Tuesday, November 16, 2010

I ♥ (Upstate) NY Part II

(If you haven't read Part I yet, scroll down so you know what's going on!)

I am currently in my friend Levi Kreis' HUGE, gorgeous apartment in New York City and this is the view from where I sit:

Charming, eh? How ya like that pile of trash, there? Ah well...I have learned that Midtown is not my favorite part of NYC. But you can't complain when the accomodations are plenty comfy AND free! (Thanx, Levi and Jason! ♥) 

So rewinding back to Friday when I was still Upstate boppin' around my home town of Johnstown, NY...THAT was a busy day. Got up for breakfast with Dad and the seesters at an AMAZING diner called "Forever Young's" -- all fresh food, bought from local farmers, everything hand cut, homemade recipes (the kind that use no measurements and never turn out quite the same way twice) and mountains of it. An example of their sausage and cheddar skillet with cinnamon raisin toast:

Are you kidding me???

After that I honestly don't remember what we did, so drunk was I with delicious artery-clogging yumminess. I think we all went back to Mom's (in whose little apartment we were ALL staying - eventually it was Mom, me, sissy Jodianne, seester Mandi, baby brudder Travis and his sweet girlfriend Meg - three bedrooms, one bathroom) and I took a little nap before I had to get to the church for rehearsal with the wedding organist/pianist, Ed Goodemote.

The bride's mother, my Aunt Chris, was a teacher for...oh I dunno...lots of years. She taught with Ed for the majority of it, so she asked him to play for the wedding. He was a very, very sweet man and as it turned out was also in the middle of doing a play written by my high school drama teacher, Roz Melita, which also featured my Uncle Tony (my late bio-dad's brother, who is fabulously gay...I guess it's in my dna, which would explain why gays find me wherever I go). This is how it is in Johnstown...everyone literally knows everyone else and no matter how long I've been away, names from my past will inevitably surface whenever I come to town. At first this freaked me out, but now I've accepted it and have come to appreciate that familiarity, knowing there will always be a place where people knew me before the Big Wide World got to me. But I digress...Ed and I had some practice time and all went relatively well. It was a little bit of work, as he was admittedly nervous and I'm used to players who are practically one-man bands, but in the end he did just fine and I think everyone was pleased. And he was truly soooooo nice.

Rehearsal dinner at The Winner's Circle in Fonda. Buffet. REAL WINGS!!! Giant platter of olives and pickles, at which point I said to mom, "This is definitely Jenny's wedding," as she was the one who claimed ownership of the olive and pickle platters at Thanksgiving every year when we were kids. The cake, however...Jenny's brother Tom was responsible for picking it up. He did not proof-read it. It said, "Congratulations Jennifer." That's it. No mention of Kevin, the groom. So Jenny, a resourceful girl, took some cookies and smashed them onto the cake over the writing. Now it was just...cake and cookies. Brilliant. Aunt Chris and her mother-in-law Charlotte sat with us at our table, which was nice but fun also cuz we got the low down on who everyone in the wedding party was. After dinner followed the bridesmaid and groomsmen gift presentations and tears were shed by all. After that mom and I left because baby brudder Travis and girlfriend Meg were due in from Boston.

Trav finally showed up, Mandi and Jo harrassed him for awhile, we all crashed.

Saturday was wedding day. Dad wanted to have everyone meet for lunch, but I stayed at Mom's, alone, to shower, warm up my voice and study my lyrics (partly in Italian, which I haven't had to sing in about 20 years). I live alone. I was feeling a little overwhelmed with all the people, so I needed to get my head on straight before I had to sing. I hate that I missed more time with Dad but I'm glad I had the time to myself, cuz by the time everyone got back and we had to go into "buncha-girls-and-one-dude-getting-ready-for-prom-in-tiny-apartment" mode, I was prepared (poor Mommy was out of her skin with all the stuff laying around the house...she tried so hard to keep it orderly that she'd practically wisk a glass right out of our hands to wash it whether we were done with it or not!). And they were kind enough to bring me back half a grinder from Romana's! If you don't know what a grinder is (and most people outside of the mid-New York State area don't), it's basically a toasted sub but soooooooo much better than any of that stuff you get at Quizno's or chain places. Once you have a grinder, you wil snub your nose at any other sub on the planet thereafter. And Romana's grinders are AWESOME. In fact, I want one right now. Unforch, I am in NYC...so I guess I'll have to settle for an authentic slice o' pizza instead (darn the luck).

So back to the church early for one last rehearsal with Ed...and then The Wedding. And I got the best seat in the house, sitting in the choir loft! Check out this view!

I wanted to take more pictures but my cell phone camera is rather loud and I didn't want to disrupt things too much. I'm glad I got this one good shot, though.

I got through the wedding songs without having a meltdown...I am grateful for the last minute rehearsal cuz THAT'S when I got choked up, so it was out of my system by the time I had to do it for real. The service was short and sweet and over before we knew it (as it should be!). It was lovely and simple. And of course Jenny giggled through the whole thing, cuz that's what she does when she's nervous. Totally cute.

Oh, and for those who might be curious, I sang "All I Ask Of You" from Phantom and "I Will Be Here" by Steven Curtis Chapman as people were being seated, then Andrea Bocelli/Celine Dion's "The Prayer" for the candle lighting.

(Off topic side note...Levi was not here last night when I got in...he was in Montreal doing promotional stuff for MDQ and a show of his own stuff. He got back a bit ago and is now in the living room as I type running songs by Asleep At The Wheel, who are sitting in for tonight's MDQ encore...yeah, just singin' and playin' away...neener neener, LK fans!)

RECEPTION!!! We went to the Glen Sanders Mansion in Scotia. The open bar was cool, but the drinks were a bit weak (in all fairness though, there is more of me to inebriate than most people). So I felt like I got a lot more sodium from my vanilla vodka & Cokes than I got happiness. No matter though, the dinner was DELICIOUS  and the dancing was a hoot. Where I come from, it's not a wedding reception if there's no sit-down dinner and a DJ or band (take notes, Southern States...mingling and finger foods is NOT a wedding reception!). I even got my juicy patootie up on the dance floor a few times! I actually went a little nuts when they played Bon Jovi's "Living On A Prayer" (I am not ashamed - everyone was singing at the top of their lungs, including me, them's my boys). My mom and her twin, Uncle Steve, did the jitterbug at one point, all my aunts, uncles and cousins were dancing with each other, Cousin Bill split his chin doing the worm, Dad and Linda cut a very fine rug, and even my 85 year old grandmother got out and did her thing once or twice. My only complaint is that it was over too soon. We had a blast!

The next day dawned way too early. We had lunch planned with Dad and Linda at The Raindancer in Amsterdam (seriously...I know I am not the healthiest or lightest of eaters on the planet, but by Sunday evening I didn't want to eat again for two weeks after this trip!). I pretty much had decided that I liked Linda by the night before, when she didn't flinch over Dad's or his kids' purposeful goofiness on the dance floor (we are a lot to take in), but dinner on Sunday made it official. Dad seems relaxed with her, able to be himself, which is not something I noticed with any other women he's dated...and since he actually went and married this one, it was a great relief. She seemed to just let him be who he is and like that about him, which is something I really wanted for my dad. Stamp of approval. Eldest daughter can rest easy.

After that, it was back to Mom's to see Trav and Meg off (way too short a visit with them) and some much needed lounging. Completely uneventful last night in J'town.

Monday morning I got up around 8:30 to pack up my stuff and get on the Amtrak to NYC for a few days. But before I got on the train, I stopped at the Willing Helpers Home, where my grandmother is a new resident, to see her one last time. She quite literally moved in there the week before I got home. She is suffering from dimentia, her short term memory is shot. And she knows she's forgetting things. Without going into detail...these were the not-so-fun parts of my trip. I face the possibility of her not knowing who I am when next I come home. I am losing my Mima and that makes me intensely sad.

The stupid Amtrak was an hour and a half late. WTH??? I shouldn't be surprised really...this is where I come from. The station is a "shanty" (as my bro called it) in the middle of nowhere. They don't even have a station agent there. What can ya do? Otherwise, it was a pleasant, comfortable trip, WAY more comfy than an airplane...in fact, so comfy that I slept through the whole dang thing and didn't see hardly any of the countryside! Everytime I kinda awoke, I'd groggily think, "Oh...that's awfully pretty..." and then I'd be back out like a light (note to self: travel by train whenever it's possible to do so...but try and be awake for it, at least through gorgeous New York State). I finally get to Penn Station, which wasn't so easy to find my way around (seriously, they need a "To The Surface" sign or two!), and I was hit up for money three times by men claiming to be veterans (one of whom looked like he'd been in a bad fist fight) before I ever started my walk to Levi's apartment. Ah, Midtown. I'm back.

I think that's all I'll write for now...I'll leave my singing exploits for Part III. I'm finally feeling slightly hungry again and want to go get a slice. Yay!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

I ♥ (Upstate) NY Part I

So here I am in upstate New York on a chilly November night. Day two of The Great Wedding Adventure. My cousin Jenny Jo (or Jen, as she now prefers...evs...she is perpetually six years old in my head and therefore perpetually Jenny Jo till one of us kicks it) is getting married to Kevin on Saturday. The entire fam, from all corners of the U.S., have made the exodus to good ole Fulton County, NY (which I've referred to in the past as "The Armpit of the World" -- it's cleaned up quite a bit of late) to celebrate. And I mean CELEBRATE. Open bar, people. As my sister Jodianne said, "BIG mistake. HUGE." We haven't been together as an entire family since the LAST cousin's wedding, which was over a decade ago.

It's so on.

I have been blessed. I don't say that in the way that everyone overuses these days cuz it's "hip" to be "blessed," but I say that really wondering how I got so stupid lucky. I come from a bunch of really intelligent, hard-working, proud, upstanding, athletic, creative and HILARIOUS people. Okay some are more athletic than others...and some of us get to sing. But overall, our family has never had - as far as I can tell - any huge falling out or family squabble or vile hatred of each other, etc. Divorces have happened, sure. Near divorces too, no doubt. But that's the extent of any incivility (is that a word? It is now, anyway). I can't imagine a family where this sister doesn't talk to that brother or Aunt X can't be in the room with Uncle Y or having screaming matches about who Mom liked best...or god forbid, plotting a family member's demise (I watch a lot of Law & Order). In fact, my Dad and his new wife are attending this wedding...and so is my mom. We'll all be together all day. And it's just not that big of a deal.

That said, I got a little taste of the fun we'll be having on Saturday already. The bride-to-be stopped by yesterday afternoon (we don't know where she found the time!) and had a nice visit with me, my sisters and Mom. We laugh a lot when Jenny's around...she laughs at everything we say, but she's pretty hysterical herself and doesn't give herself enough credit for it. She also informed us that she's told people that "the entertainment has arrived." She wasn't just referring to me singing at the wedding. She meant "my crazy cousins from California are here - wait till you meet THEM!" No feeling blue that day, I guess! The show must go on! Not that we would be feeling blue...Jenny's getting married to a very nice man and she's gonna be the prettiest of brides, ever. And no doubt the smiliest. Cuz her smile is 1000 watts even on her bad days.

Today my and seester Mandi's friend Nan drove all the way down from Burlington VT (about 3 1/2 hours) just to have lunch with us! Nan is a friend from L.A. who is an upstate NY native and moved back east a few years ago. We haven't seen her in a couple of those years, I think. So it was not only delightful to see her, but impressive that she would make that trip down and back in one day just for US. We didn't have nearly enough time to catch up, but I'm grateful for the time we did get. And she brought us Vermont treats. We love Nan. ♥

After returning from lunch, Dad and new wife Linda stopped by (*surprise!*), as they'd just got off the plane and had a little time to kill. This is my first time meeting Linda, even though she was apparently the nurse at my elementary school (I have no recollection!). There wasn't much of a chance to really get to know her in that half hour, but she seems very nice so far. The real litmus test will be how she handles family dinner on Sunday afternoon. Dad has been known to play "war" with the remains of his surf-n-turf on his plate. Does she know THAT Dad? I hope so. And I hope she loves that Dad.

After that, we raced off to Uncle Steve (Mom's twin) and Aunt Penny's to hang with them, his daughter (Cousin Lindsey), my grandmother Mima and Aunt Micki and "Uncle" (dude's my age) C.B., who'd just gotten in from Colorado. Cousin Bill unfortunately had to work. Aunt Penny can COOOOOOOK, peeps. Lasagna, meatballs, an unbelievable salad, wine, wine and more wine...and sooooooo much laughter! I was so tired (cuz I flew in on a red eye Tuesday night/Wednesday morning and between that and the time zone change my clock is all whacked out), but not nearly ready to go when Mom called time (early work in the morning for her). I was glad to know more was to come on Saturday.

So far so good. Tomorrow breakfast with dad, pre-rehearsal with the pianist, wedding rehearsal, rehearsal dinner, then my baby brother comes in from Boston. I guess I'd better rest these cords as I'm on the job tomorrow. Who says there are no jobs out there? There's always work for a singer. :-)

...to be cont'd...