Single-Serving Friends

In the film Fight Club, the Narrator describes single-serving friends. Here's a helpful Yahoo Answer on the subject. I've discovered, while traveling, single-serving friends are everywhere, not just airplanes. Especially when you're traveling alone.

For example, my Hamilton experience was full of single-serving friends - the people I spent three hours with, waiting for the Ham4Ham; the Green Dress girl I fan-girled with over the "In This Performance" sign; the attendee I chatted with while stage-dooring. These are people I will never interact with again and yet for a few minutes, we bonded over the shared love of a musical.

Another place these are extremely prevalent: tour groups. While in Austria, I took a day trip to Eagle's Nest. I sat next to a trainee from the tour company; he was job shadowing the tour guide so that he could start doing the tour in a few weeks. We chatted the entire bus ride (two hours) and during our walk of Eagle's Nest. That's a lot of time to cover a lot of ground. We started with the obvious (Salzburg, his job) then veered off, covering television shows, books, other European cities we had both visited. Similarly, last year, in Rome, I did a half-day tour of the Colosseum and the ruins. There was one other American couple on the group and we stuck together during the tour. There was the usual - travel talk - and the unusual; they discovered I worked for a medical device company and most of the time we talked about Big Pharma and the future of various medical devices.

For some reason, outside of group tours, Paris has been the biggest single-serving friend place I've encountered. There was the Iowa native living in Paris I had lunch with at the Museum d'Orsay, the Miami couple I shared travel tips with on the train, the New York couple whom I shared Easter lunch with outside the Shakespeare and Company bookstore. The Chinese man I gave Paris suggestions to on a long subway ride. Like waiting for Hamilton, there's something bonding about travelers in a big city, an immediate and temporary connection.

Airbnb has made this even easier. While I was in New York, I stayed at the same Manhattan Airbnb for five nights and had the chattiest host - we talked every night when I got home, me telling about my adventures of the day, him giving me advice for the next day's plans and sharing stories about his time in NYC. And I'll probably never see or talk to him again.

Hostels are much more hit and miss. I've stayed at four - one in Amsterdam, one in Berlin, one in Brugges, and one in Salzburg. For the most part, my temporary roommates and I avoided each other. But Amsterdam, the first one I stayed in, was unique. A woman from Brazil shared it with me and every night we chatted, in part in English and German, sharing our travel time and gossiping about the hostel and our other roommates. An older American woman would come in much later and tell us what she had seen during the day (usually something scandalous in the Red Light District).

Additionally, my company hired a third-party to help me manage my move to Germany. I was assigned someone, Julia, to help me navigate the red tape. With her, I applied for a residency permit and a parking permit. She was with me when I got the keys to my apartment and helped me get a German bank. For the first month I was here, I spent several hours with her a week. And then the parking permit, the last thing she helped me with, was obtained and I'll probably never see her again, as someone else is liking to help me with my exit in December.

Single-serving friends: a reminder that the world is both very small (everyone on my Austria trip seemed to be from Missouri or Kansas, the American I sat next to in a crowded French restaurant, everyone in NYC loves Hamilton!) and also very large (all those connections, all those conversations, gone in a moment). It's been a joy of my time traveling in Europe and, to a much lesser extent, the States, to get to meet people from all over the world and have a glimpse into their perspective and experiences. My latest single-serving friends from my trip to Spain at the end of June? A British couple on the day of the Brexit vote, explaining to me why they were probably voting 'Leave,' over a lunch in Valencia and an Irish woman, sharing tips for my Spain trip and also upcoming trip to her hometown of London, over drinks while hiding from the rain in Barcelona.

May Fourth

I did something this week:

I'm going to be in the room where it happens! Not throwing away my shot! Can't say not to this! Et cetera.

So that happened.

So that happened.

The original Angelica!

I bought tickets to see THE SHOW. Candidate for the worst big sister ever: I'm going back to the States for my sister's college graduation in the beginning of May. And will be stopping in NYC to see Hamilton. I was totally going to be a responsible adult and wait until I was back in the States for good and see the show in December. The sadness and disappointment over not seeing the original cast was real but at least I would get to see it in the Richard Rodgers theater.

But then in a moment of boredom I went over to Ticketmaster, just to see if anything was available for when I would be back home in May. And there were so many seats for resale! Now, they are resale as opposed to directly from the venue, so they are way marked up. But to see the original cast*? Worth it!

*As much as possible. They're all locked in for a year (so they'll be around until the end of summer) but with vacations and illnesses and anything else that can happen, who knows. Honestly, any combination of the main cast would be incredible.

My other major Broadway experience was Wicked - and that was in Chicago - and I was terrified the entire time I was going to have to go to the bathroom or something. So let's try not eating or drinking anything 24 hours prior to! Also, Elphaba (Elphaba!) was the u/s and it was still incredible.

Woche Sieben

I can't believe it's seven weeks in!

Heidelberg castle at sunset

Heidelberg castle at sunset

Thoughts so far...

- I went to Heidelberg last night for dinner. My work BFF, Renuka, is here for work stuff for two weeks. We walked around and met up with her German friend for dinner. It was a lot of fun and nice to catch up. Renuka's someone I can really have any conversation with and it was great to be able to be totally honest and frank about work, which I haven't been able to do since I've been here. It's nothing to do with Germany and more just the usual moving stuff. I'm just not that close with anyone else at the German campus yet. We also probably totally alienated her friend, since we mostly talked about work and gossiped about our trip to Miami last year. Sorry, friend.

- Sleep. I have been sleeping a lot more than I used to. My manager, who was an expat in Switzerland for five years, has a theory: It's because our brains are processing so much during the day, sensory overload, that we need more rest. And everything is more difficult than we're used to, from going to the post office to getting groceries. This might be bullshit - I don't think this is true for me? It's not like I have to try to speak another language or something... But at least it makes me feel less like a bum.

- There's another American in my group, Tatum. She has temporarily taken over Renuka's role as work BFF, at least until her internship is over in May. We've been getting lunch once or twice a week and have plans for a day trip a couple of Saturdays from now. I've really appreciated having another 'outsider' to commiserate with. We can agree on the differences here in Germany - the guys in general are better-looking, the colleagues are way more personal, and grocery-shopping is fucking stressful as hell. She sent me two lists of things other expats in Germany learned. Aside from a couple of discrepancies, the lists are very accurate. Funny bit on jaywalking: I mentioned to two German colleagues that I don't jaywalk as often as I might in the states. They said that Germans don't jaywalk because of children. They're afraid a child might see the jaywalking and try to repeat, resulting in an accident. So my colleagues, and perhaps all Germans, only jaywalk when there are no cops or children around. Good to know what to look for!

- It's nice to have Renuka here to also have her fresh perspective. Seven weeks is just long enough to get complacent. Her thoughts so far: it really is beautiful here (seriously, Heidelberg was gorgeous), we are stupid lucky to have these opportunities, and driving is terrifying. Thanks Renuka, for the reminder. Also for being my mule and bringing things I desperately needed from home - notes from Mom, Hamilton t-shirts, Vanity Fair Hollywood issue, and my wireless keyboard and mouse from my old cube!


You're the One That I Want


It's been what, a week? And I'm finally getting around to Grease Live. It's been really crazy here in Germany! I had set aside Monday to watch the thing but the asshats at Fox didn't post it online until way past my bedtime on Monday. But here it is, finally, my thoughts on Grease Live.

For Grease Live, I will be referencing The Fug Girls' recap and Hamilton's own Twitter feed. It's the closest I can get to watching it as intended - with a community. I'm going to have to figure something else out for the Oscars and the Tony's...

We start with a green screen beach. First: They made Sandy from Utah instead of Australian? Is Olivia Newton John Australian? Quick Google trip: Okay, yes, apparently. Well that makes sense. Don’t make Hough have to deal with an accent on top of everything else.

Over at Go Fug, they, rightly, give a nice spiel about Vanessa Hudgen’s dad and what a BAMF she is for going on. And Lin starts off with a bunch of West Wing references. What better people to do this with? Also, the Fug girls recognized the significance of Hail’s contribution and their recap is full of classy Hamilton references. They were not throwing away their shot!

And we’re off, with ‘Grease is the Word.’ Admission: I haven’t seen the original film in a long damn time. I do remember enjoying the cartoon though? Sandy is basically a Disney princess, with woodland creatures, while Rizzo struggles to get her head out of her turtleneck… Jessie J is random but also somehow makes total sense. Overall, it’s a nice overview of the various characters we’ll be seeing. And good job on that long tracking shot, Kail. As someone pointed out on Twitter: That’s Birdman level shit!

Then a brief interlude for us to meet the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies. The boys are dumb and I like the Pink Ladies: my overall thoughts on Grease.

But here comes ‘Summer Lovin’. I really liked this song when I was younger but I may have to abandon it because of the extreme sexism. But isn’t that the point of Grease to begin with? I do enjoy the juxtaposition between the ladies and the dudes. Also, this is primarily word for word from the movie… Also, as Fug mentions, for all the talk Fox gave about ‘taming it down’, so far they’ve kept most of the raunchiness in. Tveit, whom I very much enjoyed in Les Miz, is good but no John Travolta. He might be bananas now, but his Danny is iconic. Also, having a live audience is so helpful. Please do this in the future, live musicals! Total silence after a song is awkward. That being said, the audience has been silent following the ‘jokes’... It’s like watching Big Bang Theory without a laugh track.

There is cheerleading that had some purpose. I agree with Fug - it's probably just a combination of time to arrange other sets and also to remind people they had an outdoor set. It certainly didn’t do much with the plot. Good job Hough, though. The Tracy Flick character needs to calm down. I don’t really understand why she gets so competitive with Sandy. Sandy does not care if she’s a better cheerleader or not…

Then we have the pep rally and Rizzo, in her bitchiest moment, throws Sandy and Danny together. He’s dumb and she’s naive. Also, I love that the audience that is supposed to be the pep rally audience is really just watching Sandy and Danny… It’s weird. Otherwise, Danny is such a jackass. And most of this dialogue is straight from the movie, right?

And then we have the sleepover!!

"Freddy My Love" is in the musical, but not the movie. It was in the high school production that I saw. But Keke does a fine job. And the Chicago-esque thing she does with it is nice and makes the song more fun. But you only get one of these, Kail! Mostly, though, I’m impressed with the costume changes.

Emily Dickinson!

She that sophomore?

My first LOL of the evening.

"I’m Sandra Dee" is probably my favorite from the movie and Vanessa does an admirable job. I really like Stockard Channing though. Then Sandra herself sings for a second and is sad about Danny. And Rizzo goes and has sex with Kenicke. Because why not. Also, the car and gang stuff I always forget about… There is another gang I guess and he doesn’t like Kenicke or his shitty car.

I also forgot about the live broadcast stuff. What the hell did I think this show was about?

Greased Lightnin: It’s weird the teacher encourages them to steal car parts… Or was that always a thing? Anyway, the song itself is fun, complete with the family-friendly replacements. More impressive trickery, replacing the crappy car with a pretty one, then bringing the crappy car back. And costume chicanery as they put on some very sparkly jumpsuits. Overall, though, good job, Aaron, you were my favorite part of Les Miz.

Somewhere along the way, I lost track of Lin. He’s pregnant with twins at this point. The voice of a generation, you guys.

And we introduce a new set: the diner. Original Frenchy! That’s her, right? Sandy’s date is sweet. She should have stuck with him. The Fug girls suggest that he run off with Rizzo. This works for me too. Doody sings a song that I don’t remember at all… But the guy has a nice voice. I understand the swooning girls in the background. Also, good job on the diversity there, Fox. And more impressive costume changes for Danny! And Doody too!

Wait, why does Sandy like him now? What happened? Did she just get over being mad at him?

Back to the diner. Sandy and Danny are officially together now I guess. And somehow Danny thinks he is going to hide this from everyone? The whole gang shows up. I do like the Pink Ladies. They should have their own musical.

And then Frenchy sings something. I totally agree with the Fug girls on this one - it’s bad. Really bad. Her voice doesn’t fit it at all. And anytime an original song is stuck in like this, it’s either for an Oscar or an Emmy. Chill, guys. The original Frenchy is the better one. And then we get Beauty School Dropout. I definitely prefer the sound of the original. Boyz II Men never quite make the right tone. Lines like ‘unless she was a hooker’ don’t really land. And Frenchy really didn’t know what to do here, what her response should be to the song. At least we got the Pink Ladies in those great beauty school getups.

And we’re at the dance! And MC Slater is there! Apparently Mario Lopez was MCing the whole night, doing bits before and after commercials. They’re not on Hulu but this is okay. I don’t need more Mario Lopez. The camera work is honestly so impressive. This was live! Joe Jonas’s band is not good but the camera work! And dancing!

The competition starts. Hudgens’ dancing is pretty impressive, honestly. Some of this, I don’t think is dancing. Hough is great at the moving as well. She gets scared of the cameras I guess? Cha Cha is not so good. Also, it bothers me that you are allowed to switch partners in the middle of a competition. How does this work? What are the rules?

Hough does a nice job with "Hopelessly Devoted To You". Overall though, I don’t understand the Sandy/Danny dynamic. She just gets mad at him several times and then takes him back, never for any real reasons. Well, we just got to the drive in part. She has her reasons, sometimes, I guess. Stupid teenager decisions aside, "Sandy" is a nice song and Aaron has a nice voice and it is all very nice, except for the talking bit in the middle of the song.

They talk about a duel. Kail is just fucking with us here, right? The Fug girls just quote Hamilton a bunch. The synergy is excellent.

Okay, "There are Worse Things I can Do" might be my favorite, instead of "I'm Sandra Dee". I just really like Rizzo, you guys. Hudgens is excellent. The Fug girls complained that there wasn’t enough harassment for this song. But honestly, there isn’t a lot of emotional reason for a lot of the songs. More like the songs were written, and then dialogue thrown in to string the songs together. Teen pregnancy is the most resonant thing we’ve got going so far. Good job Hudgens! Seriously she was excellent. And her father died a few hours before this…

The car stuff is pretty cheesy but what are you going to do? Did the nerdy guy become a T-Bird in the original? Yay math and science! I’m not sure what triggers Sandy to forgive Danny for trying to grab her boob or why his driving a car suddenly makes her want to have a makeover. But hey - Frenchy has a new victim!

And everyone randomly hooks up so we can all have happy endings. Honestly, though, Jan and her boyfriend were pretty cute. Oh, I forgot Danny was in track. And the cheerleading never really went anywhere either… I guess a lot happened throughout the year that we didn't se. And there’s Sandy, doing her best Olivia Newton John impression. Even her shoes are right out of the movie! Side note: Aaron really trusts the guy who plays Doody. But seriously though, "You Better Shape Up" is great. The dancing is fun and the vocals and attitude just right - Hough and Tveit are totally perfect here. I think they could have done this with just the songs, no plot or story line, and I would have enjoyed it more. The songs are just joy - especially this one!

And then they all get in golf carts and change sets mid-song, demonstrating the enormity of what has been put together for this show. Also, I hope the cast and the audience got to enjoy the carnival rides and games afterwards… Everyone is clearly having fun here and also probably happy that this is over and no one fell on their face and a celebratory glass of champagne is just moments away.

Then curtain calls for everyone. Another thing I appreciate - they acknowledge what just happened, with the behind the scenes peak and having the cast come out. I feel like other TV musicals pretend it’s something else. Everyone knows what’s going on! Let us see the audience and the scene setups!

While the credits roll, they provide a brief behind the scenes look. More of this please! Also, the show was dedicated to Hudgen’s dad, which is sweet and right.

There must have been so much rehearsal… Getting everyone in just the right place for the songs and the dancing and the camera work and the lighting and everything. It’s impressive.

Okay so I know I’ve been mostly critical, but this was just worlds better than Sound of Music or Peter Pan. This was a musical that has really been adapted for live television. Not just some weird pseudo stage. There was movement and even grace that was absolutely missing from its predecessors.

Also, when I see a musical, I leave lifted and with such a feeling of joy and fun, which is definitely happening now. I am out of snark and cynicism! Really well done everyone! It just took me awhile to get around to watching it. Expat problems!