Review: War Paint

I began my Labor Day Weekend with a performance of the musical War Paint on Friday evening. I had minimal expectations because, honestly, I hadn’t heard much buzz about it at all. I knew Patti (Lupone) and Christine (Ebersole) would be fabulous, so that’s really all the convincing I needed to go see it, and I knew it was about some rivalry between Helena Rubenstein and Elizabeth Arden but not much else. Douglas Sills was out that night and Chris Hoch stepped in for him. I wasn’t there to see Sills, so I couldn’t care less.

I have to say that I really enjoyed the story the most (Doug Wright did a great job with the book). Helena Rubenstein is my new hero, although she was portrayed a bit more punk rock in the script than in real life (for example: she had kids in real life which were never mentioned). We began in the 1930’s when Rubenstein moved back to New York City and Elizabeth Arden finds out from her associates and: drama. Arden’s salon is the ultimate destination for feminine pampering (and everything is “Arden pink”) and Rubenstein sells herself as beauty + science. It was because of the questionable ingredients they both used in the “age-defying” products that the FDA decided all ingredients must be printed on the bottle (thank you!).

Helena Rubenstein was, at one point, one of the richest women on earth and attempted to make an all-cash offer on a penthouse triplex on Park Avenue. When she was denied board approval because she was Jewish, she instead bought the entire building and lived in the triplex for 35 years until she died (per Wikipedia).

Elizabeth Arden’s first marriage falls apart in part because she won’t give her husband any credit for the sales work he’s doing. She says, “The moment I give you [her husband] credit is the moment I lose all of mine.” So true.

These two women detested each other and only met once.  They died within months of one another, too.

The music was fine – as in I don’t remember hating it. The dancing was also fine. But really, everyone was there to see LuPone and Ebersole and they were AMAZING. They are worth any price of admission (within reason, unless you’re Rubenstein-esque levels of rich then by all means, buy premium tickets). You should put “seeing two powerhouse women portray two powerhouse women onstage” on your bucket list right now because OH MAN.

War Paint is your standard length – two acts, two and a half hours long, but I never felt like it dragged. It was too much of a pleasure watching those two badasses onstage to check my watch.

And finally, I’ll leave you with a photo of Rubenstein’s childhood home in Krakow that I took last year while I was in Poland. (It’s the little green house.)

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The 74th Anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising

Today, April 19th, is the anniversary of the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising during World War II. There is a fantastic museum in Warsaw dedicated to this uprising and it’s a Must See if you’re in Warsaw. I found out yesterday that there’s a memorial to this uprising in Riverside Park at 83rd Street. I’m going to go pay my respects before work. If you feel like watching The Zookeeper’s Wife or The Pianist. There’s a movie about the Jewish Uprising but I can’t remember the name (comment if you remember it! It’s the street address of the secret meeting place!) Here are a few photos from the museum.

The original mermaid that stood in the Old Town before the Germans bombed them as punishment for the uprising.

They used the sewers to get around and deliver messages and weapons. This is what you’d see under a safe exit.

The symbol of the uprising.

The flags of the uprising.

And around the city you’ll see several monuments dedicated to those who fought:

The Littler Uprising Monument – dedicated to all the children who helped sneak past guards with messages and weapons. 

The Warsaw Uprising Monument

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passport-life:

Warsaw | Poland

This photo makes me nostalgic for Warsaw. Out of the three cities that I visited in Poland in October, Warsaw was my favorite. Warsaw had history spilling out of every corner. 

Krakow was beautiful because it was basically untouched by the Nazis (and Russians) during WWII so it’s all original and old AF. But Warsaw was completely decimated during the war. The photo you see above is the Old Town Square. After the Polish attempted their first uprising, the German’s, who’d left the Old Town alone for the most part because it was treasured (obviously, look at it), gave a big middle finger to the Polish people and destroyed it.

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This is what the Old Town looked like after the Germans destroyed it. 

After the war, the Russians and the Poles rebuilt the Old Town. The Russians wanted to show the world what fine work they could do and that communism was great. On the other hand, 500 feet away stood the Royal Palace which took twice as long to rebuild because a palace didn’t exactly align with Communist principles. But the brilliant rebuilding and duplication of the Old Town is why it’s an Unesco World Heritage Site now

Warsaw has so much more history than just the Old Town Square and that’s why I loved it so much. Hopefully I’ll get around to writing about them soon. 

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U.S. Energy Department balks at Trump request for names on climate change

I think it’s a real stretch to compare Trump to Hitler. I don’t think Trump hates any one group of people enough to exterminate them. Even the Muslims and the Mexicans. I think he’s a narcissistic pathologically-lying businessman who’s gotten in over his head. I am, however, questioning the people he’s appointing to his cabinet. 

And doing things like this. I don’t think it’s really him, per se, but the people in his transition team. Hence the questions. You know what moves like this one is reminiscent of? World War II. When Germany invaded Poland in 1939, they gathered all of the university professors (and doctors, and lawyers, etc) and publicly executed them, or sent them to concentration camps to die. Their goal was to get rid of the Intelligentsia of Poland. 

The courtyard at Jagiellonian University in Krakow where the intelligentsia where rounded up before being executed. 

I feel like what’s happening in the energy department is akin to that. They are trying to find out who opposes them and who needs to be gotten rid of (fired, not executed this time) when the regime takes powers. 

And that’s some scary shit. 

U.S. Energy Department balks at Trump request for names on climate change

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Field Trip to Greenpoint

I found the only reason to ever venture on the dreaded G train and it’s the above chocolate, E. Wedel, a well-known chocolate from Poland. I brought back a bunch of it from Poland last month and people (like myself, for instance) ate it and it’s gone now. So, I Googled where I could buy it in NYC and found a store in Greenpoint (of course). 

I took three trains with J to get to Greenpoint this afternoon to find a store named Slodycze Wedel on Manhattan Avenue. But unfortunately it was out of business. Of course. 

BUT I wasn’t going to be dissuaded so easily. I scoured the pharmacies and general stores on Manhattan Avenue and I was thrilled to find a few different kinds at Rite Aid. Surprisingly, the imported chocolate cost under $2 a bar. Score.

So, I’m set for the winter now. Seriously, this chocolate is the. best. ever. Better than any of the shit we have in America and it’s totally worth the ride on the awful G train. 

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Westerplatte (Gdansk, Poland)

On one of my last days in Poland, while I was in Gdansk, I got on public transport and after traveling for 45 minutes in the wrong direction, I hopped off, got a kebab, and caught the first cab I saw back in the other direction to Westerplatte, a peninsula where the German’s fired the first shots of World War II and invaded Poland. 

People often make fun of Poland because of how easily they surrendered to Germany at the beginning of WWII. But there are reasons why they fell so quickly. They were a young country, having just received a place back on the map after WWI. They lost about 6 months of militarization because they joined the alliance with France and England and when they asked if they should start to mobilize, England said, “Don’t worry about this Hitler person. We’re going to sit down and have a civilized talk with him.” And third: when Germany did attack, the Allies did nothing. So, yes, they lost their freedom rather easily.

Anyways. All that’s left at Westerplatte are destroyed bunkers and a monument dedicated to everyone who died fighting there. The monument is pretty cool looking, and it’s surrounded by flags from many different countries. The white words at the end of the flags (photo 3) say “Never Again War,” in Polish (so I was told). 

It was a cold day when I went and there was barely anyone else there when I arrived. It was quiet and eerie. I took in the beautiful and freezing views of the Baltic Sea (photo 2) before making my way back to the bus stop to head back to the Old Town. 

Despite getting lost and it taking forever to get there, I’m glad I went to visit such a historical and haunting piece of the world. 

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Making Pierogies in Warsaw, Poland

When I arrived at my hostel in Warsaw (Dream Hostel – best freaking hostel ever, seriously), I was informed that there was a pierogi making class that night in the hostel’s kitchen. I’ve never been one to partake in group events at hostels, but since it was cold and getting late, I decided WTH and signed up. Fifteen zloty later, I was signed up, and after a couple of hours walking around Castle Square and the Old Town, I headed back to the hostel, put on my yoga pants, and got ready to learn how to make pierogies.

It was actually stupid easy. The most work involved is probably the preparation of the fillings (which we didn’t do). We made potato-filled pierogi and meat-filled pierogi. We rolled out the dough, cut circles using a glass jar, further rolled out the circular dough, filled the centers, and then wrapped them up. 

As per usual, appearance of food isn’t my concern or forte, so mine looked a little weird, but they all still tasted good. The most fun part of the evening were my pierogi-making comrades. In the group was a mother who was traveling with her young son and daughter from France, a guy probably around my age from Brazil, and a guy who was around the same age, I believe, from Germany. I thought it was so cool that the French mother was traveling with her children in hostels instead of, you know, Grand Hyatts. 

The class was totally fun and worth it. We were all stuffed and happy by the end of it. I’m planning on making pierogi on my own very soon. 

Auschwitz / Birkenau-Auschwitz II

After America voted Hitler v. 2.0 into office, today seemed like an appropriate day to write about my experience traveling to the Auschwitz concentration camp and Birkenau-Auschwitz II extermination camp while I was in Krakow last month. I hopped on a bus outside the city walls early one morning and made the trip an hour and forty five minutes to Oświęcim, Poland, with a tour group and guide. It seemed appropriate that it was pouring rain, and freezing, that day.

In Auschwitz, there are various brick buildings, former SS buildings, that have different exhibits about who was brought to the camp, when the camp was built and why, how many people died, among many other things. There’s one haunting room with a glass case the size of my apartment filled with human hair of some of the 1.5 million victims. The Nazis sold this hair to companies to make stockings and socks, and this was the hair that hadn’t been sold after the camp was liberated. We walked through the barracks, seeing the claustrophobic bunks where political prisoners were kept before being executed, and then we viewed the execution wall, which is adorned still with flowers all these years later. We also walked through a gas chamber that was reconstructed with the remains from a gas chamber at Birkenau, since the Nazis started trying to cover up all the evidence of their actions once they knew the war was the lost and the Allies were coming.

Afterwards we were bused a mile or so down the road to Birkenau-Auschwitz II extermination camp. This camp was built, obviously, after Auschwitz and it was an extermination camp more than a work camp. Eight to ninety percent of the prisoners who exited the trains at Birkenau went straight to the gas chambers. Birkenau was mostly destroyed by the Nazis so a lot of the camp is eerily quiet with grass, barbed wire, and wooden guard stations along the train tracks. 

At Birkenau stands the International Monument, in memory of the 1.5 million victims who perished there. The monument is black stones of various shapes (I don’t remember what the meaning is of them) with plaques in many different languages that say, “For ever let this place be a cry of despair and a warning to humanity where the Nazis murdered about one and a half million men, women, and child, mainly Jews, from various countries in Europe. Auschwitz-Birkenau 1940-1945.” It’s located in between the ruins of the second and third crematorium at the end of the train tracks where most people disembarked the train to die.

For our last stop, we walked through one of the prisoner’s quarters that several hundred Jews were packed into at a time. They were dark, damp, cold, and dirt floored. 

When we exited the brick gates of Birkenau, our tour guide told us that now that we’d visited the camps we were witnesses of the crimes and atrocities that were committed during the Holocaust. He was very passionate, pressing us not to let anyone try to lie and deny that the Holocaust happened because if we forget, or deny, history has a way of repeating itself. That said, let’s have other’s backs as the new president elect comes to power next year. If his cronies start coming for one group, your group will be soon after. Let’s be better than this. Let’s be nice to one another and prepare to stand up, if need be. 

If you ever have the change to visit Auschwitz, I highly encourage it. Let’s remember so history doesn’t repeat itself. Photos after the jump.

Auschwitz

Eye glasses that were collected from prisons before they were killed.

Execution wall

Barbed wire covered path

A crematorium reconstructed from the remains of a crematorium at Birkenau.

The brick entrance way to Birkenau-Auschwitz II

The end of the train tracks where most prisoners walked from to their deaths in the gas chambers.

The International Monument at Birkenau-Auschwitz II

The remains of a demolished crematorium.

The chimneys still stand even though the wooden houses where prisoners lived were destroyed. 

A prisoners house that’s still standing. 

Along the train tracks in Birkenau, an original train car that used to transport Jews to the camp sits on the tracks.

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Sleeping Like a Baby

This is the view from the doorway of my extremely cozy and pretty-much-perfect hostel room at the Dream Hostel in Warsaw, Poland. There was a heated towel rack in the bathroom, for fuckssake. I’d recommend staying here even if you have the money to afford some fancypants hotel. This hostel was awesome, but this isn’t about that. It’s about how well I slept here. With the down comforters and the lack of noise outside on the main street at all (activity near Castle Square really dies down after about 9pm), plus my ear plugs and eye mask, I was basically a zombie for 8 hours a night. Saying I was sad to leave this hostel is an epic understatement.

But now that I’m home, in my own bed, I’m sleeping like a baby again. Better than I slept in my bed before I left. I don’t know what it is – the complete one-eighty from sleeping in strange beds for 10 days straight, or the new MyPillows that I bought, or maybe it’s knowing that it’s my bed and everything on it is perfect.

Side note: Not all was copacetic on my first night back. I went to bed stupid early because hello, jetlag and when I woke up around 11:30pm, I forgot where I was and freaked out when I saw someone come into my room and go into the bathroom. That someone was my boyfriend and he was in my room because, well, I was home. But did my heart stop for a split second? Yes. Oops.

I’ve been going to bed earlier, sleeping more soundly, and through the night. It’s lovely. I hope it keeps up because, although I used to say I could get enough when I was dead, sleep is actually a very lovely thing. 

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Kinder Surprise!

I saw these in the airport in Gdansk and debated long and hard over whether or not I should try to smuggle these babies into the country. It only cost about $10 USD, and I ate one in the airport, so I said fuck it, let’s do this and live on the edge. There’s a $2500-per-egg fine if you’re caught trying to smuggle Kinder Eggs into the country but I’m pretty sure that only applies if you’re trying to smuggle thousands.

Let’s back up: These things are a European delicacy that was banned in the United States (or rather, chocolate candy with inedible toys inside were banned, not Kinder Eggs specifically) because apparently American kids are too stupid not to differentiate between an obviously edible chocolate egg and the plastic toy inside of it. A couple of kids choked on these little toys and ruined the fun for everyone.

So, I bought a box of 5, wrapped the box inside the bag from the airport store, and buried it in the top of my suitcase. I put chocolate bars on top of it in case there were chocolate-sniffing dogs at JFK, I could be all, “What? Yeah, those are chocolate bars.” 

To a totally anti-climactic ending, US Customs never even attempted to open my backpack. There were no chocolate-sniffing dogs. And I didn’t even get fined $10,000. I got my contraband into the country and gave a couple to friends and ate another one. 

Worth it? Totally. That chocolate is GOOD.