… i don’t know what to say … 3 …

“Real Life” happens, and when it does, all of the clichés and tenets by which you have lived or which you have chanted or quoted at others become just so many infuriating and meaningless, empty syllables.

Nothing applies. Nothing explains.

I couldn’t go to the gym from last Sunday to this Friday, when I went and spent three hours on the cardio circuit.  Yesterday, another three. I am going today, any minute, although each day I have to sort of force myself into clothes in which I am fit to be seen in public, get in my car, I get there and I sit in the parking lot, ten minutes, fifteen, talking myself out of it and into it. I walk in and I don’t look up because two people already asked me where I’d been.

I can’t begin to tell you where I’ve been. I keep my head down. I start on the cardio machines. I stay there. I stay there. I stay there. I run. I glide. I pull. I pedal. I rock. I push. I pull. Uphill. Higher resistance. No resistance, all speed. I go. I go. I go. I go.

And I cannot get away from this shit.

Real life.

Nothing applies.

Nothing explains.

Fuck this shit.

… BEFORE and … i still don’t know what to say … AFTER …

In the week before my sister died, I was upset because I couldn’t find anyone with whom to attend the Fathom Events screening of the English revival of my favorite Stephen Sondheim musical, “Merrily We Roll Along” which was to occur Wednesday, October 23. “Merrily” moves backward in time, starting at the jaded, cynical unhappy ending and ending at the naively, hopeful happy beginning – which, since we know the tragedy to come, becomes heart-breakingly, evisceratingly sad.

PeggyThe night before my sister died I was out late, running around, being a fool, and through a series of ridiculous events, my GPS got crushed, stepped on, its screen virtually un-readable. It will still tell me where to go, but I can’t see it. Not a good thing as I almost NEVER know where I am going, even in the town where I live. I am perpetually lost.

The evening of the day my sister died, I was supposed to be out with a friend but had elected instead to stay home with another sister and so was there when the call came. As I had ten years earlier when being told a friend of mine had died, my first reaction to the news was, “Oh stop it, that can’t be right.”

No. And it wasn’t right then. And it isn’t right now. And all I seem able to do is keep running the story backward in my head, wishing I could change it, and I I am heartbreakingly, evisceratingly sad and perpetually lost in this stupid fucking story called “life”. And, being a writer, I keep thinking; “There are just two chapters now; Before my sister died. After my sister died.”

It turns out that I could not have seen “MERRILY” anyway. That was the night of the visitation. We came home – well, home being the assisted living apartment complex where I have been staying with my Mom since my sister died – and we watched the World Series. My Mom is a baseball fan. I am not. We watched until eleven p.m. at which point my Mom said she thought she’d go to bed since the – I can’t remember the name of the team (nor do I care) – whatevers were so far ahead. So, I asked her to turn it to “AMERICAN HORROR STORY: COVEN”. She asked me what it was about, I tried to explain. She lasted five minutes and said, “This is ridiculous, I’m going to bed.”

Ridiculous? I said. Ridiculous? This from a woman who watches – almost all day long and into the evening – re-runs of games shows like “Match Game” and “Super Password” from decades past and tries to remember which of the celebrities are dead. I don’t know how she keeps score when I’m not here to look them up on my smart phone!

Anyway, seeing Christine Ebersole getting her throat slit and Patti LuPone (who, surprisingly, did NOT do the slitting – imagine that!?) portraying a crazy fundamentalist religious nut with a son so hot he vibrates with lust – well, I can only hope that Jessica Lange takes that boy as a gesture for all of those of us who are of a certain age and wish to be vibrated.

Because when I am thinking these things, I forget there is BEFORE and AFTER. I stop wishing I could move backward in time. I stop worrying about where to go from here and how the hell I am going to figure out how to get there.

My sister died. On the day after my sister died we were going to have coffee at 10am at the downtown Frederick Starbucks, and the last thing I have from her is the text she sent when we confirmed those plans: “Okie Dokie! Yay!”

And I am going to force myself into that Starbucks today. Because, stop it. This can’t be right. No.

(I just, I want to write about her. I want to. I want to describe the surreal time-stands-still of this week and how it seems that the ten years ago when Allen and Steve and Sissie and all the others died in a few months happened yesterday and it’s all connected somehow. I want to, but I can’t. I still don’t know how.)

… i don’t know what to say …

I can’t really write about this yet, so I don’t know why I am, except that I don’t know how else to process things.

I write this from my laptop, which is with me now where I am staying, my Mommy’s apartment in her assisted living development. I am staying with my Mom because she can’t be alone right now because Saturday evening her daughter, my sister, died.

We have been “the Smith sibling 6” for 50 years. Now there are 5 of us. None of us, I think, can wrap our heads around this. My sister had just sold her house in Connecticut and was visiting here in Maryland, on her way to a new home she and her husband were building in California to be close to children and grandchildren and the ocean for retirement. She took a nap and that was the end.

My Mom is, understandably, destroyed. I am staying with her at least through Friday, and as she told a friend on the phone, “He’s going to stay as long as I need him – we’ll see.” My Mom is incredibly strong and independent, I am sure she’ll grow tired of having me here soon enough, and too, will want to make space for other visitors who are sure to want to spend time with her.  But for now, we are filling the time with – I can’t say really – it feels as if the time between Saturday when the call came and I had to come here with another sister to tell my Mom the news and this morning – it feels as if that has been a million years – I have lost all track. Last night was Rock Hudson and Doris Day night on Turner Classic and we watched.

One of the films was made in 1961. The year I was born. Something about seeing that date made me cry. I go to the bathroom to cry. I don’t cry in front of Mommy. She has enough. And both of us go to the bathroom every ten minutes anyway, so, she doesn’t get suspicious. Near the end of the film we had a discussion – well – I asked her, “Didn’t they have the pill in 1961? I mean, who would believe a woman of Doris Day’s age and with the need for THAT MUCH vaseline on the lens would NOT have had sex yet?”

Mommy laughed (thank goodness, I am trying to work laughs in where I can) and said, “Charlie, it’s only a movie!”

If only we could dismiss the rest of this shit with that answer.

… diva turns … detours … turns … de-turns … wrong turns … i’m lost …

I am used to being lost. Literally. Then I got a Garmin. Unfortunately, there is no spiritual Garmin to tell me where to turn. How to get there. Wherever THERE might be. AND, tonight – I managed to break my Garmin. Which is a fucking – well – not so much – but which is a DISASTER. Now, not only will I continue this spiritual wandering, but I won’t know how to get ANYWHERE, here, where I am – well – TRYING to go.


I should be asleep. I should be. But I am watching DIVA-TURNS. I have watched/listened to six versions of ROSE’S TURN so far. And four of AND EVE WAS WEAK. And Betty Buckley’s SUNSET BOULEVARD finale performance four times. It’s on now, as I am typing. I saw her during her last week in the role, and coming back from dinner later, there she was coming out to her limo, I was encouraged to go over to her – but I was so ridiculously moved by her performance, so awestruck and emptied, I couldn’t speak. I just stood there and wept. She was so kind, her arm around me, holding me, until finally she looked at the crowd – thinking I was somehow differently abled – and said, “Does he belong to anyone?”

Now I am crying, because, no, I didn’t. I never have. It makes me a little sad. Right now. I don’t belong to anyone. I don’t belong to. I don’t belong. I don’t.

At 11:20pm tonight a dear, dear friend – my A -sent me a text; she is playing Carrie in “CARRIE: THE MUSICAL” which is enough to make a life wonderful, but, tonight during curtain call, she was proposed to.

Now, let me say this about that: I have long been obsessed with “CARRIE: THE MUSICAL” and long, long ago I knew I had won a HUGE prize of friendship when my dear, dear J presented me with bootleg recordings of both the Stratford version starring Barbara Cook and the Broadway version starring Betty Buckley. It was the beginning of years of J gifting me with rare recordings and gifts of things I’d only dreamed of hearing – he also sent me a bootleg of Ms Buckley in “SUNSET” and her performance as Mama Rose in “GYPSY”. Here are some ROSE’S TURNS.

(Tyne is my dear J’s favorite Rose. I didn’t see her.)

(Angela is my Mama Rose – I saw her when I was 12 and this performance was the greatest I have EVER seen anywhere, still un-equalled)

I used to dream I’d play Fanny Brice and Mama Rose. I had a lot of dreams. And so …

So, A, who I love dearly, is engaged. Proposed to on stage. During curtain calls. When playing Carrie.

So, long about 11:45 I went out. Long story. By the time I got home at 2am, my Garmin was crushed, I needed a shower, and I thought I lost my phone – but I found it in the back seat, sort of half under a jacket and … well, look, I’m not engaged.I am quite alone.

You won’t. I should get that. Look, this isn’t a musical. I’m not having curtain calls. I’m not playing or directing Carrie.

I spent hours today and tonight making chili. Which has to slow cook until Sunday to actually be ready. It’s my own recipe, a combination of many others, with touches of my own, and requires the roasting of fresh tomatoes and five kinds of peppers, the reconstituting of another two kinds of peppers in boiling beer, the braising and browning of three kinds of meat – brisket, pork shoulder, bacon, and three kinds of beans, and another few secret ingredients which are pureed with the roasted vegetables as part of the base, added in a particular order to the pot – the huge pot – which begins with the sweated/sautéed onions and garlic in special spices bought at the international market, and four spice dumps – all particular of weight and order – and … it is an intense and long process which results in something I think is very delicious and on Sunday, when it has cooked for a few days, I will make cornbread to go with it.

I am a really good cook. The person who crushed my Garmin thinks my name is Sebastian and knows nothing about any shows I’ve ever done or songs I’ve ever sung or chili I have made and … I don’t know that I can continue to be this person in this life for one more winter …

I need to GET OUT OF HERE … but without ANY SORT OF GARMIN TO GUIDE ME … how the fuck do I do that?

… okay … my tattoo … sort of … FLY!!!!

It’s one of those days … I know this too shall pass and so, I am not going to dwell on it, but, you know, something happens, someone says something, you see something, and suddenly comes all over again that “poor me” energy where it feels like your life story bears too striking a resemblance to the story of the Wicked Witch of the West BEFORE WICKED came out and everyone knew the back-story.

Someone has to be the bad guy. I made choices and one of them was NOT to tell any back-stories. I would be lying if I did not confess that my (turns out) foolish assumption was that most people who mattered to me would not require explanations, would know me well enough to know my heart and my soul, and would –

Doesn’t matter. I melted. Done. And I cannot be defined by those who would see me/make me dark – and I cannot keep waiting for apologies that are never going to come and I am never going to be – STOP – Listen:

Julia Murney. Genius.

So, yeah, some days … every now and then … news of a Flying Monkey freed by spells I cast and curses I fought off manages to cross the moat and invade the castle walls behind which I hide, and I am left feeling –

Well, feeling.

tattoo oct 2013

So, I found the tattoo I want  – here it is – on model Mikkel Jensen. I want the wings, only, on my back, and that thing in the center of them – I want it altered to look like the hour glass that the Wicked Witch turns over in the Wizard of Oz film when she’s holding Dorothy and ready to kill her for the shoes.

That’s right … I’ve finally figured it out – I want an hour glass with wings that span all the way across my back.

I’m not that man, and I’m never going to fly, and as Elphaba said in the sequel; “I’m never sorry I freed the Flying Monkeys from the curse and I did what I did, agreed to take the rap for the greater good; it was what I had to do to be free; but still, some days, what Chistery did then? Chistery? Damn. You know? Some days.”

Defying morality, more like. And sanity. Okay. Gym time. Gotta try to run this off. I’m going to stay on the cardio machines until this feeling is gone or my cardio finally gives out. No service, remember. I’m donated to science. There’s a research project.


… let the music tell the story …

It’s another one of those posts where the songs speak what I can’t … shouldn’t …

I am so … so …


… beautiful days … beautiful people …

The past four days have been pretty beautiful.

Sunday I saw a friend, home for a brief college break, spent a beautiful, fun, over 21 evening together.

Tuesday I saw a friend, now a fantastic mom of a child who is not that far from the age she was when first we met, and we had a beautiful, grown-up conversation.

Today, from out of the blue, get a fantastic good news text from a gentleman from New York who had returned to Frederick to visit saying, “I would love to see you.” And we had a beautiful few grown-up hours, he is living the life he told me he would live when I first met him, a youngster barely having entered puberty.

Three people I have known since they were mostly children who have grown up to be beautiful (I love that word today) people, adults, full of joy, full of wisdom, full of life, and full of love for me – which I return without reservation.

I love it that I managed with some of my “children” to maintain connections, and that they have become such honest, delightful, loving, amazing, giving, loyal, forgiving, much cherished friends in my life.

Thank you, C and J and K; you’ve TRULY made these past four days (and many other days in my life) quite BEAUTIFUL for me.

… what WHAT WHAT?!?!?! ….

Listen, I need a date.

merrilyrollTurns out that the West End reworking of Stephen Sondheim’s “MERRILY WE ROLL ALONG” is a one night only Fathom event being shown in cinemas around the country. There is one near me. It is happening next Wednesday, October 23, and I need someone with whom to attend.

I just DISCOVERED this was happening late last night. I don’t know HOW I fell this far out of loops that I didn’t know about it before.

I also read today that THIS FRIDAY there is a private reading by invitation only of a new version of Stephen Sondheim’s “COMPANY” in which Bobby is a gay man and some of the roles have been gender-revised. Including Joanne. Which is my role. And which is being played by Alan Cumming in the reading. And too, Bobby Steggert, of Frederick, where I live, is involved in the reading too.

Reading about these things took me back to a long ago production of “COMPANY” in which I played Marta; and a not quite as long ago production of “MERRILY” I directed; and the Raul Esparza “COMPANY” I saw on a solo New York birthday trip and how the day after I sat next to its Joanne, Barbara Walsh, who happened to be from Maryland and had gone to college with people I KNEW and saw daily; and the filmed “COMPANY” Fathom Event with Patti LuPone as Joanne and Neil Patrick Harris as Booby that I saw with a good friend during a sad, scary summer once upon a time and by the time I was done being awash in all these memories … welll …

Something is seriously wrong with my life – all this Sondheim happening and I’m – well – not.

… lines and labels and language and the X factor…

Some time ago I did a post about the word “bitch” ((CLICK HERE TO READ IT)) and why I no longer use it and the cultural biases about gender and sexuality which pervade the language, which are part of the consciousness and vocabulary of perfectly lovely people.

I add to the list of sexist, culturally biased language the phrase “man up” – which I find completely offensive. It is usually used in a way meaning that the person being told to do so is somehow less than and ought – by virtue of fulfilling their masculine potential – to be better, MORE – as if “man” = “better/stronger/braver/more than” – and that is patently ridiculous and biased.

NOW HERE IS THE THING (without discursive caveats – I would not have a blog) – I’m trying NOT to judge.

AND HERE IS THE THING – what do I do with that?

Example: I find people who work against equal rights for all people to be people with whom I do not wish to spend a great deal of time. SO … when Mr. Romney, during the last presidential election, embraced a platform that was anti-gay and anti-woman and anti-most minorities – that ALONE was enough for me to know that I could NEVER vote for him.

But, I know people who did. Now, here’s the thing: they did not vote FOR his anti-equality stances, they voted for his economic plans (which, it could be argued, are – in fact – anti equality; but that’s another discussion) and foreign policy stands.

So, I don’t hate Mr. Romney, but I feel his anti-equality stands mean I could never spend time with him, I don’t want to be around people who embrace such things; but, I do love very much some people who would be around him.

Where’s the line? If you are someone I love and you vote for Mr. Romney – who embraces a platform which espouses the denial of my full humanity and rights – then, what does it say to me about you? Or, how much do I mean to you?

Now, Mr. Romney didn’t target Gays (or women or etc) personally – one by one. He didn’t say, “I want to deny Neil Patrick Harris his right to marry Mr. Burtka and raise their children.”

What if he had? What if someone targets someone you love PERSONALLY; attacks or slanders or sets out to make their life difficult; what do you do?

I have a dear friend (Z) who was treated quite badly by another someone (Y) I know, and when the badness went down, it wasn’t about choosing sides – it was the fact that if Y could treat Z, someone I love, with such vitriol, speak so ill of them, whisper and imply, then, well, I can’t help but believe that should it be beneficial for Y to do so to me – Y’s professed “love” or “affection’ will morph into self-serving spin and I’d find myself under a bus. In this equation, however, I am X.

Now, here’s the thing – since Y did throw Z under a bus, what is my responsibility as X? Everyone thinks they know what went down with Z and Y – and in most cases, they really do NOT – but, I sort of do, and so, if I continue to spend time with Y, or frequent Y’s restaurant, am I not – in some way – approving of Y’s targeting of Z?

If I am a vendor or consumer who benefits financially from continuing with Y – does that change the equation?

And if Y campaigns to win me, dangles carrots and cash, and Z refuses to stoop to “win” such a vote – what then?

These are ethical dilemmas we all face – I think – all the time. Where are our lines when it comes to what is and is not acceptable from others before we need to remove ourselves from their circles – and to what lengths will we go to justify our remaining within the circle of someone who – to whatever degree – has hurt or targeted someone (or some group) we love as “less than” or wrong or bad?

Or am I just too sensitive? A bitch who needs to man up?

Exactly. My. Point.