Saturday, January 24, 2004

When I was in college in New York, I frequently found myself at Kate's Paperie on 13th street and 5th Avenue, located in the same building as my school. Kate's Paperie was an extension of Kate's Art Supply, that had extended into another space just beside the school gallery. While Kate's Art Supply was a hardcore art supply store, the paperie sold handmade paper and stationery supplies. Like many buildings in New York, the back of the store looked directly into another building across a dark crevice of fire escapes, air conditioners, and concrete walls. Another building in New York, can sometimes be another world, despite the fact that we are feet from each other. Office buildings can look into art studios, doctor's offices can look into restaurant kitchens, Tower Records on Broadway, when I lived there looked right into a women's exercise class, and I could see the pony tailed heads of women bouncing around off beat from the music I was hearing inside.

Back at Kate's, I was calmly shopping for the right paper for my art project, listening to the ambient, soothing music piped through the store speakers, when a sudden movement from a window one story above in the next building caught my eye. Inside, a man dressed in a business suit was beating a chair with a racquetball racquet as hard as he could. He was on his knees, eyes squeezed shut with his teeth clenched, gripping the handle with two fists and beating the crap out of the over-stuffed chair in front of him. Another man in the room sat on a different chair and watched as a man continued to pound. I realized I was watching a therapy session in progress. The man who sat calmly met my eyes, and over the violent swinging of the racquet, we had a moment of understanding. I understood that I was watching an intensely private moment, and he understood that I was not going to laugh or call attention to them. I don't know how I knew that, but I turned away as if I had seen nothing, and the therapy session went on as if it had never been discovered. There were no swishes of blinds pulled down in haste or chastising looks from the therapist. Curiosity got to me, and I hid behind a card display and looked again, just as the pounding man collapsed into grief and exhaustion as his therapist consoled him. Ashamed of myself, I turned around and never looked back.

I never told anyone what I saw, but I wondered from time to time what had caused that grown man so much pain. For awhile, I looked at the businessmen that I passed on the street differently and saw not cold corporate types, but people who were just as capable and vulnerable to feeling lost as I was. Men who possibly held a secret underneath those pressed and starched clothes but unlike us artists who were free and almost expected to express it on the outside, they had to reserve it for one hour sessions in private rooms. Then, they were to return to their offices where they wore the convincing masks that they were masters of their universe.

Another example of chapters from different New York stories staring at each other's pages, was when I was at American Ballet Theatre. I noticed that Studio One, the studio most commonly reserved by the big names looked right into apartments feet away from its enormous windows. From their homes, these people could watch Baryshnikov, Twyla Tharp, Mark Morris, Susan Jaffe, rehearse, dance, choreograph, and take class in ABT's well-lit studios just feet from their own windows. I could have jumped from one building to the other, the windows were so close. If one had wanted to film the legends at work, all they would have had to do was set a camera up on a tripod and go to work, or sit in a dark room and snap pictures from the privacy of their homes. Whenever they wanted, save for the time that Studio One was dark and empty, they had a front row seat to the who's who of dance that balletophiles around the world would kill for. Not the finished product of lights, music, and costumes on the stage, but the hours of rehearsal, and "once agains," and the legends training the up and comers in stage acting, dancing, and the candid moments that few will ever see. A peek behind that thick velvet curtain where the real work takes place. The work that makes the stage production look so effortless.

One instance of colliding worlds came to my own apartment building. At the time, a huge bar on the corner of 13th and 5th Avenue called the Lone Star Bar butted up against my building. It was host to many big name performers who wanted a smaller venue, and the location of many music video, TV, and movie filmings. It wasn't unusual to see the production trailers lined up the street and the bright lights shining into the windows. On one night, there was a lot of activity in the vacant apartment directly across the hall from me, and I learned that it was being rented out as a make-up station for a music video being shot in front of the Lone Star. I heard more commotion, and just as I opened my door to see what was a clatter, I saw Stevie Wonder walking down the hall directly toward me, one hand clasped around his assistant's arm and his entourage following behind. He was a tall man, had dark sunglasses on and that Stevie Wonder head sway going on as he talked to the people nearby. I remember that he smelled good, and looking at his hands that could play so many instruments without the aid of sight. "Cool," I said, after closing my jaw, "that was rather unexpected," much to the amusement of the group. All night, as I tried to concentrate on my homework, Stevie Wonder was my across the hall neighbor, and since my apartment faced the street and had a balcony, I'd see him walk to the location, then once the scene was finished, back into the apartment across the way. Occasionally I'd go watch the action, then once when they were on their way back, I tailed the group back in, letting them in with my key.

I guess in a way, this blog is my first real attempt at leaving my own windows open, available for view to those who happen to pass by. Some may turn away and never look back, and some will meet my brief glance with an understanding. Others will comment, while some will sit quietly in the darkness and take in what they are seeing. It didn't start out to be that way, but things like this never do. When I write, it's for me. I'm in my apartment alone with my words. I've passed many tests that this blog has presented to me, ones that I wish I'd learned years ago. One, that I'm a lot stronger than I think, even in my weakest moments. And like the ABT rehearsals, this is a simple account of one person's struggle to find her balance while learning the steps. It's a continual process that has brought me to the point of struggling to trust not just my judgment, but that of those whom I choose to work with. I must have faith that they are not going to drop me on my head.

I must also stop hindering my own progress, and trust myself that I will remember the steps, my cues, and like I do with my writing, to dance like no one is watching.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

I had this funny memory the other day when I was halfway between sleep and consciousness. It was when I had just moved to Los Angeles and landed a job in the production office, then casting office for the movie Empire Records. As I was told by a seasoned Los Angelino, nearly everyone has a costly catastrophe when they first move there. It's a test of character and determination to see if you are really there to stick it out. Mine was the transmission in my car deciding that it didn't want to cooperate anymore. The dealership, located in Studio City, was finishing replacing the transmission, ($3000 worth of work that came out of a bond I had to cash), and the manager told me of a place where I could grab breakfast while waiting for them to finish.

Back up to a few years before that when I lived in New York City and was going through a friend's book of photographs in her apartment. A cute, blonde-haired blue-eyed boy caught my eye, and I asked who the hottie with the bedroom eyes was in the photo. "Oh, that's Jason," she said, "he's an actor." We talked briefly about Jason, and she said that he was a good friend of hers from Vancouver, and that he had guest appeared on 21 Jump Street way back when, and some other shows. When I asked if he lived in New York, she told me that he lived in Los Angeles. Oh, I said, and put the photo back.

A few months later, when my friend moved in with me between apartments, I was watching a pilot TV show about kids in Beverly Hills, and a familiar face came on. There was bedroom eyes, and I said to Lisa in the next room, "Hey come here, isn't that your friend Jason?"

She walked in and was surprised to see him as well, and said, "Yeah, that's Jason." Hurt feelings had separated the two, so she was as surprised as I was to see him. I thought that the show probably wouldn't last, because I felt that no one wanted to watch a show about the life of Beverly Hills kids. Oh boy, was I wrong. The show was Beverly Hills 90210, and if you haven't guessed yet, Jason was Jason Priestley, who was about to shoot into the teen idol stratosphere.

When the time came for my move to Los Angeles, I'd joked with Lisa that I'd be sure to say hi to Jason for her if I saw him. As I was saying it, I'd imagined the scenario, him in a diner type place with Luke Perry and me saying hello for Lisa. Why I imagined that scenario, I have no idea.

And that brings me back to my original memory, where I was in Los Angeles getting a brand new transmission for my Saab. I walked toward Du Par's Diner in Studio City on a hot hazy morning, looking up at the hills and the houses that jutted out of the side of them. The Saab repair manager had told me Du Par was a great place for breakfast, as I was craving pancakes. I walked in, sat in a booth, away from the windows and away from the chattering groups of people at the larger tables, and voraciously ate my pancakes slathered with butter and syrup, and three strips of bacon. Waitresses, none younger than 50, with shellacked hairdos and hardened expressions, maneuvered around the place holding trays full of artery-clogging meals in one hand and a pot of steaming coffee in the other. If they'd been allowed, a cigarette would have dangled out of each of their mouths. One approached me on the way to another table, "More coffee?" she barked. I looked at my watch and realized I had a half an hour to go, "Yes please," I said, responding fast so I wouldn't hold her up. She filled my cup back up to the rim, then marched on to the next table. I sipped, wrote in my journal, thought of the day ahead and how nice it would be to have my car back that I'd been without for three weeks.

I'd been working in several facets of the production office and when interviewed had come in a sun dress and sandals. The production manager looked up at me when I entered his office and said, "Are you here for the audition?"

"For the job?" I said, and he looked at me inquisitively. After a bit of conversational juggling, they figured out that I wasn't an actress and had come for the production office job. They joked that, "Yes, we got her!"

During the interview, they gently brought up that I may be required to lift some things, and that the work could get dirty. I said, "Don't let the dress fool you. I'm incredibly strong and don't mind dirty work." They laughed, and I walked out with a job on a major Hollywood production less than a month after arriving in Los Angeles. I was reflecting on that, as I sipped my last bit of coffee, and then realized that my car would just about be ready. I got up, walked to the bathroom, then was on my way out when I looked to my left.

Sitting at a table with a friend, was a familiar face. Just as I'd imagined it when joking with Lisa, there was Jason Priestley sitting across from yes, Luke Perry. I shook my head at the absurdity of it, gathered my production book, purse, and journal, and approached their table. I stood for a second and Jason looked at me politely as he'd probably had to do a thousand times before. The show was several years into its run and their celebrity was in full swing. About a week ago, I saw on the news that extra security had to be called to a mall where Jason and Luke Perry were making an appearance. The girls had gotten so hysterical that they'd almost crashed through the barriers.

At the diner, there was no such scene. When he met my eyes, I asked him, "Are you Lisa's friend?" I'd given him her full name, and his eyes widened and his mouth dropped in shock. I could tell it was a pleasant surprise. "Why yes I am!" he said excitedly and reached out to shake my hand. He then asked me my name and we talked for a bit, and I updated him on Lisa and told him what I was doing in Los Angeles and how I'd recognized him from her picture collection. Luke Perry sat there politely and listened to the whole thing. I remember thinking that he had a genuinely kind face and presence, especially since I'd interrupted them. I finished the conversation by saying to Jason that I'd told Lisa if I saw him I'd be sure to say hello. Upon leaving, he told me to send Lisa his love and I said that it was nice to meet him and shook his hand again. The conversation was very natural, and as I walked back to the dealership I realized that I'd not even mentioned the show. Not out of rudeness, but I'd just gotten involved in my and Jason's conversation. Part of me thinks that after I left, they asked, "Did she even have a clue who the hell we were?"

Later, I called Lisa and well, sent her Jason's love. We got a big laugh out of that random meeting and that it had actually manifested. I'd bragged on her to him and told her so.

So, I was lying in bed remembering that incident and how utterly absurd it was. How a pain in the ass to get your car fixed brings you to a conversation with a teen idol. And, how varied and wonderful the forms in which those slices of life can be bestowed upon us. Perhaps I was just a messenger in the delicate dance between the two of them, and that was just fine. Life is a funny crapshoot like that, and it's wonderful when it chooses to revisit us when we are least expecting it. Yet, knows we're ready to handle it. It's a reminder to keep going, and that there will be more slices to come. Probably not while I am here, but that is exactly the point. I'm stepping back to get perspective and let all those memories seep through. And, that while being here is frustrating, (which I'm beginning to think is part of the plan to light not just a fire, but a blow torch under my ass) I'm gearing up and gathering the strength for more. I'm here so I can reflect on those wonderful juicy bites and have a clean palette for the next ones. Hopefully much bigger slices that will have more to do with my accomplishments than those of others.

And I do think that will be the case.

Thursday, January 01, 2004

Happy New Year to all.

I will be very happy once the holidays are over. I've never gotten the whole hype of New Year except for New Year's Eve on 1999, so I don't have much to offer in mentioning its passing. Personally, I tend to think that we shouldn't really look at it as a New Year, but as another year. New implies that one has to start over. And a lot of people disappoint themselves when they find that a new year isn't necessarily a new them. It is just another year to continue or correct the path that we are on, inside the same person that we always have been. We are another year more wise. Another year more experienced, and another year more familiar with ourselves and those who surround us. We may use this change of date to ask ourselves if we are closer to who or where we want to be, but shouldn't attempt to uproot our entire way of thinking and doing in hope that it will win us the perfect life. It won't. In fact, that will thwart you, because only you know what is best for you. And though understanding that may be currently in progress or undiscovered, or even avoided by those who are not ready to trust themselves to be a leader and not a follower in their lives, we all know what works best for us. And we also know what quirks and habits we must shake hands with and call a truce within ourselves in order to work around them. This takes more than the passing of a year to do so.

A new year is simply another tie in the railroad track, whereas we are the train moving full steam ahead.