Friday, November 30, 2007

New Thing #250: Sent by Joe

Psst. Come here. Don't look at me, look over there. Act natural. Tonight I went to a speakeasy. I can't tell you where, why or with whom, but it was in Lower Manhattan, for celebratory drinks with a friend and some friends and someone who knows a guy. We got in by slinking into a phone booth in an unassuming take-out joint, picking up the phone and saying the password. Then the wall opened (for real!) to reveal a narrow but super classy brick-wall lounge with comfy booths and ambient lighting. The name of the place is PDT (for Please Don't Tell), so I won't. Instead, will you please find out about this place on your own and go there? It is far too awesome for you to not.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

New Thing #249: Dear Santa...

My Christmas list when I was twelve read:
* Nintendo
* Golden Retriever
* Agent

At the time, I was obsessed with acting and thought it was as simple as my parents going out, finding me an agent, and letting me be in commercials. I thought the only reason I wasn't famous by the time I was fifteen was because my parents wouldn't let me be. I didn't realize it was more because I wasn't super cute, didn't have commercial talent, and totally lacked "it." I was in my early twenties when I finally did realize that, as well as the fact that aspiring to be famous was a lost cause and that simply creating something for the sake of creating it was so much more rewarding. In fact, I've realized that I probably wouldn't be able to stand being famous. I'd much rather just be good at something. All that aside, tonight I met with an agent. I don't want to say much more, except that my parents had nothing to do with it.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

New Thing #248: Good Vibrations

I miss being in school. I loved college so much that going to grad school was pretty much just a ruse to keep being a student (but luckily for many of us, I loved NYU and really did get a lot out of it, like passion and a career). Today, the last day of my extended vacation, I poked around for some sort of lecture, class or seminar I could attend without having to be a student at any particular school. I found exactly the kind of thing I was looking for, and I went to a Master Class at the Manhattan School of Music. Nestled in Harlem just above Columbia and Barnard, the Manhattan School is stomping grounds to some of the youngest, most earnest and most obviously talented people I've ever been in a room with. I was one of only 10 women in a room of about 100 people learning advanced listening skills from jazz vibraphonist Stefon Harris, who graduated from the School and is now a seasoned pro, having toured the world and appeared on countless albums. He talked about the emotion of music, how a single chord can not only set the mood for an entire piece, but can describe a person, place and feeling right away. He played more piano than vibraphone, and at one point dueted with a terrified, talented trumpet player who couldn't have been more than 18 (and who, like 85% of the dudes in the room, had unruly hair and a sweatshirt from some cool Music Festival in the Woods). I studied a little bit of music in college, but never like this. I made sure not to talk to anyone; I didn't want my staggering ignorance of music technology to come flooding out, as it would have if I'd been sitting anywhere near the front.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

New Thing #247: Just face it

When I was in fourth grade, this new girl told my group of friends that if you go into a bathroom, turn off the lights and say "Bloody Mary" three times into the mirror and then turned on the lights again, your face would be bloody. Or you would see the devil instead of your reflection. Or you would go insane. Or something. I'm sure it was a different legend in every school. Some of my friends wanted to try it immediately. Since you couldn't turn off the school bathroom lights without a key, they had to settle for covering their eyes. I opted out, partly because I thought it was a stupid superstition, but mostly because the idea SCARED THE LIFE OUT OF ME. I never could bring myself to do it; I remember thinking once in college that I could just do it and get it over with, but it never happened. Until just a few minutes ago (and the very fact that I'm writing this serves as something of a spoiler). I went into the bathroom, turned off the lights* and said "Bloody Mary" in the mirror three times. And nothing remotely scary happened. Yet.

I need to clean my bathroom mirror.
*Rather I had them turned off; the switch is outside the door.

Monday, November 26, 2007

New Thing #246: Drive me crazy

I drive exactly twice a year, for a span of no more than 7 days. I'm like the automotive equivalent of Newgrange, except with dodgy night vision and a tendency toward white knuckles. And all of my driving has been limited to two states: California, because I grew up there and Nebraska, because someone who doesn't know about my mild aversion to driving lent me a car for a day in that fantastically flat, open, unencumbered state. But that was the easternmost I'd ever driven, until Kevin had to get his tires rotated in CT today and his dad gave me his keys after we'd come back to the house and waited for three hours. I drove a car on the East coast, in the fog and at night, and somehow everything turned out just fine. I followed Kevin back, never worried that I'd lose him, or that someone would squeeze in on the road between us, or that a semi would crash into me and kill me upon fiery impact. Nah, it was cool.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

New Thing #245: Waffley yummy

Yesterday's New Thing is about to come in very handy. Tonight I had waffles for dinner. I'm not a big breakfast-for-dinner person (but only in the sense that I've never eaten it for dinner) and I'm also not a big drinker and I've never done drugs, so I'm not the order-whatever-they're-serving-in-a-diner-at-midnight type either. But when Kevin's parents offered to make a giant, trimmings-laden early dinner for our last night in CT, I couldn't turn it down. There were strawberries, blueberries, Clementines, yogurt, granola and syrup. We all had juice instead of a more dinnery drink like water, wine or my customary GUS. This is definitely something I would do again- maybe even with turkey bacon, coffee and chicken sausage!

Saturday, November 24, 2007

New Thing #244: Go go Gadget toothbrush!

A year ago, I bought a toothbrush on a trip to Connecticut, and totally forgot about it. During my current trip to CT, I found it in my suitcase and immediately decided to replace the travel-size brush I had with me. To my utter delight, the new-old forgotten toothbrush turned out to be a self-contained pulsating electric toothbrush. So I used an electric toothbrush. I always pictured them as being bulky plug-ins with complicated replaceable rotors and, like, motors that you have to take to an auto shop to fix. Not so this dainty beaut; seems the battery that it comes with is the only one you ever get/need/want, and you simply turn it on and off by pressing the plus and minus buttons. Otherwise (and in the package) it looks just like a regular toothbrush (hence my not knowing when I bought it and for a year after that it was electric).

Friday, November 23, 2007

New Thing #243: Under Pressure

You know how after eating a huge Thanksgiving dinner (or, in my case, three. For reals.) one of the first things you want to do is check your blood pressure to make sure all that gravy didn't make you hypertensive? Me too. But it took 24 hours for me to discover the manual inflation blood pressure monitor at Kevin's parents' house. When I did, I took my own blood pressure, as well as someone else's. It took a couple of tries (the early ones being in my signature kamikaze 'dive into it without reading the directions' style) to get an accurate reading. Kevin's was highish, mine was lowish. Which means he needs to lay off the gravy and I'm going to keep passing out on the subway.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

New Thing #242: Get a Clue

On a day when I ate my weight in turkey (ok, that's not saying much, but still...) I really didn't want to do much else other than read and play games. So after Kevin's mom soundly beat us both in a game of Scrabble, I played Betrayal at House on the Hill with Kevin and his brother. It's sort of a cross between Clue (if Hill House had been really dirty and full of rooms like The Pentagram Room and the Mystic Elevator, and if Mr. Boddy had been a satanic ghost) and Chutes and Ladders (if the Chutes killed you and the ladders made you go insane). My character was an eight-year-old girl who had low sanity levels to begin with, so when she got trapped in the Pentagram room and was unable to start a seance to get rid of the ghost that was threatening to kill them all, she went insane and died. I like Clue a lot better.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

New Thing #241: Sew and sew

Today's thing came from one of my favorite suggesters: Mom! I let down and re-sewed a hem by hand. The hem of my favorite black pants was falling out, so I let it out completely and resewed the hem, and even raised it a little to better complement my new low-heel boots without being baggy. The stitching isn't completely even, but it's still neater than the Tape Fiasco of '05, in which I used iron-on basting tape to hem my brown pants. It lasted until I had to wash them, and the tape got all gummy and nasty and the pants eventually ended up in the Goodwill bag. This time, I might last through a whole season before I get self-conscious and make my tailor fix them.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving, everyone who celebrates it! I am in Connecticut until Sunday and will update as regularly as I can. Even if the posts don't happen every day, the New Things definitely will!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

New Thing #240: Onion or off?

Right now I have an onion soaking in two cups of blue Gatorade. I found this video that claims that you can use an electrolyte-soaked onion to charge an iPod. Then I found out about a bunch of other videos (including the show Mythbusters) that totally debunk that video as a hoax. Not one to believe the masses unless I have a good reason, I'm giving it a shot. The onion still has to soak for half an hour before I try the experiment, at which point either I used an onion to charge my iPod or I busted a myth. And yes, it's been busted before, but not by me. I've always wanted to try my own mythbuster experiment, so tonight is my night! Updates will be made below the photo.
I...busted a myth. Not only did the onion not power my iPod, it didn't even absorb any Gatorade. The video claimed that would take 30 minutes; I left it in there for an hour and the liquid level never budged. And now I think I've messed up the USB plug by getting onion stuck in it.

Monday, November 19, 2007

New Thing #239: Spirit of the Radio

I've interviewed a lot of people during my career as a journalist, and not until recently have I done interviews for the media. I've been on the internet, tv and teleconference, and tonight I gave an interview on the radio. Not just any radio- a radio station in South Africa! Morning show host Nic emailed me last week to see if I'd be interested in speaking with them, and of course I was. Ten-thirty pm New York time is 5:30am South Africa time, so while Nic was having his coffee and trying to wake up, I was cleaning up after dinner and getting ready for bed. We talked about the blog, and I had to explain on yet another vast audience how one actually castrates a calf. Not that I minded. It's an interesting story.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

New Thing #238: Book it

I can't say a lot about this, but tonight I wrote a book proposal. And a half. I have some things coming up for which it will be a good idea to have some ideas in print, so I got some advice from Someone Who Writes Stuff and put those ideas in formal writing. I've always wanted to write a book, and unlike being a Harry Potter character or living on the moon, this is something I can actually do. I'll keep everyone updated!

Saturday, November 17, 2007

New Thing #237: Passing the 'bucks

Those of you who don't live in New York will be skeptical when I say this, and those of you who do live in New York will roll your eyes and nod: There are two Starbucks across the street from each other in Astor Place. Kevin once mentioned that he actually once held his breath and walked from one to the other. So today I held my breath and walked from the Astor Place Starbucks that's more west to the one that's more east. At least, I tried; it was cold outside, I'm small and I was walking, so it was hard to hold my breath the first time over. So it was on the way back to the westernmost one that I was more successful at this. For insurance, I didn't blink. Just in case that while it might not have been possible for me to walk from one Starbucks to another without breathing (which it just barely was, thanks to dodging some traffic signals), it could definitely be said that I can walk to one from the other without blinking. Ridiculous.

Friday, November 16, 2007

New Thing #236: 3.14

I did this:

Today's comedy world is not like that of yore, when things like this happened all the time. Friend and comedian Dave was kind enough to be on the receiving end when I hit someone in the face with a pie. During a friend's birthday dinner I asked if I could do this to him and he said yes. But for the advance notice, I think the Marx Brothers would have been proud.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

New Thing #235: Here we go back to apricots

For some reason, I always thought mulberries were fake. They're in the children's song, but there are a lot of things in children's songs--banana phones, diamond rings for babies, stalker lambs that follow you everywhere-- that are hard to find in real life. Mulberries, though, are the real deal. So I ate mulberries. They are not so good. I was expecting something more tart; strawberries, raspberries, cranberries and my beloved blackberries are all packed with punch, even when they're dried. But the mulls tasted like granola dunked in flavored water. I needed a whole glass of organic apple-pear juice just to get the sandy aftertaste out of my mouth.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

New Thing #234: Gone with the 'Quin

This was supposed to be a fun thing, and in theory, it was. And in practice it was as well, but for other people and before I got there. I had drinks at the Algonquin* with some ladies. The plan was to get there at 6:15. At 5, it looked like I would make it. At 6:30, too many tiny things had gone wrong at work for me to get there on time, but not enough big things for me to not get there at all. So I dashed up there just before 7. I joined five lovely ladies (and one gent, whom I'd never met but who I'm going to assume is lovely). And the drunk out-of-towner who would not. leave. us. alone. Apparently he'd been commenting on my friends' bodies before I got there, and decided that was fun, and wouldn't stop. He also decided he had carte blanche to hover over the various conversations, and chime in when he felt like it. It took him telling the other Jen that he thinks I'm too skinny for me to totally blow up at him and to tell the assistant manager that he was making us uncomfortable. Then A.M. had to stand between us and the drunk, who was escorted out of the bar and followed around by security, while the bar's cool lady manager came over and apologized. Then we left. I walked alone for five blocks to the subway, constantly expecting Drunkie to pop out of a mailbox and yell "Surprise! Eat a sandwich!" But he didn't and that was good.
I realized that this night was double new, because never before have I had someone thrown out of a bar.
The "before" picture. Jen's taking it and Ann is watching out for her, because the drunk jerk is about to try to take my camera.

*This doesn't cancel out the Tea at the Algonquin that a couple of people have suggested and want to get in on. This was planned by someone else and I couldn't say no!

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New Thing #233: Domo for asking!

I like to travel. I've been to Europe five times, and one day I hope to travel further, like to Australia or Japan. I figure it's always best to do a bit of research before going anywhere, and if you're going to be staying in hotels, it's a good idea to get as much information as possible. What are the rates like? Are the facilities clean and safe? So tonight I called Japan. I have no immediate plans to go there, but like I said, it's best to be prepared. And now I know that the Hotel Floracion Aoyama in Tokyo is not the place for me.

There's no picture for this, just audio.

Monday, November 12, 2007

New Thing #232: Ironic

This was another childhood idea, and it sounded like fun (and was) but I didn't realize until I was actually doing it that it could have been sort of dangerous. I made a grilled cheese sandwich with an iron. I don't use starch, so I wasn't worried that I'd poison myself, but I did have a glass of water handy in case I was unknowingly using flammable cheese. It wasn't wildly successful, but wasn't a total bust, either. The cheese melted quickly (good thing I had the sandwich on a towel) and the bread charred pretty quickly. In the video, I start to say 'oh no, it's stuck!' before I put the camera down to avoid a breadfire. There were no breadfires, and also no entirely yummy sandwiches. But I would say that in a pinch, the iron will work just fine.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

New Thing #231: Dis repair

Me: Do you have something I can take apart?
Kevin: Can you fix an M.E. Super?
Me: I don't want to fix something. I just want to take it apart.

I wasn't one of those kids who took stuff apart to see how it worked. If I wanted to know, I looked it up or asked someone. That seemed safer and less troublesome, but also sort of boring. When I have kids, I might almost encourage them to take stuff apart, as long as the stuff won't shock, maim, kill or bloody them. So tonight, I guess to get a head start on being a parent who facilitates hands-on learning, I took apart and reassembled a trumpet. I took off the mouthpiece, valve caps, the tuning slide, spit valve, water key and a whole bunch of stuff I don't know the names of. Before I reassembled it, Kevin taught me how to oil and reassemble the valves (even after I nearly lost one of the pads). Now I'm totally ready for my Tower of Power audition.



Saturday, November 10, 2007

New Thing #230: Miss Macyagi

The Karate Kid was on tv today, and I got to watch about half of it before I left to go do my show. I made a mental note that trimming bonsai trees would make a great New Thing, then forgot about it for the next hour. But as I was passing through a street fair in Astor Place, I noticed a stall full of bonsai trees, decided it was totally a sign, and haggled for one after the show on my way back to the subway. When I got home, I trimmed a bonsai tree. The instruction booklet said you're only supposed to trim them in the springtime, but it also said that you're supposed to keep them in environments no cooler than 65 degrees. It was about 45 outside today, so there were lots of little brown spots I had to get rid of. It's a very therapeutic, relaxing process. I don't know much about the art of shaping them, but I guess I'll find all that out in the spring!

Friday, November 9, 2007

New Thing #229: Jamba Juishhhh

About a month and a half ago, I read an article somewhere about secret menus at chain restaurants. Apparently, some places will make you something from their unpublished "underground" menu if you know to ask for it. I like this idea; it's a nice way to honor their customers, and it's fun for us to have even more options than we thought. A few weeks ago, the adorable Priscilla, a fellow thing-a-dayer and loyal reader, tried something from Jamba Juice's underground menu. I hadn't known until she wrote about it that they even had one, but today I ordered an item from an underground menu. I got Jamba's White Gummi Bear, which is basically a sugar coma-inducing combo of every kind of sherbet they carry, plus mangoes. The coma hasn't hit yet, but the front part of my tongue is mad at me.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

New Thing #228: Coatally Awesome

A few months ago, after realizing I didn't have a cold-weather coat I could wear with dresses, I bought this incredibly luscious looking faux leopard fur coat. It looked awesome online, AND it was on sale. When it arrived in the mail at my office, I realized something: It is totally. Not. Me. At all. I opt for a more classic look during the fall, like my black velvet blazer and a cashmere scarf. Not a semi-garish knee-length number which, in the absence of pants screams "lady of the night." So it has been hanging on the back of my office door for nearly three months, and I was trying to figure out what to do with it- give it to a sassy homeless lady? Make stuffed animals? Or- how about this? Wear it. Tonight it was much colder when I left work to meet some lady friends than it had been in the morning, so I wore the totally not-me faux fur coat. I wore it around work, to meet my friends, to pretend to hail a cab, on the subway home, to stand in the shower, and to watch tv. It made me feel a bit conspicuous at first, and it definitely turned more heads than my black jacket (see how I say that like it's not a good thing? It's not), but it was super cozy and luxy and made me feel like a young Gloria Swanson. Who could say no to that?

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

New Thing #227: Rap Dancing

I wonder if I come off as June Cleaver as heavily as today's New Thing might suggest. I'm listening to a rap album all the way through. I had exactly one rap song in my iPod among all my classical, musical theatre, opera, Beatles and standards, and it's pop rap ("Bawitaba" by Kid Rock). After getting recommendations from friends whose tastes are a little more rugged than mine, I landed on "Life After Death" by The Notorious B.I.G. It's really not as grating as I thought it would be (remember, I grew up with children's choirs and violin lessons, and my mom is a classical singer. Why do I keep making excuses?), and even has a fair number of really thoughtful melodies. Many of the tracks start with people yelling at each other, and then they stop yelling and there's a thumpy beat with a lot of "yeeah" and "unh." The song that's on right now is called "Nasty Boy." The bass is giving me a headache, but I can take it.
Earlier today:
: today's Thing is to listen to an entire tap album. The Rappier, the better. Any suggestions?
Amanda: a tap album?
or a rap album
me: HA
Amanda: Tupac
me: ooh, ok
Amanda: he's the best
and was a poet
me: yes, but could he tap?
Amanda: hmm
I don't know

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

New Thing #226: Ponies for Peace?

I really wish this country wasn't at war. Hopefully one day soon we won't be. But the sad fact is that we are, and there are way too many people facing unspeakable dangers overseas every day because of it. But, while war sucks, the country will never not have a military, so it's important to support the people who dedicate their lives to it. I decided to boost the spirits of one random female soldier, and I sent a care package to a woman in the military. I made sure it had all the stuff I would want if I were over there- hygiene stuff, lip stuff, bath stuff, nail stuff, hair stuff, skin stuff, razors and a calling card. I would have also included creature comforts like massage socks, a sports bra, a Sara Vowell book or two, a Debussy CD and a pony, but apparently the military is a little picky about what's considered a "toiletry."

(It's from . It seems like a rip-off of the more publicized , but it's just as good and is more clear about what you can and can't send, should you choose to mail something on your own.)
Also, I just thought of something. A bunch of people have emailed me/commented/not realized that my statcounter shows people clicking on a link to me from their websites, and mentioned that they are starting similar projects. If you are one of these people, send me an email at inthenewjen[at]gmail[dot]com with the subject "New Things Blog" and I'll put together a list or a proboards site or something, for people who want to make big deal about it.

Monday, November 5, 2007

New Thing #225: Cow awesome

So often in this project, things happen that on the surface seem so ordinary, but turn out to be so not ordinary that I don't even have to tweak the circumstances to make it a New Thing. Today's Thing was such. I ate ribs at Hill Country in the Flatiron District. I thought I was having barbecue dinner with Kristina. Turns out, I was having barbecue dinner with Kristina in a roomy, ambient, wood-cabinny restaurant where your food is made-to-order and marked on your meal ticket, and where you eat more than you ever thought possible in a single sitting. Also, I'd never ordered ribs before (something about the messiness always turned me off at restaurants... plus for some reason I thought I didn't like them. Wrong!). Everything was amazing, and I can understand why K's friends send her exuberant text messages when they eat there!
This photo would have you believe I ate ribs in 1880 with Jesse James. It's just not true.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

New Thing #224: Nipped in the Bud

Today's Thing came from simply following some signs, as well as my conscience. A couple of weeks ago, I spoke via teleconference at the Learning 2007 convention in Orlando. Immediately before my segment, the host presented a check to Malaria No More, to purchase mosquito bed nets for villages in Africa. This week, CNN's Young Person Who Rocks is American Idol finalist Melinda Doolittle. Her rockage? Supporting Malaria No More. Reading her bio on the CNN site reminded me that I had added "donate mosquito bed nets" to my list. Why wait? Today I donated bed nets to Malaria No More. (Side note: Miss D was the last guest before me at the Learning 2007 convention. MUST I have to follow such amazingness? I only wish I'd gotten to see her performance!)

Saturday, November 3, 2007

New Thing #223: Tanks, Trains and Automobiles

In New York, it's polite to thank people as often as you can- doormen, bus drivers, elevator operators; pretty much anyone who doesn't try to kill you. You can't thank all the people all the time, though; there are plenty of people who don't try to kill you and who do important, thankless jobs that deserve a little gratitude. So today I thanked the subway conductor. It's not always easy to do, but I passed the open window on the very first car of the train as I left the platform, so I smiled and thanked the guy at the controls. He nodded and waved, probably surprised that someone acknowledged that it's actual human beings who make the trains go. I drew the line at high-fiving him; I didn't want him to think I was after his keys.

Friday, November 2, 2007

New Thing #222: There YOU are!

Oh my God. Oh my GOD. Seriously. This was so awesome and fun and cool and I DON'T HAVE A PICTURE OF ME DOING IT. Because it's against New York law to take pictures in Broadway Theatres*. Like the Helen Hayes Theatre. Where Xanadu is playing. Especially if you're sitting ON the stage, in Greek-area style seats, under 45 disco balls, within arm-patting distance of goddesses (literal and theatrical) Mary Testa and Jackie Hoffman. Tonight, Amanda and I went to see Xanadu and we totally sat ON the stage! I am geeking out about this way more than I wanted to allow myself to. Seriously: Forty-five disco balls. Mary Testa. Jackie Hoffman. Who totally sat next to us and fed us popcorn at one point. And Kerry Butler? Yeah, we SO made eye contact. And I DON'T have a PICTURE of ANY of this. So you're all going to just go have to see this awesome, hilarious, amazing, campy-brilliant show yourself.
That, and enjoy me with my program and the glow sticks we danced around with at the end. On stage. At Xanadu. Ok. I'll stop.

*Because the sets are trademarked, that's why.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

New Thing #221: More and Lore

Oh New York. You and your lore. It seems that just by being in New York, something automatically develops...lore. My shoes have lore just because they live in...Gotham. My desk chair has lore because my office is in the shadow of...The Empire State Building. But there are certain things with legitimate lore, whose lore wouldn't fade away were the thing to move to Omaha or Eugene. Like Morton's steakhouse. As an unassuming steak lover, I have long been in awe of this place, have often hurried silently by its expansive awnings on 45th street. Tonight I finally went to Morton's with Cat and MAN does it live up to the lore. We both had medium-rare fillet mignon, and we split some scrumptious spinach and mashed potatoes. The place is every bit as classy, glamorous, New Yorky, sophisticated and, yes, lorey as I wanted it to be. The waiter even kicks everything off with a "presentation" of how to order your meat and what to eat it with, all before you even get the menu. Seeing raw steaks like that and knowing that I get to choose one of them... it's like one of those puppy dreams in a PetSmart commercial. It's been a whole three hours and I'm already craving more fillet. And a little more of that delicious lore.