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Saturday, 23 May 2015

An Early Thank You

I am currently in the press hall. Just a few more hours to go and then my time here will be over. Jeebus, way to be dramatic, Tova. This has truly been a dream come true. I have learned a lot about covering an event (don't be shy and don't be afraid to ask questions) and I have learned a lot about me. I have discovered that if you do what you love you don't feel like you are working. It's been a whirlwind and I think tomorrow will be spent on the couch feeling sorry for myself and telling the Husband and the Kid about "That time I was an important journalist". And the Kid will respond with "Bing! Bing! Mommy!". Sidenote: I showed him my press pass this morning and asked "Who's that?!" and he responded with "MOMMY!" Makes me cheer every time.

I am proud of my adoptive country Austria. You truly showed the world that you are trying to be tolerant and you put on a great show. The coordination of the event, the volunteers, the free coffee, everything was flawless. After tonight, go get some well deserved sleep.

I also want to thank everybody for reading my blog and Tweets and for the amazing messages of support. I am blessed to have so many wonderful real and virtual friends and I am sorry if I have not responded to everybody... I AM IMPORTANT JOURNALIST... heh...for another 10 hours. If I owe you a message or an e-mail, remind me because my mind has turned to mush from all the emoting, glitter, capes and special effects.

In a couple of hours I am heading out to get my make up done. I asked the make up artist for the "Conchita" without the beard. I will most likely look like a drag queen so I might have to tone it down with the accessories. After my make up, around 6, I will head to Der Fuchs und Die Trauben for a couple of glasses of wine and some food and then I will be back at the Stadthalle for the final by 8. You can follow my Tweets on Twitter under @VWurstelstand using hashtag #ESCbitch. I won't be posting the Tweets to my page Operation Tubetop tonight because I think that is overkill and I probably won't have time in between all the feels and quiet sobbing.

My absolute highlights of these two weeks are as follows: Meeting and covering the Finnish band. Getting the Conchita Wurst money shot. Sitting hours and hours in the press hall surrounded by incredible energy. Watching the rehearsals live. Meeting Bojana. Party at the lower Belvedere. Meeting amazing people. Being called twenty-five (I'm shallow) and seeing how live TV works. Getting winked at by the Swedish guy and Norwegian guy (or maybe they had something in their eyes). Being able to do something I absolutely adore - writing with humour. Flashing my press badge (again, so shallow). Getting encouraging messages from friends near and far (I am blessed to have such lovely people in my life and this makes me so incredibly happy to have people who want the best for me because I truly want the best for them, too). And most importantly, discovering what I want to do even if it might just be a pipe dream.    

I know I will walk away from this with incredible memories and experience working under pressure. Thank you for joining me for the ride! And catch you on the flip side... most likely when I am sitting on my sofa in yoga pants, drinking wine and talking about "those days". Thank you!

Friday, 22 May 2015

A Keyword Post

Well, I didn't know what I could write about today so I decided on a keyword piece. Oh boy, let's just start it because a keyword post really doesn't require a lot of intro.

The Opera: Ok, this was surreal. I'm not going to go into detail (yet) but let's just say that I got to have a behind the scenes tour of the Vienna Opera House. AMAHZING! I don't want to go into too much detail because more will be revealed in the future but eu mah gawd. And no, I will not be working at the opera house because kittens cry whenever I open my mouth. But let's just say... I had one of the most Viennese of Vienna experiences that Vienna can offer ever. Surreal.

The Husband: Well this is a pretty honest post. This morning, while I was getting the Kid dressed for kindergarten, the Husband asked me "Are you having a fun time?" and being the brat that I am I answered "It's not about fun. I AM WORKING! I AM DOING A JOB!" and I harrumphed and acted like a spoiled child. I gave the Kid a couple of cookies for breakfast (Earth mother, I am) and pouted and then realized I was being a pain in the tuckus. The reality is, is that I am having the most amazing time and I feel incredibly guilty about it. The Husband has been Super Dad the past almost 2 weeks and I feel like I need to justify my absence by being melodramatic about it. The more I thought about it, I realized how off base I was being. To be honest, if the Husband had a chance to do something amazing and something he has dreamed about (Melrose Place marathon watching, beer tester, mayonnaise critic, bikini competion judge) and I was taking care of the Kid while he pursued his "dream" and all he could reply was "It's not about fun. I AM WORKING!", I would have turned into a banshee. I must be going through something because a few minutes later I walked up to the Husband and I apologized. I am having an amazing time and that is ok. I feel that sometimes as mothers and, actually, as women, we have to apologize for being fulfilled. Like somehow we need to be in a constant martyr state to be appreciated or to even appreciate what we have. It was an interesting lesson to learn at 7 a.m. after 5 hours of sleep. Will I act more self-aware and less selfish in the future? Probably not. I am who I am.

Journalists: As I have written over the past two weeks, this is a real learning curve and an incredible experience. I have met some amazing people and I am so honoured to carry around a press pass and be considered part of the "pack". Yesterday was especially rewarding because I am desperate for praise. I was sitting at a table, looking up reality TV gossip (I SAID I WAS WORKING HARD!), when two women sat down across from me. They both had accents and were both beautiful and they said stuff like "God willing, this hummus is good" or "When I was in Baku..." I eavesdropped and also tried to look like a "Very important" journalist. But I couldn't resist snorting when they made a snide remark about a singer and then we started talking. One woman was an editor from Portugal and the other was a reporter who was from Greece but was Israeli. She wore a belly top and a Coachella type cardigan and was teeny tiny and yet could probably break my neck using Krav Maga while making baklava. We chatted and we talked about the 90's and the assasin cum MTV personality snorted and said "But you are too young to remember that!" and I wondered if this was some weird cultural sarcasm and I cocked my head and said "What do you mean?" and she answered "But you are, what, 25?" I barked and said "What?!? No, no, I'm 34." and she was shocked and I exclaimed "YOU ARE NOW MY BESTIE!" and funny, I haven't seen them since. So who makes up the journalists here at the event? To break it down, I would say 70% are fabulous gay men, 20% are exotic women journalists and 10% are jaded press people. I fall firmly in the fabulous gay men crowd.

Dream job: Listen, I know that I am not a journalist. I never studied it, I am not one, I am not even a writer. So I am pretty aware of how damn lucky I am to be here. Something incredible has happened to me since I started covering this event: I discovered how much I love doing this. This event has fulfilled three important things for me: 1) Meeting new people and soaking up the energy and 2) Flashing my press badge because I am nothing if not an elitist and 3) Being able to write about fun stuff and to use humour while writing because if you have met me in real life, you will know that PERSONALITY is the only thing keeping me from being sent to live in the attic of Notre Dame. What hump?

Gratitude: I have always been grateful for my life. I think I live a pretty charmed life and I try and take full advantage of it. I truly try to live life to the fullest and I hope that comes across in my writing. And I will forever be grateful to everybody who has ever written me encouraging messages or has taken the time to give me advice or just liking my post when I post a link. It means the world to me and I am so grateful to be able to experience what I get to experience. My life is rich and so I say thank you. Dammit, what was in that wine?

Tomorrow night is the final and I am almost ready. I will cry bittersweet tears tomorrow night because I know it is coming to an end and I will just have my memories.. and I will have my no-longer-all access press badge to look at every once in a while. But I know that this event has been a game changer. I know what I want in my future. I want Conchita's waist size... I jest. You know what I mean. So follow me @VWurstelstand and I hope you enjoy it. Happy Friday!!!

Thursday, 21 May 2015

3 More Nights To Go

First of all, as I wrote on Facebook, I am incredibly grateful to the Husband for keeping the home fires burning. He has been a rockstar this past week and a half. I have been putting in 18 hour days and he has been incredibly understanding about it. This morning I opened the fridge for a drink and he found me a couple minutes later sleeping while standing. I could have gotten frostbite - he cares. The Kid is missing me too and when I crawl into bed, he snuggles closer (the fact that he is still in our bed is a whole different issue. But like, he literally had a seizure when we tried sleep training a few months back. You think I'm dramatic?!). The other night I got home at midnight and he woke up and came into the hallway half asleep and gave me this look like "Lady, do you know what time it is?!?!" and then he took my hand and led me to bed.

Tonight is the second semifinal and I am feeling jittery again. I will be tweeting for Vienna Würstelstand during the show while trying not to throw up from nerves. I don't know how people do live TV. Nobody can even see me and I am a wreck. I'd be that journalist who fell off the grape stomping platform.

Yesterday I had another amazing experience. I was invited as the correspondent for Vienna Würstelstand to attend a small press conference for the Finnish band PKN at WUK. Only a handful of international journalists (and me) were invited to attend as well as the Finnish press. I showed up just before 4 and went into the hall and was informed that I was the first one to arrive. A few minutes later, the place filled up with mostly Finnish journalists. I knew they were Finnish because I came up to armpit level on the shortest one of them. They were all so pretty. Three of the band members arrived: Toni (drums), Pertti (guitar) and Sammi (bass). We were welcomed and the guy running the press conference asked the foreign journalists (all two of us) if we had any questions. There was a deafening silence and I swallowed hard and then asked for the microphone. I was not prepared but I am someone who needs to fill the silence so I stood up and gripped the microphone "Um hi, I just, um, I, so, at what age did you all start playing your instruments?" Ugh, stupid question. That was a Wolf Blitzer question. That was a question a 5 year old asks Iron Man. Stupid, stupid. Sammi, who speaks fluent English and fluent Finnish (because, Nordic countries and their incredible language skills) answered "I don't remember but for a long long time." Then the head of the Finnish delegation translated for Pertti and Toni. Toni said he has been playing the drums since he was 6 and he plays mostly "Schlager" music and Pertti said "Since 1975". Since I was all full of the feels, I brought the microphone to my mouth again and said "You guys were amazing last night. I wish you had made it to the final. You guys are awesome. Thank you" and then my voice cracked and I passed the microphone on. Toni was visibly upset about not making it to the final and I had to hold it together. There were a couple more questions and Sammi stole the show by saying he is "obsessed" with White Snake and that playing punk rock is his job. Then it was on to the Finnish reporters. I wish I spoke Finnish because there was so much laughter and head nodding and I felt a room full of respect and love. I wanted to bottle the mood and save it for a later date. I don't want to stereotype but... the Finnish are, for lack of a better term, FUCKING AWESOME!

Seeing people with disabilities being given so much respect, not being talked down to and treated like equals is exactly what needs to happen. Again, this is my platform #watchthisspace. I am back at the Stadthalle getting ready for tonight. I attended the Conchita press conference earlier and I am worried that my girl crush is going to turn into full blown stalking. She is amazing, humble, self effacing, kind and funny; and she does it in heels backwards uphill both ways! Ha! No. Her energy is full of life and she just gives off this amazing vibe. I'm pretty sure everybody loves La Conchita because it is impossible not to! Well, time for me to sign off soon. I have to grab some dinner and wine and then get ready for the next round of tweeting! See you on the Twitterverse, guys!

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

What a Night!

Oh wow! Last night was incredible. I am currently running solely on adrenaline and it is amazing I haven't passed out yet. Yesterday I worked a half day, then grabbed some lunch and then headed to the Stadthalle to watch the last rehearsal for the first semifinal. The press hall was pretty busy and you could tell that there was a different feeling in the air. I worked on my planned tweets and read up on celebrity gossip for a few hours and then I headed to dinner to my friend's restaurant: Der Fuchs und Die Trauben. And this is where I have to admit something... I ate meat. The shame! I couldn't resist the gyoza, guys. I couldn't. I'm not proud.

But hey! 17 days of veganism is not bad and I am back on the wagon today. Not tomorrow though, tomorrow I am heading back to the restaurant at 5:30 to catch a quick dinner before the second semifinal. After my dinner of shame last night, I headed back to the press center and boy was I glad I saved my seat. I also saved a seat for one of my Spanish friends because his husband and posse had tickets to the show and he would be on his own. It was great to have someone calm beside me as I hyperventilated. I thought that the crowd during the day was tense... ha, it was WILD by 8 p.m. Flags were out, people were dressed up and TV cameras were at the ready. I felt like I was in the actual performance hall based on the rising hum of excitement. I sat across from one woman who had put on a beard and people kept posing with her for pictures. Surreal.

I have a feeling that I will be seen in several shots in the background raising my fist at the slow speed of the Internet connection. I was shaky and the 3 cups of coffee didn't help. I have been working hard on tweet ideas the past few days and I was terrified that a) Twitter would crash or, and this would be the worst b) people would think they suck (did they suck? If so, don't tell me. Tell me they were amazing. I need praise. My therapist tells me I need to work on this need). At 9, the show started and it was time to shine. Copy paste, copy paste, clap, look around with a huge smile at the palpable excitement, copy paste, copy paste. It was wild and the time flew by. After the 16 acts, I slumped in my chair, completely spent. Then it was time for the results and I was surprised. And when I realized that Finland didn't make it, I wanted to cry. Look, the music isn't the type of music I usually listen to, but they were good and they put on a show. This hurts my heart because as a mother of a special needs kid, Finland's band has been a beacon of hope for me and for my son's future. I'm not angry. In fact, this just spurs me on to work towards change and acceptance. And I think what struck me was the amazing support from everybody in the press hall for Finland. I have complete faith in humanity and yesterday, watching my peers (ha, I make it sound like I am actually a writer/journalist. #delusional) cheer and clap for this awesome band was important to me. And I have a bit of country crush on Finland right now.

Now it is time to put on my face spackle, do some research and gear up for an incredibly exciting afternoon which I cannot wait to write about soon. Later I will head to the Vienna Expats Meet and Greet so if you are there, come on by and say "hi". I'll be the one clutching a glass of wine, starting my sentences with a "#". #Haveafantasticday

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Dis and Dat

Well, I am back at the Stadthalle. Tonight is the first live show; the semi final featuring 16 acts. Only 10 will make it through to the final. The votes are split fifty/fifty: jury votes and people who call in. You can definitely feel a bit of tension in the press center and it has filled up. One table is filled with a team from one site and they brought along the biggest Apple monitors I have ever seen. I have no idea what they are doing but I am counting out porn because the broadcasting box is right behind them.

I am officially off work as of today and I am really really really looking forward to getting some rest tomorrow. I will take the Kid to daycare and then head back to the apartment for a rest. By noon I will be out and about, having lunch with a friend, doing a non-Eurovision related interview and schlepping my stuff until 4 when I will head to a very important press conference. I can't wait to go and I can't wait to tell you all about it! After the press conference, I will head to Sand in the City for a Vienna Expats Meet and Greet. It will be nice to have some non-Eurovision time but I have no doubt that I will spend the majority of the time talking about Eurovision because right now that is all I AM THINKING ABOUT! Today Vienna Würstelstand published some quotes that I have overheard in the press center: here is the link. That has definitely been a highlight for me: seeing what it is like covering something so big. I am so new to this but I could get use to this. There is a real energy and camaraderie among the crowd and while I am sure it usually isn't like this, I do see the appeal. I would see the appeal more if I wasn't working another job on top of this and then going home to a child that somehow has tapped into his internal source of Red Bull and refuses to go to bed before midnight.

Tonight I will be live tweeting during the performances so turn on your TV's and take out your laptops and follow @VWurstelstand and look for #Escbitch. I will be making fun observations because that is what Eurovision is for the most part: camp and fun. But there is another side that I didn't really think much about before. When Conchita won last year, I felt immense pride for my adoptive country. I also did the head nod and saying "Yes to tolerance." But, I am a white, straight girl with a schnoz and I have never really dealt with any type of judgement from the world for my life choices (oh, I have been judged but that is because I can be an idiot). Conchita winning was truly a win for tolerance and for moving forward in equality and it really hit me today when I was talking to my new friends. One of them said he was at the show when she won and the look on his face, recalling the memory, sent goosebumps up my arms. He has been married to his husband for 9 years and they are so truly in love and it kills me to think that people still face such prejudice and in many parts, persecution. And this year, Finland's act is comprised of 4 talented artists; 3 with down syndrome and 1 with autism and that is just another step forward in acceptance. So while we may find the whole event a little over the top and maybe some acts eye roll inducing, important change is happening and we can't lose sight of that. In the end, all I am trying to say is that while my tweets may be a little irreverent, I haven't lost sight of what the message of Eurovision actually is. Dammit, got something in my eye. This is what happens when I average 5 hours of sleep a night, I get all schmaltzy. So go, get a bottle of wine, sit back and enjoy the first semi-final tonight. See you on Twitter!

Monday, 18 May 2015

Covering the Red Carpet

Just a few more days and then it is the final! Woot! I feel like I am currently running on espressos and self importance; actually, a natural state for me. I am so glad I made friends last Thursday because they are veterans and they are fabulous and they have made the time even more enjoyable. On Saturday I found them and that meant that I finally had a place to sit and a place to bitch about dresses and it was wonderful. They asked me if I was going to the opening ceremony and I shrugged, fantasizing about a bath and a face mask and a glass of wine. They looked at me like I was crazy and I usually get that look only from loved ones and close friends so I gave into peer pressure and decided to go.

Thank God I listened to their advice to get there early. I had no idea what time anything officially started and they said to come at 4:45. I headed to the Rathausplatz and suddenly noticed an unusual amount of security and I flashed my press badge (not getting old, you guys!!). I was sent to the left hand side of City Hall and noticed a small crowd of journalists had already gathered. Twenty minutes went by and our crowd grew. I noted I was lost in a crowd of TV people and cameramen and I was happy to have worn my flip flops. Finally the gates opened up and the crowd seized forward. At this point, I still had no idea what I was supposed to be really doing at the opening ceremony. Then I saw a group of volunteers giving out free drink tickets and that seemed like a capital idea. But alas, there was no time for afternoon drinking and I went with the pushy crowd. People were almost running which always makes me nervous and makes me want to run even though I had absolutely no idea why we were all suddenly lemmings.
Squeee! Is that what a lemming looks like? Ad.or.ab.le.
We went through security and suddenly I spied the red carpet. I briefly thought "Oh that's nice. Nice to be appreciated once in a while." And then I spied all the press grab places along the barrier lining the carpet and it finally clicked. Yeah, I'm not the smartest. I went into panic mode because I had not really understood why I was at this event and then it was clear - I was the press, as in E! Entertainment. The barriers filled up quickly and I looked around and spied a well known German television station. Knowing nothing about journalism but being a watcher of TV, I figured it would be best to stand beside the guy with the recognizable logo on his microphone. And boy, did my intuition pay off. The red carpet kicked off and group after group of glamorous people walked by. I went into picture taking mode and more than once accidentally photographed the wrong person. The guy beside me was getting all the plum interviews and I took full advantage of this by taking pictures of the stars. My heart almost leaped out of my chest when Conchita showed up to talk. She is lovely and I wanted to squeal "YOU ARE AMAZING!" but I kept it together and click click click.

At one point an act from a country that shall not be named, walked up to the German TV guy expecting an interview and he shook his head "no". Ugh, cringe worthy. I died a little. At one point another big act arrived and I got jostled. I turned to the German guy and said "Just let me know if you need more space for an interview. I can step back for a minute." He looked at me and said "Don't worry, we just usually push people out of the way." Oh, so it's like that. At one point, when a well-loved Eastern European act walked by, I was literally lifted out of my spot and set down on the side so that one guy could film. I was still blinking in shock when he picked me up again and put me back in my spot. Gentle giant thinks Tova is obstacle. Rawr. I hope he didn't put his back out. Another time, the top of my head was briefly used as a tripod and there were a multitude of hands on my shoulders and back throughout the event. Very affectionate crowd. There were hundreds and hundreds of press people but for the most part, everybody was respectful and patient... I obviously have been standing in line at Billa for too long to even know what rude is nowadays. The red carpet lasted almost 3 hours and I thought I was going to collapse. The energy was catching and I was able to meet up with my Portuguese/Spanish buddies at the end. They took selfies with a large amount of stars and they were still so choc-full of energy. We used up our drink tickets because of course we did and then I decided to head home because I somehow unexpectedly had ended up doing something I never ever thought I would ever do and I was overstimulated. Again, surreal.

I think it will be a long time until I forget last night. I am also so happy with how the pictures turned out. I'm not a great photographer but with a very forgiving camera, I was able to get the money shot.
Vienna Würstelstand
Earlier today I received an invite for an event that hits close to home. I am completely honoured to be able to participate and I will write about it after Wednesday. My biggest dream/fantasy is that one day I can have the freedom to choose my hours to be able to spend more time with the Kid (which right now is kind of ironic considering I feel like I need to purchase a large stuffed animal and stick a picture of my face to it so he doesn't forget me). But that is the dream and I truly believe that if I work hard enough, it will happen. It has to. So many more things that I could write about but I have to get to work. A rehearsal is about to start and I need to prepare things for tomorrow's first televised event. I'll be back!! Squueeee. Oh, and now I want a pet lemming.

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Keyword Post

Well, happy Saturday! I can't believe a week has already passed since I first picked up my pass. The energy and excitement is building and it is pretty palpable in the press area. And suddenly there are so many more people. I am so glad I went to that event on Thursday. I met lovely people and now I have people to discuss dresses and songs with. Thank you universe. I asked and you gave. So now I bring you a keyword post because there are just a couple of little things to mention.

Spray tan: I went yesterday to the lovely Magdalena for my spray tan. I was in desperate need of some colour. I showed up at one, put on my shorts and tubetop: the boobies don't need a tan. They have never seen the sun. They are the Flowers in the Attic of boobs. She started the sprayer and noted that I was sweating. I told her it was just the alcohol escaping for fresh air. I felt rough. After the tan, I headed home with the full intention of heading to the Stadthalle but the Kid and the Husband were out and the sofa softly called my name and I took a nap. A REAL NAP! It was amazing. Today I am looking tan and rested and that makes me happy.

The Kid: I can't stop raving about him right now. He is so easy going and we are kind of maybe considering going on holiday with him this summer; on a real plane, going to a holiday destination. Even a month ago I would have said "Oh ha ha. No." But he is making such strides that this just might be possible. Last time we flew with him (2 years ago) we were almost put on the No Fly List. We will see. This morning I took him around for a couple of hours. I have been so busy that I haven't had a lot of quality time with him this past week so I decided to have a Mommy and Kid morning and it was amazing. We walked down to Margareten (he in his stroller) and then visited a playground. Then we headed to Karlsplatz to another playground and then back to our park to visit a third playground. It was the big tour this morning and he was so happy and so easy and I just keep tearing up thinking about how far we have come. A year ago, my heart would have been in my throat, trying to get him to change routes and try different places, waiting for him to kick and scream and throw things... Not anymore, my friends. If he could speak, he would be just your average curious and loving little 4 year old boy and that gives me such hope for the future. We will get there. I don't care how much we spend; money and time, we will get there.

Eurovision: Yay! I found my fabulous Spanish/Portuguese friends that I met on Thursday night. I walked into the press hall, worried I wouldn't recognize them or they would pretend to not know me but no worries there. It was a great reunion and they wondered where I had been the day before. It makes such a difference to have people to talk to and they are veterans of the Eurovision Song Contest. I will be seeing them tomorrow at the opening ceremony and at the after party because FABULOUS! The biggest highlight today was finally getting access to the arena. My Portuguese friend brought me there and as we walked in, the stage lights lit up and a song started and he opened his arms and said "Welcome to Stadthalle!" and I would be lying if I did not say that I totally started to cry. Listen, it is Eurovision and for a lot of people, it's a camp, fun thing, and for me too, but being here and watching these performers sing their hearts out changes the game. I feel honoured to be part of something so big, so inclusive and so fun and I am grateful that now I have some fabulous friends in the press center to share it with. My word, I'm not even hormonal. Welcome to the big leagues, Tova. Try not to screw it up.

That's it for now. I am a little overwhelmed but running on adrenaline. I want to enjoy every moment of this next week because I don't think I will have a chance to do this again. I am working Monday and Tuesday half days and after that, it is all (jazz) hands on deck. Tuesday and Thursday are the televised semi-finals and I will be spending at least 12 hours at the Stadthalle those days with a break for dinner and then Saturday is the big show! I have a lot of writing to finish and a lot of prep work to do. Let's do this!