Mar 26 2014

Everything You Love About “The Sound of Music” Is a Lie

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My mom has always been a big fan of the classic Rodgers & Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music, which portrays the tale of the von Trapp family as a bold, passionate, flee-Nazis-in-the-night kind of love story. She enjoys it so much in fact, that she roped me into watching The Sound of Music Live! on NBC, along with 18.5 million otherslast December.

During commercial breaks, my mom was going on and on about how the musical was based on a true story and how incredible it was that the real Maria and Georg, madly in love, defied all odds and fled the Nazis, escaping to Switzerland by traversing the Alps in the middle of the night with their seven children, suitcases and instruments in tow.

I was curious about how much of the movie’s plot was true and how much was fabricated by filmmakers. While most films based on true stories include a lot of embellishments, I was surprised to find out that a lot of key elements of The Sound of Music, including the great escape and centric love story, are false.

As my mom and I quickly discovered via the U.S. National Archives and Wikipedia, Maria was pretty much “meh” about Georg when he asked her to marry him, and they didn’t flee through any mountains after performing for Nazis, they booked train tickets in advance and told everyone they planned to go to America to sing, “pretending nothing,” the daughter, Maria von Trapp is quoted as saying.

Here are 6 not-so-fun facts about the reality behind the von Trapp family:

6. There were actually 10 von Trapp kids, not seven, and all of the names and genders were changed for the movie.

5. Georg, who is portrayed as a pretty big prick in the beginning of the film, was actually a warm and loving father who enjoyed singing with his children. Obviously the cold, villainesque angle works better for the movie, but his family was less than pleased by the characterization.


4. Despite the von Trapps escaping to Switzerland in the film, they actually went to Italy, because Mr. von Trapp and his children were Italian citizens. And again, they didn’t get to Italy by fleeing through the Alps, they booked a train ahead of time (slightly less exciting).


3. Max Detweiler, played by Christian Borle in NBC’s live version, the millionaire-obsessed music promoter, actually never existed. The von Trapps’ musical director was their priest.


2. Maria was far from “breathless” when she looked at Georg. She honestly wasn’t even that into him. According to her autobiography, she “really and truly was not in love.” She was actually mad on their wedding day because she wanted to be a nun, but apparently she was told it was “God’s will” for her to marry Georg, and so it was.


1. Lastly, turns out Maria was into more than kittens’ whiskers, woolen mittens and packages tied up with strings. She was also into freaking the f*** out. The description of the real Maria von Trapp paints a picture more akin to Charlie Sheen than Julie Andrews. She apparently had fits of anger where she would yell, throw things and slam doors. Her stepdaughter was quoted as saying she had a “terrible temper. . . . From one moment to the next, you didn’t know what hit her. [W]e took it like a thunderstorm that would pass.”


So, Sound of Music lovers, sorry if your dreams are shattered. But don’t worry, you can find new, better ones, by climbing every mountain, following every rainbow and fording every stream. Just kidding, that’s probably all BS, too.

This story originally appeared at HuffPost Comedy

Mar 25 2014

House of Cards’s Molly Parker Talks Complex Characters and Unexpected Plot Twists

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When we last saw Congressman Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey), he was one step closer to claiming the U.S. Vice Presidential seat, and he and his wife and political confidant Claire (Robin Wright) were enjoying a late-night victory lap around their quiet neighborhood. While things seem to be going smoothly for the moment, House of Cards fans know this is merely the calm before the storm. In Season 2, premiering this Friday, February 14 — a perfect Valentine from Netflix to us — someone new might get in the way of Francis’ relentless thirst for power.

Enter Jacqueline Sharp, played by Deadwood‘s Canadian actress Molly Parker, a two-term Democratic congresswoman from California who “comes out of military intelligence,” Parker explained, and is a veteran of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, who possesses a “ruthless pragmatism” that Francis admires. “What was interesting for me,” Parker said, “was this question of what it takes for a woman to ascend to this level of leadership in a political world.”

She noted the fact that while more than half of college graduates are women, a very small percentage hold high positions in office — roughly 18.5 percent of Congress is made up of women. “I was interested in what the cost is for a woman to operate in this milieu,” she said.

To prepare for the role, Parker read several autobiographies of prominent political women, including Hillary Clinton and Condoleezza Rice. “[Jackie's] come up in the military, which I think is a patriarchal system, and she’s risen through the ranks of that system,” Parker said, “so I have to assume that she is comfortable holding her own in rooms of powerful men.”

So comfortable in fact, she may present a challenge for the series’ anti-hero.

“No question, [Jackie] is capable of a ruthlessness,” Parker said, “but she’s surprising because in some ways we think that she’s going to be this good soldier for Francis, and yet-” she stops, wary of giving away too much of the plot. “I really can’t.”

While Parker couldn’t provide more details about the upcoming season, she did express excitement about joining a show of which she herself is a big fan — binge watching all 13 episodes in about three days — and playing an emotionally rich and interesting character like Jackie.

“Part of what I like about the writing on the show,” she said, “is we’re initially introduced to these people and shown all of the worst of them first and then as time goes on, their humanity is revealed.”

She describes Jackie as “a very strong, smart woman who is ambitious,” an ideal character for Parker, who has made a career of portraying complex female characters, beginning with her breakout role as a necrophiliac in the 1996 Canadian film Kissed.

“What I want is to play characters who are complicated and complex human beings,” she said. “It doesn’t mean necessarily that these are women who are good women or kind women or strong women, but my hope is that they are written with some complexity.”

Jackie goes head-to-head with Francis, who is apparently as terrifying a character on set as he is onscreen.

“[Kevin's] really funny and he jokes around a lot,” Parker said, “but when he is playing Francis, he’s terrifying. He has an incredibly powerful energy as an actor.” But the fear induced by Francis’ icy stare is combated by Jackie’s ferocity. “She aspires to be fearless. It’s really fun to play such a powerful woman.”

While the show — originally based on a 1990 British series of the same title — is set in Washington, it “transcends its locale,” Parker said. “It’s a show about power and the power dynamic implicit in all relationships, including [Francis and Claire's] marriage, which is the central relationship of this story, and it feels to me Shakespearean.”

And just as in Macbeth or Richard III, the audience can expect some surprising plot twists from the second season of House of Cards.

“I can tell you that as a fan of the show and an audience member, I was surprised as I read the script,” revealed Parker.

So this Valentine’s Day, cuddle up with your boyfriend/girlfriend/friend/cat/pint of Chunky Monkey, and prepare to be shocked by a new season of House of Cards.

This story originally appeared at HuffPost Celebrity

Mar 20 2014

Netflix Documentary ‘Mitt’ Confirms Why Romney Isn’t President

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Hunched over in a dimly lit hotel room, surrounded by his family, a defeated Mitt Romney realizes he’s lost the 2008 Republican nomination to John McCain. “I didn’t even want to go to [campaign] events,” he says. “‘Let me tell you how I’m gonna win this!’” He shakes his head doubtfully. “I can’t fake it.” Someone off screen quickly interjects, “You need to go to bed.”

This is one of only a handful of vulnerable moments in Mitt, the Netflix documentary that aired Friday, January 24 that takes a “rare, intimate look” at presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s life, beginning with his run for the Republican nomination in 2008 and leading up to the 2012 presidential election—where Romney openly expresses self-doubt. He doubts himself, his candidacy, even referring to himself as a “flawed candidate” in 2008 because of his reputation for being a flip-flopper (which is only loosely dealt with in the film, never directly addressed).

It’s evident in the documentary how both impressed and intimidated by Obama Romney is, noting that the president “changed the race” in 2008, and was “better than the other guys” when it came to debating. Before Romney’s second presidential debate with Obama in 2012, Romney sounds overwhelmed by the format of the debate, wary of whether or not he could clearly state his point of view for the audience while relating to the questioner and challenging his opponent all at the same time.

None of this seems to come easily to Romney. He even complains about how many debates are planned. And he is very concerned about having a solid “brand name.” You can tell Obama’s gotten under his skin. These are the moments in Mitt where we see a daunted side of Romney his campaign strategists wouldn’t let us see, because it would have been hard to “Believe in America,” if the candidate didn’t even really believe in himself 100 percent of the time.

Even Romney’s family — the central focus of the film — continually express doubt about winning, or wanting to win, the presidency. His son Josh questions whether or not the American people will ever embrace his dad and stop criticizing him (again, not directly addressing the critiques), saying “This is why you never see any good people running for president.” During a family meeting, where the Romneys discuss whether or not Mitt should run for office, Romney’s daughter-in-law Jenn says one downside to him running for president would be that he’d “have to be president,” adding: “Emotionally, it’ll be hard on everyone.” The quiet room doesn’t quickly combat this sentiment. Few in the circle offer many good reasons for Romney to run except that it’s his “duty to the American people and God.” They all seem to know it’s already coming and they can’t stop it whether they’d like to or not.

Despite exposing some of the candidate’s uncertainty, documentarian Greg Whiteley is clearly a fan of Romney’s, and edits the footage to portray the former governor in a very warm and fuzzy light for most of the film — glossing over the whole 47 percent debacle and the issue of Romney’s changing political views, instead showing shots of Romney wearing torn ski gloves patched up with duct tape and eating in fast food restaurants, just like a regular ol’ guy and not a man with cars that have their own personal elevators.

During a conference call held days before the film aired, director Whiteley claimed he just “faded into the wallpaper” when filming, but he appears to be well integrated into the Romney family. At one point, one of Romney’s grandkids shouts “Hi, Greg!” toward the camera, before Romney scoops the boy up into his arms, making him the 100th toddler Romney hugs, hive-fives or tussles with in the 90-minute documentary.

Aside from some real moments capturing the Romneys’ fears and insecurities, Mittpretty much depicts Romney as any Republican campaign ad would: a God fearing, down-to-earth family man who can really relate to the plight of small business owners. (Despite being born a millionaire and co-founding Bain Capital, where he made millions whether a small business went under or not.)

What is surprising is that after six years of following the Romneys, collecting hundreds of hours of footage, the documentarian still chose to include a random interview with a production guy at a 2008 debate, who talked about lighting adding “drama,” and a nearly two-minute-long conversation between Romney and his son Tagg about whether or not the Delta terminal at LaGuardia Airport had a large food court. We’re supposed to believe there wasn’t anything more interesting than that lying around on the cutting room floor?

While the film was expected to be an “exclusive” and “behind-the-scenes” look, it included a lot of already-aired debate footage and seemingly staged conversations between family members before and after each debate. Babies bounce on knees, Romneys kneel on hotel room floors in prayer, Ann looks stressed and cries occasionally. The documentary moves slow and is captivating only some of the time.

Romney is still, for the most part, Romney: stiff smile and jilted laugh. Of course he loves his family dearly and that’s obvious, but the public never really doubted his love for family or God—which is pretty much entirely what Mitt focuses on — they doubted what he stood for, they doubted his ability to empathize with a majority of Americans, and they doubted whether or not he was actually alive with a heart and soul and there wasn’t a Weekend At Bernie‘s situation happening. After watching Mitt, I’m still not sure.

Maybe the Romneys really are an example of Rockwellian bliss, solving their problems with a prayer and a quick toboggan ride, or Whiteley is a fanboy who enjoyed living out a personal dream of following his idol around for the better part of a decade. All in all, this documentary is pretty dull, however it did serve to confirm why Romney lost: his inability to identify what it was he stood for and stand firmly behind it.

This story originally appeared at Huff Post Entertainment.

Jan 13 2014

12 Best Bitchy Moments From The 71st Annual Golden Globes

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No selfie for you!

When you put a bunch of actors and actresses in tight, drunken quarters for three hours or more, there’s bound to be some solid bitchy moments. Last night was no exception. The 71st Annual Golden Globes began with hosts Tina Fey and Amy Poehler throwing shade at Julia Louis-Dreyfus for sitting with the “cool kids,” and ended with an excellent joke about Leo Dicaprio and warm vaginas. If you ask me, that’s the recipe for one good, bitch-filled awards show.

Here are some of the best bitchy moments from last night’s Golden Globes:

12. When experienced photobomber J-Law attempted to terrify Taylor Swift.


11. When Tina Fey accurately explained the plot of Gravity. 


10. When Lena Dunham made this face — which is pretty much the same face we all made midway through Jacqueline Bisset’s acceptance speech.


9. When Julia Louis-Dreyfus was too cool to sit with the TV actors. “I have a film nomination now, thank you.”


8. And Tina and Amy called her out on it.


7. Then Julia denied Reese Witherspoon a selfie.


6. When Bono cooly dodged Diddy’s hug to accept his Golden Globe instead.


5. When Julia Louis-Dreyfus snuck back over to the TV section to house a hot dog.


4. When Elizabeth Moss flipped off the mani cam — because, like all of us, she doesn’t know WTF a ‘mani cam’ is.


3. When Gwyneth Paltrow was bored out of her mind and it took all of her energy just to lift and open a bottle of water.


2. Pretty much any moment involving Emma Thompson, her bloody feet, and a dirty martini.


1. And lastly: Leo and vaginas.

This story orignially appeared at Huff Post Comedy.

Dec 20 2013

Lonely? Fox News Recommends Dating This DVD


Ten years ago when the Incredible Instant Adoring Boyfriend DVDs were released by British-based company Lagoon Games, mainstream media dismissed the videos due to the fact that they are ridiculous and somewhat insulting, but mostly just stupid and sad.

The half-hour video involves a blonde British man who randomly begins stretching or lifting weights mid-sentence and won’t stop telling the viewer how perfect and beautiful they are — but usually he just sits on his (“your”) couch reading OK! Magazine shirtless. (He also awkwardly attempts to use whipped cream for what appears to be the first time in his life at 2:25.) Instant Boyfriend’s lines cater to the most over-exploited, shallow female stereotypes, and for the most part would make any woman want to vom — like “Even when you drool, you’re gorgeous.”

While most major news sources considered these videos better suited for gag gifts at bachelorette parties than the subject of hard-hitting news stories about the evolution of dating, Fox News begged to differ.

Fox published a story entitled “The Perfect Man Exists — On Video,” in which it suggests the DVDs — or VHS tapes for just $9.98 (there was also a CD-ROM version that included “compliment emails”) — might actually be the next “logical step for frustrated singles seeking love and coming up empty.”

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Despite DVD Boyfriends not being a viable replacement for an actual human-to-human relationship (at all), Fox was pretty excited about them (probably because nobody would need to pay for birth control). So excited, in fact, that they decided to engage Match.com’s “vice president of romance” Trish McDermott on the topic.

McDermott, due to her possession of a brain, a decent amount of self-respect, and the knowledge of what an actual romantic relationship is, disagreed with Fox’s prediction, saying the appeal of the “Instant Boyfriend” would only go so far… because he only exists in digital form.

But still, Lagoon Creative Manager Jonathan Lim insisted to Fox News that the DVDs are excellent “company” for single people. “Someone says all these nice things to you,” Lim said, “and it’s going to make you feel better.”

Or lonelier. Or strange for dating someone who has to be plugged in.

Despite the Lagoon sales rep claiming individuals were purchasing 18 per week and then wanting more (how many single friends could you possibly have?), the “Instant Boyfriend” doesn’t seem to have taken off. (Although, it’s maybe a possibility in Japan.)

Far more disturbing than any of this was the sexist, if not completely horrifying, comment Lim made when explaining why an “Incredible Instant Adoring Girlfriend” wasn’t in the works anytime soon: “That could be controversial,” he tells Fox, “since she’d probably be a girl in her underwear with tape over her mouth handing you a beer.”

A “girl”? Tape over her mouth? There are so many things wrong with that statement my ovaries could explode.

Shockingly, Fox decided not to call Lim out on his blatant sexism at the time, and instead chose to highlight his product as a “quirky new video” that provides a potentially “better” scenario that an actual, imperfect human relationship.

Once again, Fox, you are a regular Nostradamus. Every woman knows nowadays that if she has a hard time on OKCupid or Tinder, she can always consider spending the night with a DVD created by a sexist asshole.

This story originally appeared at Huff Post Comedy.

Sep 25 2013

9 Reasons You Should Experience VIA Festival in Pittsburgh

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For one week each fall, hypnotic visuals transform the interiors of nightclubs, art centers and local bars all over the ‘Burgh as emerging musicians from around the world perform alongside cutting-edge visual artists, creating truly original performances at Pittsburgh’s VIA Festival.

VIA — described by co-founder and director Lauren Goshinski as an “elastic entity” — is a creative collective, a year-round event series and an annual weeklong audiovisual festival. Its four-year-old music/new media fest, held this year Oct. 1-6, recently became the third U.S. festival to be inducted as a member of International Cities of Advanced Sound (ICAS) — joining a list that includes renowned festivals like MUTEK in Montreal, Unsound in Krakow and the SOCO Festival in Uruguay.

“We feature a selection of acts that influence current music trends,” Goshinski said, “and that are currently creating new waves in their field.”

But the music is only half the story. VIA’s international reputation as a major festival stems in part from its knack for pairing musicians with stunning visual arts projects.

The entirely volunteer-run fest is six days of A/V showcases, film screenings and live collaborative performances, all uniquely integrated into the city of Pittsburgh. The self-proclaimed “Festival as Laboratory” is constantly experimenting and reinventing the idea of what a festival can be in today’s world.

“Basically,” Goshinski said, “VIA’s not something we can best express in words. You just need to experience it.”

Here are 9 reasons why you should:

9. You can become an avatar.

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Friday and Saturday night, festivalgoers can enter a 3D scanning station at TechShop — a community-based workshop and prototyping studio — where their faces/body parts will be scanned and rendered live to be incorporated into the video mix on the main stage. Files will be available for download after the fest as little digital mementos. There’s even a raffle so you can win a 3D print of your own head.

A collaboration between VIA, TechShop, CMU Expanded Theater students and a selection of new media artists like LaTurbo Avedon (an artist that exists only as an avatar), Kevin Ramser and Ben Tabas, the project is called h3D Space (Head Space) and is “VIA’s most ambitious and all-encompassing visual arts project to date,” sewing together curated, live and crowd-sourced visuals.

8. Exclusive musician/visual artist collaborations

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Each year VIA pairs a new selection of visual artists and musicians together for one-of-a-kind A/V performances. In 2013, you can expect work ranging from a sound-reactive LED sculpture to DIY screen installations and visuals powered by custom hardware and code.

And the musicians are so talented (and young) that you just might feel guilty about how you spent your early twenties. The lineup is pretty far-reaching in terms of style and sound, and includes everyone from NYC’s 22-year-old one-woman death industrial powerhousePharmakon to Sasha Go Hard, one of Chicago’s budding rap princesses, to POSTLIFE, a Pittsburgh-based affiliation of bands, DJs and producers who were recently featured on Interview Magazine‘s Soundclouds of the Underground.

7. Sample local food n booze

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Selected by The Urbanist, all of the bars at the weekend events will be stocked with Pittsburgh’s Boyd & Blair Vodka, beers from Full Pint Brewing and Wigle Whiskey — one of just a few distilleries in the U.S. that hand-crafts each of its spirits using local, organic grains.

6. Watch original, made-for-VIA material from VFiles/What the F*shion’sCasey Jane Ellison and Miss Daddie.

Also known as your girl Case-Case, Casey Jane Ellison is the brains behind VFiles’ web series What the F*shion and Status Update, which Gawker called “the best internet videos you’ve never seen.” Ellison teams up with Audra Wist aka Miss Daddie — an L.A.-based visual and performance artist — for guest video appearances during VIA’s weekend showcases.

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Miss Daddie

5. Explore Pittsburgh — duh

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There’s no stadium seating or field to put your blanket on at VIA — and all events allow re-entry — so take a walk around the block while you’re there. From intimate clubs to film houses to pop-up venues, VIA acts as a quasi-cultural roadmap through the heart of Pittsburgh’s creative scenes. They also keep daytime events light, so you have more than enough hours to get your tourist fix for a well-rounded trip to the ‘Burgh.

4. JOUST!

Johann Sebastain Joust is an award-winning no-graphics, digitally-enabled game in the spirit of an old playground favorite: Tag. Play on the rooftop of VIA’s pop-up location with friends, which coincidentally enough, is already a playground…excited yet?

3. Ms. Sharon Needles will be there.

The haute horror queen/stupid genius/PBR princess herself will perform in her hometown during the opening night event at the Carnegie Museum of Art.

2. It’s queer as hell, and we don’t just mean gay. (But we definitely also mean gay.)

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For a variety of reasons, white men still tend to dominate the festival market, on-stage and off. And while white men are great and all, who doesn’t love seeing someone non-white/gay/female/transgender throw down and kill it for a crowd of hundreds? This year, VIA will feature DJ collectives Banjee Report, “a movement documenting the gay experience in hip-hop and other modern music,” and Men’s Room.

1. Experience a world-class art exhibit that comes around once every 4 years, the 2013 Carnegie International.

“What a perfect time for people to visit, and for Pittsburgh to gorge itself,” Goshinski said, “It’s not often that you get the chance to pair a world-class art exhibition with a world-class music and new media festival.”

Bonus: You can actually afford this festival—tickets start at just $60 for the weekend.

With an exclusive all-access Passport, you can attend any and all VIA and 2013 Carnegie International events you want. (Hurry—these are limited.)

Listen to a sampler of this year’s lineup here.

This story originally appeared at HuffPost Arts & Culture.

 

Sep 16 2013

James Franco Tattoo Added to List of Worst Portrait Tattoos Ever

There’s been some pretty horrific celebrity portrait tattoos – everyone from Britney Spears to Bob Parker has been butchered.

Well, somebody f*cked with Franco. It’s hard to imagine a world where James Franco is unattractive, but one young man has created one on his thigh. After watching Harmony Korine’s guns/boobs/drugs-filled drama Spring Breakers, this guy decided it would be a good idea to get Franco’s character from the movie, rapper Alien, permanently inked onto his body.

As Franco himself said, wow.

Franco tat

This story originally appeared at HuffPost Celebrity.

Sep 3 2013

This Flower Parade in The Netherlands Will Bring You to Tears

The Netherlands clearly knows what it’s doing when it comes to flower parades — as evidenced by the Bloemencorso flower parade, which recently brought people to tears in the small town of Zundert earlier this month.

Each float is made with thousands of dahlia flowers, requires hundreds of people to construct, and takes about three months to complete. And apparently they are so awesome that people at the parade actually cried.

Bring on the awe-induced sobs.

2013_CorsoZundert_04_Foto-Malou-Evers                     Photos by Malou Evers and Niels Braspenning

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We know, girl. We know.

Aug 20 2013

The Behemoth That is Brooklyn

 

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We should’ve been suspicious when we saw the price. A two-bedroom apartment on Kosciuszko Street in Brooklyn was renting for less than $800 a month. Even for some of the worst sections of the borough, that’s really cheap. My roommate Brian and I, having flown in from Pittsburgh earlier that morning, salivated at the idea of paying Midwestern rent so close to Manhattan.

This was apartment number six that day, and we hadn’t exactly planned our hunt well—not realizing how large Brooklyn is when we made the appointments through Craigslist—and we were exhausted from traversing the borough all day. Before heading to Kosciuszko Street, we’d looked at an apartment on the third floor of a townhouse on Flatbush Avenue. Mrs. Garcia, the woman renting the house, led us into the kitchen, where she explained in broken English that this was where we’d eat our meals. By “we” she meant me, her, Brian, her husband, and their four kids. We would share a bathroom, kitchen and living area with a family of six. As 23-year-olds, we thought being temporarily adopted by the Garcias might put a slight cramp in our social lives, so we politely declined and got the hell out of there.

From the outside, the beige building on Kosciuszko Street was unassuming. Once inside, however, had we closed our eyes, we might have thought we’d entered the cavernous ass of a dead, rotting giant. Asking as few questions as possible in order to avoid breathing, we followed the landlord through the winding, narrow halls, passing seemingly empty apartments. Stains covered the maroon carpets and the walls appeared as if they’d been continually peed on for the last two decades.

To this day, neither Brian nor I can accurately tell you what that sixth apartment looks like. “Been meaning to move some things out,” the very polite hoarder who lived there explained. Packed from floor-to-ceiling were broken high chairs, stacks of old magazines, multiple non-working microwaves, plates of unfinished, molding food, and piles and piles and piles of clothes. It looked as if he’d been “meaning to move some things” since 1996. (It was 2011.)

We made small talk, discreetly covering our noses and mouths with our hands to survive the stench. “We’ll let you know,” we told the landlord, making a swift exit. At this point, we were so tired of running around the behemoth that is Brooklyn—only to be disappointed, creeped out, or have our senses assaulted—that a tiny part of us briefly considered our potential life on Kosciuszko Street. “It would be quiet,” I offered, as only a handful of people could be seen or heard for miles. “We’d never run out of musty National Geographics.”

Just then, sirens began to blare as three SWAT vehicles pulled up to the apartment building we’d just left. Several men in riot gear rushed inside, semi-automatics in hand. “That’s it,” Brian said, letting his hands fall to his sides as we began to walk faster to the subway. “Maybe we weren’t meant to move to New York.” We’d both been thinking it, but it was the first time one of us said anything aloud. Smarter people would have said something back when Mrs. Garcia asked us how we liked our eggs.

That’s when we got a call from a realtor interested in showing us a place in “Prospect Heights” (realtor-talk for Crown Heights). To our amazement, the area was much nicer than the others we’d schlepped through, and the apartment was just the right size for a New York two-bedroom (a living room slightly larger than a thimble; bedrooms as big as handicapped bathroom stalls). Best of all, it was affordable enough, so that after paying rent we could still manage the finer things in life, like toothpaste and cereal. Suppressing the urge to fall to our knees, weeping like we were on an episode of Extreme Home Makeover, we calmly asked Becky if we could sign the papers.

While, at first, New York was not what I expected, I have surprised myself. Once severely directionally disabled, I now understand the New York subway system. Once woefully unemployed, I now have a full-time job that allows me to write while traveling the world. Despite those first 48 hours being nothing short of terrifying—and while I can still barely afford soup because of how much I pay in rent—I don’t see myself leaving this city any time soon.

This story originally appeared at HuffPost New York and New York Notebook

 

Aug 5 2013

One Step at a Time

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Photo courtesy of Joe Bell

 

In a hotel in rural Idaho, Joe Bell nurses his aching, blistered feet. He walked 30 miles today along a green stretch of Interstate 84, turning in for the night only when he “couldn’t take another step.” Exhausted but determined, Bell plans to keep walking for as long as it takes—two years, he estimates—to travel a winding route from his Oregon home to New York City, where his 15-year-old son, Jadin, had always wanted to live.

 

Jadin committed suicide earlier this year after being harassed in school for being gay. Bell, distraught and restless, quit his job at a plywood plant and hit the road in April, carrying little more than a sleeping bag and a tent. (His wife and younger son will visit him along the way.) As he walks, Bell is stopping at schools and community centers to offer support to struggling teens and convey to bullies that “the pain they cause is long-term.”

 

One day, while trekking through Boise, he shared dessert at a local diner with a gay teen who had recently switched schools after being bullied. Bashful at first, the boy was smiling by the end of the conversation. “He said he wanted to move to New York City, too,” reports Bell. “I talked to him about how once you’re out of high school, there’s so much more to live for.”

 

—Sarah Beauchamp is a freelance writer in New York City.

 

This story originally appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine.