Thursday, December 25, 2008

Visiting the REAL Santa

When I was little I wanted to visit Santa Claus. There was one a Grant’s department store and I wanted to go. My parents were into it and we went. We waited on the line with the other kids and parents and as we got closer and closer I became more and more nervous. By the time we got to the ‘next’ position on line I was a wreck. Though I loved Santa more than I could express, I was terrified of actually meeting him and having to speak to him. As many kids do, I freaked. We left the line and went home. I was madly disappointed in myself and that I had come so close to meeting the man, the myth, the legend and yet couldn’t bring myself to do it. We never tried again. They would have brought me, I’m sure, but I couldn’t face backing out again.

When I was 24 I was talking to my mother about the Santa situation. Still a big fan, I never miss his appearance at the end of the Macy*s Thanksgiving Day parade, I still felt the sting of failure at having never sat on his lap.

My mother asked if I wanted to go now. It struck me as an hilarious thing to do, to have my mom take me to see Santa at 24.

"We could see the real one this time, the one at Macy*s on 34th Street," she coaxed.

That was it, I was sold. We went. We stood on the endless line at Macy*s Santaland with all the other kids and their parents. I was quite a bit older than the others, but I was cool with it. We went in, and although I was still nervous, for obvious reasons (we looked like kooks!) I actually sat on Santa’s lap (he was probably the same age as me) and told him I wanted a Quisenart Food Processor. We opted to pass on the proffered photo with Santa and left. Now I wish we’d sprung for the photo. It was a hoot and I felt I’d tied up a loose end.

That year my mother bought me a food processor. Not the Quisenart I’d wanted, a junior version, as usual, but I still have it and I hold it dear because ‘Santa’ got it for me.

Monday, December 01, 2008

The Bike

I was twelve years old when I learned to ride a bicycle. I taught myself, it was my only option. Riding any bike other than a tricycle was something I had been forbidden to do, but it was something I wanted to do so I did it. What exactly was the point of raising a kid in the suburbs if not that they had room to ‘run around in’ and possibly, just possibly now: ride a bike. But logic and my parents were never very good friends.

On a visit to my aunt’s house in New Jersey I found a wobbly, messed up, very nearly unridable, red bike. It belonged to the previous owners of the house my aunt and uncle had recently moved into and they either hadn’t noticed it or just hadn’t yet had the opportunity to put it out with the trash. The house was enormous. It was on at least an acre of land. The house itself took up a quarter acre, at least. Keeping out of sight wasn't too difficult. While the adults were inside getting loaded, the typical family gathering, I spent hours falling off a bike going up and down the insanely long driveway - praying nobody would see me. Because of the enormity of the house, surrounded as it was by giant trees, I was able to practice my novice two-wheeler skills safely out of traffic. And the flowing liquor going on inside the house kept me safe from the prying eyes of my ever-encouraging family. I wasn't concerned about being seen because of the embarrassment of my clumsiness, though of course that was part of it, but rather because my parents were masters at mocking me. I did not want to hand them the ammunition.

I don’t think I had felt any greater high up until that time than that first non-stop, non-falling ride down that driveway. I felt like an Olympic champion. I felt completely free. More than that: I felt like a normal kid. It was like a miracle.

When I had the mechanics of balance down pat, I went inside and casually mentioned that I had learned to ride a bike. My parents, still in the cheerful stages of drunk, actually came outside to watch me do it - and no one was more shocked than I that they did not attempt to tear my little accomplishment down. And when I say little accomplishment, to me it was huge. All the kids I knew learned to ride a bike somewhere in the first grade or thereabouts. And someone, a parent, an older sibling, someone had taught them. Someone held the bike until they found their balance, someone encouraged the process. I was twelve and did it alone.

I had wanted a bicycle for so long. Of course because I was not allowed to ride one it was foolish to even think about it. But once I had proven I could in fact ride (as if it were brain surgery) it seemed like a dream that might have some possibility of coming true.

After much begging, not hinting, but outright begging, for a bike for Christmas (which did not happen - shocking) for my 13th birthday my parents actually took me to a bike store and let me pick out a bike. I spotted what I thought was the single most beautiful thing I’d ever seen, a dark green three speed boy’s bike. Nobody, but NOBODY rode a girl’s bike back then. It was the height of uncool. So this $39 treasure was my 13th birthday present and I was quite literally over the moon. Until we got it home.

You see despite the fact that my parents had not mocked my bike-riding skills, had in fact finally gotten me my first bike, they would not allow me to ride it. Yeah, it’s true. I was allowed to ride it - and I could not make this up: in the house or in the back yard on the grass. Considering my birthday is in January and the snowfall back then was always at a minimum of 6 inches, bike riding was not the big wintertime activity. One might think they meant ‘for now’. For now you can ride it in the house - which is a riot given that the biggest room in the house was at most about 3 bike lengths long. Essentially I was allowed to 'sit' on the bike. Wheee! But then thaw came and the green of spring had beaten back the white of winter, and guess what? I was still not allowed to ride the bike any where but in the back yard or in the house. Until I was 14.

Of course I found a nice passive aggressive way to even that score (in my head any way). When I got my driver’s license a few years later, on those occasions that my father would let me borrow the car (miracle!) I would drag race with my friends. I always won. 120 mph in a purple Duster. Try doing that in the house.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Nervous Much?

I do so enjoy doing things that scare the hell out of me. OR I should say I enjoy them after they are done. It's the nyah-nyah syndrome. But before I do 'em, oh lordy lordy do I suffer with the anxiety. And therefore everyone I know gets to suffer too! Ah, lucky them! Lucky YOU!

On Sunday, May 11th little miss tough-stuff over here is going to be having an anxiety-attack to beat the band. I'm going to be performing something I wrote... in front of people... who paid... money. I intend to wear black to avoid any pesky worries of tomato stains when the audience starts throwing the rotten veggies at the vegan onstage.

I have never read aloud, performed or otherwise 'done' my own material for an audience. Unless you count every poor soul I run into on any given day who I do my 'act' for 'an audience'. It's usually more of a one-on-one thing. I have no fears of being on stage - as long as someone else has put the words in my feeble little mouth. Doing my own stuff? Someone pass the xanax, and keep it coming!

Of course the point of all the blogging I do in its various incarnations is to actually voice my own opinions and stories and blather. But I'm alone in front of a toasty computer screen, usually in my jammies, with a bottomless coffee cup, a/k/a SAFE when I do it. This time, not so much. This time, real live people. AiiiiiiEEEEEEEEEEEE!!!!

My tendency towards self-deprecation makes it difficult to simply be excited at the prospect of telling one of my silly stories to people like this - that nagging "what if they hate me" voice just will NOT be quiet! The truth is there's a part of me, the part that's hiding out right now looking for a pillow and a blankie to go sleepies with (since that's what I do when I'm a-scairt) that really IS excited about this. Because this is a sort of meeting point of acting (which I love) and writing (which I love) and talking about myself (which, let's face it: I blog, you do the math). It's an opportunity to be a real-live storyteller. Which is what I'd love to be, so I should just be THRILLED! Instead I'm thrilled AND covering myself with nerves because I'm terrified of failure. And, of course, people throwing rotten fruit.

Despite that terror I'm actually advertising here! Hellllllll-llllloooooo crazy. Of course the show is on Mother's Day which allays my fears somewhat as I'm thinking that most of the people I know will not be able to attend *huge sigh of relief*. It's always easier for me with strangers. Though having friends in the audience is fabulous - if things go well. I'm conflicted. Shocking, isn't it?

Information on the show is below. If you're around, please come! Just leave the produce at home, would ya? Thanks.

SEE ME, HEAR ME: A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
is back at the Magnet for a special Mother's Day show on Sunday, May 11 at 6:30pm featuring five original pieces all inspired by one image.
This month's show features:

Swaha Devi (Body & Soul, Alternative Medicine)
Michelle Fix (Off-Broadway, No Filter)
Joy Keaton (Off-Broadway, A Brief History of An Orphan)
Kate Tellers (Off-Broadway, Rag Hag: Songs from My Closet)
&
Brian Tunny (ESPN Magazine, managing editor DigBMX Magazine)

This Sunday!
The Magnet Theatre
254 West 29th Street
(Between 8th & 9th)
$5
Reservations are recommended!
Call: 212-244-8824

Monday, November 19, 2007

First Meme

I've never responded to a meme - not that I've had all that many, but still. I also tend not to use this blog for current stuff. It's not the theme, so to speak. But the lovely Salty Miss Jill popped this tag over here so I'm going to do it here. For Miss Jill. 'Cause she's salty. (I'm also posting it on my other blog just because I'm super-duper lazy about blogging lately because I'm working on a novel and so many thanks to Miss Jill for giving me an excuse to procrastinate as well as something to post!)

Here are the rules for the meme:

1. Link to the person’s blog who tagged you.
2. Post these rules on your blog.
3. List seven random and/or weird facts about yourself.
4. Tag seven random [?] people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs.
5. Let each person know that they have been tagged by posting a comment on their blog.

I'm not comfortable forwarding memes (this being my first) so I'm just going to ignore those last two 'rules'. Watch as I defy authority!

FIRST FACT:
Fear makes me sleepy. I have chronic insomnia but am able to fall asleep quickly and easily and sleep for really long periods when I'm afraid of (or anxious about) doing something or going somewhere.

SECOND FACT:
I find spitting the most repulsive thing. Spit near me and I might just throw up. I actually did vomit on the playground in the 4th grade when a friend spit and it landed on my sneaker. Talk about a chain of events.

THIRD FACT:
I love to play video games. Puzzle games especially because it gets me into a Zen head - while my mouse is clicking away my brain is somewhere else entirely. I also like stuffing envelopes for the same reason.

FOURTH FACT:
I have been coloring my hair since I was 18 (17 really, but I was only 'allowed' to when I was 18). I am no long sure at all what my natural color is. When I'm cranky, tense, or feeling really ugly I grab a bottle of peroxide and tint and switch it up. I highly recommend it as therapy.

FIFTH FACT:
I wanted to be a dentist when I was a kid. I love going to the dentist and my dentist is really great about showing me her new equipment and explaining what it's for - does that make me a dentist groupie?

SIXTH FACT:
I don't have a driver's license any more. After a head-on collision with a drunk driver (at 10 a.m. on a weekday morning) I let my license expire.

SEVENTH FACT:
I have no luck with reptiles as pets. I've had lizards and snakes and such and cannot seem to help them thrive. I'd love to have another iguana, but would rather not cut its life short by having it live with me. My favorite part of the movie Terminator was the pet iguana running loose in the house. So cute!

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Mother and Daughter Senior Year

For a time, maybe two weeks, after leaving my father the weekend of my Yale audition, my mother stayed at her sister’s house where we had gone after the first escape attempt so many years before. After those two weeks she apparently felt she was in the way, or it may have been that her family was pushing her to return – as they had ten years previously. Whatever the reason my mother needed to get away from there and the only place to go was to me. At school.

Because I had a single room, one of the perks of being a senior, it wasn’t going to bother a roomate if I had my mother come visit for a few days so naturally I went and picked her up at her sister’s place and brought her back to the dorm with me. It was kind of fun to have the company, and I was so thrilled she was away from my father that I wasn’t actually thinking of the ramifications of having my mother staying with me in my dorm room. Obviously I wasn't thinking clearly.

Along with the single room I had my own bathroom, which was a dream come true after years of having my father banging on the bathroom door while I was spending endless hours trying on makeup. So the room situation was really ideal for having one’s mother visit… IF you were the mother.

She stayed with me for maybe two weeks. Which is a REALLY long time. A really long time especially as they were the last two weeks of my senior year. This was supposed to be a time of unbridled partying and fun amidst the final exams. Having my mother sharing the room put something of a damper on the ‘party’ aspect. Not that she was a problem, really. She was a lot more open minded than other mothers might have been, but I did feel I should at least attempt to not go out and return home sodden in alcohol and praying to the porcelain god. So I basically had a conscience living in my fabulous dorm room with me and spending my final carefree college days watching my every move.

Of course, in retrospect it becomes clear that her support of my going away to college was to set the stage for her own escape. Once I was 'out there' she would have a safe haven. Was I happy she’d left him? Of course. Was I resentful that I had to suffer for it? Absolutely.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Old Eli

When I was 23 my lifelong dream came true. As per usual it was not the way I’d anticipated.

The crazy idea of getting a Bachelor’s Degree was nearly coming to fruition, I was in my senior year at Marymount and had pushed my goal a little further. I was going to pursue a Masters in acting!

The only place that seemed worthwhile was The Yale School of Drama. Three of my teachers at Marymount had attended, and my then-idol Meryl Streep was also a graduate. I was overly confident in my ability to get in or I would never have applied. But as the day of the audition arrived I became more my old self and the terror set in. I decided I should return home for the weekend before the audition to focus and work on my monologues. Given that I had a private room at the time I don’t know why I thought going home would be more secluded. I suppose at the time I was thinking my friends at school would be too much distraction. How different things would have been if I had stayed, I cannot imagine.

I had grown somewhat used to weekends that were free of terror, and suppose I felt things at home would be okay. Wrong. It was a hum-dinger of a weekend. One of the all-time best of a lifetime of insanity. My father was on a most extraordinary tear, topping all prior performances.

But I knew freedom now, and I had a car. I was no longer trapped in that hell. I got my stuff together and put it in the car, pronouncing that I would never return.

My mother apparently finally found a real escape. She came with me. It was exhilarating to have her finally make what seemed to be a real decision; though after the Florida debacle I didn’t know how much to believe her. It did seem that she was truly ready to go, I think having spent the better part of two years alone with him without me there for the little support I offered had put her over the edge. And it seemed she really was leaving my father at last, and that was at least the realization of a small dream… a decade later than would have suited me, but still a positive event. Although in retrospect it seems all too calculated. Her push to have me go away to school appears to have been part of a master plan of escape. Stalag 13 redux.

We drove back to Tarrytown and went back to my dorm room where I attempted to work on my audition pieces, but given the trauma of the weekend it was a futile attempt. That Monday morning, my mother came with me to New Haven, Connecticut and after getting lost in the Bronx, my sense of direction as pristine as ever, we finally found the Yale campus.

I did the best I could under the circumstances, but I know that my auditions were essentially, well, let’s put it kindly: Cold CRAP on a wet plate. Oddly enough I was not invited to attend the prestigious school of my dreams. Go figure.

It was a bit of a blow, but it was nothing compared to the fun that was to come.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Taco Bell or The Job of a Lifetime

After dreading and despising school for 12 years it shocked no one more than me how very much I loved and even thrived in the college atmosphere.

I think it was due to the fact that I finally felt I was doing something worthwhile. I finally felt I had a purpose and it was my choice not my obligation. So when I completed the two year theater program at Suffolk County Community College I wanted to continue and transfer to a four-year school that would give me a Bachelor’s degree and further my acting skills. Unfortunately I was still plain awful at auditions and I was terrified to even apply to a school that had a program that made auditioning a requirement. I don’t regret going to Marymount College, but I do wish I’d had a little more gumption and chosen a more career-oriented school. If only, if only. Well, c’est la vie.

The big problem with furthering my education was, naturally, money. Not that my parents couldn’t afford to help me out, but getting my father to dip into the dough was like getting a vicious dog to drop a kitten appetizer. Not so easy.

So I had to take a year off from school to work. Again, it was my misfortune to be in an area where jobs were scarce. But I did manage to secure a dandy position at one of the many fast food places my home town was lousy with. Luckily for me it turned out to be one of the best jobs I had ever had: Taco Bell.

Now extolling the virtues of working at a Taco Bell may sound strange as fast food work has such a stigma of slave labor, but I suppose I hit it at just the right time. And more important ever than the job itself is the people with whom you work. The cast of characters at Taco Bell when I was there were really plain old NICE people. I cannot recall one of them who was mean or power hungry or cold. It was a very lucky break for me to have stumbled into that place just then.

I worked the morning prep shift and it was a gas. I loved prepping the lettuce, olives, and cheese. Olives and cheese, were never foods I loved, but they soon became my favorites. The first time I was set the task of prepping the onions I was crying my eyes out. Streaming rivers of painful tears were literally pouring down my face. It was horrible! Then one of the other workers there gave me two fabulous tips. One was to wear contact lenses if possible – it works! Try it! And the other was to run into the walk-in refrigerator for a few minutes, it stopped the sting, pardon the pun, cold. Plus, while alone in the walk-in you could snag a handful of shredded cheddar. Loved that. I thought of it as the reward for the torture of burning eyes.

I learned to cook at Taco Bell. I had learned a bit in a Home Ec class, but I learned about cooking quickly and precisely at Taco Bell. The fact that every item had to be perfect or be chucked appealed to me and my vague, and somewhat distorted, sense of perfectionism. Of course, the workers got to eat anything that was imperfect. When we were hungry an inordinate amount of taco shells seemed to crack. Hmmm. Not sure how THAT could have happened. Oddly enough I lost weight while working there despite the dozens of imperfect tacos and burritos. How could I not love that place?

After several months of Taco Bell mornings I got an application to Marymount and worked out that in addition to my savings and financial aid I would STILL need an additional $2,500. As I had exhausted all other sources this left only my father and his highly guarded bank account. Looking at that figure now I see how very little it was, of course at the time the mere thought of asking my father for that much cash was terrifying. I do not suffer humiliation fondly. Who does?

My mother, however, was determined that I would go and finish my degree. I found it strange that she was so in favor of me going away, but she really was. I saw it as possibly the most unselfish thing she had ever done. My leaving would leave her alone with my father, perhaps she thought it would be better with me gone, but I think she knew it wouldn’t be and she wanted me to go regardless. Later I would see that her plan to get me out of the house was less unselfish than I'd imagined. That however is another story.

When it came to that last $2,500 I wanted my mother to ask him for the money, but she refused. Perhaps she was right. It took me weeks to work up the courage but I finally did it.

As there was less than no communication in the house he actually had no idea that I planned to continue my education. When I explained to him that I wanted to go on for another two years his disgusted response was: “More college? I thought you were done with that?”

I explained that a B.A. degree required four years and I was only half-way through despite having gotten an A.S. from Suffolk.

“And what are you going to do after that?” He said. “You’ll only end up working at Taco Bell anyway.”

With encouragement like that it’s amazing I ever tried to make anything of myself at all.

The slightly amusing irony is that it seems my father had the last laugh any way.

When I checked my credit report some 20 years later, though my address was now listed in Manhattan and I had held many, many, waaay too many jobs in the interim, the report still had my occupation as working at Taco Bell in Centereach.