Laura and Ruben, beautiful. Marriage, blue sky, glowing.
Laura and Ruben, beautiful. Marriage, blue sky, glowing.
Chris Ziegler once said something very profound about relationships- in that case, long distance ones- and per usual, he’s good for general wisdom: You have three lives in a relationship. The one you share, the one you live separately, and the one where you merge the other two. I thought of that around 10pm Friday, smoking a joint outside a Fort Greene winebar. After leaving my noisy life for an afternoon living a strange and different one, returning.
I decided earlier that week to go visit my mother. It became a private milestone (though I am really beginning to detest these conceptually, these manufactured life checkpoints that never seem to really change anything). So, a punchline, then a train ride to Floral Park.
It’s odd to think i take different lines on the LIRR to visit my parents now.
I don’t know why I went now. Part of it was to go before Leigh and Aaron’s wedding. The last time our crew was together was her funeral- so it felt right to go before their great celebration. Part of it was my usual propensity to see any instinct I get to completion. Mostly, upon reflection, I think it was to see if she really died.
A train and a cab ride later, we arrived at the office, a cross between a 1980’s bank and a CitiHabitats HQ (in terms of flurried activity and phone calls, real estate and mortality are similarly cyclical business models). Behind bulletproof glass, a man in a yarmulke printed out a map of the massive Beth David Cemetery that had her jewish name (a mess of vowels and syllables) and the intersection at which she…uh…lives (between joshua and benjamin, talk a left at mechlasomething). The mile-long walk to the site, sunlit silence with idle and perfunctory observations about dead strangers “how many steins do you think we’ll see?” Soundtrack to the situation’s gravity was the fucking Mister Softee truck’s jingle on Elmont Avenue, drifting over the earth in mocking perpetuity.
At first, we couldn’t find her. ‘We’ was not me and Bret/Randi/ or Dad, or me and any of my posse, my life source, my vital signs. I took Jared. My man. I didn’t do things like that before; I didn’t invite anyone into the dark stuff, the tears and the horror behind sleepless eyelids. But I took him. Rather, he carried me.
In any case, we couldn’t find her. This place is seriously fucking huge. It became sort of an academic exercise- Find the Plot. How many surrounding Shiveks does it take to find the Friedman amongst them? She doesn’t have a headstone yet (my father isn’t ready) so I didn’t have a visual cue. I realized later, I would have been happy to hunt all day, to keep the moment away, to never really do it. I walked around unit H6 (Benjamin) for almost twenty minutes, calling Dad, Bret, then the office. Finally, as I tapped my nails against an adjacent Blumstein as they tried to pinpoint her exact spot by cellphone, Jared called my name from 30 feet away. Slim and squinting amongst the waist high cement edifices, he pointed down. I hung up. My heart got sick and my gut, wormy. I navigated my way over, and saw my grandmother and grandfather’s name on a stone.
I was incredulous. No fucking way. I know them. if they’re here, then.
Yeah. She is here.
jared stood above a foot high mound of dirt.
She is there. She actually is.
I wasn’t sure it really happened but, seems it did. There’s a sign at the head of the dirt with her name.
Three months of rhetoric and philosophy and residency in my head ended when I saw that dirt. I climbed down to her. She moved into my heart, my stomach, my fingers. i grabbed the dirt, I wanted to go so deep down that i might be under there. i loved her so much. i held the dirt, I held her.
Daan once said when his father was dying he wanted to crawl into the hospital bed and hold him. I never understood it until I was there, in the sun, my shoes bathed in warm dirt and my knees childlike, sticky with miniature twigs and leaves. I never looked at her, loved her, as much as i did then. she moved into my heart, my life, as i curled into her, breathing in the fine late summer heat and the dust.
I got up and sat for awhile. I sat on my grandparents’ headstone (I don’t think they mind my particular sense of ceremony). I didn’t talk. I listened to the ice cream truck. Jared sat and smoked over in H5. I could have stayed there all day, in this other life; but its not really this other life. Its just more of mine. Its not going anywhere, and neither is she. Something is there, its not her really, but something is there, all the time, all day long, all forever long. After the sun goes down, and the truck pulls away, I imagine that its quiet. At least from what we can understand.
The walk back was different. I was dirty but maybe clean. We made it back to Brooklyn, where I move and move. She is there, in the quiet. There is something in that cemetery, for me. It will be part of me when I need it; I will probably need that train ride sometimes.
My boy is an angel. He is an angel. He was there, head-on and beautiful, holding me, thoroughly a man. My man. Jared took that first blow for me, finding her instead of me tripping on her. I asked him what he felt at that moment- he simply replied “I just said hi to your mom”. He is something. She would have loved him.
He also later admitted he wanted diner curly fries but didn’t think it was appropriate to voice. Those are hard to find in Brooklyn, we found out upon return to this life, on a nearly hourlong curlyfry pilgrimage. Long Island has some things we can’t really get anywhere else. Its a shame he didn’t say anything while we were there. I don’t think you can make a trip to the suburbs without stopping at a diner.
It is so easy to love someone, for them to fall simply into your heart and your multi-part life. You find yourself ready. My mother fell right in. Jared fell right in. My parents fell in at a bar in 1971. There are hundreds of partners in that stony quiet in Beth David right now, they fell into each other. Chris is right in that we have many lives at once. We have so little time with them, so I guess its efficient.
It is so easy. I am so lucky.
Utterly inspired after an impromptu design meeting.
For ‘his beauty’ Jon Cottle’s design thesis is so reflective of the themes in the piece, that i’ve been furiously googling seemingly incongruent phrases such as ‘hipster porn with trees’ and ‘Darth Vader’ while dashing off moments in the script I’ve never seen; a creative, lively secret Saturday night off.
Besides solving the do-or-die challenges of a festival load-in process (15 minutes before and after a performance, zero storage space, and a rep light plot to share with multiple shows) this incredible production team of bright and engaged New York artists- Christine Dow’s costumes, Ashley Hannan’s choreography, Stephanie Cox-Williams’ fight choreography, Danny Abalos’ video and sound, Saphira Celius’ production management and Jon’s lights and set- is developing a meaningful and hot-as-fuck allegory of sex, possession, and object/subject relationship; a totally sublime fable.
Four characters cavort inside a stark, 15×15 bungalow of kitsch and fluorescent lit desire- a box in which the role of Object and Subject shift constantly, and characters live under harshly literal scrutiny from audience and each other. Much of the play’s language are subtle distinctions of seeing vs. looking, and the myriad vile ways we can tether ourselves to other people. With just a square of snow white carpet, 4 aluminum poles, exposed clip lights and a deep red canopy (velvet, naturally), we aim to create an environment of distance, while the content probes at intimacy. Upstage of the box is a backdrop of abstracted, grayscale pornography, acting as canvas for Danny’s pulsing and evocative video collages.
Man. It’s getting me going. And possibly makes no sense to read about. But I am so pleased to create something with a group so engaged with the issues of power, subjectivity, and vulnerability in this fucked up story. Come check it out; we’re keeping a spot on the carpet- dark, inviting, and kinda dirty…
never let me forget all the reasons i love you
i just found that on a scrap of paper in my bedroom as i was doing some sundown cleaning. still letting it settle, not sure of the context in which it was written, still rendered a puddle, an exxon valdez caliber spill of gratitude.
Today’s pollen level (Medium) and breeze (absolutely Narcotic) made for a good run in Prospect Park.
I took the dirt path rather than the structured concrete circuit. I hadn’t touched the sidelining earth out of fear, as the last time i did was May 2009, when, after a reactionary and overthinking late night, I took an absurdly early morning workout and sprained my right ankle, badly.
Before sunrise that day, I had broken a basic rule, which is that certain emails remain in the Gmail draft box, a graveyard of resentment and generalized category of ‘Crazy’. I had pushed ‘send’ on a 2 line email that should have stayed Gdead. Not an aggressive one, but one of closure. Still shouldn’t have gone out. At 6:30am, underslept and bursting with an unpleasantly hyper energy, I went outside and started running. Of course, I wasn’t looking and tripped on the path, on a little rock. Unbelievable pain, for someone who likes to pretend there’s nothing I can’t shrug off. I almost literally dragged myself to an emergency clinic in Brooklyn; year later, there’s still things I can’t do with that ankle.
Running today- those rocks look like skulls. craggy and ancient bad vibes, fossilized hormonal outbursts. And i almost did it again- this time, after bounding over stones and branches, my right foot caught on a root. i lost my footing and it went out a bit, my heart chattering for a moment. i didn’t want to go back to healing.
Roots are memories, right? In their random curves and unexpected surfacing they are historical and sturdy, but dangerous. These twisting and dangerous memories are traps in the earth, and remind me of that night, of viscera, of hair-trigger ‘send’s, and deep female hurt. The roots resembled antlers this morning.
Antlers are a prominent image in our production of ‘his beauty’, and come from a passage from a novel that fucked with me big time at 17. Djuna Barnes’ ‘Nightwood’ is something i immediately thought of when reading the play. The 1936 novel pioneered lesbian writing and great Left Bank modernism and black humor. Less heady- it’s about horrible slutty people that destroy each other’s lives, mostly a Man/Woman Destroyer named Robin who marries, gets pregnant, deserts, destroys, leaves people as messes. The book’s final paragraph implies a sex scene with Robin and a dog. It’s pretty outrageous shit and filled with bizarre characters- Nazis, pedophiles, transvestites, what else. Oh, Austrians. Basically people acting the way they act in ‘his beauty’- hedonistic, hilarious, destructive.
The bon vivant character, sort of the moral compass in a sea of shitty people, is the transvestite Doctor. He talks, a LOT, and observes the main characters- Robin the Destroyer; Jenny, the nasty, old domineering sugar mama, Baron Felix Volkbein, obsessed with nobile lineage and an heir; and poor Nora, the nice girl who loves Robin and gets fucked over, etc. Here’s the Doctor’s summary of their behavior (while sheathed in women’s lingerie):
“… i went into a lather of misery watching them, and thinking of you, and how in the end you’ll all be locked together, like the poor beasts that get their antlers mixed and are found dead that way, their heads fattened with a knowledge of each other they never wanted, having had to contemplate each other, head-on and eye to eye, until death; well, that will be you and jenny and robin. “
Gruesome simplicity. Entwining ourselves to fatal degrees to inappropriate people and choices. We’ve all yielded to antler-like passion that, because the tangle in the gut is so dark and suffocating, it’s difficult to see it ain’t love.
these four characters are fucked, doomed. But we can understand- its hunger, insecurity, need. They hang out in bars that have antlers on the walls, suffuse the stage, and remind us that no matter how closely we examine/understand what’s growing underneath (or inside of) us, we’re probably going to fucking trip on something.
Its a seminal and terrifying line in ‘his beauty’ and one that was the basis for tears springing to my eyes when working on the script tonight for the production in this June’s Planet Connection Theatre Festivity. This line encompasses so much of the play, in such a dark, unexpected, and truthful way.
‘his beauty’ is fucking me up in all the right ways.
i’m listening to jazz music at a cafe and, honestly? crying a little bit thinking about that line (and other sundry overwhelming but oddly welcome life developments). Nobody here cares if you cry. It’s this place’s motto, aside from crappy service and over priced, undersalted soup.
“It’s you”, confesses/begs/realizes Pete (played by Sean Linehan), in a play that examines beauty power and possession and the harm we do each other because we are so damaged, so seeking of love. Its a comedy but -pssst- maybe its the death wish of a dark and pained character. The one you want to be/fuck/ kill all at once, and the figurehead of this play. The one who lashes out, who maims, and still draws all the stares in the room for some reason. Pete says it to Cecily (Fabianne Meyer), the dangerously underestimated flower, the prize, the one that people are willing to kill for. We see Cecily’s, and make our choice. Approach? Avert our eyes because we’re blinded? Try to make them ours because it makes US feel pretty? These are the ones to watch out for because we don’t really see them- only what they make us feel. They know it, and they don’t like it.
The playwright, Ashley Jacobson, understands Cecily. She’s a fucking clever and beautiful girl. She wrote this angry, hilarious, scary piece as a response. Cecily’s have their Pete’s, too, we all do- holograms, centaurs, that give us good orgasms and great gchat. There are the Carl’s- stable but desiring, fucked over, here played by James B. Kennedy. The ones that want to love us but we don’t trust- because we don’t feel we’re good enough for Carl’s.
Dondrie Burnham rounds out the cast as Jacalyn- the savvy tigress who is a kitten inside, who has developed survival tactics of sex, provocation, wit, to endure the miscellaneous rejections a superficial world inflicts.
The team and I have provocative conversations about who confuses us, who we relate to, who we pity. Its a fun game. Who will you be reminded of? The Pete’s in endearing Carl-ish clothing? The Carl’s that look like Petes and make us distrustful and attack? Jaclyn’s resentment of a Cecily? Maybe you are a resentful Cecily.
Me? I guess I’m a Jaclyn, always have been. I’m clever, popular and always wished I was pretty. But deep down, Pete is the one I ache for, the one I understand the most. Frightened but compelled by this fact, and thrilled at how we will explore these four intertwined individuals over the next 6 weeks through live music, dance, video, and good old fashioned fucking amazing acting and writing.
Cecily is the flower, sure, but really, they are all weeds. Weeds are the prettiest, the ones that touch our hearts, though, right?
Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission
Performance location: The Gene Frankel Theatre, 24 Bond Street