Not A Very Exciting Update

17 Jan

“School’s cancelled – no tours. See you tomorrow!”

That’s the text I wake up to this morning and honestly, I’m bummed. This city shuts down when there’s 1 inch of snow. When schools close, they cancel tours and there’s no reason to go into the museum.

 

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Other than to see the machines come alive at night that is!

This is my second week working at the Museum of Industry and it is great. As much as I loved working at the Museum of the American Gangster in NY, it’s like comparing a school play to Broadway. There is SO many parts to working there from the kids’ cannery and assembly line, the old timey store fronts and mini theater. If you love pretending its 1883 oh man, this place is for you.

It has quite a cast of characters as well: Jen, the dyed hair woman who always seems to laugh sinisterly whenever I ask a question, Pat, the older gentleman who taken to e-mailing me posts from the educators’ FB group since I mentioned that I don’t have one, the boss who hangs out in the break-room with everyone talking about text-based game apps. I would love to get to know them more if we ever get back to work.

I FINALLY had a chance to go to the Baltimore Improv Group last Thursday. Ari agreed to do a scene with me. He was so nervous. I wasn’t. I probably should have been because I was awful and so rusty. And it was especially embarrassing since I met all these people beforehand and went on and on about my experience in NYC like a dummy. And then I got on stage and was the WORST. Ari got laughs though. He’s so damn naturally talented without any training it makes me so mad. But also proud. Maybe 75/25.

I have to get out of my head more.

I want to start writing more, non-bog related stuff, any ideas?

Seriously Im open to any and all.

Enjoy the snow my babes!

 

BDSM: Baltimore Doesn’t Scare Me

6 Jan

“Don’t forget to play Macho Man! And YMCA!” My manager is texting me.

I’m standing in a dark elevated DJ booth futilely trying to hook up mixer wires into my computer, looking out over Baltimore’s premiere leather BDSM gay bar.

It’s my 11th day in Maryland.

Back up.

I spent my first week training to start doing trivia with a new company here. Although it’s a different format than Geeks Who Drink’s trivia, I was so happy to be back in my element – with a microphone in my hand, reading questions to drunk nerds. My manager gave me two bars to host weekly, one, an Irish bar in Timonium, with decor that wouldn’t look out of place on Game of Thrones. It’s a warm place with an older crowd. Easy peasy.

Manager, whom I’ll call Dan, messages me on Monday asking me if I’d be OK heading up a new locale, a hip gay bar downtown. The guy they have isn’t working out and they want someone with a lot of energy and experience. I readily agree. It’d be a nice contrast to the relaxed pace of the Irish bar. I start looking on their website to find the address.

The first thing I see pop up on the site are two rugged men wearing gimp masks. Another photo of 6 burly men caressing a football wearing what appear to be thongs.

The screen reads: “Leather. Bear. Fetish. BDSM. Life’s better with a little punishment.”

What?

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t have a problem with kinks – far from it. But what kind of bondage bar has a trivia night??? I text my manager jokingly pointing out that he didn’t clarify what KIND of gay bar I’d be working at – he hastily tries to assure me that they are just trying to fill the slow hours evening between opening and when it gets wild with something that’ll attract “after-work gays.”

I ask Ari if he wants to accompany me. He politely declines.

I don’t know if it’s because it’s winter (so dark early), every area is unfamiliar to me or because many articles I’ve read recently referred to this city as “Bodymore, Murderland” (first of all, Bodymore? Not Bulletmore? Come on people – use your brain) but I was apprehensive about the bar while looking for parking. Inside though, it was clean and Depreche Mod played softly from the speakers, everything was chrome and brick. Tasteful black and white photos of men cuddling hung from the walls. A sign pointing upstairs told me there was a bondage shop selling everything from whips to bow ties (“for that special occasion.”) I’m pretty sure everyone inside thought I was lost.

A lone bespectacled man sipped from a pink drink at the bar. I introduced myself to the bartender Nicole who informed me that trivia actually start at 8, not 7:30 as I was told. I had 2 hours to kill.

I started setting up my equipment. Buddha Beer Bar had a slightly raised platform for me to stand on, the Irish pub had a castle like area with turrets surrounding it, but this bar had a DJ booth. I was at least 3 feet above the audience and I felt very on display (not as on-display as the jock-straps in the corner but pretty close).

After some technical difficulties, the game started and once I had my script going, it went smoothly. There were 3 teams thankfully so nothing was too overwhelming. Two hours went by with no disasters – not bad for my first solo show.

The only awkward part of the night was when I announced the category “Baseball” and guys booed. I fired back with “If you guys hate sports so much why are you watching basketball HMMM??” And then immediately remembered where I was.

The next category was “the devil” and everyone cheered.

The category after that was “land borders” which received no response.

I mentioned that I was new to the city and got a cheer. Afterwards, guys came up to me to welcome me and to ask if I would be doing trivia every week.

I spent a while talking to three young men who informed me that it was “twink night” at the bar, which was why there was only one guy walking around with a leather kilt and harness. They were also delighted to learn I was in comedy and one gave me his number and email to put me in contact with a friend of his who hosts ladies’ open mics. Of all the things I was expecting that night, getting a guy’s number was not one of them.

And I didn’t play The Village People like my boss enthusiastically suggested.

It felt wonderful to be back on stage. Tues, Wednesday and Thursday were great. I met the director of the Baltimore Museum of Industry, where I’ll be giving tours, Thursday night Ari and I explored a very cool brewery in town.

Friday was hard.

I was driving around, buying food for Shabbat, going to the library, a doctor’s appointment. And starting feeling terribly homesick for New York. There’s so much I miss. Walking everywhere. The energy I feel from the huge amount of people everywhere. Or even the safety I feel from the huge amount of people everywhere. The lights, the buildings, the noise. The general buzz of electricity around every corner. In Baltimore, even in the cityest part feels spacious and empty. The complex we’re in started to feel like I was stranded on a desert island. My car closed in on me.

“What have I done?” I thought, crying and driving. “Why did I leave my friends and my home? This place isn’t for me. I want to go home.” Knowing that home was here now.

Just thinking about it makes me throat close up even now.

I have to keep reminding myself why I wanted to move in the first place. To challenge myself creatively – to live somewhere where I could find a different audience and different experiences. A place that would put me closer to where I needed to be despite the fact that it feels like I’m isolated. A place that would be a compromise between the suburbs, quiet and space Ari wants and the city where I could do everything I dreamed of.

The fact that I could just jump in the first week, get on stage, and take control is a testament to how much I accomplished and learned in NY.

Sure, I could’ve stayed there, continuing to do a good job at trivia, stay an intern at QED, spend 45 min on the train to go to open mics and compete with the biggest talents and attractions in the world for an audience (in a theoretical sense – I don’t consider myself anything on the same level as “competition” to any amazing shows in the city obviously).

But it’s hard. And sometimes I feel sad and scared and utterly panicked that I made a huge mistake. And other times I feel elated and proud and completely enthralled by the promise of a new city and fascinating new experiences at every turn.

And sometimes I think of a mantra: “a comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.”

Stay warm, friends 🙂

Africa or Israel? My First Official Day Here

28 Dec

I am going to mark yesterday as my first OFFICIAL day in Baltimore even though Ari and I have been here for almost a week. Because before yesterday I don’t think I even talked to anyone outside of Whiskey and the grumpy Jewish guy who works at 7 Mile (and it was to say ‘no plastic bags please! We just moved here!’ and he was not excited at all. Whatever man! I’m here get used to it!)

Finally, New Yorkers should get the respect they don’t deserve at all!

But before I talk about my first real day, I want to do a movie review on one we saw Tuesday and that was Downsizing, starring Matt Damon. It’s about a world where scientists have discovered the ability to shrink people down in the hopes of reducing their carbon footprint but also to make their lives easier by making their money go further. Ari showed me the trailer a few months ago and I thought wow that’s definitely a unique concept for a movie – I’m in! AND it has Kristin Wiig AND the love of my life Christoph Waltz?! Count me double in.

But (and total SPOILER ALERTS ahead – look for SPOILER OVER further down), the movie was not what was pitched in the trailer. I was expecting tiny people getting drunk off 1/10 a shot of vodka and playing in doll houses or whatever. What I actually got was a serious, almost preachy doomsday movie about climate change. And I ALREADY SAW DARREN ARONOFSKY’S ‘MOTHER!’THIS YEAR I CANT HANDLE ANY MORE ECO MOVIES.(honestly though, Mother! fucked me up.  I was actively angry after I saw that film.) Christoph, is, as always, a darling little chestnut of a gem in the film and he can no wrong. Ever. But why put comedy geniuses Jason Sudeikis and Kristin Wiig in a film when you’re going to make them be the most boring characters ever?! I honestly can’t remember a single interesting line either one of them said. They play blank slabs of concrete in the movie I think. Anyways, once you know what you’re in for, yes it’s pretty good. Except it mostly takes place within the small world so you almost forget everything is .04 normal human size – and then, what was the point of making the movie at all?

Maybe I’m dumb and don’t understand it – that’s possible, feel free to tell me what you thought of it.

SPOILERS OVER

I’ll tell you what’s spoiled, me, for other men after watching Christoph Waltz smile even one time. What a lovely little coconut.

ANYWAYS. Back to Bmore. So I applied to run trivia down here because I had such a wonderful time with Geeks Who Drink – I trained last night with the manager at one of the companies down here. The Manager called me back Tuesday night at 11pm to tell me to meet him last night in order to learn how to run their music trivia.

I got to the bar, which was literally in the definition of the term random. It was a bar right off the highway, seemingly surrounded on all sides by a parking lot. Inside it was dark, there were pool tables and tiki lights. It seemed like a place Sam and Dean Winchester would stop at after chopping off a vampire’s head.

I got a Blue Moon, found the Manager and realized that when he said he liked to do trivia he LIKED to do trivia. I’ve never met such a hyper, not-on-coke, person in my life. He was like a hummingbird that looked like Jim Carrey. I was giving out answer sheets when a man with the most spectacular  mustache came up to me. He looked like a stubbly flannel-wearing Snidely Whiplash. “M’friends call me ‘Stash,” he told me.

I guess he didn’t have a name before he hit puberty. Or friends. Or maybe he was born with the ‘stash what do I know.

As intimidating as ‘Stash looked, he was a sweetheart – which I’ve found to be the case in most bars when I do trivia. The guys who may look tough are the ones who love to joke with you.

Music trivia was great – it’s very little scoring since it’s a Bingo format. The Manager was very much jump-in-sink-or-swim kind of teaching which I like and it felt so good to be back on the mic.

After the show, one woman, Cathie, came over to talk to us. She started asking the Manager where he was from since they were both native Baltimorions (or Baltimorons as people who are not me like to say). Someone they both started talking about the Catholic school featured in Netflix’s The Keepers. They both knew a friend or a friend-of-a-friend who went their during the sex abuse scandal or other priests in the area. It was fascinating to me to hear what people thought of the documentary about their little area (even though I only watched 2 episodes – it was really upsetting and as I said I ALREADY WATCHED ‘MOTHER!’ THIS YEAR). She asked me where I was from and I told her I moved to Baltimore 3 days ago. She clapped her hands.

“Oh my God that’s so great! Welcome to Baltimore! Which part do you live in now?”

“Pikesville?”

“Oh I know that area….do you like in Israel or in (she lowered her voice)…Africa?”

I’m not sure why she chose to do that for the Africa part and not the Israel part. I assumed she meant the parts where I live with all the ultra-orthodox. I told her Israel. I mentioned that I went to College Park so MD wasn’t entirely unfamiliar to me. That led her on a story about her boyfriend who lives in CP and the murders he’s witnessed vs. how many she’s seen by her house. I love that the number crimes you’ve seen is something to brag about. And by love I mean it’s deeply unsettling. We are definitely not in Kansas anymore.

But everyone at the bar, Manager, ‘Stash, Cathie, the bartenders, the 3 people who saw me looking for the women’s room and pointed me in the right direction, were super nice. I am already exhausted by the amount of strangers who have spoken to me.

Tonight I’m shadowing the regular trivia game.

After a few days of settling in I’m eager to start creating. It is also FREEZING outside, but 10 degrees warmer than New York so that helps my homesickness a bit 🙂

 

 

Quoth the Raven, “Hello Baltimore!”

25 Dec

Hello! Out there internet!

 

I’ve been feeling kind of anxious and blah lately, gearing up for the move to Baltimore and then spending yesterday moving (honestly, did not think through the 8am Sunday morning Christmas Eve move time – people were NOT happy waking up to boxes thunking down stairs. I was coming in from the car when an old woman on the first floor opened her door and yelled ‘what the FUCK is going on?’ at me and I looked around shocked and said ‘I THINK someone is moving so early wow that terrible’ and she was placated) and today putting stuff away. Anxious and nervous about moving to a new city almost on a whim but we did it and we’re here, there are literal ravens everywhere, there are yellow black white and red flags on everything. Welcome to Baltimore.

 

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“RAVENS CAN MIMIC HUMANS!”

 

I just spent like 6 minutes looking up facts about ravens and they are fascinating. Never ever make one mad because they are scarily smart, old grudges, take revenge and also rove around in teenage bird gangs. Is there no place in Baltimore safe from crime?? Even the local bird population really?? I think I watched something about it on the Baltimore bird crime show The (Telephone) Wire. Yes, I’m rusty at comedy thanks for asking.

 

Yup, I’m super rusty and tomorrow I’m going to hit up an open mic maybe, or an improv show. Since driving down last week to pick up the apartment keys I’ve been discovering podcasts (like a zillion years after everyone else) and I’ve been binge-listening to Comedy Bang Bang every second of the day. I loved the show on Netflix but never had a commute so wasn’t interested in the whole listening vibe of it but now it’s been on non-stop for 6 days. It’s so so great and stupid. I had an improv coach that would laugh at stuff we did and then say ‘that is so stupid.’ It was his highest form of flattery. It’s been a while since I’ve found so much joy in a comedy thing instead of anxiety that I wasn’t working hard enough on my own projects – that’s so dumb. It’s so hard to divorce the part that loves comedy and derives happiness from the part that’s like ugh this is amazing I’m so envious and anxious about my own stupid projects. Silly.

2018 is gonna be the year of getting back to enjoying things for its own sake.

 

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“I ENJOY TURNING BITS OF METAL INTO HOOKS TO PICK UP FOOD WHICH IS SOMETHING HUMAN CHILDREN COULDN’T FIGURE OUT WHEN PRESENTED WITH THE SAME MATERIALS”

 

I have a few job interviews lines up this week – they’re both part time gigs and at museums/performance venues so that should be fun! And trivia! Hope to get that up and running soon too.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, I hope all your holidays were bright and lovely. Here’s to a year of success, joy, light, warmth and cookies 🙂

 

Sweeping Generalizations.

6 Dec

Fifteen days until the Woolf-Manas’s hit the road and head to Charm City.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the last time I lived down there, in the summer of 2012 while interning at the Baltimore Sun. It was awful. I lived in a dirty apartment with zero furniture aside from a bed, a folding table and a giant stuffed lion Ari won me at Six Flags that I used as my couch.

I knew no one in the town, I rarely ventured outside my neighborhood for fear of wandering into ‘stab city’ as my coworker called parts of the area she thought were dangerous. I worked Tuesday-Thursday and as soon as Friday came I would drive right back to NYC. I only explored the city ONE time and that was when my mom came to visit and asked me to show her around.

But there was something that sparked my interest that summer. I was procrastinating some task (my main job was to research and collect info about all the events taking place in Bmore into one database – I fully understood the irony of knowing about exactly every hot and happening thing in the city and going to 0.0 percent of them) and stumbled into a rabbit-hole which led me to an article about how horrible the working conditions are for the people who make H&M clothing. I dug deeper and deeper into the world of sweatshops and fair trade and factories overseas. It’s terrible. And sad. Ultimately I came across a site about minimalism – a lifestyle where you have a very limited number of belongings which will lead to hopefully, a more intentional life, uncluttered by material objects.

I loved it. I vowed NEVER TO BUY ANYTHING AGAIN. 

That lasted three weeks. When I needed a new dress for my engagement party.

It just wasn’t sustainable. I love to shop. It’s a bonding activity for me and my mom, and me and my friends. I love decorating my home with fun things. I love finding treasures at thrift stores or better yet, from the sidewalk or book-share. In the back of my mind however, I occasionally thought back to the one week where I was SURE I could live off a few T-shirts, a couple of books and my laptop. It never happened.

After my last post where I talked about how getting rid of Facebook has led me to get rid of other unnecessary items, I actually borrowed The Magic of Tidying Up. I didn’t just read the article with the bullet points! And now I kind of understand why it didn’t work the first time.  Five years ago, I eschewed material items out of guilt for how they’re made. I wanted a pat on the back for being socially conscious without actually doing anything. And my little shopping-strike barely lasted a month (in the words of our “esteemed” president: Sad!)

After actually reading more about minimalism, I understand that it’s a conscious and intentional choice-filled lifestyle. It’s not about getting rid of stuff but purposefully choosing to KEEP the stuff you truly care about. And I’m not making any grand promises but I’ve been going through the apartment in the way KonMari lays out and it’s amazing how much stuff I’ve steadfastly been holding onto because it was free, or expensive, or a gift, or from a relative, or a souvenir, or a wedding gift. I wasn’t keeping it because I LIKED the item for what the item was. Things are not people. A necklace from my mom is just that, a necklace. It’s not the relationship in and of itself. Once things outlive their purpose (and sometimes that purpose is to make me happy for a few days and maybe be worn once) it’s time to let them go. (Also, I don’t need trinkets from my mom. I literally have her exact facial features so it’s not like I can ever not be reminded of her).

I’m not going to make outlandish promises this time. I am not going to pat myself on the back. I’m not even gonna pat myself on the back for not patting myself on the back!

I am going to donate a shit ton of stuff to Goodwill and hope that someone else will get a happy day out of a new necklace like I had the chance to.

 

Goodbye Facebook!

4 Dec

Hello friends!

I am here to tell you that I deleted my Facebook exactly one week ago.

Well, not exactly because FB doesn’t let you actually delete your profile for two weeks. They put it in deactivation mode for 14 days and if you don’t log in at all within those two weeks THEN it’s deleted. But if you log in even one time within that time frame, you have to start the whole process over. I can’t tell if it’s courteous or diabolical.

(PSA: I’m not here to tell you that you’re all zombies under Big Zuckerberg – Facebook brought me a lot of usefulness during the 12 years I had it; jobs, friendships, news, happiness. But honestly, in the past few years it stopped bringing me joy. The few opportunities I got from the site (including the one that led me to perform on the Lifetime Channel which was very groovy) stopped being worth the seemingly endless time I spent scrolling mindlessly throughout the day).

To save time, here are all my answers to questions I’ve received this week:

“Why didn’t you just deactivate it?” 

I tried that. I tried deleting the app from my phone but I just logged on via the Chrome app. I tried making other people change my password so I couldn’t sign on. It just stressed me out that people might be messaging me and I wouldn’t be able to respond. I am totally addicted. I have a pretty helpful rule in my life and that’s that if something strikes me as scary then it’s a pretty good indicator that I should go through with it. The thought of deleting my Facebook was scary. The more I thought about it, the more I questioned why that was. And that fear was all the more reason to severe ties.

“But I like my Facebook!”

Good! I’m glad! You should do and hold onto things that make you happy. There are some things I will miss but a lot I won’t. It comes down to the fact that I spent a lot of time on Facebook being jealous. Of other comedians’ shows and success and likes. Of people’s vacations and babies and wondering whether my own posts will cause the same envy in others. Reading political fights and seeing cyberbullying among friends and strangers added an unnecessary stress to my life. Not to mention the social experiments FB regularly administers.

“Don’t you need Facebook though? To promote shows and yourself etc?” 

I am far from off the grid. I have Twitter and Youtube and Instagram (if you need to see pics of Whiskey) and God help me, even a Tumblr which I never post on. And this very website you are reading! Plus, I’ve PAID for ads to promote shows on FB in the past and have still had underwhelming audience attendance because I relied so heavily on Facebook promoting for me. Now I guess I’ll have to get creative. Maybe skywriting or going up to people and telling them about shows until I get restraining orders.

“But I liked your posts!”

Feel free to text me, 646-229-1418 any time and I will be happy to tell you any new thoughts on West World, the MTA, working at the Museum of the American Gangster or any other non-sequiturs that cross my mind during the day.

“Will you ever make a profile again?”

Maybe one day. I always knew I wouldn’t want to post baby pictures on Facebook (when that day comes) since giving photos of someone who can’t consent, to a corporation seemed icky (it might be hard to avoid though since Google/Apple probably will own any photos on my iPhone anyways).  This week has been pretty illuminating though in the sense that I catch myself typing in ‘www.Fac…’ before I realize what I’m doing. It’s also not the first thing I check when I wake up or on when Shabbat ends. It’s immensely freeing.

Ari and I are moving to Baltimore in a little more than two weeks and I’ve been decluttering while packing. In The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up (which I have not read yet but I’ve read articles on) there is a question posed: Does it bring me joy?

Some stuff does: a stuffed rabbit with a mustache Joy and Liana got me for my birthday, a beta fish my sister bought me that’s lived for an surprising long time, a Ukulele I have not learned to play yet but dammit I will, a T shirt from Urban Outfitters that says “United States of New York: which I am currently wearing.

Some stuff does not: Skirts I bought to wear when I worked at Fox and don’t really fit into anymore nor have any place to wear them to, papers and expired coupons and receipts, DVDs I took from the free stuff pile simply because they were free. Actually most stuff I’m getting rid of were taken to begin with because they were cheap or free.

My friends bring me joy. I’ll still have them no matter what social platforms I subscribe to. My family brings me joy. Even though they live in Israel I probably talk to them more than ever. Ari and Whiskey bring me joy and they are both currently 20 feet away from me.

Writing brings me joy and now I have one less distraction or reason to put it off.

You bring me joy too reader and I hope we can chat face to face soon 🙂

Aviva Woolf, Dog Runner

26 Oct

“Do you realize everyone coming for lunch on Shabbat has either a Masters degree or in medical school except for me?” I asked Ari while he was brushing his teeth last night.

“Yes, that’s true. But if it makes you feel better, you have more jobs than anyone combined!”

“Hm.”

I do have a lot going on these days: giving tours at the Museum of the American Gangster (on St. Marks! Come visit! Get a Groupon!), working at QED for another few weeks, Trivia on Tuesday night, babysitting and now walking dogs for Wag. I downloaded the app last week but didn’t start until yesterday. I was walking to the library and got a ping on my phone that a dog needed walking ASAP within .4 miles and like a pretty mild superhero – I was there!

I hadn’t walked any dogs before (and may have embellished my dog experience on my resume) so I was a bit nervous but I HAD gone to the mandatory orientation in DUMBO so I thought, how hard could it be?

I walked up to the apartment and knocked. A large man opened the door enough to just show his face. He looked me up and down.

“You’re here to walk Max? Let me get him ready.” He shut the door in my face.

Five minutes go by and I’m wondering how long it could take to put a leash on a dang dog. My mind started entertaining crazy things like hey, maybe it’ll be a dude in a dog costume on a leash like that one scene in Preacher that I don’t fully understand.

 

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Dalm-abomi-nation

But no! The man finally returned with just the most GIGANTIC dog I’ve ever seen. A pit bull that immediately started jumping on me, slightly nipping at me. He handed me the dog’s leash/rope while I laughed like ‘haha oh a BEAR! That’s cool! I walk monsters all the time! Here we go, this dog weighs as much as I do! Off we go, dog from Sandlot!’

It half-dragged me downstairs and I held on with both hands like a cartoon. I started to get the hang of it as we walked down Amsterdam and I noticed almost immediately how people started getting out of my way. While this Pit looked pretty vicious he was actually just an energetic sweetie! It was such a rush, walking down the street with this massive dog – tiny dogs scrambled to their owners, sketchy teens on the corner gave me a wide berth. guys hanging outside the corner store pressed against the wall. I felt like some sort of powerful demigod. Run tiny dogs! Flee scared old women!

 

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How I looked.


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How I felt 

 

Since yesterday I’ve walked a few pups and while they’re all so sweet (and strong!) dogs are EXHAUSTING. They’re all jumping and walking and crying when you leave. It’s nice to come back to my kitty who sleeps, curls up on me, sleeps, eats and sleeps some more.

 

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I hate to walk as much as you do. 

Bittersweetly, I won’t be at these jobs much longer. Ari and I went down to Baltimore last week and we’ve decided to move down there for a year, check it out. We visited the improv theater (BIG) and I was able to talk to some people about comedy there. I love to perform and I love living in the city – there’s no reason why I need to live in *the* most expensive one.

I’m ready for an adventure. And luckily I still have my blog posts from my summer in Baltimore to remind me how fun it was too! (or at least how awful it was writing for The Baltimore Sun)

Fuck You Green Shirt

18 Oct

Growing up, my family went to an orthodox synagogue that was a 20 min walk from my house.

Every Saturday starting from when I was 9 years old, we’d wake up at 8:30 am and walk down Union Turnpike until Francis Lewis Boulevard, make a left and go straight until we saw the low, beige building after the bridge. I never particularly enjoyed going to this orthodox shul until I made friends who I’d hide with in the stairwell instead of praying in the main sanctuary. I always felt oversized and awkward in my Shabbat clothes (and not just because of my boobs). It felt like a fashion show that I’d always lose. That feeling didn’t really go away once I got older and I still feel anxiety going to shul today but this post isn’t about religion or New York Jewry or even clothes.

It’s about the walk home from shul.

Sometimes, when I didn’t feel like waiting for my parents and siblings, I’d leave early and walk along Union Turnpike on my own. It was a long stretch of street with “forests” on either side. I know they’re not actual forests since it was Queens and probably barely half a mile deep but they were long areas of trees and every 1000 feet there was a sign that said FOREVER WILD (which I always wanted to steal when I was a teen).

 

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And the picture was some sort of indifferent dinosaur watching a drowning man wave.

 

I would walk home lost in my own thoughts, writing poems or picking up cool leaves. But sooner or later. I would hear a car honk at me. Without fail. Every week. It would be one man, or two. Or teenage boys. Always looking at me – sometimes waving or sometimes shouting things at me. This was such a common occurrence that one time I walked home from school in a heavy snowstorm down that road and heard insistent honking – after trying to block it out for 10 min I finally looked up to see a friend’s dad trying valiantly to offer me a ride home. There was only one reason cars honked at me on that road. And while I didn’t necessarily feel unsafe walking home during the daytime from shul, I always felt embarrassed and powerless. I was 10 or 11. I didn’t stick up my middle finger or shout SHUT THE FUCK UP. I shrugged and said it was a compliment. It was part of life.

This #metoo thing is trending on Facebook and Twitter (as much as stories of sexual assault can be “trendy” but that’s the word so). So many women speaking up about their experiences with unwanted sexual attention, tactile or otherwise, and giving support to those who’ve had similar things happen to them.  I watched my newsfeed flood with the posts and applauded them. I didn’t join in the tag because I don’t think I qualify (whatever that means) as a victim of sexual assault and don’t want to cheapen others’ brave declarations with my jumping “on the bandwagon.” I read stories about my friends having strangers stick their fingers up their skirts as teenagers and bosses touching them inappropriately. On and on. It’s devastating. And I felt lucky that I had (thank God) never experienced sexual assault. I feel weird and bad writing this right now because it’s hard to explain how sad and lucky I feel at the same time. I know it’s only random dumb luck that I haven’t been. There’s no real way to prevent it aside from educating and punishing men, it’s their fault and a patriarchal society where men get away with it.

Which brings me to last night.

Last night was trivia. I’ve been running trivia in Washington Heights for almost two years which might be the longest job I’ve ever had. Tuesday nights are the highlight of my week. I love walking in the bar, saying hi to the bartenders and regulars. I am in charge and I love knowing what I’m doing. It’s so fun and I’m good at it. Even when things don’t work, I know what to do. I have a regular order. Sometimes people see me in the streets in the Heights and recognize me. And 99% of the time, it’s great. And even when it’s slow, or hectic or freezing, it’s always a place where I feel competent.

It started off as a normal game, rules, prizes, round one. I called up team members for the first bonus round where one person from a team comes up and writes an answer to a question, the first correct answer gets a free beer. There were about 12 people and one guy, wearing a green shirt, starts shouting “What the hell! I’m all the way back here! How can I even win this shit?” I joked that he was allowed to elbow people out of the way, much like I do every week. He was still shouting and I made my blanket statement that he could complain at our website.

“I’m going to www. I don’t give a fuck!” He grumbled.

I asked the question. He didn’t get it. He stomped up to me and threw the answer packet in my face and walked away. I glanced around and saw some people shaking their heads or doing that thing where you raise an eyebrows like ‘what an asshole.’ I smiled at them “It’s a bar! What can ya do?” I asked.

The next round was an audio round. I play 8 clips of songs and people have to write down the title and artist. Green Shirt was talking loudly at the bar. We play two songs and I realize I hadn’t downloaded the third one onto iTunes, so I paused it and told everyone to wait a couple of seconds while I grabbed it from my folder.

“OH MAN SHE CAN’T DO IT. SHE’S JUST A WOMAN!” Green Shirt started shouting at me. “FEMINISM AT ITS FINEST RIGHT?!” 

I focused on my iTunes. I kept my head down. Hoped the honking would stop.

“WHY ARE ALL THESE SONGS BEING SUNG BY WOMEN? THEY SUCK!” He continued shouting to anyone.

I got the song up again. “Sorry you had to listen to that guy everyone!” I apologized. My hands were shaky. He didn’t stop. He started loudly singing along to songs and shouting out answers, ruining the game for everyone. One woman told him to stop and he shrugged it off.

Who was this guy? It was like he was some sort of sentient robot who downloaded all of Reddit’s MRA posts and walked to the nearest bar. Usually when I trip up a question, that’s just me, Aviva, not knowing how to read or fucking up the audio.

This time I was a “woman” who couldn’t do a simple job. It was awful.

But what was even more awful was that I didn’t know what to do. I had tried to joke it off earlier, I had even jokingly apologized FOR HIM. What I wanted to do was say “Hey. Shut the fuck up.” Was I allowed to do that? Would I get in trouble??? Would I get fired???? What would someone else do???? How do I diffuse this???

Lili the bartender came by to pick up some glasses. She saw my face and assured me he would be leaving soon. I told her that he had thrown the answer booklet at me and she told me she would kick him out now. I thanked her and she said “Of course, you work here, if anyone makes you feel uncomfortable we can do something.” Soon, he had finished his beer and was gone.  Off to another bar to make someone feel shitty I assumed. How could there be men like this? Or people like this? The rest of the game felt off. I felt stupid stupid stupid that I didn’t say anything or that I was even letting it get to me. I resorted to what a lot of us do, tell ourselves it could be worse! I wasn’t physically harmed! The only thing hurt was my pride! Shrug it off. It’s part of life.

So, this post isn’t funny. It’s pretty sad and I feel a tiny bit sad about it even today. Sad that no matter how safe we can feel in a space, there might be someone to come by and shatter that. Sad that so many women get hurt by strangers and friends and family on a daily basis. Sad for that 11 year old girl who would hurry home instead of taking the extra time to look at the leaves on the way.

I wrote that on Facebook that I wanted to focus on the woman who shouted at Green Shirt and the bartenders who asked him to leave. That’s the positive here. Sticking up for friends and coworkers who need help from creeps and bros and “well meaning” guys. I hope I’m brave like that for someone else.

And while I was too distraught to say it last night: Fuck you Green Shirt. Get the hell out.

 

Map of America on My Dartboard

8 Oct

I’m taking a BuzzFeed quiz. Where Should You Actually Live? 

But I’m asking honestly. Oh great and wise BuzzFeed. Where should I live?

Ari and I want to move out of New York. Our apartment in Washington Heights is insanely expensive. My family has upped and moved to Israel. While I’ve started a road down comedy and performance I’m itching to explore a new scene, a new city. A lot of my friends have moved. To the suburbs. To California. Tel Aviv.

Why not me?

I started working at The Museum of the American Gangster last week. I thought I would only be working a few months before we were out of here. We had given Baltimore a real soft yes for places. We have friends down there, I lived there for a while during college, there’s Jews and a pretty nice improv theater. There’s museums I could work at and it’s not that far from DC or New York. But Ari says that before we commit to buying property we should seriously explore all our options. That means more research and more decisions. I’m not good with decisions. Or rather, I’m too good. I make a decision and that’s it. No going back. Do or die. I chose one seminary, one college, one major, one guy. Sure since then it’s been a windy path with stopovers in What-The-Fuck-Am-I-Doing-Ville but I hate second-guessing. I’d rather just dive in and figure it out on the way down. Ari doesn’t like that. He wants to write pro and cons lists and interview people. Probably a better way of going through life than me who basically makes her life decisions based on dart boards and BuzzFeed quizzes.

Now BuzzFeed wants to know whether I’m an AC or fan person.

Public transportation or Uber?

It wants to know if I need to be within walking distance of Starbucks at all times.

Now BuzzFeed is telling me I should live in New York. Goddamit BuzzFeed! You are so useless I don’t even care that you’re the only news outlet that published the Trump Dossier!

If anyone is reading this and can tell me what to do that would be great. Here’s what I need:

A place where the seasons change.

A city. Either in the city or v close to one.

Kosher food and a liberal Jewish community would be nice.

Honestly, that’s it. Ari works from home and I don’t care where I work as long as I have a stage to perform on at night creating things with interesting and nice and funny people.

So have at.

Comment any ideas or suggestions.

Thanks 🙂

 

 

 

 

What?? ANOTHER Post About Rejection?

11 Sep

Two months later: Insurance said no.

WTF. That was anti-climactic.

But I’ve made the decision to go through with the surgery anyways with another doctor that is highly recommended by my friend and pay for it out-of-pocket. I totally realize that I’m lucky that I have that option, and honestly it’s less than I would have expected.

So that’s all caught up.

I really appreciated the people who have written to me after the post about their own experiences – I always like hearing thoughts on my posts. As always, keep it 100% positive because of my fragile and baby-birdlike ego.

 

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“I don’t care that you found a spelling mistake!”

 

 

Speaking of crushing rejection, these past few weeks have been a banner week in the Bender household. I had two auditions for two different exciting performance-based (and paying!) gigs – one was for a murder mystery theater company, the other was for a pretty prestigious acting troupe that performed sketches written by kids called Story Pirates. The first one was a terrible audition experience and I didn’t get it. The second was an AMAZING audition experience…and I also didn’t get it.

But I now know that it feels even shittier to get rejected after a fun and supportive audition when your hopes are as high as can be. Luckily, I have friends and mentors who were ready to let me cry/cheer me up/send me puppy pics. My sister Shira’s personal brand of cheering up is the slash and burn kind, “Screw em, next project.”

 

 

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“I said chocolate sprinkles!” – My sister, probably

 

When I got the second “it’s a no from me dawg” email, I was walking around East 34th and Lexington after a commercial acting class. I started crying like a big dumb baby cliche. It probably would have been embarrassing if I had a sense of shame anymore or wasn’t in New York City, the land of weirdos.

 

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New York.

 

 

In 2014 I had one thing on my bucket list, “Go to an Open Mic.” That was it. ‘Don’t die before you’ve tried to go on stage once’. And there I was devastated that I didn’t get something that I never in my wildest dreams a few years ago thought I would ever get near enough to even try-out for.

It still felt bad though.

There’s a poster I keep on my fridge that says “There is no elevator to success, you have to take the stairs” (It’s on the fridge, not because it has anything to do with food but because I drew the poster myself and I think that’s where you just hang up all drawings even if you’re 27 years old). I know I assumed joining these companies would be an elevator – it would be someone taking me and my talents in from floating in this ether of comedy and saying ‘here’s a platform, we’ll do the hard work you just have to show up, be great and voila! Success!’

But that didn’t happen. Because, that elevator doesn’t exist (doubly for me since I didn’t even get accepted). I’m still on the stairs. Each experience is a step up. Sometimes you have to sit on that step with pumpkin cheesecake ice cream and cry into your cat.

 

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“Stop crying!” – Whiskey, probably.

 

In good news: I’m still working Sundays at QED where I get to watch comedy shows and work with talented and hardworking people. I’ve had some successful interviews for tour guide positions (especially ghost tours). Pumpkin Spice Season is back!!!!! and the Miami zoo put these flamingos in the men’s room to keep them safe from the hurricane. I love them!

 

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