Going Solo: Movies Edition

Going to the movies solo (and I don’t mean Han Solo) can be a terrifying prospect for some.  It seems unnatural in a society where we’ve been trained to think about it as part of a classic date scenario (dinner, movie, terrible or awesome goodnight kiss) or a group activity where at least one other person is involved in the rite of watching images on a gigantic screen in a darkened theater.  And I certainly can understand the need for someone with whom to share popcorn during and discussion after.

Ridin' Solo

Ridin’ Solo

But we also live in the golden age of binge-watching where we can watch hours of television shows and movies without changing out of our sweatpants, and the majority of us participate in THAT rite alone (save for maybe a bag of our dear friend, Doritos).  I realize a night in with ye olde Netflix may seem a bit different than one out at your local movie multiplex, but with a little courage and maybe a gentle swath of mascara (if you feel like it), it’s not as different as you might think.

Since moving to New York a little over three years ago, I have become a pro at the solo movie date.  Now, I know it’s a little easier to blend in when you live in a city of nine million people, but I started going to the movies alone when I was in Oklahoma City for college, and I still managed to be an under-the-radar solo movie-goer.  So let me give you the pitch for why you should start hitting the Cineplex on your own:

  1. You always get to pick the movie. Wanna see J. Lo’s new sure-to-be-a-guilty-pleasure-but-probably-terrible-movie, the Boy Next Door?  Go for it!  No one can sigh loudly and politely yet pointedly suggest something with a higher score on Rotten Tomatoes.  Feeling more like indulging your gangster side with A Most Violent Year?  What about a Truffaut marathon at your local art-house theater? C’est bon!  Allons-y!  Going alone means you don’t have to ever compromise; your choice is the only one that matters.
  2. You always get to pick the snacks/drinks. You’re basically the Kevin McCallister of your movie going experience.  A lovely cheese pizza just for me. Or you.
    "A lovely cheese pizza just for me" = the excuse I have used when ordering pizza

    “A lovely cheese pizza just for me” = an actual excuse I have used when ordering pizza

    No judgments.  Full disclosure: one time, I snuck in a 10-piece chicken nugget combo with waffle fries from Chik-Fil-A to a Toy Story/Toy Story 2 double feature.  Because I’m a BAMF…and I was starving.  Also, you never have to share, so have a calorie fest on your own, because you can.

  3. You can wear whatever you want. Obviously, you have to learn how to not care what you look like in public, but this is the most freeing part of the whole experience.  There is no one you have to impress because you’re just sitting in the dark.  Like, who actually is going to notice if you’re in an old college sweatshirt, jeans, Converse, and no makeup?  I personally do not need winged-tipped eyeliner and red lipstick if I’m wearing 3-D glasses and watching the T-Rex attack Lex & Tim’s SUV in Jurassic Park…unless I want to feel fancier, but that decision is solely up to me.
  4. Nobody talks to you during previews. I think we can all agree we’d like to swoon over the next Avengers movie and its hunky stars without any extra commentary.  (Am I the only one who finds Mark Ruffalo CRAZY HOT as Bruce Banner?  Is it seriously just me?  And also obviously I have had several dreams involving Iron Man and Captain America…)



  5. You can double-feature it whenever you feel like it. Maybe you want to see Wild and then maybe you want to see Night at the Museum 3.  Tomato, tomato.  No one can stop you.

So now that I’ve told you why it’s amazing ridin’ solo (and also ridin’ Solo…wink wink), let’s talk logistics!  Here’s a little starter guide to how I personally do the whole going-to-the-movies-alone thing.  Feel free to adapt this to suit your own heart’s desires.  After all, as the wise and dreamy Dr. Ian Malcolm once opined in a dinosaur breeding lab on Isla Nublar,”Life finds a way.”  You’ll find yours.

...just like your shirt found the way to be gratuitously open to your navel later, Ian.  Thanks!

…just like your shirt found the way to be gratuitously open to your navel later in the movie, Ian. Thanks!

  1. Pick your movie(s). Remember, nobody is going with you, so you have free reign.  I actually have gotten overwhelmed before because when you don’t have to think about what somebody else wants to see, you suddenly have way, WAY more choices.  Know that you can make more than one trip or see more than one movie in a day (budget allowing).  This may sound obvious, but if you’re used to always seeing movies with other people, it might seem like a strange concept to wrap your head around.  See what YOU want to see!

    Thank you for being my movie friends, old people.

    Thank you for being my movie friends, old people.

  2. Opt for a morning showtime (before noon) when possible. In New York, it costs $14.50 for a regular adult priced show and up to $18 for an IMAX.  However, most movie theaters here in the city offer early bird prices around $8 for movie times before noon.  The great thing is most of these showings are relatively empty, so you’re guaranteed your choice of seats and an almost private viewing experience.  If you don’t have problems with hanging with the elderly, you’re golden (just like the Golden Girls).
  3. Buy your snacks/drinks outside of the movie theater. Okay, so generally, this is frowned upon, because the big corporations who own movie theater chains want you to give them as much of your money as possible (and possibly your first-born child) like the Scrooge McDucks they are.  In no world should a small Coke cost $5.25.  So I stick it to the man and hit up the Duane Reade or 7-Eleven before I go and always remember to carry a slightly larger purse/bag with me.  Since I typically go to morning movies a lot these days, I like buying a pastry and iced coffee, which costs me less than the price of a movie theater concession stand small soda.  Take a big bag and be inconspicuous.
  4. Don’t worry about being there alone. Every single time I’ve gone to the movies by myself, there have been at least one or two other people there doing exactly the same thing as me.  I don’t know about you, but I go to the movies mostly because I love movies.  Occasionally, it’s also a form of stress-relief, but that’s a side benefit.  If you’re nervous about being alone, try to focus on the fact you’re there to be entertained and engrossed in a story.  The truth is that is what everyone else is there to do, and no one is paying attention to whether or not you’re there by yourself.

    One of my favorite movies of 2014: Whiplash.

    One of my favorite movies of 2014: Whiplash.

  5. Double Feature-it on occasion. What’s better than seeing one movie alone?  Seeing two!  Now, I have been a bad girl and snuck into a second movie at larger multiplexes where it’s easier to do that (I’m a rebel WITH a cause!), but I have also simply bought another ticket to a second feature.  Recently, I saw both Whiplash and Nightcrawler back to back and realized I had unknowingly created a theme night (in this case: tales of obsession)!  Part of the fun of seeing movies this way is being able to tailor your own movie-going experience. But don’t forget we all need some sunlight!

So now you have a plan for hitting the movies on your own like a boss.  Hopefully, I’ve made you feel a little less apprehensive about leaving your house, your Doritos, and your Netflix behind in lieu of a cushy seat, large popcorn, and Meryl Streep.  It’s good to do things on your own sometimes, to be the master of your own cinematic destiny.  One last thing: enjoy yourself!

See you at the movies.  I’ll be the one clandestinely chowing down on chicken nuggets towards the middle of the theater while Benedict Cumberbatch tries to break the Enigma Code and beat the Nazis.

"Are you REALLY eating chicken nuggets right now while I act my arse off?"

“Are you REALLY eating chicken nuggets right now while I act my arse off?”

Tempus fugit

I saw Richard Linklater’s extraordinary new film Boyhood opening weekend (at the always cool IFC Center here in Manhattan) and was treated to a Q&A with the man himself and his star, the miraculous Ellar Coltrane, following the film.  Chances are, you’ve probably been reading and hearing a lot about this film the last two weeks or so, and not without reason does it have a 100% rating on Rotten Tomatoes.  It is quietly moving, honest, and completely lovely; full of the real stuff of life that seems insignificant, but upon rumination, it is actually the important stuff.  It’s the stuff that shapes who you are.

Richard Linklater and Ellar Coltrane: changing the face of cinema, quite literally

Richard Linklater and Ellar Coltrane: changing the face of cinema, quite literally

And it got me thinking (and continuing to think as it is over a week ago I saw the film) about life.

But it also got me thinking about magic: both fictional and real.

Whether it’s coincidental or not, magic seems to be a recurring theme in the film.  In one scene, Mason’s mother (a sublime Patricia Arquette) reads from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets before bedtime.  In another scene, Mason and his sister, Samantha (played with feistiness by Lorelai Linklater), dress up and attend a midnight book party for Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince.  They’re wide-eyed and excited, clutching their newly purchased books to their chests like precious treasure.  A third scene has Mason asking his father (the always reliably affable Ethan Hawke) about magic and elves.  “Right this second, there’s like, no elves in the world, right?” he asks tentatively.  And this propels his father into a wonderful moment of vocal philosophizing about the definition of magic itself.  He explains that magic could very well be the fact we have whales so huge you can swim through their arteries, but is that magic?  He doesn’t know.  When Mason asks again, this time a little more pointedly, his father answers, “Technically, no elves.”

Mason Jr. and his female friend = the new Jesse and Celine?

Mason Jr. and his female friend = the new Jesse and Celine?

The last scene of Boyhood features a now nineteen year-old Mason sitting on a rock in the wilderness of Texas with a girl he’s just met that day, his first of college.  They’re talking about life.  “You know how everyone’s always saying seize the moment?” she asks. “I don’t know, I’m kind of thinking it’s the other way around, you know, like the moment seizes us.”  He replies, “Yeah, I know, it’s constant, the moments, it’s just — it’s like it’s always right now, you know?”  And just as he’s saying that, the sun is setting, and you know you’re glimpsing another fleeting, magical moment, but like Mason, you’re hopeful, because you know another one will come along if you ground yourself in the present.  And THAT right there got me thinking about another of my favorite Linklater films, Before Sunrise (really just that whole trilogy, but the first especially).  In a scene in that particular film which is all about seizing those fleeting moments, Celine says to Jesse, “If there’s any kind of magic in this world, it must be in the attempt of understanding someone, sharing something.”

"If there's any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it's almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt." - Celine

“If there’s any kind of magic in this world it must be in the attempt of understanding someone sharing something. I know, it’s almost impossible to succeed but who cares really? The answer must be in the attempt.” – Celine

So is that magic?  Connecting with someone else on an almost spiritual level?  The kind of magic we’re accustomed to is often the kind associated with witches and wizards like Harry Potter where there are spells and people are transformed.  If you really think about it, all magic is about doing something to another person: cursing them, making them fall in love with you, changing them or yourself in some way.  The Oxford Dictionary defines magic in four ways:

  1. The power of apparently influencing the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces.
  2. Mysterious tricks, such as making things disappear and appear again, performed as entertainment.
  3. A quality that makes something seem removed from everyday life, especially in a way that gives delight.
  4. Something that has a delightfully unusual quality.

So if we look at it this way, as magic being something that seems delightfully removed from everyday life that influences the course of the events in a life, then we really DO experience magic in the real world.  Mason’s father wasn’t wrong and neither was Celine: magic is very real and present.  I don’t think Richard Linklater featured Harry Potter in two scenes of Boyhood without reason; not only have the books changed the lives of millions of readers around the world in profound ways, but so too do Harry, Ron, and Hermione experience the magic of growing up, forging friendships, and discovering love (among other things like battling dark wizards and basically saving humanity).  Magic is ever present in all those milestones of life, big and small.

"We are the three best friends that anyone could have..."

“We are the three best friends that anyone could have…”

Celine and Jesse experience that magic as they wander the streets of Vienna, talking for hours and essentially falling in love.  I’ve written about it before, but we’ve all had those moments of connection with someone else.  It’s usually those moments we actually FEEL life happening to us and around us; we become acutely aware of our own mortality and the preciousness of it all.  It’s the thing where you feel infinite and finite at the same time.  Mason Jr. becomes aware of it at the end of BoyhoodCeline and Jesse know it too.  And so too do we when we allow ourselves to be swept up in those moments, to be seized by them the way Mason’s female companion posits during their conversation.  And those moments are also usually the ones that transform us with their magic, because our lives are never quite the same afterwards.  I just felt it late last Wednesday night as a guy and I recklessly climbed ladders to the roof of his office building just to look at the Empire State Building and essentially, each other.  To hold hands and talk about life, both of us sensing it was the start of something new and treating that beautiful fragility with reverence and wonder, because we know it will never be like that ever again; we will never have these moments again.

A now iconic movie poster for a now iconic film

A now iconic movie poster for a now iconic film

Boyhood often is about the mundane of life, but further examination reveals the mundane is the magical.  So often we remember these small things more so than the milestones.  The little setbacks and victories.  The way your mom would make breakfast.  Summer days spent riding bikes and drawing with sidewalk chalk.  Long conversations to your best friend on the phone.  Or maybe harboring a crush on a college professor.  Or climbing on a roof to look at the city lights with someone just because you’re young and feel invincible.  Things DO change, people DO change, and that’s the magic of it all.  Time is magic, because as it passes, it transforms you and the world around you.  You’re always under its spell.

Just as he’s leaving for college in Boyhood, Mason’s mother is crying and poignantly admits, “I thought there’d be more.”  So do we.  All the more reason to appreciate whatever time and magic we’ve got.

*Run to see Boyhood whenever it hits your local multiplex.  Heck, even drive to a showing nearby if it’s not.  It’s a once-in-a-lifetime kind of movie.  Truly something special.

Happy 100

It’s my 100th post!

I guess that means I can be described as “prolific” now, right?  However, I’m not sure since I don’t churn out insipid romance novels every other week like Nicholas Sparks or Danielle Steele.  I’m also pretty sure there are more sequels to the Land Before Time than the number of blog posts I have written, but I don’t use a fact-checker, so that can’t be verified.

I'm as prolific as the Land Before Time and its 345236761 sequels!

I’m as prolific as the Land Before Time and its 345236761 sequels!

Anyway, I think having the semi-discipline to author 100 possibly self-absorbed blog posts begs celebration, don’t you?  I do, and frankly, I’m looking for an excuse to drink the two large bottles of Estonian beer sitting in my fridge that I got sent home with from a catering gig.

So before I set off on my Estonian-fueled Power Hour, I present you with a list of my ten favorite posts from blogging past:

1 – Remember Xanga?  Yeah, I cringe a little bit too thinking about how much of my adolescent self I poured into that Internet relic like I was Winona Ryder in basically every movie Winona Ryder has been in.  I felt ALL the feelings.  Diary of a Mad, White Teenager aka My Xanga Years

2 – Behind every Christmas tree and light display is a frustrated father who just wants his family Christmas to be perfect.  Father Christmas or In Defense of Dads Yelling at the Christmas Lights

3 – From gay boyfriends to terrible first kisses, love often eludes me.  Loves Labours Lost Part I

4 – It’s been said many times, but New York is a city of tremendous highs and lows.  Sometimes they occur all in the same day.  It’s not for nothing Woody Allen was the perfect example of NYC neuroticism.  But…For Every Action, There is an Equal and Opposite Reaction.

5 – Sometimes, one night can be the most magical experience of your young adult life.  LIVE from New York, It’s Saturday Night

6 – Like most little girls, I wanted to be a ballerina when I grew up.  I spent much of my childhood engrossed in tendus, plies, Fonteyn, Baryshnikov, and stories about swan princesses.  But it wound up being A Dream Deferred

7 – Newbies to the City sometimes ask me about good date spots.  I grabbed a gay BFF and had a somewhat, uh, untraditional date.  How to Enjoy the Museum of Natural History On a Date

8 – To quote Ferris Bueller, “Life moves pretty fast.  If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.”  Ever feel like literally EVERYONE you know is getting engaged, married, or having babies?  Yeah, me too.  The Day My Facebook (& My Life) Went From Bacchanals to Bridal Showers: A Modern Tale of Growing Up

9 – Sometimes, you gotta live in the woods for two years to get away from it all; at least, that’s what Thoreau and Daniel Day-Lewis think.  But could we really live life like “Walden” in the Era of the Smart Phone?

10 – According to the Captain & Tenille (one of my parents’ favorite 70s pop groups), love will keep us together.  On Valentine’s Day, we all scream and shout about LOVE, but the kind we’re looking for is actually lowercase love.  Not “Muskrat Love,” whatever that is, Captain & Tenille.

So go forth and know me better, man (and woman)!  I can’t promise my next 100 posts won’t be any less self-deprecating and full of obscure pop culture references, but I CAN promise you’ll be entertained (I hope).  I guess it’s time to go find out if this Estonian beer is any good…

Family Christmas Traditions: English Wassail

As I mentioned in my last post, I really love traditions during the holidays; the older the better! My last name is Potter; so obviously, a good portion of my ancestry is English (though sadly, there is no known record of any ACTUAL witches or wizards in my family despite one of my relatives being accused of witchcraft during the Salem Witch Trials).

England is even old than Arthur, King of the Britains!

England is even old than Arthur, King of the Britains!

Now, as you know, England is one of the oldest countries in the world, and many of our American traditions can be traced back to our friends “over the pond.” Many of THEIR traditions stem from pagan rituals or Roman culture.  And of course, lots of blood was shed and whatnot over the centuries, but that’s all rather unpleasant so let’s just skip that, yes?    So moving on…one of my favorite Christmas traditions in the Potter household is wassail.  I don’t expect everyone to know what wassail is (despite it being totally awesome and something everyone SHOULD know about). Perhaps you’ve heard the Christmas carol, “Here We Come A-Wassailing” and wondered, “what are they talking about in this song? Is that some weird Victorian slang for doing drugs or something?”

The Victorian Era: letting children buy cocaine as a toothache remedy for 15 cents since 1885.

The Victorian Era: letting children buy cocaine as a toothache remedy for 15 cents since 1885.

No, children, it is not, even though I could see the confusion with lyrics like “here we come a-wassailing among the leaves so green, here we come a-wand’ring so fair to be seen.” Sounds like a Victorian head trip, but I assure you, wassail causes no chemical/psychological changes to your brain, though it may produce some euphoria (if you make it right). So what IS wassail, you ask? A remarkably wonderful, hot beverage!

First page of Beowulf from the Nowell Codex. I can't read it but I assume it says, "this poem is laborious and Angelina Jolie is NOT an accurate representation of Grendel's mom."

First page of Beowulf from the Nowell Codex. I can’t read it but I assume it says, “this poem is laborious and Angelina Jolie is NOT an accurate representation of Grendel’s mom.”

Wassail, or vas heil in Old Norse and wæs hæil in Anglo-Saxon, means “good health” or “be you healthy.” The word originally appeared as a salute in the epic 8th century poem, Beowulf (remember reading THAT in high school English class? Woof.). An old legend, which is described in 1135 by Geoffrey of Monmouth in his book, History of the Kings of Britain, tells the story of a maiden name Renwein who brought King Vortigern a goblet of wine at a royal banquet and toasted him saying, “Lavert King, was heil!”  Not only was this a toast, but a reference to the drink she had prepared for him. Wassail was a spiced wine, a descendant of the Roman drink hypocras, and prepared using imported, expensive spices like cinnamon, allspice, ginger, and cloves. Sometime later, the wine was replaced by fine ales, which made the drink more accessible to the lower classes in England. As a result, the recipe for wassail varies from family to family.

Vortigern and Renwein: no red solo cups at THIS party.

Vortigern and Renwein: no red solo cups at THIS party.

Wassailing is also an ancient ceremony performed in the cider-producing counties of England. It involved singing and drinking to the health of the trees to scare away evil spirits and ensure a good harvest (sounds like something out of Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings).  Eventually this practice and that of Renwein’s merged into the practice of wassailing we’re more familiar with today. Wassailing became very popular in the 1600s where people would travel door-to-door with large, decorated bowls of the drink, offering “good cheer” and sometimes expecting payment. It was temporarily banned by Parliament for a time during Puritan years (when they also banned the celebration of Christmas; HAVE YOU NO JOY, PURITANS?!), but then resurged in popularity (along with the “new” drink egg nog) in the Victorian era thanks to writers like Charles Dickens and Washington Irving. Now wassailing is a traditional part of an old English Christmas!

God bless us everyone!  Oh, and we brought liquor.

Wassailing in the 1600s.  “God bless us everyone! Oh, and we brought liquor.”

My mother and I use a family recipe to make wassail every year for Christmas. It’s a drink that warms you from your head to your toes. Ours is non-alcoholic, but you can find many a recipe online for alcoholic versions if you’re so “spirits”-ually inclined (most use some form of either wine, bourbon, or ale). We serve ours from a giant bowl, much like how it was served over 600 years ago (though in those days, they also put bread or “sops” on top…not to be confused with Beyonce putting your love on top.).

POTTER FAMILY WASSAIL RECIPE – Courtesy of the kitchen of Kathy Potter

  • 1 qt. apple juice
  • 1 qt. cranapple or cranberry juice
  • 1 qt. orange juice
  • 1/4 c. lemon juice
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 3 cinnamon sticks
  • 12 whole cloves
  • Allspice

Place allspice, cloves, and cinnamon sticks inside a small sack of cheesecloth, tying it off at the top.   Place all ingredients, including the cheesecloth sack of spices inside a large pot and bring to boil on the stove. Remove cheesecloth and strain before serving.

Was heil! (Singing to trees is optional.)was heil

Diary of a Mad, White Teenager aka My Xanga Years

If you really want to have a cringe-worthy and altogether mortifying experience, then look no further than your own old Xanga blog. It is an embarrassment of riches…emphasis on embarrassment.

Well, at least mine is.

If you were anything like me in high school, you probably had MSN Messenger, an affinity for the movie Mean Girls, and a Xanga or MySpace page on which you posted all your tortured teen thoughts like you were Winona Ryder in basically every movie Winona Ryder has been in (minus maybe Edward Scissorhandssince she was more “girl next door” and less witty, self-deprecating teen diary-writer a la Heathers).

When ISN’T Winona manically scribbling in some diary in a movie?

Also, if you were like me, then you probably thought you were above silly high school drama, but upon re-reading your old Xanga entries, you discovered you were just as dramatic as every other high school girl ever to exist on the planet in the history of time.

I started my Xanga back in the olden times aka 2005.  Facebook was only about a year old and still exclusive to college students and a few lucky invited high schoolers (myself being one of them!).  Myspace was the leading website for social media.  Here in 2012, this whole scenario is just laughable as Facebook essentially put Myspace out of business in the last seven years, and most of us who had Xangas have moved on to better blogging websites like this one (or become Scientologists as Xanga sounds suspiciously like Xenu, their principal alien deity; the fact I know this information leads me to believe I spend entirely too much time on the internet).

SIDE NOTE: Justin Timberlake is the new face of Myspace and is trying to help the company re-vamp and bring itself back from the internet graveyard.  Justin didbring sexy back, so I will be interested to see if he can make Myspace happen (again) in a world where “fetch” wouldn’t (Sorry, Gretchen Weiners).

“…and none for Gretchen Weiners. BYE.”

ANYWAY. The office where I’m working this week is a quiet, cubicle’d land where the reception phone hardly ever rings, so I just sit on Pinterest all day and email with my mother (Oh god I sound like I’m about 100 years old so I probably shouldn’t mention I spent an hour the other night watching Bea Arthur in Maude episodes online).

Today, however, I decided to take a trip down memory lane, so I headed over to Xanga, input my username and password, and let the hilarity/mortification/shame begin!  I decided to start with entries dated for today, October 2nd.  That was a good way to dive into the cesspool of drama, emo song lyrics, and sometimes extremely witty dialogue I wrote between 2005 and 2010 (when I stopped writing regular entries there).  I ultimately decided to spare myself some humiliation and not re-read every single entry as it would be too much horror to bear for one day.  So what did I write about?  Like any respectable, normal teenage girl, I wrote about boys.  And school.  Did I mention boys?  But in reading it and knowing how so much of my life has turned out since then, I see how truly clueless (paging Alicia Silverstone!) I was on so many levels about so many different things.  I was interested in all the wrong boys (I still might be; that remains to be seen) who weren’t interested in me.  I took a lot of things way, WAY too personally.  But isn’t that what being a teenager is all about: making mistakes, feeling like the universe has it against you, and crushing on unavailable guys?

“Searching for a boy in high school is like searching for meaning in a Pauly Shore movie” Couldn’t agree more, Cher.

Not to mention being a bit narcissistic and a bit of a know-it-all.  Oh and on Xanga, there was this totally rad feature where you could put what you were currently listening to or watching for maximum blog emo-ness (lots of Coldplay lyrics, kids, something for which I do not apologize as they are still my favorite band).

I’ve never deleted my Xanga account even though all of the other people I know who used it have long deserted theirs; their introspective adolescent memoirs collectively buried six feet under in some internet cemetery where bad blogs and once-funny YouTube videos go to die.  Some of those people have asked me why I haven’t deleted mine, and I always sort of shrugged and said, “it’s not like I use it anymore; I just haven’t.”  The truth is that deleting it would feel like throwing away the Lisa Frank dolphin diary I wrote in during fourth grade when I was very in-fourth-grade-like with Paul Matthews who was very in-fourth-grade-like with me (The 1990s were SO wondrous weren’t they?  It was the only decade when environmentalism met rainbow-colored, psychedelic school supplies art!).

Lisa Frank: purveyor of rainbows, unicorns, endangered species, and rapping bears aka my first brush with things my gay friends love

It would feel like throwing away a part of me and pretending like it never existed.  I did all those things, I said all those things, and no matter what I do, I can’t change them, so I just have to embrace that girl even though she embarrasses me now albeit in a sort of endearing way.  There, I said it.  I find that clueless yet witty former self endearing because I know that despite all her complaining and yearning and facepalm moments, she turns out okay.

And I know when I look back and read this a few years from now, I’ll be okay then too.

So to close, I’m sharing an excerpt from one of those silly surveys everyone used to fill out in the 2000s and including my answers to those same questions today.

My answers from JANUARY 12, 2007 ABOUT YOU
1. What do you wish you had been named?  I am one of the few people who actually LIKES their name as is
2. What is the nickname most people call you? EPo
3. Do you plan to change your name when you’re 18? If so, to what?  Um, I AM 18, and no. Although, Ponchitta would be a funny name.
4. If you could become any age you wanted, right now, what age would it be and why?  25. It just sounds like a good age to be.
5. Why is (insert your favorite color here) your favorite color?  Because I got smart and figured out that BLUE is five bajillion times better than pink…and I look pretty damn hot in blue.
6. If your first choice of careers doesn’t work out, what would you choose as a “backup?”  Eh. I’ve always wanted to be a figure skater in another life, but that won’t work out either. I suppose I’d go into music or become a writer for a magazine.
7. What holiday could you easily do without?  Hanukkah, but only because I’m not Jewish. haha.
8. Assuming you have a crush on somebody, what is it exactly that you like about him/her? If you don’t have a crush, what is the one quality that the person absolutely has to have?  I have a boyfriend, but I like him because he’s funny and sweet.
9. What singer or band can you imitate the best?  Cher
10. If your life were a book, what genre would it be?  Jane Austen…because it would be so terribly romantic.
11. Do you worry about finding your soul mate and getting married?  Not really.


My answers from OCTOBER 2, 2012  ABOUT YOU
1. What do you wish you had been named?  Emmy Lane Potter
2. What is the nickname most people call you?  EmPotts, EmPo, Em
3. Do you plan to change your name when you’re 18? If so, to what?  Ooh honey, eighteen came and went almost six years ago, and my legal name is still very much the same.
4. If you could become any age you wanted, right now, what age would it be and why?  The age I am now, because there is no time like the present.  Although I wouldn’t mind being in third grade for a day so I could go to a Scholastic Book Fair and buy a bunch of Baby-Sitters Club Books without shame.
5. Why is (insert your favorite color here) your favorite color?  Blue is a calming color, and as someone who falls to the perils of stress quite frequently, I need something calming.  And I just like it?
6. If your first choice of careers doesn’t work out, what would you choose as a “backup?”  Call me if my first choice of careers doesn’t work out, and I’ll let you know what I’m doing.  I’m still trying to make my first choice happen right now.
7. What holiday could you easily do without?  International Fanny Pack Day (it’s a real thing; Google it) because the last thing we need to have 80s/90s nostalgia over is an unattractive Velcro purse we strap around our waists.  Like mullets and rat-tails, it was a bad idea from the get-go.
8. Assuming you have a crush on somebody, what is it exactly that you like about him/her? If you don’t have a crush, what is the one quality that the person absolutely has to have?  I like that Michael Fassbender is so…well, Michael Fassbender.  He’s his own category.  Oh…you mean non-celebs?  Okay, then I like that he’s smart, quick-witted, and sometimes challenging to me.
9. What singer or band can you imitate the best?  The last time I did this I said Cher.  That probably remains unchanged.
10. If your life were a book, what genre would it be?  Something in the vein of Capote and Salinger with some Louisa May Alcott thrown in for its girl-power tendencies.
11. Do you worry about finding your soul mate and getting married?  When I’m in my thirties and potentially still unmarried, then my answer may be different.  For now, at almost age 24, this is still a no.

How to Enjoy the Museum of Natural History On a Date

I caught up with one of my best friends last week who just returned to the City from a summer spent playing bassoon in a music festival upstate. We’ve known each other since we were children, so ours is a storied friendship. We love going to museums here in the City to catch up (because they’re so walking-and-talking friendly!), so we decided to engage our scientific/anthropological side and went to the Museum of Natural History. Though I had been before, he hadn’t, so we made a plan to hit the Upper West Side of Central Park one sunny afternoon (it also helped he had free passes). As we strolled through the countless exhibit cases of animals, caveman tools, and space rocks, I realized we were creating a template for a fun date*.

*date = a meeting of two people who have an interest in each other whether romantically or just friends

NOTE TO READERS: My friend, Taylor, and I are fairly outgoing and both artists, so not everything we attempted necessarily will be a fun activity for those who are introverted and/or afraid of looking ridiculous. But if you want to walk on the wild side and give all the tourists something to talk about to their friends and family at home, this list, my friends, is for you! We actually did all the following items.


TIP #1: Read every placard in an exaggerated British or Australian accent.

It’s been scientifically proven that you have more fun and sound smarter when you use a British accent (okay I made that part up). Personally, it makes me feel like I’m on a wildlife show or narrating a semi-boring educational video (unless it was about space or volcanos. That shit is cool.) I was forced to watch in seventh grade science. If you read all the exhibit stuff in an accent, it will instantly be less boring and a lot funnier. If you’re really adventurous, I’d suggest also trying the following accents: SCOTTISH, IRISH, RUSSIAN, AUSTRIAN, MIDWESTERN, and SOUTHERN. I can’t promise the last two will make you sound smarter though (I say this as a Midwesterner myself).  We kept trying South African all day, which wound up sounding like our Australian accents.

TIP #2: Pretend you’re shopping in a luxury vintage boutique for furniture/decor.

Taylor and I both picked out multiple items we wanted including 19th century Buddha statues, giant stuffed elephants, kabuki masks, and instruments to ward off evil spirits. Yes, none of these items are for sale, but I’m sure we can find knock-off versions at Pottery Barn, Pier 1 Imports, and Crate & Barrel.  I suggest you talk pretentiously about adding to your “extensive collection” and then ask each other whether you’d prefer to vacation in Majorca or St. Barts this Christmas.

TIP #3: Re-enact your favorite Forbidden Forest scenes from Harry Potter or Lothlorien scenes from Lord of the Rings in the darkened Dzanga-Sangha Rainforest exhibit in the Hall of Biodiversity.

May I suggest…

It’s a classic. And just imagine the screams of the children when you pretend to drink unicorn’s blood.


Because who doesn’t want to be ethereal and mystical like Cate Blanchett?

I also should mention that if you’re on an actual, legitimate date, this is the perfect spot for a quick, quiet makeout sesh.  A lot of kids don’t love this room because it’s a bit creepy being all dark and forest-y and full of a looped soundtrack of forest noises.  Taylor and I didn’t makeout because he’s gay, and I think of him like a brother, but we decided that we’d definitely makeout with Ryan Gosling if we were there on a date with him.

TIP #4: Lie on the floor beneath the giant whale, stare up at the ceiling, and:

Not quite as cute as Willy from the classic 90s film Free Willy

a)Ponder if this is what it feels like to be on acid

b)Debate the possibility of whether or not said giant whale falling from the ceiling would kill you

c)Unsuccessfully try to tell each other the story of Pinocchio and/or Jonah & the Whale

d)Take a short nap

This one is pretty self-explanatory.

TIP #5: Watch the Big Bang presentation narrated by Liam Neeson and then see who can name the most Liam Neeson movies.

I think you’re awesome too, Liam. Please don’t kill me.

You can phone a friend. And by “phone a friend,” I mean it’s more fun when you ask a tourist! Bonus points if you actually do an impression of Liam Neeson.  Also, this movie is short, really cool, and will basically blow your mind with the knowledge of how completely insignificant Earth is in the grand scheme of the universe.  Did I mention Liam Neeson?

TIP #6: Don’t use a map.

I probably should have started with this one, but if you live in the City, you can visit the museum anytime, so be spontaneous and fly by the seat of your pants. I was wearing a skirt, but whatever. Taylor and I didn’t go to every exhibit, we just drifted through places that looked interesting. And if you get lost, by all means ASK the lovely museum security guards. They’re all so friendly and would much rather talk to people than stand up against a wall monitoring patrons’ behavior like they’re elementary school teachers on recess duty.

TIP #7: Stare at the dinosaurs and quote Jurassic Park.

“They DO move in herds.”

TIP #8: Finish the day with coffee and a long stroll through Central Park.

This one is for all of you too scared to do #1-7.  If you did #1-7, this is a good way to maybe share a slightly more serious moment with that special someone and transition back to acting like the semi-responsible adult you want everyone to think you are.  Walking promotes conversation, at least that’s what I’ve learned from watching too many Aaron Sorkin shows and Sex & the City where people walk and talk super fast with each other.

Central Park is classic New York.  You just feel a certain romance in the air whenever you enter its shady, languid presence.


As I said earlier, Taylor and I didn’t visit all of the exhibits inside the museum, so the possibilities for future date activities in the American Museum of Natural History are truly endless (and probably endlessly immature)!  Someday, I will write a follow-up date guide to this fantastic, educational spot when we visit it again, because I have some great ideas for the Planetarium (all of them involving either Star Trek, Star Wars, or Ridley Scott movies).

Taylor and I had a wonderful, fun afternoon and managed to catch up in the process.  We also genuinely learned a lot despite all our shenanigans.  I’m looking forward to our next NYC adventure, which I’ll be sure to chronicle so all of you brave-hearted people can actually have real fun on your dates instead of just talking about your likes/dislikes and desperately trying to seem cool while you nibble on sushi at some generic Japanese restaurant in midtown.

Just pretend that’s me instead of Michelle Williams. We’ll always laugh this hard if I’m your lady, Ryan. ALWAYS.

Oh and Ryan Gosling, if you’re looking for me, I’ll be waiting for you in the darkened Hall of Biodiversity with my eyes closed…

You’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

The Tribeca Film Festival just began in New York this week, and I couldn’t be more excited.  I’ve read lots about different film festivals (Cannes, Sundance, Toronto, etc) and the various movies that premiere at them but as I’m not an international movie star or even just been in a feature film or lived in a city that held one, I’ve never been able to go.  That’s why I am so enthusiastic about the Tribeca Film Festival!

And also because I’m praying for a glimpse of Robert DeNiro.

Anyway, the TFF is featuring many a free program this year, one of them being the Tribeca Drive In down in the World Financial Plaza right along the Hudson.  They set up food trucks, hand out free stuff, and screen fan favorite movies.  This year, they’re showing Jaws and the Goonies.

If you know me at all, then you know both of these films are among my favorite movies of all time.  I grew up watching both incessantly (and still do).

Last night, they screened Jaws, and I took myself on a much-needed solo date to see it.  As I was born in the 1980s, I only had ever seen Chief Brody, Quint, and Matt Hooper battle that terrifying shark on a television screen.  My parents, on the other hand, came of age in the 1970s, so they witnessed it all on the big screen when it came out in ’75.  As such, I’ve always felt that I missed out a bit on what made the film so awesome in the first place: the sheer size of a giant shark on a giant screen.

"You're gonna need a bigger boat..."

Watching Jaws basically in a harbor was probably the coolest thing ever.  I honestly couldn’t tell if the seagulls I was hearing were coming from the screen or the sailboats next to me on the Hudson.  It was a perfect setting.  Most of the audience was people my age or older who’d grown up with the movie in some way: either from seeing it in the 70s or the “handing down” of it from their parents who’d seen it in the 70s.  We all clapped together, laughed together, screamed together, and cheered together.  There was a kind of magic in the air.  A nostalgia made new.  Though the majority of the audience had seen the film before, for many of us (myself included), it was like seeing the film for the first time.

And it kind of GOT to me, you know?  I got this overwhelming feeling of happiness, love, and community.  All of us were here because we LOVED this movie.  We’d all had our own experiences with this movie; in some way, it had shaped us all.  Now here we were: all of us sharing this moment.  It made me realize how lasting an impact films have as opposed to other art forms.  Film lasts forever; handed down from generation to generation.  There’s something inherently special about that.

And I don’t think anyone can deny there’s something inherently special and MAGICAL about Steven Spielberg’s films from the 1970s and 80s.  There’s a mythical quality about them, you just can’t put your finger on; it’s just a feeling.  Paired with John Williams’ scores, I just don’t think it gets any better.  Maybe it feels like childhood or growing up.  I don’t know.  His movies from that time are…well, timeless.  Classic.  You never forget your first time seeing them.

Maybe that’s why last night was so special to me.  I nearly cried on the subway ride home.  I finally got to see one of my favorite Spielberg movies on a big screen for the first time…the way people saw it for the first time when it premiered in 1975.  The way my parents saw it.  And for just half a second, I didn’t know what year I was in.  It felt timeless.  I was under a spell.  We all were.

That’s the power of the movies.

And I HAVE to be a part of that.  I HAVE to be a part of something so beloved it keeps drawing people back to it 37 years later.  Something people pass down to their kids.  I want people to feel all the things I felt last night: the nostalgia, the magic, the joy.  I want to tell stories people love.  Make films that shape their lives and experiences in a way that MUST be shared with others.

I WILL be a part of that.