Monthly Archives: April 2011

Why I (Still) Love: RENT

Anyone who knows me… and watches The Office… and knows that I watch The Office (yes, I have now eliminated everyone) would likely expect a RENT post after the latest episode.

In the show, the staff of Dunder Mifflin sang an adapted version of “Seasons of Love”, the emotional Act II opener in the musical RENT, to their almost former boss in Steve Carell’s penultimate episode.

I cried. I cried ugly. And since then I have been in a 1997 time warp — listening to my RENT soundtrack on repeat like it’s freshman year.  RENT had just won the Tony Award for best musical and at a university known for its theater program and theater wannabes, you couldn’t go far without hearing it coming from someone’s open dorm window.

The musical has since been mocked on South Park, made into a horrible movie, ended its run on Broadway, and maybe even lost some of its cultural relevance. But man, this weekend, I fell in love again. So I thought I needed a new entry in my pop culture-devoted “Why I Love” series.

I don’t remember a lot from my freshman year of college. Not only because of goldschlager and Dillo Day, but just because, you know, there are like so many classes. But I’ll never forget nights in the dorm room dividing up parts to sing along to the RENT CD. “You be Angel!” “No, I want to be Collins!” (Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, we really went wild once we got a little independence.)

As proven this weekend, I can still sing every single word on that soundtrack — down to every last “moo.” It’s impossible to listen to “Without You” without getting chills as Roger and Mimi declare that life goes on, but they’re gone without each other. And I’ve always wanted to have an ATM code of A-N-G-E-L.

It probably inspired late 90s college kids to write songs, film a documentary or open up a restaurant in Santa Fe.

RENT is about relationships and marginalization. I can’t say I have ever felt on the fringe or, as Mark says it in the musical, “out of the mainstream.” I don’t mind saying that I’m pretty mainstream. I may even epitomize it. But I definitely can identify with the themes of friendship, the struggle to be an independent person outside of your family, and finding determination to accomplish your career goals.

But the biggest reason I love this rock opera is for how easily it can evoke such happy memories. What a way to find a little balance.

What CD from your past can you still sing every word?  If you’re a RENThead, prove it. Since it’s not peace, according to the musical, what is the opposite of war?

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Home Is Where Your Sock Monkey Is

It’s hard to believe that even when you have been experiencing this:

Lunch at the Ritz-Carlton in Dana Point, CA

It still feels comforting to come back to this:

A most special gift and symbol of home

While the vacation in Orange County was brief, it included all the makings of a great getaway: making new friends, eating pastries instead of fruit at breakfast, reading  a book, dancing the Hora, dreaming of retirement, secretly coveting iPads in the airport, leaving the phone in the hotel room (Ok, just once. On accident. But still!), staying up late, sleeping in, and most importantly, marveling yet again at the compatibility with your favorite traveling partner.

But even so, it’s nice to be home.

What’s your symbol of home (assuming of course it’s something other than a sock monkey)?

Things I Will Absolutely Not Do This Weekend

I will ABSOLUTELY NOT:

1. Secretly hope that LC and Lo are visiting their parents and will walk into the local Laguna “hot spot” (so I’m told) where we are eating dinner Thursday night.

2. Hum Hilary Duff’s “Come Clean” in my head while NOT secretly hoping to see LC and Lo.

3. Jam to Phantom Planet’s “California” while I get ready in the morning. (again)

4. Kick myself too hard for not living in CA at a point in my life when I didn’t care about things like “cost of living.”

Yes, I am headed to Orange County tomorrow! And yes, I will, in reality, do all of these things no matter how hard I try!

I’ve been to San Diego and LA, but never this quaint little county in between so it’s been left up to TV shows about high schoolers and “real” housewives to shape my impression. As a pop culture junkie, this excites me, but I’m most looking forward to seeing and experiencing all the great things I have heard from actual people. It’s been a long two weeks and a coastal vacation is just what I need. I wonder if it will be a similar balance conundrum as the other coast.

Hope everyone has a great weekend. And if you have any OC recommendations, please let me know!

For those who were Laguna Beach and/or The OC fans, let these songs take you away to a simpler time… 🙂 And if you were not a fan of these, you probably have no idea what the hell this blog post was about. So put down your book or stop spending time with your family and watch some crap television!

Cause Confusion

I’ve never had a problem with heights, so it doesn’t bother me to climb up and perch atop a soapbox from time to time (when appropriate of course). I have strong opinions on certain issues and I try to stay up-to-date on those topics. I vote in national and local elections.

But every now and then I feel the need for more — a get-fired-up-and-go-back-to-grad-school-for-a-public-policy-degree kind of urgency. It’s not necessarily the P word, just a worthy fight. But I’m sometimes conflicted as to where my energy is directed, as highlighted by last week’s events.

I was psyched to attend a Q&A session early in the week with former Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings and Geoffrey Canada, the CEO of Harlem’s Children Zone, which was featured prominently in the education documentary Waiting for Superman. They were on campus at the university where I work, and before their formal evening lecture, they participated in a student forum where both college students and local high schoolers can ask questions. I was moved by how impassioned the students were, and I was basically fist pumping as Secretary Spellings and Mr. Canada answered with some sad truths and realities about our school system.

So, I thought to myself, I must fight for education!

Later in the week, the university was screening Waiting for Superman. I surprisingly have not seen it and I was ready to be inspired and to likely sob like an infant. I was in full-force rally mode…. until.

Until I received an invitation to attend opening night of the Dallas International Film Festival hosted by the Dallas Film Society. Have I mentioned that I also really love the arts?? And I can always Netflix the movie. Besides, I shouldn’t cry in front of students who I could very well be meeting with the next day. It’s awkward. So I slipped on a cocktail dress and off to the festival I went!

I listened to speeches about the importance of a local arts community (which I agree with), dazzled in the Dallas pomp, and stood next to Whoopi Goldberg.

And as I listened, I thought to myself, I must fight for local artists!

Feeling satisfied in my current cause, I contentedly settled in to watch the opening night screening film: Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey. As you may deduct, it is a documentary about the career of Kevin Clash, the man behind the red, furry phenomenon. It’s an interesting tale of anonymity despite “being” one of the most recognized characters in the world.

But what really touched me were all the scenes of Elmo and the other Sesame Street characters visiting schools, hospitals and Make A Wish children. The kids and their families were so excited to see these beloved puppets “in the flesh.” The show’s far-reaching impact is personal as well as educational.

So as I wiped away tears, I reasoned to myself, I must fight for public broadcasting!

I don’t like to be flakey and jump on bandwagons. And I know I’ve always been drawn to education and the arts. But last week left me trying to answer the question: Am I overly compassionate or just easily swayed?

I’ll probably never know for sure. And for that, I’ve chosen to blame Elmo.

How do you support the causes that are important to you?