Life is Magic

Magic

For someone who loves all of those synonyms, I certainly buy into how magical moments can be. I still work everyday to stay present, for that is the only way you’d really connect into the splendor of it. Ultimately, travel or any new experience is a fantastic way to live in the present and lean into life’s most wonderful gifts. Here is my unapologetic and vulnerably truthful recount of a glorious and splendid adventure I hope never to forget.

I just finished a 17-day holiday in Europe that was full of intrigue, adventure and intensely magical experiences from beginning to end, deliberately spending chunks of days in one place so as to leisurely enjoy a day without over planning or obligation.

First stop London.

Staying North of the more touristy spots near Warren St station and calling a late night pub called Newumberland my home. This represented the beginning of a long journey with one of my best friends, not our first time traveling together, but certainly our longest trip. First day was a walk through the Mayfair & Soho boroughs and stumbling upon record stores. This day created the phenomenon I like to call a “Pint and a Pee”. In a world where there is a pub on most every corner, someone who needs a loo quite frequently can also feed their interest in a pint. This also created the instagram hashtag #steptomyloo – as a desert girl, going up or down to pee is a joy in itself. Overall – since last years trip to Europe with my husband, London upped their craft beer, specifically IPA game and draught choices were far more exciting. On the third day, my travel buddy and I took a long walk up to Hampstead Heath to visit Parliament Hill via Camden Town and a “Pint and a Pee” stop off at Sir Richard Steele pub, here I discovered Camden Town Brewery’s “Sarcasm” a delicious Hazy IPA. This day was the hottest day of the summer so far. The sun was out and so were the people, which made our trip up Parliament Hill a special treat full of the good vibes of summer love. The view over London was spectacular from this suburb on a hill and the alternate view to the East was unexpected, offering a new understanding of what England had to offer. We walked back down toward central London, stopping back at Sir Richard Steele for more “Sarcasm” and a bite to eat to help fuel the remaining walk. This time bypassing Camden Town for the view atop Primrose Hill and lingering through Regency Park. Again, the Londoners were all out, reveling the summer day. This night we finished off at our home pub mentioned earlier and met some locals celebrating long into the night who welcomed us and treated us like new/old friends. It’s amazing what alcohol does to our power of interpersonal connection. We may never see these people again, but the magic of that moment will always remain. The next day we went to Harrod’s to be enamored by the enormity of fine department store life, then onto the Thames to enjoy a drink on a pub boat, where we met a lovely Italian gal who lived in London. As she waited for her friends we connected on the joy of traveling and the spectacular idea of living somewhere new. Then onto Millennium Bridge, the Globe and St. Paul’s Cathedral. This was a day where I had all the energy in my walking feet I needed, and my travel companion did not… this day, we started to polarize. We used the public transportation to get back, for the first time giving our legs a great journey’s rest and when we came to a fork in the tube, I sent him on his way, while I ventured back into Soho for a new perspective on the little village’s after work environment. It proved to be a different environment indeed as the streets were full of energy, people and pints. When I finally headed back north toward the hotel, my travel buddy and his sister had ventured onto Camden Town for vegan pizza and I headed on by foot to join them. With a few pints in and my iPod shuffle – walking at this point was like riding a cloud. After they finished eating we went on to The World’s End pub and closed it down. Passing on the Underground, late night dance club beneath the pub, we followed the rest of the crowd pouring into the street. My two companions chose the tube, while I hopped back on my cloud, dancing my way back to the hotel. The next day, we ventured on via train to Hackney to attend the Hackney Vegan Village festival. I had my first experience with truly inspired vegan food and we had a few “pints and a pee” at the brewery there. It was a hot day, but good atmosphere and good company kept us in good spirits. We then took an Uber from there to Greenwich to see the Prime Meridian. Our Uber driver eventually warmed up and swooped us down lovely little east side streets, talking about London politics and school systems until we finally drove under the Thames at which time he asked “why do you think this tunnel isn’t straight?” my answer “gravity”. Close enough I thought, as it had much to do with load bearing the weight of the river on top of it. We poured out of the tunnel into Greenwich and arrived upon the Queen’s House, then up the hill to the Prime Meridian. We were too late to stand on the actual line, but another viewpoint looking North on London made it worth while. At this time, my Mom chimes in on my facebook post stating “it seems that London is just a bunch of parks with people in it” to which I responded, “that’s summer in London”. Cause, ya know, I’m a real pro at this Londoner thing. At the same time, we have created a pattern of visiting the parks of London, which seemed fine by me. We wandered back North toward the Thames and my buddy and I tempted the idea of taking the walking tunnel back underneath the river, while his sister had no interest, so we just walked down the steps out of curiosity and back up the lift to catch the train back to Warren St Station. The train ride was splendid, casual and relaxing, weaving in and out of parts of London we had not explored. We had dinner at a Chinese restaurant we enjoyed only two nights prior and then they joined me for a “pint and a pee” at our home pub while I built up the courage to go to a Northern Soul All-Nighter near Soho. I had stated that I would regret not going, but my nerves had me twisted inside. I stayed strong and ventured on alone into the 100 club. I felt like a sore thumb around the older Northern Soul crowd, hoping I’d be brave enough to join the dance floor. A lovely gent misidentified me as someone he’d met before and gave me a long chat about Northern Soul. The room was loud and he was tall, so the conversation involved him bending over and us talking cheek to cheek so we could properly hear one another. I was welcomed by him and my courage bloomed. I stood on the fringe, tapping my feet and swaying until another bloke who was my height this time made a joke about tall people standing in front of him. He said his weathered knees didn’t allow him to dance like he used to and I admitted to be intimidated by the dance floor, as the dance style of Northern Soul is very specific. He responded that it was never about the dance moves, it was about doing what you feel, letting the music move you. His words and encouragement to be myself was exactly what I needed and finally a little after 2am I made my way onto the dance floor. My American spirit released and I enjoyed a solid hour of dancing my heart out, frequently being visited by others who wanted to connect with my energy. At one point, my new friend Tom who encouraged me to dance found his one song that drew him onto the dance floor. I danced into his space and welcomed him out and he embraced me with so much joy, it will be a hug I hope never to forget. My travel buddy and I were leaving the next day, so… eventually, with the hope of making it home safe and getting enough sleep to not be dead to the world motivated me to leave the underworld of Norther Soul and venture onto slumber. I said goodbye to Tom on my way out and he gave me a nod towards my free spirited dancing.

Second Stop Amsterdam

My buddy and I leisurely ventured onto the train station to catch the Eurostar to Amsterdam. We found our seats around a table and wondered who would fill the two seats across from us. Suddenly the energy shifted as four Argentinians walked onto the train chatting loudly as they settled into their seats. The younger couple sat across from us with only the wife speaking fluent English and the older couple sat across from us. Turned out these two couples just met getting on the train and carried the excitement of meeting randomly in a foreign place. Eventually we were welcomed into their fold as Andrea translated for us. Her husband Norbert was a charming man full of life and the older couple were cattle ranchers, a very wealthy profession in Argentina. We drank wine together, and more wine together until we were laughing and gossiping like it was a teenage sleepover, representing the laughter and energetic quality of the American’s, South & North. The energy among us was so captivating my buddy invited our new travel companions to meet up for dinner the next day in Amsterdam. Amsterdam City Center is a bustling environment of so much diversity. It took some time to navigate the streets and canals to a comfortable level. We settled into our hotel and a quality of living that proved far more relaxed than London. Having had far too many pints in London, my “pint and a pee” way of living waned and my buddy and I rested more. We enjoyed the qualities of Amsterdam that make the city stand out, while leisurely exploring via viewpoints of the city. We took a ferry across the river and wandered Amsterdam Noord. We enjoyed this is Holland a flying adventure that took us around the Netherlands via giant screen, spritzes of water in our face and an amazing scent of tulips as we soured over landscape. We took a train to Amersfoort, slowing down the pace for a couple hours and visiting with an old friend who grounded our trip with history of relationship. We slept a lot and even kept to our dinner date with the Argentinians. A dinner date that was meant to be at a Herring Shack turned into a very expensive fresh seafood and wine experience. My travel companion and I experienced more friction among us as it was evident our interests contrasted and compromises were made. Certainly not to a level of resentment but truly representing that the company you keep can define your experience.

Next Stop Ireland

Feeling refreshed from the relaxing Amsterdam adventure we traveled via flight to Dublin airport. Then we took a cab up to Newgrange Lodge to settle in for Improv Utopia Ireland. Returning to Newgrange was like coming home and seeing the staff was like visiting old friends. We walked up to Daly’s the local Donore pub and with the small group of us, new friends along with old friends from camps past enjoyed pints and food from the local chip shop. We drank while the locals took great interest in our new energy. One bloke asked if we walked to Daly’s from Newgrange and kindly encouraged us to take a taxi back to avoid the danger of the small winding roads. The next day was spent getting the weekend ready for camp and we took a bit of the day to have a delicious meal at Daly’s before the excitement of 78 campers checking into the lodge. Camp is a magical experience in itself. With 33 Europeans representing several countries and 45 Americans coming to share the weekend the first night’s anxieties were high. As the weekend went on the energies relaxed and people were diving into the spirit of improv utopia. Sharing the joy of improvisation across a measure of diversity makes you realize that deep connections can be made within this art form. By the end of the weekend it becomes hard to say goodbye and the heavy heart is overwhelming. Most people, at least the ones that leaned into the weekend are full of life and ride away on clouds feeling enriched, rejuvenated and excited to see what lies ahead. We cling to each other via social media and say our hugs with passion. Many of us stayed in Dublin after the camp weekend and my buddy and I found our way safely to our hotel via two return campers from Ireland who lovingly harbored us while giving us Irish history and details along the way. We relaxed in our hotel, me combining a few hours catching up on work and napping. Our hotel room was up against construction and the loud drilling and banging drove us to pursue a room switch, however since we made the decision late, we arranged the switch for the morning as we made our way out to Tightrope for a special Camp Jam at their upstairs venue at Anseo. The walk there was lovely and we met up with two Camp friends for a bite to eat beforehand. The room at Anseo was small and there were so many campers representing, excited for more, the room was cozy and steamy, but we persevered through the event with excitement and laughter. My travel buddy and I were polarizing again as his energy was more interested in rest and I was full of life, embracing more pints in another city where pub life is a way of life. I performed in the final act of the jam – being brought up to recap the entire jam, an attempt that I did with pride. After, I enjoyed conversing with fellow campers making even stronger bonds through conversation that surpasses the surface. High on life, my spirit was open, alive and ready for anything. Suddenly I found myself next to a local, who happened to be in the same pub and we connected outside while sheltering ourselves slightly from the misty rain. The small talk turned into concentrated conversation over another pint and eventually among the spirit of revelry he directed all of our group to the late night pub Whelan’s. My travel companion had a hard time leaving me and was concerned for my well-being, but I encouraged him home as I knew our energies were on different spectrums. I stayed at Whelan’s with a couple friends from camp until the wee hours and eventually was the last of our crew among the large crowd of folks unwilling to call it quits. My new local friend disappeared on me and I suddenly realized it was time to leave so I too disappeared. My phone had died, so I was left to my own devices to find my way back. My incredible sense of direction had me confident, but my wandering spirit left me concerned as I found myself unable to avoid venturing down unique streets taking in the Irish architectural design of seemingly normal apartment buildings. I eventually found myself upon St. Patrick’s Cathedral and knew I was close, however unsure, so I kept an eye out at this 3:30am hour for kind passers by to check their maps for my location. Finally finding two nice fellows, we discovered I was within the block, I mentally captured the directions to make and safely returned home. The next morning my travel buddy was frustrated with me, but let me sleep till the last possible moment as we quickly got packed and ready for our next days adventure. We left our bags with the hotel who would switch our room for us upon our return and took a taxi to the Connelly station where we met with my other best buddy to take the train up to Belfast in Northern Ireland. I was over the moon from the previous night. Something about that night of extended camp energy, a fun improv jam, the random connection with the local, the atmosphere of Whelan’s and the lingering of booze had me smiling with joy of adventure. This concerned my buddy who felt as though something inappropriate had happened and unfortunately created more tension among us over the last few days of our travel together. His concern was not completely unwarranted… I had not done anything wrong, however, swept away with the thought of something new in my life. This brings me to a concept of life that I speak often with my husband about. The idea that we weren’t meant to love just one person, how we define love and how difficult it is in our current society to create strong platonic bonds without it challenging our partnerships. The fact that we have a very complex soul and finding one soulmate couldn’t possibly satisfy its entirety. I could go on about this, but the truth is, jealousy and insecurity in our relationships are a harsh thing that is impossible to avoid and it comes down to trust. The fact that my friend did not trust me to be loyal, faithful and aware while having had a few was frustrating and took away from the joy of finding a kindred spirit. Then again, the fascination of a new energy that makes you feel something special can sometimes feel wrong… but I have to think, why? It does not seem right that we can’t enjoy humanity through strong connections that surpass the surface into an intimately emotional depth. This is an interesting topic for me and one I will continue to ponder and talk about with my husband and others so that my thirst for these connections among men, woman and those in between are never rejected, just because it’s traditionally unacceptable. Belfast continued to be a grand day’s adventure as three other campers were on the same train. We stopped at a delightful little pub that had a BagNB, a place to leave your bags. We had a “pint and a pee” and I continued to enjoy my “over the moon” attitude by taking in the lovely music and watching the seagulls weave in and out of the skyline. We walked along the river taking in the beautiful day and ventured onto the Titanic museum. We took our time and my buddy and I spent a long time in the additional tour of the Nomadic, a big ship ferry where we met an Iraqi who helped me find a penny to get a pressed penny memento. He talked to us about life and people and how he helps people to find their way to a career later in life and specifically noted that it’s not too late for me. My buddy mentioned that meeting people like that and taking that time to connect is a reminder that we are exactly where we are supposed to be. This is something he mentioned before during our travels, when we connected with the Argentinians. It was too late for the group of us to take a Black Cab tour of Belfast, a tour that was recommended by the local I met the night before. The tour takes you around Belfast giving you the history and current status of the tensions in Northern Ireland among the different factions of people, so much so that there are walls between neighborhoods that are locked at night to keep the dangers away. This division created a culture of art in murals in political protest, an aspect that sets it aside as a sight to see. To make up for lost time in that regard we headed into Belfast to walk upon some murals ourselves and in doing so stopped at a pub for some delicious eats before catching the train back to Dublin. Upon our return, despite my interest to return to Whelans, and my buddies adamant disagreement to the idea, we had an early night, ultimately the best decision to make. The next day we awoke and settled in to work and catch up on missed days, my other bestie joined us at our hotel room and the three of us shared space all enjoying our ability to be remote while living an adventurous lifestyle. We eventually went out for lunch and took a walk around a nearby park Stephan’s Green, back to the hotel for a spell and then out to the Irish Whiskey Museum for a lesson in Whiskey. After this we went on a pub crawl. An adventure that we may have been too old for, but we leaned in for the first three pubs before splitting with the large group to join other campers at Brazen. Here we had another pint before retiring back to the hotel so that my buddy could grab his stuff and head to his airport hotel. I had lost my key and was tethered to my travel companion, I again had interest in going back to Whelan’s, with it being our last night, I didn’t want it to end, and in his mind, I was still looking for trouble. I threw a little tantrum about not being able to go anywhere, as with European hotels, the key must remain in the lights to have light, and he angrily agreed to walk me down to get a new key while saying some very harsh things in which, even in my mind of knowing I had not done anything wrong, knew was warranted by his reaction to my overall behavior around the matter. I did not wander onto the pub, but took his advice to stay nearby and just enjoy a final walk around the surrounding area taking in the atmosphere knowing that my last few moments of adventure were almost up. The next morning we had plenty of time to pack, freshen up and get breakfast, at which time we talked about the night before with complete honesty, each apologetic for our behaviors and settling back into our true love and care for one another. This allowed us to not leave the adventure at odds, but to embrace the full scope of what we had just experienced together, strengthening our friendship to a new level with high hopes for the next opportunity to experience life together at such a wondrous degree. We taxi’d to the airport and parted with tears in our eyes and I traveled home with a heavy heart, grateful for the whole of it and enriched from the magic that such a holiday can endure day after day after day.

Everyday our life has magic in it, it’s certainly much easier to see when you are living every moment for all it is worth. Coming home from a 17-day holiday abroad, it is hard not to be saddened by the stillness, the familiarity, the realization that home life is dull in comparison, but is it really? or is it perspective? Living moment to moment is a way of life and can be the difference between a magical life or a complacent one no matter where or when you are.

To life and all of it’s

fascinating, captivating, charming, glamorous, magical, enchanting, entrancing, spellbinding, magnetic, irresistible, hypnotic

qualities.

Thank You Peter Serafinowicz

For letting me be a total geek!

I have not really met anyone of significance before in regards to those sorts of famous people you love and admire to know what meeting one would actually feel like. At least not since I was a young teen and forced the Pharaoh from Joseph & The Amazing Color Dreamcoat to sign my program. Also, in my mind – although they might have some fame – it’s not really a “those people” sort of thing, they’re really just human beings like everyone else. I thought I’d keep my cool no matter who it was – however, at age 37, I met someone I never thought I’d meet – at least not at this stage in my lifetime and surely not at the moment it was presented to me.

I spent the most amazing weekend in New York City with some really great friends. I went for the Del Close Marathon and spent a lot of time just soaking up lovely NYC neighborhoods, fun bars and delicious restaurants. Entertaining ourselves into late hours and learning the NYC public transportation system. I did have a show and that was in there – and Del Close hijinks, that was in there too. However, the entire weekend rests on top of this one moment that impacted my weekend beyond what I could have imagined. Sometimes we don’t consider how a moment can influence a state of being.

I dragged two of my friends down to the DCM party space at 5pm on Saturday evening to enjoy some beer before venturing out on the town. They bought performer passes just to do this with me, because I for whatever reason made this a big to do for my day. We made our way to the balcony to enjoy the fresh air and stood in an uncrowded area and while standing there I recognized Benedict Wong. I thought, “that’s odd, what’s Benedict Wong doing here” in that moment – I wasn’t affected too much, not that he isn’t great and it’d be lovely to meet this man, but I’m only just slightly aware of him from his recent inclusion in the Avengers/Marvel Universe. Then…. I notice that he was speaking to the one and only Peter Serafinowicz. Now perhaps you wouldn’t really know how much you truly admire someone’s work until you see them in person – standing three feet from you, until you start to get nervous and sweaty and evaluate in your mind how you’re going to handle this situation.

I’ve followed Peter Serafinowicz’s career since seeing Shaun of the Dead. Watching whatever I could get my hands on throughout the years. I thought he was utterly delightful in Spy. All in all – he’s Peter Serafinowicz – brilliantly odd and lovely guy.

So yes – back to the event – the moment of reckoning. The two friends I was with did not know who he was, which is a shame they couldn’t share my excitement. It was extremely noticeable to them how it was affecting me…. as I was shaking and giddy and they did enjoy seeing my torment & awe. Now – presented with this opportunity – I thought about letting the moment pass – but of course – if I did – I’d forever regret that decision. The last thing I wanted to do was be terribly awkward and incapable of playing it cool – cause again – he’s just a human being. When two people are deep in conversation – you surely can not interrupt without being a slight nuisance – so I waited for the right moment and in the hopes that I’d be my charming and lovely self, here is what happened:

“Excuse me, could I get a picture with you?”

“Of course”

(Benedict Wong takes picture)

me&peter

I’m so happy!

Meanwhile – my friend says to Benedict “I’ll get a picture with you” and then proceeded to ask “What’s your name?”

bennywong

I’m Benny

I asked Peter why he was there – and he told me – I continued to kid him on his interviewing skills – but not without attempting to soften it with a touch on the shoulder and calling him lovely. He did ask why I was there – and I told him – so there’s that – and that was kind of him to take a moment to inquire.

Then he introduced himself – oh duh! tell him your name!

Then a small amount of weirdness until we all departed.

Including this photo and a “why am I holding this?”

popsockets

A friend of mine labeled this a PopSocket Ad. & There you go PopSockets, your welcome.

Short sweet and all too quick.

Now – I definitely wish I’d done somethings different – I’m hoping the “Could I get a picture with you?” Translated to: “Your awesome and this opportunity is awesome!” Also – I would’ve at least acknowledged Benedict Wong versus just ignoring him. But hopefully, I held myself authentically, not compromising my own integrity in that moment.

Peter was there to promote a new Amazon show “The Tick” — So give it a watch when it’s out.

In the meantime – there’s this: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCi38HMIvRpGgMJ0Tlm1WYdw

And Peter – if you’re seeing this – thank you for making my weekend! and letting me geek out just a little.

And Benedict – if you’re seeing this, I apologize for not giving you a nod. You’re great too and I look forward to your blossoming career!

Have you had a reaction to meeting someone you admire that surprised you? I’d love to hear your story.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Camp Imrov Utopia

Let me take you back to April of 2010. I was deep into Phoenix Improv Festival hospitality management – making sure that all our visiting troupes were checked into the Holiday Inn Express downtown. I had just said hello to my one of my favorite visiting improvisors Nick Armstrong in the hallway just beyond the lobby – as we split up to go our separate ways and I was on to my next order of business – Nick shouted down the hall to me “you won’t have to work this hard at Camp Improv Utopia!” and my immediate response was “I’m in!” He had just launched the announcement of the very first Camp coming up the next year in May 2011 at Camp Ocean Pines in Cambria, California. I was in – the concept sounded amazing. Going back to a camp atmosphere with a bunch of adult improvisors, taking workshops and sharing our passions with around 100 like minded people, learning, growing, networking – sounded amazing. And so, after Festival weekend that year – I registered and put my check in the mail. Little did I know – I would be the first camper ever. It’s hard to revisit the experience that far back. I remember lots of great moments and the connections I made that I’d like to think are still prevalent today. I not only got to learn from Susan Messing at that camp – something I would have previously needed to go back to Chicago to do – but I also got to socialize with her on a peer level. Perhaps that is the most amazing aspect of Camp – or one of the amazing aspects. We all strive for greatness – therefore we all strive to learn from the greats before us and the Camp atmosphere is just that, a bunch of peers learning and sharing with each other. There are no egos – therefore – people like Craig Cackowski, Susan Messing, Paul Vaillancourt, Dave Razowski, Jamie Moyer, Karen Graci, Brian O’Connell, Kevin Mullaney – among a few to mention – are just another camper. Not only does camp connect you with your immediate community members who share the experience – but also the national community who are all just trying to bring things back home with them. Things evolved out of this camp – more festival submissions due to the amazing networking site for improvisors, now called Improv Network, which was born out of the Bill Binder, Nick Armstrong connection – more visiting cities outside of festivals, more sharing knowledge with other theaters and ultimately – a national community that is more connected – to the point that you can visit any city – on business, on vacation – passing through and you can find a theater to visit, play or even teach a workshop at, and those communities treat you like family.

I’m compelled to share this experience on my blog because I just returned from my third year at Camp East in the Pennsylvania Poconos. I had only gone to the first two years of Camp West. I chose not to continue because I was trying to have a baby – to no avail. Please don’t be sad about that – life is just how it is always supposed to be – but after that third year I chose not to attend again – Camp West blew up and sold out before it was even open a week – now going into it’s sixth year – if you don’t stay up all night and submit every minute – you may not make it. However there are great perks to being on the waitlist so submit anyway! In 2013 Nick approached me regarding his decision to add a Camp East – in the Poconos of Pennsylvania and assist in registration. I happily accepted as it was work that I was already doing for the Torch Theatre and felt very proficient at. And so it began – building the culture again and linking the East coast into the amazing community that is Camp Improv Utopia. Now after our third year and at a new Camp this year – Camp Trout Lake – East has become a beautiful thing – more beautiful than imaginable. Don’t get me wrong, the first two years were great – and many campers returned – as counselors and campers in the know, comfortable and excited. However, this year – going backwards for a brief moment, I missed the wonderful experience of year three out West – but so thrilled to have committed to it at East. I always say when teaching group games – it takes one to inspire the idea, it takes two to support it – it takes three to make it a game. And what a beautiful game it is! — please, please, please – as an improvisor of any level – I highly recommend this experience. This year in 2016, Improv Utopia introduced a third camp – Camp Yosemite – I didn’t go – as I was being reserved with travel and money – but the experience those campers had, at another beautiful location this time focusing on formats all weekend, permeates off of them like an aura of enlightenment.

Camp Trout Lake – Stroudsberg, PA 2016 – take in the mist over the lake at night!