Monthly Archives: January 2017

Loss of Respect

Most people figure out their parents are flawed as children. Some can even pinpoint the specific moment. I may not remember the exact incident, but I’ve known my mother was flawed for about as long as I can remember. She judgmental, and sees everything in terms of right and wrong. I want to believe we’re very different people, but I know better.

My father is another story.

I have always said my dad is the best man I will ever know. One of my life goals is to be more like him because of his compassion and empathy – he likes everyone until he has a reason not to. Even then, it has to be a really good reason, probably multiple reasons. And there is nothing he wouldn’t do for those he loves and are closest to him.

We’ve long disagreed about politics. My parents are both conservative, but we could talk respectfully. Dad watched Fox News, but he also seemed to know that Bill O’Reilly was over the top. This past election, we barely talked politics. Dad said he didn’t like either candidate – I was hopeful he’d be bothered enough by Trump’s flaws that just maybe he would vote third party.

A few weeks ago, in a comment on one of my Facebook posts, he confirmed he voted for Trump. I want to say I was hurt, but it’s more like I was disappointed in him. His few posts since that have only reinforced that.

I don’t know what to do with this, but I don’t like it. I still believe he’s a good man at heart. That hasn’t changed. But that pedestal isn’t quite as high as it used to be.

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I know him

“My kid swallowed a quarter – this is my life!” he bellowed from across the theater lobby. The man who, just half an hour earlier, had been the lead in the musical my best friend and I were attending, approached us. His eyes danced as he apologized for the interruption of a phone call from his wife.

I was, as always, in awe that he remembered me at all, let alone was willing to hang around and converse with mere fans. We had met when he was part of a band in New York that acted as part tribute act and part vehicle for new songs by Jim Steinman. I had joined my fellow Steinfans, aka Steinmaniacs, for a few shows at Joe’s Pub, a tiny venue attached to the Public Theater. I had ventured backstage to find a bathroom and run right into him. He was tall, well over six feet, and squarely built. I wasn’t a bit surprised to discover later that he’d played football in college. And he had a voice that matched his physical size. He was a natural choice to fill the Meat Loaf’s shoes.

As one of the few women in attendance, I suppose I stood out. At least, that’s what I told myself to explain him recognizing me, even if it had been a year or more since I’d seen him. That or he simply didn’t have that many people following him around – his name simply isn’t that well known.

I’ve gone by the name Daphne online for as long as I’ve been online. I answer to that as easily and readily as I do my real name. After one such encounter with this more hulking version of Nathan Fillion, he turned to me before walking away, and called out, “Your name isn’t even Daphne is it?” I don’t know how he figured it out. Most likely, he’d overheard the rest of us talking.

I blushed and confirmed he was right. Not long after, I kicked myself for not being as cool and smooth as Penny Lane in the movie Almost Famous. How I wished I had simply squared my shoulders, looked him in the eye, and said, “I’ll never tell.”

But he was too good looking and my self confidence was sadly lacking.

I haven’t seen him in several years now. Not since traveling an hour and meeting up with him after a meet and greet so we could chat about the latest Steindrama. I felt like such an insider, standing there off to the side while others got autographs. I got so much more. I got that smile aimed right at me. I got conversation and memories I will always carry with me.

I wonder now if he would still remember me. It doesn’t really matter though. He was nice to me when it mattered. And that’s enough.

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What Comes Next?

Every trip I make to New York City has a purpose. Usually, a Broadway show is involved, but there’s always sightseeing to be done as well. Whether it’s the site of the Worlds Fairs in Queens, memorials to the Harlem Renaissance, or landmarks of the Art Deco period, there is no end to what I need to see.

After so many trips though, what could be left?

I keep saying that, one of these times, I’m going to do the stereotypically touristy stuff – Empire State Building, Ellis Island, etc. But most of that isn’t nearly as interesting to me as attractions that are slightly less known. There are museums I should see – and by museums I mean all of them. I’ve seen the outside of the Guggenheim and The Met, but not been inside. I want to explore the Museum of Sex. I’m sure there are more that I don’t even know the names of.

I want to explore Little Italy there, though we have a fine one in Cleveland I’ve not visited either. Let’s face it, Little Italy always meant grandma’s house when I was growing up. I was an adult before I realized that, not only was there such a place but that her house was nowhere near it.

Likewise, there are surely restaurants I would enjoy there. But there are probably 50 or more here that I haven’t been to either. And there are always going to be more shows I want to see, celebrities appearing who I want to meet. But Cleveland has an excellent and highly underrated theater district all its own. I really should support it.

Hmm…maybe what comes next is to explore the city I already live in.

 

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A fully armed battalion…

The subject of me and hugs came up last night and I want to clear something up. Not just because of that particular post, but because it’s something I’ve noticed a lot of lately.

I really like hugs. Especially from friends. It’s actually rare that I don’t want one when we get together.

But I’m also self-aware enough to know why they don’t always happen. I can fight it as much as I want, pretend it isn’t true, but I know exactly how alike my mother and I are. We both have resting bitch face. We each come off as cold and distant at first glance. We can be hard to read. I get it.

We just take a little effort. And I know that gets old. I know it’s hard. I also know that other people have their own struggles, their own anxiety. I don’t assume that everyone wants a hug when I see them, or that they want to hug me. Basically, unless you come at me with open arms or full-on tackle me, I’m going to be unsure. And most likely I will hesitate just long enough that the opportunity passes. It’s what I do.

I’ve also been known to take hugs from strangers – when they ask first. So imagine how much more I want them from people I actually know.

 

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Haunted

A few years ago, I started exploring the very real possibility of reincarnation. I had believed in the concept, in one form or another, since at least my early teens. I would joke then – because of course it would have to be a joke to this sheltered, Baptist-raised girl – that if reincarnation was real, I had probably been a flapper. I don’t remember a time when I wasn’t fascinated with the Art Deco period. I don’t remember learning how to Charleston.

In 10th grade, an English teacher introduced us to The Great Gatsby and I think I knew then that there was something about it that resonated strongly with me – I just didn’t have words for it yet.

My curiosity grew when I decided to look up details regarding the 1939 World’s Fair. The pictures I found struck me in a way that nothing else ever had. I found myself weeping for absolutely no reason I could imagine. I stood up to get away from the computer, away from the images, and felt that I was straddling two different time periods. A very real part of my mind wondered where I was and why this wasn’t my stuff.

It took me several minutes to return to a present reality, and weeks to come to any sort of terms with what had happened. Fearful of looking at more images of the Fair, I nevertheless sought them out and learned whatever I could.

A story began to form. Flashes of images came to me that I couldn’t explain. I followed the threads as if I were creating a novel. Only this was the novel of my life. I was sure of it.

I followed those threads all the way to New York City. I’d been there a few times already and it had always felt…familiar. I had always felt at home there. Finally, I felt like I understood why.

During that trip, we mostly explored the parts of Queens where the Fair had been held, along with some other landmarks from the Art Deco period. This included Grand Central Terminal.

Walking through the tunnels where the shops are reminded me of that initial feeling of seeing pictures from the Fair. This isn’t right, I thought. These are all wrong. I moved as if in a dream, the people looked out of place, their style of dress foreign. The impressions and emotions were overwhelming. I tried to tell myself that it was simply the emotions that must infuse any place that had experienced so much coming and going over so many decades.

But that rang false. That wasn’t it at all. I’m sensitive to energy to an extent, but I am not that much of an empath. If so, I would get similar feelings in malls and at concerts, and that is not why I don’t go to malls more often.

No. I was remembering.

This past Sunday, I had some time before my flight back to Cleveland. I took the subway to a silly little find called CupcakeATM. It is literally a place where you can buy cupcakes and they will come out of a slot in the side of a building. Really, it’s just an updated version of the automat, but I haven’t experienced automats because they were before my time.

Sure, that’s the fascination…they were before my time.

On my way back to the hotel, I stopped at Grand Central. Passing through the first time, I had felt that familiar energy wash over me yet again while I transferred to a different line. As soon as the new train pulled out, however, it passed. I felt relaxed again. Was it psychosomatic? Perhaps, but I hadn’t been consciously thinking about my location – or my possible history with it – until I arrived there. I certainly wasn’t expecting the reaction I had.

The subways at Grand Central are quite separate from the rest of the trains. That section looks like any other subway stop. There is a point, however, when you enter the older part of the building that the architecture shifts. It was at that point that the stores once again simply seemed…wrong. Wandering the main floor – that part that seems to turn up in every movie ever set in New York – I found I could pinpoint what seemed to belong and what didn’t.

I sat down on some stairs, closed my eyes, and willingly gave in to the emotions. A woman walked by in a longer skirt and floppy hat. That’s how they should all look, I thought. It was certainly closer to the “right” style than anyone else crossing my path. The electronic sign advertising Broadway shows kept changing their pictures. How did they do that?

I thought about what I might have been trying to escape once upon a time. There is no doubt to me that’s what I was attempting. The side tunnels to the trains look like freedom to me. I took pictures in an effort to capture that feeling but I doubt it comes through to anyone but me. Removed from that place, even I struggle to see them the same way.

What scared me so much that I hesitated in making that escape? What kept me trapped in whatever reality I was in?

I have theories, none of which I will bore anyone with unless they ask. Eventually, they may become a novel, but even that isn’t certain. All I’m sure of is that there is an unmistakable connection to another time that lives within those walls.

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Teach ’em how to say goodbye


Someone I know, someone on my friends list, had the audacity recently to write that reading the New York Times interview with Donald Trump – the one where they printed his answers word for word – was akin to listening to Obama for the past eight years. I had only insufficient words for a response, and so said nothing.

And part of me actually did wonder what I had missed. Had I been that blind to Obama’s words? He had always seemed so eloquent to me, but had I really been listening?

So I decided to watch Obama’s farewell address. And I listened for the type of incoherence I’ve heard in Trump, the narcissism, and focus on himself. The vague references to vague concepts that never get specific.

I heard none of that.

Instead, I heard a man who first credited his audience, his fellow citizens, for all the progress made over the past eight years. Later, he was effusive in his praise for his wife Michelle and their two daughters. He actually fought tears in speaking of the woman who has been by his side this whole time. He was equally eloquent regarding Joe “I’ma point at ’em” Biden.

I cried throughout most of it. This is the man I have come to respect so much. Not every word was perfect, and there were points I disagreed with. But I also lost count of how many times I wanted to scream “Amen!” By the end, I wanted to give him a standing ovation. By myself. In my living room.

The contrast could not have been starker.

So yes, I will do my best to be vigilant but not afraid. To act and organize. To fight. To keep the hope that our progress  will continue.

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To the stage!

I didn’t grow up loving the theater. As a kid, I remember dressing up and going to a couple of productions of The Nutcracker over the holidays. I know my parents and I saw The King and I – possibly the last tour with Yul Brenner, though I was thoroughly unaware at the time.

Even so, the stage was not a passion for me. I was an 80s kid. I was all about music videos, sitcoms, and sketchy hour-long dramas. Obviously, these don’t have to be mutually exclusive, but for me they were.

I’m not sure now when that changed. Maybe it was college when I discovered Mandy Patinkin through movies and television. A friend suggested I listen to a little musical called Evita. I balked and claimed I didn’t like musical theater. He proved me wrong.

Over time, I discovered I could in fact enjoy musical theater – if it was done with some humor, some irreverence, and most preferably with some men in drag. Not long after college, a friend and I went to New York to see Billy Crystal do his one-man show, 700 Sundays. I didn’t yet realize that you could wait outside the stage doors for autographs.

A couple of years later, that same friend, the BFF, and I headed back to New York for an epic weekend of theater. There was a perfect storm of sorts on Broadway and we wanted to see everything we possibly could. We started with Denzel Washington in Julius Caeser. He hung around afterwards for hours. If you had a Playbill, he would sign it. I remember someone in front of us telling him how patient he was being. “Do you know the story of Job?” he asked. “Now he was patient.”

The next day, we stood in line at the TKTS booth and got seats to Fiddler on the Roof. Harvey Fierstein and Andrea Martin were starring and I had already been a fan of Fierstein’s for years. They were terrific, and though Harvey rushed off not long after, Andrea was positively adorable. I remember her chatting with another fan about how they both had relatives who lived in Boca Raton. She was as funny and personable as you would want and expect.

Third was a revival of Glengarry Glen Ross, starring Liev Schreiber, Alan Alda, Tom Wopat, and Jeffrey Tambor (I honestly didn’t remember he was in this until looking at the Playbill again. It’s possible I didn’t really know who he was yet.). As I hung out near the stage door, I was told more than once that Alan Alda would not sign autographs. Indeed, he came out of a separate door, practically sprinted down a red carpet, and was ushered into a private car.

I wasn’t there for him.

Not surprising to anyone who knows me, is that I was there for Liev. He was brilliant, I thought, the most compelling one in an already compelling David Mamet piece. When the audience gave the show a standing ovation, I heard a man in front of us mumble how we were obviously a tourist audience. “They’ll stand for anything,” he sneered. Liev would end up winning a Tony for his performance. I felt oddly vindicated.

Afterwards, I was one of few waiting for his autograph. He was about to release his directorial debut, called Everything is Illuminated. I had read the book and told him I was curious what he was going to do with it. He laughed and said, “Me too.” Afterwards, we watched him walk off and actually followed him for several blocks. Right up until we realized he had likely seen us more than once.

For our grand finale, we saw the original cast in Spamalot – Tim Curry, Hank Azaria, and David Hyde Pierce all in one place. AND I discovered Sara Ramirez. What a voice. Somehow, I managed to be upfront, near the ropes, when the cast came out. I listened as Hank Azaria ran through a litany of his voices from The Simpsons for a young fan standing next to me. And I was able to get autographs from each of the three male stars, and have pictures of them as well.

Before walking away, the BFF and I stood around trying to decide on what to do for dinner. That’s when she spotted Jeff Goldblum coming out of a show he was doing. He looked tired, but he took time for everyone who came up to him. There was never a big crowd, just two or three at a time. I nearly didn’t want to bother him – we hadn’t seen the show he was in – but we approached him anyway.

I told him we had gone to Pittsburgh to see him do Music Man there. “Did you like that?” he asked. “I’m from Cleveland and I went to Pittsburgh,” I said. “So yes.”

He laughed. Jeff Goldblum, born in Pittsburgh, laughed at my very regional joke. I’m intensely proud of this moment.

We’ve been back a couple of times since, sometimes for the theater, sometimes not. We saw Neil Patrick Harris do Hedwig and the Angry Inch, though we couldn’t get close enough for an autograph.

So it’s not actually very often that I feel compelled to travel for a show – the weekend of epicness was 2005. But this past weekend, I returned once again to see Liev Schreiber and Janet McTeer in Les Liaisons Dangereuses. To no one’s surprise, they were both phenomenal. I had scored a third-row seat and commiserated with a couple of neighbors about our mutual crush on the male star.

Afterwards, outside, there were more of us waiting for the actors to come out. It was windy and cold and I was nearly about to give up when Liev finally emerged. I had practiced how I wanted to open, and hoped to come up with more in the moment, depending on his answer. Unfortunately, I didn’t. Even so, I told him I had literally been a fan of his since Mixed Nuts (his first film). I wanted him to know that I wasn’t there just because of Ray Donovan or even Wolverine. I was old school, dammit.

“That’s a long time,” he replied. I’m still not whether he was surprised or impressed. Even as I walked back to the hotel, I wished I had also told him it was the second time I’d seen him live. But my brain had frozen. I needed warmth, and hadn’t wanted to keep him out in the cold any longer than necessary either.

Another show, another autograph and fun memory. And this time, it was even more of an escape than usual. In these last few weeks before the inauguration, I was determined to enjoy myself on what could be interpreted as a very superficial level. I witnessed great art by some of the best players in the business, and am not ashamed of that.

I saw other sights that could also be seen as frivolous. But I need a little frivolity every now and then. Otherwise, life gets too serious. Entertainment has always been my escape, and usually that means film. I am happy to say it now includes the theater.

 

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Keep flying…

Last week, I met up with the BFF at a favorite diner to exchange Christmas presents and hang out. We happened on this spot a couple of years back and already it’s virtually tradition. All day, the forecast appeared clear. When I left home, it was sunny.

And then, after we had finished eating and were down to chatting about everything else, I looked up and found that a heavy snow had started to fall. I’m an admitted wuss when it comes to driving in bad weather, so I hoped it would slow down quickly. It didn’t.

We left shortly thereafter and I chose the most straightforward way home. It was often slow, and the entire trip took about double the usual time, but I did it. Even when I could barely make out where the lanes were, even when other vehicles sped past me and threatened to run me off the road, I stayed on my own pace, and kept going.

It was a literal object lesson on the importance of continuing to move forward, no matter what.

I was on the Ohio Turnpike so there were few places to get off or even stop for a break. With my GPS, however, I could be constantly reminded of how much progress I had made. Eventually, it was simply easier to keep going than to stop. It was a draining drive, and I have rarely been so grateful to make it home.

It feels cheesy to say, but I think the reminder is important. Keep flying. Remain vigilant and true to yourself, but keep flying. Even when it’s hard. Even when you don’t want to. You don’t have to save the world every day. If the most you can accomplish is putting one foot in front of the other, do it anyway.

Some days, that is everything. Keep flying.png

 

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To me, she is royalty

Americans have a habit of turning their celebrities into royalty. Especially our movie stars. But what happens when someone ascends to stardom by playing an actual princess? What happens when that role goes on to define their celebrity?

Carrie Fisher said it herself. If she wanted to use her clout for something she wanted, she didn’t say, “I wrote Postcards From the Edge” or “I was in When Harry Met Sally.” She used Princess Leia. They were one. And for generations of sci-fi fans, they always will be.

For some of us, she is more than that.

I’ve wanted to be Princess Leia since the first Star Wars movie came out. I was 5 years old. For years, I dressed as her for Halloween. The costume was easy for my mother to make, and I had the hair for it. I can’t say now what drew me to her as a child. She was pretty and looked vaguely like me. Certainly when I hit adolescence, I appreciated her budding relationship with Han Solo. Who didn’t love that kiss in Empire right?

Not until I was an adult, however, did I truly understand.

Disney princesses have never held much appeal for me. And even at my girliest, I am not suited for frilly ballgowns and proper manners. But Leia was different. Her wardrobe was simple, elegant without being fussy. Even her hair was utilitarian – the styles she wore may have looked otherworldly, but it was out of her way and let her fight with the men. She had a blaster of her own, a mind of her own, and a purpose.

She was no damsel in distress either. When we meet her in A New Hope, she is simply waiting for someone to unlock the door so she can get herself out, thank you very much. And when her boyfriend is captured, she goes to get him. Further, when the reward for her efforts is enslavement, she strangles her captor with the chains used to bind her.

My own stubborn, independent streak had found a kindred spirit.

As I learned more about Fisher herself, I found someone equally admirable. When she battled addiction, she wrote openly and bluntly about her struggle. The result was Postcards, still one of my favorite movies. She would write similarly about her famous family, fame, and her own mental illness. Better to be open about such things than allow others to write the story for you. “Shame is not something I aspire to,” she said.

She wrote about these struggles with humor and self-deprecation. She became relatable even while maintaining her royal status. She used this status and place in the spotlight to become an outspoken advocate for anyone with mental illness. She fought stereotypes of women in Hollywood, and for the LGBTQ community. Her voice became invaluable to so many and even those of us who didn’t know her personally are better for her having lived.

Goodbye Carrie. Thank you for being an advocate. Thank you for normalizing mental illness. Thank you for having the courage to fight your battles in public so some of us could feel less alone. Thank you for saying its okay to be scared. Thank you for telling us to fight anyway.

May we all use our own force to fight back and battle that which would enslave us.

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At Year’s End – Another Take

I’ve ranted. I’ve raged. I’ve cried. And I’ve hidden myself away so as to not have to face the world.

But I’m still here. And so are you. We’ve been through a lot this year. Some of it was even good, and I don’t want the good stuff to be pushed aside or forgotten.

Two friends gave birth to beautiful baby boys. I have no doubt they will be wonderful parents, and look forward to lots of pictures from both. Other friends had a small business take off to the point that it is nearly self-sustaining. I couldn’t be prouder of them. My own small business made money. And I had fun with it, which is really the point after all.

Two other friends got engaged to each other, then posted the video of the proposal on social media. It was beautiful and I am thrilled for both of them.

Cleveland finally got a championship thanks to the Cavaliers. The Indians returned to the World Series and, despite the ultimate loss, it was a hell of a ride. Mid-season, we also broke a club record by winning 14 games in a row. And my city handled all of this without rioting. We even hosted a political convention without rioting. It wasn’t all peaceful, but it was far better than I would have expected.

The summer Olympics saw young women of color dominate their field in gymnastics. In the face of haters, they handled themselves well, far better than I would have at their age.

Broadway celebrated the success of an unlikely musical centering around people of color and portraying the founding of our country. One of the stars would say he had never seen such cooperation between men of color portrayed on stage. For once, these men and women weren’t playing thugs, gangsters, or criminals.

In the wake of the election, I have seen people come together to support each other. I look forward to seeing it continue. There is always hope. We have to cling to that and each other.

Let’s make 2017 as good as it can be.

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