Tuesday, August 29, 2017

First Saturday Back

First of all, I got to return to Step class at my gym. It was hard, as it always is after an extended absence. At a water break I asked the instructor to re-demonstrate the switchkick turn, and three women around me all (at the same time) told me how to do it. Isn't it infuriating to be told how to do something even when you have asked? And, by the way, why do people like telling others what to do? I don't. Which is funny because I'm the teacher.

I showered. Pug and I sat on the couch and talked over morning yogurt, a ritual I missed. We keep up when we're apart, but the conversations are more like maps and less like landscape. I convince him to walk with me to a new coffee shop, where I set up camp for lesson planning. After an hour I head to the train. While I wait a man starts addressing people on the platform asking the question "Why?" a lot. It's hard to hear him. At first he is ignored since he's ranting. He's holding a Dunkin bag and a large iced coffee with cream. He lays down on the platform over the line folks are not supposed to cross. Another older man walks up and tries to talk to him. He is batted away. I get closer. I want to kneel down and say, "Don't do this here," but I don't know his mental state and am worried he might throw me into the tracks. The board says the next Red Line to 95th is in one minute. Someone presses the help button. Someone else is making a call. "They'll put me back in jail," the man says. The train is now arriving. Someone at the end of the platform waves his arms wildly to the conductor. I bark, "Sir, please get up." In the nick of time, someone the fella by the ankles, and pulls him to safety. The dude, still on the ground, yells, "You almost spilled my coffee!" to which his savior rolls his eyes. I get on a different car and practice Japanese on an app.

I attend a producers workshop for marketing one's comedy show. I learn a couple things. Several men, not running the workshop, offer a lot of unsolicited advice to everyone n attendance. Again, I wonder what the appeal is. I go across the street for a Whole Foods salad and purchase a scone to eat between shows at night.

While home I have a little time to work on my book before curling my hair, changing into a new blouse, and heading to SC. On my commute I think about how we use Twitter, how I use Twitter, microaggressions, and how important but also stupid recognizing said microagressions are. It's my first show in Chicago since mid-July. The audience gives us "IHOP: The Musical" as our title. The singing feels good. The singing brings renewal. I call an Uber.

At the next theatre's greenroom I am met by some unusual faces. People from New York and LA visiting, jumping in on the fun. We do two acts of improv. It is okay. I am happy to be there though. Puhg comes and during something particularly funny I look out at him to see if he laughed. He's munching a french fry. He is standing at the bar when it is over. We take a car home.

Friday, August 25, 2017

I Think You Are Very Successful Now

At least that's what I surmise from bits and pieces of social media. I don't know what major success looks like in your field. I don't know if you still have mountains to climb. I think often about that sommelier documentary. I cannot name a single sommelier or honestly a single fact about wine. In the film some men became certified top-tier experts and some didn't. The ones who fell short are surely more knowledgable than 99% of the world, but ten feet from the summit can feel much farther.

I wonder if you are happy. I feel like I really know you because I saw you back when you were trying to get into your skin. You made fun of yourself for not understanding football and now you tweet about it a lot. I don't think that's fake necessarily. I'm only curious.

We used to talk about how we didn't have any money, how a muffin was a feast. I'm proud of you even though I am a small tick in your timeline. But I don't know. Sometimes I feel like a mark. Are you a mark in mine? I think so. I questioned what you actually liked and what you fronted then. I do now, if I think of it.

My theatre history class is divided into six units--directing, playwriting, tech, etc. We will study modern work and move backwards toward the significant elements of the past. I DO NOT WANT TO TO HAVE ONLY COVERED OEDIPUS TARTUFFE AND HAMLET BY MIDTERM. I have too many ancient playwrights to choose from, the timeline of how directing transformed and the dramaturg was born. But actors from 1800, 1900, even 1950--none come to mind.

That okay Dispatch song. Would you come running if I called your name in a crowd?

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


I am still trying to figure out why I thought the eclipse was so incredible. I didn't initially care. My mom lives 45 minutes away from totality, so she wanted to make a thing of it. There were cucumber sandwiches and brownie piles and eclipse pop in coolers. We went to a football field with 2,000 other people. I imagined sweating in a mob, but actually, 2,000 people on a huge field is not crowded at all. The dogs ran around, sometimes standing in front of an icy fan. I put on my glasses to see the crescent. Lenses up, lenses down.

It got cooler. Gradually I didn't need my sunglasses anymore. "It feels like evening." Globs showed up in my hand's shadow. At 1:13 I felt giddy. At 16 shadowy waves splashed on white ground. The crickets were a full orchestra. I held Puhg's hand. My mom said, "It's like that scene in Independence Day when they're all on the roof." She wasn't wrong. Everyone laughed at the idea that birds fly to their roosts and fall asleep, but I am certain something primal was itching at me too. Foreboding and magical. The moon covered the sun for less than two minutes. I screamed when I took my glasses off. The eye looked at me curiously. It sparkled. There was a pink sunset on every side of us. Jupiter was perched nearby. Tears welled in my eyes and over the loudspeaker the physicist began a count-down from 10. My mom gripped my hand and said, "I don't want it to go away." Me neither.

The day went on. I felt messed up. I fell asleep at 6 PM. My mom was on the couch accidentally watching Dirty Dancing twice.

When I got my tattoo I thought it hurt so awfully. I didn't know if I could stand having it finished, and I never thought I would get a second. But now I do not remember. I couldn't put words to it. I can't again now. I have seen every CGI tsunami and dragon under the sun but the real sun escapes me.

Friday, August 11, 2017

It Is the End of Days and I Have Chosen to Write

We could be nuke dust any day. I have no pretenses about avoiding desserts in this vacation wonderland. If I die, it will be with a cinnamon roll in my belly.

As things collapse and teeter I imagine myself dirty in a roving commune. My last job won't matter, but the skills I learned at it will.

Looking ahead I wonder what I will finish. What are the last words I want to speak on a stage or send to a reader? I thought about canning my book until I feel more than 50% certain I will see October, but once I have journaled, read a chapter of Ghost Story, drank my amaretto coffee, watched Big Brother, and even fallen down the Twitter void, my computer shines like a Zelda treasure chest. I sit at the desk and kick it open. A four note victory plays.

Monday, August 7, 2017

On Offense

We opened the show with "Option" last night. It's essentially a typical short form improv scene that morphs into genre switching at the audience's whim. I played a girl on a date and then at the suggestion of "horror" a cast member said he had slipped a serum into our blood. I did the first thing I could think of (pretend my face was melting off) and then the audience had us switch genres to rom-com. I kept my face distorted and said, "I look like this, but I know you love me for what's on the inside." (Laugh, laugh.)

As soon as I said it I had a little shiver up my spine. Some people really do have distorted voices. I wasn't aiming to make fun of them. I was just...acting like I was in a horror movie. As the game ended and I sat on the sidelines during the next piece, I really thought hard about how someone in the audience with a disfigured cousin might have taken that twenty seconds. Then I tried very hard to think of other options I had in the moment. I could have pretended to be a horror-trope ditz, which would have been satire (or problematic?). Or maybe I could have been the killer. I shook it off and sang a mini-musical about a purple alligator (lol comedy).

When we returned from intermission I started an intro for the next game and for the first time looked into the front row. Dead center. Staring up at me. A burn victim with missing fingers and a disfigured face. I flubbed a word. Ultimate universal irony. Then I made a point to finish my speech and give a winning smile to the dude. I creeped on him for the rest of the show. He was having an excellent time, clapping and hooting.

Earlier this summer I taught a "song parody" camp to middle schoolers. I played Weird Al's parody of "Complicated" "Constipated." The song ended and I asked the group why it was funny. A blonde 12 yo's practically screamed, "It's not! It's not FUNNY." CoMeDy Iz HaRd, u gUyz!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Girls Need More Secrets

After two weeks devising work with young women attending summer camp in Maine in 2017, I have some new thoughts on girlhood. The 4th and 5th graders fought to the death for single solo lines and the high schoolers refused to perform. I want to know what happens to girls in middle school. I want to know why one girl started most scenes with "I should have listened to my mother. I hate you." I want to know if she thought that was funny, or if it's all she could think of. I want to know if that's still a joke in her mediasphere or if her family is old school and watches black and white TV. Or if her mother really should have listened to her mother. I want to know why the 2nd graders wanted to do all their own original choreography and the 9th graders wanted to be set like china for dinner.
I want to know what it is about a secret, whispered between two teens, that makes even me want to know the juice. And I want to always remember what it feels like to be the third girl they beckon in and the fourth girl they don't.

Smidge and I were in a corner of the gym before Poms practice vowing to tell each other our crushes. We each spoke a boy's name (same boy) and screamlaughed, intoxicated in our good taste. We skipped around the three-point line singing The Sound of Music. It didn't matter we were in "competition." We weren't. We were in 8th grade. When "going out" didn't mean going anywhere. It was how we showed our loyalty and our love, these private passings.

It had been this way a long time. I didn't fully trust my best friend because she would never admit to loving her obvious affection-target. She was my favorite person, but I watched her carefully. In fourth grade someone said she didn't have any crushes. "But you have to," we pressed. "But I don't," she insisted. I can't remember if I really didn't believe her or if I just didn't want to, but we pushed until she practically yelled, "OKAY FINE IF I HAVE TO, I LIKE ____ HAMPSTER!" There was a boy in our class named _____ Hampson. In her total distress she had misspoke.

Later, once we had boyfriends, the new secrets were about us. Who said what about who to who and who retold. We ate our own tails in gossip and serious nods. I see a past of closed mouths and deep deep treasures of family darkness. I see wives of important men with tight lips. I see a future where a lack of bragging saves our butts. Where female generals refuse to disclose and never lose. But to prepare, first, girls need better secrets.