26 September 2007

My encounter with the two smallest non-midget humans + Wes Anderson (also very small)

Last night I went to a film screening, followed by a Q&A with WES ANDERSON (!!!), Jason Schwartzman (!!), and Natalie Portman (!). I knew Jason Schwartzman and Natalie Portman were small, but sweet jesus, not pixie elves. Luckily, short people don’t scare me, so their physical stature doesn’t affect the high esteem in which I hold both of them. Jason’s long been in my top 5 list of favorite actors, and has been holding steady at #1 ever since I saw the grossly underrated movie Slackers. As for Natalie, I’ve always respected her role choices and she gets even more points for her boldness last night. Read on.

Last night I attended the SoHo screening of "Hotel Chevalier," Wes Anderson’s 12-minute prequel to "The Darjeeling Limited" (out in limited release this Saturday). More so than the news that FOX cut the short film from the theatrical release of "Darjeeling," "Hotel" is making headlines for bringing us Portman’s first nude scene. While it was done extremely tastefully, you have to be super bold to sit in front of a room and answer questions from a crowd that just saw you totally naked.

I LOVED the film. But since I saw it in an atmosphere chock full of Anderson superfans that waited 3+ hours in line for 12 minutes in cinematic heaven, it’s hard to say whether that assesment is based on the film itself or the shared experience of laughing at every dry line that more often than not goes over the head of a typical moviegoer. Also, I saw in the credits that Marc Jacobs for Louis Vuitton had something to do with the costume and luggage design for the project. Soooooo, you can imagine that my state was somewhere between overstimulation and blacking out from hyperventilation.

Wes is known for his visually spectacular presentation, and although the entire movie was shot within the confines of a Parisian Hotel room (a real room/set- i.e. no fake walls), he still managed to pull it off. True to form, it also features quirky music. In fact, during the Q&A, Wes admitted that the song that plays throughout, "Where Do You Go To (My Lovely)" by Peter Sarsted, was the inspiration for the film. In fact, Jason said Wes played the song in the background when he called him with the idea.

Before I go on, I must give credit to Sarah D. for calling me Monday night to give me the head’s up on this event. She’s quickly securing a spot as my “Person of the Year,” between her wingwoman skills and the Wes/Jason alert. I was nervous I wouldn’t get into the screening, as the policy was first come first serve and the earliest I can get out of work is 6. The event was at the Apple store on Prince Street (SoHo) and I rolled up around 6:30. Success! Full success! I got a wristband and a guaranteed spot inside. And if you wanted a shot at actually being able to see the screen, the Apple staff advised us to stay in the line. So I did. Until 9:45. When they finally let us in. 45 minutes late.

Capacity was 200, and I was number 132. The Apple store has a decent sized screening area if you’re entertaining, say a 3rd-grade field trip. There were 5 rows of theatre-style seating which I’d guess fit about 75-100 viewers. The rest was standing room only. I got a halfway decent spot behind the event photographers. I could see the film fine, although once Jason, Natalie and Wes came out, I had to shift and tip toe. I’m going to blame that on their height, though, not mine.

I had prepared two questions, which ended up getting asked, albeit by other people. The first question, the obvious one, was addressed in Wes's first answer. “Which came first the chicken (Darjeeling) or the egg (Chevalier)?” Wes said the “prequel,” Hotel Chevalier, was originally shot before Darjeeling was ever written, not as an afterthought of the movie, and not as a part of the movie. He also once considered making it a part of the full-length film, but then thought it might be cooler to show a 12 minute short, have a little break for people to check their cell phones and get some snacks and then show Darjeeling. But then he realized that didn’t really work in a theatre setting. Hotel will be a feature on the DVD though. I also heard it might be made available for free download on iTunes.

The other question I had jotted down (also keeping in mind Natalie Portman’s recent participation in "Paris Je t’Aime," a collection of short films by various directors shot in exclusively in Paris) was whether or not Wes would ever consider doing a collection of short films. As an afterthought now, Hotel Chevalier was shot in Paris. That totally could have been a part of "Paris Je T’Aime." Anyway, Wes said he would love to do a film composed entirely of shorts. And I would love it if he did, too.

My favorite question, though:

Guy: "Is Kumar in Darjeeling?"
Wes: "Um, I don't think most of the people here know what you are talking about and I'm not going to explain it, but yes. He has a brief part."

NOTE: I knew what he was talking about. And I suspect any Wes Anderson fan would. You underestimate your following, Wes. You really do.

The Q&A lasted about 30 minutes and, for me personally was a once-in-a-lifetime experience not only to gain insight to my all-time favorite director’s perspective, but just to see Wes and Jason banter back and forth from, like, 20 feet away.

Even though I spent three and a half hours waiting in line, I have zero complaints. The people watching was second-to-none. The screening might as well have been co-sponsored by NYU’s Tisch School for the Arts and whoever produced that “Hipster Olympics” video that’s so damn popular on YouTube. In front of me were two female students/American Apparel employees, one sporting a platinum blonde faux-hawk and silver lamé bike shorts, the other rolling her own cigarettes. The guy behind me wore thick-framed glasses, tight jeans, brought dinner with him from Dean and Deluca, followed by a can of beer wrapped in a brown paper bag. I ended up chatting a bit with the guy standing next to me when I first arrived, who appeared to either be a reporter or a very diligent note taker. He was kind of cute in a retro-nerdy way but he definitely had some kind of nervous tick, so I assumed he was probably some brand of psychotic. Later on in the night his friend, a white guy with an Afro (who via eavesdropping I found out later was an actor/comedian/bandmember with no dayjob...which I think is the norm here) showed up on his bike and reported that he had a 24 ounce beer and four chocolate chip cookies for dinner. MAN! I was starving. I must have looked it too because the girl working at the Alessi coffee bar that I was situated just outside of in line gave me my choice of pastries they had left at closing. So I chowed down on slice of Almond Brioche and looked forward to the evening to come…

Appendix: My favorite lines from Hotel Chevalier.

Jason’s character: [On the phone with room service, ordering in French] “…oui, et pain avec frommage…Um. How do you say grilled cheese in French?”

Natalie’s character: “If we fuck I am going to feel like shit tomorrow morning.”
Jason’s character: [long pause] “That’s OK with me.”

Update from my "Person of the Year:"
Marc Jacobs meets Wes World: http://www.observer.com/2007/welcome-wes-world

Other press:
Pictures of the line from last night (I was at about the spot where this picture cuts off):

Pictures of Jason, Natalie and Wes at the Apple store last night:

LA Times on "Hotel Chevalier": http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/news/movies/la-et-darjeeling24sep24,1,3665790.story?coll=la-headlines-entnews&track=crosspromo

Guy who got the actual quotes right from last night because he is a reporter with a notepad:

23 September 2007

A weekend of highs and lows.

My first week in NY was a whirlwind. I think the blog is going to take a back seat for awhile now that I know work is definitely going to be a lot more intense (no more posting during office hours, from what I can tell so far).

Friday after work I stopped at Pinkberry for frozen yogurt. And after just one cup I am addicted. It’s indescribable and incredible, but I’ll take a shot: Tart, frozen creamy deliciousness topped with fresh fruit and various cereals. I opted for raspberries and Cap’n Crunch. Also available: Fruity Pebbles, Coco Pebbles, Granola, Kiwi, Blackberries, Lychee, etc.

I hit 10th Avenue with Sarah, Mike (Sarah’s husband) and Joe (Mike’s brother) later that evening. As I was walking to meet up with them however, some sort of particle hit me in the eye and I was having a tough time trying to get it out. So I stopped in Mike and Sarah’s bathroom before we went to the bar and realized a huge chunk was missing from my cornea. Sarah had no eyepatches on hand, so I braved the bar with a red, tear-y eye, which really consistenly flared up when I laughed really hard…to the point where I needed a napkin to sop up the tears. So Sarah has about 4 pictures of me that look like I am in absolute agony, weeping in a bar on my first night out.

Mike and Joe were taking in the Yankees game at the bar, while Sarah and I were taking in many drinks. The game went into something like 14 innings and Sarah and I (who both loathe the Yanks) had about enough by inning 12. So we left the boys to finish watching the game and took the subway down to the village and ran into a bar I had been to and had a great time at before: Fat Black Pussycat. For a bit, it was just me and Sarah at a booth, which apparently is the universal invitation for obnoxious/sketchy guys to come chat. One such fellow sat down next to me and would not shut the fuck up. I thought I could get us off the hook my mentioning that Sarah was married. Turns out that just made him refine focus his focus to me. So Sarah winked at me, got up, and left me at the booth. Alone. Distraught. And wondering what signal I was giving her that it was OK to leave me alone with Creepy McCreeperton, the self-proclaimed Investment Banker (which I am POSITIVE was a total lie).

Turns out Sarah is the best wingwoman ever. She discreetly found two normal guys, explained the situation and talked them into saving me. No less than 2 minutes later, my “boyfriend,” Brian and his friend showed up and yelled “LESLIE!! Baby? How’s your night going? Why is this guy here??” So they sat down at chatted with us for a couple minutes and then our real entourage, Mike and Joe showed up, depressed from the Yankees loss shortly thereafter. Crisis averted.

Got a late start Saturday, but Sarah and I did some shopping downtown at The Container Store before watching an extremely depressing Penn State-Michigan game. I’ll be the first to admit that we deserved to lose that game. The only thing good about it was the bottle of red wine, hummus, nachos and salsa we consumed during play. Morelli should be tarred and feathered for that performance.

Today I met my other Sarah (Buck) for lunch in Central Park and a walk around the Upper West Side. It was great catching up with her and planning our upcoming concert and ballet schedule. I also feel like a terrible friend because I totally didn’t realize tomorrow is her birthday (I am horrible with dates). But anyway…HAPPY BIRTHDAY SARAH!

17 September 2007

Maui is the New Bermuda Triangle.

I’m thinking of a word. 8 Letters. Synonymous with “United Airlines.”


I was originally supposed to fly to Baltimore and move my stuff with my Dad and brother to my apartment in NY on Sunday morning. However, my flight was canceled in Maui, so I decided to fly directly to NY. It took a total of 42 hours between the time I arrived at the airport in Maui and the time I arrived at my new front door.

I’m thinking of a 6 letter word to describe my trip here.


The whole mess began when our flight to the mainland from Maui was canceled on Saturday afternoon. Now, I completely understand that travel plans get messed up from time to time. But to begin with, the flight cancellation was due to a United eff-up to begin with. This cancellation launched a domino effect of fuck-ups that resulted in United paying for the lodging of 300 passengers not one, but two nights in a row.

No one really ever gave us a reason for the cancellation, because they couldn;t decide on a good story. But when the pilot finally told us the truth the next day, he said that the initial problem was that someone overbooked our flight’s pilots according to the TSA’s flying time-off requirements and we didn’t have anyone that could legally fly us out of Hawaii to the mainland. Solution? Fly an entire Boeing 777 to a smaller airport on a different island. The airport we flew into:

  1. Was a 10-minute flight away.
  2. Had a total of 5 gates.
  3. Is not enclosed in any way.
  4. Looks like a Pizza Hut parking lot.

When we arrived (after nearly skidding off the runway) we were told to get our bags and go to the airport curb and someone would provide instructions. What happened when we got to the curb was someone in a Tommy Bahama shirt checked our name off a list and then just left us all standing—IN THE RAIN—with no idea what was going on. FOR AN HOUR. Luckily, my newlywed friends, Robbie and Jessica were stranded with me. As we stood huddled in a massive group, I told Robbie that I couldn’t live under this United Airlines dictatorship and that we needed to organize a coup. He replied that although it would be nice to stage an uprising, there was no one there to rise up against. The United people just disappeared. They had no idea what was going on either or how to handle a group of 300 stranded passengers. So they just left us there.

Finally a bus showed up and everyone stormed it. Half of us got on that bus, which was headed to an unknown hotel. A few minutes later another bus showed up and took the other half of the plane to another hotel. After awhile of just sitting in the parking lot, a flustered United agent got on the bus and said that she had meal vouchers for everyone but that:

1. The meal voucher was only good for $10 towards the hotel restaurant’s $40 buffet and

2. Her printer was broken so we would have to sit and wait on the bus for the printer to get fixed.

We all yelled to fuck the vouchers and just get us to the hotel.

Since the hotel buffet was out of the question, Robbie, Jess and I walked to town and got Nachos and beer at a dive restaurant called “Lulu’s.” At Lulu’s you can write whatever you want on a $1 bill and staple it to the restaurant walls/tables/fixtures. We opted for this:

We had been instructed to be at the hotel curb at 5:30am the next morning so that the bus could depart promptly at 6 am. None of us thought that would give us enough time to check in for an 8am departure, but like I said--dictatorship. So to add fuel to the fire, the bus did not show up UNTIL 6am. That got us to the airport, which was completely and totally unequipped to handle us, an hour and 15 minutes before we were scheduled to take off. 300 people, all queuing in a line at once, all who have to rebook connections. Compund that with the Hawaiian work ethic of “let me smoke some doja and move at a glacial pace…and BE AN IDIOT,” and you have a recipe for an hour and forty-five minute flight delay. By the time the plane ended up taking off, all of the connections we had just stood for two hours in line to book were now null and void because when we arrived in Chicago, the airport was done for the day. I’ll also mention that they ran out of food on the plane and we had no opportunities to buy our own food in the morning before leaving. So Robbie and Jessica lived on ‘Nilla wafers they bought the night before. I lived on trail mix that I had packed. Oh, and sleeping pills.

In addition, I will also remark that Robbie, Jessica and I stayed in relatively good spirits throughout the ordeal. There just wans't much you could do about the situation except laugh and make snide comments. There were some people there with real problems stuck in this situation though:

1. An 95-year old wheelchair-bound woman with Alzheimers.
2. A Make-A-Wish foundation recipient.
3. A couple who had just flown to Maui to get married and were returning because he was shipping out to Iraq the next day.

Luckily, people on the mainland (and in a major city) are competent. When we landed in Chicago (about 10:30 pm), the United customer service team had water bottles and snack boxes ready for us when we got off the plane. Then everyone got in a new line, which was much more efficient than anything we had experienced so far, booked connections for the following morning, got assigned to a Chicago hotel to crash at for 5 hours, and a $3 meal voucher. Yes. You read that correctly. THREE DOLLARS.

Do you know what I was NOT able to buy with a $3 voucher? A bottle of fucking water. I used my $3 meal voucher and $1.25 cash to buy a $4.25 bottle of FIJI water for breakfast the next morning.

Things you cannot afford to buy with just your $3 meal voucher at Chicago O’Hare International Airport:

-A bottle of water
-A plain croissant
-A scone (HURTING food item. I wouldn’t even want it if it were free!)
-A Grande Pumpkin Spice Latte at Starbucks
-The Egg McMuffin combo meal from McDonalds
-A fruit “medley”

I arrived at LaGuardia at 10:15am this morning, hydrated from my $4.25 bottle of water. I retrieved one of my bags, which had arrived on the 6am flight. My other piece of luggage—the one with all my clothes in it—is lost.

I opted to splurge on a taxi to the city since I had been traveling already for 40 hours. Since airlifiting wasn’t an option, I wanted the next possible fastest route “home” (an apartment I have only actually seen for 5 minutes).

The taxi line was at least 20 minutes long, so the Town Car guys were soliciting people right and left for flat rate rides to midtown. For $35 dollars I got a 15 minute ride to my door by a Thai curse-word yelling, red-light running, cut-off-any-car-at-all-costs aggressive driver. God, I love New York.