Another week is upon us, and I’m feeling pretty good about it. I realized that I go into every weekend hoping to relax and get things done around my apartment or for the blog, as most of my weekdays are filled with work and dance classes… but you know what? It’s really hard for me to truly relax.
This has been an issue for me as long as I can remember, but why not just embrace it? I still allow myself to sleep in on the weekends, and the “work” is different – this weekend, I cleaned and posted things on eBay while watching episodes of “The OC” (I’m almost done with season 4). It’s still kind of relaxing, right?
Anyway, I also read a ton this weekend as I’m trying to work through my stack of summer reading. So, let’s get into the latest read from Blanche’s Book Club: “Limelight” by Amy Poeppel.
I follow a few bookstore owners on Instagram, and that’s where I heard about this book. But before I get into what she said (and why I ultimately put it on my list), here is the description from Amazon:
Allison Brinkley—wife, mother, and former unflappable optimist—discovers that a carefully weighed decision to pack up and move her family from suburban Dallas to the glittery chaos of Manhattan may have been more complicated than she and her husband initially thought.
Allison learns that New York is unruly and bewildering, defying the notions she developed from romantic movies and a memorable childhood visit. After a humiliating call from the principal’s office and the loss of the job she was counting on, Allison begins to accept that New York may not suit her after all.
When Allison has a fender-bender, witnessed by a flock of mothers at her son’s new school, she is led to the penthouse apartment of a luxurious Central Park West building and encounters a spoiled, hungover, unsupervised teenager who looks familiar. It doesn’t take long to recognize him as Carter Reid—a famous pop star who has been cast in a new Broadway musical. Through this brush with stardom, Allison embraces a unique and unexpected opportunity that helps her find her way in the heart of Manhattan.
In a book that delivers laughs, warmth, and delightful wish fulfillment, Poeppel dives into celebrity culture and modern motherhood with her trademark “quick-witted and razor-sharp” (Taylor Jenkins Reid, author of Maybe in Another Life) style.
Okay, so the bookstore owner said this book included a “Justin Bieber-esque character” and naturally, I added it to my list. However, I’m hoping this character, Carter Reid, isn’t modeled after Justin Bieber, because he’s a massive prick. Author Poeppel also put in her own two cents about Bieber putting a line like, “Does anyone take Justin Bieber seriously anymore?” – not appreciated.
In a broad sense, I really enjoyed reading this book. I am always in awe of New York City (I am embarrassed to say I’ve never been there), and I like fantasizing about it. This was sort of everyone’s dream they didn’t know they had – stumbling upon celeb life and getting to see the grit and glam of it all. It’s a fun take on a world most of us can only imagine.
However, there were some character flaws in Allison that kept bothering me – like, she didn’t recognize Carter Reid, but she was a regular reader of gossip tabloids, and also knew designer clothes (and how much they cost) upon first glance. She was also very clueless has to any celeb lifestyle and kept wondering where Reid’s parents were – I think most people are aware of the child star story, right?
Other than that, though, this was a fun one, and I am interested in Poeppel’s other book, “Small Admissions“, which revolves around school admissions and getting over a breakup.
I’m recommending “Limelight” to fans of Broadway, and celeb culture. The next book Blanche’s Book Club will be reading is “Amy, My Daughter” by Mitch Winehouse. Read along with me by following me on Instagram @OrangeJulius7 – see you there!
Over the weekend, I performed in my 4th showcase that Dance Austin Studio hosts. After each performance, I’ve written about how I’ve felt and I realize what an important place dance has in my life.
This time was no different, in fact, I realized just how much I need dance and those I dance with to fulfill my life.
I started dancing in 6th grade, taking a jazz class at a small gym with one of my friends. We performed a few times, and I still recall flopping when we had to pull red boas from our partners’ leotards. It was cringe-worthy!
A year later, I tried out for the dance squad at my middle school – I didn’t make it, but made it the following year after practicing my smile and wearing lots of body glitter. I continued dancing throughout high school, I served as captain of a team, competed across the state of Indiana, and even choreographed a piece for my senior project.
And then I stopped dancing. I used writing as my form of expression, and while obviously I still am (and will always be) a writer, I started dancing again when I moved to Austin two years ago.
I feel like I’m really lucky that I ended up at THE best studio in the city – or maybe that’s all the proof I need that fate is real. Dance Austin Studio has challenged me physically and emotionally, and I’ve done things I never thought I would get to do: audition, perform on stage, and most importantly, learn from some of the best dancers in the industry on a regular basis.
Over the last two months, my life has suffered a whirlwind of changes. Many of my readers know that among the general hectic nature of my life, I recently went through a family emergency that flipped my world completely. There were days I was barely going through the motions of life, and I forced myself to dance.
I may not remember a single thing I thing I learned during those classes, but I know my classmates were there for me – even if they didn’t know it.
That’s the other thing about Dance Austin; it has truly become my family. While I had acquaintances at the studio last year, some of the ladies have really embraced me, invited me into their homes, and even included me in dance pieces of their own. I don’t know what kind of shape I’d be in without these people, these experiences.
For this showcase, “The Aftermath”, I performed in a Broadway Jazz piece. I have always had a secret wish that one day, I’d wake up and my life would be a musical – very much like the blue bird scene from “500 Days of Summer”. Taking broadway jazz was pretty much that dream, realized, and then I got to be a KILLER stepford wife on stage.
It didn’t happen without hours of practice in and outside of the studio; many nights I practiced in my living room wearing slippers while my cat watched with wide eyes.
I was also asked to perform in a contemporary piece with a message of women’s empowerment. It was very powerful and a true honor to get to dance in it!
This was my first time doing jazz in (obviously) several years; first time doing any “dressography”, and my first time performing two routines, plus in both shows! Whew!
But as we probably all know, the more challenges thrown at you, the more you conquer, and the more you ultimately learn about yourself. This weekend, I can say I learned that I CAN DO IT. I can learn something completely new amidst chaos, and smile through it.
So I owe a big thank you to all the ladies that danced with me, a thank you to Chi Chi – the owner of Dance Austin Studio, a thank you to Caitlyn – my instructor and insanely talented choreographer who put up with me being zombified for six weeks, and a thank you to the Ultraviolets for inviting me to share the stage with you as part of such an incredible piece.
February showcase, I’m coming for you!
No, I did not see “Hamilton”, and no, I do not have tickets. But what I DO have is loads of inspiration after watching “Hamilton’s America” on PBS (which you can stream thru 11/18) last weekend.
I’ll preface the rest of this by saying that I was not immediately sold on “Hamilton”. I thought it was hype, and I didn’t get it. Buuut, then I started seeing lots of people I knew who saw it and they said how great it was, and then he hosted SNL:
…And I was all… ok Lin-Manuel, I SEE you! So when I heard PBS was showing a documentary about the most-successful Broadway musical, I was in. I recorded it, and watched it immediately, as I shoveled takeout noodles into my dropped jaw.
Why? Because what I’d heard previously was true: Lin-Manuel Miranda picked up Ron Chernow’s book, “Alexander Hamilton” in an airport on his way to the beach for vacation, and was inspired to write a hit musical.
The documentary explores the creation of “Hamilton” before most of it was even written – and it took several years to write, given there are 55 songs squeezed into a show that’s less than three hours.
What did I find so cool about this story about a man who wrote a musical on one of our founding fathers? Well, lots of things.
For starters, the fact that Miranda was so inspired by history in this small instant – his vacation – and also that he put a huge twist on it (hip-hop). And then there’s the fact that most people don’t make money on Broadway. Creating a musical based on history was completely a passion project that turned out to be H-U-G-E.
I’m also dazed by the amount of work and research that went into the musical, as Miranda really wanted it to be historically accurate. No wonder it took nearly seven years to make.
I stumbled across an article in Fortune magazine which featured an interview with Miranda and he talks about what he learned from creating “Hamilton”:
You can have good ideas when you take a break from what you’re normally doing and don’t just go 100 miles an hour. Two: Really trusting my gut. I won a Tony with In the Heights. I got offered movie adaptations of musicals. I got offered a lot of Latin-theme stuff. But I had faith that the idea I was chasing with Hamilton would be worthwhile.
It takes years to make a musical. So I’ve got to choose projects knowing that even if they open and close in a day, I will not regret the time I spent on them. And so you can’t choose on what you think is going to be a financial success. You’ve got to pick the idea that excites you and inspires you to write.
I don’t want to give too much away, because you really should just watch the PBS documentary. Here’s the teaser:
So, now I’ve got Ron Chernow’s book on reserve at the library (I think I’m #10 in line), because I want to read the same thing Miranda read and see what’s on the pages. Will I see what he saw? Highly doubtful, because I know basically nothing about Broadway, and not much about musicals other than I wish I lived inside one.
In general, I live for these bits of inspiration. There are things that are likely to inspire us all – stories of rags to riches, those who’ve made something out of nothing. But perhaps there are things that oddly inspire you, which may not inspire the person beside you. Why?
Of course, we are all driven by different things. As a writer, great writing inspires me whether it’s in the form of a great song, an awesome TV show, a good movie, or the perfect book. Sometimes, just the thought of the light at the end of the tunnel inspires me: picturing a lazy Sunday morning when I’m knee-deep in work on a Tuesday helps me realize that the end is coming and I’m working toward those quiet moments.
Sometimes, I’m simply inspired by nature: the changing leaves of fall, every single sunset, a rare sunrise when I’ve dragged myself from the covers in time, flowers, mountains, or even green fields.
I’d love to know what inspires you – and what you do to keep that inspirational juice flowing in order to get things done. I know I’m always looking for more inspiration, and I’d love to know where we can all find it. And with that, I’m just going to leave you with this…