Thursday, November 17, 2011

Have Children Will Travel

In the beginning of our lives together my husband and I decided that we were going to maintain our jetsetting lifestyle no matter the extra baggage of an infant. Our child was going to be better behaved because she would be magnificently cultured. Guess what? Cultured babies barf and cry too.

Lyra took her first flight when she was three-months old and I learned my first dire lesson of flying with an infant. Bring an extra set of clothes for yourself.

We were going to New Orleans with my dad for his reunion at Tulane. I was struggling with breast feeding so most of my milk was being pumped and stored. I had to tote a fridge pack for the milk that held me up at every security check.

On this trip after having all the special searches performed on the bottles of milk that I had previously pumped, I had to manually pump more while on the plane because Lyra hurled all over us as soon as the plane took off. However, she wasn’t a loud baby, just a pukey baby.

We quickly change planes in Atlanta on the return flight. I will never take a flight with a stop in Atlanta again. The flight was late and when we finally got off the plane there was an announcement for our party to go to the nearest airline representative. The problem was there were no representatives, just crowds of people who were in need of a representative.

Lyra took this moment to projectile hurl all over me. We had ten minutes until our flight left. I held the baby against the puke splatter, then threw our carry-on items on the stroller and ran through the crowd dripping curdled milk droppings as I went. When we got to the gate as the plane was boarding I ran to the front of the line not caring who I was pissing off. I was covered in puke, damn it! I was ready to start throwing the vile stuff at someone because the entire packed airport seemed not to care about a mom and an old man struggling to get to the other side of the planet to catch another flight.

“Mam, we have been calling your name on the intercom,” the ticketing agent said.

“Yes, well you didn’t have a representative available for us to talk to and we had ten minutes to make it from the other side of the airport. Don’t you tell me we lost our seats on the flight?”

“No, it’s that your family has been calling the airline and airport. They found a donor for your dad. You were instructed to take the next flight home.”

“Well, isn’t it this one?”

We were able to board stinking like the aftermath of a bulimic episode. We were not able to sit beside each other which made the rest of the trip hard because I had to balance all the accessories that come with the baby and I stunk.
In the end the hospital donor committee didn’t chose my dad as a kidney donor recipient. It would take almost a year for him to finally be chosen.

The next year, Patrick and I traveled to Europe and little Lyra puked her way across Germany, Austria, Hungary, and Romania. For six hundred dollars we got the bulk head seats with a bassinet attached in front of our seats for Lyra. She used the entire flight to Munich to stand up in the bassinet and flirt with the rest of the plane.

We had given her Benedryl in hopes it would make her pass out faster. Ha! Our ‘cultured’ baby was too resilient. She didn’t pass out until the last hour of the eight hour flight. She then had to wake up for landing. It was murder. All I wanted to do was sleep but when we got to the Sofitel hotel in historic Munich we had to wait around in the lobby because the room wasn’t ready.

I have gotten in the habit of warning hotel representatives that my baby will cry and disrupt the lobby if they don’t get a room open before nap time. I always call ahead and tell the hotel I need an early check-in and sometimes it helps. However, there are too many times like the time in Miami that the Gansevoort gave us a room with a filthy tub. I had to call numerous times the first two days to finally get the manager to come up and clean the tub himself.

When my son came along 23 months after my daughter he turned our family of three into four. His first air trip was to Los Angeles for a trip that ended up the coast in San Fran. That took place last summer when we took three airline trips over the course of three months. The experience was so grueling we have not traveled on a plane with the children since. It isn’t so much the children as the hassles that have been created by understaffed and inhospitable rules created by the airlines.

The biggest problem is fighting with ticket agents to get seats together and pre-boarding privileges (I will never fly Delta again who refused to pre-board us on numerous occasions). I was bumped off of a three Delta flights and stranded in Cincinnati pregnant, and alone with a toddler trying to get to Louisville (only 1.5 hours away to drive). My mom drove up to Cincy after I was stuck in Cincy for six hours because I was bumped off of every flight that left every hour to Kentucky. I cried a lot on that excursion trying to convince anyone that stranding me overnight with a toddler for being bumped off a half hour flight was close to criminal.

Lyra was still a lap child then. I recently read a segment written by a flight attendant who stated that lap children should be illegal because they are not safely secured in even minor plane mishaps. The FAA published report in 2005 stating that more families are choosing to drive over flying in recent years which is putting them at significant risk since it is more likely to get in a car wreck than a plan wreck. It called to allow for airlines to offer seat straps or seats so parents did not have to travel with bulky car seats. Funny how that report didn’t translate to the airlines because none of that happened.

Recently the New York Times published a great story for families traveling with children. Many airlines have started charging for the little amenities that made traveling with kids a little easier. It’s truly horrible that while we pay through the nose to travel with children there is no mercy or hospitality that can make everyone’s life better. For example, seating families at bulkhead seats allows the kids to have extra room to get up, stretch their legs, or play games on the floor. These seats cost extra money and are not guaranteed to be seated together.
Here is a cheat sheet from the article:

1)American Airlines
Pre-Boarding: No, Families must pay $10 a person
Seating: Bulkhead seats are only sold 24 hours before flight for fee
Stroller Gate Check: Only for collapsible strollers under 20 lbs.

Pre-Boarding: Yes, children under 2 years or with boarding fee
Seating: Bulkhead seats reserved for passengers with disabilities & then sold for $10-65
Stroller Gate Check: Yes

Pre-Boarding: Yes, children up to 4 years after pre-boarding privileged groups
Seating: No seat assignments, families must find open seats upon boarding
Stroller Gate Check: Yes

Pre-Boarding: Yes, children up to 4 years after pre-boarding privileged groups
Seating: Bulkhead seats reserved for elite passengers or sold for fee
Stroller Gate Check: Yes, but only small collapsible types

5)US Airways
Pre-Boarding: Yes, children up to 4 years or with boarding fee
Seating: Reserved for passengers with disabilities and at the discretion of gate agent
Stroller Gate Check: Yes, except non-collapsible types

6)Virgin America
Pre-Boarding: Yes, for “small children” or with boarding fee or privilege class
Seating: Bulkhead are reserved for fee when booking or 24 hours before flight
Stroller Gate Check: Yes

Thursday, November 10, 2011

The Hardest-Working Hunk in Hollywood: Pittsburgh's Joe Manganiello

Five years ago before babies and husband, I never had crushes on celebrities. I was aloof to chiseled looks and smoldering smiles. The crushes I did have were hold overs from the 80s like Kiefer Sutherland in Lost Boys. So it is no surprise in my “desperate housewife” status I convert back to vampires in my pregnant and married hormonal overload.

It was a fellow mom that first turned me onto HBO’s True Blood series and Joe Manganiello, who plays Alcide the noble werewolf character. Normally, I am more of an Eric Northman-type, the wicked, blond European vampire character, but I made an exception for Joe since on top of looking like the sexiest lumberjack alive he is a Pittsburgh native with a heart of gold.

I got a chance to talk with Joe this past summer and, as I said celebrity doesn’t usually faze me, but in my hormonal pregnant state I was just a tad bit over excited. What I discovered was that Joe, a Carnegie Mellon grad, is a serious actor who uses his Pittsburgh work ethic as a secret weapon when amongst the Hollywood glitterati.

His recent reported split with his fiancé has put him back on the market, although he never really left my married mom fantasies.

Here are some excerpts from our chat.
Do you think that your move from Pitt to CMU was really pinnacle for your training as an actor and for your career?
JM: “CMU was my dream that was my goal. My goal was to go to CMU. Growing up in Pittsburgh, CMU is really legendary and I got into the acting game later on in life than most of my classmates at CMU or most of the kids that go to CMU. There are a lot of performance arts kids there from around the world. There’s also kids that have been acting from a very young age and that wasn’t my path.

I was an athlete pretty much right up until the time that I went to college. Because of that, I don’t think I had enough understanding, knowledge, and training. I don’t think I had enough practice behind me to get into Carnegie Mellon so obviously at the end of the day, in hindsight, I was capable of going there but I don’t think I had enough under my belt to get accepted to that school.

I actually didn’t apply to any other schools. When I didn’t get into CMU I put in my application at Pitt and went there for a year and loaded on theater classes across the board to the point that my guidance counselor was telling me ‘You’re making a mistake because you’re taking all of your theater classes your first year and you’re not going to be able to take anything more for the rest of your time here. You’re going to be taking math and science for the rest of your time here.’

But in my mind I didn’t expect to stay there, at Pitt, past a year. I was only at Pitt for a year to load up for everything I possibly could, get enough under my belt and work that year so that whether I got into CMU or not, I know that I tried my best and did the best that I could. So yeah, I did really put all of my eggs into one basket.”

Since you didn’t grow up in theater, what was it that turned you onto to an acting career?
JM: “Thinking back now, I mean obviously it worked out. It’s so crazy to put everything into that one basket. I don’t know what it was, I have always been artistic my whole life and that was probably the predominating factor in my personality being artistic, whether it was writing stories, or drawing pictures, going to art classes, creating characters. I was always good at the arts and there was something in me that just drove me towards it.

It’s got to be every parent’s worst nightmare to have a kid who’s working for sports scholarships, as big as I was, and have the possibility that I did athletically or even academically but there was just something in me that knew that this was it. There was something in me that just would not accept anything less.”

So let’s talk about True Blood. They incorporate real wolves into the series and I’m wondering how that works and if you’ve gotten a chance to bond with your wolf. What it’s like to work with them on the set?
JM: “Yeah I have. There’s a wolf in particular, who plays Alcide when he is in wolf form. I got friendly with the wolf handlers and they actually let me come up and visit the wolves any time I want, so I get to go up and hang out with my wolf and take him for a walk”

Does any of that relationship play into when you’re channeling your character?
JM: “I watched and studied wolves in their habit, watched a lot of videos, hung out with wolves in preparation for the role while I was shooting just to pick up what they were like. You just got to throw these things into a pot, stir it up and see how it turns out. I have learned a lot from hanging out with wolves. There’s nothing that displays my relationship between me and my wolf because we’re never on the screen together.”

What is it like working with Oscar-winning actress Anna Paquin?
JM: “She’s great. I love what she’s done with the role. I love how she’s brought the characters from the books to life. She’s so good, so likeable and there are days where she’ll have an emotional scene to do and she’ll basically be crying for 10 hours straight and just to watch her work is amazing. I love the fact that my character’s storyline intersects with her a lot. She is a fantastic actress and is just a great, very warm and friendly person. I can’t say enough good things about her”.

How do you stay humble in Hollywood? You went out there right after college, right?
JM: “I did, yes right after college. Most of the people that I admire the most are usually the people that have great character. Character is a word that I heard a lot, both growing up in Pittsburgh and from my dad. At the end of the day it’s really about character and if you don’t have character that will catch up to you at the end.

You come from Pittsburgh, although there are no steel mills anywhere anymore, but that work place attitude is still there. I didn’t want to be known in acting for my talent, I wanted to be known for my work ethic because if I worked as hard as a I could then it’s either going to happen or it’s not. As it turns out I worked as hard as I could.

How do I stay humble? I’m the one who’s in the gym twice a day working out for this show. There’s a lot of work and I don’t get a lot of time to myself.

It was easy for me to handle this because my parents are so grounded and I come from a city that is so grounded. Pittsburgh doesn’t tolerate that; they don’t tolerate people thinking they’re better. Look at the football team, you act out and you’re gone. That’s definitely something that’s in my core as well.”

So when you’re away from Pittsburgh do you still watch the Steelers, the Pens? Are you kind of the Pittsburgh boy on set?
JM: “I don’t miss a game. I actually had to make an appearance in Hollywood at a casino and I realized that my plane flight was going to intersect with the Steelers/Dolphins game this year so I actually changed my flight, changed the time so that I could make sure I could watch the whole game. I’m just that kind of man.

So when I was back in Pittsburgh for Christmas they let me come on the field right before kickoff at the Jets game and I extended my vacation back to Pittsburgh to see the Winter Classic. I am very active in Pittsburgh sports and also Pittsburgh as a city. I came back and did a charity event for the Salvation Army over Thanksgiving. I love my city and every chance I have I love to give back and I just love to be around my friends and fellow Steelers fans.

What’s your favorite script or play?
JM: “Oh well I played Stanley Kowalski in ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’”

Is there someone else out there that you would want to work with in your career?
JM: “Growing up I was a huge fan of Gary Oldman. Gary Oldman was one of the real reasons why I became an actor”.

(My mommy-centric question)Do you want kids?
JM: “Yeah, I do want kids, absolutely!

Favorite places to visit in Pittsburgh?
JM: “Primanti Brothers in the Strip District and the Andy Warhol Museum”

What is your favorite drink?
JM: “Coke Zero…I don’t drink alcohol”

In my fantasy world Joe would agree to a photo shoot with my daughter as Little Red Riding Hood. The setting would be a simple tea party table with delicate china that Joe's 6'5" frame would have to fold to get down to my daughter's level.

I actually told him this and he said, maybe out of politeness, that he thought it would be cute too. Such a gent.

He is more than welcome to babysit me, I mean my kids, anytime.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Occupy Libertine! Protesting Everyday Fashion Trends

While I was covering New York Fashion Week Spring 2012 this past September, I got to interview a few designers about their collections for next year and sneak in a few questions about how their childhood still inspires their creativity.
The most standout designers that really captured the rebellious sentiments of what would become the “Occupy Enter City Name” movement was the Libertine show by Johnson Hartig.

Johnson launched Libertine in 2000 with Cindy Greene, an Indie rockstar in Fischerspooner. Cindy later went off to explore other creative ventures leaving Libertine to Johnson’s whimsical and bold intuitions. It is befitting to Johnson’s persona that the term “libertine” is defined as “a person who is morally unrestrained” that has roots in 17th century France and Britain. Johnson captures a vintage rebellion with a tailored edge, inspired by elegant and highbrow themes. He is like a dandy court jester who has the ability to make fun of the aristocrats while frolicking amongst them.

Backstage at his downtown show at Exit Art, another little rebel yell to the commercialized Lincoln Center shows uptown; I found Charlotte Free the pink-haired model that is hard to miss on the runway. I asked her if a mama could rock pink hair and she gave me a few pointers on how to use beet juice instead of dyes. She was super sweet. I will have to try it one of these days since my Romanian husband cooks a lot of beets. I just need to figure out how to avoid dying my entire head pink. With my beauty skill level I would end up looking like something my 3-year-old daughter painted.

Johnson was jumping around each model adjusting hair and hems, basically avoiding the pregnant mama standing in the corner with a camera. However, he did come up to me and give me a peck on the cheek, “Sorry darling I am crazy.” I was like, “Wow!” maybe I will forgive him for making me wait an hour or more for a little interview that would only last five minutes. For a moment I felt a little glamorous to be greeted like a friend by a world famous designer.

Although Libertine has been an exclusive label only available in brick and mortar stores in places like Bergdorf, Saks Fifth Avenue, and in locations like Tokyo, he has had a few collaborations with Target and Converse. He even partnered with way-out-there artist Damien Hirst.

His trademark is painting or printing graphics on beautiful pieces, sort of mixing it up while keeping it sophisticated. Sometimes the image is an animal or a design painted across a perfect suit or blouse.

For this season he created striations of white on black that evoked a winter forest silhouette on some pieces. The slogan “Tax the Rich More” appeared on a skirt. Most of the collection appeared with painted graffiti-like “X’s” and “O’s”. I thought it was a nod to the political sides like red and blue states, but actually Johnson told me it was hugs and kisses because “What’s a kiss without a hug.”
Not surprisingly his childhood was inspired by his own little world that he began creating and also in part by the elegance of the women of the 60s and 70s.

“When I was a kid I had a little bit of a morbid curiosity with death,” he says after we establish he initially mistook me for someone else. “I remembered I would build these mausoleums for Kennedy and Abe Lincoln out of bricks; then I would go around the neighborhood and pick little bits of ferns and foliage and landscape these mausoleums. It started with statues you got from gas stations.”

Many of his collections are modern vintage interpretations of flirty, but feminine looks. “I think women were super glamorous then and women paid attention to their hair and make-up and what they wore.”

Ironically, the Maybelline make-up artists were told to give the girls a 60s look with only slate eyelids and a little lipstick. The persona was that they didn’t need much more to look rebellious. I think the look is very “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” minus the Goth outfits and tattoos, of course.

The whole time I was straining to keep standing in heels and a pregnant belly I couldn’t help to admire Johnson’s collection of large diamond animal rings on each finger from Van Clef archives and Cartier. When he would button a jacket or puff up a model’s hair it looked as if the little sparkling creatures were guiding his hands or doing his bidding.

Of course, I was standing there a long time staring at him rubbing my belly like a Buddha doll trying to summon him to come and talk to me. I got a little kiss out of it at least and he approved of my baby’s name Lazar, Americanized to sound like “laser”.