The Best of Cruises Friday, Sep 17 2010 

Image: Grufnik

For someone like me who has never been on a cruise, they hold quite a bit of curiosity!  Everyone raves about them, but why do cruisers keep returning again and again?

My mother recently returned from a cruise to the Bahamas, so I asked her about her favorite experiences.  Here’s what she had to say:

Unforgettable Service

Are you looking to be treated like royalty?  A cruise is the way to go.

“You walk into the dining room and see the most handsome bartender you’ve ever seen in your life.  And he’s personable, affable, cheerful, asks your name, and pours you a drink before you get to the food.”

And the service continues once you get your food, and it’s just as good as the bartender.  “The staff are there to please you and you know it, almost like it’s their pleasure to please you.”

Nightly Entertainment

“There was a big nightclub on one end of the ship and there were shows every night: singers, comedians, Cirque du Soleil-like acrobats.” And while there was entertainment for kids, there was always a point when they were told to leave and the show became adults-only.

Did she enjoy it more because she knew there were no kids there?

“Yes.  Once the comedian started getting bawdy, I think I laughed more because I knew there were no kids around to hear it!”

Learning to Gamble

If you’ve ever been to Vegas, you may have been too intimidated to gamble.  On a cruise, it’s so easy to learn how!

“The dealers were all so nice.  If there weren’t a lot of people around, they would teach you how to play.  I learned craps, poker, Blackjack.”

And if you have a swell night at the tables, you can celebrate: “They let you order a bottle of wine at the bar and have it sent to your room!”

It’s a Great Deal

Best of all, service like this can come to you at a very low price.  You can find plenty of discount cruises at places like DiscountCruises.com.  Getting service like this for such a low price – I challenge you to find a better deal in the world!

This post was sponsored by a third party.

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Dream September Travel Escapes Thursday, Sep 9 2010 

Every now and then, I allow myself a delicious fantasy: I win the lottery and immediately go traveling in style, preferably bringing along a million of my friends!

Let’s say that I won 50 million dollars tomorrow.  Where would I go first?

Well, I’d want a destination with great weather in September.  That’s most important.  Next, I’d love to go luxury in an amazing hotel, something I rarely do.  And third, there has to be great nightlife!

So, where would I go?

Hvar image by Lena_Ni

It’s the tail end of the high season in Europe, so I’d visit a popular Mediterranean beach area: Santorini, Greece; Hvar, Croatia; or Ibiza, Spain.  The weather will still be glorious; the nightlife will still be hopping; the crowds will be GONE.  And that’s how I like it.

Vegas image by Evangeline

In Vegas – ALWAYS Vegas! – the pools are still open.  If I had the chance, I’d stay for at least a week – at the Wynn or the Encore.  God, I love those resorts.  Every day would be a new cabana at a new pool club: Tao Beach at the Venetian, Bare at the Mirage, Wet Republic at the MGM Grand, Moorea Beach Club at Mandalay Bay!

Maui image by David Winnie

Hawaii has always been a pipe dream of mine – being an East Coaster, Hawaii is just somewhere we don’t go.  I think this is a trip best split into two parts – half the time relaxing on the beach in Maui or Lanai, and the other half in Waikiki, partying with military men!

Any of these trips need to be planned well, so I’d probably arrange my reservations through a travel agency online like Liberty Travel. Having a trip that runs smoothly would be important in planning my dream trip!

So, if you were planning a dream trip this month, where would you go?

This post was sponsored by a third party.

Goodbye, old blog. Hello, new blog. Friday, Feb 26 2010 

Greetings, faithful readers.

I’m sorry to say that I will no longer be blogging on Kate’s Adventures.

My reasons for this are numerous.  I started this blog four years ago, and my standards of what I revealed and didn’t reveal are different from what they are today.  Even though I deleted everything that might be considered offensive, I’m still not happy with the general tone of much of this blog.  Nor am I happy with the online diary-style format.

BUT — I have a new blog.  I’ve decided that my new blog will be primarily about my travels, along with occasional tidbits of pop culture, adventures and stories.  It’s more polished, focused and professional.  I’m hosting it myself and working on a lot of the design.  I welcome you to Adventurous Kate!

Adventurous Kate features new content five days a week.  Every Friday, I post one of my adventures I’ve had while traveling.  And yes, there is something about Vegas at least once a week!

I would love if you followed me to my new blog.

Thank you for every kind comment and email.  And thank you for putting me in my place when I needed it.  You’ve been great readers.  🙂

*FYI — in a few weeks, this URL will redirect to Adventurous Kate.

Top 10 Performances of the 2000s Tuesday, Dec 22 2009 

With all the magazines and web sites doing recaps of the top 10 of everything of the past decade — what will we call it in the future?  The 2000s?  The oughts? — I decided to put together a few lists of my own.

To start: here are my top 10 movie performances of the 2000s:

10. Heath Ledger, Brokeback Mountain

He’ll be remembered for his psychotic, over-the-top performance in The Dark Knight, but his portrayal of Ennis del Mar in Brokeback Mountain was beautiful in its restraint.  He barely spoke in the film, and as he struggled to hold back his emotion, it couldn’t help but be written all over his face.

9. Penelope Cruz, Volver

Until now, she had been a mediocre, albeit beautiful, actress who happened to be dating Tom Cruise.  But in this movie, speaking in her native Spanish, she exploded into a passionate performance that hit every note.  And she was absolutely, completely, drop-dead, unforgivably gorgeous.  After seeing this movie, I immediately tried styling my makeup and hair like her.  God, if only I had a fraction of that beauty.

8. Jim Carrey, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

This should have been his Oscar movie.  I wish the Academy would look beyond his comedies and reward Jim Carrey for his incredible (and incredibly underrated) acting.  How does a shy, soft-spoken man show rage?  You’ll find out in this movie.

7. Russell Crowe, A Beautiful Mind

Russell Crowe had won the Oscar the year before for Gladiator, but he deserved it more for his performance as brilliant schizophrenic mathematician John Nash.  Whether falling into delusions, then heartbreak, his performance was captivating.

6. Meryl Streep, Julia & Julia

The great debate is whether she was better as Julia Child or Miranda Priestly in The Devil Wears Prada.  Meryl took a historical figure who had been imitated and mocked several times before and turned in a performance that was as well-rounded as it was pitch-perfect.

5. Rinko Kikuchi, Babel

There were plenty of top-notch performances in Babel, including Gael Garcia Bernal, Adriana Barazza, Cate Blanchett and Brad Pitt, but newcomer Rinko Kikuchi was the one who broke my heart as a deaf-mute teen trying to cope with her disability by acting out more and more inappropriately.

4. Diane Keaton, Something’s Gotta Give

Diane Keaton is fabulous in every film she does, but in this movie, she positively glowed.  Even when she shrugged and tipped her head back, it was the most perfect shrug and head tip anyone could ever do.  There wasn’t a weak moment.  And though she was playing a tongue-in-cheek version of herself (as was Jack Nicholson), if only we could all play ourselves so well.

3. Bill Murray, Lost in Translation

Bill Murray losing to Sean Penn was one of the worst Oscar mishaps of the past decade.  Sofia Coppola wrote this role for Bill Murray — a disillusioned movie star adrift in Tokyo, spilling his life to a complete stranger.  But the beauty in this performance is Bill Murray’s humor — he’s on the cusp of being the funniest guy in the room, the life of the party.  And he knows it.  But he doesn’t go all the way.  He’s tired.  He doesn’t see the point.

I don’t think anyone else could have hit the role as well as he did.

2. Jamie Foxx, Ray

The greatest portrayal of a historical figure of all time.  The role Jamie Foxx was born to play.  Nobody even came close that year — it was Jamie, Jamie, Jamie.  And he deserved every bit of it.

1. Johnny Depp, Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl

The most creative and original performance of the 2000s, Captain Jack Sparrow was a new kind of pirate — a flamboyant Keith Richards with a wicked sense of humor.  Johnny not only made the movie and the franchise — he made his career.  And to think that the industry called him box office poison!  He’s now one of the most bankable stars in Hollywood (as well as one of the nicest stars in Hollywood).

Honorable Mentions: Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler; Helen Mirren, The Queen; Robert Downey Jr., Tropic Thunder; Marion Cotillard, La Vie En Rose; Amy Adams, Junebug; Julia Roberts, Erin Brockovich

Entertainer of the Decade Saturday, Nov 21 2009 

Each year, Entertainment Weekly chooses an Entertainer of the Year.  This year, they’re crowning an Entertainer of the Decade and giving people a chance to offer their ideas.

First of all — end of a decade?!  How weird is that?  What do we even call this decade?  The 2000s?  The oughts?

Anyway, I started thinking about who best exemplifies the entertainer of the decade — someone who was incredible and revolutionary throughout the entire decade, not part of it.

Here are some of my ideas:

Johnny Depp. Every performance was incredible — and he also broke out with Captain Jack Sparrow, arguably the most inventive performance of the decade.  He also broke out as an A-list star, finally getting the recognition he long deserved, and got several Oscar nominations as well.  Think of all the performances: Pirates of the Caribbean, Finding Neverland, Sweeney Todd, Corpse Bride, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory…

Pixar. Taking Disney movies to a new level, this studio churned out massive hits that were perfect for kids and funny enough for adults.  Films during this decade include Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, The Incredibles, and the inventive Wall-E.

Kanye West. Love him or hate him, when Kanye West burst onto the scene early in the decade, people couldn’t believe him.  Besides churning out hit songs and producing tons more, being outspoken about just about any issue, and delivering George Bush a beatdown on live TV, he brought fashion to this genre like nobody else (sorry, Diddy).

American Idol. The most popular show of the decade, a permanent fixture in our lexicon, and they managed to turn quite a few nobodies into enormous pop stars, with Carrie Underwood and Kelly Clarkson leading the pack.

iPod/iTunes. They changed the way we listen to music, the way we purchase music, and the way artists release music.  The world will never be the same.

YouTube. It changed TV, music videos, and how view video — and how we entertain ourselves.  Anyone can become a star, but you can never predict what will go viral.

Tina Fey. SNL’s first female head writer, a star on Weekend Update, created and starred in 30 Rock, one of TV’s best comedies, skewered Sarah Palin in a legendary impression, and proved that geeky girls — though beautiful — have a spot in comedy.

The Daily Show. Believe it or not, a comedy show has been the strongest media watchdog out of all of them. This show is as smart as it is hilarious.  It is must-see TV during the presidential elections because it’s the one most likely to point out the absurdities of the candidates and how other networks were reporting.

Britney Spears. We watched her spectacular rise and fall and were captivated every minute of it.  Nobody else better represents the growing popularity of celebrity observation.  In this decade, celebrity blogs grew massively, while celebrity tabloids continued strong, unlike other print media.

But my #1 pick:

J.K. Rowling. She created an incredible, imaginitive world of wizardry with so many layers and details, and who among us hasn’t dreamed of attending Hogwarts?  Both the books and the movies were commercial  and critical hits.  Today, the hottest trend is college Quidditch teams.  Though I think the series would have been better if the final book had ended a few chapters earlier, you can’t deny her influence.  She truly defined this decade.

Any other ideas?

Photoshop for iPhone Sunday, Oct 18 2009 

There is a new Photoshop app for the iPhone, and while it’s very basic, it’s an easy and fun way to make your photos look their best!

I’m surprised that it’s free — even though there are only a few tools (crop/flip/resize, color/exposure/tint, and several effects), you can do so much.

Here are a few photos that I altered:

Mimosas at Toro

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005
Boston Skyline

001

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NYC Skyline

423

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Fenway Gardens

391

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As much fun as the “I Am T-Pain” app is (hello, vocoder!), I think this is my new favorite thing to do with my iPhone!

When Times Call for Amazing Food Thursday, Oct 15 2009 

Jason had quite a day on Tuesday.  He’s really into the stock market and has been pushing $OPTT for the last few weeks.  $OPTT, or Ocean Power Technologies, is a company that is working on turning ocean waves into a source of natural energy.

Just a few weeks after investing in this stock, $OPTT did amazingly.  It grew nearly 50% within a few hours — and was the #1 stock IN THE WORLD on Tuesday.

Jason was beyond thrilled.

He decided that we should celebrate.

The two of us happen to be really, really into food.  It’s a bit of a mutual passion.  So many of our conversations are about food, we have lists of restaurants to try, and we have a million special food places (Neptune Oyster, Erbaluce and our secret place outside Boston and my mom’s kitchen are a few of them).

So if we’re celebrating anything at all, food is involved!

After deciding to go for steak, we settled on the Capital Grille on Newbury St., where neither of us had been before.

Here is our complete feast:

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A fabulous wine from the “Interesting Reds” list — I can’t remember the name of it!

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Oysters. We ADORE oysters.  These were ice-cold, plump and juicy — fabulous.

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Prosciutto-wrapped mozzarella.

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The daily special salad: with blue cheese, pears, almonds and more.

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We split a porterhouse.

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The other half.

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Some seasonal veggies to keep the meal SLIGHTLY healthy…

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And, negating that, some lobster mac and cheese.

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What the hell — let’s throw a four-pound stuffed lobster on there!

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Our fabulous feast…

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We finished with a complimentary dessert — an OPTT chocolate espresso cake in honor of our celebration!

(Buy it.  Even now, Jason thinks it’s a smart stock to buy.)

At a Crossroads Friday, Oct 9 2009 

I need advice on what to do with this blog.

I started this blog in early 2006, and so much has changed since then.  I had no qualms about blogging anything, photos and all.

But times have changed, and in an age when the slightest online infraction can greatly affect your career, especially in this economy, I know I have to do something about this blog.

I want to have a professional Web site — (myname).com — and I’ve already created it and am hosting it myself through WordPress.org.  I’m not sure what to do with it other than display my professional writing. I could make it a blog, or it could just be a Web site.

I also recently bought a GREAT new travel-oriented domain that I think would make a great new blog (let’s call it (awesometravel).com for now). I would blog at least 80% of the time about travel, but it could include occasional personal posts about life in Boston, politics or anything else.

But do I really want FOUR blogs?  I can barely keep up with two!

The choice is clear:  I’m at a crossroads with Kate’s Adventures.

Here are my options:

Option 1:

Keep Kate’s Adventures as is and continue to blog here occasionally.

Option 2:

Keep Kate’s Adventures but remove all photos, identifying details and some of the more scandalous entries.  In fact, possibly delete most entries.  Continue to blog here occasionally.

Option 3:

Get rid of Kate’s Adventures.  Obviously, export and save the blog to keep the memories, but have it removed from the Web.  Have katesadventures.com redirect to one of my new sites.

That’s the big decision.

Now, here’s what I need to decide regarding (myname).com:

Option 1:

Keep a personal blog at (myname).com.  Just hold onto the domain (awesometravel).com for now.

Option 2:

Occasionally blog at (myname).com, but in a way that mirrors my professional writing.

Option 3:

Do not blog at all at (myname).com.  Just keep it as a web site with my professional information and links to my writing.

And then there’s (awesometravel).com.

I really need help.  What do you think I should do?  Any answers would be greatly appreciated!

And THAT is how I roll. Wednesday, Sep 30 2009 

Believe it or not, I actually joined a gym.  I’m now a member of Healthworks Back Bay — an amazing and beautiful women’s gym.  I love it already.

Yes, those would be TVs on every single cardio machine. Plus tons of great classes, a eucalyptus-scented steam room, a spa, an on-site chiropractor, and the hands-down prettiest and best-smelling locker room I have ever seen.

Since I’ve never belonged to a gym before, I read up on how to get the best membership deal.  I’ve heard that people who work at gyms are really pushy but if you’re savvy, you can score yourself a better rate.

I brought in quotes from cheaper gyms, plus an offer to start without a fee at one of the fanciest gyms in Boston.  I planned to offer to do a blog entry on The Grammar Vandal, armed with traffic numbers — but then I didn’t have to do a thing.

“Where do you work?” the membership adviser asked me.  I told her and she was actually a fan of our company.  And then she told me she was about to go to Vegas with her girlfriends for the first time.

DING DING DING DING DING.

“You know, I go to Vegas all the time,” I told her. “I could definitely hook you up with one of my nightlife guys.  He’d get you in anywhere you want to go.”

She was so excited, she nearly hyperventilated.

We spent the next ten minutes discussing Vegas — what to do and not to do, the best clubs (Tryst! XS! Body English!), and how to make sure she doesn’t have to wait in a single line.

It was a smashing success for us both.

She left with the number of one of my nightlife guys.

I left with a new membership — plus no initiation fee, a $25 gift card, a coupon for a free eyebrow wax, two more group training packages, two personal training sessions, and extended my access to all five clubs for a few weeks.  That alone is a great deal — and THEN she threw in an entire month for free!

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Vegas connections will get you ANYWHERE.

An Open Letter to the State of California Monday, Sep 28 2009 

khloe-lamar

Dear California,

Khloe Kardashian got married last night.  She married Lamar Odom, a player for the Los Angeles Lakers, one month to the day after they met.

Why the rush?  Perhaps because her famous sister Kourtney created a media frenzy when she announced her unplanned pregnancy, then created a new mini-frenzy with dozens of pregnancy statements thereafter.  Khloe realized she could get the same spotlight, minus the stretch marks.

Why are they famous? Well, their sister Kim created a sex tape with Ray-J, pre-“Sexy Can I,” back when he was only known as singer Brandy’s brother.

kim-ray-j

Seriously.  The sex tape spun off into a reality show: Keeping Up with the Kardashians.

Anyway, due to her pseudo-celebrity stature, Khloe’s wedding was paid for by E!, the network on which her reality show airs.  250 guests attended, including E! celebrities Ryan Seacrest and Chelsea Handler.  The cost is estimated to be in the neighborhood of $1 million.

After a tabloid bidding war, the newlyweds will be paid $1 million by OK! for the rights to the photos.

No legal ceremony has taken place.  It may not even get that far.

GAY-MARRIAGE

And yet in the very same state, thousands of same-sex couples do not have the right to marry the people they love.  Though same-sex marriage was legal in California for a few months, it was voted down by a narrow margin by California voters last November.

I know that most people who vote against same-sex marriage, in California or elsewhere, are bigots.  Some of them just aren’t aware.  Many of them cite upholding the “sanctity of marriage” as a factor in their decision.

So, California, I’d like to write you a letter to thank you.

Thanks for taking away the right to marry to thousands of law-abiding citizens, California.  Thanks for denying it to people who want nothing more than to live their lives in peace.  Thanks for keeping it for only people who deserve to be married, like Khloe Kardashian.  She’ll be a great example.

Photo of the Week Sunday, Sep 27 2009 

I saw this photo and had to post it:

The Obamas with the President and First Lady of Cameroon.

I can hear it now: “I’M GONNA GET YOUR MAN, MICHELLE!”

Cheap dates in Boston? Yes. Saturday, Sep 5 2009 

Jason and I had a quite unusual but really fun night last night.  Best of all, we spent almost nothing!

After work, we took the T to Central Square in Cambridge and walked to Union Square in Somerville.  It’s a little over a mile.  Halfway, we stopped in Inman Square for sandwiches at All-Star Sandwich Bar.

Then in Union, we made it to the main event: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory in Smellovision.

It was way more than just a movie on a screen. Scents were fanned out based on what was happening in the movie!  Oompa Loompas would walk by with giant fans dusted with cocoa powder or pixie stick dust, and it was lovely.

Best of all, everybody who snagged a seat (we made it JUST in time!) got a bag filled with candy.  The Willy Wonka-dressed woman at the front would hold up signs saying, “Eat the lollipop!” and “Eat a chocolate bar!” when they corresponded with the scenes on-screen.  We also blew bubbles during the bubble scene and pulled those exploding popper things at the end.

(Side note: this movie SO could not get made today. Jason and I alternatively winced and laughed hysterically at the numerous pedophily moments!)

After that, we meandered slowly up to Harvard, stopping in a field to look at the stars.

Harvard was our final destination because b. good — an awesome, healthier fast food chain — was having a party!  And with that party, they were featuring FREE BURGERS from midnight until 2:00 AM!

So good.  So, so good.

My favorite part, however, was that the party had a DJ — and he was playing my ABSOLUTE FAVORITE genre of music, 1995ish hip-hop and R&B!  I love it because that’s when I was 10 and started listening to music and discovered Jam’n 94.5. The first song he played was Adina Howard’s Freak Like Me. LOVED IT.

After that, we went across the street to Herrell’s Ice Cream — but realized that neither of us wanted to eat a whole cone.  We each got a free sample and were good to go.

A fun, event-filled night for less than $10.  The only thing we spent money on was the sandwiches at the beginning of the night.  That was IT.  I can tell we’ll be doing more of this in the future!

How to save and have fun in Boston:

  • Visit sites like going.com (by FAR the best!), Yelp and Boston.com events to find out what’s going on.
  • Get half-priced tickets at Gold Star Events and subscribe to Groupon for one huge coupon every day.
  • Don’t avoid neighborhoods if you live downtown — Cambridge and Somerville, particularly Somerville, have quirky residents and quirky events…many of them free.
  • Honestly, ditch the alcohol and get cheap food.  That’s what will always save you the most.

Back to the Blog Thursday, Sep 3 2009 

God, I miss blogging here.  It’s been over a month.  But when you stop for awhile, it becomes SO difficult to pick it up again!

To make it easier, I’ll just do a quick recap:

Birthday

I turned 25 a month ago. It’s the second year that I would have been fine staying the same age.

But we celebrated the best way possible. I usually have some kind of blowout, but I scaled it down this year.  Two awesome meals: one with the boyfriend at Erbaluce, and one with the girls at Cuchi Cuchi. Perfect.

Then Legal Seafoods with Mom and Santarpio’s with Dad. BEYOND PERFECT.

Cancun

Jason (the boooooooyfriend!) and I went to Cancun for a long weekend and had a blast. I’ve never been to the Caribbean, nor even been on a beach vacation, and it was fantastic. Gorgeous beach. Delicious food. WILD nightlife — it’s like a casual Vegas with a beach! Senor Frogs is probably my new favorite bar ever, we became best friends with our shot girl, and yes, Jason went down the waterslide into the alligator-infested lagoon.

He is just as crazy as I am, and that makes me very happy.

On our last night, we trekked into downtown Cancun, in an area where tourists never go, and found a tiny karaoke bar. We warbled through With or Without You — the locals just sang mariachi-heavy songs. It was just a really, really great trip. 🙂

Oh, also — we got offered cocaine three times in a row on this weird side street.  I have never even SEEN cocaine in person, ever, and guys kept jumping in front of us, offering to get us the good stuff. After the third maniac tried to stop us, we got the hell out of there.

The Piano

Wow, this was a really weird incident.  I saw a sign up in my apartment building advertising a piano for $200 or best offer. Of course, I called the girl right away! It was old, but good quality. And she told me, “You can have it.”

Well, I took that to mean, “You can have it for free.”

Not the case.

Long story short: She asked me for $200, I told her I had never even made an offer, and after a bit of negotiating, she told me I could have it for free.

I came home from work. It wasn’t there.

Girl: “Wow, it’s not there? Wow, that’s really weird.”

Me: “Well, it’s not there. Do you think someone else would have taken it?”

Girl: “Um, no! You were the only person I talked to!  And I was SUPPOSED to get $200 from you but then you said you wouldn’t pay, so maybe there were other people who wanted to pay me instead!”

Me: “All right. Well, thanks for lying to me, and I hope you learned something from this. Set a price early, confirm it, and maybe when you’re more mature, you’ll have better business sense.”

Then, because I live for irony, I hung up on her.

It wouldn’t have fit in my apartment, anyway.

Senator Kennedy

I was so upset when he died.

I knew this day was coming, but I hoped it wouldn’t be for a long time.  I wanted to pay my respects as a Massachusetts resident, so I went to see the motorcade, which went right by my office. As the hearse went by, everybody clapped. The family waved to us.

Ted always stood up for us, always. He was always on our side. And now that he’s gone, I have no idea if there’s anyone left who would do that for us.

Random Tidbits

Jason and I want to attempt the hot dog-eating challenge at Spike’s Junkyard Dogs.  We then want to take a food road trip and go to a place in Pennsylvania with 15-pound burgers and the place in Brooklyn that will deep-fry anything you bring in. (In other news, I’m in the middle of a two-week vegan fast again.)

Sars and I have officially lived in our Back Bay/Fenway/Symphony Triangle apartment for a year now! And while this place has plenty of faults, we love it.

The Boston mayoral election is coming up. I’m supporting city councilor Sam Yoon. While it seems like so many people are ready for Menino to go (he’s done a lot of good for the city, but he has been mayor for SIXTEEN YEARS!), I’m not sure how easy that will be — he has three challengers, and I bet they’ll split the vote.

Three of my favorite books ever are coming out as movies right now. I loved Julie and Julia; I have yet to see The Time Traveler’s Wife (but considering the painfully sappy trailer, I don’t have high hopes), and I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell is coming out soon.

Books: I’ve been reading all of my birthday books and LOVED THEM ALL. From Dad, Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea and Unmasked: The Final Years of Michael Jackson were great — I read them both in Cancun.

And if you’ve read Eat, Pray, Love, YOU ABSOLUTELY MUST read Drink, Play, F#@k. It’s a hilarious book written from the point of view of her husband — and rather than being about eating in Italy, praying in India, and loving in Bali, it’s about drinking in Ireland, gambling in Vegas, and getting back in the sack in Thailand. Lisa got it for me and it was stellar.

Current book: The Ridiculous Race. Sars got it for me. It’s about two guys — both sitcom writers, incidentally — who decide to race around the world. Without airplanes! Perfect book for me. I love it.

Regular blogging SHALL resume! At least once a week.

The Best Gift Ever Monday, Jul 20 2009 

I just received the nicest gift of my life.

The guy I’ve been dating heard me play piano for the first time yesterday.  He had wanted to hear me play for quite some time.

Just so the comments won’t be filled with, “What?  I didn’t know you played piano!”, here’s a short summary of my piano life:

I love to play piano.  It’s been my life.  I was groomed to become a professional musician since I was four years old; while in high school, I decided that I didn’t want to turn pro or study music in college.  It wasn’t for me as a career.

When I was 13, I started taking college-level instruction at Boston Conservatory.  I did even did gigs at 13 — a reception at the (then) Ritz-Carlton and background music at a fashion show.

I have perfect pitch — I’ve been playing songs by ear since I was a year and a half old (if you believe my mom) and these days, I mainly play songs I love — anything from Stevie Wonder to Coldplay to 50 Cent (my sister’s favorite piano jam is my version of “Candy Shop”).

My favorite thing EVER is at parties with a group of people gathered around the piano, singing along and calling out requests and me playing them immediately, even if I’ve never tried playing those songs before!

Whew.

Despite my history with piano, I’m pretty private about it.  That’s why people are so often surprised to hear that I play.

Anyway, I had the opportunity to play frequently in college, but since then, I haven’t been so lucky.  Living in Somerville and then Boston, I just didn’t have access to a piano.

Enter my guy.

After hearing me play yesterday, he actually got me a guest pass for one of the universities near my apartment.  And it wasn’t easy to get — he had to fight for it.  But now I can go there and play piano pretty much whenever I want for the rest of the summer.

I was so blown away and touched by his kindness that I nearly burst into tears.

This is one of the most thoughtful things anyone has ever done for me.  I went, and I played my fingers off.  I’m working on a new arrangement of Stevie Wonder’s “Seems So Long,” and that song has some wonderfully complex harmonies with which I can have a lot of fun.

Remembering Michael Friday, Jun 26 2009 

“OH MY GOD. ARE YOU OKAY?”

That was the message that was texted to me over and over and over yesterday.

I LOVE Michael Jackson.  I probably love him an unhealthy amount.

I’m watching a TV that I own because of Michael Jackson.  I went to Budapest because of Michael Jackson.  I even mentioned my habit of solo Michael Jackson dance parties in my Boston Globe blind date.

My friends all know that, and they knew how upset I would be to hear that he passed away yesterday at the age of 50.

Beyond upset.  Devastated.

I don’t have to go into detail about what made Michael amazing — his incredible ability as a performer; his vocal talent and otherworldly dance moves; his influence on fashion and style; his ability to break down barriers; his generous spirit that set a precedent for celebrity philanthropy.

Michael was amazing.

And he made some SICK music.

I’d like to share a few of my favorite Michael stories.

Rocking Halloween

When I was a sophomore in college, I decided to be Michael for Halloween.  This was in 2003, not too long after he dangled the baby over the balcony in Berlin.

As many of you know, I take Halloween VERY seriously.  It’s my favorite holiday.  I always make my own costumes and add every functional detail I can think of.  (I once covered my body with Sharpie for my Amy Winehouse costume and it didn’t wash off for a week.)

Here is my costume:

And while I whitened my face, hemmed my pants, got a fedora and glove and spent a few weeks learning all of the dance moves to Thriller and Smooth Criminal and Billie Jean when I should have been studying philosophy…that’s not what made the costume.  What made this costume was the baby.  I threw it around in the air and flipped it all night.

That won me first prize at Fairfield University.  Oh, and it was one competitive night in terms of costumes!

That won me the TV that sits in my room to this day.

That’s one of my favorite memories of college.

Discovering Budapest

While studying abroad in Florence, my friends and I were deciding where to spend our fall break when I discovered a candy museum in a little town named Szentendre just outside Budapest.

Their star attraction?  The white chocolate statue of Michael Jackson.

mj

I HAD TO SEE IT.  I HAD TO SEE THIS STATUE.

That is what motivated me to convince my friends to make Budapest the first leg of our trip.  (Booking two flights for a total of ONE CENT on WizzAir — NO JOKE — didn’t hurt, either!)

And, you know what?  I loved Budapest.  LOVED it.  To this day, it’s one of my favorite cities.

And it was Michael who brought me there.

Let me finish with a guilty pleasure of my childhood.

Captain EO

Yes, the 80s 3D film from Disney is now on YouTube.

To finish…I’m heartbroken. We’ve lost so much, but his music will live on forever.

Love you, Michael.  May you find the peace you were never able to find here on Earth.

God, I still can’t believe it.

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