Wednesday, December 15, 2010

It's True, Where Ever You Find Love It Feels Like Christmas

So day after tomorrow I'm coming home for the holidays, making tomorrow my final New York day of my first semester of grad school. In some ways it feels like time has gone by quickly. On the other hand, it definitely feels like it's been a long time since I first saw the Statue of Liberty from the Staten Island Ferry. I've been busy, as the stack on the left indicates. That picture is of everything I read for my classes this semester. Every page there, my eyes traveled at some point. Some may have gotten a closer reading than others, but I still think it's pretty impressive. There's some proof it hasn't been all food and frolic, I've been doing the learning.

I've also been doing an awful lot of the essay writing since we saw The Daily Show last week. I'm halfway through my last essay, and although it is not an especially fun one to write, it is coming to me pretty well now. I'm hoping that by the time my feet hit Charleston soil, it will be totally behind me.

But still, it's important to seize those uniquely New York opportunities when they arise. Last night Rachel and I went to the Fifth Avenue area to see the windows that had been decorated for Christmas. They go all out, and some of them really are dazzling. Whole streets are lit up for Christmas, with trees and lights and even music in some places. We started our tour at Macy's (whose themes were "Yes Virginia, There Is A Santa Claus" and "Miracle on 34th Street," hit Lord & Taylor ("Memories of Christmas"), and saw the Rockefeller Center and the Saks 5th Avenue Bubble and Snowflake Show (a coordinated light and music show projected on the side of the building, which was a major highlight of the evening. It was 22 degrees when we left our building at 5pm (in the pitch black of night), and despite my impressive layering it was bone chillingly cold. Fortunately we were able to duck into Rockefeller Center for a hot chocolate and heating break. After that we saw "The Gift Machine" at Diesel, some strangely overly glam mannequins at Henri Bendel and Bergdorf Goodman, a giant star in the middle of 5th Avenue, childlike whimsy at FAO Schwartz (another heating break), televisions at Bloomingdale's, and Marshmallow Love at Dylan's Candy Factory. It was an incredible way to start winding down the first third of my graduate school experience. Here are some highlights:

Macy's from across the street.

Macy's Miracle on 34th Street

Department stores ready to go under the tree.

The one, the only, uber-famous and oh so gorgeous, Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree

Inside the children's wonderland that is FAO Schwartz


So unless something incredibly unexpected happens tomorrow, and I don't just get up, go to the library, go to class, and then come back to the apartment to get ready to leave on a super early train to Charleston the next day, this will be my last blog post until I'm back in New York towards the end of January. So far graduate school has been amazing, and I've gotten a lot out of the city. But I know that there's TONS left to get, so be sure to tune in to my further adventures when the Spring '11 semester starts!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Show A Little Faith, There's Magic In The Night

I know it's been a while since I posted, but I do have a good reason. I've been doing nothing but schoolwork, so I had nothing to offer but descriptions of the inside of the library and the experience of staring at books and the computer screen for hours on end. Such is the end of every grad student's semester. I've actually been pretty lucky, I've only got one essay left. It's going to be a lot of work, but I've got a full week with nothing else to work on.

Today was finally our day for The Daily Show, which was wildly exciting. Rachel, Michelle, and I got brunch at Norma's first - which was fantastic. I'd eaten there once before, so I knew how good it would be. But still, it was dazzlingly good food. Norma's is in Le Parker Meridien, a fancy hotel that at this festive time of year has a display of very impressive gingerbread houses. This years themes was "Movies in NYC," thus this excellent King Kong gingerbread house. There were also houses for West Side Story, Ghostbusters, Big, and Stuart Little. It was very cute, and smelled fantastic.

After brunch, we walked to the Daily Show Studio, which is way off to the west side of Midtown. The neighborhood is full of car dealerships, and we passed the CBS Studio on the way. Fortunately, you know you've arrived once you're there - there's a many stories high picture of Jon Stewart that says "The Daily Show. For Larry Flynt's Hustler Club, go one block down and take a right." I'm sure those are legit directions, but fortunately we were in the right place.

And we were the first ones in said place.

We got there at about 1:50, three hours before we would get in the doors, and about five minutes before the next people in line did. And yes, waiting in line for three hours in the super freezing cold (it was probably about 33 degrees at the warmest point of the day) has its downsides. Specifically red noses, numb feet, and other feelings of discomfort. But the time passed pretty quickly - after a little more than an hour Alex, our fourth, joined us. She held our place in line, and Rachel, Michelle, and I were able to go to Starbucks for hot drinks and a break from the cold. When we walked in and the warmth of the heat hit us, I exclaimed, "Guys, let's live here!" It was that good.

Not too long after we got back, they checked our names off the list and handed out our tickets. After going over the rules several more times (turn off your cell phone, no pictures in the studio, etc), we got to go inside. We went through the metal detector, and were corralled into the waiting room. After hours standing outside, and having the rapid temperature change from icy cold to the stuffy heat of the waiting room we were feeling pretty ragged. But of course, as soon as we saw the set we were absolutely giddy. The desk is significantly smaller than I thought it would be, but otherwise it's what I expected. The studio is big for a live show - it seats around 200 people (though it still feels small when you're in it).

We were seated in the exact center of the third row - good seats. After everyone was settled the warm up guy came out to get everyone in a good mood. He had everyone cheering and yelling, and joked with people in the audience. After he was finished Jon Stewart came out. Of course, the crowd went nuts. Everyone was really excited. He took questions from the audience, and was (of course) very funny. Some guy asked him where he would recommend the audience go for drinks afterwards. Jon said it had been years since he was a "gat about town" and asked the guy where he liked to go. When the guy said, "Well Rudy's is always good" Jon interrupted with, "What? Rudy's is a shithole. That place is still open?" Then he turned to the audience and said, "People, I beg you, do not follow this man after the show. You will get arrested... and chlamydia."

Of course, I wanted to ask a question. How could I get that close and not get an interaction? I spent most of the day trying to think of one, and nothing came. Fortunately, about 15 minutes before the warm up guy came out, I thought of mine. So at my turn I asked, "Have you read any of the academic books that have been published on The Daily Show? Like college students are assigned as textbooks?"
He kind of laughed and looked down. "No. No I haven't. I think it's awful that students who pay money to go to schools are forced to buy them." I kind of expected that. He's always pretty self effacing on the cultural significance of his show.
"I had to read one for an undergrad class." I said.
"Really? You did? What class?"
"It was a class on the news media."
"What college?" He seemed intrigued.
"The College of Charleston. In South Carolina." At that point I was concerned he would make a South Carolina joke. But he didn't.
"Really?" He sounded confused. "That's a good school. That's like a respected institution. Wait, you know what it is? Colbert's from Charleston, so they're just trying to work him into the curriculum."
Then my friend Michelle asked what his favorite Springsteen song was (Thunder Road). Apparently it was the first song he taught his son. After a few more questions, he started the show.

It's actually amazing how fast the show goes by live. It was hilarious, and seeing it live was an amazing experience. Even though it went quickly, it was absolutely worth every second of waiting.

PS - Thanks to Rachel for taking the pictures!!