Monday, March 31, 2008

Keepin' on...

At the end of my last project, I decided to take a short break from blogging. But god, I'm a blogger, a blogger blogs! Give me somebody to blog for... okay. You get it.
I'd like to embark on another year-long blog project, but this one will be quite different from the last. Instead of blogging every day, I'll blog every two weeks. And instead of being about me, this blog will be about other people. I'll be posting a bi-weekly Q&A with normal people who have great stories. It's broad and fun and speaks to my innate interest in other people. Some of them will be people I know personally, most of them will be people I've never met. If you know someone who might pique my interest, let me know at inthenewjen@gmail.com . At some point I might ramp it up to weekliness, but for now I'll start easy. Look for the first post in mid-April!

Thursday, March 27, 2008

This is cheesy...

...but necessary. And totally heartfelt.
A giant thank you to everyone who helped with, suggested, inspired and cheered this year-long project. It was a long, crazy and not always easy year, but your support made it an incredible one.

Kevin Danenberg (my loving sounding board, photographer, videographer, donor and teacher)
Mom and Dad
Amanda Allan
Kristina Sepulveda
Maddy Mako
Cat Kemp
Kirk Damato
Kathleen MacNeil
Joseph and Susan Synder
Jim, Elga and Blue
Dan, Heather and Ramsay
Nicole Lapin
Angela and Matt DeVoe

Everyone at PT and GP (especially Amy, Alina, Alex and Sharon)

Glennis McMurray
Liz Black
Robyn Sklaren
Eliza Skinner
Dave Warth
Michelle Dobrawsky
Michele Laikowski
MJC
George Foreman
Louie Pearlman
Luke
JJ
Erin Rose Foely
Lynn Bixenspan
Katina Corrao
Noah Scalin
Mark Lee
Alan Fessenden
Caton Clark
Rachael Mason
Val Bashura
Sean Taylor
Tony Carnevale
Terry Jinn
Lauren Gilchrist
The Danenberg Family
The Snatchlebees
Jen Hammaker
Stef and Roy
Dance Dance Party Party
Sandwich Guy
Andrea and Peter Harnish
Dyna, Bill and Cakey
Carolyn Castiglia
Angela DeManti
Jodi Skeris
Ben Healy
Karen and Zach
Chris O'Neil
Christina Casa
C. LeMar McLean

And everybody who ever read, linked to, commented on, wrote about, mentioned or laughed with this blog. I couldn't have done this without your overwhelming support and inspiration.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

NEW THING #366: IT'S OVER!!


By "it" I mean this project and this year, not my life, joy, ambition or desire to be weird. That goes on flourishing forever.
Since I considered Saturday to be the big "going out" to-do, I wasn't going to try to top it. So I rode around Manhattan in a limo eating candy. I took the afternoon off and was joined by some lovelies who don't have to work during the day (and one man-lovely who does, but who generously consented to letting us give him a 10-minute ride around Wall Street after we were done toodling around midtown. I couldn't have imagined doing my Last Thing without him). It was one of those things I've always said I'd rather be doing than working. So I did it!

Amanda made me a sash! It, and her coffee table, says "Jen 365 In the New."

Monday, March 24, 2008

New Thing #365: Penultimatron


Second-to-last New Thing! I pogo sticked! I wasn't sure this baby would arrive on time, but it did! It's definitely something you have to work on, but I get the gist of it and am pretty confident that once I change out of kitten-heeled boots and into a more athletic variety of footwear, I'll be able to leap tall buildings and transverse entire cities. Probably not in a single bound, because that would be boring.
Tomorrow: The very last New Thing! It's not exactly a birthday celebration, since my birthday is Wednesday. But it will be New Thing #366 (leap year!) and after it's done, I will sail calmly into my 30s.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

New Thing #364: Crossing you in style

Even though I wasn't suffering from the reds, don't have a nameless cat and am not a prostitute, this morning I had breakfast at Tiffany's. It's so easy: get up early on a day when you should be sleeping in, throw your hair into an elegant chignon, find an open pastry shop and eat a chocolate croissant while gazing at a spring-themed window display. It was so lovely I almost decided to do another thing I'd never done and go steal a cat mask from the five-and-dime....but five-and-dimes went out with elegant prostitutes, so no such luck.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

New Thing #363: Broadway Babies

This has been in the works for quite some time. I staged the musical show of my dreams. More specifically, the show of 12-year-old Me's dreams. Along with some of my singingest and danciest friends, I threw together a show with songs from Hair, Assassins, The Secret Garden, Urinetown, La Cage Aux Follies, Chess, Wicked and Annie. In accordance with my 12-year-old vision, there were crazy lights, wigs, loud music, crazy makeup, fun dances and pretty costumes. I even found a use for the ridiculous tutu from a few days ago. It was, in essence if not in execution, a perfect show. I had half my friends on stage and the other half in the audience. I got to make dramatic songs just a little bit silly, I got to see two adorable people run around in their underwear and two of my favorite performers smooch five inches from my face, and I got to perform onstage with my sister, which was, shockingly, also a New Thing. There will be video and more photos available somewhere, some time, but first there's these. (Thanks, Cat!)

Friday, March 21, 2008

New Thing #362: Go Go To It

I delivered a singing telegram! I almost went the perky-girl-bellhop way of my beloved Clue, but since I only had a day to plan this, I bypassed Perky and went to Surly, a la Bette Midler in Beaches. Plus, Surly is easier to dress for. You can wear street clothes and just add sunglasses and a feather boa. It was all I needed to welcome a new employee to a midtown headhunter firm.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

New Thing #361: Barish knock-off


I love ballet. I love everything about it- the artistry, the music, the passion, but mostly the costumes. In the three or so different 8-week classes I took growing up, I never got to wear anything more sophisticated than a crew-neck blue leotard and a dance belt. Forget the fancy tutus and Swan Lake-white camisoles. You only get to wear those if you have significant talent as a ballerina, and I never did. So today I danced around in a fancy tutu and a Swan Lake-white camisole. I got to do it in a real dance studio with real dancers. They were all in yoga pants and tanks, but were SO nice about letting me indulge my fantasy. I took frequent water breaks just so I would get to wander around the studio hallways in my amazing outfit. One lady in the bathroom wistfully sighed that she wished she could wear something about that. I forgot to tell her that she totally could!

Be part of a New Thing!


Saturday, March 22
11 PM
The PIT Theatre
154 w. 29th St Btw 6/7


Featuring: Amanda Allan, Lynn Bixenspan, Kirk Damato, Angela DeManti, Alan Fessenden, Michael Jeffery Cohen, Maddy Mako, Jen MacNeil, Kathleen MacNeil, Glennis McMurray, Louie Pearlman, Kristina Sepulveda, Eliza Skinner, Jodi Skeris, Robyn Sklaren, Kate Tellers
Hosted by Katina Corrao and Shawn Hollenbach
Accompanied by Ben Healy
With songs from Urinetown, Hair, Annie, La Cage Aux Follies, Chess, The Secret Garden, Assassins, Wicked

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

New Thing #360: Best Shot!

I'm writing this from the comfort of my bed, which seems like heaven after I learned how to box. It's appropriate that "class" rhymes with "ass," because that is what it kicked of mine. Man, this is an intense workout! Boxing lady Kristina warned me of this when she invited me to join her, so I wasn't surprised. But MAN. It was in the middle of the day, so I had to try to stay upright at work afterwards- that and the subway ride home were mighty challenges. The class starts off with shadow boxing, which sounds simple unless your form sucks, which mine did until Kristina and awesome instructor Tony helped me correct it. Then there are squat thrusts, jumping jacks, pushups, sparring, bobbing, weaving and running. And feeling like a total badass.

New Thing #359: Upstood!

This is something I never would have done outside the context of this project, but it went really well and I'm glad I did it. I don't think I will do it again any time in the near future, so it was a one-night-only engagement at Comix for which I performed stand-up comedy. I did improv for years, but not well, so stand-up always seemed out of the question. Make jokes? About my life? And current events? That actually make sense on a broad level outside my own weird frame of reference? MADNESS! But I did it and it worked and it wasn't bad at all. But I'm a little biased.
(This is over 6 minutes long. If we run into each other on the train and you admit you didn't watch the whole thing, I will understand.)


Monday, March 17, 2008

New Thing #358: Sax Machine

I feel most empowered when I do things that scare me. Mostly because nothing is ever as bad as my imagination wants me to think it is. Such was the case when I played saxophone on a subway platform. I almost always enjoy street musicians at least a little bit, because most of the people who do it in New York are actually good. Some aren't, but that's what headphones and feet are for. I am definitely one of the "some that aren't," so I was nervous about subjecting innocent A-train riders to my squawks and sounds of imitation flatulence. Kevin and I stayed on the platform for almost an hour, much of which was spent getting great shots, some of which was spent with me pushing myself to the point of aneurysm just to get a few terrible notes. And it was so. much. fun. A few people willingly sat or stood close to us, perhaps hoping to hear some brilliance from a rare female saxophone player, but they weren't rude or indignant when they didn't get it. I did get one nickel in my case. I put it there.

Photos by Kevin Danenberg

Sunday, March 16, 2008

New Thing #357: Flop Design

Easter is next week, and what would Easter be without a hat? Answer: Regular. Today I made a top hat out of duct tape. It did not turn out well because as I've mentioned before, I am not crafty. I do try though, and that was the important part. I used a template I found on my beloved WikiHow. While I found the creation of the 'duct tape fabric' calming and easy and fun, not to mention the source of a billion ideas for duct outfits, the rest of it was tricky. You're supposed to create concentric circles for the top and the brim using the shaft as a template, but when the template is lumpy and amorphous, so are your concentric circles. Ah, art. If anyone out there needs a cartoonishly tall top hat for a play about Lincoln, I'm your woman.


Saturday, March 15, 2008

New Thing #356: Doug Jenning

This was one of those hubristic attempts that could have ended badly or boring, but luckily it was not the former and was the latter, but in a good way. I pulled a tablecloth off a table without upsetting the dishes. Since I don't have a lot of nonbreakable dishes, I used a metal fruit bowl and a bunch of vitamin bottles. I had visions of everything flying everywhere, or getting tangled up in the floral makeshift tablecloth. Luckily none of that happened. Yay magic!

Friday, March 14, 2008

New Thing #355: Lash Potatoes

I've been involved in theater on and off my entire life. I did the obligatory suburban children's theatre, summer nerdy arts camp in the woods and high school drama club and minored in theatre in college. But I was also a flat-chested shrimp for a lot of that time, and I didn't play a girl character until I was 19. Even then, it was Shakespearean faeries and grandmothers and crazy neighbors. I wasn't a leading lady type, and I never got cast in a sexy role. So it was for the first time that I wore false eyelashes.My sister used to carry them as a makeup bag staple for ballet performances, but I myself never had cause to wear them, even for Halloween. They always seemed complicated and superfluous. I found that they are complicated, superfluous and FABULOUS. So fab, in fact, that my normal hair seemed unable to do them justice and I had to top off the look with a luscious wig.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

New Thing #354: Bready to go


I like to take walks in the morning. I know my neighborhood pretty well, but it is full of meandering parks and woodsy shortcuts, so it is entirely possible to get a little turned around, even after having lived here for almost a year. So during this morning's walk, I left a trail of breadcrumbs. I kept a bag of old bread in my pocket, allowing easy access for the non-coffee hand to dip in, pull out a pinch of soon-to-be pigeon feed and casually drop it onto the sidewalk. If anyone noticed, they didn't care. And I'm pretty sure they would have understood.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

New Thing #353: Pokey Dokey

me: I had acupuncture at lunch- it was sort of awesome.
Kevin: where did they stick you?
me: ears, back of neck, wrists, back, ankles, calves
Kevin: what did it do?
me: harmonized my blood flow to ease my anxiety.
Kevin: did it work?
me: I think it did! I definitely felt calmer afterwards and my headache was gone.
Kevin: were they big long needles?
me: no, they were kind of tiny- I was face down so I couldn't see what they looked like when they were in. The ones in my ears felt like the longest, oddly. I barely felt anything- it's a pinch, then it turns into a tingle.
Kevin: do you have hole marks?
me: super tiny ones- I can barely see one of the wrist ones, and I can't see the ones on my ankles anymore. The rest are on my back so I can't see them at all.
Kevin: did they make kung fu sounds?
me: One might have, but that also could have been coming from my bag.
Kevin: You should blog as interviewed by a five-year-old.
me:
Done.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

New Thing #352: Drawn Together




As I've mentioned before, I am not crafty and I have next to no talent in fine and applied arts. I draw a great hummingbird, and that's about it. So I used a Wacom graphics tablet. I'm not sure why I thought this would make my artwork look any better. A crappy drawing is a crappy drawing no matter what you use to make it. And using Kevin's graphics pen and tablet was like trying to draw in zero gravity. There's hovering and pointing and poking and stabbing just to make a crude drawing in Photoshop. I know people who make amazing drawings and designs with these things for a living, and it's good for all of us that I'm not one of them. I sort of sat there muttering, 'draw something!' Then I drew some Thing. This is my artistic reinterpretation of that moment. It was glorious.

Monday, March 10, 2008

New Thing #351: Foxfire

One of my favorite things about the past year has been the opportunity to do stuff that scares me. Today I fired a rifle. I am terrified of guns, so to do this took a ton of resolve (and a fair bit of putting it out of my mind until the second I got to the gun range). Before boss Amy and I could get our hands on anything lethal, we had to take a short gun safety course, during which we learned to load and unload the gun, to work the safety and the latch, and how to load a magazine. I was worried I'd totally lose my nerve the second I got into the booth, but once I fired the first shot, there was really nothing to it. I was even a little good at it! The target was so far back I didn't think I was hitting it, but when I pulled it back in, there were totally holes in it! The snappy little .22 they gave me had very little kickback and was easier to handle than I thought. I don't think I want to do this every day, and I can still say I never plan to own a gun, but it's always nice to have a new skill.
Me in safety gear, pre-gun

Sunday, March 9, 2008

New Thing #350: Jersey Girl


The first time I spent a significant amount of time on the East Coast, I was amazed at being able to travel through several states in one day. When you live in coastal California, you don't just hop into Arizona for lunch, and if you have to drive to Oregon, it takes at least a day and you don't just zip back home that same night. I still couldn't wrap my head around the concept when I was living in Jersey City and working in New York. And until today, all of my multi-state sojurns had involved cars, planes or trains, so I walked from New York to New Jersey via the George Washington Bridge. I pretty much just did it so I could say "I'm going to walk to New Jersey now. Bye!" which I did about seven times before leaving the house. I live just a few blocks from the GWB, so I was literally able to walk out of my apartment, down the street, and into New Jersey. It was incredibly windy today, so I was nervous about taking photos, removing my gloves or standing too close to the guard rails. I turned around pretty much as soon as I got to the end of the bridge, but not before a dingy sign welcomed me to The Garden State and a bridge guard gave me a dirty look for taking pictures. Ah, Jersey!

Saturday, March 8, 2008

New Thing #349: Will you be mine?

Before I get into this one, I want to clear something up: I am not afraid of getting older. Rather, I totally celebrate it, which is the whole point of this project; I want to arrive at 30 feeling accomplished and calm, and have never really been afraid of any age at all, per se. Which is why it seems totally contradictory and fatalist that today I drafted a will. But come on: I have cheated death at least twice--that I know of. I'm sure I've unknowingly ducked out of the path of a swinging beam to pick up a penny, or suddenly turned back to retrieve my forgotten cell phone seconds before an errant garbage truck came speeding over the spot where I'd been standing. So in case my timing is off one day, wouldn't it be smart to have a plan in place? Most of my bequeathments were of a lighthearted nature- my sister gets all my shoes, Angela gets my handbags and anything with a leopard print, Amanda gets my Butter dresses, Kevin gets my Ugg slippers and my music, Cat gets my DVF, my mom gets my bunnies. The "real" stuff, like whatever happens to be in my checking account at the time, and stuff of that nature, is divvied up among those who will actually need it (like my actress/teacher sister and my two favorite parents-to-be; I also kicked in a little business capital for someone). Of course I'll update it when I have more legal ties, but for now I did what seems appropriate. Now I just gotta get this baby notarized before I step into a faulty elevator somewhere.

Friday, March 7, 2008

New Thing #348: Jiminy!

I ate crickets.
For reals.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

New Thing #347: Bain au lait

Tonight I did for around $9 what spas charge upwards of $200 for: I took a bath in milk. Mind you, this was just ordinary milk from the drugstore, and it was diluted. It wasn't, like, milk from the goat on the Queen's farm or from a golden cow in Belgium, as I'm sure the milk in those snooty spa milk baths are. It still calmed my winter-angry skin and softened my elbows and knees. I even lit a candle and threw in a coat of green tea body lotion. All that plus the fact that I didn't have to go anywhere or wear spa flip-flops= Me 1, Spa 0. I'll still make an appointment at Oasis the week of my birthday. Whaddya gonna do.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

New Thing #346: Patchalaureat

Yesterday gave me a glimpse of what it's like to be injured in New York, so it might seem like I was milking that today, but that's not why I wore an eyepatch. I wore it because... well, not because it's easy to deal with. Not because I hate having depth perception... not because I love getting grimaces from strangers... because it was fun? Sure, let's go with that. And also because about 17 people suggested it and because I bought a lovely black satin number months ago and keep forgetting to wear it. It was much easier to wear it at work. Everyone there is supportive of the project, and they already know I'm weird. Also, I don't have to navigate any stairs there. Once I hit the street it was harder. I think I walked slower with the eyepatch than I did with the cane and ankle brace. When it looks like the sidewalk is so close you could lick it, things get a bit tricky. When I joined ladypal Amanda for a very lovely dinner, I discovered it was even harder to eat with it. Not that my nose doesn't love steak.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

New Thing #345: Cane I sit there?


As klutzy as I tend to be, I have somehow gone through life without ever breaking a bone, requiring stitches, dislocating something or spraining anything. Today I commuted with a cane and an ankle brace, just to see what it was like. For one thing, it's slower. It took almost twice as long to walk from my office to the subway after work, which meant I got to bask in the relatively warm air and enjoy all the pretty closed stores and disoriented tourists on 34th street. For another thing, MAN are New Yorkers nice when they think you're injured! They hold doors, give up seats on the subway, get out of the way faster and try less hard to hit you with cars. I even got sympathy stares! The last time I got sympathy from a stranger on public transportation was when the crazy homeless guy on the train pointed me out as the only other person who needed a sandwich as badly as he did.

Monday, March 3, 2008

New Thing #344: Quick Quotes


On the plane back from California this weekend, one of my eyes watched Becoming Jane while the other one tried to sleep, and one of the things that struck me as so charming about being a writer in the 18th century was not just that she wrote everything by hand, but that she wrote it with such elegant quills. Same for the Harry Potter crew, and they could have easily just conjured up notes instead of writing them. Today I wrote with a feather quill, complete with a little jar of ink. It feels so romantic and smart! I had actually given an ink-and-quill set to my sister for Christmas several years ago, and when I found it unopened in my closet at my parents' house this weekend, I figured she wouldn't miss it. This will definitely be one of those new things that I continue to do after the project is over. I kind of can't wait to be Weird Lady in Coffee House Writing With Crazy Pen.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

New Thing #343: Voce con molto

The whole time I've been doing this project, I haven't been keen on the "do [blank] for a day stuff' that required any memory or attention on my part. Wearing a moustache for a day is easy because I don't have to think about it, but remembering to not look in the mirror and make an "I" statement are examples of day-long commitments that have gone out the window. So I was surprised when I managed to do this one for so long. I spoke a half-octave higher for (most of) a day. I remarked to Kevin that when I read from a script, I rise out of my normally low speaking voice, and after proving it by reading the ingredients on a candy bar in the style of a very interested newscaster, decided to go for it as long as possible. The few people I spoke to who I actually knew didn't seem phased, but I was surprised by the effort it takes to sound so perky for so long. Sure, there was a day in my colooratura past when I could hit some lithospheric note in a Lauredsen piece, but even then I would sink back into my comfort zone when having a normal conversation. Well, normal for me.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

New Thing #342: Apples and Oranges

After celebrating beforehand for two days, I attended a Big Fat Greek Wedding. Not just attended, but was in. What crazy fun! Everything you saw in the movie played out before my eyes today, right down to the non-Mediterranean in-laws looking terrified, and the bride having about two bajillion family members who kissed everybody, ate a lot of meat, sang loudly and expertly navigated their ways through complicated Greek dances that made the rest of us look like we had never actually learned to walk. I'm told we got the condensed version of the ceremony; instead of a three-hour to-do where everything is recited in English, then Greek, then English again, we had just one round in English. All the rituals therein are repeated three times, including the exchange of the rings, the crowning, the walk around the table, and the kissing of the Bible. The couple never speaks, and half the oration is sung by the Priest. After the ceremony, the bridal party got to chill out in the honeymoon suite while noshing on ice cream, lamb and Spanikopita. We took it easy at the reception. Kevin and I were not the furthest traveled (half the wedding party was from Nova Scotia, and one couple flew in from Poland) but we still took the liberty of only dancing the slow songs, and of chilling at the table more often than not. Our jetlag was one excuse; the fact that nobody wanted to see my precariously placed dress go flying off was another.
Hopa!