IMG_1012I’m stuck on a bus.

I’ve been stuck on a bus for ten hours on a five hour ride.

Five hours are spent moving forward. The other five spent stuck on the highway, caught in traffic at the city part of the Bronx. A subway station – the 4 – sits in plain sight on the street side of the rail.

I’m stuck on a bus heading into Manhattan to cut some hair. To drop off my apartment keys. To check in and out of life. To remind myself who I am. To remind myself why I left. To visit my mother. To do all sorts of things.

It’s September 11, which is the main the reason I am stuck on the bus. Everyone wants in.

At first it’s traffic. Bad traffic. An hour dissolves, then another. My afternoon plans crumble like a cheap cookie.

Cars crush the space between fenders humming with the opposite of speed. Maybe passengers  want to be sad, or angry, or part of something, but maybe they are people like us, who want to go to the city to see friends, to check in and out of life, perhaps watch a Broadway show.

Trucks, buses, cars idle, then stand still, then move inch by inch past that subway station just out of reach.

With them, we also idle, the stand still, then move an inch. And then, stop short.

Passengers in their seats lurch forward, as a woman making her way to the toilet is tossed back, into the aisle. She falls. She bumps her head. It starts to bleed. Four loud girls in the back of the bus shriek. A Japanese tourist who is shy about his English, runs to the front of the bus for a first aid kit. A long-haired, grey-haired biker takes a cooling pack from the galley refrigerator and holds it against her head. I imagine he was in Vietnam, though he is too young to have been there. An obese woman sitting directly behind the driver screams at the driver, she orders him to pull off the highway.

We are nowhere near an exit.

We are in stand still traffic.

The bus will not take side streets to a hospital despite the screaming woman’s insistance. “I know these roads like the back of my hand,” she screams, “you have an injured person on board your bus. Get off the highway now!”

The bus goes, then stops, then goes. And then stops.

We inch past another subway station, just off the highway, just a quick dash away. If only the bus windows would open. I would break out and run.

The bleeding woman stops bleeding. The screaming woman stops screaming, for the moment.

I text my friend about the bleeding lady, the screaming lady, the loud girls, the grey-haired Vietnam non-vet. His response: “are there live chickens and goats on the bus?”

Two women sit across the aisle from me, a mother and daughter, the daughter around my age. The daughter has blonde highlights, blown straight, the mother is a bottle blonde with a perm. She wears a Phantom of the Opera t-shirt.

They are going to a Broadway show, hoping that they will not miss the curtain. Of course I am curious what show they are going to, since Broadway is part of my not-too-distant past and possibly part of my not-too-distant future. At the beginning of the trip, before we are stuck in traffic, before the bleeding woman hits her head, before the screaming woman screams, I eavesdrop on their conversation, but their conversation is brief. The daughter pulls out her kindle, the mother a romance novel, the spine comfortably broken. They read in silence. If I had had my wits about me, I could’ve guessed that they are going to see Les Mis and, while they sit in the audience, surrounded in a heavy blanket of story, my friends and colleagues will sit, stand, run, and walk in the wings and the hallways and the basement of the theaer, coming and going, pressing buttons, fixing collars, paging curtain, guiding the spotlight, flinging on fake dirt and blood, calling the show, laughing, chatting, weeping. Each with their own stories to tell.

The sad absence of the talented Kyle-Jean Baptiste, Jean Val Jean, who met his tragic, sudden death a week ago is abstract to the women across the aisle. This is not so to the actors and crew who sing through their sadness. I say nothing about this to them as the bus inches past a second impossible subway stop and towards the city.

The bleeding lady is laughing, chatting with the Japanese tourists. She sits on the floor of the aisle cool pack still pressed to her neck. The loud girls chatter amongst themselves.

Suddenly, the screaming lady screams again, which causes me to laugh. I laugh so hard that my stomach hurts. I laugh until I cry.

The women across the aisle ask me why I’m laughing.

“You can’t write this shit,” I say. They start laughing, too.

IMG_2023“We are making a break for it,” the mother says, “when the bus pulls off at the exit.”

“I am running, too,” I tell them. “I will get you to your show. You will be safe.”

We hear sirens. We see fire trucks. They pull in front of the bus. Eight firemen, full uniform, board the bus. We are trapped on the bus with a bleeding lady, a screaming lady, four loud girls, three Japanese tourists, and long-haired, grey-haired man, too young to have been in Vietnam. We are not getting off at the next exit. There is no escape.

The firemen flirt with the loud girls. We wait for the ambulance.

We are three and a half hours late.

And then four.

“Will we make the eight o’clock show,” the mother worries. We are so close, and yet so far.

“I hope so,” says the bus driver. “I’m supposed to pick up the return trip at 6:30.”

Finally, the ambulance arrives. The bleeding lady is escorted off the bus, the screaming lady screams at the bus driver. The long-haired grey-haired man screams at the screaming lady. A loud girl screams from the back of the bus that she hopes someone is tweeting this.

I laugh. We are four hours late, just outside the city. I worry that we will not make it off the bus alive.

“I like what she said,” the mother says.

“What did she say,” the daughter asks.

“You can’t write this stuff.”

The couple sitting in front of them nods.

Except, a week later, I do write about it. Or, at least, I try.

Truth is stranger than fiction.

IMG_2743

Advertisements

Old Habits

IMG_2732

I am sitting in the front seat in a white van with seven other filmmakers. As we pull away from the airport heading to Birmingham proper, we introduce ourselves to the others. Our films have been programmed to play at the Sidewalk Film Festival and everyone is happy, including our driver, a red-faced, cherub cheeked, gap-toothed man. He hands a festival poster back for us to sign.

“You never know when one of you might become famous,” he says. “might be worth something some day.” We all sign it.

I’m in this van by accident. I’ve taken a respite from the exorbitantly expensive hobby of submitting my films to festivals, though, apparently, under the influence of coffee or wine, I shot off a submission in a random, unfocused manner and got accepted into the line-up.

The acceptance email was lost in the shuffle and swirl of my post-burglary emails, my acclimation to my new technological landscape on the slow side. Inspired, by one of my new anthem, I pledged that “living well is the best revenge” and that no drug-addled thief would stop me from playing in this random festival. I nearly blew up my computer first searching for files of the film ,then downloading software that could actually open it on my fledgling computer. The discovery of an egregious continuity error, one that I had missed despite my weeks of editing, watching, editing, watching, threw me into a tail spin. I considered surrender. But then I pushed it from my mind. I will do this, I told myself. And, somehow, I did.

I wasn’t planning to go to the festival. And then I was. And then I wasn’t. And then I was. And then I wasn’t. And then I ran into a dog walking buddy who programs films for festivals. “You have to go,” he said. “It’s one of the best festivals out there. And it’s so much fun.”

So, I decided to go. And then I decided not to. And then I decided to go. And then I decided not to. And then I booked a flight on miles and a hotel room reservation on my credit card. And then I packed my things in boxes among the deadly drilling of deconstruction outside my apartment window and the smell of entropy emanating from my hoarder neighbor’s apartment, the ego shattering, but successful, attempt to earn my motorcycle license without killing someone, and the vague, head-splitting dive into a major mid-life crisis.

I mean ‘crisis’ in a good way.

And then I decided not to go.

And then I went.

I’m a sucker for a happy-ish ending. Aren’t you?

Of the eight others in the van, one is drives, five make documentaries, and two are animators. One lives in Alabama, one has been at the festival before, one knows all about the festival, but has never been, and six of us have no idea what to expect.

It was great.

It was great because with these others film makers, and the other others I met over the weekend, film makers and film watchers both, I remembered who I am.

In the van, at the party, walking the sidewalks from venue to venue, we label ourselves. Our bright yellow lanyards read ‘filmmaker.’ This weekend, we are special. When asked, we label what we do, how we make our films, the medium within the medium of visual story telling. But as we drink our beers, wine, fruit juice, and soda the labels peel away until we all become versions of each other. We are story-tellers. Every single one of us.

Stories are human. Stories keep us connected. Stories are real. Stories, our silly little, serious little stories are important.

Walking through the streets, I felt a little important, like a toy soldier fighting to keep the doorway of communication open by clearing a path with my stories so that others can tell theirs.

I wonder what would happen if there came a day when every human individual laughed at the very same time. What would all of humanity do with all that joy? Would our laughter cause the mountains to shake?

That was Thursday.

On Friday, I wander into an uptown coffee shop that may or may not a nursery for baby hipsters. The coffee guys are fresh-faced and clean, dressing in white button down and vintage ties, the southern version of their New York City Stumptown Coffee brethren. They don’t speak so much as languidly spill words which run together like soft cloth, even as their coffee breaks through both cream and sugar. It’s the sort of coffee that requires a water back.

This fuel rockets me first into the blazing sun, and then to the Birmingham Museum of Art, where Hale Woodruff’s Talladega College murals tell stories so deep of slavery and emancipation, that I begin to weep caffeine clouded tears.

On Saturday, I wake up early. I need that coffee, I covet that coffee, I desire that coffee with such a fever that I’m pulled from my hotel room into the sweltering streets. Before the street is the lobby and before that, the elevator, which packed with twelve orange shirts. Smiling, chattering people, boldly stating that “all lives matter,” and that “Planned Parenthood and the MIddle East are monsters.” There is a Glenn Beck rally happening a few streets over from the film festival. Oil and water.

They swarm my coffee place asking a million little questions, struggling with the milk thermos, keeping me from my drug. I leave defeated, yet determined to find coffee somewhere between here and there. A good cup. Birmingham’s street throb with history and heart, a good cup of coffee can’t be that hard to find…

Every corner, ever sidewalk is packed. People with orange shirts. I ping-pong through the crowd. Another good coffee place, another crowd. Where are my people, I silently cry. Where’s my coffee? And for a terrible moment, I ask myself a terrible question. Where are the story-tellers, the glue that hold this place together.

And then, in a moment, I catch myself swimming upstream against the current as scared of the fish I’m surrounded by as they are of me. And I resolve to talk to someone with an orange shirt and ask them what and why.

I do it, too. At the airport the following day.

Some land has a heart beat, some cities, a pulse. Birmingham, I slowly realize, has a soul that expands and contracts with every given victory, every given deception. It’s alive, and it’s flavor is deeply complex.

“What was your biggest take away,” I ask the orange shirt as we line up to board. I know him from the hotel van.

“We’re all one,” he says, “and I should go to church more often. And I wish we had a black Baptist church where I’m from,” he adds. “My congregation back home don’t know how to sing at all.”

Birmingham, I think I have a crush on you.

IMG_2735

construction/ deconstruction

IMG_2547

The exit ramp out of limbo is a construction zone. The cars are crawling. Day workers wave orange traffic flags. Roaring diesel machines of construction and deconstruction, rusted metal dinosaurs, loom, swing, crunch, guffaw, and weep as candy colored cars creep by.

Noise, like shaken sand, reaches into crevices and remote crannies of any given collection of things. While jack hammers hammer the alley to pieces during these thick days of summer, my hoarder neighbor begins the Herculean task of cleaning his apartment. The smell that emanates from his floor is pungent. It wafts through the building, down the elevator shaft, and lingers in the lobby. It creeps between the sand and noise of the construction/ deconstruction zone. It drives cockroaches from their home and into the hallways and apartments of others, proving that life can get louder in an infinite number of ways.

For two days, I escape the grating noise of construction for the hum of motorcycle motors, the beating sun, and smell of hot asphalt. I’m acquiring my motorcycle license via the Motorcycle Safety School protocol. I ride a cracked scooter, 125cc engine, the dashboard pieced together with clear packing tape. I’m the runt of the litter, puttering at half speed behind the motorcycles of my peers. This new-to-me form of locomotion shakes my frazzled nerves. Hypnotized by the thrum of engines, the sweltering heat, the exhaustion and exhaust, I ride my little scooter into a fence. Afterwards, I putter with such an absence of speed that I am a wonder to instructor and fellow student alike. I am The One Who Might Not Pass.

The first day, I am a novelty. The second a disaster. Both days, I am the underdog.

And yet, I pass my test.

Happy midlife crisis, everyone!

***

I pack a box every day for three weeks straight. I start with a set of smart blue bins, bought for me by the kindest friend I have, one who carries me from point to point with a style so subtle, I don’t realize that we were moving until we’ve moved.

In these bins, I place things I don’t immediately need.

I  buy clear plastic bins in a manic panic at Target on a day I can no longer take the noise of the construction. Into them go the things I know I might want to find. Recycled cardboard boxes catch books, antique photo album, vitamins, hard drives. Each box gets a cursory note, written on a post-in with a failing sharpie pen. “Inspiration,” says one, “sheets and blankets,” “ideas,” “tea.”

Then come the cardboard boxes from Home Depot. Kitchen supplies, a seemingly endless collection of forks and knives, dishes, pots and pans, can openers, turkey basters, candy thermometers… coffee pots, blenders, whisks, and towels.

Like at the end of a catered affair, when guests wander from their tables, and the cater waiters are pour coffee, the enterprise looses its way. Toilet paper mixes with light bulbs, socks, and staplers. Jewelry, paper, pencils, and pillows. The more I pack, the more I toss, the more I give away, the more I seem to own. Endless piles of things I need and don’t need. Little bits of life, like sand and noise, squeeze into the cracks of everything.

Overwhelmed by stuff, I call for reinforcements.

My sister comes to help.

***

The good and the bad thing about sisters is that they think they know you better than anyone else. The other good and the bad thing about sisters is sometimes they do. When you tell them that they are wrong, they assume you are lying to them.

The best and worst thing about being the youngest sister, is that you always have someone who, even if shorter than you, you look up to.

The worst worst thing about being a youngest sister is that you spend your early years running after your more ambulatory siblings, and never, ever catch up.

The best thing about being a youngest sister, is that every once in a while your older siblings will stop, wait, and maybe even walk back to help you dust off your knees when you fall.

On that note, let’s have a word about U-Haul.

***

I reserve a 10′ truck, one way to Dover. It’s to be packed with my things, now shoved mercilessly into bins – soy sauce, Sriracha, shampoo, and soap, and driven by the same friend who carries me long distances as well as short. That’s the plan.

Until U-Haul tries to send me 25 uneasy miles both ways – out of my way – to pick up the vehicle.

I formulate a new plan.

I reserve a 9′ cargo van, round trip from a U-Haul place closer to me. That friend who carries me long distances and short, who once convinced me to release 150 ladybugs into my apartment to help with my ailing plants, yet who I still trust implicitly, will drive.

I tell the lady on the phone that I need it for two days. She says, “no problem.” There will be no rush driving it back to New York.

Until U-Haul reveals that they are only renting it to me for 24 hours. They tell me this when I pick up the vehicle.

“But, I rented it for two days.”

“It’s in the computer for one.”

“I rented it for two.”

“I can’t change the computer.”

“I will be late.”

“There’s nothing I can do.”

We assess the smallness of the vehicle. I tell my friends who are helping me move that my desk, my yellow chair, my clothes, and my toothbrush are priority items. My dog spends the day hiding in her bag.

IMG_2718***

If my life in New York was a movie, moving would be towards the end of act three – a montage of packing and repacking, pushing heavy boxes into the hallway, the flagging elevator, the van… a perfect bookend to my arrival almost 22 years ago, when I stepped off the train with a cello and a suitcase. My oldest New York friend, who I met my first day in the city, and my newest friend, who I met a few months ago, are helping with the move out. In the last moment of a perfect movie, you’d see my hand switch off the apartment lights, lock the door. You’d see my feet walk out the building’s front door.

But, that’s not the end.

In the moments before I fall asleep in my friend’s guest bedroom in New Hampshire I realize I’ve forgotten my dresser. It stood lonely in the corner of my almost empty bedroom as we moved things out of the living room. Immediately after this realization, I am hit with the overwhelming need to sweep my floors. And so, when my friend and the U-Haul van drive back to New York, I go with them.

I sweep. I clean. I surrender more left behind things to the basement of my building. My friend who has carried me all this way and I drink beer on the roof of the building. The sunset is scattered and beautiful, as if five different artists took turns on a single canvas. In one part, the tops of grey cumulous clouds are tinged with fire. Behind, against the bright blue sky, golden clouds stretch out. A salmon sunset hits the southern sky. And a charcoal artist has smudged streaks over the watercolor blues, golds, and pinks.

The movie could end there, too.

But it doesn’t.

My friend who has carried me all this way and back again, carries me further, to White Plains, where I sleep in a guest room furnished for a little boy. In the morning, he carries me back to the train, which carries me to the bus that carries me back to New Hampshire.

***

Before I step out of the car in the White Plains railroad station parking lot, he hands me a lottery ticket with a flick of his wrist. It’s the same ticket that’s been under a magnet on my refrigerator for a month or two. I bought it in New Hampshire. It has the stickiest part of a sticky note stuck under the numbers. “You won $1,” it says.

“You forgot this,” he says.

And that, my friends, is a good place to end.

IMG_2729

 

 

 

 

 

No Trees Touch the Sky

IMG_2713There is construction, or deconstruction going on outside my apartment. I live in the back of the building, where I’ve become accustomed to a version of quiet only found in New York City. The back of my building meets with the backs of five or six other buildings, forming an echoing alleyway a block long. Each building had a character of its very own. One hosts a yearly Latino birthday bash, a drunk guy who sometimes blares salsa from his bedroom window lives in another. An opera singer plagues the alleyway with hours of warm-ups and trills resides somewhere here, and a saxophone player just moved in. Once upon a time, two sisters lived in the apartment across from my bedroom window, spitting distance from my fire escape. The zaftig elder cooked naked in the kitchen, her breasts pendulous over the hot stove. The two would scream and fight for days at a time, breaking only to eat. They moved out and were replaced by a respectable young couple who put up curtain. New York City zen.

But now, on the fortnight of my departure, I wake up to the beeping, pounding, boulder crushing noises in the back of my building. From early morning until the evening, when I leave for work, the rubble rubbles, the rocks rock, the workers work, the trucks truck, and I sit at my desk and stare at my computer and try my hardest to think. But there is no room for thought. My brain is full of noise.

They are deconstructing a retaining wall that collapsed two years ago. It’s taken them a while, mostly because the building owner didn’t want to assume responsibility for the collapse. For two years, I’ve had the alleyway view of a beautiful tree growing sideways, a torn, blue, plastic tarp, insufficient in preventing further collapse, and rusting metal beams holding the bits of wall that had not yet collapsed in place. Decay and entropy. I’ve watched it grow.

It’s important to note that it is because of this situation that my apartment was burglarized. The the only access to the alleyway is through my building’s. Our security gate was taken down to make room for big machines and for two years, my co-op board sued the other buildings affected to replace the gate, instead of replacing it first and then suing for payment later. Sometimes, people are dumb.

Maybe I’m not being fair.

What I’m trying to say is: I have feelings about this entire situation.

Mostly, I feel like New York is projectile vomiting me into the next state.

New York City has a reigning deity. I don’t know her name, but she is clearly a cousin of Hawaii’s Pele, for whom it is sport to bash her inhabitants on the rocks to see what they are made of.

This Spirit of New York is as fickle, lovely, and as delicately cruel as Pele. She’ll whip you around by your pinky finger, turn your hair grey before your very eyes, whisper in your ears in the silence between evangelical sermons, the shuffling stories of the desperate and lonely spare changers, and the “show time” kids swinging on poles and spinning on their heads in the cramped confines of a crowded subway car.

What does she whisper? It depends. Sometimes its a love song. Sometimes a secret. She can be kind. Gentle in places. Sometimes, she likes a little finesses, a bit of subtlety, style. But then, you’ll see her stride down the red carpet like an over-processed peacock. She’ll play in the grass, swim in the river, wink from between high building like grass pushing through cracks in the sidewalk. What she doesn’t want you to see is that she’s really a small island, at the mercy of nature, trampled upon daily and weighed down by steel, concrete, and nine million different dreams.

When you break up with her, one of two things happen. Either you run into every person you’ve ever slept with, the parade of exes, or she acts like an asshole.

Clearly, she’s going with the latter strategy with me.

Accompanying the din of the deconstruction of the retaining wall that ate my computer, are songs from the musical I’ve been working on, which rage through my head.

When it’s quiet in the alleyway, in the dead of night, machinery, opera singers, and drunken deejays tucked safely in bed, songs from the show carry on, in no particular order, ear worms eat holes in my brain, and lyrics mate with my own personal melodic questions.

The fortune from my last fortune cookie read: “German proverb: No trees touch the sky.” I toss. I wonder. What happened to the guy who used to write fortune cookies? Is he in poor health? I turn. Who is this new guy? Why does he know German proverbs? Has he run out of Chinese proverbs? It seems impossible. Did no one train him in the uncanny art of sending the right fortune into the hands of the person who needs it most? Did he know about the sideways tree behind my apartment that was chopped down when they started clearing out the collapse?

Namely, how can I get the songs from this musical out of my head?

And, why the thought of buying a car be more stressful than the thought of buying a house?

And how the hell am I going to use up my ten pass to the Russian Turkish baths in two weeks time?

And why is my Chinese fortune cookie quoting German proverbs?

The breeze from the alleyway brushes against my bare arms like a thousand tiny feathers. My dog sighs and lays her chin on my thigh. I give up on sleep and hum along with the show tunes instead.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Best Little Midlife Crisis in the World

Dot_boatIf the psychics are right, at approximately 4:05 p.m. Sunday afternoon, August 2nd, I will be standing, or sitting, at the apex of my life on this earth. I’ll be at the middle of the marathon. In the eye of a fearless storm. Atop the peak of my own personal mountain. In the basement of a theater located in the middle of the universe, Times Square, USA, the end of my second to last work week before I begin my slow exit out of Limbo and onto the entrance ramp of The Next Interesting Adventure. On Sunday, I turn 45.

As we’ve discussed last year when I was pouting behind an ice cream cone in Reykjavik, Iceland at this time, that I’m not good at birthdays, especially my own, and haven’t been since the ripe old age of six. I’ve cried almost every year on the day. To avoid sadness and despair requires a Herculean effort, namely whale watching, live music, good wine, and a patient friend. This year is different so far. This year the impending occasion feels more like a shrug than a cataclysmic event. This passing year, I survived a burglary, a very troubled employee, and life in the theater. After all that, I’m still standing. What’s in an emotionally scripted moment anyway? Isn’t improv a more interesting approach to living a real life?

I’m not big on Bible quotes. And I don’t believe in sharing them, but I came across something interesting when I was cruising raptureworld.com last week. A concerned, yet rapture hopeful young woman was fearful that her checkered past might interfere with her receiving an invite into the kingdom of heaven. She wrote this on a message board, inviting feedback, looking for guidance. The pastor who answered, a wise man, as far as I can tell, pulled a quote from the Luke section of the New Testament. It goes something like this: a guy runs into Jesus and tells him “I’d really, really like to follow you, but I want to bury my dead father first.” Jesus says, “let the dead bury the dead. Your time is better spent telling people about the Kingdom of Heaven.” Later, he’s stopped by another guy who wants to follow, too, but he has to settle up some stuff at home first. You know, clean the dishes, close the windows, vacuum. Jesus says, “anyone who starts plowing, but keeps looking back, isn’t worth a thing in God’s kingdom.”

The sentiment sounds a little harsh. Perhaps something is lost in translation. It’s along the same lines of that theatrical creed, “the show must go on.” Should we allow the past to burn out the past like two opposing fires, let memories soften into songs, allow words loosen up while we keep walking, keep talking, and move forward instead of backwards?

In preparing for my midlife crossover, I took my Motorcycle Learner’s Permit test. I bid on a house in a city I do not know. I bought a head of kale, a bunch of radishes, and a healthy looking cucumber, and chucked a pretty awesome bread-and-butter job that allows me time to be a part-time artist in order to become a full-time artist, with a part-time job.

I’m on point to score the Best Midlife Crisis Ever.

The future is bright. And it starts soon. On Sunday, I’ll find someone, a stranger, a friend, a lover, anyone who’s game, to raise a glass of sparkly wine, which we will call champagne even if it’s cheap proseco. We’ll tie it up the past in a neat little package to be pulled out at cocktail parties and pow wows. We’ll cheer for the true stories that will soon be given to fictional characters and coddle the real characters who will be handed fictional lives. The dead will dance with the dead while we hangout on the side of the road just outside of Limbo, and try to catch a peek at my shiny new toy, life on the other side of the mountain.

Why am I telling you all this? Well, first off, because I can. Because it’s my blog and I’ll write what I want to. Also, because, even though most people are better at their birthdays than I am with mine, I’m fairly convinced that I’m somewhat of a savant when it comes to the midlife crisis. And by savant, I mean genius. Mad scientist. Dotty old maid. Performance artist. I don’t know. I get those things confused.

In my mind’s eye, I sometimes see myself as a little girl, always chasing my bigger sisters, always trying to catch up. They’re bigger and stronger, faster, and want nothing to do with their baby sister. And this little girl, my imagined me, keeps trying to catch up to them. She trips. She falls. She gets up. She dusts off her knees. She runs after her big sisters again, now farther behind. She will probably never catch up to them, but she keeps trying. She can’t not try. It’s in her nature. With every fall comes a renewed attempt. Like Sisyphus without the boulder, and the torturous eternal damnation, and sunburn, she keeps going and going and going. Run, fall down, get up, dust off knees, apply band-aid, repeat.

I think a pretty accurate depiction of my life and adventures so far.

Isn’t it curious how we humans have a killer collective memory? We hear voices from the grave, read words from the grave. We look at art, listen to music, tell stories of people who have passed away hundreds, thousands of years ago. We pretend to be them. We keep our dead alive.

Some of those ghosts and artist from the past knew us better than we know ourselves. They knew our inner lives intimately, our personalities, our aptitudes and attitudes, our dreams, our hopes, our flaws. So many of them whisper in our ears “love is love, Romance is romance. Hope is hope. And life… is life.”

Our dead heroes were once excellent beginners. Deep thinkers. Soulful artists. Fragile humans. Confused, hopeful, conceited, humble, argumentative, contradictory souls. Like us, they straddled the fissure between past and future. The history of humanity is a maze that turns back on itself. Molecules, stars, planets, memories, visions, and dreams. A maze without an exit. A labyrinth as deep and wide as the history of the universe.

So, I guess I’m just not worried that I’ll cry this Sunday. I think I’d rather sit on the metaphoric lawn chair with my dog on my lap at the far corner of Limbo and blow out a candle, eat a cupcake. Maybe catch a star or two.

Buzz

IMG_2091

Buzz (noun): a low, vibrating, humming sound, as of bees, machinery, or people talking.

Listen, you would be like this, too, if you were in my shoes. Under-slept, over-caffeinated, your brain pumping thoughts out by the millions while your body, curls itself into a ball on the C & J bus to New Hampshire, Trying our best to quell an imminent and long lasting bout of car sickness, or bus sickness, as the case may be. Maybe motion sickness is a better term, since the churning, burning, turning of your stomach matches the motions of your mind.

There’s the hum of the tires on the road. The hum of canned air. The hum of the bubbling carbonation of a coke, my latest effort to quell the rocking beast.  The hum of my thoughts, a fully fueled choir singing in my head. Buzzing.

It’s my day off, the first of many, and I am lurching towards New Hampshire to look for a place to live.

Last Sunday was my last official day at work. It was much like any other Sunday, except that a few people said goodbye. My replacement, Heather, witnessed one last time my enviable bedside manner, my mustache taping techniques, and a few more jokes. After work, instead of everyone scattering into their own interesting lives for the evening and a day, a few work friends came out for a drink to a bar that serves blue cheese stuffed olives in their drinks. Also, my desk was clean, clear, and in order for the first time in three years.

The bus has a stash of Pop Corners, all different flavors, and a Kuerig coffee maker on  the bus, by the way. Complimentary snacks.

“It feels so final this time,” says my company manager before the show. This might be the last time we ever speak. She’s referring to the previous times I’ve left the show, and returned – once in 2008 to seek my fortune in Los Angeles, then, a few months later when I filled in for a month in Melbourne, and again on June 14, when I left after submitting my four weeks notice. This past Sunday rounds me up to two official resignations with two additional departures, all documented on paper or in emails, all signed by me.

Buzz (idiom): have /get a buzz on, Slang. to be slightly intoxicated.

Hazel planned the drinking thing. She invited the people. We sat up and down a long rectangular table and they toasted me. I sat at the very end of the table, closest to the door, in case I had the urge to run.

Hazel wanted to treat me and I wanted to treat Nicci which mucked the whole treating thing up. Janet, Sweet Mary, Kurtis, and Michelle left enough for me, Hazel, and Nicci, all of whom were aiming to pay for each other. The surplus was passed along to the waitress, as neither Hazel nor I are particularly good at counting after a couple of vodka and blue cheese stuffed olive cocktails.

Monday, I was free! I went to the DMV to pick up a motorcycle driving license manual. I discovered in going for the DMV that it had moved. So I found the new DMV, a shiny space with a canned female voice robotically directing the foot traffic and lines, fitting her words together in such a way that you know she doesn’t understand a bit of what she’s saying. Even so, she keeps the lines moving.

I went to the movies, too, a rarity for me, on this first day off. So did a gaggle of twenty rowdy camp kids and their camp counselors, who took up the first twenty rows of the theater. I sat in the back, well aware of the likelihood of getting pelted in the head with Skittles, should I choose to seat myself at the front of the theater.

I also:

1. signed over power of attorney to my lawyer

2. unloaded the top shelf of my bedroom closet

3. thought about buying bins and boxes

4. and, ate bad sushi with my fingers before the movie began

Shit’s getting really real.

Buzz (noun, slang): a feeling of intense enthusiasm, excitement, or exhilaration.

The C & J bus to Portsmouth also offers complimentary Yoplait yogurt, many different flavors, bottled water, raisins, and almonds. Even though the rest room is so tiny that you can barely fall down as the back of the bus lurches from side to side and smells an unnatural mix of air freshener and human waste, it is very cozy.

They say that living well is the best revenge. And so, on Tuesday, a day in which I previously had blocked out to do nothing in particular ended up with me exacting my revenge on the asshole who walked into my apartment a couple of months ago, without even asking, and took my stuff. Including, of course, my computer with my copy of Final Cut Pro 7. Since my short film was accepted into the Sidewalk Film Festival in Birmingham, Alabama (if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by), I decided that I would in no way, allow my dearth of tools prevent my film from showing. And so, I rented a computer and polished my film until my brain stopped working, as evident by my inability at the end the end of the day to exit the elevator when it got to the lobby. I rode it up and down twice.

Please don’t tell anyone I did that.

I guess the thing is, what I’m trying to say, is that the bus isn’t so bad, if you don’t try to read and remember to look out the window every once in a while. If you loosen your personal embargo against Coca Cola and sip it slowly until it coats your stomach, if you grab onto the corners as the bus twists and turns, because even if the journey’s making you nauseous, at least you’re moving.

Buzz (verb): to tell or spread (a rumor, gossip, etc.) secretively.

The aim is to have the best midlife crisis ever. Aside from a little motion sickness, a couple of detours, and a some traffic, I think I’m headed that way.

Remember to sit at the back of the movie theater when children with candy outnumber adults, to read the driving manual thoroughly, to enjoy snacks you might not normally eat when they are offered, and live well, whether or not you’re doing it out of revenge.

What I like best about the journey, besides the scenery, the buzz, the excitement of starting new but still a little worn in, are the snacks.

4000

IMG_2659Below is a brief history lesson. I’ll try to keep it interesting. There will be no tests.

On Wednesday, July 12, 2015, the Broadway juggernaut Jersey Boys played its 4000th performance. That’s 500 weeks, eight shows a week, with one day off each week. The Broadway company has spent nearly ten years etching the simplified, musicalized, and ever so slightly fictionalized account of the unlikely birth and death of the Four Seasons. Even by today’s standards, it’s a sharp musical. The script is tight, the stage choreography, tight. The music, tight.

The producers brought a hug cake to the theater Wednesday between shows. Actually, they brought four cakes. One in the shape of a 4, and three in the shape of 0’s. The actors wore t-shirts commemorating the event and smiled of the cake as a Broadway promotional website photographer snapped their pictures.

There’s an adage you might’ve heard, especially if you’ve spent any time in the theater. It is important to note that there are many exceptions to the rule.

It goes like this:

Question: How do you make an actor unhappy?

Answer: Give them a job.

To this well-heeled joke, I propose an addendum:

Question: How do you make an actor happy?

Answer: Give them cake and a photo op.

This 4000th performance (and the ones that follow) represent a triumph for our production company, a group that produces more original works than revivals, and sometimes takes chances on questionable material, just because they like it. In 2005, they poured their last resources into this little show, with its cast of unknowns, and discovered after the first preview that they had a hit on their hands.

Jersey Boys has outrun Mary Poppins, Hairspray, My Fair Lady, Hello Dolly, Fiddler on the Roof, and 42nd Street during its lengthy run, and is fast on the heels of Miss Saigon. As the show coasts towards its ten year anniversary, ten years of world history, its lodged in the personal history of hundreds of thousands of theater goers as well as the actors, front of house, and backstage crew that make it happen every night. The August Wilson Theater has witnessed ten years of marriages, babies, dogs, cats, and deaths. I can’t help but feel a touch sentimental as I inch towards the door, an invisible cog in a very big wheel. A part of theatrical history.

When I accepted my position at the show the first time, when it was new, I told a friend that Jersey Boys would be the last show I supervised on. I left three years after the opening, and after a brief, and unsuccessful stint in Los Angeles, I supervised and ran, I don’t know, maybe seven or eight shows. And then I returned to Jersey Boys, and never say never, but it looks like I was right all along. It looks like Jersey Boys will be the last Broadway show I supervise.

There was a time, when I was in college, that I believed with all my heart that I would be happy doing anything in a theater. I’d be happy to carry a sword on stage, happy to build a set, to sweep between the audience seats, happy to take out the trash. Theater’s been good to me. Broadway’s been good to me, but this is no longer the case.

Still, it’s hard not to be sentimental.

Plus which, I know it ain’t over ’til the fat lady sings.

End of lesson.

***

Question: When do you leave for New Hampshire?

Answer: I don’t know. Sometime in August.

Question: Where are you living?

Answer: I don’t know.

***

Imagine this: I’m biking through the gentle hills of Limbo. The scenery is spectacular, at once riddled with reference to the past, and colored with hope for the future. It’s the landscape of my life in watercolor.

In LImbo, the past and present unfold on either side of the quiet road. In the distance is a wide vista with rolling hills. By my bike wheels, are mini forests, full micro-flora and fauna, a fractals of the bigger picture. The trees bend and shake their leaves. There’s no rush in Limbo. In fact, the more you push, the slower you go, the longer Limbo Road becomes. May as well enjoy the scenery.

In my bike basket, I have a pair of scissors, a needle and thread, a towel, a small dog, a toothbrush, and a pair of reading glasses I’m still afraid to wear. I used to have a sandwich as well, but the dog ate it.

Th scissors are for cutting ribbons, that quaint practice of politicians and local business magnates symbolically opening up their store, their mining operation, a new monument for business. The needle and thread are for sewing up previously cut ribbon so that as I leave, someone else has the honor of cutting the ribbon int heir own way.

On the left, I’m coasting by the last ten years. Past my return to Jersey Boys after a four-year hiatus, back on the train to Los Angeles, where I tried on a life that didn’t quite fit, back past the Tony awards, to the first performances when the show was stopped night after night by a wall of applause. Now I’m passing the invited dress rehearsal, the ten out of twelves, the final run through at the rehearsal studio, the meet and greet of the little show that may or may not make it. For me, it was another job. An interesting job. An exciting job. But, I didn’t have much to lose.

Even so, I think there’s an opportunity here to come up with a new adage, on that works for the backstage crew I’ve worked with longest and know the best. It goes like this:

Question: How do you make a crew person happy?

Answer: Give them a job.

Question: How do you make them even happier?

Answer: Give them a day off, a piece of cake, and a bottle of wine.
***

Long story short, ‘m watching the last ten years in reverse as my dog rifles through my purse, which is also int he bike basket, I’m waving goodbye to the strange, amorphous, quietly generous, sometimes turbulent, often loving family called Jersey Boys. In another six days, I’m going to stand up on the pedals, and yell from the handle bars, “so long! Maybe I’ll see you on the next one. And thanks for all the laughs”

Limbo can be cool, if you have a nice set of wheels.

IMG_2467