Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Cure for the Bullhockey: Sean Cannon as a Bear

Every once in a while, you stumble upon something that makes life just a little bit better.

When you say to yourself: "Self, there's a whole lot of bullhockey in the world. This thing you have found-- it negates just a little bit of that bullhockey."

This is one of those things.

And there's been a lot of bullhockey lately.

So, it's a good time to share it with you.

I've been pretty vocal on Twitter about my love for Sean Cannon, the "After Dark" dj at WFPK. So much so that it made the one time I met him a little bit awkward-- for me at least. (I think I hugged him-- what can I say? I'm a hugger!)

I'm convinced Cannon is my musical soulmate. One particularly glum evening, I was sitting in front of my computer, probably blogging, and Cannon whips out a series of tunes-- Pixies, Sonic Youth, Dinosaur Jr, Counting Crows, and Grant Lee Buffalo (there may have been one or two songs in between)-- that made me want to crawl through my computer and give him a big ol' smooch.

And congrats to Cannon for having the "After Dark" podcast featured glowingly on the USA Today website recently.

Cheyenne Marie Mize is a Louisville treasure, one of those unforgettable voices and stage presences. And her song "Wishing Well" is ludicrously catchy.

Put Sean Cannon in a bear costume in a mall with a tambourine to a "Wishing Well" soundtrack... it's a cure for the bullhockey, folks.  Not all of it, mind you. But if this little video doesn't make you smile, you're in dire straits, my friend. Maybe you need a hug. From me. Get on over here!

Tom + Chee Open on Bardstown Road

I admit that I can be something of a loner at times. But when I couldn't find a "plus-one" for the soft opening of Tom + Chee on Bardstown Road, I succumbed to a little bit of panic. Luckily, the gods were smiling on me... just ten minutes or so into me feeling terribly awkward and lonely at the event, a familiar voice said, "Would you join us at our table?"

And so I got to enjoy the whole soft opening hoopla at Tom + Chee with Tony and Heather, two-thirds of Le Petomane Theatre Ensemble. A great night of food. And a great night of conversation.

Tom + Chee started as a vendor in a tent by the Fountain Square skating rink in Cincy in 2008. They've since been featured on Man vs. Food and Amazing Eats.  The new outpost on Bardstown Road across from Java is their first outlet outside of Cincinnati.

I spent a lot of time talking with James, their PR person, and what I loved most was how much he talked about 'passion'... way more than he talked about food.  He said that the Cincinnati folks vetted the Louisville franchisees, Natalie and Rich Tinsley, as passionately as they vetted Tom + Chee. The word "love" came up again and again with James.

The food was awesome.  I'm not a particularly healthy eater-- although I am trying to turn over a new leaf these days... if you're going to change your life, you might as well CHANGE your life-- but my favorite sandwich of the six or seven I tried was the Hippy + Chee: hummus, lettuce, tomato, cucumber, and cheddar on wheat. On the flip side of that, Tom + Chee features a whole series of grilled cheese sandwiches with smooshed up potato chips inside-- brilliant! I did this with every sandwich that I ate in my middle school cafeteria. I tried the BBQ + Bacon: bbq potato chips, bacon, American cheese on white.  Delish-- the potato chips add just the right amount of sweetness to offset the smokey bacon.

Speaking of sweet-- y'all know Mama ain't much of a sweet eater-- but I wouldn't blame you if you found the most interesting thing about Tom + Chee to be the fact that "glazed donut" is a bread option.  There's a whole donut menu, and I tried one called the "Mint Julep Donut"-- I can't even begin to explain how that was constructed, but I was really only able to eat one or two bites before the sugar headache took over. Tony & Heather, however, finished their donut in the time it took me to take this Instagram picture!

My disinterest in sweets aside, I might be in for tasting a cheddar on glazed donut... One of the few sweets I like is apple pie, and I like it best with a big hunk of sharp cheddar melted on top. As our friend Rachel said, "Yummo!"

I haven't even gotten to the Tom part of Tom + Chee-- the tomato soup. There are at least 5 variations on tomato soup on the menu. The overall favorite at our table was the creamy tomato soup. The best part about the soup menu-- you can add a "soup dipper" to any sandwich purchase for just $1. That's around 4-6oz of soup to dunk your sandwich in.  Awesome.

I'm pretty excited for a new, reasonably-priced, reasonably-local chain that serves one of the most universal of comfort foods. As I said, everyone in the building was very helpful and very friendly. They even made Tony and Heather a series of meat-less meat sandwiches to accommodate their vegetarianness.

My only concern is that Tom + Chee opened on a week of 90+ degree days. Grilled cheese and tomato soup-- gazpacho even-- couldn't be further from my cravings. I hope they can hang in there til the bitter days of November, when you'll have to beat me away with a stick.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Personal: Meeting Roommate

Ten years ago this week, I met my best friend. This picture of us was taken that week. When Roommate and I met, I was living in New Orleans, and he was living in Knoxville; he was working for the Writers Retreat Workshop, and I'd won the inaugural Robin Hardy New Student Scholarship for the event. We'd corresponded via email before we met, and I remember thinking, "Oh, this guy is great." And when I met him in person, it was, like, crazy fireworks and rainbows.

I live with my ex-boyfriend. And that is, by any estimation, a little insane. Roommate and I lasted only three or so years romantically; but our love for each other was so solid, so real, that it seemed wrong and weird to call the friendship quits too. I think that's pretty awesome.

Every so often, Roommate gets it in his head that it's time for him to move out or change cities (usually, this is at least in part because some woman has worked her way into his heart....). I promise you this: if and when the time comes for him to move on... and I'm pretty sure it will come some day...  I will be, like, whoa devastated. We've been through some stuff together, Roommate and I: my divorce, Katrina, my cancer, his heart attack, some heartbreaks, a couple of family deaths, a miscarriage. But BFFs through all of it.

Thanks for everything, Roommate, my chosen brother.

Friday, May 18, 2012

[502]: Season 2 Announced!

Last year, Theatre [502] had its debut season-- and what a season it was! I'm still kicking myself for missing their first play, but HUNTER GATHERERS and BROADSWORD were brilliant. When I opened up an emailed press release from Theatre [502] just a minute ago and read that their season starts JUNE 1-- SO SOON!!-- I did a little happy dance in my chair.

Last season I had the privilege of interviewing two of [502]'s Co-Artistic Directors and Founders for two separate articles for The Paper-- Mike Brooks and Amy Attaway.  (Watch out, Gil Reyes, I'm coming for you soon!) Read the article on Mike for more about Theatre [502]'s inception.

Without further ado... here are the synopses for the three plays that are [502]: Season 2...

[502]: Season 2 will open June 1, 2012, with FUTURA by Jordan Harrison, directed by Attaway. A dangerous lecture on typography turns deadly in a not-so-distant future where the page has been absorbed by the Cloud and the author has lost all authority. Words quickly become action in this dystopian thriller from the author of Humana Festival premieres Kid Simple and Maple and Vine. The play will run June 1-9 in the Victor Jory Theatre at Actors Theatre of Louisville.

In August, the company will present GRUESOME PLAYGROUND INJURIES by Rajiv Joseph, directed by Theatre [502] Co-Artistic Director Gil D. Reyes. Romeo and Juliet have nothing on the often funny, possibly tragic, and always gripping tale of Kayleen and Doug. They’ve suffered life’s slings and arrows, its heartbreaks, its electrocutions and its blunt force traumas. Now, about to hit 40, and no more certain than ever of their place in the world, they spin the yarn of two lives that began in a schoolyard, criss-crossed through the decades, and hurt like hell the whole time. Performances will run August 3-11 in the Victor Jory Theatre at Actors Theatre of Louisville.

The final full-length production of the season will be THE ALIENS by Annie Baker, directed by Theatre [502] Co-Artistic Director Mike Brooks. Three geniuses on the outside looking out pass a shaky summer in a staff-only area, where their worlds change slowly under an exploding sky. Are they The Aliens? The New Humans? Or are they just like you? Bukowski meets Beckett in this unforgettable suckerpunch comedy that whispers to scream. Performances will run October 5-13 in the Victor Jory Theatre at Actors Theatre of Louisville.

Visit www.theatre502.org for more information. Do not miss these plays... 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Who's In Town: National Archery in the Schools National Tournament

The National Archery in the Schools Program started in Kentucky in 2002 and has worked to advocate adding competitive archery into schools' PE programs ever since. They provide 4th-12th grade curricula that follow National Physical Education Standards to schools and mentor and recruit coaches of International Style Target Archery.

And they're in town from May 11 - 12 for their National Tournament.  I asked John Gautier of the NASP a few questions about their visit.

And let's just get this out of the way, I did not fall down on my job as your favorite blogger (or second favorite?... third?... just 'area blogger'?). I asked the folks from the National Archery in the Schools National Competition if the HUNGER GAMES was driving kids in droves to the sport of archery.  Jon's response, "We feel that NASP has contributed to the popularity of Archery, so the exact opposite of what the media announces. Archery has been around for a very long time and NASP has been in the works for just over 10 years." I'm not sure what that means. Does he mean that the NASP has made archery so popular that Suzanne Collins included it as Katniss's hobby?

The rest of the interview was equally... terse... But still, it sounds like a fantastic-- HUGE-- event! And, what a spectacle it probably is. It's at the Expo Center. I'm sorry I can't give you more information but their website is also... clear as mud.

LOU: What goes on during the tournament? Can you give us a brief overview of the event?

Gautier: The Nationals is a culminating event. NASP archers from all over the US have competed at the Regional & State level tournaments and advanced to the Nationals. The NASP World tournament at ESPN's Wide World of Sports follows this event in October each year and draws NASP archers & teams from the US, Canada, New Zealand & South Africa.

LOU: The website refers to the event as "Where Olympic Journeys Begin"-- just how close are the medal-winners to earning a spot on the Olympic team?

We have partnered with the US Olympic Committee to help promote the 2012 Olympics, NASP archers have a very good chance of advancing in Archery as they are receiving an excellent start with NASP.

LOU:  How many competitors do you expect? How many people total?

A. Over 8,100 NASP Student Archers

LOU:  Can the public attend this event? If so, what would be the most exciting time for someone to attend?
A. Yes, it is open to the public, there is a nominal gate fee per person per day. The most exciting time would at anytime, however the very last competitive flight that leads up to the Scholarship shoot off will be feature as well as the awards ceremony.

Friday Fun Fact:Prince Charming Josh Dallas

I am sure that I am late to this game and that the Lamestreet Media (LOL, Sarah Palin jokes never get old) has been all over this story. But I had no idea that the male lead on one of my new favorite TV shows was a Louisvillager.

ABC's ONCE UPON A TIME is a little hit or miss. When it hits, it's pretty fabulous-- usually thanks to Jane Espenson's writing (Espenson's career is one of the most enviable in television... she's written for BATTLESTAR GALACTICA, BUFFY, GAME OF THRONES, TORCHWOOD, and many more geek favorites).

My favorite thing about the show is that it revolves around the lives of three women, stars Lana Perilla Ginnifer Goodwin, my favorite wife from BIG LOVE, and Jennifer Morrison (Ginnifer/Jennifer... I wonder how that goes on set.). For once, the men on a television show are simply there to service the stories of the women. And these aren't SEX IN THE CITY style chick-plots. It's fantasy and fairy tale and crime and thriller.

One of those men servicing the women's stories is Josh Dallas, who was born in Louisville and raised in New Albany and attended New Albany High School.

I had no idea about any of this until Roommate told me he was in the Pegasus Parade (it also explains why Ginnifer Goodwin was in Louisville for Derby-- apparently, they're a couple).

Here's some interesting stuff from his bio:

At the age of 16, Dallas received the Sarah Exley Scholarship, awarded to one American student every three years in support of their study of acting at the prestigious Mountview Conservatoire for the Performing Arts in London, England. In London, at the age of 20, he landed his first professional job as an actor with the acclaimed Royal Shakespeare Company, and he went on to perform with some of the most renowned theatrical companies in the world, including the Royal National Theatre, The English National Opera, The New Shakespeare Company and The Young Vic.

Though he never left the theatre far behind, Dallas began to land parts in television and independent features. Feeling nostalgic for his home after a decade abroad, he made the move back stateside and landed in Hollywood. Five days later he received a call offering him the leading role of Fandral in 2011's Blockbuster Thor, directed by the Oscar-nominated director/actor Kenneth Branagh.

He's not really my type, so William Mapother doesn't have to worry about losing his place in my heart as favorite celebrity Louisvillager. But he's pretty adorable, and that resume is pretty darned impressive.

Have a great weekend, kids!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Free Orchestra Concert

It's not often you get to hear musicians from the Louisville Orchestra perform for free, so I wanted to make sure that I shared this event with you. I don't have a good anecdote or chit-chatty bit for this one. I kinda figure my Cancerversary post probably filled my chatty quota for the week, right? (Again, thank you so much for the lovely, lovely things you people have said about me and about that post. It's a cliche to say that something 'means a lot," but when I say your words 'meant a lot' to me, I really mean it. I've been thinking about some of the things y'all said for days.)

Anyhoo... What a great way to spend a Friday evening... Tomorrow at the Village Anchor (a place I've been meaning to try out) will host the Louisville Orchestra Musicians Association at 6p in a free concert. LOMA is performing for free as a thank you to the community for the support they received during their protracted battle with management this year.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Personal: Thank you... all of you.

Four years ago today, I was teaching an afternoon class and noticed out of the corner of my eye that my cellphone message indicator was blinking green. I knew what it was. I'd been expecting the call. I took a deep breath, shook off the willies and the encroaching tears, and finished the lesson on The Great Gatsby. I shooed my students out of the room a little early, I admit. Retrieved the message. And through tearless, breathless astonishment, called back the nurse who'd called me.

She affirmed what the message had told me, what the biopsy had told the doctor.

Breast cancer. Invasive.

Four years ago today, I am quite sure I can say that I knew none of you. And that just about none of you knew me. It was the baby days of the blog, and I'd yet to embrace Louisville's budding social media community. I'd rolled my eyes at Twitter, only used Facebook for old friends. I'd yet to dent the local blogosphere. I was less than two years a Louisvillager, and truly, with the obvious exception of Roommate, who had moved here from New Orleans with me, I had almost no friends at all.

I did not go through my cancer experience alone. From the uncle who flew down for my mastectomy because my father-- his brother-- passed away when I was a child, and he felt I needed a "father figure" by my side, to the mother-in-law of a near-stranger who heard through the grapevine that I didn't have a ride to chemo and picked me up, talked to me for the 5 hour treatment, and later brought me brownies, I was blessed with unexpected support. My students and their parents and my colleagues at school fed me two or three times a week for four months. When I insisted that I wanted to go back to school in August, halfway through my treatments, my school did me the great service of refusing to let that happen and paying me my full wage for part-time work until I did return in October, even though they didn't have to. Roommate, of course, was there for much of the journey. He was the one who shaved my head when the first clumps started to fall out in early July-- in the backyard, as I sobbed, and as maybe he cried a little too.  He was the one who held me four years ago today and assured me that everything would be okay. Mama Lou was a champ, heroic even for a woman who lost her husband to cancer when she was just 26 and now was watching her only child suffer.

That picture above is from the very early days of my treatment. I'd heard that the Newport Aquarium had a penguin encounter program. I told Roommate, "I want to pet a penguin," and he made it happen. Much like he made Bonnaroo happen just 12 days after my mastectomy-- he wrote the organizers, and they upgraded us to VIP handicapped access... I was stoned out of my gourd on painkillers much of the time, but it was amazing.

When I think back on those days, I am rarely bitter or angry. Yes, I hate that I had cancer. I hate that I lost my (huge, beautiful-- just being honest-- the last bra I bought was a 32-E) breasts. I am brutally indignant that my cancer care is still causing me financial trouble; the only way I could be even more passionate about National Health Care is if it could possibly be retroactive.  But all in all, cancer, on a day-to-day basis, is just something that happened to me. It killed my dad. It happened to my grandmother. It happened to my uncle. It happened AGAIN recently to a fellow young breast cancer survivor friend. It happens. It sucks, but it happens.

What makes me sad about Melissa-circa-four-years-ago, though, is that she didn't have you. These days when I tweet or blog about having strep throat or preparing for a root canal, I have dozens of people who offer soup or advice or a ride to the doctor. When I think of that one week that found me calling around to cancer support groups, teary-eyed, looking for a volunteer to drive me home from chemo... when I realize that today I am 100% sure that a single tweet would have solved that problem... I am so sorry for the four-years-ago-me.

I am so lucky.

This year, on the week of my Cancerversary, because of this blog and because of social media, I could be busy celebrating every single day with people I love. Roommate, who has been here through thick and thin. My boyfriend, who is the first I've had since cancer and who makes my hot flashes, memory loss, and wonky body feel utterly inconsequential and sometimes endearing. My amazing friends who want to celebrate this Cancerversary-- not even a milestone year-- by taking me out to the fanciest restaurant in town... every email and text about it makes me tear up with gratitude. Four years after my cancer experience, I am blessed with a stable of amazing friends and acquaintances-- nearly all of whom I've met because of this blog-- beyond what I could have ever imagined during those lonely, lonely days of surgeries and chemo and recovery.

The pop culture cancer narratives of people like Lance Armstrong lead people to believe that cancer makes people better, stronger, more courageous. And that may be true for a handful of folks, and I admire those people. I do.

But four years after I was diagnosed with cancer, I can honestly say I am a different person now. A better person. A stronger person.  A more courageous person.  But it's not because I had cancer.  It is because of you. The hundreds of you who read every blog post. The 1800+ of you who follow me on Twitter. I am a better, different person because of you. You have created a community for me. You have become my friends both online and in person. We're a strange sort of family. And because of you, I am almost never lonely. In fact, unless I choose to be, I can't imagine ever being lonely again.

Four years after the day I first heard the words "you have cancer," I am healthy, and I am infinitely happier. My hair is long again. My heart is full. My life is infinitely improved by your presence in it.

Thank you, readers. Thank you, followers. Happy Cancerversary to me.