A cockeyed optimism . . . Mary and Kelli and Happy Days . . .

(I wrote and posted a version of this last night, but realized I’d more to say. So, updated and further explored my burst of cockeyed optimism. Love and Light, dears. Love and Light. 3/5/15 11a.m.)

True confessions: it’s coming up on the date of my aunt’s death. I am working diligently to remember all the joy she brought to me, but, I’m not terribly good at this. Joy was not a skill much valued nor encouraged in my upbringing, which was a journey peopled by those who were well-intentioned but barely able to cope, prone to disappearing for months on end into bedrooms, silences and sorrows, screams, and terrifying mood swings marked by violence, after which they would tearfully apologize, make excuses for themselves which often included an element of blaming me, and, too, there would be long nights in my bed during which Continue reading

Zeitbites: Clap Hard to Keep the Fairy Alive!

THE MEAN REDS RETURN

july 31 breakfast at tiffany'sIt’s back – my fear. That thing causing a twisting in my chest, that sucking-breath, hands-a-tremble certainty that another avalanche of awful is about to happen, something dreadful is ready to drop, disaster about to descend on me, what Truman Capote’s character in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Holly Golightly, called “the mean reds.” Listen:

Holly Golightly: You know those days when you get the mean reds?

Paul Varjak: The mean reds, you mean like the blues?

Holly Golightly: No. The blues are because you’re getting fat and maybe it’s been raining too long, you’re just sad that’s all. The mean reds are horrible. Suddenly you’re afraid and you don’t know what you’re afraid of. Do you ever get that feeling?

Paul Varjak: Sure.

Holly Golightly: Well, when I get it the only thing that does any good is to jump in a cab and go to Tiffany’s. Calms me down right away. The quietness and the proud look of it; nothing very bad could happen to you there. If I could find a real-life place that’d make me feel like Tiffany’s, then – then I’d buy some furniture and give the cat a name!

That’s what hit me yesterday. I had to take action.

ESSENCE OF PASSION FLOWER

Keeping me going is a full-time job and not one the accomplishment of which often seems worth the effort required. I slog, slug, sloth, and slither through life, making do, confused and confounded as to the purpose of all this. It is enough to have a day (or two) wherein I do not hear the narrative voice in my head (which is usually, by the way, Lily Tomlin or Jessica Lange) intoning the final lines of my unpublished novel:

I have no answers

This was The Last of all my stories

So, no, happiness is not something I expect. Making – let alone keeping – me happy would require the lygarde de mayne of an alchemist like Merlin, and since that necromantic enchanter was long ago trapped in the Crystal Caves, in order to avoid one more time disappointing the friends and loved ones I have remaining, I work hard to keep going by arranging my life around moments of joy and methods of distraction. (And when that doesn’t work, I fake it.)

I get joy from reading and writing about books. So, yesterday after my gymming –

NAKED MAN ASIDE

gym guys 5 edit(which falls into the Distracting rather than Joy category– unless, by chance, there is an attractive naked man waggling around the locker room – at which point gymming becomes a Joyful Distraction – until I realize that naked man would NEVER want to see me naked, at which point the Joyful Distraction morphs into a Hateful Reminder of why I ought to just surrender to the Tomlin/Lange narration)

BACK TO THE BOOK(store)

– I visited my friends at The Curious Iguana (CLICK HERE), my favorite independent bookstore. These visits give me great joy. I love books, I love people who love books, and Iguana is owned and patronized by just that sort of people. Win. Win. So, I was making my way to Iguana, strolling up the sidewalk on Market Street, when I was forced into the street by a four-wide battalion of stroller moms, goose-stepping their Vera Bradley accessorized way toward me. The quartet took up the entire span of the sidewalk and rudely steamrolled blithely along forcing pedestrians travelling –

SPELLING CURMUDGEON ASIDE

(Spell Check is telling me that travelling should be traveling. NO IT SHOULD NOT. I am sick and tired of this current purging of required double consonants when appending suffixes to words in order that characters are saved to make it easier for Tweeting and Texting. I did not spend my formative years being abused by the School Sisters of Notre Dame JUST to have everything they taught me eradicated in my dotage. traveLLing. And while we are at it: canceLLed – just so all airports are clear on that.)

BACK TO BOOK(store) & PASSION FLOWER ESSENCE

– in the opposite direction into traffic. Thus, I entered the bookstore saying, “What the hell is wrong with you people?” Marlene, owner and heart and soul of Iguana, knows me well enough to know I was not speaking to her. I launched into my curmudgeonly ranting and we were soon joined by Marlene’s husband, Tom, and I was off on one of my long-winded raving raging wildly furious fits, this one about my recent adventures in the medical profession.

July 31 passion flowerAfter listening patiently, (Marlene and Tom are absolute darlings about letting me rail, as if they’ve nothing better to do than listen to the crazy old man) Tom suggested I hie my way to the local patchouli scented – tofu loving – green market and procure some tincture of Passion Flower, drops of which, he assured me, would calm my anxiety.

ASIDE ASIDE 

I know you thousand or so people who check me daily are saying, “Where is a book review? We are not interested in your existential whining.” Well, true confession: I only started writing book reviews to lure you in so you’d be FORCED to click on my existential whining. So there.

Now keep clicking or I’ll never share my opinion on books again. (I know, I’m hubristic and delusional to think you give a damn. Perhaps, but at least I own it) But, this morning, I’ve a long, full day of writing and gymming and reading and cookie baking in front of me, so, just a fast (for me) and brief (again, for me) few things … I promise.

Peter Pan LIVE!

When NBC presented The Sound of Music, I wrote about it nicely. I was hoping that it would be the first of many live musical theatre presentations and they had sense enough to fill the supporting cast with genius actors Audra McDonald, Laura Benanti, Christian Borle, so, one made allowances for other casting misfires.

And I don’t like The Sound of Music. But, now, this has gone too far. They have announced that — yet again — they have eschewed casting an actual Broadway musical actress in the iconic role of Peter Pan (CLICK HERE TO READ ABOUT IT – I’m not typing the name. I don’t want to trash anybody – not really – it’s not her fault.). Mary Martin — even dead — can only be expected to take so much and when the second of her iconic roles is repugnantly miscast with someone who has NO BUSINESS BEING ENTRUSTED WITH THE LEAD IN A MUSICAL, it reeks of such disregard and disrespect for the art of the musical that surely, something MUST be done.

marymartin_peterpanOh, wait, I wonder if THIS miscasting tragedy was the disaster I was intuiting yesterday? Ugh(a-wug) indeed. Of course, that number will be cut. And, this isn’t like Carrie Underwood with her huge country fan base meant to boost the ratings; this actress has a mostly hipster/gay man following and the hipster contingent is never going to watch the show — they don’t do television — and the gay man population was ALREADY going to be on board so, uhm W.T.F.? All I have to say (well, left to say) is that Tink is hardly going to be the only fairy pissed off and poisoned by this piece of shit disastrous-ness.

PASSION FLOWER (again … I keep forgetting)

So, I did get some Passion Flower essence and I have been swirling the muddy swill into two ounces of water and downing it like crazy and, I don’t know, maybe I am better? I’m having such strange, horrifying dreams of late and really not sleeping well, terrorized by that fever-like, half-awake, delusional thing that goes on. Which has NOT been helped by reading Edan Lepucki’s debut novel, California (CLICK HERE), about which I will soon be blogging.

After I go to the gym (I hope there are pretty naked men) and hurry back here — I’m housesitting out in the country — and make cookies. Because, like I said, I went to the health food place and I got some pure natural butter because it was the only ingredient (I thought) missing here for my world famous chocolate chip cookies, and, like I said, I need to do things to make me feel better and/or distract me and making cookies does that. And I feel like shit and can barely breathe — something bad (besides Peter Pan casting) is DEFINITELY HAPPENING. So, I’m going to bake.

THE DOG IS ANXIOUS TOO … could it be 20-something hottie?

I would, normally, drive my Mom around on Thursday, but, I can’t be away from my Judah for that long. Judah has anxiety too. I’m usually MUCH calmer when I’m out here in the middle of nowhere but for the past few days I have been sharing the house. The tenant who lives in the in-law-ish apartment was here. And not only was she here, but both nights she brought in her 20-something boyfriend who was RIDICULOUSLY good-looking and seeing the two of them together — even for those few brief seconds when she walked him by me in his really worn, tight white t-shirt and cropped, dark, black hair and unbelievable ass — undid my vow to myself to feel okay about being un-partnered, un-dated, un-anythinged. I felt all un-wanted and un-all-over again and it sucked. Thank goodness she has now left for the weekend.

BRING ON THE BAKING AND THE BOOK BUYING AND READING! But first, I have to get to the gym and back.

NOTE:  I understand that this generalized anxiety and dread is very likely due to all the horrifyingly hateful energy roiling in the world at the moment; I cannot discuss — rationally — all the wars and the bombings and the borders and the children and the hate crimes and the disregard for life and dignity going on, let alone the suing of our President while ALL THE SHIT GOING ON IN THE WORLD IS GOING ON, and all our Congress can do is bicker? If the end is nigh, good, because if this is the middle, I have had enough.

 

Something (someone) in the air . . . and gone . . .

Lee Grant: Actress, director, activist, she who refused to cooperate with the shameful House Un-American Activities Committee, has written a memoir, I Said Yes To Everything (CLICK HERE).
While Ms. Grant is renowned for her many and various accomplishments, not least of which is her Oscar winning portrayal of the deliciously sexual Felicia in Shampoo, what I remember most is her short-lived run on 1975 sit-com, Fay. Watch:

It was revolutionary at the time. I watched it, but alone. I was in my early teens and to have revealed my identification with Fay and Mary Tyler Moore and Rhoda would have further alienated me from the few half-friends I’d managed to fool into liking me. The people with whom I lived were not interested either; my Mom and stepfather were more Gunsmoke and Barnaby Jones types, and my younger sister – who with me was the last of the six children from my Mother’s first marriage left in the house – was busy being the kind of popular I would never manage.

So, after Fay, I would often call my aunt, Sissie, to discuss the episode.

We talked a lot. I called her in secret because the simpatico nature of our connection bothered my Mom. What I didn’t understand then was that Sissie had refused to process my father’s death, had transferred her favoritism of him to me the second he died, osmosis-like, and that my Mom, over-burdened with six demanding and very different children had guiltily allowed Sissie to semi-take over the care and maintenance of the most-different one of all. What my Mom didn’t understand was that I would have been bookworm, nerd boy, musical theatre loving, weeping at commercials, towel-on-the-head as pretend-luxurious-long-blonde hair girly-boy whether Sissie had been there or not. My Mom, for years, worried that giving Sissie such access to me had made me – well – a sissy.

What it did, in fact, was save my life. Sissie gave me books and Broadway and the beauty of space to be me, whoever that was, with the knowledge that there was at least one person in the world who would always be on my side and think that this crazed, delusional boy with a feather and costume-jewelry brooch-festooned towel wrapped round his head, clad in the discarded velvet-dresses of long-dead relatives, flouncing down the steps weeping and singing If He Walked Into My Life like some extremely-small-bus and truck tour Mame, was worth talking to and loving.

Sissie and I were like that. For decades, until she could no longer see to read and write, even when we lived just across town from one another, she would send me two or three notes a week through the mail, filled with articles clipped from newspapers and magazines, and typed jottings of gossip and news about people we knew and precis about the shows we watched or the books we read or the theatre we wanted to see. We made and shared a phantasmagorical world of sophistication and elan, a faux-Manhattan-esque-literary-Broadway-Paris sort of fantasy of the lives we’d NEVER have outside the connection we shared, inside of which – our own little suite in the Algonquin-in-our-minds – we were both happier than anywhere else, any time else, with any ONE else.

I miss her every day. Ten years she has been gone and I still want to tell her things all the time. So, when I read an article about Lee Grant’s book signing in New York in Matthew Rettenmund’s (follow him HERE on Twitter) blog, Boy Culture (Click HERE) which I read daily, there was a picture of Miss Barbara Cook in attendance. I have been terribly worried about Miss Cook since I last saw her in concert at the Kennedy Center and she was walking with a cane. In the photo, she is using a walker called a Rollerator —

Barbara Cook and Barbara Barrie at Lee Grant's book signing. Photo by Matthew Rettenmund

Barbara Cook and Barbara Barrie at Lee Grant’s book signing. Photo by Matthew Rettenmund

— it is almost exactly like my Mom uses — and upon seeing the picture and knowing Miss Cook was up to being out and about and too, my remembering Fay and calling Sissie after each episode and the Rollerator for Miss Cook who – it turns out and how did I just discover – is the same age as my Mom and too, the recent death of Elaine Stritch and that awful photo of her where her arm-bones Portrait of Elaine Stritchare so skeletal which was just how Sissie was toward the end and all of this input firing my circuits both emotional and intellectual flummoxed me and I thought;

“I’ve got to call Sissie and tell her this.”

Somehow, for whatever split-second required, I was thrown out of time and into a reality where Sissie was alive and I could call her. And after that split-second ended, when I was slammed back into the loss of Sissie, I was destroyed. Just that breath of believing her here took me back to having to lose her all over again.

I’ve been a little crazy (crazier?) ever since. A crazy which has translated into intense anxiety that something is going to happen to my Mother. A crazy NOT helped when she told me this week on our Tuesday jaunt, “I dreamed about Peggy last night. That’s the first time since she died in October. I’ve lived too long. You shouldn’t have to lose your children.”

It was the next day I was walking by a little downtown church on a side street and saw a sign “Annual Book Sale” and, me being me, went inside. I bought every large print book they had. Then yesterday, I went to the Girl Scout discount book place and bought every large print book they had. I called my Mom and asked if I could come over. She told me to wait until 2 when she’d be done Wii bowling. I did. I could tell not all the books interested her, which I knew would be the case, and, too, that I had miscalculated thinking she would be okay choosing among them. She was afraid she was going to hurt my feelings. I explained they were only a dollar a piece and to just give away to the library there at Country Meadows the ones she didn’t want. She was clearly irritated by this and was eager for me to leave so she could head down to the lounge for Happy Days – a trio of drums, bass, and tinny-electric keyboard featuring the off-warblings of a poodle-skirted chanteuse. Let’s just say, me with a towel on my head doing numbers from Mame would have been better . . . but I digress.

I left her to her party-ing. Good for her. I went to the grocery store. There I discovered the return of Girl Scout Cookie Candy Bar things. My Mother LOVES these!

candy bars

However, they are $1 a piece and so I suspected she would not buy them for herself. It is one thing to buy countless shorty-pajama sets at Wal-Mart and Target (three in the past two weeks, just when I was along) and blouses and shoes and so on — but, food? And food with sugar, at that? No. So, I bought — uhm — a lot.

I called her to share this information. Okay, so, I had called her earlier in the day to ask if I could visit. And, so, I had visited and dumped TOO MANY books on her. And so, okay, maybe I am bothering her too much. BUT REALLY, when I breathless and excited told her I had found the candy bars at the store she said, “Yes Charlie, I know. I already got some.” Shortly followed by, “I’ll talk to you later.” I could barely squeak in an “I love you” to which she replied, “What?” I repeated, “I love you,” and she said, “Me too.”

Guess I’ll just keep that rather large cache of candy bars for myself.

LOL. Saturday night. Girl Scout candy bars and wine. Sounds decadent in a sad, pathetic way. And,  my very own delightful Momma doesn’t want to talk to me. Full circle, right? And so, who did I dream about last night? Peggy.

Bottom line: I’m likely to live long enough to experience my Mom’s death. I’m likely to live long enough to experience Barbara Cook’s death. I’m likely to live long enough to experience another sister or brother going.

Bottom line: the imaginary world of the Algonquin in our mind that Sissie and I shared, I now have no one in real life with whom to share, but I do have the Algonquin in my mind virtual community of Twitter writers and musical theatre divas I pretend are real friends.

The Duchess Goldblatt (HERE) is the most important person in the world to me (she insists on this from all of her followers, and she deserves it) and I stalk Elizabeth McCracken (HERE), Julia Murney (HERE), Wes Taylor (HERE) and his genius web-series It Could Be Worse (HERE) — and, here is the thing about that imaginary world — Julia Murney (HERE) is appearing in a production of Seussical, The Musical with Beth Crandall (HERE), who I taught when she was a six year old, wrapping her in a feather boa and having her sing My Heart Belongs to Daddy. I wrote her YEARS worth of musicals and shows, she was long my muse – I taught her who Mary Martin and Ethel Merman were, once, even, dressing her up as part of a trio called THE MERMANS.  And in Wes Taylor’s It Could Be Worse, there was once an appearance by Broadway actress and Wicked Elphaba, Julie Reiber (HERE), who, ages ago, played Johanna in Sweeney Todd when I was Sweeney. And Elizabeth McCracken (HERE) taught at the summer Iowa Workshop where, a few years ago, my life was changed and I determined to write “full-time” — such as it is and finish my novel, Libertytown, much based on Sissie. And so, SEE HOW EVERYTHING CONNECTS?

I don’t have Sissie in real life. But, I have her. Just like the Algonquin-in-my-head-Twitter world I have. So, I will – in all likelihood – never have in real life someone again with whom to share Fay or who even knows what the hell I’m talking about half the time. I do not share a frame of reference with anyone anymore, but, I have virtual world, virtual love.

And some very good, very real friends too. And, right now, my Mom. And Barbara Cook is still singing. And Beth is getting to perform with Julia Murney.

And there are books to be read. And some day, I believe, probably when I’m gone, one of those will be a finally discovered Libertytown (sorry Cody, my assigned literary executor).

It will have to do.

No Words … (well, it’s me, so, a few) … (hundred)

You’d think I’d find this funny by now, right?

Because I’m fucking crazy. I can’t even give the details. Today, however, I am at the gym. Still having vertigo. So, an hour on elliptical. Fine. Move to recumbent bike, long about minute 33 (lol) I am watching Venus Williams lose at Wimbledon and it is making me sad and all of a fucking goddamn sudden I realize my sister died eight months ago and I have a ridiculous breakdown, start heaving on the stupid machine, I have to run to the bathroom — or, well, stagger, trying to seem normal — I’m insane. This is what I did with my aunt. And Steve. And Allen. I was FINE FINE FINE until like nine months later and all of a sudden — BANG BANG THEY’RE DEAD.

I don’t believe in love anymore. Not really. And, you know, some days … I think in some ways I have spent most of my life doing things in an effort to please people who don’t exist anymore … or, never really did … my youth was spent living in a family that circled around a phantom, my absent father, and it was his disappearance and subsequent martyrdom that imbedded in me my ideas about “Men” — he drove into that telephone pole, everyone circled around the myth of him, and I, pre-verbal, learned that Love equaled Absence.

It was an easy leap to become a rabid Roman Catholic child, determined to become a religious servant and dedicate my life to the good works of — another myth, this time, a trinity. Escaped that early on, never made it to confirmation because I knew what I was, and in my early adolescence I fell for Heathcliff, of course, Wuthering Heights, what else?

The romance about running away, about the people you cannot have, a story around which I managed to build my entire life. To. This. Day. I am still missing Heathcliff. But things keep going. Don’t they? Damn fucking right they do.

And every empty liaison with another someone who is lying to any number of someones — me included — although, by another name — but, a Charlie is a Sebastian is a Cyril is a Ryan is a Rose (but never Mama) — every one is punishment for not saving him when I had the chance. But I didn’t. And so, I’d be alone. I was alone. Always alone. I WAS GREAT AT IT.

Because I couldn’t possible — no, not another one, like my father and that idiot Heathcliff who was so tortured about who he was and how he felt he hid inside — HE HID and he drank himself into oblivion. I haven’t the balls for that. So, I’ll just drink enough to land me somewhere with someone who doesn’t exist except for being on the other end of beating me to death. Happy Endings all around. Elegies.

Don’t worry. No one will ever know.

I was an actor once. For 53 years.

And I wish that I believed in heaven … or something … because I would like to see some of these people again … the ones I made up and am making up now.

I miss you every day.

Oh well, it’s always the leaving isn’t it … all that looking back … all that looking back …

 

 

I OBJECT(ify)! WTF FRIDAY?

The Arts, capital A, are dead.

The weekend started badly late last night when I got on Twitter and saw the news that Jason Robert Brown’s The Bridges of Madison County was closing on Broadway May 18. I find this incredibly disturbing for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that after the success of its live broadcast of The Sound of Music, NBC has announced another “live musical broadcast”, this time, another Mary Martin vehicle, Peter Pan. Not to be outdone, and not to risk being anywhere near as tasteful, FOX has announced plans for a live production of Grease. Now, far be it from me to cavil and complain about this trend — at least musicals are being done and anything that brought singing Audra McDonald and Laura Benanti to television, good thing — but why can’t one of the twelve kabillio-jillion networks produce versions of NEW MUSICALS? Maybe, just maybe, if the networks were made to take seriously their charge to use the airwaves for some service, some good, rather than everything in the entire fucking world being about how one can monetize and maximize profits, we’d live in a world where things that can’t be reduced to a slogan on a T-shirt that can catch the eye on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter, would thrive. Or, at least, exist. That the two most considered, constructed, beautifully scored, sung and performed musicals of the year, Andrew Lippa’s Big Fish and Jason Robert Brown’s The Bridges of Madison County , closed after such short runs is a tragic and sorry commentary — NOT on the state of musical theatre, but, rather, on the lack of educated audience enough existing to support such non-blockbuster, insightful, moving works of Art. Yes, ART. LISTEN:

Stories told with such glorious music, must MUST exist. I can’t imagine a world in which all we have to pass on to the next generation are songs like those from Grease and Disney musicals — NOT that those don’t have a place, they DO, but they CANNOT be the only place. CALLING MR WILLIAMS!

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And as if that weren’t enough to ruin my weekend, an article by Will Self in The Guardian called The Novel is Dead (this time it’s for real) [CLICK HERE TO READ] is all over the place, being Tweeted and copied and posted and generally showing up everywhere to beat me about the head and heart with its pronouncement of the death of literary fiction and Art — YES DAMMIT, CAPITAL A — in general. Oh lord. Listen to Mr. Self:

The literary novel as an art work and a narrative art form central to our culture is indeed dying before our eyes. Let me refine my terms: I do not mean narrative prose fiction tout court is dying – the kidult boywizardsroman and the soft sadomasochistic porn fantasy are clearly in rude good health. And nor do I mean that serious novels will either cease to be written or read. But what is already no longer the case is the situation that obtained when I was a young man. In the early 1980s, and I would argue throughout the second half of the last century, the literary novel was perceived to be the prince of art forms, the cultural capstone and the apogee of creative endeavour. The capability words have when arranged sequentially to both mimic the free flow of human thought and investigate the physical expressions and interactions of thinking subjects; the way they may be shaped into a believable simulacrum of either the commonsensical world, or any number of invented ones; and the capability of the extended prose form itself, which, unlike any other art form, is able to enact self-analysis, to describe other aesthetic modes and even mimic them. All this led to a general acknowledgment: the novel was the true Wagnerian Gesamtkunstwerk.

Now, first of all, you don’t get writing like that every day — AND THAT’S MY FUCKING POINT! I sent it to a few people — his link — and one replied that his sentences were too complex to really read right now. OH HOLY MOTHER OF GUTENBERG. That reply told me all I needed to know about the death of intellect. I mean, honestly?

I, myself, pander to the lowest common denominator by peppering my posts with “fucks” and including naked men. I NEVER get more hits than when I am tagged “big dick” — and not in the way it has been used throughout my life to refer to me, which, I assure you, has NOTHING to do with the size of my genitalia, but, rather, the length of my curmudgeonly attitude. I know those hits mean NOTHING, that those who hit on me because of my “big dick” are not reading me, don’t get me, know nothing about me, but STILL — I, too, have fallen for the zeitgeistian measure of what makes me matter.

I MUST BE A BIG BLOGGER. I was assured it was my SOLE path to being published. But, I write literary fiction. So, even if I managed to get published – WHO THE FUCK WOULD READ MY BIG DICKED PROSE? (Search that, baby.)

But, when it reigns — and by “IT” I mean cultural illiteracy, it pours. New York Magazine posted an item about the rumored (and, it seems, still to happen) Amtrak residencies for writers [CLICK HERE TO READ] with this sentence near its opening:

The Amtrak Writers’ Residency was a comic marketing proposition from the start — one ancillary, antiquated business (rail service) teaming up with another (books) full of people so needful of acknowledgment and peace of mind that they’d consider a week in a four-by-seven sleeper room a “residency.”

A sentence managing to announce the desperate state of literature as Art form while also heralding the death of train travel. Oh please. Please. KILL ME. Or, don’t, because apparently now after killing someone, you sue their family for relief from the pain and suffering killing them caused YOU! Yes, a woman is suing the family of a boy she fatally struck with her SUV while speeding. No shit. Read it here at VICE.COM

Talk about your big dick. WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE?

I canNOT. Just CAN NOT. And this whole “the owner of the Clippers is a racist” — uhm, yeah. Well, how is this a surprise? And the fact that a sports team is worth a billion dollars, and that college sports tournaments sell more tickets at higher prices than a Broadway musical, that JUST IN THE PAST FEW MONTHS a high school athlete can call someone a “faggot” and harass and abuse and NOT get called on it so he WON’T LOSE HIS SCHOLARSHIP — I mean, the world is a mess. THE WORLD IS A MESS AND I CAN JUST BARELY LEAVE MY ROOM.

may 2 2014 celeb

In fact, I am going away. I am house/pet sitting beginning tomorrow (after seeing Megan Hilty tonight, yes, that’s right — CAPITAL A, ART!) and I will not be back until Tuesday and I am taking with me only my books. I may not even shower. Definitely not shaving. Just holing up, cuddling with dogs, turning off the BIG DICK-ed whole entire FUCKING world. (Hit that) And here are the pics for those of you who only came here for … you know …

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… you’re the top … no, REALLY …

I have had a beautiful Sissie day, I must say.Unlike every other year since her death, today I did NOT go to visit her gravestone. She’s not there. I have learned a lot recently about the damage living in a death-cult and fetishizing the departed can do,and discovered just how dysfunctional and disastrous the ways in which I learned to do that very thing with my own father’s death – even though I was seventeen months old when he died. We built a cult around the empty space he left, and made up not very healthy stories about it and – in the process – learned to lie about ourselves and avoid our own truths.

No more. Sissie isn’t at her tombstone. She’s in my life. I am Sissie. Every time I sing a song or quote Dorothy Parker or bake a cookie or love New York or … well, you get it. So, today I spent the day with my lovely sister, Debbie, and my wonderful Momma, and then I came home and danced around with Amy and Kieran and Connor and baked four dozen Snickerdoodles and sang songs and watched bad TV and Tweeted and texted friends and although it is now technically the 18th, I am up late still flying with the joy of having – ten years later – finally realized how to recover from some devastating deaths – and having come this far, I don’t want to sleep – because I am obsessively watching brilliant “remind me of Sissie” YouTubes and having a blast. Here you go.

And my friends, you are the top(s) – really – and I am not even going to the gay joke place in this one! (Mostly because I really don’t like categorizing and too – I don’t really know any Tops, LOL.)

Patti LuPone and Howard McGillin in “Anything Goes” – oh my goodness I wish I had seen this!

And then – MERMAN! The original Reno from a 1936 version of the show I didn’t know existed until tonight! Now, honestly, Sissie was NOT a huge Merman fan. It was Mary Martin she loved. Still … listen.

I actually owe my YouTubing to Julia Murney who linked this on her Twitter. It is too easy to forget what an amazing transcendent talent was Whitney Houston … just … WOW.

And speaking of Julia Murney … I cannot get enough of this …

Should have been a “Funny Girl” revival with Miss Murney. She is such a genius.

And, since it’s Sissie day – well, for her, for me, HERE I AM … LOL. My final performance … accompanied by the best accompanist in the entire world and one of my very dearest, longest, most faithful friends, Miss Alison Shafer. And, as I said earlier today on Twitter; Honor the people who carried you when you couldn’t walk & believed in you when you had no faith. That’s my Al.

… Sissie-day… a wonderful day in my neighborhood …

December 17, 1918 was a great day in history because on that day was born Frances Elizabeth Smith, later known and loved as “Sissie”.

Sissie

Sissie

If you combined Auntie Mame, Kay Thompson, Dorothy Parker, Edna St. Vincent Millay, Judy Garland, Katharine Hepburn, Flannery O’Connor, Mary Martin, Elaine May, Jo from “Little Women”, Saint Cecilia, Coco Chanel, Kitty Carlisle, Dorothy Kilgallen, and just the tiniest soupcon of Little Edie Beale and you might, just might, begin to get a hint of the wonders of my dearest FES.

She introduced me to reading and theatre and financed my pursuit of and passion for both. She took me to my first musical when I was six; “Carousel” at a high school and my first trip to New York when I was twelve. And she repeatedly took me to see Angela Lansbury in “Gypsy” which changed my life.

She changed my life in incalculable ways and I am grateful every single day to have had her as my champion. I am grateful every day for having had the gift of her unconditional love. I am grateful to have been truly seen and known and having been so, to have all that was seen and known of me so fully appreciated and embraced and celebrated. As I have aged, it has become clearer and clearer to me how very few “loves” of any kind in any category are full and wide and faithful and powerful enough to allow for the sort of connection Sissie and I had, how very few “loves” of any kind in any category give the magical gift of such total acceptance and grace.

Watch this YouTube clip of Angela Lansbury in “Mame” and “Gypsy” – very Sissie! And too, in “Sweeney Todd” which Sissie and I saw on Broadway and in which I later – much later – appeared as Sweeney Todd. So many wonderful memories. Thank you, Sissie. Thank you.

Thank you, Sissie. This day, for me, is the best holiday of all. Following this is an excerpt from my novel, “Libertytown” in which the main character, Parker, discovers that the name “Sissie” is not the same thing as the name “sissy.”

Love and light to all of you.

Sissie's tombstone

LIBERTYTOWN: A Novel (excerpt)

I ran away from my hometown to California at the behest of Annie, another of the many adrift friends I’d accumulated while part of Vincent’s theatricales, who, herself, was escaping from a disastrous marriage to a man who’d signed over all their funds to Scientology, after which he’d left her for a years younger woman. Annie, twenty-nine to my eighteen, was eager to trade coasts, and had accepted a transfer through the nuclear power plant designing firm for which she worked, hoping her luck would change. We headed across the country in her little green Datsun, meaning to see the landscape along the way, but spending rather more time drinking and smoking dope in Motel 6’s than we did sightseeing. We arrived in San Jose, where her new grown-up job was waiting and I arranged the furniture and unpacked the boxes full of stuff her company had paid to ship, a haul into which we had snuck a few cartons of my things as well, feeling like we’d pulled one over on her employers, and we settled into the one bedroom apartment they’d found her, creating a semblance of home.
We made an odd couple. I stayed on the couch, never really looking for a job, subsisting off the money Sissie sent me in her frequent letters from home, at least twice weekly missives filled with gossipy typed news of family and characters from Libertytown, as well as clippings from the Baltimore Sun that she thought I’d find interesting – always including Liz Smith’s gossip column, for which we both shared a slavish devotion, other theatre items, and too, clippings from the local paper about people I knew and the shows they were doing, which I think she meant to draw me back home, and slipped in amongst these without mention, tens or twenties, sometimes as much as fifty. I managed to do little with this cash but keep myself in cigarettes, and too, to overdose myself on Vitamin A in an effort to clear up my acne. I got off the couch long enough to get hired for my voice then fired for my lack of dance ability from a mediocre production of FINIAN’S RAINBOW in which Annie had gotten the ingénue lead role, Sharon. She fit right in to the company, started dating the man who played her father, he of the rainbow, and made friends at her new job, adapting to her new life while I floundered.
In a last ditch effort to make a go, I’d gone into San Francisco to audition for a show. I knew nothing about the city except that it was the Gay Capital of the world and so I expected to be welcomed, heralded even, as if some cosmic memo would have been sent announcing my arrival, the result of which would be that all the already relocated homos would find me a place, snuggle me in there, and show me the shape my life should be with the perfect occupation and lover thrown in for kicks.
The show was SHE LOVES ME, and knowledgeable as I’d considered myself to be in the unsophisticated arena of my tiny home town, I was woefully unschooled in the culture and patois of big city theatre, particularly one dominated by worshippers at the altar of Barbara Cook, who, at the time of my audition I had never heard, an ignorance for which I was held in that special sort of ignominious opprobrium ritualized by theatre queens.

“Well, what role are you auditioning for?” Asked one of the clones, all of whom were dressed in uniform of flannel shirt and too tight jeans, all of whom seemed equally eager to be rid of me, but not without first humiliating me for wasting their time.
“Isn’t there a young guy?”
“Arpad Laszlo, for whom, my dear, you are completely, utterly, and entirely wrong.  He’s a teenage boy.”
“I’m eighteen.”
“With long blonde hair and a very … uhm…-” at which point flannelled disapprover number one looked at flannelled disapprovers two through five as if the search for the appropriate word to communicate my wrongness might just be beyond him. Alas, it was not. “-modern carriage.”
In other words, in the capital of the gay world, I was not only not receiving a parade, I was being told by these royal pre-eminences that I was too light.
“Yes,” too tight jeans two chimed in, “your hair, your bearing, your posture -”
And now, number three joined the chorus, which was not, I suspected, the first time he’d been in that group, a suspicion confirmed by his inability to insult me with an original adjectival code phrase for “too faggy.“

“Your persona is just a little too modern for the role.”
I’d spent enough of my life being disapproved of and snickered at by those who were not my people. Where I’d come from, the kingdom of home where I’d been a prince, one’s own kind – the other societal misfits, didn’t attack this way. It was one thing to be called a big fag, pudding, pussy, cocksucker, etc. by the redneck peons and common folk, but it was almost more than I could take to have one’s own class, the rulers of the aristocracy to which I thought I belonged call me a big, flaming sissy.

I was six years old. I’d led a remarkably sheltered life. We lived on a back road in the country, and other than my family, I knew no one. These were before the days of play groups and day care. My mother didn’t yet work, and my only playmate was Rebecca, with whom I was extraordinarily close. We lived in our own world, with our own language, the two of us having been raised as a couple, separate from the four other sisters and brother, being seven years younger than the next older sibling, and we were content there.
My other friend was Sissie, with whom I spent Sundays and holidays, and in this constricted little world I was the most loved, adored, and cherished of people. I could do no wrong.

When Rebecca and I would spend Sundays with Sissie at Libertytown, we would spend much of the day disappeared into private worlds we’d construct of the debris and rubble of pieces of our ancestors lives which had been left behind in the unused rooms of the manse. From the furniture, fragments and remains which echoed with histories forgotten by generations of Parkers, in rooms no longer used for anything but storage, we would create elaborate universes of make-believe to rule. We were living across the hall from one another in luxury New York apartments, glamorously doing whatever it was that we – at ages four and five – imagined that to be.
We were stars, of course. Most of the time. Less often we were teachers. But whether stars or teachers, we invented Grand Loves with whom we spent the few spare moments we were not busy with each other. Of course, we had no idea what constituted a Grand Love having seen no examples, but we knew from television and movies that having one was a requirement.
They were always men.

It was another something about which the family didn’t talk. They pretended not to notice Rebecca and I both attaching towels to our heads, pretending them to be long, luxurious blonde hair which we would toss with what I would now call a Veronica Lake insouciance, but which I have no idea at the time what I imagined it to be or what compelled me to portray it with such ease. When, ever so rarely, Rebecca would say, “Don’t you want to be a boy?” within our scenarios, I can remember the twisting, knotting within my stomach and the discomfort the notion caused me.
“No. I don’t like boys. They’re stupid.”
“But, you are a boy.”
“I know, but I’m not that kind of boy. I’m this kind.”
I didn’t have words for it. I didn’t have the vaguest notion that I was a category, that there were others like me, but then, in that world, in those rooms, in my tiny little reality, it made no difference. I knew that sometimes when my brother or sister would say something teasing to me about “you walk like a girl” or “don’t you want to play with trucks” my mother would, if she heard it, snap, “Leave him alone.” and the tickle of “not right” I felt about myself would be gone and I could return home to the galaxy Rebecca and I had made.
No matter what the tall, worried grown-ups around us thought I ought to be, Rebecca and I were content and happy in the secret world we inhabited. And as long as we kept one another amused and demanded nothing of the grown-ups around us, they left us to create our own realities, all with the tacit agreement that this was another something about which we did not speak in the real world, this was another something that only the Parker-cabal could understand, this was another something that made the real world a dangerous place in which to share what one knew and was, a place from which we needed to hide, this was another something that made us safe only when we were surrounded by and secreted in one another.
It was easy for us to hold on to the secret treasure of the world we made: we were right and perfect and knew everything. All the tall grown-ups around us had secrets of their own, that much Rebecca and I could tell, but those secrets were the kind that caused whispering and crying and sorrow and disappearing; those were the kinds of secrets that had something to do with the disappearance of that thing everyone else called “Daddy” or, sometimes, “Joe.” Daddy Joe was the absence around which all the sorrowful secrets of the tall people revolved, and Rebecca did not remember him at all, and I was without details, having instead some dreams and shadows and echoes of there having been something, a huge something both wonderful and terrible, all at once, an unfathomably enormous something taken away one night while I was asleep, and the next day, the crying began, a crying which continued for many, many decades until almost none of them were left … and too, that night’s disappearance had stopped a particular kind of music from playing; a music for which I would search and reach for many years until I found a substitute, found it inside my own heart and let it out, a sound I’d make to stop my own crying – at least for a while – but that is many, many stories in between and away from this now, this six year old Parker, and part of the dark secrets about which there cannot yet be discussion. Then, there was just Rebecca, and the combination of secrets kept and told, and as long as we guarded and lived in those, we could be happy.

Then, I went to school.
Those first weeks of first grade, I was the only Catholic who rode along with the forty public school kids, and was segregated to the seat directly behind the driver at the front of the bus which dropped me off on the corner in Libertytown at which was located the bank where Sissie worked, from which Sissie would emerge, take my hand and walk me the two remaining blocks down the side street to Saint Peter’s Grade School.
I did not make friends easily. My first foray into the world outside was not filled with the embrace I had always felt in my isolated existence. It did not help that thanks to Sundays with Sissie and the newspapers and Babar and Roald Dahl books she’d shared with me, I could already read thus setting me even further apart from the other children who made me feel as if I had come from another country, and not one that any of them would like to visit.
I spoke in strange and long sentences of a vocabulary and syntax foreign to the other children, composed of the patterns I’d learned from movie musicals and the books Sissie and I had read together, a borrowed erudition with tellingly sibilant accents and a delivery bordering on British. Somehow, in the process of inventing myself, I’d happened upon an unfortunate combination of Truman Capote and Katharine Hepburn.
It did not take my peers long to mark me in ways and words I did not know existed. The horror of it began on what was to be the last morning I was ever walked to school by Sissie, who I still believed magical, who reflected the beauty I wanted to believe was inside me, my hand in hers, her by my side, the place I had, until them, always felt safest.
From across the street a group of older kids walking alone called out, “Sissy!” and at first I wondered how they knew her. I was not that surprised. She worked in the bank and was the center of my very small world, it just made sense that everyone would know her, love her, crave her attention as did I. But, the screaming continued, and laughing, and soon enough I could tell from the way Sissie stood a little straighter, eyes determinedly ahead looking at neither the child terrorists nor me, ignoring the sound as if it were not there, the smile on her face which I recognized as that look she wore when someone’s behavior or a piece of news did not fit in with her idea of what the world should be, that look she affected when I would ask a question for which the answer was something she thought I ought not consider, often followed by the phrase, “Honey, don’t let’s worry about that sort of thing,“ combined with the sneering tone of the continuing taunt comprised of what had once been a magical word for me, “SISSY! SISSY! SISSSSSSY!!!!” that my safe world no longer existed.
Frozen moment.
It would be another few years before the verbal attacks became physical and the throwing against lockers and head in toilets and destruction of whatever of my soul or property they could get their hands on would begin. That day though, was the day I learned, that being a “sissy” was not the good thing that being “Sissie” had always meant to me.

And now, here it was again. Another place I was meant to be safe, an audition for musical theatre, and I was being taunted by the older kids.
But, just then, the mustachioed , receding hair lined number four member of the royal flannelled and jeans enclave, this one located at the piano, interceded on my behalf.
“Well, what will you be singing?”
“Mean To Me.” Had I not been so flummoxed and intimidated by the tangible disdain to which I’d been subjected, I’d have delivered the title with irony. As it was, I began to shake. There seemed no point in singing, but I hadn’t the spine to simply walk away. It had always been my m.o. to deplete every ounce of dignity and self-respect I might have, never willing to surrender when only partially eviscerated.
“As in AIN’T MISBEHAVIN’? Nell Carter?”
“Yes. Thank you.” I handed him my music and, God bless him, he smiled and patted my hand.
I had not, in my estimation, been given many gifts by God. My skin was bad. My teeth were crooked and after a misadventure with my older brother, my mother had determined that braces were a waste of time. My dick wasn’t huge. My face wasn’t particularly pretty. My body was neither muscled nor well proportioned, just long and there. I was smart enough, but not in a way that had ever been more help than hindrance, operating as it did as a sort of internal intellectual torture team judging me twice as harshly as I’d ever consider judging anyone else. I didn’t have much.
But I had a voice.
Perhaps it was the hours I’d spent listening to Mahalia with my father.     Perhaps it was the years of terror and loneliness in which I’d lived. Perhaps it was God’s way of playing another trick on me, but somehow, inside that thin, paler than a vampire too modern carriaged eighteen year old boy, there lived a fat, black woman. And she could wail.
I started and the flannel queens’ smirking was interrupted by their shock. They were, however, quick to recover, transforming what had been their certainty I would not be able to sing into a haughty dismissal of the freakish disjunction between the singer and the song.
It was left to the as yet unheard from replicant number five to speak. “Well, that’s very … uhh … interesting …though probably not the best song for your type … and, well, I have to be honest … you’re just not what we’re looking for.”
I stood there, uncertain what to do. Paralyzed by embarrassment, terrified. At home, whenever I’d auditioned, I had always known ahead of time that I would be starring in something. Auditioning had been a formality, an opportunity for me to excel. Even at the auditions for the FINIAN’S in which Annie was starring, this same song had been greeted with wild applause from the auditioning committee. If I didn’t have my voice, if that didn’t work, who was I? My devastation and confusion was evident enough to engender sympathy in number three, who said, “Don’t worry, look at Miss Barbara Cook! When she starred in SHE LOVES ME she was a delicate little ingénue and now she’s big as a house and a bigger star than ever – she’s in town next week!”
And to my continuing humiliation and abashment, with no excuse except that my heart was breaking and my brain on pause, I replied, “Who is Barbara Cook?” From the looks on their faces I knew – if it had not been certain before, it now was – that I would never have a parade in this town.
On the way back to San Jose, after that audition, I bought the LIVE AT CARNEGIE HALL LP by Miss Barbara Cook and took to memorizing it note for note, inflection by inflection, breath by breath, lyric soprano trill by trill, until I could and would – with very little prompting – imitate her entire oeuvre, but most especially the trio of iconic SHE LOVES ME selections, DEAR FRIEND, WILL HE LIKE ME, and my particular specialty, ICE CREAM during the end of which I would explode into the final three exceedingly stratospheric notes, flitting with breath-taking ease to the F sharp and then defying gravity by flying even further to the high B which I would hold until it seemed I might faint from the effort at which point – without taking a breath – I would portamento smoothly down to the electric final E, all with a most assured and ear-splitting tenacity, a buoyant, dare I say gay élan the likes of which has gotten boys like me dunked in toilets and thrown against lockers since musical theatre began.
It was during one such display of I-IIIIICE-CREAM brio that I began to shake uncontrollably, as did Annie across the room. It was not the result of my vivacious and bravura performance, but rather, my first earthquake. It was barely a quake, more a tremor, but the walls and floor were moving, and nothing I did could stop them as I ran from wall to wall, pressing against them, looking for something solid.
“Stand in a doorframe! Come stand in the doorframe!” Annie shouted, from her perch at the front door, looking out over the second floor balcony walkway to the parking lot below. “Come look! Parker, look at this! All the cars are dancing!“ She was fascinated by the vibrating vehicles, and entranced by the power of it, while I was horrified. I wanted things to hold still. I needed it to stop, and I could feel my guts twisting, my heart beating ever faster as the reality of my complete lack of control and escape penetrated my consciousness.
Even so, as was ever the case, it was my role to be amusing and comforting, and so I joined her on the balcony, screaming, “When I prayed for the earth to move, God, this wasn’t what the fuck I meant.”
And almost as soon as we were done laughing at my witty bon mot, the upheaval had heaved its last. We re-entered the apartment to assess the damage and discovered the only casualty seemed to have been the framed photo of the two of us as Margo Channing and her gay, best friend Duane in APPLAUSE, the musical version of ALL ABOUT EVE, Vincent’s production of which had been the beginning of our best-friendship, which had migrated off the bookshelf and shattered, glass and frame, into shards, on the ground. I cleaned up the pieces, discarded the broken glass and frame, and saved the photo, tucking it away into the sleeve of Barbara’s LIVE AT CARNEGIE HALL, the album of which I later discovered to my horror had been scratched by the stereo needle skipping across it during the quake, forever after causing Miss Cook to repeat ad infinitum the high B I’d tried to claim as my own. “He came to offer me,” she’d begin with promise, “vani-illl-la-ah I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I-I…,” and so on, never getting to the “-iiiiiiice cream.”
Vanilla I.
It should have struck me funny then. But it didn’t.

For years I would tell people it had been that quake, that fear of loss of control that had sent me back to Maryland. But it was not just – or even, especially that, but rather, the seed of doubt about my ability to gain purchase in those more urban spheres of shows and homos which had been firmly planted by my FINIAN and SHE LOVES ME experiences. I needed someplace safe, some place where I knew the walls would stand and the ground, though not always welcoming, was solid. So, home I went, taking my ICE CREAM with me, the tessitura of which resulted in neither the dogs of San Jose nor Annie regretting my decision in February of 1980 to jet back East.

the dreaded Monday ? … “How was your weekend?” … curating your life …

People like to ask on Mondays, “How was your weekend?” Formulating an answer today pushes some of my “crazy Charlie” buttons.

Friday, I realized I had done something to my back. I was a bit crooked, half-a-limp, numb-a-tingle in the extremities. This happens every now and then, no biggie. Once upon a time I would head to the chiropractor, or, more practically, the massage therapist, but now I just take it easy for a few days and wait for whatever was swollen or twisted or slightly unaligned to get righted.

Memory HeadSo, this weekend, I had an excuse not to do anything. Saturday, I intended to meet some friends, but by the time it was time to do so, I had already done some household chore-type things and was aching, which was making me tired, and we’d be meeting in a crowded location and I’d have to park and hike to find them and there might have been (probably would have been) other people there I’d know and wouldn’t have wanted to see and … I stayed home.

Sunday, not only was my back still not quite right (as in, I was crooked) but, too, there was something like a stomach ache or a brick or – well, pain – in my left abdomen-y, side area and so, I spent almost the entire day and night on the couch in my room. I say “almost” because, eventually, I moved to the bed.

So, how was my weekend? Well … how was yours? One of my friends, Ann, sent me this picture:

Ann Steve D.C.That’s Ann, there on the far right, the beautiful woman radiating Love and Light and good energy. She is cozied up to two fellows I’ve not seen in ages, and all three of them were in the last show I directed. And, they happen to be in a building which houses a theatre I built, in which Ann played Nellie Forbush in my production of Rodgers and Hammerstein‘s “South Pacific” which I did as a salute to my dear aunt, who had seen Mary Martin play Nellie. Ann was a stranger to me when she auditioned for the role but has since become a dear friend. She is a good memory, someone and something I enjoy remembering – even if the place where we met – that building where she stood posing with friends after seeing a show in a theatre I built and can no longer enter – is a less good memory.

One has to pick and choose and arrange and remind one’s self that “memory” is not a recording of an actual event, really, but, rather, a memory of a memory, colored and shaped and interpreted and – in fact – curated according to one’s own slant and taste from the storage space in the attic of one’s own mind.

As a child, raised in the D.C. suburbs in days when school budgets allowed for day-trips, I was regularly taken to the Smithsonian Museums ((CLICK HERE FOR INFO ABOUT THE SMITHSONIAN COMPLEX – really cool. Of course, if the looming government shutdown occurs tomorrow – all of it will be closed.)).

It was a different time, of course, and while I am sure this would never be the case today, we children were allowed to wander on our own through the museums. I can clearly remember the day after one of those trips being angrily instructed to write impressions about the things we had seen, what had most captured our attention the day before. This assignment was the result of those in charge having been alerted by a parent chaperone that some of us had not so much toured the museum, but, rather, had hung out in gift shop and cafeteria until sneaking outside to do – I don’t know what – it was before i was cool enough to sneak off for smoking and drugging.

Still, for me, the assignment presented a problem.

On these trips, my wandering was done mostly alone, about which I was ashamed. And because I did not want the other kids – all of whom, I was convinced, were happily paired and grouped with the sort of “come with me” friends I never seemed to have – to bear witness to my solitude, I tried to stay hidden. So, I hadn’t really seen all that much. But, me being me, I had picked up every brochure and piece of paper literature available.

So, I wrote about how the Smithsonian was the “nation’s attic” and how it reminded me of all of the un-used rooms in my aunt’s house in Libertytown, filled with relics and artifacts of my family’s history and past, and how I wished I could go through all the things at the Smithsonian that were NOT on display, and play in those rooms, like I spent my weekends in the rooms of my aunt’s home, making up my own story about the historical finds there, my own – wasn’t I clever – SMITH-son-ian.

I wish I could find that paper. I know the teacher made me read it out loud – which, no doubt, made it even MORE unlikely I would have anyone with whom to walk around on the next class trip we took – my words and my interpretation and spin and excuse for my solitude, then – as they do now sometimes – made me pariah. Oh well.

theatre destroyedThe Smithsonian now has something in excess of 130 million pieces and artifacts, and 250 plus curators to choose amongst and arrange them all. I don’t know how many memories a human mind holds or what triggers one of those recalled moments to the front; but I do know that when I got Ann’s picture, and spending the weekend on the couch, in recline and a sort of decline as well, that I was taken back for some reason to those Smith-son-ian visits, and my hiding, and struck by the parallels here, now, my writing in the batcave, my inability to go certain places, my unwillingness to visit some others, and how, goddammit, I am still wandering mostly alone, picking up brochures, wishing I could get into all the hidden rooms where people have left their pasts that I might figure out the stories … but what I’m seeing right now – though I can’t really see it – hard to explain – but, theatres in decay, rotting, molded, destroyed by neglect and absence of light and …

… my story? I need to curate a happier ending which has somehow been lost in the millions of artifacts left behind along the way of here, where I am going.

… the emmy awards have made me wonder if the Tea Party is right about one thing …

I watched the Emmy Awards last night and I have come to this conclusion: Evolution is really about going backwards.

Megan Hilty (Click here for her OFFICIAL website) made me think it. See, I wasn’t REALLY watching. I was sort-of-half paying attention to the show while I furiously texted and Tweeted about everything that was happening. At the same time, I was reading other people’s texts and tweets and such and worrying that I was somehow less funny or prescient or Tweet-hip than were they.

I had just written a particularly EVIL and MEAN Tweet about Carrie Underwood’s delivery of “Yesterday”, bemoaning (again, I confess, this has been an ongoing complaint of mine) NBC’s decision to do a live version of “The Sound of Music” (which is, in itself, bad enough) and then to cast Carrie Underwood as Maria – which seems to me the most egregious sort of insult to the memories of everyone from the real Maria vonTrapp (but she was a nun once, so who gives a fuck) to Mary Martin, Rodgers & Hammerstein, to, well, she’s not dead yet but she did stop singing – so, Julie Andrews. And the way in which Miss Underwood delivered last night’s song did not in any way fill me with confidence that she could either emote or adequately sing musical theatre monologues – which we in musical theatre call “songs”.

And Megan Hilty tweets this:

(click here to follow MEGAN HILTY) 11h

The only time I don’t enjoy social media is during award shows. Why is everyone so mean? Check your feed – how many posts are positive?

So, I was shamed. I loveLOVELOVE Megan Hilty. I am still NOT recovered from the cancellation of SMASH. Megan Hilty is the kind of person who SHOULD be starring in live musicals on network television because she makes EVERY SONG into a brilliant three act play. Look, I still watch this video of her singing “THEY JUST KEEP MOVING THE LINE” all the time – she is telling AT LEAST three stories SIMULTANEOUSLY and is GENIUS (watch it. share it.):

And then … I started THINKING (in between texts and Tweets):

Theoretically, when humanity first started communicating its likes and disses verbally, events happened and were grunted from one to another person or group of persons, the oral tradition slowly moving stories from place to place. I have no doubt that by the time a tale made its way from one cave-enclave to the next Cro-Magnon community, it had been twisted and spun and colored by the prejudices and life-experiences of every teller along the way.

We like to think we’ve come a long way. There was the whole Gutenberg Press thing. And “standardized” education with its canons and such. And the informing fine arts which somehow devolved into the current crap-crop of movies and television. And too, once upon a time, there was a rich and varied plethora of newspapers and magazines and books, all of which seem to be disappearing – or, if one takes a more positive view – morphing into largely unedited interweb media product.

What we have, again, is cave-person gossip as news. Only, this news-gossip isn’t at all tenderized by time: there is no longer  Monday morning quarterbacking or water-cooler moments, those discussions that used to happen after we had experienced something and had a chance to process it before hearing about it the next day on the news or reading about it in a printed paper; Now, everything is live and real time.

We are just so many Tweeting and Facebooking and everything-else-new-social-media-right-this-second-ing Cro-Magnons gone rogue and ridiculously judgmental. Myself included. And Ms. Hilty told me about myself.

So, what did I LIKE about the Emmys? Well, okay. Hmm. My imaginary boyfriend Derek Hough won the choreography award. But, then he thanked Mark Ballas. And I only JUST wrote how I felt about this – what, 2 days ago? (CLICK TO READ HERE).

lange paulsonOkay, then. Well, Neil Patrick Harris was the host. I love him. Look, I’m pissed off Jessica Lange and Sarah Paulson didn’t win for AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM. Okay? And I’m pissed that AMERICAN HORROR STORY: ASYLUM didn’t win. And equally pissed that BEHIND THE CANDELABRA did. I couldn’t even WATCH all of that. I’m betting most gay men couldn’t. I thought it was HORRIBLE. And the self-congratulatory press it did – mostly about the relentlessly hetero Michael Douglas and Matt Damon playing such blatantly gay roles – PUHLEASE. All of which was exacerbated last night by M.Douglas’s OFFENSIVE and JUVENILE acceptance speech where – well – here’s what I Tweeted then:

11h

I find the fratty “haha we pretended we were gay” tone of speech juvenile homophobic bullshit. Grow up.

So, could I have been nicer? I guess. Can I be nicer? I guess. Is Twitter an evil influence? There’s a big fight going on in the literary world (click HERE to read about it in THE MILLIONS – which is a PHENOMENAL lit site I check DAILY) about it now, started by Jonathan Franzen cracking on writers who use Twitter to promote (click HERE to read it). Easy for him to slam, he’s a “big name” with a publicist to do his dirty work.

I don’t know. I left Facebook because – FOR ME – it was a drain and a strain and soul-suck. It got me a lot of hours back in my day, in my life. I don’t check Twitter nearly as much. I don’t have it set to notify me when I am Tweeted. So, I have backed off social media a bit. But not completely.

And I wonder if it has made us meaner? If this instant reaction, saying things to and about people without being near the people – I mean – being mean is easy from an electronic divide, right? It’s far easier to argue if you’re doing it without looking into someone’s eyes. It’s far easier to slam someone you’ve never met.

I mean, in the olden days, had I been talking about why I am not happy about Carrie Underwood and “The Sound of Music” – there was no chance she would ever have heard or read any of what I said. Now, remote though the possibility is that she’ll hear what I say – she does have access to all of the snark (as well as the love, when it comes to that – she has a lot of fans) and so – I am wondering, what is my obligation to the feelings of celebrities about whom I Tweet or write?

What is the risk one takes in being in the public eye? What is “mean” and what is legitimate public discussion about someone being right or wrong for a role or good or bad in a performance? What constitutes critique and what qualifies as attack?palinbachmann

And am I going to hell for thinking Carrie Underwood sucked last night?

Evolution. Hmmm … maybe the Tea Party Lunatics are right. Maybe it is a myth?