clement moore

Clement Moore
‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through Starbucks Not a creature was stirring or causing a ruckus; The CDs were placed on the counter with care, In hopes that Clement Moore soon would be there; The baristas were busy arranging the breads; While visions of steaming milk danced in their heads; And the barista in her apron, and I in my cap, Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s chat, When out on the street there arose such a clatter, I sprang from my chair to see what was the matter. Away to the counter I flew like a flash, Tore open the pastry case, knocked over the trash. The moon on the crest of the sidewalks and lights, Put espresso and lattes and scones in my sights, When what did my eyes see out the front door, But a miniature sleigh where there sat Clement Moore! Clement C. Moore went up to the counter, And he spoke in a voice that grew so much louder. More rapid than eagles his orders they came, And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:  “Now, Lattes! now, Espresso! now, Teavana Iced Teas! On, Frappes! on, Cocoa! on, Eggnog lattes! To the end of the counter! to the seats by the wall! Now ventis! now grandes! now coffee for all!” As leaves that before the espresso machine fly, When they meet with soy milk, and mount to the sky; So up to the blenders the baristas they flew With cups full of coffee, and Clement Moore, too- And then, in a twinkling, I saw in a flash The drinks were all done with naught but a crash. As I drew in my head, and was just sitting down, Clement Moore walked up with a leap and a bound. He was dressed all in wool, from his feet to his vest, And he had Starbucks’ logo displayed on his chest, A bundle of drinks he held on a tray, And he looked like a barista just starting his day. His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!  His drinks filled our noses, his scone had a cherry!  His box full of muffins was drawn up with a bow,  And the whipped cream on his drink was as white as the snow;  The stump of a straw he held tight in his teeth,  And the juice had now covered the whole floor beneath;  He had a latte and a mug of cappuccino  That shook when he laughed, like the coast with El Niño.  He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old poet,  And I laughed when I saw him, though I was eating a donut;  A wink of his eye and a twist of his head  Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;  He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,  And bought all the CDs; then turned with a jerk,  And slurping the last of his huge cup of joe,  And giving a nod, out the door he did go;  He sprang to the sidewalk, to the barista he waved,  And about the great service he continued to rave. But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of view—  “Happy Christmas to all, I bought coffee for you!”

How One Jeopardy! Contestant’s Experience Lead to an Unforgettable Viral Moment

January 15, 2015 was poised to be magical. It was the day of the Oscar nominations, a.k.a. The Real Christmas. My pals Chris, Tony, Gus, and I woke at 5:30 for the big announcement and huddled in our jammies like Clement Moore characters. As nominations were read, we screamed for the goodies that Academy Santa had brought us. “A surprise nomination for Marion Cotillard! You shouldn’t have, Santa!” I hollered. A holy morning.

That afternoon I was coasting on Cotillard zealotry when I noticed a missed call from Culver City. Culver City! I saw Ken Jennings give an interview once where he mentioned that when Jeopardy! producers phone him, it’s from a Culver City number. I knew this was my time.

“Congratulations!” a producer said on the other line. “You’re going to be a contestant on Jeopardy!”

I grinned, I cackled. I texted my brother Mark with “I’M OFF TO TREBEKISTAN, MORTAL.” 

Jeopardy! has been my favorite TV show for as long as I can remember. It rewards the three things I care about: reflexes, knowledge, and competitiveness. I call it “Bad Girls Club” for nerds. Just showoffs going nuts and bludgeoning each other with trivia about word origins.

Getting on Jeopardy! means acknowledging your trivia blind spots – and fast. I needed to cram factoids on classical music, economics, and sports ending in “ball.” Weights and measures. Carpentry. Opera. Military everything. Why do people know so much about the military? The army dresses that way so you don’t notice them, guys.

So I rallied. I coaxed my comrades to play Wii Jeopardy! against me. My friend Nick made flashcards with horrible things like “1 hectare = 2.47 acres” on them. My mom mailed over a gigantic timeline of classical music history and assured me that Beethoven’s 7th rules. By the date of my tape day, I could recite a list of Super Bowl MVPs and tell you what plagued Schumann. Plus, I bought a puce suit from J. Lindeberg that made me look like a superfly British game show host. I felt qualified.

Contestants on Jeopardy! arrive early. I wiled away the morning of February 25 signing papers and asking nice strangers to fix my tie. When we all introduced ourselves, one of the other contestants glanced at me and said, “Wait, Louis Virtel. From Twitter?” Damn. My competition knew my 140-character Cate Blanchett jokes. I was unprepared for that subterfuge.

I noticed during rehearsal games that it’s almost random who has buzzer luck. A lady named Mary Green trounced me on the buzzer five questions in a row, and it didn’t bother me. I knew my nervous energy would serve me well during an actual game. What did bother me was when a contestant coordinator pointed at me and said, “Louis! You’re playing now.” I’d been so focused on rehearsal practice that I’d forgotten to be terrified for the actual game.

After a quick check in the mirror, where I coerced my hair into its traditional Cool Whip dollop, I took the third podium. A new champ named Andrew Haringer reigned, and Mary Green – that renowned buzzer warrior – was also up against me. 

While Johnny Gilbert read my name, I snapped my fingers at the camera as a little shout-out to my fellow LGBT vixens watching at home. To my surprise, Alex stepped out onstage afterwards and mimicked my snap, adding, “That’s for you, Louis!” I honestly believe he saved entire villages of gay children with that gesture. It was so rad and funny and unexpected. I laughed to myself about it until the first round categories were revealed, and “NASCAR” was one of them. Then my laughter stopped for eternity.

Andrew cruised through the first round with sweet buzzer elan, racking up $12K. I did well on the “First Ladies by First Names” category and got to say the words “Lemonade Lucy Hayes” on national TV, which felt naughty. Better yet, I got to entertain Alex with my anecdote about interviewing the most electrifying actress of the 1970s – Jane Fonda. Have you seen “The China Syndrome” recently? Survive Jane’s sorcery. I dare you.

In Double Jeopardy!, I started to rebound a bit and plucked a Daily Double in the Arthur Miller category. Andrew was ahead by $6,000, so I decided to wager most of my money. Once the clue was revealed, the first word I saw was “Salem” and my heart, soul, and neurons leapt. Let’s face it, a $1,600 clue about Arthur Miller could be pretty tough – certainly tougher than a reference to “The Crucible.” For whatever reason, it wasn’t. I answered correctly and in a burst of saucy, hasty relief, I snapped my fingers again. This time it was a seismic burst of middle child angst. It was a “Yes, I do recall the Oscar nominations of Joan Allen!” snap. It was a “Yes, I love witches who dance on a Sunday!” snap. It was heaven. The internet turned it into a meme that George Takei found, and I plan on being ecstatic about that for the rest of my life.

I want to tell you that the rest of the game isn’t important, but that’s only because Andrew Haringer got the Final Jeopardy! question right about the Tower of London and I didn’t. Yep, he won. I’d be resentful, except here’s the thing about Jeopardy!: it burns to lose, but it felt – um – good to learn something about the Tower of London. Not kidding! Information is the true currency of Jeopardy! fans, and adding to one’s own trivia bank is a serious, consummate pleasure, even when it means you lose Jeopardy!

Here’s what I take from my Jeopardy! experience: I did it, I loved it, and I got to be myself doing it. As the gay kids say, I was living. Jeopardy! is forever my trivia HQ, and I’m exhilarated I got to make the hajj to Trebekistan. Now I can search GIFs of myself whenever I want to revisit that trek – right after I read about the Best Supporting Actress race of 1977 for a few more hours.

You may also find Louis Virtel on Twitter.

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Ryan reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas” written Clement Clarke Moore (December 22, 2016)

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Since it’s october I decided to throw together some of my favorite books that fall into a couple of these october-y categories. Hope you find something that piques your interest!

Witches

Zombies 

Ghosts 

On W23rd Street, between 8th and 9th, you might see this cornerstone now built into a massive old pre-war apartment complex. But Clement Moore used to own all of Chelsea, the whole neighborhood, and it’s even named after his family estate. When the city decided to run 9th Avenue through what was then basically farmland in the early 1800s, Moore objected (he was a rich guy so he even objected to paying taxes to build roads, calling those taxes and roads an attempt to placate the poor and middle class). But eventually he carved up the estate into lots and sold it off. And he wrote ‘A Visit From St. Nicholas’, aka 'The Night Before Christmas’.

So, Moore is gone, and his house is gone, too. But his poem is still recited and this one stone remains.

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds;
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from my bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow,
Gave a lustre of midday to objects below,
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny rein-deer,
With a little old driver so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment he must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name:
“Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on, Cupid! on, Donder and Blixen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! dash away! dash away all!”
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
So up to the housetop the coursers they flew
With the sleigh full of toys, and St. Nicholas too—
And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.
He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler just opening his pack.
His eyes—how they twinkled! his dimples, how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard on his chin was as white as the snow;
The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke, it encircled his head like a wreath;
He had a broad face and a little round belly
That shook when he laughed, like a bowl full of jelly.
He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread;
He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings; then turned with a jerk,
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose;
He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse.
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.
And mamma in her ‘kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter’s nap.

When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and eight tinny reindeer.

With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

‘Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the porch! to the top of the wall!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!’

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky.
So up to the house-top the coursers they flew,
With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The prancing and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
Down the chimney St. Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a peddler, just opening his pack.

His eyes-how they twinkled! his dimples how merry!
His cheeks were like roses, his nose like a cherry!
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his chin was as white as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had a broad face and a little round belly,
That shook when he laughed, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the stockings, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his finger aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he rose!

He sprang to his sleigh, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all flew like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, ‘ere he drove out of sight,
'Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good-night!’

—  Twas the Night Before Christmas, Clement Clarke Moore