Saturday, January 30, 2010

Genesis 6-35

In this chapter we have God deciding to change the average lifespan of human beings.  This raises the question of whether God can change Its mind, which would seem to imply that at one point God did not know Its mind.  An all-knowing being would be incapable of not knowing Its mind.
Jacob lied to and deceived his father, to secure said father's blessing.  The Lord smiled upon Jacob and his generations, thereby smiling upon deceit.  This will be an excellent example to recall during future entries, when the consistency of the Lord's blessings or punishments will come into question.  In some cases (Leviticus 7:25-27, for example), divine punishment will be given out for "nicer" behavior than that shown by Jacob here.  And pardon my picky memory, but...wasn't there some kind of official decree, a "commandment" perhaps, pertaining to honoring your father?  Maybe i just imagined it.
Jacob has two wives and two mistresses, all of whom bear him children who are blessed in the eyes of God. Nothing unreasonable in that. However, it is interesting to hear biblical "followers" profess monogamy as divinely mandated, when polygyny and out-of-wedlock children are obviously equally smiled upon. For any polyandrists out there, the Bible has no love for you. Maybe try the druids?
This is the first verse to suggest that humans may not have free will, or that we have only partial free will. I wonder whether the people upon whom God's "terror" descended realized that they were being paralyzed by the will of God?

The Real Inspector Hound

-summer 1990
1990 brought the end of my five-summer run with the Pennington Players. I can't remember exactly why, but i'd wager it had something to do with Judi not directing, and a lame musical as the product. Ken came to me with a Tom Stoppard comedy. Tom is one of my absolute favorites. HOUND is about two critics watching an Agatha Christie-style whodunit, who end up onstage in the action, and well, die. A bizarre play that keeps the audience guessing. I played Moon, the critic who lives longest. Mark Turner, (last summer's Murray) played the other, a more heralded and pompous man. We trotted out English accents, and Mark's clipped upper class was great. I was also the nasally offstage radio announcer. Heidi was back as a frumpy maid, Ben was back as a Lord Muldoon, and Brian was back as the dim inspector. Chris Passantino, a recent Youth Club graduate and Mark's girlfriend, played Lady Muldoon. Kelly Oswald played Felicity, Steve Secor played Simon, and Philip White was a delight as the corpse. We also did a companion piece, a ten-minute play called APPROACHING LAVENDAR. It had a three-woman cast, and Ken told me his strength was directing actors who didn't have to be told how to act, so would i coach the girls? They were Chris and Kelly and Jenn Mazuka. I worked with them, and felt like i really had something to offer. HOUND was brilliant fun, onstage and off. Working with Mark was pure delight, and i got to experience my first onstage death (bullet to the heart).

Thursday, January 28, 2010

threading a needle

If you know me personally, or pay close attention to this blog, you're aware that i've been homeless for months. "Homeless" is inaccurate, of course, i've had a roof over my head that whole time. But the amount of time my new home search is taking, has some people friend even suggested i'm dragging my heels, especially as i have another friend happy to take me in next month, one who hopes i don't find my new home quickly, as he wants me to help him with some renovations.
As much as i love that friend, extending my homelessness is the last thing on my mind, and i'll be content to leave him without a houseguest if i find my home tonight, or in the morning, or...
My search has been ongoing, early October. Actually, it's been a good deal longer than that...and in many ways, it feels like there hasn't been a time in the past two years when i haven't been looking. My weariness is profound, and as lovingly generous as my friends have been, i just want it to be over.
When i started this blog, i was a new resident of Astoria, Queens, sharing an apartment with Kat and Nanee, and then Doyoung. I luved living there. After nine months, Kat moved to China, and neither Doyoung nor i wanted to pick up the lease, so we parted. I got a room in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, with a family i quickly grew to love. But after nine months, a poison, possibly springing from the seed of jealousy, grew inside that home, and it became no longer safe for me. Feeling the urgency, i took a room in Bed-Sty, Brooklyn. It was perfect in almost every way, including housemates who loved me, but my landlord proved to be a disaster. My ceiling started leaking after a few weeks, and was still leaking when i moved out seven months later.
So this time, i vowed to not move until i found a place that was just right. My loving little refuge from the winds and wantonness of the world. As a housemate/tenant, i'll risk underselling myself considerably by simply saying i take care of the people and things around me.
Part of the reason this post will go unlabeled is that i hesitate to even write it, as i don't want to give psychological weight to the fact that i've not found my home. It is indeed a very fine needle i'm trying to thread, i make no qualms about that. I confine my search to the "rooms & shares" section of the apartment listings on the website craigslist. Some wonder why i don't broaden my search, but craigslist is where i'll find what i want. An agency would be impersonal. I want whomever i live with (or whichever landlord) to choose me personally...i want my character to be as important to them as theirs is to me. Craigslist is where the human touch is to be found.
It's also where my exceedingly modest price range can be found. That range might stun The Big Apple, i'm looking for a rent of $450 a month or less. I'm not looking to share a room (although i have looked into a few of these, when it was a woman open to sharing with a man). In my price range, the "share" aspect involves sharing a kitchen and bathroom, which is fine. I've lived alone and with others...each has benefits, but i generally like having someone around whom i can bore with my goofy adventures.
Every day, i program a search in the $300-450 range, in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens. In choosing which ads to open, i screen out the majority based on bikeable distance to Manhattan, where 60% of my work is. The Bronx is too far, and Staten Island/New Jersey don't have adequate bridge access. That leaves me with the Astoria/Ridgewood sections of Queens, the Bushwick/Bed-Sty sections of Brooklyn, and upper Manhattan. A place in my price range will also occasionally pop up in lower Manhattan or Williamsburg, Brooklyn, but those are rare.
Perhaps 70% of my potentials are found in Brooklyn. I screen some 50 ads each day, of which i look at perhaps 10-15, and respond to 2-3. From that, i have maybe five phone conversations a week. From those, i visit perhaps two places.
If biking distance weren't a consideration, i'd have found a place long ago. For that matter, if i were an "open-minded woman", i'd have found a home in a day.
Every e-mail response of mine is some variation of this:
I'm a mover/actor/editor/mascot/tree trimmer/wedding officiant. I don't drink or smoke, i've been the clean one in a house of women, and i spend most of my free time writing poems and articles (see link). 
I can give you glowing references from employers and ex-housemates. If there's a place to keep a bike, i'd love to hear more.

When i get a landlord or renter on the phone, i ask:
-How big is the room?
-Is there a window?
-How much are utilities?
-Is there an internet signal?
-Are there any smokers?
-Is it month-to-month, and will there be stability for at least a year?
-How close is the nearest subway?
-Sleepover guests?
-Any regular meat cookers?
-Is the heat reliable?
Most of these aren't deal-breakers. A sanity-keeping window is imperative, as i spend so many hours sitting and writing. After that, there are a number of X factors. Mostly, i'm looking for a human connection, and generally, i prefer being around female energy.
The smallest room i've lived in was 9'x7', and that only worked with extra storage space. Yup, there are NY rooms being rented that are smaller than 9'x7'. Measure it out, if you want an insight or chuckle.
If i look at a place, i like to meet my housemates or at least talk to them on the phone. Another reason why my search has taken so long is the lightning-strike nature of CL. Days i have to go to work usually mean missed opportunities. Ads get responded to so quickly by so many...and beyond that, many renters seem willing to give these rooms to the first person who puts money in their hands. This frustrates me a little, when i'll be a few hours too late to get a chance at a room that sounded perfect. But i tell myself that the renter i'm looking for will be patient, too.
Have there been almosts, in my search? Many times. On a few occasions, i even set out with money in hand. But when a search goes on this long, you have to be careful to not give in to that voice saying, "Just take a place!" You have to be willing to put in at least an hour a day, day after day, not including visits.
My happy home...the one that's just right for goofy little me, the one that says "wrob"...
I can feel it.
It's just...

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

sarahjane, katie

WOMEN 41-42
We did a play or two together during high school, and some summer plays during college. During one of these, i drove her home one night through a stunningly powerful rainstorm. She was terrified, and awed that i got us through. I reconnected with her after college. A couple years younger, she was very sweet, a bit quiet, and not conventionally beautiful (but i suspected she had an amazing body). Though lust led me, i was open to a loving, committed, open-ended relationship...which, combined with her seeming accessibility, made my feeling for her almost unlike any i'd ever known. "I'm going to have a lover, a girlfriend. This is going to happen." That said, i did half-suspect that her intellectual horizons were narrower than mine. I think perhaps i also wanted to retroactively cash in on the popularity that had come with being a lead in high school plays; back then, i hadn’t been smooth enough to really do so. We hung out together a few times. I took her to a nature trail and a deer's labyrinth under a bower, where we lay together. Holding and kissing her was so beautiful. I wanted her even more than i had before. I drove her home, and called her again, but that was the last time she went out with me.
An actress i knew through theater friends but never did a show with, just some play readings. Sweet, maybe a little shy and insecure. We hung out over a few months. Massage became cuddling, and i wasn't sure whether to go further. The cuddling became sexual. I gave her oral sex one time, but i was generally pretty indecisive and ambivalent. She put up with me longer than she should have.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Hunting Cockroaches

-spring 1990
Spring at WCU brought us a show directed by new, part-time professor David Newman. I had been in his advanced directing class, with all the other theater upper classpersons. He was young, intelligent, and funny (and was from Reading, where his wife had once dated my cousin Greg). He chose a brilliant and funny play by Janusz Glowacki, about a Polish immigrant writer and his wife, who live in a very low-rent New York apartment. The writer was successful back in Poland, but he can't get any work. The play takes surreal turns as figures emerge from under the bed: rich New York socialites, KGB agents, and a bum. I had gotten along great with David, and the audition was one of the few in college in which i felt no possibility of not being cast. Rob Diremigio was the assistant director, and i've never had such an obvious audition success, from the standpoint of making the directors laugh unreservedly. I wanted to be the bum and the socialite, a casting that wasn't one of the listed options. I got what i wanted. David told me that he had picked the show with me in mind, and had expected me to be the lead. That gave me a moment's pause; it was a great part. But i became convinced that my casting direction had been the best choice. The actor (also named Dave) who played the writer did a credible job, and had i been the writer i think i might have had to carry the play more single-handedly. The wife was played by a decently talented French exchange student named Natalie. Even though her Polish accent was a bit, well, French, there was an authenticity there that worked. Dave complained that working with her was a bit more aromatic than one might have wished. Dave had been with the department a year or so, and we got on real well. The following year he would tell me how disappointed he had been when i didn't audition for one of Bob's plays. Had i known, i might have auditioned just for his sake. A young but very on-the-ball actor named Stu Jaffe played one of the KGB agents, and i kick myself that i can't remember the other one's name. They had some great moments, like when Stu, a tiny guy, is restrained by the much bigger guy, who strokes Stu's head, and whispers soothing words. Comedic on the surface, but they played the right values so that you never forgot the tragic that underlied it all. I got along great with them, Stu in particular. It would be very sweet to bump into he or Garrett Place, the student stage manager, again some day. The final cast member was my socialite wife, played by Laura Mealy, in her first mainstage role. I had developed a gargantuan crush on her during AM I BLUE?, and we spent many hours in her dorm room working on our parts, or just hanging out. She was kooky, she dressed in black, had short bottle-blonde hair, liked goth and Sinatra...and my quiet crush continued. Our characters were charitable dilettantes, but when the writer pressed them to really help out, they skedaddle. I wore a tux and glasses and a fake moustache. Laura was good, and i did a decent job, but it was as the bum that i really nailed something. Wearing raggedy clothes, i wander around the room, play with their broken things, and climb into bed with them. Slow-eyed but non-threatening, sad but funny, i'm a reminder of where they may soon be. When you really nail a part, it feels amazing. I won so much audience sympathy, which you could feel (and hear) when i finally crawled back under the bed. In rehearsal, we had tremendous fun learning the Polish accents. I picked it up quickest, which was a bit of a chuckle for David and Rob and i, as none of my roles were actually Polish (though that's not entirely true; i did do the voice of the Polish TV announcer). I loved doing that accent. The play was good, and very well-received. I was glad that Lou and Jeff hadn't auditioned, because one of the strengths of this show was in how well everyone liked each other. Lou or Jeff might have come in thinking they knew more than the director, or carrying around a lot of self-important energy…chemistry is such an important part of theater, hard to predict and impossible to buy. I didn't dislike Jeff and Lou, although they didn't make that easy. I think Jeff had a caring side, somewhere. Jeff also provided the funniest party memory of college. He once brought a game of Questions to a howling halt when he spun on someone, inquiring, "Are those beans?" That semester was David's last. In his one year, he did very well.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Star Trek re-BOOTS (on my shoes)

I finally saw the new STAR TREK movie. I waited this long out of a sense of foreboding, articulated in this article:
Despite my apprehensions, i held a little ray of hope that it would be as wonderful as so many people (some TREK fans included) were saying.
That "pfffft" sound you just heard was the dousing of a ray.
The film was bad. Painfully so. Mind you, for what it was, a Hollywood big-budget action flick, it was...okay. But it was horrible because it was horrible TREK. It was visual/character-driven, whereas TREK is story/character-driven. TREK takes on issues of social importance, but this film boldly goes...nowhere. Nothing bold. TREK gave us television's first interracial kiss, and a black female officer in a white male-only world. At the height of the cold war, it showed a russian officer serving alongside americans. TREK said, "It's okay...we're going to get past all this...i promise you, we're going to get past all this." Later, TREK put a black and a female captain into the zeitgeist, and explored the rights of artificial life. So i fervently hope that abrams' work with the franchise is done. He's talented, but showed no understanding of the show's meaning...a peek into a future where war, poverty, religion, and disease are bygone relics of a barbaric past. That's why TREK fans can be so, well, zealous. It's not that they need to "get a life", it's that they've seen this vision, and they want it...not in two hundred years, but now. Abrams didn't get that, and that's not even the worst a world plagued by brutality so staggering it defies comprehension or credibility, it's unconscionable to glamorize violence. The film was also often embarrassingly contrived, particularly with the nimoy subplot. So let's get back to the TREK vision, and move it forward again. I know just the visionary for the job:

Sunday, January 3, 2010

a maxmas journey

(The pattern of my December holiday travels has been a delightful constant for most of the past decade. That pattern may be forever changed, with my mother's impending relocation to Florida. To say nothing of the possibility that i myself might move to a warmer clime before long.)

I arrived in Pennsylvania, my ancestral home, on December 23rd. Mom's family hails from Reading, and Dad's from Harrisburg. I spent my teens and part of my twenties in the Philadelphia suburbs, going to school at West Chester University (twice). Mom still lives in Bucks County, Dad retired to the Pocono Mountains, and sister and her family live in Kennett Square, the suburbs on the south side of Philly.
On White Heron Lake, Jan had made the house a holiday wonderland as always. She's a fantastic baker. Of her many cookies, the most amazing were the cranberry-macadamia-caramel shortbreads. My dad calls her the greatest elf ever, and i pretended to be insulted. They both loved the selections i shared from Chuck Negron's Christmas album, particularly Jan with "Grown Up Christmas List" (i knew she already loved the song). At one point, there was a little flare-up of marital tension, and i was grateful that she and i later had some alone time. I was reminded of my recent article about how three-person marriages would provide an automatic pressure release valve between any two isolated souls. Jan said some very complimentary things to me about how well i deal with my Father's less gentle side; i was humbly grateful she appreciated that.
As i put my presents under the tree, i smiled at the extended journey that is my holiday gift-giving. I collect gifts throughout the year. Having three distinct celebrations at different locations, my supply lines get so stretched out that by December i sometimes forget what gifts i've already gotten, and whether i might need a little more for this person or another. Sometimes it's been so long since i've wrapped a gift, that the opening of it is as much a surprise to me as it is to them.
On Maxmas Eve, i attended the late service at Jan and Bob's protestant church. This is the one church event i attend yearly, because they're usually performing. This year Bob has a choir solo, and Jan does a reading. In past years, i've lessened the pain of attending an organized religious ceremony through mildly-irreverent camaraderie with my step-brother John, but this year he's in California. For the first time ever, i sit in the very back row. With my heightened emotions this past harsh year, the service is so hard to endure i can feel a little pain in my chest. I almost cry. But Jan's moment is very sweet, and evokes Linus' Christmas speech. One of the ushers also has a playful moment with me, much more earthy than one might expect, and that lifts me a bit.
Back home, we have nog (soy or otherwise), and dive into our stockings. I also open my gift from Uncle Cork and his wife Kathy, two of my favoritest people. In what can only be called the non-surprise of the season, i find that they've given me the very gift i've sent them: Neil Diamond's new CHERRY CHERRY CHRISTMAS! The title track proves to be transcendently wonderful.
In the morning, we dive into our other gifts. The cats get a motion-sensitive monkey who rolls around the floor, chuckling. I get my most hoped-for gift: seasons 2-4 of STAR TREK ENTERPRISE (the fact that this is what i asked for, makes it no less a delight). Several of the treasures i give prove to be winners.
Mid-morning, we drive to my Mom's, an hour and a half south. They drop me off, and continue on to the Jersey shore. Mom is still wrapping gifts(!), and my sister calls, wondering whether we've left. Mom and i are soon on the road to Jaymie's, over an hour south. As on the earlier drive, i play holiday DJ. Her hubbie Chuck will come in a separate car, ostensibly so he can drive back early to take care of the dog, but mostly because his capacity for socializing is limited. He gears up for his festive mode, but he's no doubt relieved when the social pressures of the day are done.
Mom and i stop by my brother Jeff's. He had spoken with her about joining us, but didn't make a follow-up call. His housemate called my Mom that morning, and said that Jeff wasn't doing anything. She knocks on his door, but no one comes out. Jeff is trying to kick an addiction to painkillers. Mom, Chuck, and i had visited his restaurant earlier this month, and he waited on us. He was in great spirits, and i gave him a STAR BLAZERS video. It was the first time i had seen him in years.
We arrive at Jaymie's! Her hubbie Steve is in fine form, as are my pre-teen nephews Aaron and Isaac. Isaac hasn't yet outgrown loving cuddliness, and my off-beat presence always gives them both a little lift. This was the year i realized that Aaron, the older, has a genuinely above-average intelligence, and my literary gifts (for both of them) reflect this new knowledge. The rest of the day is wonderful. After a fantastic meal, i have my second Maxmas gift swap. My favorite givings are the Bee Gees SGT. PEPPER movie fiasco and A BRADY CHRISTMAS ALBUM, both for Jaymie. My favorite receiving is a Marx Brothers dvd set. Later that week, i'll receive my third favorite gift, when i trade in bookstore giftcards from Mom for the complete MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS. That night, she and i sleep over. In the morning, after some more fun, she gets on the road. I stay, as Maxmas #3 is on the way! Bob and Jan arrive from the shore, and after another lovely meal, another gift swap gets underway.
At this third celebration, i indulge in a little uncharacteristic inner pouting. Y'see, for years i've taken great care to split up my presents for Bob, Jan, Jaym, Steve, Aaron, and Isaac into two piles, one to be opened on the 25th, and one on the 26th. And for years, they've all given me ALL their presents on the 25th, so that come the 26th, everyone sits there opening gifts, and i have none. I've never told them how this makes me sad, because...well, it seems patently ungrateful to complain about the manner in which one receives gifts, and also just seems so silly for them to see me year after year with no presents on the 26th, when the solution (modeled so diligently by me) is staring them right in the eye! At some point it all became so ridiculous that i determined to never say a word about it, not until one of them finally asks, "Rob, why haven't we been saving any presents for you to open on the 26th?", at which point i would say, "I DON'T KNOW!"
Bob and Jan and i stayed over that night, and had some more fun and games the following day before leaving for party #4, a family celebration at Jan's sister's, over an hour north in Lambertville, NJ (after a detour to the Jersey shore to pick up Jan's mom, Lettie, a dignified and loving matriarch who on this day is more saucy with me than she's ever been). Jan's sister Bonnie and her husband Bernie are also two of my favorite people...happy hippies both...and their yearly party is a delight, highlighted by the lighting of actual candles on a tree (along with individual, often emotional dedications), and a Yankee Swap gift exchange, for which i take joy in finding an off-color or ridiculous gift. This year, i spent time talking with new acquaintances Carissa and Adelle, both of whom are delightful and not a little attractive. Carissa jokes about having me spend a piece of my current homelessness on their couch, and i secretly hope the opportunity arises. After the party, Bob and Jan and i head back to the Poconos. I stay with them for a couple days, enjoying post-holiday relaxation and finally getting to see Uncle Cork, who stops by for a card game. Then Jan drives me to pass me off to Steve, so i can spend another few days at my sister's before the final party, her January 2nd new year's party for my Mom's side of the family. My holiday trip is rarely this extended, but as i'm still searching for my perfect NY home, the longer stay seems appropriate. It's also nice to have a couple days with my nephews, without the usual time constraints. Steve and Jaymie are great...he's a workout hound, and i accompany him to the YMCA one afternoon. And Jaymie, despite the occasional stress my writings give her fundamentalist sensibilities, is so giving and loving. The whole ugly capitalist pageant sometimes comes to mind when i'm with them. Steve's job affords them about as high a level of wealth as one can achieve, without being "the rich". They don't have servants (but they do have a robot vacuum cleaner!). My sister is not totalitarian by nature...indeed her child-rearing methods have been scorned by many in the family as too liberal...but during this visit i get to hear her say, "The words 'Why do i have to shower?' are forever banned in this household!" She and Steve both do a great job manifesting patience. The highlight of this interlude is New Year's Eve, a celebration i normally dismiss as contrived and boozy...but i condescend to join them in watching the ball drop, and an unexpected memory is born. Dick Clark, bless him, continues to host, even after strokes have diminished his communicative abilities. The fact that we're watching a TV with a Tivo replay feature allows us to experience the countdown calamity that you may have missed, particularly if you had a drink or three in you.
DICK CLARK: ...sixteen, fifteen, fourteen, twelve, ten, eleven, ten, uh...nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one (one second early)...happy new year!!!
Somebody give that man a big hug.
The final party of the year was dee-lightful, highlighted by another Yankee gift swap and the presence of my young second cousins Jordan and Jena. Jordan, in line with his upbringing, is a religious carnivore, but genuinely fascinated by my agnostic vegetarianism. We dove into discussions of the whys and was lovely. Afterwards, i rode back with Mom and Chuck to their home, from where i write to you. I wasn't sure i'd be spending much time here this holiday, and i think she was a little saddened by that, even though i spent ten days here earlier this month. Mom's home is a beautiful victorian, and her white tree with a silly flamingo ornament is adorable.
So that's my family journey. I love them all, i love that i got to see RUDOLF'S SHINY NEW YEAR for the first time in years and HOLIDAY INN for the first time ever (the blackface number alone is worth the price of admission), and i love each and every one of you, wherever you are, whatever you celebrate, whomever you love.
Merry Maxmas!