“Did you even see ten minutes of that?”
No. I absolutely had not.
We were having one of those calm, conjoined nights. Both sitting on separate chairs, both clacking away on respective devices. Although, technically, both devices were mine. He had forgotten his laptop so mine was loaned. And, I’m a slacker, so while the industrious writers of the world are clawing for their 2K daily words, or whatever they do for NaNoWriMo, I’m watching Dexter and eating Chex mix at midnight. I was certainly not using my beloved MacBook for writing. I was doing other important things, like scrolling my phone for pictures of photoshopped hair on Pinterest.
“What are you banging away on over there?
Not picture of fake hair. Not at all.
I should have been working. Words don’t write themselves. They are selfish, stubborn asses like that. But, those balayage highlights though…
My computer-hogging houseguest is also a writer. And I told him I’d write that. A sports journalist, if you’re taking notes, and he had temporary custody of my tech box for the night. I was rightly deserved. I was the bad word parent at that moment, and the writing matching needed to be in the hands of someone who would treat it with respect and help it blossom. So, to his question, I was not “banging away” on some great, insightful moment of memoir or fiction. No. While he worked steadily at his chosen profession, I mentally exhausted my faculties trying to balance on the mind-twisting fence of New York City hotel selection. That’s why I was looking at hair. Because I had been looking at hotels for hours and needed a break. It lasted about thirty seconds.
That may have been the most selfish, privileged, classist thing I have ever written. I’m really the worst sometimes.
But new York. I love that city, Love. That. City. It’s been too many months since I have been. My brilliant-in-every-Englsih-sense-of-the-word best friend lives there, and I miss her more than pain-free shoulder joints in the morning.
But on this trip, I’m not traveling alone.
Which is weird for me.
Having been a single girl or a certain age, the age wherein one actually watched Sex and the City when it was on the air and don’t just reference it ironically, I’ve travelled alone. No big. (See what I did there?1? Because Carrie and New York, and Chris Noth, and oh, gods…stopping now.)
So, while he was industriously typing on about hockey and their lines and wing-somethings, I was looking at hotels. I signed up to be lodging coordinator for us on this trip. If it was just me? No worries. I have my place that I love on the LES that doesn’t cost as much as my mortgage.
I’m trying to be better at sharing my toys. As I said at the start. he wrote his last column on my laptop. Which means, my e-mail alerts bing while he works. I let his play and hope no ex-boyfriend chooses this moment to send me something…inflammatory.
No. I was definitely not working. I was looking. I was agonizing. I was desperately trying to not be the one that booked the awful room that ruined the trip. This is where meditation, mindfulness and whatever candle and sage routine I may have tried for blocking out the bullshit would be hella helpful.
It’s New York Fuckin’ City.
Guess what? The rooms will be cramped and your knees will hit the sit when you sit on the toilet. Guess what? It ain’t quiet. Guess what? Ten dollars for two room service coffees is absolutely reasonable. Money is absolutely a big factor for this weekend. As is accessibility and WiFi and money again, and thousand other things and…
And guess what else?
It’s still going to be New York Fuckin’ City. And it will be as awe-inspiring and hope-giving and dream-making as it always is.
So, I picked a room. Just like that. I had some things in mind. It needed to literally not be more than my mortgage for the weekend. I needed it close subway since there is some computer poacher with me on this weekend who needs to run away to Jersey to see the Penguins play the Devils at some game, so he can write about how some of the guys did better at sportsball than the other guys.
( I kid. He’s actually a good writer. Pervasive lap top borrowing aside. Even though I have no idea what he’s talking about, usually ever. See his stuff on http://www.pittsburghpostgame.com for details. Spoiler alert: much more sports and far less swearing there than I can get down with.)
Maybe the hotel room I picked will suck. Possible. The risk you take when you make a choice. Very appropriate for time in NYC, the home of many, many, oh so very many, barely working actors and their very difficult choices. Or, the skies may be blue, the city lights may sparkle brighter, and the night just may be awesome.
And that’s where it all circles back around. Part of owning and living your life is making choices. Your damn self. Choices that other people will not understand, criticize and flat out hate. With your own life. With how you raise your kids. With who you love and how you do it. I’m just starting to kinda, sorta, maybe be okay with that. Not always. But more.
It’s also what I need to constantly re-visit and give big, fat sweaty hugs to as an actor. Through the fickle gods of art and punishment, I have an audition in a few days. Something I’d really like to get. So often, my first instinct is to go in, smile, and say the words without sounding like I’m repeating back tech support instructions that might as well be in Yiddish.
But I’m choosing no. Just hell no. Every broad in the waiting room and in the stairwell outside can do that. Make a choice. For this one, I want to create a character that is a cooky mix of a friend I begrudgingly adore and a cousin to who I am decidedly apathetic. And some Carol Burnett. Because always, always, always Carol Burnett.
This could be off-the-charts wrong. Just laughingly, absurdly misplaced, and the director could bust up a cervical disc shaking her head no. I might make a misstep as momentous as a big fat BBC version of Henry VIII’s fifth wanton wife showing up in an episode of Ren and Stimpy. But my god, I would watch that all night and love every frame. It’s what only I can bring to the show that I should haul in with me to the audition room. Not some weak tea, choice-less recitation. So, it’s what I need to bring. Both to a soundstage in Pittsburgh this week and to a hotel just off the R train next weekend.
Tonight’s picks: first, some treadmill time while watching the Season 5, episode 7 of Dexter I zoned through last night to see what I missed while my anxiety had its hand on the controls for a spell. And then, I get to read these audition sides and decide as an actor just how my make-believe girl will pawn off her kid and invite the guy to bed.
I’ll enjoy staying up tonight to make that choice.
And then sometimes, somehow, it actually does work.
The moons align and the gods smile and it just works.
That was us this scary holiday weekend.
To re-cap, I was called on set this Friday and Saturday for a final round of inserts, pick-ups and such. The light dusting of filmmaking you do before dinner party guests arrive. Standard expected business.
However, this weekend, there were some unexpected dramatics within my own personal organization. Not me personally, mind. But persons. Really judge-y person. A mirror was held up to me to try to illustrate glaring flaws and failing. I have a whole mess of both of those, no doubt. But, when I looked in the mirror that was shoved in my emotional face, I was okay with what I saw. I stood my ground and spoke what I knew to be good and true and right and best for me and my family. Once the tears stopped, it was a wave of hollow-filling security and enlightenment. I was the Yoda of interpersonal conflict and peace. Which sometimes leaves you alone, in your own swampy, bubbling planet of rightness. But I brought a raincoat and super cute Hunter boots to the fight. And I won.
I was committed to acting this weekend. I needed it, in more than one way. Kids don’t tend to care what you need. They’re dreadfully honest like that. He knew it was Halloween weekend and he needed candy. And because of American and its “laws”, he needed an adult-ish type to do that with him.
So, I made an adult-ish decision. He was coming to set with me.
Now, I know kids aren’t for everyone. They’re often, okay, usually, not for me. So i cleared this with the producer. It’s a big ask. A bunch of 20-something crew kids are not trying to have a half-size running around, tipping scrims and tossing bounce boards like frisbees.
But it was a short day for me. The girls in charge kindly and generously agreed.
Didn’t hurt that he was still in costume. The one he had worn all day. And then all night. And then the next day again. Yes, a kid. But just a ridiculously adorable dressed-up kid. What can I say? I made a wicked cute baby.
I was all kinds of nervous. What if he hated it? What if he screamed “my mom uses tampons when she gets that nose bleed out of her butt” during a take? (There are casual health science lessons in these parts. We’re working on ironing out the specifics of the female anatomy.)
But it was a good two nights.
The crew was a dream. So understanding and patient. And from our end, no casualties. No lights got killed. No mics were martyred. My young man was still and quiet and self-entertained. He was the rarely-seen, perfectly content and behaved child of legend. Granted, he did get unlimited cookies and Star Wars fruit snacks. I don’t welch on my debts. Kid got his candy.
What made my heart melt about the whole thing, was that he got to see what I do. Watch me in the world that I love. Best of all, he got to see his mother as a person. Not just a chef/maid/laundress. But as a person. Her own self, not just and extension of him and his life and need. A girl with interests and loves and talents and flaws. It was a precious few minutes for us to share.
By fifteen, he won’t remember or care that we had this evening. I will.
Lucky for me, he will have the film to remind him.
Because that charismatic little shit got a part.
That’s right. After wrapping both my set-ups on Saturday, the director and writer threw a scene together that called for a kid. It was hilarious. He memorized his lines after hearing them once. Hit his mark. All business, all the time. So I’m putting out the call. Miranda July, Shonda Rhimes, Lena Dunham? Y’all need a cool kid on set? Effie Brown? You need a cute, quirky little white boy that won’t tell you your business? I got your huckleberry.
Just one teeny glitch.
He didn’t like it. How do you not like acting??? But that giant cogs and sprockets, reason-driven brain of his just couldn’t get behind pretending. “But, I’m not mad. But, I don’t want to yell at you. But, why, WHY? We already did that scene? Why do we do it again with the camera closer and then again, with the camera closer, AGAIN?”
Did I mention, AGAIN, how awesome the director and her crew are to have patiently included us this weekend?
All right, so, I’m not raising an actor. We’ll not do this art-bonding thing too often. No treading the boards together. And that’s okay. There’s always writing. Or producing. And the industry needs good distributors…
My joy and gift of this weekend was that he and I got to go through it all together. Sloshing through the sludge that is daily family life and keeping everyone not only above water, but floating and smiling. This won’t happen every time. This may have been a one-off fluke. Like today? The audition that I got with my sticky phone video? Yeah, I had to cancel that. The mom guilt won that round and I couldn’t make it work, so I had no choice but to bail. Funny thing about acting jobs – kinda need to actually go to the audition to actually be considered for the part. So, I have to let that one go. And it was a good one.
Damn it, this piece started with such an unusually positive vibe, too.
Until my next gig, maybe I’ll just stick close to home for a minute or two. Way things have been, probably more like two. Or twenty. Or 47,000. Get everyone good and properly sick of me before I head out in the weird, scary world of make-believe again.
Lies. I’ll miss is by midnight and be scanning notices.
And we’re okay with that. I hope. But, maybe now I’ll do it more thoughtfully. For both of us.