Friday, January 27, 2017

Not Throwin' Away My Shot... to See Hamilton!

I was raised on musical theater thanks to both of my parents. My first musical was Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat starring Donny Osmond at the Masonic Temple Theater in Detroit. It used to be the big thing we'd do during the Christmas break. We would dress up in our Christmas outfits, drive into Detroit, see a show, and then get Steak 'n' Shake on the way back home.

Thanks to my parents' generosity I have been able to see so many wonderful shows, including Wicked, Spamalot, The Producers, Jersey Boys, Phantom of the Opera, Beauty and the Beast, Newsies, and my personal favorite, Les Miserables. That musical featuring Jean Valjean changed my life - we were in the second row, stage right, and could see the spit coming out of their mouths as they enunciated every word. The rotating stage was truly a revelation.

So when Hamilton came around and took everybody's hearts, including my siblings', I was just biding my time. My sister and brother both told me to listen to the cast recording, even though I was kind of hoping I could see the musical first before getting into the recording.

But when you have a 2-day cross-country move on the docket for the summer of 2016, well, you buy the album and listen to it as you survive Nebraska.

And with that, Hamilton took hold of me.

I got as in-depth as anyone, including finding and enjoying as much fanart as possible. When The Hamilton Mixtape was released in December, I made sure to preorder and enjoy it as soon as I could.

In the back of my mind, though, I still really wanted to see the show as soon as possible. Broadway was pretty much impossible, but as soon as they announced the residence at The PrivateBank Theater in Chicago, I was constantly searching for cheap tickets.

My long-awaited purchase day arrived on December 30, when I looked at Ticketmaster and found single-seat tickets for a January show for only $300. (This was after my older brother had been looking for tickets for the tour that started in San Francisco and found them to be well over $500.)

If I wanted to score a lottery ticket, I would have to gamble, and I'm not much of a gambling girl. I bought the ticket for January 21 and the 2pm show and celebrated profusely.

Fast forward to the second full week of the year, and Lin-Manuel Miranda announces on Twitter that Wayne Brady (of Whose Line is It Anyway? fame) is joining the Chicago cast as Aaron Burr! I was excited to see what he would do, but a bit reserved, too. He's an older guy, and while I know he has the singing chops, could he really play Burr? I actually thought he might play a better Washington than Burr. Whatever - my parents were excited that I was going to see him. I wished he was playing anyone other than my favorite character in the show.

Eventually, the long-awaited day arrived. The whole day was amazing, but everything revolved around that 2pm show: my train tickets, my tour stops, my lunch, and my transportation. Everything had to work out so I would show up at The PrivateBank Theater right on time.

I actually passed the theater as I was heading to my lunch location, and it was cool seeing the window treatments promoting Hamilton's stay at the theater.

Since my day was even more exciting than I'd originally planned, my phone was rapidly running out of juice. That scared me, since my ticket was on the Ticketmaster app on my phone! Would they let me in if I just said, "Hey, my phone is dead, but my ticket's on there - I promise!"

I got to the theater an hour before curtain (even though Hamilton actually has no curtain) and nervously waited for the doors to open. It was a mix of the theater crowd - those who were dressed up in cute dresses and suit jackets and ties - and the more casual fans that I've noticed show up to theater productions even more lately. I kind of feel bad that suits and evening gowns are a thing of the past, but at the same time, it's showing that musical theater is meant for everyone!

I noticed that there was a box office for the theater off to the side, and figured that maybe they could help me with my ticket issue. There wasn't anyone at the WillCall window, so I approached and asked if there was anything he could do to help me out.

Fortunately, there was! He asked me where I had bought the ticket, and I said I had gotten it from Ticketmaster. The guy was very understandable about my situation and said because I'd purchased the ticket from Ticketmaster, he could actually print me out my ticket! (He also mentioned that if I'd purchased it from StubHub or a third party site he wouldn't have been able to do anything.) Score for me - not only would my problem be solved, I would have a souvenir to show off!

The PrivateBank Theater is the smallest theater I've ever been to for a Broadway-caliber show. It made me appreciate places like The Fisher Theater and The Masonic Temple Theater in Detroit with their grand lobbies and beautiful architecture. This Chicago theater didn't really have a lobby - just a small entrance that was crammed with people trying to buy the official Hamilton merchandise and also buy a drink. The bathrooms were downstairs, and there weren't many of them.

I waited for as long as I could to take my seat, till I pretty much couldn't take it anymore. I was in the second tier of seats called the Dress Circle, stage left, second row. And man, I was geeked when I discovered how close my seats were to the stage! The only thing that could have fixed it was if I'd been first row. (I had a pretty tall dude blocking a small section of the stage. Bummer.)

Anyway, the curtain went down, and there isn't an overture or anything. Immediately Aaron Burr comes out and says, "How does a bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman..." and everyone cheers. They cheered especially loudly for Wayne Brady as he came out to take on Burr.

And, of course, there was loud cheers for when Alexander Hamilton, played by Miguel Cervantes, comes out for the first time. They actually stop the music so people can cheer for as long as they want!

The first three songs were stellar - especially "My Shot." If that song doesn't hook you with its intense and quick lyrics, then you're at the wrong show, my friend.

Then "The Schuyler Sisters" came. During this song was my first real performance flub I'd ever seen. And it came from Brady! He is supposed to come down and woo Angelica Schuyler (played amazingly by Tony Award winner Karen Olivo), though she is less than impressed. Here are the lyrics he's supposed to say (thanks!):

Wooh! There’s nothin’ like summer in the city
Someone in a rush next to someone lookin’ pretty

Excuse me, miss, I know it’s not funny
But your perfume smells like your daddy’s got money
Why you slummin’ in the city in your fancy heels
You searchin for an urchin who can give you ideals?

Burr, you disgust me

Ah, so you’ve discussed me

I’m a trust fund, baby, you can trust me!

And here's what came out:

Wooh! There’s nothin’ like summer in the city

Yea... it was a rather awkward ten seconds. But then Olivo takes her verse and dominates again. I was embarrased for Brady, but whatever.

So we get a few more amazing songs like "Farmer Refuted" and the deliriously funny "You'll Be Back" which is sung by King George III (Alexander Gemignani, who chewed up scenery and spit it out along with all his consonants). And then Burr comes out to introduce George Washington,'s not Wayne Brady!

At first I was a bit confused. Who was this new character who had just appeared? But then I, and the rest of the audience, realized that Brady wasn't coming back. This was his understudy, Carl Clemons-Hopkins! The guy is just as big as Brady, too, but seemed to be more of a bass than a baritone, meaning he didn't try to reach for those high notes that Leslie Odom Jr. dominated in the cast recording.

Now, while I didn't get any news of Brady's subbing over the weekend, apparently the news got posted by Chicago sites late Sunday and into Monday, prompting Brady to make statements that he had pain in his leg that messed him up and he needed to get it treated, which is why he was out. He did do the Saturday evening show. (He's done other  musical theater - he'll be fine.)

While it was odd at the time, it's cool to think I saw something like that happen on a Broadway stage. (Fun fact: I got my first ever Playbill since I saw "Broadway in Chicago!")

Anyway, Clemons-Hopkins, while he didn't have the vocal range, did an amazing job anyway. It was amazing to see him sometimes come undone as Burr when Burr is getting angry at Hamilton's successes in "Wait For It" and "The Room Where It Happens" but then immediately and physically compose himself by song's end. That was very affecting, and something you don't see in the cast recording. By the end of the show, everyone was rooting for Clemons-Hopkins - you could tell. He was formally introduced during intermission and that got a big round of applause. And then in the closing bows, (only Eliza and Alexander get solo bows) there was a lot of back-slapping of Clemons-Hopkins by cast members as they bounded offstage.

My favorite part of the show was the choreography and acting! There is only one set for the whole show, but it's on two levels, plus TWO rotating circles in the middle of the stage! The way that the cast maneuvers around the set, sometimes upstairs just watching what's going on below, sometimes participating, sometimes coming down or up the stairs, walking on the rotating stage, is something to behold. That takes a lot of training and practice. That's why I made sure to get a seat in a balcony - I wanted to see all of that come together!

The choreography was straight out of So You Think You Can Dance, and was very not-50s-Broadway. The Ensemble wore one outfit but added on to take on different roles throughout the show, like a skirt or a coat or a hat. Meanwhile they're doing all this amazing dancing to make up for the stark set and props! (Who needs an actual bullet when you can have an Ensemble player who is appropriately called, "The Bullet"?)

There are points in the show where you are actually taken to previous parts of the show - once in "Satisfied" and once in "The Room Where It Happens." I noticed when watching it that the choreography done in these flashback scenes is the exact same choreography that we first saw. In "Satisfied," Angelica is taken back to the time when Eliza first met Alexander, and Eliza was busy singing "Helpless" at that time. And the choreography matches in both songs! The same thing happens when Burr is wondering what takes place in "The Room Where It Happens." Hamilton enters the room twice - once at the beginning of the song and once in the flashback - but he does it the exact same way so you can see it's now being shown with Burr's thoughts being sung. I loved that.

Another great example of choreography is during "Satisfied" and "Hurricane" when the Ensemble (and some props) revolve around the main singer. In "Satisfied" it's meant to be a rewind to five minutes earlier. In "Hurricane," it actually covers Hamilton's life, so you see Burr-from-the-beginning with his book, but you also see Maria Reynolds from later in the show, as well as Washington from the middle. It's done very craftily.

The whole show was amazing from start to finish, and I remember during the first song getting the biggest smile on my face and realizing "I am here! I am watching Hamilton!!!"

Another great part of my experience was after the show. While everyone else was trying to file out the back of the balcony, one of the ushers pointed out that there were stairs in front, as well. So I went down that way and ended up right next to the stage. So what did I do? I got a picture, of course! Then I turned around and looked up at the seats. What an incredible view.

I had plenty of time before my train, so as I left and noticed fans in the alleyway waiting for cast members to come out for autographs, I decided to stick around. I wasn't sure anyone would come out - after all, it was a matinee and there was still the evening show to do - but some of the other fans said sometimes they do come out.

To my delight, there were a few that came out, including Clemons-Hopkins! Even when he came out, the stage manager declared him the man of the hour. And we audience members responded with glee and excitement! Yours truly even got a picture with him!

My time with Hamilton was over for the day, but it was incredible. If you get the opportunity - whether in New York, Chicago, or on the tour, DO IT. See this show. Coming from someone who has lived her life in musical theater, it's something you won't want to miss.

Don't Wait For It.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Witnessing History: Women's March on Chicago

When it came to United States History that I was taught in school, the 1960s were a time of protests, hippies, and marches. I've learned that the decade is much more than that, but I still flash to those pictures in my history books when someone mentions that time.

I knew that marches were a way for people to peacefully show their force en masse. It was something I could watch happening far away from me and take note over why they were marching.

Yesterday, however, I ended up in Chicago on the same day as the Women's March, and I got to experience this peaceful protest firsthand, and it was an amazing sight to see.

My trip on the date of the March was coincidence; when I purchased my ticket to Hamilton, all I was doing was picking a Saturday where I knew I was free of school activities and found an amazing price. I was made aware of the March a few days before, when the anticipated crowds started to get bigger and the rally had to be moved to Grant Park. I get Chicago news stations, so I was able to see where the road closures would be and if it would affect me. (It really didn't, since I ended up walking almost everywhere.)

As I waited at the train station in Michigan, several women taking the train were attending the rally, and many more were massed in Union Station when we got there. The bathroom lines were long, but many women just went into the men's bathroom (even with men using them at the same time), and they came out reporting that the men just nodded and went about their business.

They were dressed in their now-iconic pink hats and carrying their signs. The age range was wide - lots of moms brought their elementary-age daughters and seniors were proudly present.

I was headed towards Grant Park anyway, so I simply joined the large crowds heading east from Union Station via Jackson Boulevard. Cars would honk as they passed us, and from what I suspect, they weren't being disrespectful, but showing solidarity.

As we got closer to Michigan Avenue, the crowds really thickened up. Michigan Avenue was still open, so everyone had to wait for the traffic signals. The police were out and ready, advising people to stay on the sidewalk and cross in the right manner. People were starting their chants early, and people joined along with them.

I veered north and headed up Michigan Avenue past the Art Institute of Chicago. There was a giant crowd standing there, cheering and chanting and waving signs. (There had also been a large group by the Barnes and Noble on Jackson Boulevard, but there wasn't enough space to grow terribly large.)

I made it to Michigan Avenue around 10am, when the rally started in Grant Park, and people were still walking around the Art Institute to try to attend. (Grant Park was incredibly crowded at this point, and people were really far back in the park.) I went up to the second level of the Monroe Building and kept watching as people paraded by. Eventually so many people were coming south that the northbound lane had to be closed. People just kept coming.

Since my designated lunch location was really close to Trump Tower, I decided to eat early. The bus that was supposed to take me up State Street actually turned left at the Bataan-Corregidor Bridge because they'd closed it to vehicles. I suspect they did that at Wabash Avenue (Irv Kupcinet Bridge) and Michigan Avenue (DuSable Bridge), though I didn't see it at this time.

While I was eating I checked my phone. My mother was telling me that on CNN they thought the crowds in Chicago were the second-largest in the country. She also informed me that they'd had to cancel the "march" part of the Women's March on Chicago because the crowds were too big for the planned area. From what I'd seen of the women and men going to the rally, I knew they weren't going to let that stop them - it was just a matter of where they were going to go!

As I returned to Michigan Avenue I actually passed right by Trump Tower. There was definitely a police presence at the building, though the majority of protesters were still gathered at the park.

I walked down Michigan Avenue, and many people were coming back from the rally on the sidewalks. But down near the Art Institute, there was a large group of people on the northbound street (right next to a city bus that was trying to go north as well) marching up. It was a smaller group, but it was a sign of things to come.

I crossed over to the entrance to Millennium Park right when the massive crowds started to march down Michigan Avenue. I stood on one of the concrete signs at the park entrance and watched as history marched by. There were signs for every cause and people of every age. There were signs on cardboard and fancier ones on tagboard. There were costumes and flags and dogs and strollers and they were coming from all directions. They pretty much closed the Loop for a good hour as they marched.

Initially I saw them turn right onto Randolph Street, which would divert them from Trump Tower, but eventually when I looked back they were going right up Michigan Avenue. Many were turning onto Michigan Avenue from Madison, Monroe, and Washington Street. I got a spectacular view of people marching down Washington Avenue from the raised balcony near The Bean (and yet I can't find my picture that I took...).

Eventually the crowd size dwindled and there were only a solitary few chanters belting out from the back of the pack. People returned to their hometowns ready to keep the activism going there, and I was left with a lasting impression.

I was so glad that I got to witness something like this with my own eyes instead of just watching it on television. It was peaceful and got the point across that people are not happy with things. When history books are printed from now on, I can point to pictures about the Women's March and say, "I was there. I saw this happen."

And really, that's a pretty cool thing to be able to say.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Tales of the Big City

In 2002, I was on a big high school choir tour to the southern states. It was my first major trip without my family, and I was loving it. The families I stayed with were incredibly nice, the food was delicious, and the bus travel was relaxing and enjoyable.

Every few days we would have a longer time to sit back and enjoy the areas we were visiting. One of those times was in New Orleans, Louisiana. On Easter Monday, after a triple-header of concerts the day before, we were dropped off near the French Quarter and told to meet back at the bus in the late afternoon, and we were required to stay with at least three other choir members the whole time.

The day was a blast - I had beignets at Cafe du Monde, walked down Bourbon Street, took a riverboat, and sang an impromptu concert with 15-20 other students in Jackson Square.

Unfortunately, the trip took a sour note when a group of us girls were heading back to the bus and decided to stop at a McDonald's for supper. As we were waiting in line, a group of guys approached us and asked us for money. We were surprised and quickly said no.

That wasn't the end of it. One of the guys got angry and railed on us and the other people in the restaurant. I was embarrassed and scared, honestly. In hindsight it wasn't a serious situation - they didn't follow us out of the restaurant or continue to pester us or anything like that, but for a 17-year-old girl who didn't have that much large city experience, it was frightening.

I am one of those people who lets little things linger for way too long, and that one moment marred a day full of positive memories and made me think twice about visiting big US cities. It's not like I have avoided big cities at all costs - I made a few trips into Denver during my time in Colorado and am in Detroit yearly for sporting events or musicals - but I still never felt 100% comfortable.

As I get older, I am trying my hardest to achieve my goals and the things I love, and one of those things is traveling. I want to go to Europe this summer, and in order to do that, I need to be comfortable traveling around big cities and figuring out public transportation.

To do that, I needed to face my fear of big cities, and I did that today.

Right after Christmas I managed to purchase a ticket to see the afternoon performance of Hamilton in Chicago. I was incredibly excited, but I knew I had much more to plan. How was I going to get there? What if the weather was crummy? How comfortable would I be on my own in that big area?

Quickly I made arrangements. To help me get comfortable with European travel, I was going to take the train into town instead of driving. It would get me into Chicago at 9am and leave the city at 6:30pm.

I purchased a Ventra 1-day transit card for $10, which would allow me to use all the CTA buses and Metra lines. I was glad to have that because who knows how cold it would be in January in Chicago?

I searched out a place for lunch, and I spotted a ramen restaurant north of the river, and while it was a bit out of my circle, I really wanted some ramen!

Since I would have five hours to kill before the show, I looked for some things to do in the area. The PrivateBank Theater was just a couple of blocks from the big Grant Park/Millenium Park/Art Institute block, so I was looking for things over there. The Art Institute of Chicago was too overpriced for my budget trip ($25), but there was a Military Museum right across the street, as well as the Chicago Cultural Center. Those were much more budget-friendly.

Finally, I downloaded CityMapper, an app that helps people find buses and trains for people and locates the shortest route between locations using public transportation. People in London swear by this, and the app works in Chicago, too.

With all of that planned (and a few "women going solo" videos viewed on YouTube to gain confidence) I was ready.

Today came, and with it the most incredible weather I have seen in January in the Midwest! The forecasted high was in the 50s in Chicago, and at home it was warm, too. I actually left my coat in the car and walked around in a sweater the whole day - and I was never cold!

I parked my car and hopped on the train with no problems. The Amtrak train was lovely - it wasn't crowded and the trip was fast and easy.

I realized mere days before today that the Women's March would be taking place on the same day, and because of that, I simply followed the huge crowds that were on their way to Grant Park. (I'll talk more about my experience viewing the Women's March in a later Blurb - preview: it was amazing witnessing that kind of history firsthand.)

Because the weather was so warm and there were so many people downtown, I didn't feel a huge need to use public transportation. I only used the bus twice - once to get up north to Ramen-San for lunch and once to get from the theater back to Union Station. That was it! It was a waste of a Ventra card, but I felt security having that thing if I needed it.

The Pritzker Military Museum was small, but eye opening. It suited my need to fill some time without costing too much - I would not have had enough time in the Art Institute to get my money's worth. I also spent a lot of time at the park watching the March and seeing the aftermath, as well.

And, of course, there was my original reason for being in Chicago: Hamilton! I had a wonderful seat, and it was everything I could have hoped for. There was the magic of live theater, and the ability to witness the incredible staging and choreography that one can't see when listening to the cast album. I lingered after the show and got great pictures from right in front of the stage.

I got myself back to Union Station with no problem, and before I knew it I was back home!

I woke up today praying that today would be a good sign of things to come. I walked with confidence and traveled smart, and because of that I had an amazing day. I am older and wiser, and I am not the same girl I was 15 years ago. Not every day will go as perfectly as today, but I have a pretty nice blueprint to follow in the future!

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Short Short Stories

In my quest to do some writing every day, I purchased a writing journal with prompts. Well, I didn't actually buy it; someone had accidentally given me an address book for Christmas instead of what she thought was a journal, so she let me exchange it for something else. So technically, she gave it to me.

There are lots of times when I just don't feel like I have the drive to write. That's where this journal comes into play. It gives me inspiration to write about something.

They also have key words that they want you to include in your story. Sometimes I am motivated to use them; other times I just let them pass me by.

Sometimes my stories have an ending, and sometimes I'm only getting them started before I stop. They only provide one page for each story, and for someone that tends to ramble, it allows me to try to keep my words to the point. Maybe one of these days I'll be inspired to keep writing the story in a different place!

I hope that by the end of the year, I can look back on my entries and see my writing improve over the year.

I am going to share with you the first story I wrote from the journal, which they titled, A Strange Request at a Piano Bar. The words to include were carnival, sprained, mask, oxidation, awkward, apple, juvenile, controversy, twirl, and sassafras. So far, it's my favorite. You can judge for yourself if it's any good or not.


The bar had only been open a few days, and business was bad. The "signature drink," an appletini, was disgusting. The lighting was too bright, and the masks on the walls ended up looking more awkward than regal.

Fortunately, there was a bright spot: the piano. No one remembered purchasing it, but it appeared anyway when the company had dropped off the antique tables and chairs. When we inquired about it, the driver twirled his thick mustache and shrugged. "We ain't spraining our backs loading it back on the truck," was all he said about it. 

So while the patrons complained that the bathrooms smelled too strongly of sassafras and the menus were terribly juvenile, they kept coming back to hear the piano.

One of our first customers played it every night. He said his name was Jerry, but I didn't believe him. He was an older guy, thin, with graying hair and big mutton chops. It almost looked like he came from a traveling carnival, but he said he had been in Breckenridge for a while because he "liked the oxidation." I'm not sure what he meant, considering there's less oxygen up here, but to avoid controversy and possibly lose our best asset at this bar, I let it slide.

His fingers were incredible on those keys. When I was wandering through the place at night, I couldn't help stopping multiple times to try and catch what his fingers were doing. The sounds that came out of that piano were simply mesmerizing. He took a few requests, but played the songs all together in a medley. The songs, from hip hop to jazz to pop, all seem to fit together perfectly when Jerry played them through. Sometimes he would just play, and you would catch the occasional familiar melody floating through over the top.

He only had one request for my husband Tom on the first night: no money. "I don't need it. I'm all good, y'know?" Maybe he knew we needed the money and the piano to stay afloat, or maybe he really didn't need it. 

Either way, bless that Jerry, and bless that mysterious piano.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Sharing Fandoms: A How-To Guide

If you know me, you know that I love lots of things. Some of the things I love are related to each other, but quite a few are not. For example, I love the organ. I've been playing for eighteen years now. (Geesh...) But I also love Japanese anime. Are those things related? Not at all!

I am someone that tends to get sucked into fandoms very quickly. If it's recommended by a bunch of people, I give it a try. Stranger Things was one of my more recent obsessions, all because everyone started obsessing about it over the summer. (I'll never look at Eggo waffles the same way again.) It's not exactly FOMO, but more of a hope for enjoyment.

Because I'm so open to trying new television shows or movie genres, I mistakenly believe that other people are the same way. It kind of feels like this:

Person: "Hey, have you heard about ****?"

Me: "I've heard about it a little."

Person: "Ugh, it's SO GOOD. I just binged it all the way through. You'd totally love it!"

Me: "I should give it a try!"


Me: "Person, I just finished ****! It was incredible!"

Person: "I know, right?!"


Me: "Hey, have you heard about %%%%? You should give it a try - it's really good!"

Person: "I'm too busy for that kind of stuff. Geez!"


I am exaggerating a bit, but not that much. But it's frustrating to try to get friends and family to join you on a glorious road of storytelling and they shut you down!

Before we can think of solutions, let's look at the reasons - most of which might have more to do with me than people in general:

I'm too aggressive on the marketing

If I am all-in on a fandom, I might get a bit obsessed. I tweet about it a lot. I immerse myself in fanart. I start saying catchphrases. I rewatch it. I research it to death. 

After all of that, then when I finally find the time to promote it to someone I know, it's almost like I'm trying to get them to make a life-or-death decision. "You have to watch this! It's the best thing you'll ever watch! If you don't, someone close to you will die!" 

(Okay, I don't say that last one.) 

The persuasion turns more into force at this point. 

Example: Doctor Who. In 2013 this turned into my livelihood. But I pushed it too far, unfortunately. Even though my family is a bunch of science fiction fans, not many of them were interested in the British show. Give credit to my parents - they tried several times to start, but always fell asleep.

I don't understand their interests

Not everyone is going to enjoy the same things I do. While they're talking about Game of Thrones, I'm off geeking out over Naruto. They are getting excited about the upcoming NFL season, and I'm confused why they aren't talking more about the Summer Olympics. 

They are my family and friends, but the more they try to get me to enjoy their hobbies, I'm stubbornly resisting and trying to get them to enjoy my hobbies. Instead of mutually admiring the other, it turns into a competition.

Example: Star Wars. Doesn't everyone love Star Wars? Well, no. Some people like Star Trek. Some people dislike science fiction. I sometimes post things on Facebook - like my 100-day fanart countdown to Star Wars: The Force Awakens - as if everyone loves Star Wars, but that's not actually the case. I hope no one blocked me during those 100 days.

Not everyone gets obsessed

You can see a few examples of my fandom in the article already. But not everyone takes it to the extreme that I do. 

To reverse the idea, let's look at people who like the McRib. I can always tell when the McRib is coming back to McDonald's because all of a sudden a smattering of people are posting everywhere that "THE McRIB IS BACK!!!!!!!!!" They pretty much make McDonald's appointments so they can get their McRib fix. I have eaten and enjoyed one McRib in my day, and it was fine, but I certainly don't count down the days to when the McRib will come back. 

So when I geek out over new episodes of Voltron: Legendary Defender (coming back next Friday!), I know that some people will enjoy the episodes and simply move on. It was enjoyable, but there's other stuff to do.

Example: Disney - especially the parks. I know families who have gone to Walt Disney World, and I try to hide my look of absolute horror when the mention that they bought their tickets when they got there or that they usually showed up to a park around 11:00 a.m. Didn't they hate the crowds and the lines and why would you wait so long in line if you didn't have to and didn't you catch all the little intricate details like the windows on Main Street?! Well, they had fun and yes, there were lines, but that was the vacation, big whoop! 

With all that in mind, here are some steps I need to follow:

Don't be so crazy pushy

Mentioning Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood to my brothers is great once, or maybe even twice. But pushing it any further than that is probably a bit too much, and it will drive them away from watching it, ever. (Good work. You failed.)

When someone expresses a desire to enjoy something you enjoy, don't prune their fandom to death

There's getting excited, and there's sharing-fanart-texting-theories-pushing-them-to-branch-out-into-the-books-and-comic-books excited. Just express happiness, and do the Happy Dance in private. 

No being self-righteous. EVER

When someone starts watching something, it's easy to start telling them all the little details as they watch so that they can come to the same conclusions you have about things. But if someone disagrees, it is wrong to tell them how wrong they are! It's perfectly okay to have discussions and agree to disagree on some point in some fandom. But never take their excitement and squash it just to be "right." (I'm looking at you, Prequel bashers.)

Some people will just never watch anything

They have lives. They might be married, with children. They might have jobs with crazy hours. They'll just never have time. Be okay with that. Move on.

With all of this in mind, I do have one success story I'd like to share. 

Back in 2013 when my Doctor Who fandom was at its zenith, I was telling everyone to watch this show. I had gotten the Christopher Eccleston DVDs as a present and bought myself the David Tennant DVD box set. I put all the DVDs in a case and offered it to anyone I knew, just to get a few more people who know what the heck a Dalek was.

I had a few takers, though most didn't get through them. But my friend Michelle watched them, and then watched them with her husband, and now she's going through the classic series with her husband! She'll text me cute TARDIS gift ideas and tell me how excited she is to have a new companion with Peter Capaldi. We have manya wonderful discussion about the Doctor and his travels.

At this point, she's probably a bigger fan of Doctor Who than I am. And for that, I am very excited. I wanted a friend with which to share a show, because I wanted to see their reactions to twists and turns of the series. I knew how I felt at that moment, but I want to see if they react differently. Will they cry? Will they get angry? How many exclamation points will they text me when that happens? 

Sharing a fandom means I get to share in their joy. I just have to make sure my joy doesn't spill over to madness!

I am Claire Nat! I am a teacher and write for I write about anything that interests me - mostly music, Olympics, and fandoms! Follow me @CeePipes or 

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Confessions in the Queue

The following is what happens when a girl is stuck trying to get a new license plate on the first business day after the New Year, and she's stuck with only her phone because she forgot a notebook, pad of paper, computer, or literally ANYTHING with which she could write down her thoughts. 

Time of entry into the Michigan Secretary of State office: 2:45 p.m.

So my writing today is going to be a little wonky, because I am typing this on my phone at my local Secretary of State office.

(For those of you who aren't from Michigan, the SOS office is the DMV.)

Because it's the first full day of operations after the New Year, this place is PACKED. My boss, who showed up at 1pm, finally got seen at 4pm. For me, I arrived at 2:30. They've gone through about 73 people since I got here, and there's still about another 80 in front of me.

One can only hope most of them left out of sheer frustration.

I am not frustrated. I honestly have nothing else going on today, and really the only thing I had to do at home was type this article and write thank-you notes.

"Dear Past Claire,

Thank you for bringing your thank-you notes to the Secretary Of State office. You saved yourself a lot of time. And it's a good thing you brought you phone with a good amount of battery. Consider yourself lucky.

From, Future Claire"

I truly feel sorry for those who had to bring children of any age to this place. It is not fun. There is no kid area anywhere. Through these childhood experiences we are convincing kids that this is a terrible, terrible place. (It's not THAT terrible, but ask me in a few hours if it is that terrible. I may have changed my answer.)

They have put up a screen with news posted on a loop. But the loop is only about 10-15 minutes long, so it gets annoying after a few dozen times through. Do we NEED to know for the EIGHTH time that Passengers was the third-highest grossing movie of the weekend?

That screen should just show ESPN. Can't the State of Michigan shell out that much money? No? 

Sometimes there can be an announcement of six straight no-show numbers, and sometimes there isn't an announcement for ten minutes.

Just saw it again: Passengers was #3 at the box office this weekend.

Some people in these lines don't HAVE to be here, I think. There are a lot of services that can be done online.

Unfortunately, my service is not one of them.

At least these chairs are semi comfortable.

Another good thing about today is that it's really gross outside so I have no desire to be outside. When I got back from Christmas at my parents' house I was shocked at the lack of snow. I was hoping to get to ski this winter, but we would need some snow first.

Skiing was always something I wanted to learn in Colorado, and I bought or received every piece of equipment I would need as well as all the cold weather apparel necessary to be out in freezing cold for a few hours and still be able to have fun.

Now I just don't want all that equipment to go to waste! I have definitely used the cold weather apparel in my shoveling, and I am so glad for it. But those skis haven't been touched in a while.

Let's see... I am G97, and we are on G35. Keep it moving, people.

(To be fair, when I got here it was F60. We're making steps.)

The worst things that could happen would be 1) I forgot something that I needed to have, or 2) they close right at 5 and they refuse to see any more people. I can't imagine them doing that. Heck, even Walt Disney World makes sure that everyone in a queue at closing time gets to go on that attraction, no matter what.

Of course, they (or so I've heard) raise the wait time counters to high wait times so that it discourages people from getting in line at the end of the day, so they attempt to make sure there's not many people in the line ANYWAY.

Just got into the 40s. And did you know Passengers was the third highest grossing movie last weekend?

I almost think that those businesses that advertise at the Secretary Of State would lose business instead of gaining it. For example, if I would advertise my dental business, everyone here would see it. But if a person here today needed a dentist and they remembered my ad at the Secretary Of State, they would think, "Ugh! What a horrible day at the Secretary of State office!" Instead of wanting to use my business, they would avoid it to make sure they didn't have to be reminded of that crappy day!

Some guy's phone just rang with the Ohio State University fight song. That guy DESERVES to be waiting.

Some people next to me just sat down and remarked how they are H33 and H50. They have a wonderful couple of hours in store for them. I am envious.

The Michigan Department of Transportation just put their Twitter handle on the screen. Not sure if that is a good idea at this point. I should take a look...

There was just an announcement that they are locking the doors at 5, which is in 15 minutes. That means we can stay! Now I just have to pray that I have everything I need.

Now the workers are at that stage where they want to see all of us as quickly as possible. That means if you don't show up when your number is called, there is no second call. They just move on. You can tell that people get a bit nervous right before their number is called because they don't want the worker to move past them if they were too slow. Maybe when my number is called I should play the music from The Price is Right" and have everyone around me cheer to verify that yes, G97 is actually here.

Passengers! #3! Again!

It is fun watching strangers interact in the chairs. We all have to suffer, so we need to treat each other well. We gripe and complain, yes, but we also give up our chairs for older people, direct someone to where they should be standing so they are seen, and give a newbie our number when we can't wait long enough to be seen. (I haven't seen that today, but I have seen it in the past.)

I'm feeling kind of warm in my coat, but at this point, taking it off would be a sign of weakness.

2 hours in and 100 numbers have passed. Getting close!

I am going to relish the Culver's I am going to devour tonight. With gusto. Let me tell you.

Now the screen is showing off the best sights of London. SHOOT! I was going to talk to my boss about my future trip. We were stuck here for an hour together and I didn't even think to bring it up in my small talk. Ugh.

I think the Michigan Secretary of State (Ruth Johnson) should have to wait in every single Secretary of State office during her tenure.

This place really doesn't look like it's emptying out. That means there are a bunch of people behind me. I feel so sorry for them.

The screen just advertised working at the Secretary of State! You get...$11 per hour?! That's it? I would think for the daily headache of working at the SOS you would get paid more.

I'm glad this wait has allowed me to continue my Writing Every Day New Year's Resolution.  My thumbs are going to be sore tomorrow!

I wonder if I'd come right after my meeting this morning if the wait would have been shorter. Maybe...?

Please let me have everything I need...

I just ran out to my car at 4:55 to grab some stuff. I don't want the person to say I need something from my car but not let me back in when I go to get it.  I am not taking any chances.

We're in the 70s!

When I came back through the entrance I saw the "take a number" machine read H78. We are now on G73.

I am in a new seat. I can hear all the workers very clearly from this seat. I am NOT going to miss my call.

The security lady is locking the door. She looks tough. I'm not going to cross her!

Okay, I need to write one more thank-you note and then I'm in the home stretch. May I get out of this place with exactly that for which I came!

Time of exit from the Michigan Secretary of State office: 5:15 p.m. 

I did get what I needed, by the way. The lady who helped me was very nice, though she did remark that she was very tired - her job is very hard indeed. 

All is well. May I not step foot in that place for many, many years.

I am Claire Nat! I am a teacher and write for I write about anything that interests me - mostly music, Olympics, and fandoms! Follow me @CeePipes or 

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2017: Finding the Write Resolution

I am an incredibly stubborn person. If I say something and set my mind to accomplish it, I usually do. If I write down that I'm going to play a complicated organ piece for a service, I am going to learn that piece. When I tell people I am giving up desserts for Lent, there isn't a piece of candy that will touch my mouth until Easter Sunday. And if I register for a half marathon, those 13.1 miles will be conquered, no matter how slowly it ends up taking.

I needed a boost in one area specifically in 2016: my writing. I would write up a storm, and then take a long period of time off. I would come home from school, work out, eat dinner, and then think, "Maybe I should write something tonight...nah."

As a result, when considering a New Year's Resolution, I knew I had to veer away from the "normal" resolutions, like eating healthier and exercising. However, I wanted to do something that would benefit me in many ways.

Writing has become a great resource for me. I write here in this blog. I get paid to write articles for I have had articles published in a magazine. This year, music compositions I submitted to a publisher almost two years ago are finally getting released! So why did I slack off so much last year?

The more I put down, whether it's music notes or the alphabet, the better I get. My slacker zone in 2016 was not good for building experience.

And that's where my resolution was found.

I am going to write something every day this year. It could be a blog, an article, a story, or a composition. Something will be written down by me for 365 straight days.

It's not like I am going to post an article here every single day. Even an accomplished writer knows that you can't write one solid thing every day for too long - you need a break! So by spreading out my writing, I will stay fresh.

Plus, by informing my viewing audience about my resolution, I have forced myself to follow through on my resolution. I'm going to feel like an idiot if I don't follow through - that's just how I am.

I hope that you will follow me on my journey this year. I will have plenty of things to chronicle, I'm sure. And I hope, for myself, that I will see an improvement over my writing as the year progresses.

Let's get started, shall we?


I am Claire Nat! I am a teacher and write for I write about anything that interests me - mostly music, Olympics, and fandoms! Follow me @CeePipes or