Friday, November 27, 2009

Though I am not naturally honest, I am so sometimes by chance. — The Winter's Tale, Act IV, sc. iii

That doesn’t seem to be the case with certain Headline Hogging Hos of late. Andy Warhol’s “15 minutes of fame” quote is, sadly, coming all too true. It’s why people subject themselves to all kinds of abuse and humiliation on tons of reality shows, I guess.

We’ve had Falcon Heene, the Balloon Boy, who was victimized by his own parents in their quest for time in the spotlight; the governor of South Carolina disappearing to go “Hiking”—apparently all over his Argentinean mistress. There was Jennifer Wilbanks, the Runaway Bride, and Jayson Blair, the plagiarizing New York Times writer. Then we come to James Frey—perhaps with the biggest cahones of all—he lied to OPRAH!

And now it’s the couple who crashed the White House State Dinner—posing for photos with Rahm Emmanuel and Veep Joe Biden. All while being filmed for the latest “Real Housewives of….” franchise!

Why? What do people hope to gain by this? And how have we warped them via our “Cult of Personality” approach to life. Each year we have more and more people getting wealthy and famous just for being “famous.” Speidy, I’m looking at you….

We seem to be sinking further and further into the depths. Of what I’m not so sure. I know, you’re thinking “E you get up onstage in front of a couple hundred people—isn’t that looking for fame?” I don’t think so… The longer I do this, the more it becomes about the process, not the applause. All I really want to do is take someone out of their everyday life for a couple of hours. Preferably make them laugh, but also make them think. That’s what fulfills me.

Maybe I’m deluding myself, but that’s for another day….

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A kind Of excellent dumb discourse. -The Tempest. Act iii. Sc. 3.

It’s Thanksgiving….. And we’re supposed to say what we’re thankful for….

I guess I want to say thanks for all of the events in my life that have given me funny stories to tell: [How about this= I’ll tell you the events, you tell me which stories you want to hear.]

My mother letting my then 13 year old brother stay home from school because he said he’d had a heart attack. “ I gotta give it to him on originality.”

Passing by a community theatre in Ireland and seeing they were doing a production of “Oklahoma.” I sang the score with an Irish brogue for the rest of the day.

My teenage son implying I was the family maid when I dropped him off at a party in my beat up car.

The hall where I was supposed to have my wedding reception burning down 5 days before the wedding. [Yeah, I actually got a funny story out of that.]

My grandson calling it the “stupid market” when he was 3.

The Pakistani guy who was selling velvet paintings outside the Pompidou Center –and who tried to pick me up.

My son hiding a very healthy marijuana plant in his closet. [Of course, I never told him about the one his father and I had in our first apartment.]

My mother-in-law wondering, regarding the Jewish portion of our niece’s wedding, if the men will have to wear “those little manures” on their heads.

My exterminator coming to see me in a play—in full clown costume!

Scoring my son’s friend on the total B.S. story he’d told his mother over the phone as to why he wasn’t home from school yet.

There are many more, but these came to mind the quickest. Yep—it’s been an interesting ride so far. What are your stories?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Love sought is good, but given unsought, is better.

That’s true—it always feels so good to unconditionally share love or goodwill with someone when they least expect it. Be the one who gives a friend a hug or a pick-me-up when they need it. It’s what all the holiday Lifetime specials are about….. [Oh—and even the Peanuts cartoons too] As much as those shows irk me, giving does leave me feeling all warm and fuzzy.

Not always so with unsought information…..

You know—when people “overshare” things with you. And you want to invoke the “TMI” clause instantly to put an end to the images forming in your head. Seriously, I could have gone through life quite happily without knowing a lot of stuff people have casually included in conversation.

Then there are the things you need to tell others, but find it very difficult to do…..

Like, you know, um, the [sex] talk. I tended to wait until my kids asked me a question, then I would ask what they thought it was/meant. [Very helpful in gauging how much or how little information to impart.] Fortunately, the kids felt comfortable asking me pretty much anything. Their Dad was hurt they weren’t consulting him—until he found out what they were asking! “Oh…well….okay then… uh, you can handle it then.”

Sometimes it was uncomfortable to answer and sometimes it was hard to keep a straight face. But I always had the conversations—anything was better, I felt, than how I found out about the “birds and bees.”

I was about 9 years old and my brothers and I were home alone on a Friday night—our parents used to have a date night on Fridays. Well, Older Brother [OB], then almost 12, says that he and 8 year old Younger Brother [YB] were going to have a boxing match and I was going to be the ref. Fine by me—as long as they weren’t hitting me I was down with it. He said they were going to go put on their swim trunks and robes so they’d look like real boxers. Okay, whatever. Again, as long as they weren’t torturing me, I was happy.

So, about 20 minutes go by and they come downstairs in their bathrobes. I go through the whole “In this corner, weighing in at…” routine and ding our doorbell for them to take off their robes and come out fighting.

Well, they took off their robes—and they were both naked. I screamed and covered up my 9 year old eyes. YB immediately puts his robe back on, but OB sits down nude and starts telling me the facts of life. I didn’t believe him—it all just sounded too weird.
Many years later, I got even less help from our health class in high school—as taught by a nun: “If god is so willing, a man and a woman will conceive a child.” Thanks Sister that helps a lot. [No wonder so many girls got pregnant] My mother finally cleared it all up for me …

and, of course, I have eagerly pursued a higher education ever since.

Friday, November 20, 2009

O God! that one might read the book of fate.

Not so sure I’d want to know what was going to happen to me or those I care about. I would drive them all crazy warning them about potential dangers and the like. I’m sure THAT would endear me to all concerned. [can you say “Debbie Downer?” (waa-waa) ]

If I had known 20 years ago about even half of the things that have happened in my life, I’d probably still be cowering under the covers. Up until 30, it wasn’t too bad. No wait, I take that back. Basically all of my adulthood has been challenging [yeah—that’s a nice way of putting it. Way to go E.] Wonder if I can turn in my adult card now? I’m kinda over it all, ya know……
I would like to be able to go back and redo a few things in my life; any sane person would. And not just stuff like crazy 80s hairdos. [Believe it or not, I still see the occasional mullet. Why people, why?]

I would want to do over some of my parenting choices. My daughter and son have become wonderfully funny and bright adults, but I think that may have been in spite of their father and me. I was way too young when I became a mom and I didn’t have a clue as to what I was doing, so it would be nice to go back and try to get it right this time.

I definitely don’t want to know when I’m going to die—just too freaky. I think it would totally screw with your head to know that. However, according to a quiz on Facebook, I’m dying in a car accident in 2 years. [Couldn’t have been something more glamorous?!]
But then again, another quiz says I would be able to survive for 4 months in the Maine wilderness so what the hell does Facebook know.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

The course of true love never did run smooth.

Okay, so I’m directing this play called ALMOST, MAINE. It’s a quirky comedy about couples—and coupling. Now I have been directing for 20 years and it occurred to me today that I have only directed a couple of love scenes.

It’s a very odd situation for all concerned. “Hi, nice to meet you, let’s make out.” AWWKWARD!

You try to be sensitive to people’s boundaries and ease into it as rehearsals progress, but still…. It has to be handled delicately. I’ve tried to do the first couple of rehearsals of these scenes with only the people involved there so they can get comfortable. Of course, there’s lots of nervous laughter—and lines forgotten after the kissing ends. Then you have the mechanics of making it look natural but stage-worthy. Sight-lines can be a bitch for these things.

And worrying about whose nose goes where and having no space between the actors—but not looking “porny”—takes all of the romance out of it. Trust me. Back when I was young and hot, I got a lot of these parts. My husband took it in stride, god bless him. There was only one time it freaked him out a bit. It was a scene about a young couple heavily making out at a restaurant table as the waiter gives this page long monologue, with lines like “Well you two definitely don’t need the oysters.” The topper was that we'd come out of this long clinch like we'd just pecked across the table--and ask for the check. Got big laughs every night. I had warned hubby what to expect, but it was too much for him in person.

When I did The Owl & The Pussycat several years back, there was a scene where Felix, the male lead, was nibbling on Doris’ [me] neck as he tried to convince himself it was her mind he was attracted to. He was supposed to get a couple of nibbles on each side and then the lights would go out. Well during tech week—which is right before you open and you’re practically living at the theatre—the guy running the light board fell asleep…. I finally had to break character and call out to him—my co-star was way too “in the moment.”

Nowadays, I get “matronly” roles. Why don’t playwrights write love scenes for people over the age of 50—do they think we don’t know how anymore?

Friday, November 13, 2009

There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.

Yeah—the whole “mind over matter” thing: Friday the 13th is only unlucky if you buy into the superstition. Well, apparently a lot of folks buy into it—including me. Hell, there’s a whole franchise of movies based on this phenomenon. [they made 12 of those things!? Sheesh]

I seriously had to force myself to leave my apartment today… [the craptacular weather didn’t help matters]. But, as I slogged along to work, I started wondering where this whole thing started [once a dramaturg, always a dramaturg]. I found some really cool stuff:

One theory suggests 12 is the most complete number. It occurs in common cultural references - 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the Zodiac, the 12 labors of Hercules, the 12 tribes of Israel, 12 gods of Olympus and the 12 apostles of Jesus Christ. Therefore, 13 is considered irregular, and thus unlucky. [Odd factoid: in the 13th century, the Knights Templar were arrested by King Philip in France on Friday the 13th.]

Another belief comes from Norse mythology, in which Frigga, the goddess of love, was banished to a mountaintop and labeled a witch. Every Friday, Frigga would call 11 other witches to the top of the mountain to plot evils for those below. The 12 witches would gather with a 13th guest—the devil. Similarly, in Roman times, witches are said to have gathered in groups of 12, with the 13th member being the devil.

Another part of Norse mythology states 12 gods were gathered at dinner in heaven—Valhalla—when an uninvited 13th guest, the god of darkness, shot Balder, the god of joy and gladness. When Balder died, the world went dark, and from that moment 13 was considered ominous. Likewise, in Christian scripture, there were 13 diners at the Last Supper, following which Jesus was killed. Many myths claim when 13 people dine together, ill fate awaits one of the diners.

Okay, interesting….. But do terrible events really occur on this day? I don’t know, you tell me: There have been numerous natural disasters and tragic events on past Friday the 13ths, including the unexpected major snow storm in Buffalo in 2006, the Andes flight disaster of 1972, Hurricane Charley in 2004 and a large-scale ship disappearance in 1773. The arrest of Al Capone occurred on Friday the 13th, as did the death of Tupac Shakur. Apollo 13 took off at exactly 1:13 p.m. (1313 military time) on 4/11/70 (digits that add up to 13, naturally). Friday the 13th has also been associated with stock market crashes and an increase in car accidents [approximately 60 percent every Friday the 13th].

Some very intelligent and savvy people believed in—or at least gave homage to—this superstition. Henry Ford would never do business on Friday the 13th. Franklin Roosevelt wouldn’t travel on this day. And even now, the Otis Elevator Company does not include a “13” button in its elevators.

Seriously resisting the urge to run home and bury my head in the covers……

Thursday, November 12, 2009

....we band of brothers--an addendum

a follow up to yesterday's post:

I wrote about my brother on Veteran's Day. My brother the conscientious objector. I was very nervous as I hit the "post" button. What reaction would I get--especially on Veteran's Day.

Honestly, I had some reservations about posting it, but it's how I am feeling. And what I was thinking about. Many of my generation were very confused about that war. And many served and came home damaged. Physically and emotionally. The latter wounds have yet to heal.

My brother also got a very raw deal. He was 21 years old when he was sentenced--a kid [like most of the soldiers in Nam. Did you know that the average age of soldiers during that war was 18!! Way, way too young] The hospital he worked at was combat duty in and of itself. He was very slight of build and they would bring in guys a good foot taller than him--and several pounds heavier-- who were strung out on PCP. The powers-that-be would say "Bill, put a straight jacket on this guy" and leave my brother alone to figure out how to do that. On one occasion, he was thrown down the trash shoot. He got several black eyes, his ribs broken and continual cigarette burns on his arms. By 23 he was drinking heavily to cope.

You also need to know that this was an extremely bright young man. He had won a full scholarship to a private Main Line high school and followed that up with a full ride to Penn State Main Campus. He had so much potential. Most likely, he could have spent his time in the service at a desk job, given his intelligence and skills, but he chose to fight for what he believed in. And it cost him his future. He wasn't able to handle his disillusionment with the world unfortunately.

Now, he wasn't a saint--no one is. But he didn't deserve what happened. He left behind a son and daughter who never had the chance to really get to know their dad. Both are now in their late 30s and are wonderful people. My sister-in-law did a great job. He would be proud of them and his 3 grandchildren.

Brndoutw8ress-thanks for reading all the way through. And thanks for having an open mind, so many people don't. Here's to your dad and all of the other dads, sons, brothers--and daughters. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers. -King Henry V. Act iv. Sc. 3.

Today we celebrate Veteran’s Day here in the US.

I have very mixed feelings about that. My father was a veteran of WWII, serving in the Pacific. In the thick of it. He contracted malaria and suffered a brain hemorrhage, but his time in the military was one of his best memories. My eldest brother was a conscientious objector to the war in Viet Nam, he felt war was wrong. He got a very low draft lottery number and refused induction in 1970. In the thick of it. You can imagine the tension at our house….

And, hopefully, you can understand my mixed emotions. I was proud of what my father did, but understood and empathized with my brother’s point of view. WWII was a necessary action—Hitler and Japan had to be stopped. A fact that became even more apparent when the horrors of the concentration camps were discovered. And it was a formal, declared war. Viet Nam was the complete opposite of that. There was no clear reason why we were there, no exit strategy and lives were being brutally and uselessly lost or destroyed. Only to have it end pretty much the way it started…. [just like Korea before it]

Now, my brother wasn’t a coward. He proved that by NOT running off to Canada. No, he stayed here and was put on trial in Federal court. He was convicted of a felony for not wanting to kill people and was sentenced to 3.5 years of alternate service at Haverford State Mental Hospital . This was followed by 7 years of probation. During this period, he was unable to get any kind of meaningful employment because he was a convicted felon. And when interviewers heard what he was convicted for, they treated him like scum. Sadly, he started drinking and was dead of cirrhosis at the age of 33. Not all of the names of those lost in the Viet Nam war are on the wall in Washington.

While I greatly appreciate the many young men and women who voluntarily enlist, I still don’t understand why countries choose war as a means to settle differences. As a mother and a grandmother, I don't want to send my loved ones that I invested so much time and love into off to be slaughtered or maimed. I hate that other mothers have had to bury their offspring. I know many people will accuse me of being unpatriotic, but I have questions, doubts. I’m in the thick of them……


Friday, November 6, 2009

to take arms against a sea of troubles

I always seem to have a sea of troubles…. If not my own, my loved ones. I’ve come through a lot; the good, the bad, the ugly. All with my sense of humor intact—if not my bod. [Sorry this is such a recurring theme—and if I seem to be “beating a dead horse.” ] But, I’m in for some big challenges over the next few months. Cause…..this latest one is a real beaut. Because it’s hurting someone who doesn’t deserve it.

15 years ago, after my father passed away, my youngest brother invited our mother to come be with him in California. Which she did. She sold the house in Florida and went cross country, subsequently using the profits from that sale to buy a home where she lived in one half and he lived in the other. The property also included a large 2-car garage that my brother, a contractor, could use for his workshop. My brother could never have afforded a house on his own—in California—let alone one with all of this one’s advantages. The deal was he would get the house upon my mother’s death in exchange for being there to care for her if she needed it. My older brother and I were fine with that. Having Mom cared for and happy was way more important than an inheritance.

Not that our mother is in any way feeble, mind you—see this post. She is an amazing, bright, self-sufficient woman—who was still working up until about a year ago. AND. She minds her own business. Let me repeat that: SHE MINDS HER OWN BUSINESS. She’s not all up in your grill—she only gives advice if asked. Something I’ve tried to do with my own adult children. Anyway, my point is that it’s not a typical “having a parent living with you” set-up.

Well, my younger brother has lost it and is evicting our mother from her home. And we can’t figure out why. Apparently, unbeknownst to us, he has flown into rages against her in the past and the you-know-what hit the fan 2 weeks ago. AFTER he’d returned from 4 months in Thailand mind you.

I don’t get it. Seriously, I just don’t get it.

So, my mom is coming to live with me. I hate to make her come back to cold winters, but I can’t move out there. And she’ll have a ton of family and old friends here. Brother has decided that she is not entitled to any payback on the house, so finances will be tight. But,….. what else is new. This has been my life for as long as I can remember. We will manage somehow.

So, as you can see, we’ll be facing some big challenges in the next few months: figuring out what Mom should bring and what she should part with, [resisting the urge to beat the crap out of brother], finding an apartment that we can afford—and that affords each of us some privacy, [resisting the urge to beat the crap out of brother], deciding how to get Mom here—with her car or without, [resisting the urge to beat the crap out of brother—maybe if I say it enough it will actually happen].

Send good vibes our way—and any suggestions for assistance available too.

Thanks, E

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Enough, with over-measure.

I had an interesting conversation with my daughter last night—most of my talks with her are interesting. She’s a very smart, savvy, funny lady—and I enjoy hearing her take on things. We have truly become friends over the past 7—8 years [a major thing, believe me.]

Well, among the many topics we covered, we started talking about finances—or our lack thereof. It was fascinating that neither one of use was greedy. Which is cool since both she and her brother grew up in the 80s—90s when it was all about acquiring as much as you could. They both bought into that at the time—we had lots of arguments and drama when they didn’t understand why mom and dad couldn’t buy them the expensive designer jeans and the like. It has been so gratifying to see them evolve into adults who could care less about status [although they can’t seem to help themselves when it comes to making fun of mom’s hoopdee of a car].
As our conversation progressed it was a nice validation to hear how simple both of our wishes/needs were. We didn’t want huge mansions surrounded by overly landscaped grounds, with a garage full of the most expensive cars. Both of us would be more than content to have enough to pay off our family’s debts, pay for educations and have a comfortable life. An added bonus would be to have that “over-measure” that would enable us to endow scholarships. For me it would be theatre scholarships for deserving, talented individuals. I would love to help young talent achieve their dreams. And help finance crucial arts education that is falling by the wayside in these recessionary times.

For my daughter, it would be helping young single mothers stay in school and go to college. It’s what she did and it has made all the difference in how her life has progressed. Unlike many teenaged moms, she was highly motivated to get an education so she could make a good life for herself and her son. She did not fall into the trap of having more children like some do; she didn’t rush into a marriage so she’d have someone to support her either. She’s struggled—and it’s killed me that I am unable to help her [or my son] in any way. But she’s a stronger person and a better mom for that struggle.

And I KNOW my son and grandson feel the same way. None of us are “gimme-gimme” kind of people—and we definitely don’t get those that are. What does one do with $1,000.00 sunglasses?