Sparkle On…

Earlier this summer I made the decision to make a huge change. I didn’t plan it and I still don’t know if I’ll survive it financially.

But wow, MY BODY.  Parts of me felt permanently tied into knots and hurt. Parts of me felt debilitated and frozen. I survived by getting frequent massages and taking too many cabs. I felt worthless almost every single day. I struggled for energy no matter how timely I was with my synthroid.

Flash forward a month:

I walk more than I have in years. I walk further with no pain than I have in years. I am physically taller and noticeably less tight. I ran out of synthroid for over a week. I needed an afternoon nap but felt great when I woke up.

What I’m saying is no matter what the trade is, make sure you are truly valued and appreciated for what you bring to your life.  If you’re not, you won’t even notice that you feel subhuman and every part of you is responding.

I am a fully equal human person again. Now to get some dollahs.

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9/11, 10 years later

I wrote this in 2011. I was living through an infestation. I was never comfortable or at peace until I looked at the window of my soon-to-be home and let go of the fear of what I would bring with me. I wrote this that evening, Frankensteined together from various blogs entries over several years.  They travel with me, like baggage.

I post this in remembrance of that day and this city of people.

I’ve just moved into grad housing at New School in the West Village a month ago. My apartment faces South down 7th Ave. I have the perfect view of WTC and have opted to give up my a/c in favor of the view. I frequently sit at my window and stare out, marveling at the fact that I live in NYC, and am actually studying dramatics. The towers fascinate me because they are so large I can’t believe they’re real, and yet they are. Frankly, I’m fascinated by skyscrapers, they are like manmade mountains to me, and make me feel impossibly small and frail.

In the week afterwards, I lived with a friend on the Upper West Side. I would go grab a cup of Joe at a local coffee shop, and chat. One morning, I ran into an old guy—a dyed-in-the-wool New Yorker. The Towers came up and he let off a speech of absolute rage that they had been built. He’d actually been really active in the fight against building them in the late 60s, and he hated those Towers. They were “an architectural crime, and empty much of the time.”

Monday, September 10th, 2001 is the first day that my mind has started to leap across the space from my window into them. I wonder who goes to that building and why. I look through the cloudy, gray mist of that day and wonder if anyone is looking back at me. Are they happy to make scratch or do they envy the freedom others have to be about and not in an office? The North Tower looks like a ship’s mast when it first breaks through the fog. I promise myself I will visit the top soon, as I frequently do with the Empire State Building.

So I said, “I guess you’re not wanting to see them rebuilt then.” Read More

Rain on the roof – My week in Comedy

I spent the weekend sleeping and finally feel like a person. That flu was awful and rendered me useless for a lot of the last two weeks.

Finally, I’m feeling human.

Jimmy Dugan was wrong: you can cure the clap with antibiotics; avoid the flu!

I rifled through a journal yesterday and found a great joke. I’m adding it to my set. I’m working on more material. I’ve almost figured out 3-year-old activist.

Last week I saw Ted Alexandro’s week at the Creek performance. It was an hour of new material. Some seriously political. Seeing Ted’s set reminded me of my preferences in standup and answered some questions I raised a couple of weeks ago.

  1. Breathing room
    • The audience needs time to think and process what you said.  If you’re throwing something tough at them, give them a moment to hear it.
    • Shit sandwich, that’s all I’m saying. The center can be a statement that will become a joke you just haven’t found quite yet if you’re talking long enough.
    • Funny observations around the serious observations makes the seriousness pop and seem more important.  Both are funny.
  2. Important points
    • See shit sandwich. It doesn’t matter if it’s funny. Sometimes you just need to say it.
  3. Saying what’s important to you
    • The core of everything I create.
  4. Saying what’s funny to you
    • The core of comedy, an intricate dance for me since I’m super serious. Thanks therapy for the seriousness!  Now I take my feelings seriously!

Starting Over without the Expectation of Anything

I’ve been taking improv at UCB since last summer.  I go slow because I can’t afford to go fast.  I’m old. I have bills. I find it challenging.

I really loved my first class, and enjoyed the second. Met some nice people who were fun for the time. I met some people that may be around in the future.

It’s odd going to class when you reach the age that you longer imagine you’ll have your discovery moment and become the next…Gilda Radner or Kristen Wiig or Maya Rudolph.  I find myself surrounded by 20-somethings who are changing the course of their lives for it. I did that. I’m a secretary.

Clearly, I chose wisely. More wisely than a Nazi faced with a 1,000 year old knight but less wisely than, say, my friend with an MBA.

My boss likes to point out that I’m so much more than my job title, but my title is actually less powerful than the usual admin title. I’m a modern day secretary who uses excel; I’m not even an Administrative Assistant. That takes a psychic toll, the powerlessness.

Anyway, learning at this point in my life becomes much more about the process. It’d be weird to make a herald team or a house team, since it’s neither my aim, nor what I’m carefully planning.  I no longer carefully plan. I just try to have fun and feel alive for a minute. I’m both impressed by drive and repulsed by it. I vaguely remember my own drive in my early 20s and I missed as much life as I lived.

Mostly, I wish I could find that spot to relax and work and just learn. It’s hard when you’re surrounded by people who imagine they could & would & might…and fuck it…you just want to be better with people you can enjoy–building random fleets of beavers–without considering a career move, or whether someone will get me to the next place on the grand linear climb to fame.

That shit’s nonlinear. The next spot is not leading naturally at all to the next thing. 201 only leads to 301 in school. It makes me wonder, though, what I want and for now it’s to be better at improv.

For standup, I want to get fucking amazing at it.

No pressure.

Random notes from a workshop two weeks ago:

Marry yourself to the choice.

Don’t doubt it.  Stick to it.

Play the game, move on, play the game again.  Music, rest, music.

The game is the butterfly of the scene. It’s the first laugh. Grab it and run with it together.

Don’t argue; turn it into a positive for your position.

If you argue, because that’s what happens in reality, move on, come back to the premise underneath it.

Heighten the premise of the joke of the scene…the game of the scene.

I am fraglie. (It’s Italian.)

So, for three straight weeks, I’ve been doing stand up on Sunday night. Open mics, a class show. My joke writing is picking up speed. My ideas come faster. Not everything sounds like depression on tap.

I sigh with relief.

I worry.

I have 2 acts of a 3 act play written and its intense. I have to finish it this month. Cripes.

I fret.

This is the time of the year the sucks my soul dry.

I budget.

And through it all I mutter, “Why didn’t I get a degree in business?”

Then I look at that picture and go, “Oh, obvi…”

****

When I did my set, I did the best stuff from Sue Smith’s class show, and made a few changes – tightened it up here and made certain things more specific. Things got much better laughs.

Things like a joke about sexual abuse.

Things got weird feeling. I’m wondering as I tighten things up if I should insert other jokes into that line of jokes. Neither I, nor the audience, should feel like we’re married to Floyd Mayweather. Manny.  Why do boxers have names from 1956?

or Clifford Odets?

I felt exposed.

I felt fragile.

Power through or Decompress?

****

Anyhoo. Here’s to a Sunday filled with improv practice, joke writing and an open mic. This is now my DAY.

And a Saturday at the park with music and friends. Equally important.

And the dentist.

I DO WANT TO HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT MY TEETH AT–AND DURING–69.

ETA: My mom liked this post and then unliked it, I think she got the 69 joke.

The Soundtrack of My Soul – 101

Write about the three most important songs in your life — what do they mean to you? 

My Girl

I grew up in the D. Detroit. The Suburbs of Detroit. This was the music of my home, of the city, of my father’s generation. Bill Stewart. Not the singer. My dad loved Motown. He loved the 80s; he was less enthusiastic about 70’s funk, but he could dig it. However, what really jazzed his beat was classic Motown. He listened to the stuff everyday and since I rode with dad, so did I.

Motown is what my childhood sounds like.  I grew up on the 60s stuff that came out of Hitsville.  It is the soundtrack of a clean house, a dance shared with all the members of my family and our dog, it’s what was playing during my first slow dance. 

Dirty Dancing, the movie and the dance form, was popular as I prepared for junior high. It never dawned on us kids the significance of the lack of Motown on the soundtrack. We simply put those into rotation at my first big kids party. I was 11 and I tried a stiff box step with another 6th grader. He stared at his feet. My Girl was playing on the radio. 

White kids can’t dance to it. Can’t find the rhythm off the downbeat.

Silent All These Years 

During my teen years, Tori Amos saved my soul. She was the soundtrack to my salvation. I played her albums over and over, but this was my anthem. To me, this song was to be song out loud and clear and proud, like you were sending it to Jesus. 

When I hear the lyrics, I hear a meditation on don’t make waves, don’t upset anyone. Be good, little girl, keep your pain to yourself. No one cares. no one understands. 

Tori did. She wrote it, so she felt it too. I was alone with her voice, but not alone in my pain.

Uncharted 

Sara Bareilles’ song is one of my faves.

It reminds me of the moment in Pollack right before Pollack begins to paint a canvas. What will it become? Where will the creative urge lead the artist?

This song is the soundtrack of the most difficult moment–the moment before creative impulse. 

All I know is I want to go somewhere new. To me, to my audience, to my art. 

Day Two: Description – 101

My eyes hurt by 3pm.  Gray, dystopian walls with a slight green cast cause by the florescent light above. The gray wavers in my field of vision, as I rub my eyes.  The texture of multiple shades of gray adding into nothingness.  Nothing offensive, nothing new and nothing original.  Cookie cutter fabric for a cookie cutter job.

In rebellion to the implied rule against decoration are two objects: a glitter-encrusted, lime green card covered in butterflies and a name badge from HR training identifying me as “Sparkle,” a nonofficial nickname.

These are the walls I stare at everyday.