Saturday, June 25, 2016

Alice in Ship Land: Back at It (Week 13)

Folds has gotten a haircut. MB has a new pink hoodie. These are the first things I notice when I spot them at baggage claim. Familiar. Yet refreshed. We split a cab. First, Mike’s Pastry for cannoli. I realize I forgot to pack my special color-care shampoo after my 3 AM shower. Our driver idles outside a CVS while I run through, grabbing a bottle and some sour patch kids, then putting the sour patch kids back, then paying…all with the half-eaten cannoli still in my hand. I devour the rest before we reach port. We are happy. Six weeks is not long. ZPill is hungover and late, so he comes bearing iced coffees for everyone. Our squad smiles. We can do this.

Getting back on is a cluster, but we know it, and everyone keeps blood pressure low. The boat looks prettier. The workers happy to see other humans again. MB and I nest into our tiny room, we have a cast dinner, the crepe guy welcomes me back. And we’re off.

We do one line-through of the mainstage show, and we make no mistakes. It is in our skin. Even after I haven’t thought about the scenes for four weeks, I can do them with my eyes closed. The new lights are set. We warm-up. Our 7 PM is gravy, and our 9 PM is ridiculous. New Orleans gave us slow, jolly folks. Boston is basically like performing at someone’s kegger. The audience roars, whoops, gives applause breaks where they have never existed. It is explosive. Not too bad, we all feel. Not bad at all. ZPill and I scarf some cookies and I run down to crew bar where Game Seven of the NBA finals is on. I get to watch the last half. The room is screaming, including me. When the Cavs are thirty seconds from a title I jump up and down. Most of the cast is uninterested, but a few of us are hyped out of our minds. This is a post LeBron world, we joke. I overuse my crown emoji. We are in port, so what the heck. We go to a club in Bermuda. I dance on the empty floor, it smells like the ocean, Justin Beiber is blaring, RJBerns giggles at how happy I am. I yell, “I’m gonna live forever!” ZPill tries to analyze the phrase, so I walk out to the shore. At 1:40 I walk the drunkos home, stay out past curfew, and slink into my ice cold bed. I will never forget June 19th, 2016.

Bermuda is a much different experience than the Caribbean tour.  It’s fancy, safe, and expensive. Monday we had dinner and a cute lil game night of three-round charades. MB mimed Foghorn Leghorn by hopping side to side. Tail sizzled, “Oh, so you know Damn Daniel but not Marvin Hamlisch.” At the end of it all we morphed into a few rounds of mindmeld. Tail and I melded on Zac Efron and actually jumped out of chairs to embrace, and then I fell down from losing my balance. It was warm out, maybe time for an evening dip? We donned suits and walked off the ship. Being in port at night feels magical after three months of 4 PM all-aboard. We went over to a typical crew hang out—a campy pirate ship, complete with a plank that I spent an hour or so jumping off into the sea. Okay, job, not bad.

The production cast we grew to know signed off for good at dry dock, so a whole new flock of dancers and singers are in their places. I went to my favorite show—the jank American Idol rip-off that culminates in “Witness.” I cannot tell you how weird it is to see the exact same piece of art down to the exact toe-taps and color combos in costumes with a completely new cast. A reminder of this corporate performance can I’m floating on.

Post a meandering “spirit quest”, RJBerns, ZPill, and I sat and chatted listening to a guitarist play through every island song that has been written. The boys drank dark and stormys and I sipped on a lemonade. We ended up talking about the vastness of existence. How there is no beginning. How there may have been cruise ships a billion years ago. Improv rehearsal feels funny. The more you perform with an audience, the harder it is to do so without. Ten years ago I felt the opposite. I remember my sweet LZ gang in college. How we rehearsed for seven whole weeks before any people showed up. That felt right. OMG I have been doing improv for so long. I actually just spent about twenty minutes calculating, and the cumulative total of time I have spent in my life so far in improv rehearsals, classes, shows, and auditions is 1,500 hours. A far cry from a Master, but it ain’t bad.

Late night after our family show. At the martini bar I mentioned how Tail had told me the first day of the ship most people take these jobs to secretly run from something. We wondered what that was for each of us. And then we snagged a jungle from a popular improv warm-up to sing after each person shared. We’d clap, “What are you running from, I said, what are you running from!” SNAP SNAP. I ordered two spinach artichoke dips at 1 AM, told RJBerns to help himself, then got fussy when he did, and ordered a third like a tortilla chip gremlin. Usher’s “Yeah” is still holding up, ZPill tried to forcefeed me cookies from his pocket. MB and I talked about sad things we both forgot about until it hit us hours after we had woken up Thursday.
Thursday was one of the laziest days of my life. We snuggled up into one comforter and recapped the night, talked for hours, decided we wanted the tiny circular hashbrowns only the 24-hour diner has. I threw on a hoodie and ordered three entrees, ate all of it, we get up and leave without paying (as one does on a cruise ship), and I feel just so careless in a grimy way. We watch the Bachelorette and make each other laugh for hours. By the time we have any motivation to actually be in society it’s 2 PM. I read on the elliptical at the gym, eat some French fries, try to read, fail, spend too long at dinner, curl my hair, spend longer than necessary on makeup. Our director calls the adult show “smash city” and he’s not wrong. Folds and I dance like lobsters, we hit a run of raunchy dentist jokes, this is my job. We stand together on the deck, absorbing the perfection of a week well-done. It’s my third time in the 24-hour diner in one 24-hour period, and I can’t bring myself to eat any of it. I grow cranky. ZPill is acting like a drunk little brother. I don’t want our director to leave. There are so few of us and someone is escaping this awesome cage with live in. He is a bro and refuses to give me a hug goodbye.
Lavender picks me up for brunch. We happen to overlap in Boston, oh, miracles of miracles. She cries a lot about her breakup. From where I sit, across from her vegan pancakes, I know what she has to do. Stop talking to him, focus her energy, be happy. But it’s never so easy. We don’t have any pictures together. We take several, marveling at our stereotypical post-MFA colored hair.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Buttons, Screens

The ship contractors got busy during dry dock. All the carpet is new, the walls are more subdued, chairs reupholstered, new color palettes in the buffet. The crew areas, meals, shows...those are all exactly the same. But the packaging looks nice I suppose. Kind of like putting a Cracker Jack ring in a Tiffanys box.

At the gym the tough floor has been replaced for that squishy kind. New machines. I run on a sparkling treadmill with a touchscreen instead of a control panel. I hit a jog, then sprint. At two miles I want to slow down. I press the appropriate portion of the touch screen--the little minus sign. My finger is too hot or maybe too sweaty. I don't know, but the screen will not respond to me. I keep sprinting. I punch at the flashing images in front of me. Nothing works. I pull the emergency stop cord. No cool down. Just a dramatic end to my workout.

Buttons always beat touch screens.

So. No matter what people hypothesize and no matter how cultural budgets shrink, live theatre will always stay relevant.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


Having a hard time leaving again. I woke up too early, just now. I woke up because I had received an important email in my dream. In the real world I grappled for my phone but nothing interesting was there besides a silverfish on the windowsill, which I squished with a CVS receipt.

I'm having a hard time even believing I am leaving tomorrow morning. My flight is at 6:22, so I suppose I should leave here at 4 AM. It will feel like a dream too. It's only six weeks back on the ship and then three more weeks in Maine--infinitely easier to live, to navigate, to talk to people. I wasn't even ready to end my contract last month. More to write, more to love about my castmates, maybe even a few more nights in the dark belly of the boat. But it's still hard now.

Tuesday morning Puhg and I meant to find some unique exercise because I am tired of Jillian Michaels and my gym membership is frozen. We found a basketball court nearby! By there was also a park. And the park had mini golf! And suddenly we're playing mini-golf in the middle of the week together and eating yogurt and watching The Affair and ticket stubs and photos and stickers are all over the living room. When I describe my days they are so wonderfully blob-glamourous.

Like yesterday I listened to This American Life on a walk to Lake Michigan. I read. I laid on the couch and ate cookies leftover from a board game night. I met a friend for lemonade and gossip. I got a mani/pedi. I worked on a creative project at SC. The first planning meeting of a show I am writing this fall with my director. At home, Puhg and I watch the new OJ documentary (so much OJ, 2016) and drink root beer floats. I scrapbook on the ground. We watch Scream, make some jokes, fall asleep fast. While watching the scary TV show I say it feels truly like summer and I'm a kid. I'm living a dream--or maybe five dreams on top of each other--and I am beyond fortunate, so I barely have a right to mourn anything ever, but today it's just feeling hard to leave.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Farmer, Flower

On the plane back from Spain, Puhg and I watched an episode of The Path. Our second and our last. We don't like it because it's boring. Maybe it will get better idk. I don't have time for anything boring. But there was this one scene--a big family and friends outdoor cookout. A woman says, of she and her husband, "My mother says the rest relationships have a gardener and a flower." And the couples sort of discuss who is who in each of their pairings. (Aaron Paul is a flower, duh.)

I hit pause and turned to Puhg. "What are you?" I asked.
"A potato," he said. I laughed a lot. We were tired, travel dusty.
"But then what am I?"
"Everything else."

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Some Neat Things About Spain

-The art museums: Francisco Goya’s dark gloom, the breadth of Wilfredo Lam, THE Picasso Museum, Dali’s blobblish reality. I learned so much from a brief study in all of these revolutionaries. I feel inspired to work—not an easy feat for a museum.

-When the cheese plate of five kinds and a pumpkin jelly arrived the first night, I thought, “Oh man I’ll never finish all that,” and then totally wolfing every moldy crumb.

-Stepping on the gravestone of Don Juan’s inspiration. Humbled by the portrait of death in the chapel at the hospital for the needy that his money built.

-Collapsing into bed after 24 hours of travel. Waking up four hours later, at 5 PM, to a note from Puhg that said he went to take out Euros. He walked in the door with a bag of mini vanilla drizzled donuts.

-Peeping below a street grate our last night in Madrid and seeing a statue lit in the sewer.

-Being in Frederico Garcia Lorca’s bedroom. Touching the desk he wrote Blood Wedding at. I looked out the window onto orange trees, he must have eyed them while searching for the next line of dialogue.

-Dinner at the hip beachtown pub where each dish was better than the last. Grilled cubes of tuna, teeny fresh blueberries in goat cheese arugula, herb butter, plump mushroom risotto, a creamy rice pudding covered in cinnamon and apple slices. In the top five meals of my life—easy.

-Being uninterested in the vast amounts of potential shopping unless there were pastries or craft supplies in the window. (Coming home several croissants fatter, my bag scrapbook paper and cupcake stickers heavier.)

-Losing my voice for the first two days of the trip and the very moment my nose cleared up and how incredible it felt to just speak whenever I wanted to.

-Puhg trying to change out of his clothes into his trunks on the Malaga beach, using a light rustling tee shirt to cover his crotch. The freezing cold ocean swim that kept my blood cool on the long pier walk home.

-Eatin’ at the oldest restaurant in Seville. Drinkin’ thick hot cocoa at the oldest chocolateria in the world.

-Prancing in the sun of a World’s Fair site, craning my neck to see Columbus’s tomb while mass was in session, being woken up by huge Corpus Christi processional bands and marches. The tired, gritted Catholics carrying the floats of Mary and Jesus. The onlookers proudly beaming. Watching the crowds under blue Pringle architecture.

-When we decided we were just going to take a taxi to the Grenada bus terminal. Best 10 Euros ever spent.

-HOLY COW THE ALHAMBRA. The roses, the clusters, the starred ceilings, the fountains, the math, the geometrics, the Allah. An afternoon at the Arab baths being scrubbed and laying on hot stones, crocodiling in warm pools, pouring bowls of water on each other, mint tea. We rounded out the Islam with a visit to the Arabic part of town. We got henna tattoos of each other’s names, ordered the hummus and a date cookie.

-Grenada hours dwindling we thought about going to the lookout point. Why not, we guessed. All we wanted besides that was to find a good dessert. Nothing was speaking to us, we wandered up the hill to see the cathedrals lit in orange—never possible to capture on film, sat on a patio and ate a dense cakes. Sometimes if you want something, it will appear.

-Madrid’s premier park complete with turtle ponds, a glass castle, and a jazz musician playing “Hey Macarena” on repeat.

-Unable to sleep, I nestled into the nook of our airbnb window. I wrote pages upon pages for my new screenplay. Inspiration doesn’t take a vacation.
-The bustling tapas markets. 1. Sick myself from too much honey in my tea at Alcazar, trailing behind Puhg as he wandered around sipping a mojito and poking at various croquettes. 2. Hungry as a hound, eating everything in sight, scarfing it down. 3. Coconut strawberry smoothies and accidentally buying four pieces of gorgeous candy that cost 10 EUROS.

-The trains. The cows, the hills, the backdrop of a 1920s musical about Europe?, crops and tiny bricked towns, towers of unmighty consequence, arbitrary ruins.

-The night we dressed up, had fancy dinner, the desserts weren’t good, I got a gelato on the way home, tripped in my wedges in the middle of the street and fell flat on my face, skinned my arm, but did the ice cream cone drop? NOT A CHANCE.

-A long cab ride to the Caixa Forum, which was extremely underwhelming. At least the Magic Fountain was across the street…it turned off, waterfalls and all, one minute after we arrived. We waited around for an hour hoping it would start again. Asked a hot dog vendor who told us it takes a siesta 1-4 PM.

-Sagrada Familia’s pillars are different heights and spaces apart, to represent being in a forest. The exterior looks like a drip castle. The school where construction workers could send their children was brown and wavy—like a gnome home. I went into the teeny stained-glass room apart from the tourists to pray. Ave Maria. The Jesus looks like he’s floating away on a golden umbrella.

-We trekked to Four Cats because we heard it was cool. It was $25 for lunch so we went across the street to a Indonesian spot and ate amazing fritters and spring rolls. Later we found out Four Cats’ menu isn’t the main event, it’s sitting where Dali and the greats once worked. Well, whatever. The food looked lame.

-We rambled Las Ramblas all the way home. Puhg looking for European shoes as we ventured. Oh, dinner was a delight. We didn’t have reservations but luckily showed up when the wait was only 30 minutes. The menu had a nose on the cover. Accurate, smelled divine in the hole. We got squished into the bar and listened as people got turned away for hours. Three desserts.

-Both having colds for a couple days, my two handkerchiefs got more use than they were made for. Oh, Lord, what crusty little rags ended up in my new fake Chanel bag.

-The Madrid palace! The huge sweeping white courtyard!

-One night I pitched an article for an online publication and the editor asked me if I could finish it by morning. I stayed up late, in Barcelona, in Spain, writing Saved by the Bell jokes until 2 AM when I finally passed out because we had to go to see Picasso’s early works in the morning.

-I had a headache for our final night. We laid in the sun on the rooftop pool. I ate veggie ravioli and a sushi roll slowly. I took breaks from packing. I was sad. This is how it ends? If I were better we might take an evening walk, we might find a new little cafĂ©, we might stand on the balcony. But sometimes it’s nice to want to go home. And after 24 hours of travel complete with some Euro McMuffins, a ton of reading, a little Better Call Saul, and one bout of tears when immigrations hassled us and cattled us around the Miami airport--we were. And it’s good to be back. The water is free and I don’t have to say “gracias” a million times to compensate for all I can’t say.