Archive for February, 2009

Time Travel: Ute Lemper at the Cafe Carlyle

ute_lemper_3

© franjanik.com

Last night I went to the super swanky (and super expensive – I was comped) Cafe Carlyle on Madison Avenue in New York City to see Ute Lemper perform her astoundingly good Cabaret act.

Now, you might be thinking: Taking a cab across town hardly counts as travel.

Well, let me tell you, I’ve traveled plenty; I’ve been on an archeological dig in the Middle East, and trekking in the Costa Rican rainforest. I’ve been mugged in Buenos Aires, and been sailing in Turkey. I’ve lounged on Caribbean beaches and been a lounge singer in Parisian cafes. (oh, yes, I have many secrets!), and this little taxi ride across town took me farther away than any of those. Because to go to the Cafe Carlyle is to travel through time.

First there’s the Carlyle itself: swanky doesn’t begin to describe it. The furnishings are luxurious, the walls are painted with spectacular (and spectacularly restored) murals. The rooms have marble baths, the hallways are wallpapered in luxe ultra-suede, the chandeliers of Venetian glass. In the Cafe, men must wear jackets, and women — well, they must look fabulous.

The Hotel drips with sophistication borne of tradition, and taste, and history. (Full disclosure: the original family owners of The Carlyle are family friends.) I imagine that The Carlyle always feels other-worldly: the $26 cocktails, the tuxedo-ed clientele. But in the current financial crisis, it felt positively surreal. Women in evening gown sipped champagne as they laughed at something their impossibly dashing date had said. Waiters called everyone sir and madam. The murmur of money was in the air.

Then there was Ute Lemper. She looks like a 1940’s movie star: all angles and eyebrows and red, red lips. And she sings the songs of 1920’s Germany, making the whole evening feel, look and sound as decadent as it must have nearly a century ago. In her black bowler hat she channeled Marlene Dietrich, singing her heart out, and breaking mine. (And just so you know, her new album is coming out sometime this Spring.)

Ute's new album: She wrote the Whole Thing!!

Ute's new album: She wrote the Whole Thing!! photo: © franjanik.com

Because there is something bittersweet about the end of decadance; of course it was wrong. Greed is what fueled this crisis. And look what happened to Germany once the decadence was done.

But still – to be in the room, watching Ute Lemper in her sequined gown, hearing her delve deeply into songs that are as relevant today as they were all those decades ago — it was romantic, and beautiful, and moving, and transportive.

I may have only taken a taxi ride – but I traveled through time, across an ocean, to a place where glamour lives, champagne flows, and sequins sparkle for all they’re worth.

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February 27, 2009 at 10:16 pm 4 comments

Weight Watchers Weigh In Update #1

Weight Watchers.

The two most terrifying words in the English language.  (Though I suppose that “Compassionate Conservative” and “Hairy Back” might be contenders.)

And yet here I am, once again, doing the WW.  Counting the points, weighing the portions,trying to decide if a deck of cards (the proper size of a serving a meat) is the same size as the giant hunk of leg-o-lamb I’ve just plunked on my plate. (that would be NO.)

Full disclosure:  a publicist from WW gave me three months of Weight Watchers for free.  I figured that if I can’t follow the program and lose the weight when I don’t even have to pay for it….Well, then I might as well  just accept that “trying on bathing suits” will forever remain the four scariest words in the English language.

Today was my second weigh-in.  Week two.  Week one, I lost 1.4 pounds.  Not bad.  Not great, but not bad.  So week two, I decided to be extra careful: I weighed everything.  I wrote everything down.  And you know what?  I stayed the same.  EXACTLY the same.

It’s better than a gain, I know.  But still.  And this was a week where I skied, worked out with a trainer, took yoga, took a dance class, took a ballroom dancing lesson AND dieted. What else am I supposed to do?  Cut off my left arm from the elbow down and use it to beat the pounds off of me?

It was also a week where I went out to breakfast with a friend.  Here’s what I had: one poached egg (2 points) and one piece of dry whole wheat toast (2 points).  Here’s what she had: a three egg (one yolk only) mozzarella and tomato omelette , french fries, and two pieces of whole wheat toast slattered in butter.

Now, here’s what she looks like: five foot four, one hundred and ten pounds, size four or six.

And here’s what I look like: five foot seven, NOWHERE NEAR one hundred and ten, or even one hundred and twenty, and lets face it, it’s been 20 years since I’ve seen 130 pounds.  Size eight or ten.

Sometimes, life just isn’t fair, is it?

Straight after my weigh-in, I went to Loehmann’s to  – TRY ON BATHING SUITS.  I figured, hey, I’m already depressed about my body, why not go all out and make myself downright dismal???

I had already been to the world famous Town Shop last week, trying on Karla Coletto suits, and that hadn’t gone well.  I have sung the praises of her bathing suits before, but this time around.  Well, let’s just say it didn’t go as well.  The bathing suits are still beautiful.  Still fabulously designed.  I will admit, I look better in a Karla Coletto bathing suit than I have a right to. BUT (and it’s a big but – not to be confused with my big butt), this year, the suits were see-through.  I’m pretty sure it wasn’t intentional – but they were showing a whole lot more than I feel comfortable showing.  (Or that you’d feel comfortable seeing, believe me.) For $200 and up, I expect a fabric that at least doesn’t show my (theoretical) tan lines through my suit. Or, let’s be frank, the depth of my bikini wax. So no Karla Coletto for me this year.  I’m looking on the bright side: this way, I won’t be tempted to spend $200 plus on a bathing suit!

ANYWAY – so there I was in Loehmann’s, and  as I entered the (communal) dressing room, I see my naturally (and preternaturally) thin friend, J.  (And as you read, remember, she’s a FRIEND) She takes one look at my armful of bathing suits (size 8’s, I might add – it’s not like I was kidding myself) and says “Are you going to fit into those?”

Youch.

I suppose the proper response would have been: “Are you going incredibly mean, incredibly unfeeling, or just a bitch?”  Or maybe “Are you going to go through puberty ever?  And get breasts?”  But no, all I said was:  “Well, I’m on Weight Watchers.”

All I can say is, it better work.

So check in every Wednesday for a Weight Watchers update. I let you know if I’m up or down, and I’ll tell you what’s working and what’s not.  Hey, maybe it’ll keep me honest, and finally, finally, get me to lose those ten pounds I’ve been struggling with for the past twenty years!

If you have any great Weight Watchers knowledge to impart – well, let me know.  Evidently, I need all the help I can get.

February 25, 2009 at 5:40 pm 1 comment

The MOMcademy Awards

1095615_74746244Unless you’re living under a rock (or a large stack of diapers), you must know by now that The Academy Awards are tonight.

Honestly, do these people need an excuse to look even more fabulous than usual?  Do they really need to celebrate themselves?  They’re already rich, famous, and have way better hair than the rest of us.  So this year, I’m hosting my own awards: The Momcademy Awards: awards given to mothers who go above and beyond the call of duty every day of the year.

Because even thought movie stars walk the red carpet, and all we get to do is vaccum it, even though they get high-brow swag and all we get is middle-aged sag, we Moms deserve awards too.

So roll out the scotch guarded carpet, get your g-rated acceptance speech ready, and put on your best pair of staying-at-home sweats because it’s time to say…

And the Momcademy Award goes to….
1. Best Make-Up: To the mom who manages to look well rested though she has five kids: three sick ones, one whiny one, and one permanently attached to her right hip, she hasn’t slept through the night in six months, her blow-dryer is on the fritz, and the closest thing she’s had to a facial is when the baby spit egg onto her face.  This woman does wonders with a tube of lipstick, a little mascara and a vat of Vaseline.

2. Best Set Design: To the Mom whose house looks neat enough for company only four minutes and thirty-two seconds after her four year old twins decided to have a Finger Painting Festival on the (white) living room couch.

3.  Best Art Direction: To the mom who looked at her four year old’s painting and correctly identified the green part as the sea (not the lawn), the square thing with windows as a boat (not a house) and the bright yellow blob in the sky as herself. (note to self: speak to colorist)

4. Best Supporting Actress: To the Mom who smiled endlessly at an incredibly boring business function because she was there supporting her husband even though said husband can never manage to support her by taking the kids to even one lousy movie on a Sunday afternoon so she could have a moment — just a bit of time — all to herself.

5. Best Costume Design:  To the Mom who realized she had left the only dress that still fits her at the dry cleaners just fifteen minutes before she was supposed to be at the biggest social event of the year. Yet still managed to make herself a fabulous outfit from a bed-sheet, a pair of pantyhose, and a Hannah Montana costume from her daughter’s dress-up box.

6. Best Adaptation of a Story for the other Moms at School: To the bragging mom on the carpool line who told everyone her son was invited to a special, invitation-only, think-tank for teens.  (For which he left, escorted, in the middle of the night.  Plus it’s in Utah, in the wilderness, and he’s allowed no contact with the family for the first three weeks.  You figure it out.)

7. Best Performance by a Mother feigning nonchalance in a publicly embarrassing situation:  to the amazingly composed mother of a five year old who began screaming out in the restaurant: “Mommy!  Mommy!  Look!  That fat lady over there is eating french fries!  It’s just like you said: French Fries aren’t good for you!  And look!  She’s eating french fries and she’s FAT!” (That would be my award, by the way)

8. Best Show of Self-Control: To the mother who did not throw an entire pot of pasta out the window when, after having asked fourteen times what the kids wanted for dinner, verified that pasta and chicken nuggets was indeed what they wanted, then cooked the stupid tortellini and chicken, had both kids say that they no longer wanted chicken nuggets, no longer liked tortellini, and wonder whiningly how come she never makes anything they like, anyway.

9. Best Actress: To the Mom who pretends to be Barbie (with smaller boobs, and able to stand on her own. Except for that one New Year’s eve a while back.  But let’s not go there.) Then pretends to be a My Little Pony, then a stuffed bear, a baby, a slice of pizza, and finally Abraham Lincoln giving the Gettysburg Address — all within one afternoon spent with her child.

10. Lifetime Achievement Award: To the mother with a house that’s mess, kids that won’t eat anything, a dry cleaner who lost that “sole” dress that still fits her, who finds out that the fingerpaint the kids used isn’t washable, and who has she just discovered that she’s “late., ”  — and who still manages to feign surprise when her two year old pops out of the hamper for the thirty-second time that day, to say exactly the right thing to avoid a(nother) tantrum from her four year old, and to get dinner and home-made cookies (ok, ok, slice and bake cookies) on the table in time for dinner.

11.  Best Picture:  To the mother who figured out how to use the timer on the new digital camera that also takes video, sends text messages, and makes pannini, got all three kids, the dog, and the husband smiling and looking into the camera for the annual holiday card.  Of course she, herself, was only half-way into the shot, and that half was,needless to say, her bad half.  But still, everyone else looked good, and if you’re a mom, well, what else can you hope for?

Thanks for joining us for this year’s Momcademy awards.  Join us for the next awards ceremony: The Mammy’s: best musical interpretations by tone-deaf moms, wanna be performer moms, and the kids that love them.


February 22, 2009 at 9:00 am 3 comments

Skiing Connecticut

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Check out my latest post on Traveling Mom about our recent obsession: skiing in Connecticut. (plus, there’s picture of me and my new hair!!)
http://www.travelingmom.com/blogger/skiing-connecticut/

February 21, 2009 at 10:32 pm Leave a comment

Valentine Schmalentine

kiss_cutoutMy High School sold carnations on Valentines Day to raise money.  Girls like Cynthia Gerardi (the most beautiful girl in 10th grade) and Courtney Funston (the blondest and cheerleader-est) got ten, twenty, I don’t know, eighty-seven flowers each, either from boys hoping to capture their hearts, or girls hoping to ride their wave of popularity.

I got two.  One from my  gay friend David, and one from my best girlfriend, both of whom understood all-to-well what it was like being the only kid in school who didn’t get ANY flowers at all.

When I was in college, my boyfriend couldn’t win.  If he sent flowers, I thought it was  a cliche, that he didn’t care enough to be creative.  The Shakespearean sonnet he sent one year was great…but when he tried it again the next year…not so much.  Lingerie was a lose/lose prospect.  If he bought my actual size, I’d be insulted that he saw me as so big.  If he bought it too small…well, it would be too small, and trust me, a big girl in a little teddy is nobody’s idea of a good time. I finally had an actual non-gay boyfriend and I turned Valentines Day into a tightrope of Hallmark Cards strung over a vat of bubbling chocolate.  And there were rose thorns everywhere.

In my post college single days, every Valentine’s day was fraught with meaning.
Would the guy I was seeing take me out that night and if he didn’t what did that mean?  Should I give a Valentine to that cute guy at the coffee shop, or would that be like wearing a sign that read desperate and dorky?  If there was no date, was going out with friends pathetic or a statement of our independence?  Would I  run from the office screaming if I had to  hear the receptionist at work gush loudly over yet another flower delivery that wasn’t for me?

But now, I’m married.  I don’t really care about getting flowers, I don’t want candy (post 40-spread, anyone?), and I don’t expect much romance.  Love, consideration, affection, support.  That’s enough for me.  At least from my husband.  So last year, from my kids, I wanted something more. (more…)

February 12, 2009 at 9:29 pm Leave a comment

I Got Celebrity Hair!

I’ve written plenty about how, in my middle age, I’m am no longer ogled. No more crude comments from construction workers.  No more inappropriate comments from co-workers.  No more special treatment from the deli man. (Unless, of course, we’re talking septuagenarians — they LOVE me.)

But that was yesterday.  Today, I am sexy, glamorous, hot, even.Serenity

Why?  Because yesterday, Creighton, hair-stylist to the stars, hair stylist so big he’s a single-moniker (like Cher, or Madonna) was hair stylist to yours truly, and with a few snips, a whole lot of bleach, and a long and painful blow-drying session, he turned me into a celebrity.

Well, maybe not a celebrity, but man, was there a reaction!  My husband took a beat to recognize me.  The husband of a friend told me I’d never looked better in my life.  And my friend Sheryl came careening across a room towards me at warp speed to voice her awe and approval.  Nearly everyone I saw commented (positively) on my new hair. (Except my son, who told me I looked “weird” and my very close friend, who looked at me and said “You changed your hair?  Really?”  As if it weren’t the seismic follicle shift that it was. Hmmmm.)

I like having new hair.

It kinda makes me wonder though:  all this time, when I was thinking I had wild, sexy, curly Sarah Jessica Parker hair, did I just look like a big ethnic mess?

Think about it, even SJP, when she does commercials for hair, tames her tresses into sleek, straight locks.  She who is known for her gorgeous curls is made to tame them when advertising hair.  Curly may be OK when you’re gallavanting around Manhattan bedding gorgeous men while you whine about your love life, but when it comes to selling hair, straight wins.   Because in the world of hair straight=good,  but curly=out of control!!!!

What worries me is, there is no way, no how, that I will ever be ever to replicate that blow dry on my own.  I’m afraid that my currently chic straight bangs and modern shag  will look like poofy mall hair once it’s my turn to dry it. You know that Duggar woman?  The one with the 497 children (OK, it’s “only” eighteen)?  That’s what I’m afraid my hair will look like.  Just with better highlights.

And if that’s true — if that’s what happens, well, I may even lose the septugenarian vote.

February 6, 2009 at 1:47 pm 1 comment


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