Monthly Archives: June 2012

in which i am unsupervised in a Marriott

Hello readers.

Look at yourself, now back to me, now back at yourself, now back to me – I’m on a business trip!

My first genuine, bonafied, cab-rides-and-expensing-receipts business trip! This week, “Wait, Wait…Don’t Tell Me” is on the road in Bethesda, Maryland for two live shows on Thursday and Friday. Before today, the closest thing that I have ever come to going on a business trip is organized school trips, and business tripping falls in a weird place between school trips and actual vacations. While still traveling with a group like we’re on some bizarre adult field trip, it also includes large periods of unstructured time where I am supposed to be “working from hotel1.”

I still feel too young to have this much unsupervised alone time. And I am definitely not old enough to be trusted to find my own food like some sort of hunter/gatherer, or to make my own work schedule with no one looking over my shoulder. There was an awkward moment at the hotel check in desk where I had never checked into a hotel before and didn’t know what to do, followed by another equally awkward moment where I stood helpless in the lobby and watched everyone go to their respective hotel rooms and the only thing I could think was, “Wait….where are you all going? Don’t leave me!”

So far, this day has been mostly a disaster. Not on a show/job/work level – just on a personal level. In my humble opinion, any day that involves getting up before 8 a.m. is probably going to be a drawn-out trainwreck, so when my alarm went off at 5:30 this morning2, I braced myself for a whole lot of suck.

And the morning was a rough one. Then the cat was annoying, trying to climb in my carry on and eat my toast. Then a stupid movie I bought last night specifically for the purpose of watching on the plane ride today would not download onto my iPod, and I spent $7 for a movie I could not watch. Waiting for it to download also put me ten minutes behind the time I had planned to leave. Then my train card was out of money, and I had to frantically search for a station where I could load it up, which sent me into a profanity-laced panic on the corner of Lake and LaSalle. When I finally did get to the station, I I had no cash. Hello, $1.50 service fee. I would like to punch you in the face. A plague upon all service fees.

And yet, in spite of the setbacks, I still arrived at my scheduled terminal at O’Hare at least forty-five minutes before I needed to be. Curse this pure-bred punctuality that runs in my veins!

But, after all that, we arrived in Bethesda with minimal incident, upon which we took a cab to our hotel, and I was given my own key to my own hotel room. This is the first time in my entire life I have ever had a hotel room to myself – I’m pretty used to hosteling it up, and so accommodations that don’t involve roomfuls of strangers are quite surreal – and with two roommates in a studio apartment the size of my living room back in Chicago, this is likely to be the most privacy I will get all summer3. Part of me feels really liberated – it makes me want to jump on the bed with no pants on. But I wouldn’t do that. Because people on business trips don’t do that sort of stuff.

Which leads us to me. Right now. Working in my hotel room. Feeling like an adult4.

  1. Which, at this particular moment, means emailing reality TV bloggers while “Les Miserables in Concert” on PBS plays in the  background.
  2. Though my alarm did go off at 5:30, I had already been awake for half an hour, because I was desperately paranoid about missing my flight. I also woke up at 4:30…and 4…and 3:30….and 3…..so that plus changing time zones three times in the past five days has wreaked havoc on my internal clock.
  3. It is also the only time I will have a TV this summer. Also taking advantage of that.
  4. On an unrelated and mildly amusing note, the producers and I held a read through in a corridor area off the lobby today. Peter, the host of the show, whose voice is rather iconic to anyone who listens to the radio, was on speaker phone. As we worked, people would pass us by. Occasionally, when Peter was reading one of the segments, people would stare at us with that faint look of recognition in their eye, as though thinking, “That’s weird…that random meeting of people in the hallway leading to my hotel room sounds just like that radio show I sometimes listen to….”
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In which i see a galactic overlord as nature intended.

Having attended a lot of really good plays in my lifetime, I understand that there is nothing as futile as trying to explain the brilliance of a good piece of theater to someone who was not in attendance. It is comparable to trying to explain an inside joke to someone who is not apart of it, knowing that the story will inevitably end in the phrase, “You had to have been there.” I think, of all art forms, theater is the hardest to describe, because it is an engrossing and all-encompassing sensory experience, all at once transportive and reflective, a commune between audience and actors that is somehow both private and shared.

Tonight, I saw Timon of Athens, a lesser known of the Bard’s works, at the Chicago Shakespeare Theatre1. It was a rare and glorious theatrical experience. The production starred Ian McDiarmid, better known as Emperor Palpatine from the Star Wars films to my fellow nerds. There were definitely a few moments that could have used a well placed “And now young Skywalker, you will die,” or a curse upon all gungans. But he refrained, and I got over it.

I would not call Timon of Athens a jewel in the Bard’s crown. Not by any stretch of the imagination. It was coauthored, unfinished, and never saw production in Shakespeare’s lifetime. It is still rarely performed, and about halfway through the second half, you start to understand why2. However, the production stood on its own, and I found myself pretty much engrossed throughout the entirety. Until that aforementioned rough patch in the second half.

The purpose of this post, however, is more to make a unique observation about my theatrical background; namely, how do I always end up going to Shakespeare plays where an old man takes his clothes off?

Weirdly enough, this has happened three times so far. Once in a production of King Lear3  an entirely separate production of Much Ado About Nothing4, and then tonight.

Tonight was by far the most revealing.

There I was, minding my own business at the end of act five, just starting to feel a little bit bad for old Timon and his impending demise, when suddenly fwoosh! Off goes Emperor Palpatine’s shirt.

At which point I begin to silently and frantically pray, Pants on, Palpatine old boy, pants on! Because it did not take an anatomy class for me to realize that I was sitting at such an angel of the theatre that if those pants went, I would be seeing all the way to Florida.

But then he stood there for a contemplative silence, long seconds echoing around the theater with their absolute stillness, and I dared to think for a moment, Phew. Dodged that bullet. 

Then – fwoosh – no more pants. And Emperor Palpatine was naked5  

And I get it. It’s art. You’re allowed to do that. And it’s anatomy. And nobody gasps or freaks out, because we are mature and sophisticated patrons of the arts. The very fact that we opted to spend our night watching Timon of Athens pretty much asserts that we are all artistic snobs who, even if we were shocked by nudity, would be too uppity to admit it.

But it will definitely be kind of a downer when I have to tell my future husband that he isn’t the first man I ever saw naked  – that was King Lear.

  1. In unrelated news, before seeing the show, I had to buy a sweatshirt, because the Pier is freezing, and a $2 diet coke, because the Pier is overpriced.
  2. But we forgive you Bill, because Hamlet is awesome.
  3. Seriously, crazy Lear, keep your pants on.
  4. Hello strippers …. in a Shakespeare play…. weirdly enough, not the first Shakespeare play I’ve seen that featured strippers…maybe I should pick different plays to go to…..
  5. …is a phrase that has never been uttered before outside the darkest corners of Star Wars fanfiction.
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in which the voices inside a radio are actually real people.

In my lifetime, I have done my share of nerve-wracking things. The first ones that come to mind are moving halfway across the world, performing Shakespeare in front of thousands of people, and giving my phone number to a cute but obtuse accordion player1

But I have never in my life been as nervous as I was today when I started my job as intern for “Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me.” I was freaking out. Like breathing into a paper sack freaking out. Panicked to the point of talking like Yoda2.

Why? Honestly, I’m not entirely sure. It definitely had to do with me loving this show more than almost anything in the worldand I just so badly wanted them to like me. On top of all the stress that always comes with a first day, namely knowing the other employees have jobs to do other than babysit you but still being unable to function independently of them, I was disproportionately concerned about making a stellar first impression on the people whose names and voices I have been listening to and loving on the radio for so long.

But, after a few hours of crippling anxiety, extreme even for me, the day turned out kind of awesome. I got to shake hands with Peter Sagal4, participate in my very first Sandwich Monday, listen to messages from people who drunk dial the Wait Wait voicemail, read a steady stream of emails which all included ridiculous news stories, and watch videos of the Gloucester Cheese Rolling competition5. I have my own computer, an email that ends in “@npr.org,” and an alarmingly life-like portrait of Carl Kasell hanging in my cubicle, as though a constant reminder that Carl is watching. Always watching.

So as far as first days go, this was a good one. If it is any indicator for the rest of the summer, it’s gonna be amazing.

  1. Disaster.
  2. “Mackenzi, my name is. Intern, I am here to be.”
  3. Other than sweater weather and diet coke.
  4. And definitely had a moment where he was talking to me and I started grinning like a moron because all I could think was “….that’s Peter Sagal!”
  5. If you have not seen this, please go immediately to youtube and let yourself be entertained.
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in which elevated trains blow my mind

I am the sort of person who frequently, enthusiastically, and prematurely declares my love1. Whether it be for a place I have stayed in for only a few days, a television show I have seen just one or two episodes of, or a book I have just started reading, I will unflinchingly and unequivocally declare that I love it. I am the Ted Mosby of rash declarations of adoration, ready and willing to announce my undying love on the first date.

But generally, I am pretty spot on with my declarations, no matter how hasty they are. I know myself and what I like well enough to know pretty early on what sits well with me. I knew within a few days that I loved living in England. Within a few chapters that Jane Eyre was going to be my favorite book2. By just seeing the poster that (500) Days of Summer was going to be my favorite movie.

So, now that you know that about me, I will leave it up to you to assess the validity of the following statement:

OHMYGOSHEVERYONEIAMABSOLUTELYTOTALLYINLOVEWITHCHICAGO!!!!

Seriously. In love.

There are train tracks above the streets. There are benches that look like couches. There is a lake so big and blue it looks like sky. There are rusted iron bridges and skyscrapers with golden rooftops. There is a giant mirrored bean – a giant mirrored bean, I tell you!

And then there are the smaller things I am in love with, things more within my immediate sphere of existence. Like the fact that my apartment has a chalkboard wall3, and our closest grocery store is Trader Joe’s, which is essentially organic hipster paradise4. I love that our building has a doorman, which makes me feel like Eloise, and a rooftop garden, and there is a picture of an extraordinarily jovial Jesus in our bathroom . I am even mildly amused by the vocally needy cat that lives with us.

And then there is the fact that I am constantly surrounded by gallery exhibit of humanity, caught in the center of a whirlpool of extremity and experience. Within the walk I took today, I was surrounded by hundreds of different languages, ethnicities, cultures, and stories. And though I have only been here one day, I feel a part of the city, because it is essentially a world of strangers with only one thing that unites us all; the fact that in this moment, we all inhabit the same space, experiencing the same city, no matter how briefly. We are all taking goofy pictures of our reflections in a giant mirrored bean5.

And just twenty-four hours since my arrival, I can say with some degree of confidence that this summer is going to be legendary.

  1. Surprisingly, this doesn’t happen in relationships. Just in everything else.
  2. This is partially a lie. The first ten chapters of Jane Eyre are the least exciting part of the book, and I definitely restarted the book at least five times before I made it through them. However, once I got past, I feel instantly in deep love.
  3. I have a thing for chalkboard walls, and have long dreamed of living somewhere with one. However, it will probably be a long time until I am brave enough to actually draw on it. There is some subconscious wiring within me that screams, “Do not draw on walls!”
  4. The groceries are organic, not the hipsters.
  5. A giant mirrored bean, I tell you!
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