Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Spring break with Martha Stewart

Last week, I caught this post over on Nat the Fat Rat and immediately sent it off to my friend Lauren, an employee at MSLO.  Even though I knew that Lauren and Natalie don't know each other and Lauren has total access to Martha Magic everyday, I thought that Lauren would like reading about one person's fun at a taping of Martha's show.

Imagine my surprise when Lauren emailed me with: "Hey! Speaking of Martha, I have a ticket for her show next Monday--want to go?"  Of course, I initially thought, "Ugh I have to teach on Monday" ... and then I realized NO I DON'T because it's spring break next week!  Before I knew it, I was booking my Amtrak ticket and doing a fair amount of freaking out.


It was one of the earliest days I've had in months ... the last time I woke up this early was to watch Kate marry Will.  (Not complaining.) I took the train into Philly with Leslie Monday morning--she walked to school from 30th Street and I waited around for my train.  I love train stations.   I love some train stations, the pretty ones.  30th Street is pretty, and Union Station is pretty.  Penn Station is so ugly I'm surprised it doesn't actually exist in Philly.  Termini Station in Rome is pretty ugly ... you know what it is that I like? The flippy board with the arrivals and departures. I love that sound of "ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch-ch" as the board updates itself every five minutes. I love that.

I waited for my train with (what turned out to be) my ABSURD tote that I insisted on bringing with EVERYTHING I could possibly need on a day trip. What a mistake. It seemed like a good idea at 11pm the night before: I had the general contents of my purse, PLUS a water bottle, a guide book for New York, two magazines, and then all the random miscellanea like my gloves, my glasses, my headphones ... My shoulder was SO SORE at the end of the day I could have cried.  I weighed the whole thing when I came home. I took a guess: "This HAS to weigh ... hmmm ... 34 lbs."  It came out to 13.5--less than PEARL--which was totally confusing and really disheartening. Clearly, I have no concept of what things weigh, no concept of how heavy my cats are, and no concept of what my back is capable of schlepping. Lesson learned.

The innards of the dreaded tote
I made it to Penn Station and walked ten minutes to the MSLO building where my friend works.  You have no idea how hyped up I was. My brain was boggled.  I made it up to the reception area of Lauren's office and was so scattered, so zoned out, that I didn't realize that a man--three yards away from me--carrying a tray of Starbucks coffees in one hand and a huge tote (my size) in the other was seriously struggling to open a door. The truth is, I was probably looking right at him as he struggled, but I didn't see him at all because all I kept thinking is, "Am I on time? Yes. Am I dressed ok? Don't know.  How wind blown is my hair? Don't know.  What if I see Martha??? What if I see Darcy Miller?? What if I see Kevin Sharkey?? or Lucinda Scala Quinn?? or Sarah Carey??  What's my elevator question? Do I have an elevator question??"  All of this is flying around my head all at once, and I only snapped to it because Said Struggling Man finally got the door open, turned around, and literally snarled at me, "THANK YOU."  So much for first impressions.

The MSLO offices are beautiful.  There is so much sunlight streaming in from the floor to ceiling windows (that wrap around all four sides of the city-block building) that it could blind a man.  Everything is painted white.  That's what I loved about the offices--it doesn't matter where you work because everyone has access to bright sunlight all day.  I'm sure that this has some impact on employee productivity.  Who doesn't work better when they have access to light other than the fluorescent kind? The entire place is truly bursting with inspiration: concept boards covering every surface, with paint and fabric swatches, photographs, and sketches.  It's like walking through a three dimensional Pinterest Fantasy Land. All the busy bees who work there sit at their desks typing, typing, typing, while sorting through glittery and flowery items with the non-typing hand.  The energy of the whole place was pretty incredible.

The girl who made it all happen for me!
Lauren and I had lunch downstairs and caught up for the first time since Christmas.  We both ordered the same thing: arugula salads with turkey, avocado, and bacon.  Afterward, Lauren sent me on my way, "Two blocks east--just look for the big Martha sign."


I was the last person in line to check in. Naturally, I assumed this would mean that I would be sitting in the last seat in the last row. Truly, I didn't care.  I had never seen anything filmed at all, so they could've hung me from the studio ceiling upside-down and I would've been thrilled to see Martha.  When the producers had corralled everyone to the waiting area inside, we were asked to look at our tickets.  If your name was highlighted in pink, would you please come and line up?  I hadn't even looked at my ticket yet, and sure enough there was my name highlighted in pink. I walked to the front of the room with seven other people. Before I knew it, we were walking onto Martha's real TV show set (as opposed to the fake one?) and seated in the very front row on the floor.

Let the freak out commence.


The three other people sitting with me were pretty thrilled too.  They asked each other, "If you could take home one thing from Martha's kitchen, what would it be?" I couldn't really think clearly about this on Monday, but today I would pick the countertops.  What really cracked me up is that I already have so much of the stuff on display: my entire wedding registry at Macy's was 80% Martha items in her trademark Martha blue.  I kept thinking, "OMG Martha has Martha stuff too! Just like me!"


The lighting on the set was incredible. For the first ever in my entire life, my eyes totally relaxed: the light was not too bright or too dim.  I didn't realize how awful most of the lighting is in my everyday life until I experienced the perfection of Martha lighting.


The food producers set up the various stages for the cooking segment, cracking eggs, unwrapping cream cheese, measuring ingredients.


The craft producers set up all the supplies for both of the craft segments, arranging faux butterflies, canvas paints and glass cloches.


People neatened up the set to better show off the projects that Martha would be working on with her guests.


The camera crew set up to film a gardening segment.  The garden set really surprised me. On TV, it looks really enormous and deep.  But, it's actually quite narrow and small. I realized that the cameras are set up in such a way to trick the viewer's eye when they're watching the program. From where I was sitting, all the plants looked absolutely real and divinely healthy. I wanted to steal the maidenhair fern (over the left shoulder of the woman in black) because it would've easily fit in my tote, but I didn't want to get Lauren fired.

It was so cool to see how a TV show is filmed.  (The episode that I saw will air next week on Monday, March 12.) The cameras are totally fascinating. First, they are HUGE and they seem totally unwieldy as the roll around on the floor and reach their enormous long arms up around the items on the kitchen counter or craft table.  I realized that if I had stuck with my original plan when I went into college (ie, not philosophy), I would be working on a TV set somewhere today.  The producers agonize over every shot and every last angle for everything and the camera people are totally obsessed with capturing exactly what the producer is describing.  I could totally relate to the entire process on a much (much much) smaller scale in my own head.  In my own life, I am the producer and the camera person of my life's events, agonizing over every last shot, taking and retaking everything.  On TV, the process is so huge that one person can't do it all--an entire team does what my head tries to do independently everyday.


After filming, Martha talked to us for a few minutes and took questions from the audience. One woman asked, "Martha, how do I keep my poinsettias alive year round?" And without skipping a beat, Martha said, "Oh my goodness, please just let them die already!"  Everyone laughed, and Martha sympathized with her questioner, but reminded everyone that some plants are only supposed to be around temporarily.


Martha is TALL. I don't know for sure, but I'm guessing that I would only come up to her shoulder.  Maybe not even her shoulder.  And, for the record, she looks great in white jeans. How many people do you know who can say that?

Before I knew it, the spell was broken and the magic was over.  The staff generously gave us a big bag of free stuff (YAY! More things to carry all day!  Trust me, I'm really not complaining!) and sent us on our way.

I wandered across the street to a Starbucky-place (Argos Tea?) to collect myself and create a plan for the rest of the day. I had 2.5 hours to kill before meeting up with my friend Annie for dinner.  I bought a coconut bubble tea and chocolate French macaroon.  Sadly, it was the worst $5 I've ever spent.

I've been dying to try a bubble tea since college.  OMG, it was so gross. I rarely say that about ANY food item.  It was way too sweet (I NEVER say that about anything) and totally over-flavored and the jelly-cubey things in the bottom just totally made me gag.  Plus, the macaroon was the totally wrong texture.  Awful.  I know people are thinking, "Seriously, lady? What did you expect?" Fair enough.  I was still totally high on the perfection of Martha Magic, so this was like a crash landing back to reality, aka The Land of Broken Hopes and Dreams.

I put my plan of NYC cliches together: Mario Batali's EATaly in the Flat Iron district followed by a compost cookie from Milkbar.


I walked across town to EATaly (which I think is relatively new? less than a year old). I forget where I learned about this--it was either Martha, The Chew, or maybe Lidia?  Anyway, it has anything Italian that you can imagine: gelato, pizza, sandwiches, a pastry counter, a butcher counter, fresh produce, candy, a market for pastas and cooking ingredients, even bath items.

Hundreds and hundreds of varieties of pasta, olive oil, pestos ... you name it.

I was totally overwhelmed in this place. It was loud and crowded, and there was SO MUCH STUFF to look at.  It was also at this point (4:30pm) that my tote was KILLING my shoulder and I began contemplating just ditching the whole thing in a trash can and cutting my losses. Plus, my bunion foot hurt. Really bad.  To the point that I began to worry a little bit. (This same foot nearly ruined a vacation in Paris and kept me literally hobbling for eight weeks in 2006.  It was bad news.)



Many signs were written bilingually which I LOVED: <<Everyday, we make it (mozzarella) fresh here.  Every morning, we make fresh mozzarella here right in front of you.  We are so proud of our final product.  Try EATaly's mozzarella: it's the freshest, creamiest, most delicious and very, very healthy>>

I've never considered mozzarella a health food, but whatevs.

And hey look! My Lent is paying off! The only words I struggled to remember were "orgogliosi" and "sana."

I bought canvas totes for me and my high school Italian teacher emblazoned with the words, <<Non uso ... borse di plastica.>> I'm pretty sure the grammar is wrong ... I think it's supposed to be "borse delle plastiche."  But who knows. I don't know why I think about these things.

Then, I headed off to Milkbar.


I walked over to the East Village location--it's literally a hole in the wall. I nearly missed it entirely.  I bought a compost cookie AND a cornflake-marshmallow-chocolate chip cookie, and SHOCKINGLY, I loved the latter so much more than the former!  I'm just going to say it: I don't see what the big deal is about the compost cookie. It was good.  It was not the best cookie I've ever had. It did not change my life.  It made me REALLY happy that I did NOT spend $16 at Williams-Sonoma on the compost cookie mix.

Anderson Cooper raved about the compost cookie to no end two years ago ... something tells me that he rarely eats dessert.

Compost cookie on the left, cornflake cookie on the right
The next part of my plan consisted of walking south to Soho to Purl Soho. My mom never said anything to me, but it turns out that she was really hoping I would make my way here.  I decided to back track to Broadway and walk south, but I got sidetracked at Strand Books two blocks later and never made it. I just wandered around and flipped through stuff for an hour (with my awful tote, which I so badly want to torch in the middle of the street, on the floor).


I knew I had to meet up with Annie at 6:15, and for some reason I forgot that I was meeting her at 14th and 8th ... and kept thinking in my head that I was meeting her at 14th and 3rd.  When I left the bookstore at 6:10 (at 12th and 3rd) I realized my mistake.  Great.  I booked it 5 blocks west dragging my stupid, dumb ass tote the whole way, the 30mph wind in my face on the 35 degree night.  I nearly collapsed when I finally found Annie who had generously stopped to buy a bottle of wine for our BYO.  Luckily, we stopped at Annie's apartment before the restaurant so I could finally pull my hair out of my eyes and wash my dirty New York hands.


Annie's apartment (as always) was totally adorable.


Don't you love the fireplace?  It the cutest little nook.


She collects all of her cards on the top of her dresser. I found Halloween and Easter cards that I had made on top plus this year's Valentine (do you see it?).

We walked around the corner to a tiny French place called Tartine.

I know it's so dim, but I was in no mood for a flash! I don't think Annie was either.
We had spicy chicken with guacamole and fries and onion tarte.  Annie purposely selected a South African wine from a vineyard she actually visited on her travels. And wouldn't you know that the guys sitting next to us were South African and one of them owned a vineyard in South Africa?  What are the odds of that happening in West Chester? I'll give you a hint: slim to none. It's not New York City for nuthin.

Unfortunately, it was one of those days where it took two sips of wine for me to be totally blitzed.  Luckily, we had enough time to really enjoy dinner without rushing, Annie hailed me a cab (because a clueless girl from the suburbs probably shouldn't try that for the first time without the supervision of a real New Yorker), and I zipped back to Penn Station.

I made my way to the Amtrak terminal in my red wine haze and nearly had a heart attack when one of my most favoritist men on the planet walked right by me: Jay Wright.  My poor, boggled mind couldn't take it. The drunk voice in my head is going, "Where the hell am I? Am I in Philly? no ... Am I on the Main Line? no ... Am I in New York? No! that's impossible! Jay Wright is standing right here! Why would I be seeing Jay Wright in New York??"  Of course, Sober Me would have yelled, "HEY COACH!!!" and waved frantically, but Not-Sober-Me kept clumsily reaching for my jaw on the floor, trying to pick it up like a slippery ice cube on the floor, while my eyes bugged out of my head and I said nothing. And then he was gone.

What to do what to do?  Of course: drunk text my friends that I just saw Jay Wright in Penn Station and didn't say ANYTHING.  Only Jeff really felt my pain. Thanks Jeff!

When I finally arrived back in Philly at 10:30, my other favoritest man on the planet was waiting for me so that I didn't have to wait 50 minutes for a 45 minute ride on a Septa train.

It was seriously the most whirlwindish day I've had in a long time.  Exhausting in the best possible way.  There are a few people I'd like to thank, including but not limited to: The Weather for not raining; Leslie for taking the train with me in the morning; Lauren for allowing this whole thing to happen in the first place; Annie for meeting up with me for dinner; Jay Wright for being his handsome self; and Ron for driving to 30th Street to get me.  And Martha! For being practically perfect in every way.

It's 12:30 in the afternoon, and I still have to work out, bake and ice a cake for Leslie's bday, and clean for the people coming over after dinner.  Where's the Martha Magic when I need it??

1 comment:

Jess said...

Can I tell you this is probably one of my most favorite blogs of yours yet! Loooved it... and it made me laugh out loud!