The Southern Expat Communique: New York observations of a displaced belle


What can a Happiness Index teach us?

Alexa von Tobel is at it again. This time, she is helping us determine whether wealth is tantamount to happiness. What do we learn from her today? In short,

1.   Money doesn’t necessarily make you happy. Duh.

2.   The wealth gap in our country is extraordinary: the top 20% of the country earns 8 times as much as the bottom 20%.

3.   There exists something called the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index. By god, I think the Bhutanese are on to something by quantifying happiness as a kind of national commodity. Happy people are more productive, right?

Alright, kids, what are you going to do today to improve the GNH of your country, state, city, home? I might just schedule a field trip to Bhutan, Denmark, or Norway to learn from a happy example, you know? Let me know if you want to sign up! In the meantime, I am going to listen to some blues music (which I think is downright inspirational) and pick up a copy of The Geography of Bliss.

Have a beautiful day even if the sun isn’t shining above you!



A very theatrical week

Sometimes I wonder why I live in this city. It’s stinky in the summer because for some reason alleyways sounded like a terrible idea to city planners. I encounter more crazy people than sane ones on many days, and I’m fly paper for weird, so they naturally love me. The wind is absolutely unbearable because the city is on an island or two. And, Dr. Pepper and cheese dip are so extraordinarily rare here, I cry about it on a nightly basis. This article from The Onion pretty much summarizes how I sometimes feel about NYC. Only in New York? Really.

But, in a week when I see four exceptional performances, I am reminded why this place is pretty great.

Last weekend, my good friend Kim was kind enough to invite me to the Metropolitan Opera (friendly competitor of my own New York City Opera) to see Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades. I’ll admit, the prospect of sitting through a four-hour opera about a man obsessed with learning a card trick didn’t sound that appealing on a Friday evening. But, it was UUUUHmazing! I’m so glad I went! The costumes were so elaborate and looked as if they were inspired by the royalty on a deck of cards. Clever, clever, Elijah Moshinsky. I should have known I would love the orchestral music because I heart Tchaikovsky, but hearing the extraordinary score from the pit really was the crown jewel of this opera. Did I mention there was a ballet in the second act? I’m not so secretly partial to operas with dance elements, and this mid-opera ballet was pretty fantastic, complete with gender bending. The principal singers, one Finnish (Karita Mattila) and the other Russian (Vladimir Galouzine) were powerful, even if unbelievable as youngsters in love. Tough to pull off youthful innocence when you’re in your 50s, no? Thank god for stage makeup and an audience that is primarily upward of 70 and with cataracts. All of that is to say that four hours at the Met isn’t the worst way to spend a Friday night, far from it. If you are inclined, you should check out one of the last two performances: 3/21 and 3/26.

On the opposite end of the performance styles was the world premiere of “EXIT,” a modern dance piece by Keigwin + Company at The Joyce Theater (employer of mi amor). Dear Jesus, run, don’t walk, to see anything Keigwin produces. I’m not an enormous fan of modern dance or wasn’t until last weekend. I think it is because the few modern dance classes I took would have been more appropriately styled “interpretive” dance. “Pretend you’re a tree and the wind just blew through you” just doesn’t strike me as proper dance instruction. The Keigwin dancers, however, were technically skilled, athletic, and compelling in every way. I was only sad that I didn’t have six sets of eyes to take in everything each of the dancers was doing. How the hell do they dance like that in heels?! How did a black set look so dynamic? How do they all bend like that?! These were just a few questions I asked over the course of the 60 minute performance. One of the lovely dancers, Kristina Hanna, was named one of the season’s rising stars by The Observer, as was City Opera’s Mexican tenor David Lomeli (Elixir of Love opens March 22!!) incidentally. Sorry for the shameless plug!

This weekend, P and I were lucky enough to see our fair friend, the lovely Allison McLemore, play the title role in Nora. When a friend tells you she is in an Ingmar Bergman adaptation of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, you know you’re in for a bleak evening of theater. Allison was simply perfect in this really challenging role, and somehow, she made Ibsen accessible, a seemingly insurmountable task. On a note of personal pride, I’ll just say, it’s one of the coolest things ever when you see a college friend not only grace an off-Broadway stage, but own it! I was beaming with pride at The Abingdon Theatre Company on Friday. Bravo, indeed, Ms. McLemore!

We rounded out the weekend with a show in the neighborhood at St. Ann’s Warehouse. For those of you who keep up with DUMBO goings-on, you might know that St. Ann’s needs to find a new home. The Walentases (Two Trees) who own the theater space are ready to build…wait for it…more condos!! These condos will force St. Ann’s out of their theater, sadly. I’m really pulling for St. Ann’s to stay in the hood, but I wanted to be sure to see a show in the current, dynamic space. I think the U.S. premiere of Beautiful Burnout created by Frantic Assembly and the National Theatre of Scotland was the perfect St. Ann’s first experience. Wow! I love a Scottish accent, and I love boxing. I also love spare, creative staging. This clever piece combined all of those elements with some spectacular choreography and outstanding actors. I was captivated each minute and didn’t want the show to end. The parallel of boxing and dance was brilliant. I can’t wait to see more from NTS and St. Ann’s.

Well, that’s about all I have to tell you about, kids. P’s 30th birthday celebration on Saturday was a fete to be remembered, outfitted in moustaches. For all of you who joined us, YAY! For those of you who missed it, I’m sorry you didn’t get to pin the tail on the donkey. P won, but I’m convinced he rigged it. xoxo

My interpretation of P in his moustache