Hi blog.

Hi There, The Kids Got Moxie.

It’s been a little while since I’ve posted on you.

I hope you don’t feel like I’ve left you behind.

It’s just that with the creation of my new blog, suchabooknerd.com, I’m trying to figure out what your place is.  We’ve had a lot of great years together, and you’re basically the place I go to look back on good times.  From college to present-day, you’ve always just been there.

I’m not sure if I have enough energy to maintain two up-to-the-minute updated blogs…. but you need to know that you’re not getting shut down.  No way.

Moxie, old girl, maybe you need a break?

I don’t know. I’m figuring it out.

Cheers and Love,

JP

Brand New Blog!

Hello Friends and Loyal Readers –

As of late, blogging about books has become my favorite hobby.  I’ve always been a book nerd, but I recently realized I need to focus that energy into one place.

So, I’m launching a new blog today – suchabooknerd.com – and you should check it out!

Check it out – Also up today is my review of Quirk Books “Night of the Living Trekkies” as well as a giveaway for your chance to WIN a copy of that amazing book!

I hope you enjoy it!

Brief thoughts on Chicago’s “Billy Elliot”

Just a quick note to say that I had a wonderful time this evening, attending a performance of Broadway in Chicago’s production of “Billy Elliot” (as Bob’s plus-one, of course) as well attending a post-show blogger bash put on by the press agency that represents the show.

Somehow, despite loving musicals as I do, catching “Billy Elliot” during it’s Chicago run hadn’t been a priority of mine.  I mean, I read the press that declared it the best musical of the decade, but something in me still said “meh.”

It’s a good show, really. It’s not perfect (there’s a lot of plot lines happening at the same time, and the first couple scenes are a whirlwind of plot points delivered in sometimes undecipherable accents) but it’s very moving, incredibly well-produced, and performed by a cast that lays their hearts and souls on the line.

Multiple gifted young performers rotate in the title role.  This evening, we were fortunate to see young J.P Viernes as Billy Elliot.  For such a young performer, this kid delivered, never missing a beat and dancing like a dream. Seeing someone so young play such a massive role so well made me feel remarkably old and unaccomplished.  Viernes receives lovely support from the rest of the cast, most notably Dillon Stevens as his best friend Michael, who tore down the house with his big number.  As Billy’s Dad, Armand Schultz gives a touching and believable performance, as does Cynthia Darlow as Billy’s Grandmother. (After her big number, I turned to Bob and said “More Grandma, please.”)

But perhaps my favorite two performances of the evening were delivered by Patrick Mulvey and Emily Skinner. I’ll get to La Skinner in a moment, as she’s a performer I’ve revered for years, but I must say that Mulvey (in the sort of thankless role of Billy’s angry brother) manages to carve likability where there isn’t a whole lot to be found.  The role involves a lot of angst and yelling, but it doesn’t ever feel overdone, and that’s saying something.

But really, the show is about one person.

Dear Chicago – Emily Skinner owns you.

Ever since I first heard the original Broadway cast recording of Side Show, La Skinner has been on my radar. I’ve followed her career through the live concerts she’s given with her Side Show co-star (and Tony award winner) Alice Ripley, to the concert production of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, to the “will she or won’t she” rumors surrounding the possibility of her taking on the role of Ursula in the Broadway Little Mermaid.  I knew she could sing her face off.  However, I never expected her to be as great an actress as she is.  As Mrs. Wilkinson, Billy’s gruff but golden-hearted dance instructor, Emily Skinner is a revelation. I adored her.  I wanted to take dance classes with her. Seriously, she’s grand.  She’s leaving the Chicago company soon to take over the role on Broadway, and I’m saying it now – see her do the show before she leaves.  You won’t regret it.

It was a good, solid show and I’m glad I got to see it before the Chicago run ends.

The Blogger Bash post-show was held at The Wit hotel, and was a soiree bringing together press and bloggers and other people post-show to meet some of the actors, have some drinks, and chat.  Have to say – The Wit hotel sort of put me off, as it screams hyper-trendy,  but thanks to Bob and some of his blogger friends I had a really great time. (Katie Walsh, I’m talking about you and the lovely Steve.)  In addition, we got to briefly meet three of the cast members – Billy himself (JP Viernes), Patrick Mulvey, and ensemble member Abby Church.  They were all lovely and engaging and it was nice to chat and take photos with them.

(During a moment where I got to chat with JP Viernes, I asked him if he was tired after doing such a big show.  His response – classic – was no, but that he would like a really big cookie. Spectactular, as well as a sentiment I totally agreed with.)

I had a great night – and I’m so glad I finally saw “Billy Elliot.” I can’t say the show changed my life, but you know… not everything does.

Tomorrow…

I believe the correct  word is … stoked.

:)

hawaii & i: the recap

When I look back on my honeymoon in Hawaii, a few things will always remain vivid memories.  The food, the friendliness of the people, and some of the amazing sights I saw are all permanently imprinted on me.

It’s safe to say I left a chunk of my heart on the island of Oahu.

We departed from Chicago at 4:30am on a rainy morning and made our way to O’Hare.  After some annoying check-in business (really Delta, you’re going to have one line for checking baggage – when there are 50 soldiers who need to check their bags before they can get on a plane? Really?) we boarded our first flight – to Salt Lake City. For around three hours, we slept and listened to music. All I can tell you about the Salt Lake City airport is that it has a California Pizza Kitchen, which we partook of. The flight from SLC to Honolulu was about 7 hours long, and was surprisingly fine.  I’m not a good flyer, but thanks to the movies and music I’d loaded onto my ipod, as well as Delta’s in-flight movie selections, the flight went by in a flash. (I watched the Julie Andrews “Hawaii” as well as “Please Give,” starring Catherine Keener, which were both really good.)

We arrived at Honolulu International Aiport, and the first thing we saw when we stepped outside was a palm tree. Totally a good sign.

Our home for the week was the oldest hotel on Oahu, The Royal Hawaiian Hotel.  I don’t think I have ever loved a structure as much.  It’s art-deco pink and absolutely grand. You can easily imagine movie legends of yesteryear roaming around the lobby and hallways.  We had a corner suite, and it was pure luxury. I mean, we were greeted with flower leis, banana bread, pink lemonade, and a bottle of champagne (once they realized we were honeymooning. Always drop that fact, it goes a long way.)

(A lovely English lady took this photo of us, and then told us all about the tour of the Pearl factory she’d taken that day.)

After settling in, we wandered Waikiki beach.  It was the first time I’d ever seen or touched the Pacific Ocean, and it was super special.  The ocean at Waikiki is the color of a swimming pool, crystal clear, and playful, with a current that invites you to venture out further.

As we were on crazy jet-lag time, we woke up at 7am on Sunday.  We had breakfast at Dennys, and you know what – it was grand. No joke. Sometimes a girl needs Moons over My Hammy.  You know I’m right.

But Sunday was about inital exploration, getting our bearings, and Puka Dog.

Puka. Dog.

Being the big Anthony Bourdain fans we are, part of our prep for the trip was watching the Hawaii episode of No Reservations, in which Mr. Bourdain heads to Waikiki’s Puka Dog.  After seeing the episode, we simply had to go try it for ourselves. It’s a strangely wonderful experience. A Puka Dog is a polish or veggie dog, slid into a kaiser roll that has been toasted on the inside and is filled with your choice of relishes (made from Banana, or Mango, or Pineapple.) It sounds crazy, but it’s magical. After Puka Dog, we partook of a Hawaiian favorite – shave ice.  Essentially, it’s a snow cone. And, in a land of constant warmth, it’s a welcome treat.

For the rest of Sunday, we wandered around Waikiki, which is “tourist Hawaii.”  However, it has some grand places – such as the International Marketplace, where all kinds of souvenir items are sold by various vendors.  We also spent some time swimming in the ocean, which was lovely.  The waves at Waikiki are pretty big, and wave-jumping was a lot of fun.

(Bailey’s Antiques. Like a crazy closet from Grey Gardens,

if the Edies loved the aloha spirit.)

We also followed the trail of Bourdain and took the long walk to Bailey’s Antiques, a store with 15,o00 Hawaiian shirts.  I got my Dad a shirt, and Eric got himself one.  The store is a delightful train wreck, with piles and racks of shirts, as well as knick-knacks crammed into every crevice.

Then, I got my wish and we had Ramen for dinner.

I love Ramen. Actually, I just love Japanese food.

Eric called Hawaii like being in Japan but speaking the language.  It’s true, the Japanese influence on the island is everywhere, from the food to the people.  It’s a neat blend of people of Polynesian, Japanese, Chinese, and various European origins.  Surprisingly, there were tons of Australian tourists, too.

For our Monday adventures, we rented a car and decided to circumnavigate the island.  Eric, with his fascination for all things Japanese was most excited to see the Valley of the Temples, so that was our first stop.

Well, I’m lying.  Our first stop was the Times Coffee Shop, where we had breakfast.  And by breakfast, I mean we had one of our favorite Hawaiian dishes – loco moco. That’s right, rice with hamburger patties, fried eggs, and gravy.  I know it doesn’t sound that great, but trust me when I say it is a fattening, unhealthy, and completely fatty-tastic dish.

Our bellies full (and I mean full) of rice and gravy, we headed to the Temple.

And it was gorgeous.

Happily, cameras in hand, we wandered around the grounds, and through the Buddhist temple. The highlight of the temples was not the building itself, though, but the animals on the ground. For a dollar, you can buy a bag of food pellets, and both the koi in the ponds and the resident doves are more than willing to take it off your hands. The birds literally eat out of your hands. Feeling a dove eat from your hands is an awesome experience, and Eric calls it his favorite moment of the entire trip.

After the temples, we continued north to Oahu’s famous North Shore, which would be the best place on earth to retire to.  We saw Chinaman’s hat, the Banzai Pipeline, and stopped to eat from a shrimp truck (which we were told was a must-do experience.  The food was delicious.)

Tuesday was Diamond Head day.

Diamond Head is a huge crater that makes up a big part of the landscape of Waikiki beach.  The hike up to the top was way more demanding than I expected (and proved to me that I am out of shape) but the panoramic views from the top were totally worth it. Following the crater, we took a long walk down the beach, and wound up at the marvelous Kona Brewing Company, where we dined on awesome food while sitting at an outside table overlooking a bay.  Nice work if you can get it. We tried several of Kona’s brews while visiting the island, and loved them all – but our favorite was the Fire Rock.  If you ever get the chance, give it a shot.

On Wednesday, we went to Pearl Harbor.  My Grandfather was actually stationed in Hawaii during the attack (though he wasn’t on any of the hit boats) so it was neat to wander around both the USS Missouri (a battleship) and the USS Bowfin (a submarine.)  The Missouri is a massive mountain of metal and you’re free to wander nearly anywhere.  It was on those decks that Japan signed their surrender papers, and the sense of history is all over the place.

Post-Le Harbor, we headed over to the Aloha Stadium to check out Hawaii’s largest flea market. It was overwhelmingly big, but I got a cute purse for eight bucks.

Then, we took a shuttle back to the hotel, and participated in the hotel’s cocktail hour, during which we chatted up a nice lady from Vancouver and a couple from Switzerland.  Most of the conversation was about recycling and Chicago politics.  The Royal Hawaiian is all about pampering their guests, and Mai Tais and delicious plates of food were handed out with abandon.

If I had to pick a day that was the most memorable to me, I would say Thursday, which was the day we headed to downtown Honolulu.  The city itself isn’t really anything spectacular – it’s a city, with buildings, and people, and jobs, you know? There’s a Wal-Mart, and many a Starbucks.  However, downtown Honolulu is also where many of the country’s major historical sites are located.

In particular, ‘Iolani Palace.

I loved the Palace.  It’s a beautiful building, and the audio tour you can take is informative without being droning.  The estate is lovely, and it’s astonishing to see the room in the Palace where the Queen was imprisoned for eight months. It’s no bigger than our apartment, and I know I’d have gone crazy if I couldn’t have left my apartment for 8 months. Also interesting is the basement, where there are collections of dishes, pictures, and jewels from Hawaii’s former kingdom days.  Of these treasures, the most breathtaking have to be the actual crowns wore by the King and Queen at their coronation. Gorgeous. I’d do the tour again right now if I could.

After the Palace, we headed over to the Chinatown area for a wonderful lunch (at the Little Village Noodle House) and some touristy wandering.  We walked a lot that day, and wound up having coffee and reading local papers at the Bad Ass Coffee Company.  Good atmosphere, but slightly weak tea. (I’ll forgive them.)

Since we loaded the front end of our trip with sightseeing, Friday was all about swimming and relaxing. Eric took a surf lesson, which he loved, while I chilled by the hotel pool with a fruity drink and a book. (“Night of the Living Trekkies,” which I’m reviewing here in just a few days.)  We also returned to Puka Dog and had another shave ice.

After a delicious “final” dinner at the Seaside Bar and Grill, we wound up walking through a farmers market, which was lovely.  Exhausted, we went to bed early – and I am pretty sure I had a ghost experience in the hotel while trying to fall asleep, but that’s a whole different story. It may also have been nerves about the return trip combined with a bathrobe on the couch, but whatever. Don’t judge me.

We were up early on Saturday to pack our bags. Happily, the Royal Hawaiian was eager to keep our bags until we got picked up by shuttle for our evening flight out. So, we grabbed our bathing suits and spent the day in the ocean and the two pools.  It was a nice relaxing final day in paradise.

(We took this last photo of our trip with the last exposure on the disposable, waterproof camera we bought – Smartest. Purchase. Ever.)

The flight from Honolulu to Detroit was about 9 hours long. Thanks once again to in-flight movies and our ipods, it passed fairly fast.  (I watched “The Last Station” and “Lolita.” Though I was disappointed in “Lolita” and stopped before the last 40 minutes, because I really didn’t care. Which is kind of how I felt about the novel. Again, another blog.) There was an in-flight meal, and Delta certainly doesn’t skimp on the drink carts. That thing had to have gone by seven times. It was an overnight flight, so it was quiet and peaceful.

However, I need to point out that Detroit Metro Airport sucks.

After a 9 hour flight, we landed and taxi’d to the gate. All was well, until we were told that we were stuck on the plane because no one was at the gate to open the door for us. After 9 hours in a plane, this news was not taken well. However, it was a mercifully short wait.  So Eric and I curled up in comfy chairs at the airport for our three-hour layover before our flight to Chicago.  (I finished the movie of “Lolita,” though it was still disappointing.)

At some point in those three hours, they moved our flight from gate B20 to B7.  Whatever, we moved down the hall.

However, it appears that someone forgot to tell the agents that the gate was moved.  We were slated to take off at 12:15.  At 11:45, there were still no agents to be found.  The flight crew arrived, and couldn’t get onto the plane to begin their prep.  They, fortunately, had whatever magical numbers were needed, and called for agents, and a lady arrived ten minutes later to begin taking care of the stand-by flyers and people with issues.  At 12:10, we were informed that we weren’t going to begin boarding yet.

Why, you ask? Because the crew had requested catering.

So, our flight was delayed.  At about 1:00, we started boarding.  Apparently, the crews food showed up.  It certainly wasn’t for us, as the second the plane took off an announcement came over the PA that due to the short duration of the flight, there would be no beverage service. Which would have been fine, but I think all of us passengers thought that since we’d been delayed for nearly an hour waiting for catering, a Coke was owed us.

Wahwah, once in the air, the flight was fast and we were soon on land at home in Chicago.

And I’ve never been so happy to see the Blue Line.

Once home, we greeted our cats.  They yelled at us for a few minutes before literally climbing on us for the next 12 hours and sleeping on top of us that night.  Brett, Amanda, and Michael – our cat-sitters – did a wonderful job, by the by.

So now we’re home and promptly jumped back into our hectic urban lives.

But I’ll always remember my week in island paradise. The week I wore tube dresses and flip-flops and got sunburned and ate with complete unabashedness.

I loved Hawaii.  I think everyone should go.  It’s everything you want it to be, and then some.

And yeah, it looks like that.

For real.

Wynter and Herb: Friends for all Seasons – In Concert!

Y’all, I’m so excited for this cabaret.

Herb Lentz and Wynter Spears are two teriffic singers and lovely people, and they’re teaming up for a show at Davenports Piano Bar in Chicago – And I’m totally going on the 23rd.

Everyone should come. I promise great singing, lots of laughs, and the wonderful drink selections always in rotation at Davenports.

Thursday, September 16th and 23rd – 8pm. $10 and a 2 drink minimum.

Visit Davenports for more information and reservations.

“Four Strings: The Fire Within” by Brittni Paiva

I’m not going to lie – When it comes to ukulele music, I don’t know jack.

However, on a whim while in Hawaii, I picked up a copy of Brittni Paiva’s “Four Strings: The Fire Within.”

And I’m enchanted.

Back at my office job today, listening to this CD is helping me not fall victim to tropical depression. Paiva’s playing is immaculate and the renditions are lovely. I’m particularly enamored of the “Somewhere over the Rainbow” cover, which is sparse and delicate, as well as a song called “Hour of the Lamps” that is vaguely Spanish-sounding.

Paiva is apparently 21 years old and produced her own CD, so that’s awesome too. I’m always a fan of young artists taking on established instruments and styles. (Which is probably why I love Nickel Creek so hard.)

If ukulele is your thing – or, if you don’t know if it’s your thing – this CD would be a great thing to check out. I’ll be listening to it all day, most assuredly.