the puppets kind of looked alike (this is not racist… it’s puppetist!). They had a cute scene in a bathtub with a naked puppet (and that’d pre-date Ave Q by a few decades), and that scene included bubbles coming out of the tub!
After the Act 1 Finale all the puppets dropped down. Very cute. They had 7 puppeteers in total. There was one that actually came on stage to become part of the show, and there was one dressed as the supernatural statue that comes alive in the cemetery to punish Don Giovanni for being a womanizer.
Overall, I thought it was very well done, and quite enjoyable. I am quite a fan of puppets, as you all know, so I was definitely the right audience for the show. And so that means I saw Mozart stuff at least 4 times in a week, in addition to the 3 museums based in his residences!
After the show, I decided I should probably eat one more meal that day. I had no more koruna (like that song My Koruna! (ie Sharona)), but I still had 5 Euro left. So… I’m not really a gourmet. I went to KFC! I’m telling you, Warsaw had KFC everywhere, so I was jonesing for it for almost 2 weeks. I got a meal that came to 4.96 Euro, and then the guy was going to add the BBQ sauce, which apparently wasn’t free, and he had to strike it from the bill and give it to me for free because I was totally out of cash. Very nice guy, even though his English was not very good, and I had to translate what he said – instead of sauce, it sounded like sooze – I didn’t get what he meant till he said ketchup or BBQ… anyway, it was yummy, and oh, so healthy!
By this time, it was 10pm at night, and I was in a WAY better mood. I had had a lot of water, had dinner, and I found Prague more charming after dark. I think that I was really done with all of those long days out in the sun by this point.
I wandered around old town a bit, going in and out, just watching the nightlife, and then, I took a new path back to my hostel because I wanted to see more of the city. I ended up passing the intersection I had meant to come through earlier in the day. I saw the two big theaters and the mall. I walked past actual natives who weren’t tourists! And I ended up finding the subway I was going to need to take in the morning. I had left exactly 32 koruna for the subway/bus ride to the airport (again only a little more than $1!) . I got my ticket. Then, I tried to find my hostel, and man, if they hadn’t had signs for it everywhere, I don’t know that I would’ve! It was ridiculously confusing. And I’m really good at this sort of thing usually. I mean I found my way back to my hotel in Warsaw in the rain without a map!
Anyway, here’s the final irony of the night: on the bus, they had said something about there being 2 stops in Prague, the train station and the bus terminal. My ticket had said the train station – I’m not sure if that was a default or if there wasn’t a choice, but I had a google map from it, so that’s where I got off. Well… it turns out the bus station was actually under my window at the hostel. Yup. So I passed right passed a bunch of parked Flixbusses on my way home, and just kind of hated Prague a little more because of it.
DAY 15: SUNDAY, JULY 10TH: DEPARTURE
It was a very long trip coming back. Since I knew it was going to be an exhausting, long day, I set the alarm with enough time to take advantage of the free breakfast at the hostel. However, the breakfast was pretty stinky compared to the lush buffets I was used to in the fancy hotels in Poland.
Even though I had purposefully bought my subway ticket the night before, I still managed to get lost yet again finding the subway. I thought I was taking a short cut, and of course in true Prague fashion, the road completely turned around and didn’t come out where I thought it would. I did find the subway eventually, but was later than I had planned. I had no subway incidents; I took the red line to the green line to the bus. When on the bus to the airport, I realized there were 3 terminal stops, and I had no clue which one my plane was leaving from! Thankfully, the bus was super helpful and announced Terminal 3 was for private and that 1 was for planes departing something that I took to mean the direct area of Europe. I got off at Terminal 2, and was right! PHEW! However, LOT Airlines is so sucky that they don’t have an check-in kiosk, so I had to wait on the large queue with everyone checking their baggages. That took forever because there were a few passengers who kept having to readjust their luggage since they were overweight (the bags, not the people). Eventually I was able to check in once for both my flights since they were the same airline. The security lines weren’t heinous, and I got to the terminal with time to spare. We took a bus to the plane again, and the plane trip was again less than an hour. Sadly, my ears were really starting to hurt from all the flying, and my throat was still really sore and raw since I was coming down with a cold, so it wasn’t that pleasant.
I met up with Mollie at Warsaw Airport; our flights were very well timed; we saw each other on the customs line! I ended up sitting by the gate, and after almost 2 hours of being there, this security guard came and kicked us out b/c it was apparently just for business class. Of course, they hadn’t bothered to police it till 20 minutes before boarding time, so we just ended up having to stand for 20 minutes. Another thing about Europe is that people are really bad at standing in line – people just kind of push towards where we’re going, and often they purposely cut in line. We got caught up in the mob, and finally ended up on the plane.
I sat next to an American couple that was mostly nice, though a little too PDA-y for my taste. However, much better than being next to a crazy Polish lady. I recommended they watch The Lobster on the plane, knowing it was a huge satire on relationships, so that was my subtle (rare for me to be subtle) way at getting back at their couply-ness.
Anyway, I somehow made it through the 8 hour flight even though, as I said, I had been dying to be home since day 13. I was really excited to get off the plane, and then we got stuck IN the gateway thing that takes the plane to the airport. And we just kept moving sluggishly, and it turned out there was a huge backlog through Customs. I have never had such a horrible time getting through. They had disabled all the kiosks, and were doing everything manually. I mean, I appreciate being safe and all, but I was not really in the mood to wait longer after the day I had.
Eventually, they split off the US Citizens which cut the line in a third, and then I waited till I was the front of the next group being sorted rather than bumping myself up with the people ahead of me, and this really paid off b/c he put me on line 16 which had no one in it! So I was next! And the guy waived me through really fast. I am tempted to make humorous comments about this situation, but feel like there might be google alerts for this kind of thing, and I will save my humor for when I tell the story orally.
No issues on the Air Train or the E train even though it was going super local. I got home 18 hours after I left the Prague Hostel.
Smee was extraordinarily happy to see me! I think he goes through phases when I’m gone: denial, depression, anger, bargaining and acceptance. But mostly depression and anger. I think he’s okay for a few days, annoyed by the end of the first week, then somewhere around day 12 despondent. Regardless, it had been so long that he couldn’t even be angry at me. He was super sweet for the first two days I was back! But by now he is back to normal.
Alright, since the last ledger, I’ve finished 5 books; the last 2 on my trip. I actually only brought 5 books this time (a record low), and as usual, I still overestimated and only read 2. (The first one was really long, though!)
The Memory Keeper’s Daughter – Lauren leant me this one, and it was pretty good.
American Wife – I love Curtis Sittenfeld’s writing – this is a fantastic book inspired by Laura Bush’s life.
The Cuckoo’s Calling – this is JK Rowling’s first book as Robert Galbrath – I enjoyed it – 2 more to go!
Strong Motion – This is Jonathan Franzen’s 2nd novel – he’s another of my favorites, I have his first one to go, too.
The Sense of an Ending – I saw an early screening of the movie version of this award-winning book, so the ending was spoiled, but it was still a great book!
Next up: I have Mary by Nabokov and Lauren traded me 2 more books: Water for Elephants and Daniel Isn’t Talking… also, I just ordered off ebay: The Girl on the Train and Station Eleven.
LET’S GO TO THE MOVIES
Here are the movies I saw before I left and on the plane:
The Founder – This was another early preview, it’s a great movie starring Michael Keaton as the guy who stole McDonald’s from the McDonald’s brothers. It is fantastic. I saw another free preview that week that was stinky, so I won’t bother to mention that name, since I don’t think I’m actually supposed to talk about early previews (though, when it’s a rave, I don’t see how it hurts)
The Lobster – EW recommended this movie, and I thought it was just BRILLIANT. I absolutely LOVED it. It might not be for people who are in relationships, though.
Neighbors 2 – I found this movie to be fairly funny – obviously it’s no The Lobster.
On the plane:
Dealpool – I’m not sure how much they bleeped out of this, but it was still a fairly enjoyable movie.
Flipped – OMG, I cannot say enough about this Rob Reiner adaptation of a young adult book I’d never heard of – it was SO cute and SO well done.
August Rush – I don’t know how I hadn’t seen this movie before, but while a little hard to believe, it featured a great performance by Keri Russell and Robin Williams.
License to Wed – I kept on the Robin Williams train (or rather: plane) – this movie wasn’t that great, but he always is, so that made up for it.
Up next week: First preview of the new Star Trek movie IMAX 3D and Woody Allen’s newest film: Cafe Society!
My poor DVR is so full, so I am way, way, way behind on all streaming. I haven’t watched House of Cards 4, Orange 3, Daredevil 2… or even tried a lot of the new shows! I am caught up on Kimmy, though!
Here are my top picks for summer shows on the actual TV (my preferred medium):
UnREAL – if you are NOT watching this show, then you have to start right now. It is UNBELIEVABLE. Just watch it, please.
Mr. Robot – this is another fantastic show about a hacker and hacking.
Angie Tribeca, Wrecked – these are my new summer comedy recommendations!
Full Frontal with Samantha Bee – and this is my favorite political commentary show at the moment!
In fall news, I was so relieved when CMT picked up Nashville Season 5. I am still really mad at ABC for canceling The Muppets, though, so I am refusing to watch ANY of the new ABC shows, and you should boycott them with me! I do want to watch the new NBC show with Kristen Bell and Ted Danson – The Good Place – which is on after my new favorite comedy Superstore. Other than that, I’ll sample and let you know, but nothing is making me go OMG, can’t wait. Well, maybe Son of Zorn on FOX… an animated super hero interacting with regular people = how can I not watch?
THAT’LL “SHOW” HIM
School for Scandal – Off-Bway revival of this classic at the Lortel.
The Father – Frank Langella was incredible as a father with Alzheimers – this play was great, if depressing.
Daphne’s Dive – Off-Bway play with Daphne Rubin-Vega not playing the girl named Daphne.
Disaster – Seth Rudetsky’s parody musical – fantastic cast!
Signature Plays – 3 one-acts at Signature.
Indecent – This was Paula Vogel’s new play about the first Jewish play on Broadway, and it was the best play I’ve seen in years.
Do I Hear a Waltz? – Encores revival of this show that Sondheim did lyrics for.
Trip of Love – Off-Bway 60s romp.
Peer Gynt – Revival at CSC of this old, old classic – spoiler: it involves someone falling in love w/ their sister .
Broadway by the Year 1960s – Town Hall concert.
A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Gynecologic Oncology Unit At Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Of New York City – really long title, but the play was wonderful, and very funny even though it was about cancer.
Blackbird – Great Broadway production – loved this play, esp the surprise ending.
Paramour – one of the worst things I’ve ever seen – I do not recommend it at all.
Anastasia – I went up to Hartford to see the pre-Broadway production of my favorite animated musical (still have a poster of it up in my apartment!) and I was not disappointed! I even parallel parked Eric’s car to avoid paying $$ for parking!
Fully Committed – Jesse Tyler Ferguson was splendid in this one-person show on the Broadway.
Shuffle Along – I would watch Audra McDonald sing the phone book.
Broadway by the Year 1970s – Town Hall concert.
Incognito – Great Off-Bway play at MTC starring the guy from Daredevil – really cerebral subject matter (it was about the brain).
Well, there you have it! Phew! FYI, this took about 10 hours to write, over the course of 3 days. I think this might be longer than the Germany and China ones! I’m just glad to have it all done and out of my system.
Anyway, I hope you learned something, and of course, if you want to learn more you can just google or wikipedia the things I talked about because I double checked all the spelling! So, it was a really emotional experience, but I’m glad that I went as an homage to my grandmother. I will always remember her as a hero, and I hope you will, too.
Before I go, I just wanted to thank Tsipy for encouraging me to make this journey. I also want to thank Mollie for putting up with me, and being the calmer half of the friendship. I want to thank Noah for keeping Meows on schedule without me. And finally, I want to thank my friend, Allison, for staying with Smee for 2 weeks. She took such good care of him that he didn’t vomit once!
If you’ve made it this far, I just wanted to include some throwback videos that Ian found online. These are videos from Children’s Summer Theater, so they might not appeal to anyone who wasn’t involved in it (note: the videos take a really long time to load, but eventually do, and FYI the audio is REALLY off unless I really sounded like a frog during puberty):
Summer Theater Video 1 …watch me turn from a Beast into a prince at 24:15!
Summer Theater Video 2 …I’m interviewed at 31:49.
Summer Theater Video 3 …watch from 33 for the bit about the 40th Anniversary, where I mentioned by name and visible at the piano playing and leading the parody I wrote (“The Elliott Connection).
Have a fantastic rest of the summer; I hope to talk to YOU soon!
August 25, 2016 — Grandmother Tribute + Trip Recaps
What a busy summer it has been! What follows is a recap of the latter half and a fall preview.
In honor of what would’ve been my grandmother’s 88th birthday last week, I have posted the speech I gave about her life at Auschwitz-Birkenau on my Poland trip in July. I would highly recommend tissues:
Also, if you didn’t see on social media, here is the instrumental piece that I composed after visiting Majdanek Concentration Camp:
I will forever remember my grandmother and be grateful for her sacrifices.
As fall falls upon us, auditions for regional theatres should pick up a bit. I am having my own auditions, as well, for Showcases 424-438 weekly from September-December.
In addition to that, I’m happy to say that the pilot of Every Day a Little Seth got into the ITV Festival in the Network Notes portion:
This means that October 6-9, my collaborators and I will be going up to Vermont to meet with a network executive, and then will proceed to network with everyone and anyone until we somehow get the show onto the TV or a streaming platform!
To that end, this means we will be launching the show publicly on October 1st… That’s right: YOU get to watch the sitcom pilot on October 1st! And then we will need EVERYONE to send it to EVERYONE they know to help us get the show on TV!
Furthermore, I’m happy to announce that my 3rd music video will be one for Hillary! I’m going to be overlaying the whole thing with pictures of Hillary supporters doing Hillary poses, so if YOU would like to be featured, please let me know.
Finally, while we’re here: save the date for Broadway Can! 8 – Monday, November 14th!
GOVERNOR’s ISLAND, DELAWARE and CALIFORNIA… OH MY!
I’m not going to do super long recaps of my day trip to Governor’s Island, weekend in Delaware or my week in California because unlike Europe, they are places that a lot more of you have been and will go. Also, after my last trip, I didn’t want to spend time taking copious notes. However, I did post 264 pictures from California on the FB, and as always, if you non-FB people would like the best of the collection, please let me know!
On August 6th, we did a quick day trip to Governor’s Island in search of a new long slide, which turned out was only for kids. However, we did have a lovely view of the Statue of Liberty and it was like being on a European Island that was right by Manhattan. I had never been before, so it was nice to go once.
The weekend in Delaware (August 11-15) was a wonderfully relaxing time. My friend, Anne’s, parents own a house in Fenwick Island, and Mollie, Anne and I rented a car and drove down. (By that I mean, I drove while they mostly did things on their phones.) It was such a lovely time that included two beach trips (one too many for me, but when you’re with a group you have to compromise), kayaking, a boardwalk walk, me completing a 500 piece puzzle, Anne winning in Trivial Pursuit, me winning in miniature golf, grilling on the patio, all you can eat seafood where I just got a chicken sandwich and finally: delicious ice cream sandwiches that had been left in the freezer for all to share!
I started my California trip (August 17-23) in Oakland where I stayed with Charise and Evan. Wednesday night, since Virgin (I checked – you didn’t to be a virgin to fly) Airlines didn’t have complimentary food on the plane (not even free snacks?!), we stopped for a burrito at a lovely food truck after the hour trek from San Francisco Airport. Then we just hung out a bit before bed.
I will just get this out of the way here: public transportation in California sucks. It’s the worst I’ve ever seen, and I’ve been all over the world! I thought SF was pretty bad, but LA has none whatsoever. Just horrible. I honestly don’t know why anyone would live in California, but I am happy that I got a vacation and got to see some friends.
Thursday, I went to Mountain View/Menlo Park to visit Chris at Google and Samidh at Facebook. I got tours of both, and took lots of pictures! To get to Google, I had to walk 45 minutes from the train station. I used this new app – Google Maps – not sure you guys have heard of it, but it’s what Mollie was using in Poland. So I successfully found my way to Google using Google. Then, to get to FB, I actually had to uber, but I had a free one, at least. So first time using googlemaps and uber this trip!
Google has amazing free food, and had a visitor center for employee’s guests. There I had a wonderful massage, took a quick nap in a nap pod, swam in the ball pit, played some golf, found my apartment on Google Earth on a giant screen, pretended to work in a Google office for my mom and saw a Google car and lots of Androids…
Facebook has more free food (including a juice bar and froyo which we had), conference rooms named after Star Trek aliens, a park on the roof, an arcade and a mini-town that’s designed by the guy who did Disney World’s Main Street, USA. I signed the Facebook Wall, though apparently it is erased every few months.
Also, I saw Mark Zuckerberg, but Samidh wouldn’t let me snap a photo or talk to him to tell him how much FB has ruined the world or list the 100 ways I have of making it better.
Samidh and I went to see his cute house and family. It was so lovely to see them all after so many years! Then, we had a wonderful dinner at an Italian restaurant on California Ave.
Friday, I went to the Golden Gate Bridge. Then I walked around the Presidio Trails, which doubled as a nature walk, but really was because I didn’t feel like dealing with SF transportation anymore, so I just walked for about 5 hours that day. I went to see the Painted Ladies AKA the buildings they show during the theme song of Full House. I took a lovely video there of me singing the theme song, which somehow got a lot less likes than my Sound of Music one in Salzburg. Guess I don’t know that many Full House fans?
Coincidentally, Rori happened to be in town doing Showgirls the Musical the same week of my vacation which I had planned months ago. We walked around Golden Gate Park, and then I went to see Cyrus and his new house, husband and kitten. Tofu is only 4 months, and he was the sweetest! We had a wonderful dinner, and then I went to see Showgirls the Musical. Afterwards, Marcus, Rori and I went out for a bit, but since SF transportation stops at 12:30, I couldn’t linger. It took me 80 minutes to get home because I missed the 2nd to last subway back to Oakland by 30 seconds, and hence missed the 2nd last bus back to Charise’s by 3 minutes. Thankfully, I made the last bus, or I would’ve had to waste $ on an uber!
Saturday, I stayed in Oakland. I took a very long time to get up and out because I had been so busy the prior two. I went for a walk around Lake Merritt, and it was a perfect day with perfect weather. Charise, Evan and I then went to Redwood Regional Park, dinner in a tiki bar, Jack London Square and dessert at Chicken & Waffles (yum). After that, we played 3 rounds of Rummicube, and I won them all so fast that they were shocked, impressed… and annoyed. My other grandmother would be proud!
Sunday, it took me 2.5 hours to get back to the airport because the subway system wasn’t running a piece. So I took a bus to the subway, walked 15 minutes to the Caltrain, took that to the other side of the subway, took the subway, transferred, then took the airtrain to get to my terminal. In fact, I spent way more time commuting to the airport, and even more time at the airport than I did on the flight to LA.
In another happy coincidence, my BFF Niki (who you’ll remember from my Ireland and Iceland trips) ended up getting asked if she wanted to go to LA for work on Monday. She flew in the afternoon before, and we had perfect timing with her picking me up, which is no small feat. Her work was nice enough to rent us a car, so we went to see the Griffith Observatory, which has a fantastic view of LA including the Hollywood sign and a lot of science/space stuff (perfect for MIT people). We drove around Rodeo Drive, Mulholland Drive, had burritos for dinner at a 5 star Yelp rated place, and then on Emily’s suggestion had Salt & Straw homemade ice cream for dessert. It was incredible.
I stayed with Dave’s sister Emily who I had reconnected with at his wedding. She was super nice to let me stay with her and her husband and dog. I had my own room and bathroom, and they had Starz on a huge HDTV, so I ended up watching some movies (see the movie section).
Monday, I went to Universal Studios with my friend, Zhe, who i haven’t seen since MIT! We had the most amazing time. I especially loved Harry Potter World, and I took lots of pictures. I bought an Elder Wand (couldn’t resist) and we had butterbeer fudge. I also really loved The Walking Dead attraction, which I went in 3 times (no lines because kids under 13 weren’t admitted!). I basically did everything in a day – all 3 shows, studio tour – every ride. The best things about Universal were they had things for you to do while waiting, had fairly accurate wait times posted, and none of the rides were that intense. I went on the Harry Potter ones twice, as well – once Zhe left and I was a single rider, I got through the lines in 5 minutes. Note: we should’ve just said we were single riders the whole time since you don’t really talk during the ride anyway!
After Universal, my friend, Brianna, picked me up and we went to In & Out Burger since I’d never had it before. They weren’t quite as good as Shake Shack, but it was WAY cheaper.
Tuesday, Emily and I met up with my friend, Vanessa, who I haven’t seen since MIT either, and we saw a taping of The Price is Right. I am tearing up to tell you that I was not chosen. We are pretty sure it has to do with the fact that we didn’t buy or make Price is Right tickets. I also don’t think the casting person realized I was there with them, and I imagine they can’t really let people who have no friends go up because it doesn’t really fit their narrative. Regardless, it was the most disappointing part of a wonderful summer, and I will never watch the show again.
The taping ran over an hour, and I was extremely rushed getting to LAX. I had to use Lyft, but instead of a free ride, they only give you $5 off the next 10 rides – who would ride it 10 times? Once is enough for me for at least a few years. Anyway, I made it to the airport with 45 minutes to spare and was so starving I had to buy an $11 sandwich at the airport. Thankfully I flew JetBlue back, and they have unlimited free snacks and drinks. I had a lot of snacks, and the nice steward didn’t even judge me when I took one of everything he had! No free movies again means I was able to finish 2 books this journey (see book section).
Overall, I had a most loverly vacation, and it was quite wonderful to reconnect with so many friends!
PHONING IT IN
I’m sad to announce that after hours and hours of trying to get Verizon to get me a new free phone, I have broken down to buy my first smartphone that has not been handed down to me for free.
Yes, it’s really devastating to me to admit to this, but my poor iPhone 4 (aka Eric’s old phone) is dying, and I have to accept it. The screen is cracked, and the back camera and flashlight stopped working… plus, I couldn’t actually download Lyft which I needed to get to the LA airport since there is no public transportation. There’s another first – I wasted $32 on a ride (only had a $5 off promotion code) to get to an airport! I have NEVER spent that much $$ for that sort of thing, and never will again if I can help it.
Regardless, tomorrow I will have a new iPhone SE that will actually work correctly, work faster, and will allow me to download all sorts of apps and iOS 10 which is apparently coming out next month.
Sad news, indeed.
In happier news, Smee is quite relieved that I am back. He hasn’t let me out of his sight for the last two days! We’ll see how long this clingy Smee lasts… He also wants me to mention that we raised $400 at Broadway Meows in July. He is very proud of that fact.
Smee and I had our 9th anniversary of his adoption this week, as well. Nine years! He’s turning 10 this December, but he claims he doesn’t look a day over 6.
Unfortunately, I feel after a decade of ledger writing, I am finally out of puns for these final sections. Incidentally, I had these sections way before I started getting EW magazine, but it’s hilarious they have almost the same ones (albeit with books last and a music one, which I don’t feel the need to add).
Anyway, here’s what I’ve been reading in the last month since the last ledger:
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – got through this new 2-part play very quickly – I quite enjoyed it, though I think viewing it would be more exciting than reading it.
The Girl on the Train – I spent $5.50 on this book because everyone said it was so good, but it was really kind of banal. I guessed the ending really early, and found the writing kind of mediocre.
Mary – This is Nabokov (Lolita)’s first novel, and it was so good. I have now read 3 of his books, and must make it a point to buy the rest!
Station Eleven – Got recommended this fantastic sci-fi book. It was SO GOOD. This is my top recommendation for people to read! SO GOOD!
I also read a few Fitzgerald short stories on the end of the flight, and just started Lauren’s copy of Danny Isn’t Talking, which I don’t love so far, but will continue with.
I’ve only seen two movies in the theatre since I last wrote:
Star Trek Beyond – I went with a group opening night at the Imax to the new Star Trek movie, as usual. I’m not quite sure why it was called beyond – beyond what? Regardless, I thought it was the best of the 3 reboot movies, even though I still way prefer all the older stuff. I am very much looking forward to the new Star Trek TV show, even though I have to wait till it’s completely aired and then get a free week trial to binge watch it since I refuse to pay for CBS Access. In other Star Trek news, Aaron and I are going to the Intrepid Starfleet Academy Experience on Saturday!
Cafe Society – I quite enjoyed the new Woody Allen movie! I mean I always like them, but this one I thought was in the top of the middle tier.
I forgot one movie I saw on the flight back to Poland (oops) and here are the 3 I watched on Starz in LA:
Run, Fatboy, Run – cute Simon Pegg movie
The 5th Wave – Another dystopian movie, but I liked it enough to buy the whole book series (gotta see what happens since they’re not going to make the other 2 movies!)
The Lady in the Van – Maggie Smith is just wonderful, but I found this movie a little on the dull side
Grandma – Lily Tomlin is fantastic. This movie was GREAT. Just GREAT.
Well, it seems in the last email I already talked about summer shows and fall shows. On the Universal Tour, we saw the studio where they are filming The Good Place but I didn’t see Kristen Bell or Ted Danson. Still looking forward to it, though!
My newest summer show I liked was Dead of Summer. If you like scary shows, I would recommend this one; it’s written by the Once Upon a Time guys.
One more shoutout to UnREAL (best summer show ever!) and Mr. Robot. Also, Halt and Catch Fire and The Strain are back!
I did finally watch Orange Season 4, and thought it was the best season since 1. I still have to watch Stranger Things on Netflix… and also The Night Of on HBO. Add to those House of Cards season 4 and Transparent season 2, and I will at least have caught up on things before fall shows start. So that’s my goal for the next few weeks!
Not much theatre in the summer, but I went to:
Broadway Unplugged – I actually arranged the harmony for “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” for the finale of the Town Hall concert this year!
Troilus and Cresida – one of Shakespeare’s weirder shows – I liked about a 3rd of it, and I wish they had cut it down from 3 hours…
God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater – wonderfully fun concert version of an esoteric off-Broadway musical by Howard Ashman and Alan Menken based on a Kurt Vonnegut novel – really enjoyed this!
Small Mouth Sounds – off-Broadway show with very little dialogue (spoiler alert: I prefer shows with dialogue)
Finally, I am happy to say I am going to see Barbra Streisand get interviewed tomorrow for SiruisXM Radio! (Thanks, Ilene!)
And then there’s ten free nights of the Met Opera in HD screening at Lincoln Center including The Merry Widow with Renee Fleming & Kelli O’Hara, and I am very much going to at least half of them.
Alright, that only took 2 hours, so that’s probably a record for the shortness of a ledger! I guess if I sent them out monthly, they would be shorter.
Anyway, I hope you had a most wonderful summer, and I wish you all the best for the fall.
December 25, 2016 –Mandatory 2016 Recap
Well, it looks like I have been quite reticent lately as I have not sent an update since August, so I feel like I should take advantage of the lack of things to do this afternoon to do my annual year recap/resolutional ledger. Before I start, for those who don’t read in entirety, FYI, we redesigned sethbh.com! Go check it out… Now, for those who DO read it all, let’s jump into it:
2016 RESOLUTIONS REVISITED
1. Film the pilot of Every Day a Little Seth then submit it everywhere in the hopes of getting it on TV/streaming platforms
Alright, I’m happy to say that we DID film the pilot, and I have been very good at submitting it places.
2. Publish my second book and sell at least 100 copies
Well, I did publish my second book this year, but I don’t think I hit 100 copies, which is a shame because it’s a REALLY GOOD BOOK. The first one sold a lot more and is such a downer, but Every Page a Little Seth is hilarious! Maybe YOU should go buy it now. 😉
3. Submit the finally finalized Love Quirks more places in the hopes to get it Off-Broadway in 2017/2018 (more realistic this time)
Well, it’s nice that I gave myself till 2018 on this one, but it’s really more up to my producer now that I’m focusing on TV/film…
4. 400th Showcase Celebratory Concerts & 8th Annual Broadway Meows and Broadway Can! concerts
Yes, those were easy accomplishments in my mind, but I will take the checkmark!
5. Film the finale of the web series Every Day a Little Seth
Yes, that was a really great finale that only 200 people viewed?! Smee and I were amazing, people!
6. 3rd Staci & Seth Sing Sesame Street (finally!)
Oh gosh. Well, I cannot take the blame for this one, and I’m going to stop putting it on my list… then maybe it’ll happen, Staci? 😉
7. Write the scores for at least one new musical, maybe two (more optimistic about this for the new year)
Um, does a third of a new score count?
8. Get a crossword puzzle in the NY Times (my last one got rejected, but I just submitted my 2nd attempt)
Oh, jeez. I’ll tell you, my 2nd one was wonderful, but it turns out someone else used my theme a few weeks after I was rejected… so that’s probably why! I came up with a 3rd idea, though, just haven’t gotten around to doing the grid yet…
9. New social media plan: posting on the fanpage/twitter once a day
Oh, actually, I did this till I went to Europe! So, that’s actually pretty impressive. But I hate social media, and it’ll be better to hire someone to do these things when I’m famous.
10. Even more new friends/connections
Well, that’s a given! I went really easy on myself for that one. It looks like I managed to hit at least parts of these, so I’m going to consider this year a win given that the hardest things were fulfilled (that’s what she said?).
Well, piggy bagging off the official resolutions, I do feel like I accomplished quite a lot this year:
1. Produced and launched a sitcom pilot and got it into the ITV festival and have been pitching it nonstop! (could be 3 separate entries, but I don’t have space…)
2. Published my second, well-rated book: five 5-starred ratings on amazon!
3. Produced and released a viral music video (Broadway for Hillary! is almost at 4000 views, even if it didn’t work…)
4. Produced 5 concerts of my songs for the 400th Showcase Nonapalooza and also Broadway Meows 8 and Broadway Can! 8.
5. Wrote and premiered 5 new songs.
6. Completely revamped sethbh.com.
7. Took a life-changing trip to Poland, and also visited Austria, Prague & California this year.
8. Did 50 weekly showcases (I know this is down from the high of 59 one year, but it’s still impressive).
9. Did 6 weeks of Facebook Live as a fun side project.
10. Continued to pursue my dreams persistently with perseverance and perceptible perspicacity.
Alright, so I feel like I should be realistic this year because otherwise I end up writing a recap in 2017 that doesn’t achieve its goals:
Okay, that’s too easy… I guess it’s better to reach for the stars and miss than to reach for floor and hit it easily:
1. Get Every Day a Little Seth on TV.
2. Get Love Quirks Off-Broadway.
3. Produce new movie musical.
4. Finish score to a non-movie musical.
5. 10th Anniversary Showcases + 9th Broadway Meows/Can!.
6. 50 more weekly talent showcases (or fewer if I can get my show on TV).
7. Season 2 of Facebook Live!
8. 3rd Staci and Seth Sing Sesame Street (3rd time is the charm, right?).
9. Another European adventure.
10. Take it easier on myself and stop comparing myself to others.
2016 FALL RECAP
Well, a lot of things were alluded to in the accomplishments, but here I will elaborate a bit.
First, I will reiterate that we relaunched and redesigned my webpage (thanks, Katie!). I also put up some new pictures from 2016. It’s a fantastic new design with all the most important stuff on the Seth Abridged sidebar and links to all my social media in the header, etc. The only thing still under construction is the store, but when it’s finished there will be sheet music to 160 of my songs! Enjoy:
So, we took Every Day a Little Seth to the ITV Festival in Vermont in October, and met a few hundred people. I honed my pitch for the show, and have been pitching to agents, managers and producers almost weekly off this great site Stage32.com. I am highly optimistic given the response and feedback so far that I will eventually find representation and then take the show to networks. I think the show would be a great fit on TV Land or TBS or POP, but I wouldn’t mind being on a streaming platform… or really anywhere that they’d pay for us to do the show.
Last year there were 455 scripted shows. 455! This is the time to be on TV, and I’m 1000% sure that we will be joining those shows, hopefully late 2017 or early 2018.
I do hope that YOU have at least seen our pilot yet. If not, what are you waiting for?
Other than that, since the horrifying election, I have been trying to give solace to the world by sharing some classical music. And by that I mean, me playing it horribly on my out-of-tune piano while Smee lays on top. To that end, we have committed to a full season of 6 episodes of Facebook Live. I realize that FB Live isn’t supposed to be episodic, but I cannot not think in those terms.
We have done 5 Music Mondays at 3pm, with the season finale tomorrow at 3pm! I played Beethoven, Ragtime (Joplin), Mozart, Gershwin, Bach and this final week will be playing my own classical pieces, some for the first time ever! I have to figure out what the second season will be, but it’ll most likely be in the summer (assuming I’m not on TV by then).
We premiered two new songs at Broadway Can! this November. The first was supposed to be an epilogue on the crazy election, but has sadly turned into a prologue of the next 4. The second is a commentary on the paradox of singledom:
It’s Always Something
2017 COMING ATTRACTIONS
Besides continuing with all my current projects, Mark and I are beginning to lay down the foundation for a movie musical! Mark will not let me say ANYthing else about this at the current time, but I will say: IT IS GOING TO BE EPIC. And YOU should be VERY excited about it. (Mark is my collaborator for Love Quirks.)
Other than that, it’s going to be a lot of me pitching my TV show until we get it on TV. I suspect once the show is on TV my life will be incredibly busy; however, it also will mean that my books will sell better and my other projects will be easier to get produced, so I think it’ll be worth it. I will say, I have the entire first season of my sitcom outlined out at this point, and I’m ridiculously excited for the world to see it.
Vacation wise, I am going to Dallas to visit Alexis for New Years Eve, and she promises me an amazing adventure. I’m going to visit where JFK was shot, and whatever else there is to do in Dallas… I was going to visit my friends in Austin, too, but apparently they don’t have public transportation. I really don’t understand how they could call themselves a city!? (I mean something’s worse than LA?!) Anyway, I’m going up to Boston after that for my 20th time participating in the MIT Mystery Hunt (I feel old). And I think that Niki and I are going to do a week in Scotland some point in the spring! Other than that, I still need an August plan, so if anyone wants me to visit, do let me know…
Today is my Grandfather’s 97th Birthday! I think he’s still trying to get through my last update (my mom or aunt prints these out for him since he doesn’t have a computer), but hopefully he will see this line if I put it in bold caps:
HAPPY 97TH BIRTHDAY, GRANDPA!!!!!!
Also, while we’re in the birthday section, Smee turned 10 last week! TEN! Can you believe it?! They grow up so fast. We had a really fun birthday party for Smee, and he got a lot of new toys, and Betsy bought him some cat milk, which he lapped up really fast. Smee is very much ready to be a TV star, as well. He keeps asking me when it’s going to happen. He’s really a camera ham, though… he goes right into position whenever I set up a camera or Facebook Live, etc.
He just meowed right now because he can sense I’m typing about him. (Or he just wants food.)
Here’s what I’ve read since the last ledger:
Danny Isn’t Talking – I didn’t particularly like this one that Lauren lent me about a mother with an autistic kid.
Water for Elephants – This one she lent me was great, though! Who doesn’t love a good circus story?
The Fifth Wave Series – After watching the movie on demand, I was intrigued enough to check out the series. It’s one of those the first one is the best and it gets progressively worse series like Divergent, The Maze Runner, Beautiful People, etc, but I think it’s the strongest of those I just listed.
Everything is Illuminated – This Pulitzer Prize winning book is amazing, and I need to get Foer’s other 2 stat! This book is so good and really hit a chord since it’s about a guy searching for his grandfather’s WWII savior…
Fray – This is a FANTASTIC graphic novel (or 8 comic books combined in one) that Alex lent me from Joss Whedon that takes place in the future of Buffy’s world. Loved it. I feel like I need to read Buffy Season 8 at some point… Aaron says Fray comes into one of the Buffy comics at some point…
Timequake – This is Kurt Vonnegut’s last novel/memoir which I found on my brother-in-law’s shelf. A very good read and fitting conclusion to his oeuvre.
Ready Player One – I LOVED THIS BOOK SO MUCH. GO READ THIS BOOK IF YOU LIKE THE 80s and/or VIDEO GAMES and/or MYSTERY HUNTS and/or DYSTOPIAN FICTION. I LOVED IT. I LOVED IT. I COULD NOT PUT IT DOWN. I LOVED IT. It’s basically The Matrix meets Willy Wonka meets lots of 80s trivia, and if you like anything I just mentioned, you should go read READY PLAYER ONE asap!!!
Up next, I’m going to read Seinfeldia, the history of Seinfeld, which I think is an important read when you’re doing a modern Seinfeld with songs…
Here are the movies I’ve viewed since the last ledger, the last 4 were yesterday as part of Annual Movie Hopping Day:
Indignation – This was a fantastic movie based on the book, which I have not read. Did not see the ending coming = wonderful movie.
The Girl on the Train – This was a mediocre movie based on the book, which I have read and didn’t like. Saw the ending coming a MILE a way = lame movie.
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children – I really quite enjoyed this movie based on a book series I’ve yet to read. I hear they changed a bunch, but since I hadn’t read it, it didn’t bother me (yet).
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them – I really wanted to like this a lot more than I did. It was cute, but I found it overly predictable for a JK Rowling work. I really hope the other 4 are better, and that this one was just full of exposition to set those up. Trolls – I kind of don’t want to admit to it, but I kind of thought this movie was pretty cute.
Arrival – I thought this Amy Adams movie was very slow at first, but the last 30 minutes made up for it with a twist I didn’t (but should’ve) seen coming.
La La Land – I feel like I can’t publicly critique a movie “musical” since I’m about to write one. Suffice it to say, I don’t think this movie is a musical or lives up to its hype (though most things don’t), and if you want my private review let me know, and I will send it to you.
Rogue One – Again, I was underwhelmed by a fairly predictable adventure movie, even though I enjoyed some of it, and it was nice to see all the cameos by Star Wars people. STAR TREK WILL ALWAYS BE BETTER.
Moana – This was the worst Disney movie I’ve ever seen, and I was incredibly disappointed in how cliched and predictable it was. (Rori says I’m too smart for movies these days, but The Lobster, Arrival and Indignation completely surprised me!)
Fences – This movie felt more like a filmed play (obviously b/c it is a play), but when there’s dialogue by August Wilson and stellar performances by Denzel Washington and Viola Davis (can she have an Oscar, please?), it’s well worth going to see.
Sing – This movie was cute. Utterly predictable and kind of silly, but I think Celia, Amanda and I laughed out loud once or twice.
I’m all movie-d out after yesterday, but I do want to see The Edge of Seventeen (already closed by this week) and Jackie (heard great things about Natalie Portman) at some point.
FYI, since I mentioned it briefly, I’ll say it officially: my pick for best movie of 2016: THE LOBSTER. Hands down.
Here’s some new TV I’ve watched and liked this fall:
This is Us – Hands down, the best new drama. I cry every episode!
The Good Place – It’s still growing on me, but I find Kristen Bell and Ted Danson endlessly watchable.
Stranger Things – It seems I hadn’t watched it by last ledger. It’s awesome sauce. (I still have to watch Luke Cage, and Sense8 has a holiday special apparently…)
Nightcap – This is a new comedy on the Pop network, which kind of feels like a ripoff of 30 Rock, but has actual celebrities each week, as well. It makes me laugh!
No Tomorrow – I started catching up, and this show is really adorable, but surely will be canceled. I also like Frequency, but if I had to choose one, it’d be No
Tomorrow. Such a quirky cast!
Son of Zorn – I can’t help it. I really enjoy this show, which also will probably be canceled.
Sweet/Vicious – New guilty pleasure show about a vigilante sorority sister, who beats up guys accused of sexual assault. They had a Wicked reference in the pilot, and I was hooked.
Other than that, NASHVILLE is back in a few weeks on CMT!!!! And there’s a DOCTOR WHO special episode TONIGHT!!!!
And guys, in case you have somehow missed it: PIGS IN SPACE is back! I am NOT kidding. They’ve done two AMAZINGly hysterical episodes on the Muppets YouTube page, and I think they’re going to do more! I’m still devastated the Muppets new show got canceled, but at least we have SOME thing to look forward to in life still…
Since I did this in the last section. Best TV show of the year: THIS IS US.
Here’s the theatre I’ve attended this fall:
A Taste of Honey – off-bway revival of an old play I hadn’t heard of.
Aubergine – this was a great new play off-bway about a cook and a dying father.
Love, Love, Love – I really liked this off-bway play that’s a London transfer.
All the Ways to Say I Love You – Judith Light could read the phone book and I’d be entranced – here she was off-bway in a Neil LaBute monologue play.
Holiday Inn – This was basically a new version of White Xmas, but the dancing was superb.
Sidney Myer – I saw my mentor in his first new one-man cabaret (and even wrote him an opening number he didn’t use) in 2 decades. He’s an icon!
Public Enemy – Solid adaptation of an Ibsen play off-Bway.
Heisenberg – Saw Mary Louise Parker from the stage seats in this Broadway play whose title I still don’t get.
The Cherry Orchard – Star-studdled adaptation that probably would’ve been better if they had just used the original script.
Homos, of Everyone in America – This was a FANTASTIC new play at the Labyrinth company off-Bway.
Kristin Chenoweth’s Love Letter to Broadway – Too many ballads for my taste, but seeing Kristin sing “I’m Tired” from Blazing Saddles was worth the ticket price.
Notes from the Field – Didactic but impressive one-woman show by and starring Anna Deaveare Smith exploring Black Lives Matter subjects.
Master Harold and the Boys – Revival of this award winning play about Apartheids off-Broadway (it was a lot of serious theatre this fall)
Chita Rivera at Carnegie Hall – CHITA is an American ICON and her show was just THRILLING.
This Day Forward – Mildly funny, new, dysfunctional family play off-bway by Nicky Silver.
Dead Poet’s Society – Off-bway starring Jason Sudeikis – the cast was doing improv before the show (I was ushering) and it was way funnier than the actual show.
The Roads to Home – Off-bway revival of this Foote play, which was basically 3 one-acts. Harriet Harris is wonderful to watch in anything.
The Band’s Visit – THIS IS THE BEST MUSICAL I HAVE SEEN SINCE FUN HOME. David Yazbek’s score was superb. Just a wonderful musical, and I hope they transfer it to Broadway.
The Death of the Last Black Man in the Whole Entire World – Surreal play/poetry off-bway at Signature theatre.
Sweet Charity – Sutton Foster is great, but this musical is so dated and when you have a show that is completely written around Bob Fosse choreography and remove the choreography……
Matilda – I saw my favorite musical that’s still on Broadway one final time. As of 2017, I will have nothing to recommend on Broadway anymore, which is a sad thing to type.
La Boheme (Met Opera) – This was an incredible production of Puccini’s masterpiece.
Ride the Cyclone – This was a cute, flawed, new innovative musical off-Broadway.
L’Amour de Loin (Met Opera) – I’m not going to lie. I think Mollie and I both fell asleep during this “new” opera with absolutely no plot. The set was incredible, though!
Falsettos – I cried so much in this revival of one of my favorite 90s musicals.
Jitney – I actually am not seeing this revival of an August Wilson play till Wednesday, but once I put away my 2016 planner, I’m done with the year, so I figured I better include it hear to remind myself to mention it in the first 2017 ledger…
I guess I’m doing this for all the sections today… best play of 2016: INDECENT, best musical of 2016: THE BAND’S VISIT.
We have some trying times ahead, and while I vacillate between terror of being blow up by a nuclear attack and confidence that NYC will form its own bubble and be fine, this much I know: I will spend 2017 focused on myself and my projects.
So, I suppose, I have to say something sappy here to conclude:
I wish you all the most happiest of new years. I thank you all for being part of my life’s journey and caring about me enough to read through this entire ledger. (Even if you just skimmed to the conclusions to see how it ends.)
May the force be with you as you live long and prosper in 2017.