A room where I just watched a cut of an incredible movie, on which I am a producer.
This is happy.
Tomorrow at dawn, I’m driving back to the city that I love.
I’m a viciously lucky bitch and this is my second time back in as many weeks. This particular trip is special because I’m taking my north and south.
My North: My mother, who hasn’t seen NYC since my dad drug (word choice intentional) us all there thirty years ago for the singular purpose of seeing the aircraft carrier on which he had served as a Navy sailor during Vietnam. That was Mayor Ed Koch’s New York. A different world. My dad was distracted and nostalgic. She was panic-stricken and developed her first duodenal ulcer carting two babies around this mad house of a town. This time, she is carefully enthusiastic with robust reservations.
My South: My other travel companion in my son. New York is a land of make-believe that until now has only existed for his as the dreamy, scaffolded backdrop of The Avengers and Muppets Take Manhattan. He is careful about nothing. He’s going to the Empire State Building and he’s ecstatic.
So am I. To all of the above.
This is a necessary trip. In part, because life has had some tough days lately. Even typing that, it feels so ridiculous, it’s offensive. Because I’m a selfish ass a lot ( A LOT) of the time. So, I’ve been bit sick and a little sad. Wow. What a martyr. The worst of that, is that my foibles and my inflated fragiles have cost me. Seriously. I’ve been locked in my head for a while now. Only when atrocious things like Paris and San Bernadino happen do I poke my brain out of its self-spun cocoon of doom and realize that I’m fine. Totally fine. I’m a middle-class, cis, white girl living in America. Believe me, I’m fine. An eye-roll inducing mansplaining about “all the chicks in Jessica Jones’ while I’m ordering my five dollar coffee is about as tough as my life gets. I accept that. But just my lousy luck, that doesn’t get me back what I’ve pushed away with two hands.
But, back to the beautiful city.
I have to be the one in charge this weekend. Round the clock. And I need that. Let me fail. Remind me how ridiculous I sound with my petty hurts and imagined slights. It’s a good thing for me to take the controls. Especially now.
It’s been casually suggested by friends and bluntly stated by a(t least one) therapist that you have to grow your own happy. You don’t just wait for Amazon to deliver it. (Unless that delivery is a pair of black leather Christian Louboutins for which I didn’t have to pay. Then, yes. Happiness delivered.) But my life doesn’t star Carrie Bradshaw. So, go get your own damn happy.
Getting happy is hard with a kid. And that sounds awful. Just classless, sluggery parenting. (And it’s the reason I only have one child. Know your limits.) But it is. For me anyway.
For me, happy is what you chase by doing exactly what you want for your life. That’s not what happens in parenthood. Especially if you’re doing it with multiple households and some shifting cast members. For so many in this cohort, the years of middle-age are not about you. You, as self, is placed so far in the back of the car, you may as well be in the cargo carrier on top. You can’t lunge for what you want. Because there is laundry and karate and work meetings, and good gods you are tired. Lunging for you takes place at midnight behind a laptop. Or at 5 AM, because lunges, along with squats and pushups, are miserable creations, and before dawn seems as awful a time as any to do them.
Life becomes ‘just kids’. (One of the many reasons that I believe parents would be created by intention and not by mere circumstance. But’s that’s another prickly topic.) Your days and nights. Just. Kids.
That’s why this trip to New York will include whatever cheesy, over-priced kitsch we can pack in it. Because it’s for him. Love him. Love it. Thrilled to be on board. But, looking at my mom, our other passenger this time through, I realized there’s a whole separate and dividing ‘just kids’ in her world.
My family is very small. That’s all I’ve ever known. As years have passed, it’s gotten smaller. Especially my nuclear family. My dad died a little over a year ago. There’s not a big circle for my mom to grab onto if she’s spinning. She’s had more than a few health issues lately, and ‘just kids’ is all she’s had to support her. Need someone with you during outpatient surgery? Just kids. Pharmacy run? Just kids. Pool covered replaced for the fourth time this winter? Exactly. Just kids.
And I’m happy to do it. Because of my own situation, I know what it’s like dealing with every facet of adult-ing alone. Friggin’ hard, dude. I’m glad that my brother and I can be there for her. And now, she and I have the close knitting of truly getting what a real just kids situation is. We are each other’s one and only huckleberries most days.
I pulled the title for this from the incredible memoir of the same name by Patti Smith. I have big, verdant, writer, music, art, and fashion envy for this woman. Ms. Smith chased her dreams of music and poetry and drawing on a wall through street and valleys of some frightful shit. But did it with a joy you can feel. I want that.
There’s a reason her Cavale monologue from the play Cowboy Mouth that she wrote with Sam Shepard is still my favorite audition piece. This raucous, hurt, but still-fighting broad gets it. There’s a joy there that I chase every time.
That’s what I’m driving to in New York City tomorrow. The joy of it. Shut your mouth. Shut your brain. Joy. Pure and simple. See and feel. Listen. Wonder. Imagine. Get fucking messy. With all these twisted, funky inside parts of you. And the special parts to your north and south, that want nothing more that to have you, all of you come out and play.
It’s a bit of acting advice so often repeated that it’s almost trope territory. Like the girl in the film who shows the guy there’s more to life than work, or the mother who finally accepts her daughters choices.
Yeah. Tropes. That’s where I got those examples. Plot lines. From movies. Sure.
Anyway, the eager actor asks a mentor what she can do to become a better artist. She wants tricks, exercises, sense memory and mindful tantric core stretching. Gimme vocal gimmicks and motor shortcuts.
The unsatisfying answer? Anything but acting.
Makes paper sense. Learning to play the sitar or speak Arabic is great for resumes. But it’s bigger than that. If you want to be good at pretending things, you need to know things. You need to know how being terribly cold and helplessly lost really feels. You need to have experienced sunset in a new city with a lover’s arms wrapped around you. And then know what it’s like to see that sun rise in another city, completely alone.
That’s what I need. So, I’m going back.
I just retuned from a blink-fast NYC trip. It was brilliant. Always, always hurts at least a little to come home. So, back. And this time, I’m bringing my boy. My short-but-growing-taller-daily kid. His inagural trip to the city. I get to be the one there. The unexplicably lucky one who sees his eyes light up brighter than the Rockefeller Center tree when he sees it all for the first time. I get to smile when he wonders up at the Empire State Building.
But, we need both of those memories and all the feelings that come with them.
I hope he loves it. I hope it’s magic. I hope the rats are few and the catastrophes the sort that are fixed for under 500 bucks. And I hope he remembers us there together. Because I will. So much.
Honest time? I’m dragging a bit some (okay, many) days here because it’s a slow work spell for me. A bit of flailing and falling.
(And some grade A bitch exploding. Just really top notch. Why don’t I have footage like that on my reel? A crime. But, in earnest, the tall young man in my life still deserves a better apology than I offered. I’ll be making amends for a while after that one, I assure you. I’m sure he has suggestions. Many suggestions.)
This go round, I’m determined to not be an absolutely atrocious nightmare person during the lull. Take time and see things. Watch. Listen. Feel. Cry. Love. Let the juice run down. All of it.
So back, in truly just a few more days. Then forward. Then back again.
Last night, in the city that I adore, the lights of the Empire State Building went black, out of respect for the horror that happened in Paris.
As of this morning, CNN is reporting that 128 people were killed and 180 others were injured and that terrorists had claimed responsibility for the wreckage. (Source: cnn.com ; written by: Faith Karimi, Mariano Castillo and Jim Bittermann for CNN, Sat Nov 14, 2015 updated at 7:43 am)
People were crowded into a concert hall for a show. And an attempt was made to destroy all of it.
What do you possibly say to that? I don’t have anything.
I just looked up this morning while I was out running to clear some head and heart baggage.
This beautiful city and its magic are still here.
So, today I’ll be grateful. That I can be here and hug my beloved native NY girl on the lower east side. That I’m here to crowd on to the subway and into a theatre, and try to forget that it could be gone in a blink. That I have the incredible gift of just sitting here in the city of dreams, drinking gorgeous dark coffee and thumbing through a script. (The one for which I think the director might really want me for the part! So, I’ll re-read it. Again. And, yeah, I know. Only the really hard core among us acting dorks fantasize about spending time reading a script at a table in the Flatiron District.) That I have the incredible privilege to acknowledge such a devastating event and return to a peaceful life.
For the day, my focus is to find the peace and happy. Right here. Right now.
Drink in another day in the place that I love.
Take another ridiculous picture (or twelve) for my kid, who will be with me here next time.
Live in hope that we all don’t wreck this world before he gets to love New York City and Paris.
For the day and the tomorrows, healing and light to everyone in Paris.
And to my New York, thank you for being the surviving, thriving, gorgeous city that you are. I am so happy that you are here and that for just another minute, I am able to love you.
Yeah. I may be working through some insomnia and anxiety issues.
But aren’t we all.
I was up a goodly amount through the night. Lots brewing. I’m leaving for a New York weekend tomorrow. Which I always love. Except for packing. My choices and suitcase management are always for shit. And they shouldn’t be. To dress for NYC is pretty simple:
I’ll always bring the wrong shoes. Always. And I’ll always forget just the right black piece of whatever.
Awful, I know. To be so unfortunate to spend weekend traveling. And to a place where you couldn’t possibly find a black piece of fabric to drape on a body.
But let’s be real. My problem last night and again at awful pre-dawn hours was not really about the packing. It never is. There’s other nepharious energies afoot. I’m still reeling from the scolding I took on parenting, and I’m trying to address what were legitimate critiques of my choices and just do better. That confronted and put to bed, the art front is the problem child now.
I’ve said no to a few projects lately. Which didn’t feel good. Which felt pretty bleeding crumby. Not that you should say yes to every job that’s presented. That’s how you wind up playing basketball with a reaaallly creepy dude while ad lobbing lines about Larry Bird while shooting on a cement court in the rain.
Trust me. Not as fun as it sounds.
I hate letting chances go. Of looking two months ahead and missing something that could have been but never was.
Students of cognitive-behavioral (wait, what? Who?…Me?) will see this as a symptom of anxiety. Of a person not being able to put a pin in the time-space continuum. Of ruminating wildly and therefore spazzing wildly about what might be hiding behind the curtain. We lose what’s now and what might be. And this is why we light incense and mindfully meditate, kids.
Yeah. As I’ve shown this week, I ain’t very good at pinning. I’m more of a “holy freaking shit but what if??!??!” kinda girl. True in packing and acting.
After letting a producer dangle for longer than it was polite, I let another job go today. On top of the one I turned down just before that. Both good projects. One was fantastical. One was a classic canon piece. Would have loved to have been part of each one. But, stepping backs from both was the right choice. I can breath for the next two months, and not punch myself nightly for what I’m not doing at home while I’m in a rehearsal room. Not an easy choice. Maybe it should be, if I was a stronger mom or artist. Maybe not.
But, the gods of light and apertures gave me a little something. The audition from the room that felt really good?
Call back, bitches.
That’s probably not the right tone here but I went for it.
So, I need to get cracking because I’d really like to put in a good showing on this one. Looking at the schedule, there’s not many days ahead to let my brain spin properly out of control. And I want to make sure I build up a nice, full head of anxiety-riddled propulsion to tide me over until then. Wait, what was that I mumbled about mindful something and breathing. Yes. Breathing. Heavy breathing. Running. Wonder if the gym is open…
Because today, right now, all the gods damn it, I’m putting a pin in it.
And because tomorrow, I’ll be in New York City.
“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.
I love scary.
For the story I’m working on, I wanted to stick a shaky finger right into what scares me. Fear changes as we age. Stakes are higher. There really are things that can knife you where it hurts, and not just physically. Being personally helpless is bad enough. But the thought of not being able to keep safe the ones in my charge is heart-stopping. So, it becomes a matter of the ‘where’ and the ‘who’, that build the scaffold so the scary ‘what’ can climb through the window of your worst nightmare.
When I write, I sometimes start with the place. For this one, it’s New York City. Love it. And it scares the shit out of me. Don’t think I’m alone in saying place can be frankly terrifying, but that risk is what makes it singularly spectacular. Nothing to do with vandals and muggers. It’s bigger and less precise. It’s the feeling of being lost and finding yourself just this side of overwhelmed and incapacitated is what makes it magic in its majesty. For this story, it is the perfect place to be in love, or be blissfully personally or professionally fulfilled, or to be scared to the base of your soul.
More specific than place is the people. What about people? Most are just lousy, but not scary. But the thought of being without your people, your circle, losing one of your crew, losing yourself, the ones you love. That’s what scares me. So in writing about something that shakes you to your core, you also consider what you love the most and would be most lost without.
The piece I’m tossing up here today takes a sweeping glance at those things. Being not only geographically at sea, but being unprepared, ill-equipped, without information and assistance. And because of that, standing to lose someone barely a chance to reach out a hand to pull them back to you. That thought keeps me up at night.
So, pulling back the curtain for a peek, here is a sample of my new short story. A work in progress, to be sure. But the general scent of the thing.
147 E. 9th St.
She was moving in slow motion, steps and half frames and she watched in fractions of centimeters the door frame scrape the skin from the knuckle of her middle finger and she saw, but didn’t feel, the blood surface above the skin. First in tiny, segmented pixel dots until they multiplied and then assembled into a line of red that crept to her wrist. Every time she turned her cheap key copy in the lock of her boyfriend’s apartment, she banged her knuckles. But she had never been in this much of a hurry. But moving so slowly. The key fell from the lock and crashed on the welcome mat. A drop of blood fell on silver and gold when she scooped them up and jammed the key back into the lock. Through the window she could still see him. Shawn. Slumped in his chair. Wrong. Crooked and stiff. Like he was immovable. Not drunk. Not sleeping. Trapped in his own locked body. Finally the door gave way and she pushed her way inside to him.
Her mind went blank. They had only been dating a few months. It had come on hard and fast between them. She thought she had played it cool, making him wait until the third date to sleep with him. Only to come flying into his bed not even twelve hours later. By the end of the second month, she’d met his mother and had a key to his place. But right know, she realized knew nothing about this man.
“Shawn. Shawn!” she yelled. He didn’t flinch. She dropped to her knees in from of him. His neck was extended back, not just looking to the ceiling but past it. HIs arms were fully extended, fingers gripped on the chair. She shook him. HIs body moved in one steel piece, not in any fleshy segments. His phone was on the floor by her knees. The screen was black. Dead. She ran to her bag, searching. She gave up and turned it upside down, crawling into the pile of purse debris.
“SHIT!” she screamed, skidding change and mints and a tampon across the floor as she flailed her arm. Somehow her arm crashed down to her hip and she felt her own phone, jutting out of her back pocket. It took her four tries with as many deletes, but she finally dialed 911.
She didn’t remember saying anything. The phone was somewhere near her and she tried to listen. To hear for a heartbeat, to feel for breathing. She left him to run back to the front door. She couldn’t remember his apartment number. No, she didn’t know if her was epileptic. No she didn’t know if he was diabetic. Or allergic to cilantro. No she didn’t think he took drugs. Did she know? No. She just knew it looked like he was dying in front of her.
I’ll let you know what form this takes as more of it unfolds. Until then, happy haunting.