Tag Archives: childhood

Stuck Inside, Walking Yosemite 

2 Sep

I started that new Fitbit explore badge thingy today. Their version of Pokémon Go, minus location requirements, means that I can indeed be sequestered in the office as a managerial-bitch, yet still wrack up achievement points based on steps, alone… as I treadmill during booking calls. 

This should make being a caged animal less awful, one would think. 
… Jury is still out on that. 

… It is strange, this fake trek through this famous National Park, for a couple of reasons. One is that I have always loathed Yosemite for the unfortunate stigma it bought itself in my childhood, in that every single time I had visited it, I spent most or all of the trip horribly ill. 

… I don’t know why, but clearly my body just didn’t want me to be there. And it would vomit and fever and curl up in a ball to remind me of that fact, every time I dared to travel there. Despising the out-of-doors as much as I already did as a kid, I assumed Yosemite’s grandeur was like the epicenter of natural evil,  and I was literally rebelling against it, beyond all doubt. 

… But those days of hatred are gone now. A trip to Ireland cured all that, and a part of me thinks this Fitbit fake version of a visit to the park can finally help me slay this biggest monster of nature, in my past. 

… But it is also strange because Yosemite was my home. Well,  closest thing I’d use to pinpoint where “home”  was to people who didn’t know where my tiny town was…because there is no reason whatsoever that anyone ever should. 

… Because everyone knows “Yosemite.” Well, everyone knows OF “Yosemite.” Even if they call it “Yos-eh-mite” (which,  unbelievably, people actually do.) And if you’re from a tiny old gold-rush town,  where getting a new Safeway makes the front page for a solid week, Yosemite is the only way you could relate to the area I come from. 

…But even that is a lie. Because you have to go an hour away from “home”  to get there. To this place where Mother Nature just puked all over everything in kinda the best hangover scenario ever. 

… My home town is more scrub brush, and foothill. But it does have lakes. And trees. Gets snowfall. Has nature in variety of aspect, just not juiced up on all the beauty steroids. 

… So, this whole fake trek thing is weird to me because it reminds me of home in a lot of ways, both good and bad…and my kiddom, and the summers we’d spend by the lakes for endless hours, and the horrible camping trips I despised,  and all the times I chose to sit inside reading a book (all damn day)  instead of exploring things outside my room, (or the tent.) And how ironic that I am now “stuck”  inside all day, looking  out,  taking fake nature walks on a handheld computer. 

… I’m saying: life is strange. I wouldn’t give up the books. (And I still loath camping.) But, much like the forced naps in childhood that I despised, (which I would often give.. I dunno… back teeth,  for the extravagance of having today) , I kinda wish I’d have known some of this shit ahead of time. 

… But then,  don’t we all… 

~D

I’m Gonna Read Your Diary

2 Jun

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Cecil’s new theatre company is having a fundraising event with an open mic for the entertainment. Cuz Cecil is smart and knows, “why spend money on that shit when – if given the option – artists will whore themselves out for free.”

… She isn’t being greedy in this…the fundraiser will pay tech, talent and designers on their premiere gig…but this being a fundraiser means if you ain’t got the change, you can donate your art-things.

… All my change being deposited into the London fund, I only have the latter to give. And even that I was gonna decline participation in, only cuz open mics make me artistically hive. I need more distance and like a damn character between me and an audience…this gig is far too much like public speaking, of which I am awkward at, in the supreme.

…But that was before Cecil asked me to do a dramatic read from her 13-year-old-self’s diary.

I have done so before. In fact, thrice to several small gatherings I have shared it’s contents.

Because frankly, it is magnificent.

The first time was on one of our “Drunk Tuesdays,” so named from its original conception, on a Tuesday where we decided to drink too much, read some plays, wander to the corner gas station for Scratch Lotto tickets and candy, and spend the walk back dreaming of the flat we’d buy in London with the winnings.

…We had so much fun doing this on a stupid day of the week where one generally does nothing, and not winning all the things we scratched, that “Drunk Tuesdays” became a thing…generally whenever we needed one, no matter the day of week.

… So it was on one of such nights, that Cecil began to talk about this boy she’d obsessed over at age 13, and this diary she’d kept over a short few month span. Would I like to read it?, she’d asked.

…And so, on what would turn out to be the next “Drunk Tuesday,” Cecil jumped off the couch, squealed that she’d just remembered something, and ran out to her car. There she had been toting what she called, “The Donovan Diaries,” which she’d gotten her mother to dig out of her childhood bedroom and send her.

… Already, it was amazeballs. Built by hand, with outer covers of black sparkle construction paper, hole-punched and loop-tied with ribbons, filled with about a half centimeter of ruled paper, partially filled in with multiple – colored writing, each color claiming it’s own diary entry, complete with a Prologue of who this was for, when they could read it, what they were to do with it after, and hints at occasional super secret codes and their super secret keys to them, somehow within a reason unknown, to be kept within these same sheets.

… And so: we read. In tag-team style. With a dead seriousness, and solemnity of truth that we all wished, at that age, to be taken with.

… And we did this, in between ugly-faced crying laughter from the audience’s side. Because there just was no other way to receive it.

…Because goddamn it, the strategy to getting and holding a “man’s” attention, knowing what to do with it when you have it, trying to deal with not wanting it when it is there, but do when it isn’t, and all the complications which come with this, are even funnier when you haven’t learned enough to laugh at yourself about it yet.

… And so, for reasons of sheer embarrassment, and truthfulness, Cecil has charged me with the task to stand at an open mic, not on a “Drunk Tuesday,” and share her humiliations with earnest solemnity.

… And I will.

… And the people will cry with joy.

… Because 13 or 23, you couldn’t buy a Cecil, and the brain it comes with, for a million dollars.

… But you can try your best, at the tip jar.

~D

The **Non-Spoiler** Blog About [that one movie]

22 Dec

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In an effort not to be assholes, (or get shanked by pain-of-death warning alerts put into human form), this week’s vaguebooking on [certain movie] on the Facebooks, has taken a whole new turn in self-denial social media. It’s like parental blocking, only for nerds, and proves that it is actually possible to go through life as oblivious as one wants to, and yet still somehow actively participate.

…I’d say we’ve come a long way from the whole tester “Game of Thrones” spoiler debacle. I don’t even watch that damn show and even I knew what happened with whats-his-face and her in that one scene.

…Which is good. I mean, IF you’re gonna fuck something like that up, best NOT to be the “Holy Grail” from childhood.

…Because, even if you don’t consider yourself a giant [certain movie] fan…it still packs a punch in your gut, if for nothing else than that this was a formative moment in our youth…in two generations (and now three) of it.

…Even if you hated [three certain movies], and loved, or were indifferent to the others, they were still very much there…in the landscape of your adolescent consciousness.

…And even if [character name] wasn’t your first crush, or a poster of [character name] didn’t hang on your wall, or you didn’t have the entire [place] in Leggo form, a [prop] in identical replication on your bookcase, the entire [collection] in hardbound, or [character name] wasn’t responsible for your first [uncontrollable anatomical purge]…every morning…for four years…you STILL were landblasted by the commercials, trailers, toys, and general everywhereness of media about it.

So, let’s be real: it does matter to you.

…[certain movie] is a sort of time capsule, in a way. Its theme song is as powerful as that breakup song you bawled through on 24 hour loop repeat, in nineth grade. Its characters are like looking back at yearbooks from High School. The signature [stuff], the constancy of [other thing]…it all comes wooshing back the absolute second the lights go out and [that one guy’s] trumpet blare blow begins the [sound] and the [feeling] of the thing until it sorta makes you wanna bawl like a three year old child.

…Which is why, if you haven’t, you should “GET YOUR DAMN ASS TO THE THEATRE AND SEE IT ALREADY! SOME OF US GOT SHIT TO TALK ABOUT, AND YOU’RE KILLIN’ OUR OBSESSIVE BOOK-ON-FB-POST-JOY!”

…Yes, I’m talking to you: [that one guy]!

~D

Your “First”

4 May

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You will never forget them.  It’s impossible, given the hugeness of their role in your life.

…Today, mine would have turned 85.

I was four years old.

…I still remember the house address we live at, the exact layout of the living room furniture.  I remember a cardboard record sleeve, covered in pink with floral artwork spilling over it, leading to the face of a woman in a giant hat on the front, still photos on the back.  And the record itself, spinning on the turntable by the wall, Mom resetting the needle to a specific song.

“Okay…you wanna try it again?”

“Yuh.”

“Okay…here we go…”

…And the needle went down and caught on the groove, and the intro of a song I will remember…I think even if I were to one day forget my own name…started to play.

…And my eyes, would look hard at the record cover…the picture of this lady…and I’d think about how she looked when she sang this song…that green coat and flat black straw hat, dancing around the wet cobble stones, throwing lettuce leafs in the air, and pretending to be a queen…and I opened my mouth and let it burst out of me.

I was trained to be a character actor, as I trained for that talent show.  My very first time on a stage. I would be five when I performed it for real…just me and a piano, and my own little green jacket, with flat black straw hat.  But I was four when I first met The Lady, first saw the film on VHS, first pointed to the TV screen and said, “I want to be her when I grow up.”

…I didn’t know what an Actor was…nor The Lady, but she talked funny and I liked it.  So I started talking funny, back.  And Mom had noticed. Apparently I had an ear for it.  Apparently, I nailed it.  Which is how we got on a road to a talent show to begin with, which is how I got on stage for the first time, and freakishly won…which is how so much of who I am, all began.

Today The Lady would have turned 85, had she lived.  And for two decades of my life, she was the star I had set my ship to sail towards.  I mean what better role model could a young girl have?  She survived war and famine with grace, was understated, and elegant, classy and joyous,  she was gentle and kind to animals…she spent the last years of her life as an Ambassador to war-torn nations.  I spent the bulk of my adolescence obsessing over her, reading every article, buying every book, seeing every movie…and learning as much as I could about how to be a better person…on total accident.

…My intent, because of her, was to be an Actor. That was what I thought I was studying for…like I did all those years ago, with a record spinning cockney voices into the air. But I learned much more.

…I learned she WASN’T the flower girl pretending to be a queen. She was a queen…pretending to be a flower girl.

…And the more I realized that, the more I opened up to other influences…building my cannon of acting teachers and role models…first in black and white, and later in more contemporary atmospheres.

You see, I realized even at age four, I wasn’t ever going to be the pretty lady walking down the stairs in a white beaded gown on the way to a ball. I was (and am) the scrubby street urchin. It’s more fun, for one…and the joy and limitlessness to dream about the what-ifs, is endless. The pretty lady in white always seemed stuck somehow. Unhappy. Even with all the wealth she was surrounded with. And I’d rather roll in the mud with some mates raising a ruckus any day, than attend Ascot…even if I DID get to wear that hat.

…And so this lesson formed my life. Obviously.

…And The Lady, though my first and best girl, became not my only model for measurement. Eventually I would find Bette Davis, who’s swilling booze and articulate bite of dialogue seemed more a natural to me. And Ava Gardner, who could do these magical things to men by just looking at them in a certain way. And Judy Garland who would be doped up ten ways to Sunday, slurring even, then open her mouth and sob out a song that would make you forget to breathe for a while, it wretched your guts so hard. There were countless others…but all of them who caught my eye seemed to be damaged or dark or simply more complicated than The Lady, who had started it all. I don’t believe it made me love her less, just realize my own place in the artistic arena.

Hardly anyone can be as genuinely a good and beautiful person (inside and out) as Audrey Hepburn. But I’ll be thankful for the rest of my forevers, that in the years when a human is forming their sense of self and ideas of the world in general, I had the fairest lady of them all as a role model and guide. It certainly isn’t her fault I ended up falling off the wagon by way of the Tallulah Bankhead variety. The point is: I can recognize the value, I understand the need, I see the importance of a positive influence.

…What Audrey taught me was to work hard, to live simple, to be kind, to help others, to be gracious. I may not live up to these idioms all the time, but they are there in my head…and when I fall short of them, like a good ol’ Catholic guilt complex, I can still hear her voice in the back of my head, urging me to be better. And maybe that “goodness” was too posh an outfit for me to wear. I know myself well enough to acknowledge that. But I suppose the point is: I am who I am today…whether you can see it or not…due in large part to one of the gentlest, classiest, fashion-iconic, charity-building, humans to walk the earth. She was (and will always be) a very special hero to me…

…And I guess what I’m saying is: “Here’s a toast to a Dearest Lady, very close to my heart…with endless thanks, on her 85th Birthday.”

Cheers, love.

~D

…And Then Tennessee Williams Ruined Me!

24 Nov

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For a west-coaster born-and-bred chick, I have a total and complete sick weak-in-the-knee obsession for the Southern Gothic. 

…There is something about the heat and hysteria and inborn-overtly-entitled meanness of a Tennessee Williams play that absolutely slays me.  And it always has.

I have a distinct recollection of the first viewing of “Streetcar” in fact, that left me sexually confused and breathless for about a week.  I was a pre-teen, at my Aunt’s house, supposedly “babysitting” at the time.  In reality: the kids were asleep, I had raided the pantry for the absolute last ounce of junk food, and was drooling over TCM (my biggest weakness of all time.)

…That is, until Brando showed up in his sweat-stained t-shirt, and his gross-mean-horrid ways.

Brando was too much man-meat to handle in one sitting, come to find out. And  even then, I knew there was something intrinsically “not right” about wanting to be Blanch DuBoise when I grew up.  But god help me, that bastard playwright confused my lust of art so much, that I’m still not entirely sure WHY.

…All I knew from THAT MOMENT of “…young man…young, young man…”, is: I wanted to have a “young man” at some point, and say those words…and be Vivian Leigh, and bed a dude like Brando, who was a giant machismo dick. (and probably had one.)

That is a lot for a twelve-year-old to take in.

It’s a lot for a 33 year-old.

…What I figured out (in retrospect) is that, despite my latent Cougar-like tendencies, (apparently), I ALSO wanted a man to be ” A MAN,” and above all: I wanted to be a great “Actor.”

…An “Actress” (in title) seemed trite somehow.  And fairy tale-ish.  Or “cute.”  It’s sexist, but true. Everyone always seemed to take men more seriously so  that was the night I decided not ONLY did I want to say great lines by great writers, but to be “sir’d” while I did it. And from that night to this: it has never changed.

Film had frequently changed my life up to that point, for various reasons.  It had already made me want to act. It had already made me mad for character work and accents and periods not of this time.  What THAT night did, was introduce sex on screen in a TOTALLY different way to me.  And also the seriousness of the content being performed. 

…Before “Streetcar,” my first love had been musicals…(where sex is wrapped up in kissing and plots were formulaic)…and my personal idol: Audrey Hepburn (where sex was classically chaste and plots mostly uncomplicated.) “Streetcar” rocked my world with the possibility of messy, horrid, violent, excruciating “other” options to that mix. That people underwent this in “life,” I totally got. That people were aloud to SHOW it in PERFORMANCE, I had (until then) absolutely no idea.

And because “sex” and “acting out” is such a big fucking deal to young people, “Streetcar” became a BIG FUCKING DEAL to ME. And so did it’s writer. And it has STAYED that way. And always will.

…Which makes evenings of indulgence (like tonight), courting several of his wonderfully flawed characters (worked-up-to-their-sexual-catastrophe-best), an even better treat.

Listen: I’m single. I’m playing a Beaver in a children’s show. I was thirsty. I drank.

…And GOD was it tasty.

“Night of the Iguana,” is no “Streetcar.” But when you wade through the character fleet of “women-of-a-certain-age” set dressing, and get past Richard Burton’s sweaty, overt scene-chewing…you get to witness several sweet-spot moments of William brilliance…which reminds me WHY I love his writing and character work so much. Which takes me back to a twelve-year-old, plastered to the TV like my very life depended on it…frequently forgetting to breathe.

…Deborah Kerr’s smallest of acting choices making ten-times the weight of power than all of Burton’s brayings (for instance), are a thing of subtle, steadied beauty. Ava Gardner’s total disaster area don’t-care-how-shitty-I-look drunken lushness, is excess-of-delight. That scene of painter-to-defrocked-pastor, on the relateability about the true definition of a sexual moment, is brain candy. The poem of an old man: is hope. The bitter-sweet ending: a nod to life’s imperfections.

…Other than perhaps Albee, I know of few modern playwrights who can plot the vilification, deconstruction, enlightenment, and saving-grace of a character to hold a candle to Tennessee Williams. Which doesn’t necessarily mean it ends well…in fact it frequently doesn’t. But to have the opportunity to play…(even once in a career)…someone as flawed and real and naked and ugly and open as he makes his characters to be, is such a terrifying and liberating thought. I can’t help but be jealous of the bastards who get to, while I sit here and wait…biding my time…from TWELVE YEARS OLD, to whenever “middle age” begins to register on my face…and let me finally, finally get the chance…the chance I have waited for, already, for the bulk of my lifetime…to get good and real and dirty, in something as awesomely complicated and disturbing, as the Major Leagues can possibly dish out.

…To play with some text from Tennessee someday?

Delicious thought.

…And totally, totally worth the wait…

~D

Cowboys Playing Superman At Ninety

27 May

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Three sessions of Pilates today. 

My abs feel like they’re on fire. 

My legs are jelly.

…I’m seriously contemplating a fourth.

Apparently I’m into sadism at the moment.

I made the mistake of sitting down to watch part of a movie at one point getting up again to go pee, and was seized with the most amazing case of 90-year-old-hobble you have ever seen.

…Something like the exaggerated bow of a cowboy’s lollup, as if the horse were stuck permanently between his legs, and the bent-over (almost in half) incapacity to stand up of my once polio-ridden grandmother…in her later years.

…Much swinging of the the arms helps.  Think of it like swimming through the air.

My every muscle seemed to have been seized and viciously contracted…like a full-body cramp.  So naturally, I figured the best way to loosen that up would be another session of torture.

…Which totally worked.

I can stand up now and everything.

…Course that was about five minutes ago, when I first sat down to write this.  It’s prob’ly all gone to hell again.

…I am beginning to see why fitness breeds fitness. 

It has nothing at all to do with adrenaline. 

That is shit. 

…It has everything to do with the ability to walk like a grown up human to the bathroom and go pee.

That is all.

I don’t even wanna know what my body is gonna feel like in the morning.

…Maybe I’ll do some yoga before bed, to stretch it all out so I’ll be able to actually recline in the lateral position and not have to sleep hugging onto my knees all night long.

Vicious cycle.

Fitness bastards.

…Meanwhile, I found this new pose on the internet that’s for like full body tension and balance.  It’s kind of awesome.  (Not at all.) I call it my “Superman” pose.  It goes like this:

Prostrate on the yoga ball at your middle.  And slowly, and carefully, attempt to raise all limbs like you did as a kid on the feet of your mom/dad/uncle/older cousin, and “fly”…trying your best not to face plant into the hard wood floor.

I’m close to success.

…By “close” I mean “not at all.”

When I actually get the guts to let go of the ground, I teeter for about half a second before everything morphs into slow motion as I either list to the side, colliding with the couch, or shoot my hands out last second to save my forehead from cracking open on the floor.

…Meanwhile, mid-pose (for that whole half a second) my insides quake and contract at rapid speed…much like a spectacular bout of puking-prep just before one hurls. 

It’s honestly a lot less fun than I remember playing “Superman,” being

…Just as like an FYI to cross off the list of things you may have somewhere, that you regret no longer being able to do, as a grown up.

You’re welcome.

~D

I Want To Eat You

28 Oct

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It’s something I say to a book, sometimes…so get your mind out of the gutter there, friend.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t consume a book fast enough to please me.  I’d spend ten hours straight, totally uninterrupted on a Summer’s day, and rip through “Gone with the Wind,” or “War & Peace.”  I’d plow through Bronte and Austen and Dickens every Holiday Season. I’d devour L.M. Montgomery and Twain in special closeted room seclusion.  On every car ride, on every vacation and trip…even at the breakfast table over Cheerios: there would be a book.

…For me, it wasn’t only the stories, it was the language that fascinated me. I would eventually begin introducing their speaking patterns and word choices into my own lexicon…which is weird to hear comin’ out of a little eight-year-old Latina kid.  I’d speak in accents for whole days…just because I could, and it seemed totally natural to me.  And these worlds and words became obsessions…I would always hunger for more, the more I read…wanted to consume them…to read them out loud and chew them. 

…To actually eat the words, and have them somehow make me a better, more clever, talented, funny, bold, and dramatic. To MAKE me into those specific characters…even if only for a little while.

…Which is a large contributing reason of why I love theatre.

It is your opportunity to consume and digest words on a page, and use the power that they give you via their interpretations, meanings and thoughts, to bring this character to life from a book’s pages, a script…with more choices involved being as you are now responsible for even their walk, stance, physical interactions, plot projections, and vocal choices.

Sometimes, just like when reading aloud from a Novel, these things come easily to you, free of thought really…the character seems to just “be” this way, in it’s most basic form, and you build from there. Sometimes you have to dig and dig to get the information needed at every stage of the character’s building…like an Archaeologist slowly resurfacing information, one tiny sweep of sand at a time, on who this person was, buried in this paper tomb and waiting to be reintroduced to the world again. Sometimes it volunteers you information, from places you are totally unaware of, and can’t quite explain…yet because of it’s insistence of “being” there, I always work doubly hard to justify the “choice” made in that moment. Because it was (for whatever reason) a gut instinct that just happened. And gut instincts are usually the correct line to follow, simply because it was a natural inclination. Not forced.

…Because of this long-time fascination with language and words, it happens most often that the “gut instinct” choices will first form with the words. If I read a script out loud (the only way they are meant to be), in time a natural voice for the character will emerge. And because I’ve done character acting for so many years, it tends to be often of some accented requirement. So this, then, becomes their voice…with changes here and there in pitch or cadence to fit them closer. What is really difficult for me, is when the voice is asked to change, halfway through the process.

…By now, it is so much a part of the character, that the lines just naturally cling to it…as much as the posture on stage, naturally falls into place. I am passed now, the point of thinking about those things…they were built and settled several weeks ago, and my head is now onto other specifics. It is a note, however, of wanted change, so I am now trying to retrace my step back to the root to retrain my brain, who is stubbornly wanting to be focused on other things. It shouldn’t be a difficult alteration…it isn’t a true accented issue (which was confusing me, until a specific clarification was made)…it’s a softening of the “r’s” mostly…sometime a softer “t” here a there…a more cultured and genteel sound, for the fact she is more educated, a Lady in Waiting, a certain status, not just a kitchen serving wench. And it also is placed to put more likeness to the stiffness of Malvolio’s regime over the house and his specific speaking style, to help bridge the gap between the two worlds of servant and master, that she pops in and out of…and what happens as she allows that mask to slip when in the company of Sir Toby. It is part of showing her struggle between doing the thing that is right and proper, and the moments when we see the total unabashed relief and joy, in saying, “Fuck it! I’m just gonna have a good time!”

…But if I am not explaining that enough with the action of it, or if it is getting in the way of the bigger picture, it has to change.

…Now, you can certainly pick and choose your battles with notes given, and though it is a major character choice for a reason to me, I also understand that it is hitting the Director’s ear and saying, “No.” So “no” is the answer. And my job: a new alteration, and justification. It’s what notes are for: to bring each character into the pack, as a whole, and to make one joint vision of this thing. When your instinct to fight a note pops up (and I’m stubborn, so I have to work extra hard on this point), you need to step back and trust that this thing is for a greater good aspect. At this point, we are all so tunnel visioned with our own work and characters, it is impossible to see outside of that.

It’s our job to focus, so we do…it’s our job to define and interpret…so we do. It’s our job to make specific choices, and put them out there on that stage. And it’s the job of the Director to keep all the plates spinning, the show as a whole, with all these individuals attacking words in print and flinging them about the stage with a thousand intents and purposes.

Now that certain concessions have been made on the Monologue From Hell, this is my new task to tackle. To change her language…how she eats her words, difficult because it was there in her first beginning of learning to walk and talk…like a child, learning that “this” word sounds “this” way, so “this” is how I will always say it…contributed hugely by the influences of those about them.

…Which is how, in even a non-accented situation, you get choices that delineate and are specific. The difference between “Ont” and “Aunt.” “To-ma-to” and “tomato.” “War-shing” and “washing.” “Caribbean” and “Car-i-bbea-n.” Vocal choices…we make them all day long in every conversation we have, not even knowing it, because it is so much a part of who we are at this point.

…Guys, acting ain’t for sissies. When you break things down to these kind of elements, and need to re-educate yourself, its almost like learning another language, on the fly, and justifying it, letting it alter the heart of your character as little as possible at a stage where we are soon launching into tech.

Homework is good…it makes you push to an end, to have a specific focus. Where this note is specifically difficult, is that it is sourced from literally my childhood. The way a person sounds, is just how they sound…and always have, to my ear. Like a musician ear caters to specific notes in succession, making music. I only really realized WHY she talked the way she did, when I had to study it in order to find the code to break it. Then once understanding why the natural choice was made, and realizing what that brings to the table, I learned so much from that discovery, that I want to keep it alive in some way, because it’s pretty straight-up legit.

…So between now and today’s run through at 3:30, my homework is to give Maria a new voice, with the old reasons still intact.

…This is just a long way to say: “I have a lot of work ahead. And what we do on a stage isn’t easy. Just so we’re clear on that.”

~D

Art And Its Wonders

1 Sep

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* A highly informal essay. Just because.

Gram was an art teacher for over twenty five years, and because of this had an entire art room set up in the house that was the wonder of our childhoods. 

…Eventually there would be thirteen grandkids who would pass in and out of it’s doors, gobsmacked with the infinity of possibilities it held.  Every pen, pencil, crayon, marker and craft item in existence, was housed within it’s closets, cabinets and shelves. The gigantic table could sit three butts deep on one side, easily…as we would all lean over our work with tongues poking out the side of our mouths in deep concentration, comparing creations.

It was a breaker of rules, that room.  Just passing it’s threshold, entered you into special “time laws,” that could suck away six or eight hours within the blink of an eye…so consuming and enticing it’s possibilities.  It should be no surprise then, that I would naturally want my own version at home, and after a couple of trial and errors, managed to finally create a serviceable mock-up.

Gutting my tiny bedroom closet…leaving only the naked light bulb on a string, and all my clothes crammed in the far corner…I inserted a mini fold-out table, squished in a kid-sized folding chair, and VOILA! My very own art studio, just like Gram’s.

…Only mine came without windows.

…Sure, I had to crawl in under the table and do a chin-up off the lip at a specific incline, just to ease myself up into the chair. But it had plenty of space for all my art-making stuff…arranged according to size, shape and color. And it had it’s own door that I could hang a sign on, indicating it was a real studio and whom it belonged to.

I spent hours and hours in that “room”…sweating my ass off and nearly passing out from lack of oxygen. Jackson Pollock might have had more manic creation fever than me at that time, but that’s about the only person I can think of. I was totally fanatic about it…even keeping to specific “studio times” where I would lock myself in, staring into the abyss, just waiting for the muse to reach out to me. (This was sometime circa age eight through ten, btw…just in case you were wondering how far back my little anal-retentions actually reach.)

…Every once in a while, Ma would come knock on the door and peek in, just to check on me. The door itself, I kept insisting, had to be kept closed for privacy…”so I could think and things.” Even though I was an only child, with an entire bedroom just on the other side of it, that stood completely empty. Had Ma not done these occasional check-ins (annoyingly always leaving the door cracked open when she left), I prob’ly would have died from asphyxiation.

…Which is prob’ly the only time in all of History that a coroner’s report would have come back, “death by complication of intense coloring.” I could totally have been famous and things. But then, I hear posthumous fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be. I mean, lookit Van Gough, for instance.

Anyway…the point of this story was to ad more evidence to the fact that I am a highly disciplined person. Even when it comes to my creative work. But minus anything having to do with consuming food. I like it: taking stock of my creative self, holding me responsible to perform up to a certain standard, even if it isn’t really convenient, and I am the only person who ever knows about it or sees the results.

And even if that means literally shutting myself up in a closet in order to accomplish it.

It’s because of these kind of things that I think people often confuse “Artists” as freaks, hermits, irresponsible lushes, moody assholes, or just flighty scribes of bitchy wit. Possibly also, because we often “act” like it. But by and large, we are actually quite manic furies of creative energy, that occasionally just need to blow off steam after a long day of focus, concentration, and dedication. And, I think we’ve earned it. Look at the things we create and set free into the world:

Music is the only language without any barrier of class, race, age, political, religious or educational barriers, that has ever been invented…reaching literally every civilization the world has ever known.

Photography can speak in more silent words that haven’t even been invented yet, per square inch, than the whole of the Oxford Dictionary.

The written word has more power to change relationships, beliefs, theories, insights, affections, enticements…fuel anger, honor, regrets…infuse power, introduce change, and keep safe our History than any other artifact that a time capsule can possibly hold.

Performing Arts, are the lessons of our past, the hopes of our futures, the well-earned mini vacation after a long day. They are the window into our own personal souls, and the opportunity to share our cultures and experiences with one another. With heightened emotions, and physical intent, it empathises with our pains and pleasures. With immediacy and technique, it instantly shows all the limitless kinds of life journeys that exist around us and through all of time.

Culinary Arts, are built to experience every human sensory perception we own and explode them with the infinite possibilities of paired perfumes, textures, tastes, crunches, slurps, visual presentations, and new invented delights.

Architecture represents it’s people and time, with date stamps meant to last for the remainder of our existence…and whatever comes after. “We were here!” It will say in stone for thousands of years after we are all gone.

…And the collective of formal Fine Arts, bring us the ability to actually visualize our past, experience collective movements throughout history from the time they were recorded, see the dimple in stone, the stroke marks on canvas from another era made of berry pigment and indigo…burnt wood charcoal scratched on pulp from ancient trees, forming the yellowed paper where Michelangelo’s sketches cavort in various states of dress, work, love and play. And they give us the opportunity to record the “now,” for future generations to refer to.

…So sure, Artists are kinda “different” from the average guy.

We aren’t wired to accept the normal processes and aspirations of society as a main. We keep odd hours, dress different, think different, focus for far too long on minute details while totally ignoring the obvious. And, we can get depressed because, for whatever reason, we can’t re-create what’s in our head.

…Where a “good day” for a millionaire is making two more millions. A good day for an Artist is making a single perfected sentence that rings just right when spoken aloud. Even if it took twelve hours to accomplish it.

…A “normal person,” understands the concepts of corporate ladder climbing and building a decent 401(k). An Artist is an Artist until death…it isn’t a job description we can ever walk out on. It isn’t something you can “graduate” or “retire” from, just stopping one day and moving on with the rest of your life. When we try, it actually tortures us. When we “can’t,” we get drunk, fall into epic depressions, invent quests, become hermits, battle insanity, and in some extremes even kill ourselves.

Because, it is the only life we know.

…It is the greater part of who we are, the people we surround ourselves with, the things we believe in, and the sacrifices we have made for a life that could depress anyone who wasn’t in Holy Orders. It’s the whole reason that things like money and power and (sometimes self-respect) never seem to matter a damn to us.

Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying we are all on the same level, together. There are the wealthy of Hollywood, and Award-winners…there are the Intellectuals, and Politicians among our numbers as well. What I’m saying is: an Artist would do it even without the money, power and fame. Most of ’em do.

Here is what I think: An Artist is an idea in human form, birthed for the sheer purpose of inventing relatability, beauty, honesty, horror, hope and communion with one another, as a species. And it all starts with the passion of whatever the hell it is that you know you were put here on this earth to do. Because guess what? Art is everywhere. It’s in a prime number, a theorem, scientific invention, the planting of a garden…the technique of driving a race car, the swing of a golf club…the mixing of a really good Martini.

YOU are an Artist. Even if you don’t know it yet.

…Maybe not in the “conventional” way, (you rebel!) Maybe not with a box of Crayolas or a block of marble…but of something. I promise you. Whatever that “thing” is that makes life’s color seem a bit brighter to you…that is your Art. And you should make time in your life to dedicate to it.

If I learned only one thing so far, it’s this:

Art isn’t an “extravagance” in life. It is a necessity. And it has no “wrong answer,” because it’s expression is a representation from whatever time and circumstance in which it was created.

…From the first cave carvings, to your favorite movie…from architecture in Rome to an Olympian’s performance. From Betsy Ross to whoever sewed the flag that is flying right now on the face of the moon — Art is the only thing that links every human being to every other one…in some way, shape or form.

However you practice it, whatever strange disciplines it requires of you, however “inconvenient” it might sometimes be…make time for it.

Practice your Art.

Hell, practice all fifty of them!

Be brave and explore things.

It is the whole reason we’re even here.

~D

Didja Know?

21 Aug

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Here’s a game, like when we were kids: I tell you ten things you don’t know about me, and you tell me ten things I don’t know about you.  Explanations are optional.

Ready?

Go!

1) I went like fifteen years without eating a PB&J. 
(It’s because I ate them every day for five solid years, cuz it was a thing I decided would be a good idea.  And then it wasn’t anymore.)

2) The longest relationship I ever had with the opposite sex was in middle-school.
(It was over the course of a year.  We broke up and got back together, once.  Then I dated someone else in seventh grade.  When that ended, it took me eighteen years before I got around to dating again.  For “real.” I’m not very good at it.  Obviously.)

3) One of my all-time heart’s-desires is to be able to burp on command.
(I have this friend who can belch the whole alphabet in one long, loud roar.  He tries to teach me how to do it, but I’m just lousy with burp-action.  I refuse to accept this, however, and continue to work at it.)

4) I feel bad about my feet.
(Feet are just generally not the greatest looking.  I mean, they serve a major function, so I guess they shouldn’t have to be all beautiful and things.  But mine are one of the funkier looking ones.  I have this little “hitch” thing in the big toe? And they’re really wide. Also, the middle toe is longer than all the rest. It’s just wrong. And I wish it wasn’t.)

5) I can’t take naps. 
(It just doesn’t happen.  Unless I’m totally and completely exhausted.  But then I’ll wake up in the worst mood of all time.  Everything will make me angry and irritated without any provocation whatsoever. “You want the blue one?! I want the blue one!” “I hate commercials! Change it back! I was watching that!”  “Star Trek is stupid! So lets fight about it!”)

6) I can’t pronounce the words “wolf,” “ostensibly” or “Wednesday” correctly.
(Wolf = woof…like a dog.  Deal with it. I had to.  OBstensibly gets an added “b”  – I don’t know why – but it just does. Every time.  And I am convinced that Emma Thompson is the only person in the world who can fit the “d” into Wednesday and make it all sound like it’s supposed to. Watch “Stranger than Fiction.”  She does it like eleven times in a row.  It’s mind-blowing.)

7) I hate sneezing.
(There are few things I actually hate more.  Cancer is one of them.  And germs in general.  But sneezing actually pisses me off irrationally.  To the courtesy “Bless you,” I nine times out of ten will reply with a resounding “Fuck!”  This is not meant to counteract the blessing by any means. I will take any that I can get.  I just hate the act of sneezing is all.  So there’s that.)

8) My job at the Brothel is not nearly as amusing as it’s made out to be.
(If you are confused by this, it is my fault.  And I’m sorry.  When actually in the moments of pure and utter mind-numbing frustration and rage that I am often forced into, the last thing I wanna do is make light of the matter and laugh at it.  Which is why I  have to figure out a way to make light of the matter and laugh at it.  If I didn’t?  I’d prob’ly be in jail on charges of manslaughter by now.)

9) I am afraid of sunflowers.
(Actually “afraid,” of them. Yes.  They are this wrong kind of Jurassic monster flower that looks down on you like a tree.  I don’t like it.  It makes me feel the world proportional gauge thing is all outta wack. I mean, what next? Teradactyl sized horseflies and dog-hamsters?!)

10) I have to make my bed every morning.
(Even if I’m running super late.  Even if I’m puking-sick.  Even if I’ve been up for 53 hours straight.  Or the building was on fire.  If I don’t make my bed, I wouldn’t feel right for the rest of the whole day. And then when I went to bed  that night, it’d be all mayhem blanket clumping and sheets all over the place.  Not acceptable, you guys.)

…Now its your turn.

~D

Ah, Wilderness!

20 Aug

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I grew up around a lot of nature.  And not a whole hell of a lot “else.”

When people ask me about where I came from, I reference them to Yosemite.  Its a National park, people have actually heard of it, and know it resides in California…”somewhere in the middle.”

…I grew up in an armpit town, slightly west of there. 

The county itself looks pretty much the same in topography, and is chiefly populated by Miners, Mill Workers and Armed Guards.  It is “Goldrush territory,” and they’re still extricating the stuff like a shiny food crop, have an exorbitant amount of excess in trees (apparently), and is conveniently in the middle of bum-fuck-Egypt…so they decided that planting a third-security prison there, would be a good idea.

…I used to think it was the most unbearably boring town in all of God’s creation. And it might still be. I dunno.  I try my best to go back there as little as humanly possible, so haven’t much to go off of on that point. But in hindsight, I have to toss it up a few marks of “chutzpah.” This is due solely to the laundry list of semi terrifying circumstances surrounding it, that I always just thought of as totally normal…until talking to other people about their childhoods.

Constant mining detonation-cued earthquakes, would erupt at all hours in all seasons…without even a second thought that the San Andreas fault line was under our fucking feet.  Sticky-tack was totally the way to go when displaying any breakables…duck and cover drills were announced over PA systems at schools and work, and everyone was taught how to switch out a blown fuse and light an oil lamp from birth. It wasn’t until I moved to Washington State and lived through a “barely tremble” (which even DJs on the radios were getting into apoplexies about), that I realized the gross amounts of inherent military-like conditioning I’d undergone in childhood…calmly walking to a doorway mid-house tremble, while continuing to count to 100. Because I was “it,” and everyone else was hiding, (prob’ly under tables and behind couches, come to think of it…)

Also, the hot, rotting, urine-like smell of the Millworks, never seemed to quite keep up with the rampant forest fires in general tree devastation, there.  This would bring on the volunteer firefighting squads mostly populated by local prisoners, who were actually being TRAINED in it as a “skilled profession,” with the help of our Parent’s tax dollars.  Intermingled with the civilian population at large with only a uniform to tell them apart, I dunno if the powers that be took into consideration that within an hour under these conditions, everything and everyone is covered in head-to-tow black soot; Including the jumpers with “Prisoner” stenciled on them.

…You would hope, the people in charge would have at least weeded out the pyromaniacs among this crowd…but this would be asking a lot…given that these were the same authorities who thought it a great idea to ship out jam-packed marked minivans (driven by armed guards)  to our local Grammar School, as part of the cheap labor initiative used in building our new quad.

The fact that at any moment, the enticement may be too much to bear, and at least one of said prisoners would take it on the lamb, was almost a given.  And they did from time to time.  And there would be lock-downs.  And people would go looking for them.  But luckily for us, we must have been mailed out the stupider kind.  Because instead murdering people, molesting children, or hitting up a convenience store, taking a hostage, and beating it out of town…they’d always take the road least expected. 

…Like the guy who stole the prison van, and left it parked outside his grandmother’s house…found, hours later, sitting at the table eating milk and cookies.

…Or the one who walked off, mid-a fire, escaping out into the wilderness, turning himself in two days later — a hobbled, broken, bleeding, hysterical mess — on account he was apparently from a city, and had never been in “nature” before.  (It was also rumored he’d been sodomized by a wild animal at some point. I dunno if that part was true or not, but he certainly looked like it.)

I happen to know these stories, (btw) because my Mother worked at said prison at the time, and would bring them home, as reported and laughed over while eating their lunches, served them from hair-netted convicts who liked to point out that the macaroni salad was especially good today cuz they’d used a “special ingredient,” but wouldn’t tell anyone what it was.

…This all adds up to some seriously questionable circumstances when you think about it…but because it was my kiddome (and it was all I knew)…it never really occurred to me at the time.

At the TIME, the most sick and twisted part of my existence, was the fact that despite my pleadings, and melodramatic claims of child abuse…I was constantly being forced against my will into the great outdoors. Because my mother was a camping sadist from hell, who’d inherited the gene directly from her father.

Nature.

Fuck.

…With all that dirt, and weeds and grass.  With all that sky and sun…and so much air you could practically drown in it.  The bugs lived out there! And like little Kamikaze assholes, always dive-bombed their way into your cup of juice and bit you in places you could never reach to scratch.

As if day trips weren’t bad enough…Mom’s favorite summer past-time torture, was to drive out into the wilderness every fucking weekend, point at the rock and pine-needle strewn land, and claim “this spot” as our new horn of plenty. She’d spike a pole in the ground, throw a blanket over it and begin walking around in big strides, getting drunk on air, and proselytizing about how, “This was the life,” and “people in cities just don’t know the real deal” and “aren’t we lucky to live here?”

…My answer to this was always the same.  I’d take up my 1500 page tomb of Russian Literature, or History on the Holocaust,  and retreat into the back-most section of the tent in abject silence.  I found out early that pleading the fifth was smartest in these circumstances, because if I complained about it even a little bit, she’d force me on a trail hike or some alternate form of holy terror.

After an agonizing sequence of checking and double checking the contents of my sleeping bag, (assuring it was free of snakes, bugs and vermin), I would properly preserve myself with an invisible shield of bug spray covering every square inch of my body (even eyelids), and commence with my reading. And I would not stop again or move from my position, except in cases of eating and peeing, until it was time to go home.

Dear Lord, how I hated those weekends.  More than seafood.  More than peas.  More than homework, even! But because I wasn’t 18 yet, I hadn’t “the vote.”  With no legal protections whatsoever, I was forced into it .  So I went.  And I read.  And tried my best to ignore it.

***Flash forward***

I now live in the Pacific Northwest.

…Of my own free will.

It is occupied mostly by software brainiacs, coffee drinkers, State workers and nature-freaks. 

Most of our land is made up of State parks, wetlands, swamps, rain forests and trails linking them via network spider-webbings and landmarks.  The population is so obsessed with partaking of its infinite varieties, that they will kit themselves out in an REI wet-dream of fleece jackets, cargo shorts, socks pulled up to their kneecaps and rock-climbing sandals…to go hiking through it, in the middle of pissing-down rain, grinning like idiots…under the mass delusion that they are “having a good time.” 

It’s become such a part of the culture here, that no one even thinks twice about it.

…And maybe, because I’ve lived here for twelve years now…maybe because I’m susceptible to any and all random and strange diseases and epidemics that happen to pass by…(like that one involving spider bites, or rashes, or every cold that makes its way through the masses.) Maybe that is why I find myself suddenly (over the long and painful evolution crossing the past twenty years), not “minding” the out-of-door experience as much as I once did. 

I’m not completely cured of it, mind you…just less “allergic.” 

Truth be told: we’ve got some cool stuff here.  It’s green, most if it. And kinda smells good. As long as a bar of soap and hot water face me at the end of the trail…I really kinda like it even.

…But don’t tell Ma that. 

…Even one whiff, and she’ll kidnap me with the Subaru, drive out to some god-forsaken mountain top, and force me to go all “Lewis and Clark” on that shit.

My childhood was scaring enough, thanks.

~D

This One Time?

17 Aug

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When I was a kid I had this friend? Every time she talked? Even in a declarative sentence? She sounded like she was always asking a question?

…It was a really unique quirk that I didn’t fully grasp at the time? I mean, I knew there was something strange about her vocal pattern? Only I didn’t know what the hell a vocal pattern was? So couldn’t directly put my finger on it?

All I knew was: I always felt that she was really really interested in anything and everything I ever said? It was like my personal opinion on any subject was just the gold standard of fact? But then sometimes? It got a little confusing too? On account of she never seemed to be quite solid on what her own preferences and ideas were?

…For example?

(While building a Kool-Aid stand.)

Me: “This’ll be great! We’ll be gillionairs prob’ly, by tomorrow! How much should we charge per-the-glass?”

She: “Maybe we could charge fifty cents? Or maybe not? Maybe three for a dollar?”

Me: “Like an ‘on sale’ kinda deal?”

She: “Yeah? Or maybe different sizes?”

Me: “Wait, different sizes for a dollar or different sizes on sale?”

She: “Yeah? Or maybe, like, a special? For repeat customers? Or lemonade too so we have two kinds of flavors?”

Me: “Well, which one of those-all do you wanna do?”

She: “I dunno? Cuz sometimes one sounds good? And then the other? But then some people don’t like lemons that much? So maybe we should just stick to Kool-Aid? But then we can do the different sizes still? Or maybe not?”

Me: “So…which one do you vote for, then?”

She: “…And then the cups too? They cost money? So maybe we should put that in the price with it all? I dunno? That’s what I think?”

…It could sometimes be confusing?

She wasn’t, in the end, a “long-term” buddy? In fact I only remember her really from that one summer? But she did make a lasting impression on me, with a kind of constant invitation to offer my opinion freely? About everything? Whether it had anything to do with me or not? And sometimes? I catch myself falling into this same trap? The kind where I think I hear a person asking my opinion? In this open-ended kind of way? Only turns out, they’re not? It has nothing to do with me? And I am just being a gigantic self-opinionated asshole by insinuating that it does? And my only defense really is that…

…This one time?

…I knew a girl once, who always sounded really interested in what I thought about things? Her voice always went up in the end like a question? Even when she was making a declarative sentence? And I think I caught a strange disease from her? Called self-inserted-opinion-justification-in-order-to-clarify-where-you-don’t-even-fucking-belong-itus? I actually know a lot of people who have it?

…That girl? She must have really got around and stuff?

I mean, obviously?

…Cuz you knew her too, right…?

~D

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