Tag Archives: south park

Weekend theatre extravaganza

24 Jan

Remember how I said I wanted 2017 to be the year I see more than 9 West End shows? I’m off to a good start.

Last Monday I saw BU21, a play about how six people cope with a [fictional] London terrorist attack. While it was heavy and all too realistic, it was also quite funny. Life (and theatre) isn’t often only comedy or tragedy — as my favorite band Over the Rhine often says, it’s a head-on collision between both.

So I started my week with some “tragedy porn” (as one of the actors described it while breaking the fourth wall), and needed to end it with something a little more fun. One of my friends from university has been working in London for a few months, so I asked her if she wanted to go see School of Rock the musical on Friday. When I explained the concept of day seats to her, she was all in, especially since I volunteered to do the queuing for tickets.


My first day seat queue of 2017! And it consisted solely of …me. The entire time. When I’m the first to arrive in a day seat queue, two thoughts go through my head: 1. Am I in the right place? Is there some secret side door to the box office where everyone else is queuing? And 2. Ah man, I could have slept another 10 to 40 minutes! It was particularly cold on Friday, too, and my touchscreen gloves were not cooperating with my phone, so I had to alternate between being bored & warm and entertained by my phone & cold. I brought my overnight oats and ate that while watching the workmen load an abundance of god-knows-what into a van right in front of the theatre, while I’m sure they watched me wondering what on earth I was waiting for and what on earth I was eating that was pink. (For the record, raspberry overnight oats.)

A taxi driver pulled up and asked if I was waiting for a taxi. I told him no, I was waiting for tickets. He then informed me that the theatre was closed, as if I hadn’t noticed. I told him I was aware that it was currently closed and that I was waiting for it to open at 10am. I’m sure I would have looked a lot less silly if there were other people queuing with me. But considering how London black cab drivers claim to be experts about the city — way more than Uber drivers, of course! — you’d think they’d know about the concept of day seats. If I were a taxi driver my number one tip for tourists would be theatre day seats (though maybe not, I wouldn’t want the queuing competition!). Finally the box office doors opened and I was able to buy my front row tickets. As annoying as waiting in the cold is, when I’m sitting in the front row knowing I only paid £20 or less, it’s always worth it. My friend and I loved the show. I loved the movie as a kid and it transferred well to a live musical. All the kids actually played the instruments, which was amazing!

At the interval my friend told me she was free the next day, Saturday, so we looked up shows we could see. We settled on The Kite Runner, since they offered day seats. I read the book and saw the movie, so I was curious how they’d adapt the story to the stage.

So the next day I got up and did it again — arrived at the day seat queue too early. At least this time there were three people in front of me, but when we went to pay they all went for the matinee. So at least it meant we got the best front row center seats. Even though I knew the plot and what was coming, the show was heavy. Good, but emotionally draining. So naturally we went for gelato afterward to recoup. And while we hacked on the giant shave-your-own block of dark chocolate, we got a crazy idea.

“Should we see another show tomorrow?” my friend asked.

“I’m always down for another show!” I replied.

cant wait for sunday.gif

Our options were limited for a Sunday performance, but we settled on Peter Pan Goes Wrong. If it was good enough for Prince Harry and Meghan Markle, it was good enough for us. Plus, tickets were cheap on TodayTix (hooray for not having to get up early to queue!) and we needed to end our crazy weekend of theatre with a comedy. It was a comedy alright, full of slapstick and humor that bordered on cringey, but it was a good time. I’m glad I went with a friend though, as it seemed like a show best enjoyed with company.

So I saw 4 shows over the course of a week. Not a bad way to start the 2017 theatre season. My friend goes back to the US in a couple weeks, but we’re hoping to fit in a couple more shows before she goes. If only we could have some luck with the Aladdin and Dream Girls ticket lotteries!


Bradley Cooper in London and life without the internets

26 Jun

I saw Bradley Cooper the other day! And by “saw” I mean I paid money to watch him perform in “The Elephant Man.” He was absolutely brilliant! If his name wasn’t plastered everywhere, I probably would not have known it was him. That is mostly due to his acting chops, but also because I was seated in the very back row of the very highest balcony. Boy, have I been spoiled by front row day seats. I’m not sure if it was the show itself or my seat, but I just couldn’t get into the play. I kept shifting positions trying to look around the guy in front of me’s giant head, and I kept getting annoyed by the littlest of things, like the girl next to me who kept digging in her bag constantly. I dread the queuing aspect of day seats, but you really can’t beat the immersive experience of being in the front row.

It’s officially summer now, which means it’s starting to get hot in London. Not hot for the average person, but hot for me (though I fear next week it will get properly hot — I’m seeing 90F/32C in the forecast! Dear god let that please change before Wednesday!) So I decided to walk home from the show instead of sit on a hot and stuffy bus or Tube (I also did it for the Fitbit steps, naturally). I finally made it back, ready to finish up the work I put off in favor of seeing Bradley Cooper from a far distance, but my email wasn’t loading. No website was loading. So I attempted the usual fix — unplugging and restarting the router — but it didn’t work. The normally white smiley Internet icon was orange.

I sent Stephen this photo:

south park no internetAnd then I called Sky. After being on hold for ages, I was eventually told there must be an outage and the engineers were working on it, but it could take up to 5 days to fix.

5 days. No internet for 5 days.

Basically the only time I am not using the internet is when I am sleeping or showering. Even when I run or cook I stream music or podcasts. If I’m not working, I’m watching Netflix or surfing Facebook and other sites. I cannot just not have internet. I started planning how I could handle the next 5 days, going to the library or Starbucks to work, and then using my unlimited phone data while at home. I thought we might have to head out Californee way in search of some internet.

south park internet refugee campAfter resetting the router again in vain, I realized I had to relax. I was still on track to get my required work done by Friday, and everything else could wait until the next day. In a weird way, a sense of relief came over me. It was like being on an airplane. I’m almost glad airplanes don’t have [free] WiFi, because then I’d feel obligated to be productive. The only good part about a long flight is having that guilt-free time away from work and distractions. One of the pros of working from home is not having set hours, but it’s also a con in that I’m never really done working for the day. But that day, I was. I wish I could say I used my internet-less time wisely and wrote a story or read an actual book, but in reality I was glued to my phone. Still, my mind wasn’t thinking about all the things I had to write or edit, I could fully enjoy Doug the pug’s Instagram.

And then when I woke up the next day the orange light was back to white. The Internet Fairy (or Sky engineer) had come! No need to head to Starbucks or out Californee way. I never want to live without the internet, but I guess occasionally it’s good to know that I can (…for a night).

Hi, my name is Renee and I’m a nut butter addict

7 Mar

I never really got into giving things up for Lent. I remember a lot of my high school classmates did — forgoing candy, pop or swearing for 40 days. I do remember one year I gave up translating Latin homework at home, which if you knew me in high school, was a really bizarre resolution since I was a model student. I think I did it for the challenge — I never showed up to class unprepared, I just made sure I did my translations during free periods or before or after school. It was nothing compared to giving up sweets, something I tried to do for a day last month and thought I was going to die. Yes, I’ve really fallen off the health food wagon since my visit back to the US, and it’s been hard to climb back on. I haven’t been eating many cakes, cookies or candies like I did in America, but I have a new weakness:

Nut butter.

nut butter collection

This is my collection (The PB2 and The Bee’s Knees I smuggled from the US). Two years ago the term “nut butter” was foreign to me — I had a jar of cheap store brand peanut butter and that was it. But somehow over the years I have become a nut butter snob and connoisseur, and that same jar I used to savor now tastes like peanut-flavored sugar oil to me. Once you try the real stuff — just roasted nuts blended, maybe with some salt  — it’s hard to go back. I started collecting nut butters when they went on sale, eager to try different nuts and flavors, telling myself that nut butter is good for me — healthy fats and protein! I’d put a scoop on my oatmeal, dip some fruit or add it to smoothies. Except it evolved to a point where I couldn’t just put a scoop on my oatmeal or spread some on apple slices — I had to repeatedly spoon it from jar to mouth afterward. One tablespoon of nut butter provides healthy fats and protein. Ten consecutive tablespoons of nut butter in your mouth just makes you fat. I realized I truly had an addiction when I found myself shoveling Nutella into my mouth one night when I was sick last week. I could not even taste it! I wasn’t even hungry! I was just doing it out of habit. That’s when it hit me that I wasn’t just jokingly “addicted” to Nutella — I really was.

I’m not going to give up nut butter cold turkey for Lent — that would almost be too easy. The real struggle is in moderation — scooping out one tablespoon and then putting the jar away, no matter how much the crave tells you to get it back out. That’s what I’m going to try to do — not just for 40 days, but for the foreseeable future. All my running is basically fruitless when I come home and eat 1,000 calories in spread. And when my current jar of Nutella runs out, I’m not buying any more. Almond, hazelnut and peanut butters provide real nutrition, but I’m pretty sure Nutella is just sugar and oil — delicious, chocolate-hazelnutty sugar oil. It’s a treat to buy when it’s on sale for Pancake Day, not a dietary staple.

I think the last scene of the South Park episode S09E14 “Bloody Mary,” in which Stan’s dad Randy spends the whole episode believing he’s a powerless alcoholic unless the bleeding statue of Mary can cure him, says it best:

randy stan discipline

Randy: Maybe I can force myself to never drink again.

Stan: No! Dad, you like to drink. So have a drink once in a while! Have two! If you devote your whole life to completely avoiding something you like, then that thing still controls your life and you’ve never learned any discipline at all.

Randy: But maybe I’m just the kind of person who needs to have it all or nothing.

Stan: Naw, all or nothing is easy. But learning to drink a little bit, responsibly, that’s discipline. Discipline come from within.

Fun Times at the US Embassy in London

29 Jan
Remember how I said I expected it to be a long battle to get compensated from Megabus? Well, it actually went pretty smoothly. In fact, my money is so close I can taste it. I was given a final settlement offer from the claims company and it was an adequate amount — “just sign the release in the presence of a notary and we’ll get your check in the mail” they said. …And that’s when things stopped going so smoothly.
Do you know how easy it is to get something notarized in the US? You just go to your local bank. My own brother is a notary public. The last time I needed something notarized I think my high school math teacher did it. Do you know how easy it is to get something notarized in the UK? Not very. Like almost everything else in London, it’s expensive and time-consuming. I immediately started googling notary publics in London. I made an appointment with the US Embassy notary, but the earliest they had was Feb. 5. I found a guy who was a licensed lawyer and notary in both the US and UK, but he wanted £80 ($132) to witness my signature on a one-page document. So I started calling around, asking for price quotes — I heard everything from £75 ($125) to £95 ($157) — for yes, a signature and stamp. Three minutes of time. For what you could get at your local bank for free or a fiver in the US.

I called one notary who was willing to bargain.

“I charge £75, but if you find a better rate I’ll match it,” he said.

“The US embassy charges $50, which is £30,” I told him.

He paused. “You should just go there,” he said.

I managed to secure an emergency notary appointment with the embassy for today, because I could tell the claims people were getting antsy to get this thing settled (as am I). I’m not sure a Megabus fire settlement release constitutes an “emergency,” but I’ll take it.

My appointment was at 9:15 a.m,. so naturally I arrived at 8:30 a.m. because I managed to catch the early bus and there was little traffic. But I needed a little extra time because getting into the US embassy is tougher than getting on a flight. They do not allow any electronics — no iPhones or Kindles — or even car or apartment key fobs. They will not even store them for you, they worked out a sweet deal with Gould Pharmacy up the street where you can securely store your belongings for £3. That little place has got to be making a killing on iPhone storage. So I put my phone, headphones, FitBit and keys in a bag and walked back to the embassy. There was a huge queue out front for visas, but I got to go to the other side for American Citizen Services. They let me in even though I was early and I managed to get the first number for notary services. I sat in the waiting room reading an article about panda breeding in an outdated “New Yorker” and browsed through the official “American in Britain” magazine, which is what you have to do when they take your Kindle app away from you.

I’ve never been in an American embassy before, but I expected it to feel more… American. It is American soil after all, right? There were US flags everywhere and portraits of past presidents, but there were also signs that said “toilet downstairs” and “please use the bins provided” (“bins” as in trash cans). The receptionists all had British accents. Randy Marsh came to mind:

Eventually I was called to the window, presented my document, then was told to pay first. At least I was able to use my US credit card and pay in dollars. Then I had to wait again to sign my document. The consul notary was very nice and asked me what part of Ohio I was born in after looking at my passport. Then he said he was from Cincinnati. Of course I would go all the way to London to get a notary from Cincinnati. We swapped Megabus stories before getting down to business. I then had to awkwardly ask a random guy in the waiting room to sign the release as my witness. He obliged, I got the official embassy seal and signature, and I was on my way. “Hope you get your money from Megabus!” the notary said.

I had to wake up early, travel to my country’s embassy in the rain, and pay $50, but I got my notary signature. Megabus monies, come to me!

Apple Geniuses and I really hate hot weather

1 Aug

There’s a stereotype that Brits like to complain about the weather no matter what. I was queuing at the till at Sainsbury’s on Monday (let me Americanize that — “standing in line at the grocery store”) and overheard the cashier talking to a customer. They both said this heat is dreadful and just wish it would rain. Then it poured almost the entire day Tuesday and I’m sure they complained about that too. I think I fit in here in that respect — is it too much to ask for it to be 68 and sunny everyday? Why only oppressive heat or rain?

I had to venture out in the rain Tuesday because I had an appointment at the Apple Store Genius Bar. I’ve been having a hard time clicking on my Macbook Air’s trackpad and it’s been driving me nuts, so I figured I’d have it checked out. It was my first time at the Genius Bar and it felt exactly like the South Park episode:

south park genius bar

The genius helping the guy next to me looked exactly like the bearded guy with the dark hair. My genius took my computer into the back room to perform surgery. In the meantime I just sat there taking the whole place in — I couldn’t believe how many geniuses and customers there were. I don’t know what that says about Apple — so many people seem to have problems with their products, yet they also seem to take care of the problems effectively. My genius brought my laptop back and said she tightened a screw. She also informed me that the trackpad is built like a mouse and technically you’re only supposed to click on the left and right, not in the middle. Apparently I’ve been using the trackpad wrong and now I need to retrain myself. Whoops.

When it comes to running, I think I prefer a torrential downpour to oppressive heat. When we were in Greece Stephen and I decided to run outside when it was 90 degrees. The scenery was beautiful and the sea offered a nice breeze, but I still felt like I was going to die, especially going up the last hill. The next day it was back to the treadmill in the AC. Today in London it’s hot again –87 degrees (30 C). I always tell myself I’m going to wake up early to run to avoid the heat. But I don’t like to run before eating, and by the time I make my oatmeal, eat it, do some work, then download a new running playlist it’s almost noon. This week’s C210K session is three 15-minute runs with 1-minute breaks in between. I tried to pump myself up with new music, but eight minutes into the first 15 the sweat started pouring down, and it didn’t stop. I felt like I was running through a cloud of humidity, which depending on my proximity to the pond or boating lake, smelled faintly of duck and swan poo. It took everything I had to start that second 15 minutes. An older woman ran by me, which normally would motivate me to speed up, but this time I just thought “good for her” and slowed to a walk to wipe the sweat out of my eyes. I plodded along at the slowest speed that can still be considered a jog. When I started the final 15 minutes I put on DaRude’s “Sandstorm” (that one techno song that you’ve heard a bunch but don’t know the name of). Even with sweat dripping down every inch of your body, you can’t not run to that beat. I got my second (or at this point probably sixth) wind and took off.

“Yeah!” I thought. “I can do this!”

And then I started getting chills — while running.

“Woohoo!” I thought. “I’m not even hot anymore! I can keep going!”


“This is probably not good and I may be dying.”

It turns out chills is a symptom of heat exhaustion. I always thought I’d be OK since I bring water with me, but I was definitely sweating more than I was drinking and pushed myself a little too hard. I skipped my usual sprinting exercises and walked the rest of the way home, looking and feeling like this:

anchorman hot

No more running in the heat for me. Autumn can’t come soon enough.

I don’t see the connection, Amazon

24 Mar

I got this email just now from Amazon:

Since when do South Park fans love acrobatic yoga? Is Amazon trying to hint that I should get off my couch, do some exercise and stop having South Park marathons? That isn’t happening anytime soon, but good try, Amazon. Good try.