Saturday, October 28, 2006
I met Kate at a diner in Williamsburg today. It looked like it had been staffed out of Central Casting. There were the willowy, nerdy-hip servers, male and female, and the sharp-tongued older woman, clearly the owner, who rules her domain with a no-nonsense attitude and a heart of gold. "You want coffee?" she asked me in a thick Brooklyn accent, once I had been seated for a bit.
"Thank you, yes please."
"Look at you lot, five you standing around doing nothing, give this guy some coffee! I guess you're supposed to send up a flair."
"I'm in no rush, that's what Saturdays are all about for me."
Once she ascertained I was waiting for someone, the owner realized she didn't need to kick their asses about getting me food. She then proceeded to tell me all the people whose asses she DID need to kick, starting with the son and brother who had, between them borrowed her car and wracked up $1800 in parking tickets, resulting in her car being towed that morning. "Do you know how many cups of coffee I'll have to sell to pay $1800?" I made the appropriate clucking noises. It's amazing how much of my time in NYC, on the train, in restaurants, on the street, is spent making appropriate clucking noises in sympathy. Gets me through a lot. Her brother 'has a union book' (haven't heard that expression in a long time) and her son is similarly flush with cash, so she had plans for banging on their doors until she got the money. I wished her luck, as she headed off to buy champagne for the restaurant's evening meal. This was only the beginning of a great day, and the third one I've had in a row.
Thursday night I had dinner out with a three good friends, including one I haven't seen in seven years, I saw a play last night with ole buddy Jeff, had brunch this morning with ole buddy Kate, then dinner tonight with ole buddy Melissa. I'm spending money like it's water, and I couldn't be happier about it. Whenever my family and I reminisce about our fond memories and adventures together, a striking number of them circle around great meals. This reassures me as I gad about seeing these friends, having conversations about things that matter, gossiping, laughing, scarfing down chicken pot pie, mac and cheese, bagels and lox, salmon, mushrooms and rice, rich red wine, wild berry crumble with custard, dark coffee, multigrain toast with raspberry jam, black tea, comfort foods all over the place. The weather in NYC is cool and rainy, so all these cafes, restaurants, tea-houses and diners are becoming the havens of coziness they'll be for at least the next six months. I seem to be padding up like a bear preparing for hibernation, but again, not so much with the regret so far (at least not until I have to get naked in public again on Tuesday).
I can't really afford to live like this, and perhaps I'm going to regret it in a few weeks when the work peters out for the holidays; right now though I'm feeling pretty lucky, like I've collected more of those memories I'll be glad I have when lying on my deathbed. Loved ones, good conversation, and good food. Gets me through a lot.
Thursday, October 26, 2006
(This is going to be one of those "working it out while I write" postings. Just to warn you.)
Not too long ago I found myself waxing rhapsodic to a bemused friend on the subject of compost. My sister and brother-in-law have a composter in their yard, so I was able to examine it closely this August, and for the first time see the end result. This one has a particularly nice design, because you can see all the stages of the process, like looking at layers of geology; at the top you see all the refuse you threw on it that morning, the coffee grounds, vegetable peelings, moldy bread, fruit rinds etc, and at the bottom you see the rich black, undifferentiated soil. If you didn't know better you'd think it was just a whole lot of garbage sitting on a pile of dirt. I just the love the fact that organic refuse will, with the right mix of elements and time, turn into a rich topsoil that then grows more fruit rinds, vegetable peelings etc. Circle of life and all that. My friend listening was on board with me so far, but when I explained that somehow this was evidence of divinity for me, he tilted his head at me like a confused dog. It's the same look I get from people when I say that the theory of evolution feels like evidence of divinity for me as well. I'm a firm believer in evolution, I recognize that its ability to predict present and future realities just makes it too compelling (not clear to me how anyone can know anything about genetics and NOT at least entertain the theory of evolution; but that's another post). I know that random selection is a central issue to the theory, and that's perhaps the point where atheists and believers most often part ways. I get it. And even if I'm seeing the delicate balance of the earth's resources and residents as evidence of God, then I'm really talking about the divine watch-maker view of the divine, the being who sets up this elaborate interlocking, self-sustaining structure, then leaves it to take care of itself. There are times in fact when I do think of God in this way. I mean, I love the central role sow bugs play in composting, but I don't think any individual sow bug wakes up of a morning and say "hmm, what shall I do today? Shall I run a whole lot of waste through my digestive tract in order to break it down into its component nutrients, or shall I fill out that grad school application? Oh fuck it, let's see what's on the tube." In the same vein, anytime I find myself asking for help from a divine source, a little voice in my head (which I'm pretty sure is NOT the voice of god) says "yeah, sure god can help ya out with this piddly-ass problem ya got goin' on, too bad he/she seems to be dropping the ball on the whole AIDS thing in Africa." (This little voice in my head is frequently a sarcastic little shit. I hate this fuckin' voice.) I know more than one person who looked at this exact dilemma, and found him/herself deciding that atheism was the only sensible response. And I respect that. I don't really have any desire to refute it... yet I don't make the same move.
I don't have a clear explanation why not, but somehow at the heart of the issue for me are words like 'soul' and 'love'. I don't know that I'm ready to attribute a soul to the above mentioned sow bug (maybe I just haven't spent enough time with a single one, you know, having coffee grinds and shitting nutrients or something), but I have many times felt like I've experienced a force of beauty and love that was both powerful and conscious. Frequently I've felt like I was seeing a soul in another's eyes. Nor have those eyes only been human; more than one dog, cat, horse, and even bird has made me believe there is some sort of deep current of somethingness that flows in and through all creation. Strict evolutionists would say that the reason everything is so well balanced and interlocking is because the stuff that doesn't work gets eliminated. And I buy it, I really do. Yet somehow, the sheer elegance of the world, of the universe, the closed cycle, constant rebirth, the nothing-in-nothing-out beauty of it is impossible for me to examine without feeling a welling-up of love and thanksgiving.
Maybe evolution IS my image of god. Maybe I'm a true pagan in that I worship nature in all its ruthless efficiency. Maybe I'll find myself a firm atheist in another couple of years. I don't have any good explanations for why things are so fucked up in the world, that is, why god would allow it. I don't believe in hell frankly, not sure if I believe in heaven or an after life (kind of handy to have hell out of the picture but still keep heaven a possibility, don't you think?), but the acts of selflessness I have witnessed from human and non-human actors, the connections and creations I've seen or been a part of, those moments of beauty that have stopped me in my tracks... I'm just not ready yet to see them solely as the random firings of hormones intent on propogating the species. Funny, but I'd say empirical evidence, that is to say my experiences, is the reason I'm not quite ready to give up on faith.
Just to be clear, I'm not claiming that atheists are all pure materialists with no interest in or explanation for soul or love. I have seen far too many atheists create glorious things, and perform acts of love (starting with my own mother) for me to think such a thing. I just don't feel able to explain MY reactions and experiences in other ways. Even if I were interested in convincing someone of the existence of god, I know this argument wouldn't do it. 'Argument' is probably too grand a word frankly. 'Vague meandering attempt to articulate my own questions', that's a much better description. Some days these questions cause me great despair, but most of the time, like now, they merely make me stop in awe at the mysteries I see around me.
Saturday, October 21, 2006
Nonetheless I have known for a while that I am not done with this place yet. I'm still here, with no plans to go anywhere else, and I think that's because there is something I need to do here. So, maybe it's time to buckle down and do it. No, I don't know what that means. Career stuff seems like the most obvious choice, and it's certainly where my focus is these days, but I'm open to the possibility that there are other things to be done, lessons to be learned, etc.
What can you, dear reader, do to help me in this process? Well, maybe nothing. Maybe you can gently point out to me when I've gone on an anti-NYC rant, though chances are that won't garner you much affection at the time. But maybe you can tell me what you love about living here. Where are the places you go, the things you do and see, that are rejuvenating and inspiring? How do you navigate the lack of money in a place this expensive, without feeling deprived? What do you do when the place has you worn down? Or does that never happen? I'm sure some people thrive on the frenetic energy of the place, whereas I'm usually looking for its antidote. I'd really love insights from you about how you make this place your home.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
When I've seen the commercials though, I frequently found myself focusing on T.R. Knight and thinking a) what a babe and b) I wonder if he's gay? I was pretty sure he was, but of course was assuming I'd never know one way or the other, Hollywood being what it is. But whaddya know; turns out he is, and because of a nasty little cat fight between two of his co-stars, he is now out. Out in a big way. Like an interview with People out. Apparently my gaydar works through TV. I'm so tickled.
Cute Little TR might be less than thrilled to know I pegged him as a fellow 'mo on the basis of a 30 second promo, however. I'm assuming, since I haven't heard any buzz about a gay character on Grey's Anatomy, that his character is straight. I'm sure he plays that very convincingly, with nary a flinch or flaw. And I'm all in favor; I don't mean to suggest that he is unconvincing as a straight man, I just want to point out that my gaydar is just that good.
I feel for him though; this can't have been the way he wanted to come out to the nation at large, assuming he had any interest in doing so. His comments to People lead me to believe he would have been just as happy to avoid the whole issue. I can't say this episode endears Isaiah Washington to me either. Apparently on one occasion he called Knight 'a little bitch' and the fight that occasioned TR's outing was one between Washington and Dempsey, where Washington said "I'm not one of your little faggots, like TR." Nice. I'm sure that if anyone protests this kind of behavior, Washington's publicist will make a big statement about how his client is not homophobic, has all sorts of gay friends, and doesn't mean anything by the word 'faggot' other than "people who are presently pissing me off." Yeah, you see how long it takes, especially now that his job is on the line (though that is more likely because he actually grabbed Dempsey by the throat, also behavior I don't find impressive) I hope no one buys that crap, but I ain't holding my breath.
Okay, so I'm not thrilled with Mr. Washington, but I am with TR. He said he hoped there were more interesting things about him, and I'm sure there are (like is he single? Over the age of 36?), but sad to say, this one little fact does make him more interesting, at least to me. I don't know what that is about. I'm forty years old. I've met lots of gay people. I've even dated some. I know I'm not the only one in the world. But for some reason, I'm always pleased when someone in the public eye comes out. Okay, I didn't really need MacGreevey or Foley, those two creep me out, and god I don't want to deal with Senator Craig. He looks like a cadaver. Scary. But TR honey, you're a total babe, and because of your gayness alone, I might actually start watching your show. No promises, but it could happen.
Tuesday, October 10, 2006
Just in case there are people out there reading this blog who didn't already get this flyer, I wanted to let you know I will be dancing this Saturday, October 14th, in Women in Motion, the dance evening of Estrogenius 2006, ManhattanTheatreSource's annual celebration of women's voices. They have a special category in the dance evening for "Honorary Chicks" and I was accorded that honor again this year. It looks like quite a line-up: the choreographers and performers include Karen Bernard, Jessica Bonenfant-Odanata Dance Project, Ezra Caldwell- The Leverage Group, Sharon Estacio, Sara Joel, Linsey Dietz Marchant, Morocco, Lynn Neuman- Artichoke Dance, Jennifer Nugent- Nugent+Matteson, Jule Jo Ramirez, and Melissa Riker-Kinesis Project Dance Theatre.
Oh, and me too. I'm performing in a mask that hasn't been onstage since 1985, so I'm wondering what that will stir up.
This is all happening at 8pm, Saturday October 14th, at:
Morocco's Academy of Middle Eastern Dance,
6 West 20th, on the Second Floor.
Tickets can be purchased at www.theatermania.com, or call 212 352-3101.
It's gonna be great. Bring your friends. You're gonna be able to say "I was there that night!"
Monday, October 09, 2006
You're a very funny guy, there is no denying. You're charismatic, expressive, and your brain is going all the time. But the fact that you have a gazillion ideas doesn't mean that we are squelching you if we, in the moment, end up going some other direction. Following someone else's lead, say. Telling a DIFFERENT performer "yes, AND" perhaps. Hell maybe even, god forbid, trusting our own instincts and connection with the crowd.
While I'm handing out random unsolicited advice, I want to mention that sometimes you seem to forget how big you are, and how many tiny tiny children there were around us yesterday. Improv, particularly the kind we were doing, is often barely contained chaos. That's part of the fun and excitement for us and the audience. Nonetheless I felt your awareness oftentimes was a bit too much on on "how do I make sure people are looking at me" and not enough on "how do I make sure not to crush great crowds of little children." Maskwork complicates things even more by limiting our peripheral vision. All the more reason to calm the fuck down just a bit, dontcha think? It's not really limiting your impulses if you check around you once in a while.
I might also point out that telling the director (your wife) repeatedly how you think things ought to be done is not really improv either. It's being a control freak. Prefacing each iteration of your objection with "well, it's your company, you're in charge" doesn't really mean anything if you make it clear that you won't stop bugging the shit out of all of us until you get your way. I've seen you and she have the same argument all three times I've worked with you both. I'm curious if after yesterday, when you finally wore her down and she gave in, you will now relax a little, but somehow I doubt it. I suspect you're just going to get worse.
I'm not terribly concerned however. I won't ever find out because I'm never working with you again.