My Favorite Lunatic: Regina Spektor

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We prepare for the freezing cold 61 degree evening we will be exposed to while viewing Regina Spektor in the great outdoors of the Greek Theater.  Kelly cooks a hearty pasta dinner, a few libations are had to warm the innards, and stocking caps are thrown on for good measure.  A picture is taken on our way out the door: it looks like we live in Fargo.

We pay, we park, and we walk into the venue.  The girls order a bottle of wine for body temperature insurance and we take our seats.  Whoever has provided us with these tickets has done an exceptional job: we are maybe seven rows back and at eye line with the performers.  When Regina gets on, I can practically see each individual strange of hair on her crazy person head.  Her outfit brings to mind many different things.  My first impression is that she’s channeling a 80s bridesmaid stuck in a dress five sizes too big, but she turns and I see a 2 dimensional cardboard bow pinned under her kneck.  Hmmm, well now she looks like Little Bo Peep, her dressed bleached white to match her flock.  She wears black long sleeves under her billowing top, I assume to keep her arms warm while she plays piano.  On her legs are black tights.  Being all of maybe five feet tall, she is drowning in ten yards of starchy fabric.  She looks like a damn sheep.

Viewed through the giant screens flanking the stage, Regina’s hair turns a fiery red and I am forced to draw a comparison to Tori Amos…with the exception of sexual abuse and daddy issues and significant lyrics.

Residual wind from the hurricane that was the other day blows through the trees looking down on the half-moon of stadium seats.  Amber, green, and red lights up the flanking forest to infer a change of seasons, although pine trees are evergreens and they aren’t fooling me.  The misty ambient fog pumped onto the stage whirls away as soon as it appears, leaving Regina, the five musicians behind her, and the 6 foot tall disco ball lying unused and unexplainable in the corner exposed to our unbridled interpretations of reality.  We will not be fooled by smoke and mirrors – in this case, literally.

Regina’s vibe is cute.  The way her fingers bounce methodically on her piano keys, the way she bashfully smiles at the crowd with her giant painted red lips, the unassuming ballet flats she wears under her giant sheep suit, her sparrow voice.  Cotton candy.  New born puppy.  Little kid learning to walk…cute.  Her music is the type you want to pump through the stereo at a factory where people make chocolate chip muffins or ho-hos.  The pace is quick and jumps around and the mood is chipper and it makes you forget that life is a lot of mind numbing manual labor.

Her fans go bananas for her – relative terms, of course.  Multiple times over the course of the hour boys and girls yell “Regina, I want to marry you!”  And because this is more so a piano recital than a rock concert, Regina can hear these pleas over the timid to mildly enthusiastic clapping after the end of each song.  She blushes and says, “Thank you.”  People freak out when she waves, when she gets up from her piano, when she looks into the audience.  It gets to be a little bit strange.  I’m not a huge naysayer, but what’s the fuss about?

Her voice is quite beautiful, although it often gets buried in lyrics that seem to have been written after drinking a bottle of gin and jumbling up some refrigerator magnets.  I can’t figure out if she’s being intellectually obtuse or childishly sophomoric.  Or if her childish sophomoric angle is part of her being intellectually obtuse.  Maybe I’m the idiot.  Crazier things have happened.

Speaking of crazy.  Halfway through the set I look over at Eileen and ask, “Do you think she might be…you know, special?”  Regina is standing at her synth keyboard banging away in her gigantic dress with her crazy hair and her crazy lips and her lyrics about nothing and everything all at the same time.  Eileen makes a crack about how it feels like this is a bit like a recital for “those kids.”  I get the desire to pat Regina’s head and give her cheeks a good squeeze after the show.  It doesn’t help much that she is doing all of her own backup signing, which makes her cut half of her lines short just to squeeze in the next one that would ordinarily be whispered or layered on top in the studio.

At a certain point, our group becomes both bored and terrified.  The stage turns blood red and she’s singing about souls and I get the sense that eventually this entire venue will turn into Regina Spektor zombies, taking over the brains of real people.  Apparently our sudden vision and vocalization of  commercial indie armaggedon is too loud for the girls behind us.  As we leave they thank us for leaving.  I would have liked to respond with, “Oh yeah, well that crazy bitch up there is going to eat you after this song.”  But I don’t.

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Winter in Los Angeles

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Back sometime between when the 80s ended and the 90s began, it snowed in Los Angeles.  I know because I was there, and yes, it actually happened.  It was the first time I had ever encountered the stuff, being as our family wasn’t rich enough to take trips to winter wonderlands other than Disneyland at Christmas.  White powder dusted our lawn in awkward thin patches and turned our brick patio deeper shades of burgundy as it melted away.

My mom called me outside.  I walked through the heavy aluminum sliding glass doors wearing a knee-length, sleeveless nightgown and a pair of boots, unprepared for the cold air and the snow that my mom thrust down my back when I rounded the corner.  She hid a clump in a Danish blue tea towel and laughed hysterically as I howled in shock and fury.  My brief stint with winter wilderness came quickly to pass as I stormed back in the house.  I considered myself lucky to have been born in a weatherless bubble of a place, where mothers didn’t have the opportunities to pull stunts like this on a regular basis.

Back to present day.  I am currently sitting inside a shop eating carrot cake frozen yogurt under a pink neon sign.  My skin is turning the color of Disney interpretations of angry Native Americans and my dessert looks like pink lemonade.  The machines purr and rattle and hum and the two girls behind the counter are talking about some TV show.  It’s only 6:30 and it’s dark outside.  I must prepare myself for eminent seasonal depression, even though there aren’t really any seasons in LA to speak of.

I am reminded of when I worked at Robek’s Juice in high school: the sun would set over the hills of Calabasas, the juice drinkers sent into their cookie cutter houses for dinnertime, and my coworker and I would be left to talk about sisters and heroine overdoses while scrubbing the drain grids in the sink and blasting orange rinds out of  the industrial juicing machine.  Winters were the most quiet; juice and smoothies seemed more appropriate daylight indulgences.  This is why I was happy to never work at the Starbucks next door: they were always busy, with their godforsaken delicious offerings that were good at any time of the day – day or night, hot or cold.  Robek’s was a one trick pony by comparison.

Between the hours of 6 PM and closing time, we stood, staring outside and aimlessly wiping down countertops with blueberry stained rags.  If we were lucky we would know someone who worked at the Corner Bakery next door and do some old-fashioned bartering for goods: two smoothies for two sandwiches and maybe a piece of cinnamon crumb cake.  Deals with the Starbucks kids were fewer and farther between; I assume that they had better and more stringent management than us or CB.  The decreased ability for “creative borrowing” was another reason why working at Starbucks sucked.

Sometimes friends would come in to keep us company, sitting on the barstools up front and yelling things at us over the glass partitions that protected customers from potential blender debacles.  These were things that had to be cleaned often, as children found them just the right item to smudge their grubby little hands and faces all over – most often right after we had just cleaned them.  But mostly we just talked and cleaned and ate stolen food, watching the sky turn squid inked and the lampposts brighten over a scene that was frighteningly unsimilar to whatever Dickens landscape it was trying to invoke.  Eventually, I’d take off my red apron, shut off the lights, lock the doors, and drive the 1.1 mile commute back to my mom’s house.

My youthful memories of weather are so slight and insignificant: a ten degree dip in temperature, Santa Ana winds in October, the invasive darkness of fall.  Los Angeles is devoid of any change; we exist in perpetual summer.  How rarely we are sparked to life by rain or snow or wind – the inconvenience of nature.  Cheeks are ruddy from acid peels and people here drive 4×4 SUVs for nothing owing to function.  It’s the artifice of life.  Weather gives sequence and order to time, to your existence.  It infers change even when you feel static.  So here we live, drunk on comfort and flip-flops, isolated in our cars and from the rest of the world, while I try to find significance in a rare windy day, with my power out and my neighbor’s tree uprooted and laying in their driveway.

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Can I Buy a Vowel?

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We are sitting in the back room at the Bar Marmont.  Whitney is nervous that this job is going to be something similar to the time where models stood on high plexiglass boxes at a club in Las Vegas trying to close their legs enough to feign modesty and avoid being touched inappropriately.  I tell her that she needn’t worry; this is one of the more civilized places in Los Angeles.  After all, the connecting hotel has been the overdose location of choice for many famed celebrities.  Assuring me further, the show is for Zac Posen, which leaves me to assume it will be of a classier nature.  I anticipate that my dignity will remain intact and I will avoid crying myself to sleep tonight.  These are now the standards by which I measure my jobs.

It will be a small, recession-friendly event: six girls in total modeling all of the Spring/ Summer 2010 show – a collection that is reminiscent of my 1960s Barbie trading cards purchased from the dollar store.  There’s pink, plastic, and gowns I’d like to lay listlessly in next to a pool while nursing a champagne hangover and getting a rubdown from Ken.

The presentation will entail the use of hot pink, numbered cards – something that ordinarily makes me cringe while I grin and bear the humiliation of knowing I am just a walking coat hangar, a mute salesman, a piece of clothing needing to be sold.  But my nightmares of Vanna White pageantry vanish away when our producer offers that we liken it to 1940 Haute Couture.  To aid in our perception of that reality, he kindly orders multiples bottles of champagne after double checking that we are all of age.   These are the moments in which drinking would aid a much needed false sense of empowerment.  I’ve been told PCP is like that.

There’s plenty to laugh about backstage while I sit on the booze trodden floor hoping that hepatitis doesn’t craw up my shorts and into my bloodstream.  One girl looks like she’s trying to light a cigarette lodged in her purchased cleavage.  At one point the aforementioned producer – who I am quite fond of because he looks like David Bowie wearing tight metallic gray pants – mistakes a bottle of hairspray for a refreshing facial moisturizer.  He is unfazed by the potential clogged pores or any social embarrassment, stating that it will better set his bronzer.  His voice trails away, still talking about drag queens.

I get my makeup done by a man wearing a lot of foundation himself.  This makes me nervous because I know my face will befall the same overdone fate; my smile lines and forehead wrinkles left to make prominent marks in the added layer of cakey garbage.  Makeup snow angels.  I don’t have a mirror but I know I will look roughly five years older and just a shade or two more orange by the time he’s done with me.  He has scars peaking through his button up shirt – also covered with foundation.  I want to ask him about it but I figure someone who is concerned enough to try to mask them probably doesn’t want to know that I haven’t been fooled.

First changes begin.  One out of six.  I put on my first dress, which was originally worn by a girl I knew peripherally from trips to New York.  We danced to LCD Soundsystem at my friend’s loft.  She bent in strange ways and I drank that night to alleviate some pent up anxiety.  She wore black converse and torn jeans.  I met her before she was a supermodel.  Now I’m wearing her ready to wear hand-me-downs while she does Chanel in Paris.

The show begins and we mosey through the crowd with our hot pink rectangles of Haute Couture shame, looking as “coquettish” as possible without licking people’s faces or falling over.  At pose point three, I notice Anthony Kiedis from the Red Hot Chili Peppers occupying the pole space we were told to lean on seductively.  I’m sure he wouldn’t have a problem if I just leaned on him, but I opt to adjust the directive accordingly.

It’s hectic backstage; attempting to run an entire fashion show with six girls when there’d ordinarily be thirty is an interesting experiment.  Dresses are thrown in the corner on top of shipping plastic.  Zac swigs a drink, noting that he’s never seen his dresses treated so badly.  A dress rips.  I put my head through the wrong hole and barely get it back out.  A girl checks to make sure her nipples aren’t entirely visible in a see-thru nude chiffon gown.  The usual.

Four girls, all wearing jewel colored feather coats, flank Zac on all sides for the finale.  Emerald, cobalt, amethyst, canary yellow.  I follow behind with Whitney, laughing as I watch the spectacle moving ahead of me.  It looks tremendously chic and rock and roll and I am actually happy to be a part of it, even if it’s not the real show and I’m not a supermodel.

I change out of my black crepe gown and back into my American Apparel shorts and a gray blazer I bought at Goodwill.  Real life.  I walk over to the liquor store and wait for Tyler to pick me up in his gold Camry.  Sunset Boulevard purrs in front of me and I hear a voice from behind, singing some indiscernible tune.  Anthony Kiedis is walking to his car and the Chateau Marmot hangs behind us.  I’d offer to tell him that “Under the Bridge” was my most frequently sung song in the 2nd grade “Show and Tell” time but he’s moving too fast and it’d probably just make him feel old.

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The Fat Kid Diaries

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There are a few things I miss about being a fat kid – first and foremost, eating homemade cookie dough. My mom set a fine example by letting go for it when it came to baked goods and such delicious cookery.  Everything covered in sugary goodness was fair game: the spatula, the bowl, the different spoons used at various stages in the baking process. We lapped up the stuff like there was no such thing as salmonella. If we tired of eating it raw and were bored of the finished baked product, there was always the option of putting the silver mixing bowl in the fridge for a few hours and then scooping the dough out like ice cream. Those were the days.

I long for the time when my mom and I would sit down in front of the TV with our own personal pints of Haagen-Dazs coffee ice cream, wrapping the cold cup in a towel to protect our dainty fingers and eating until we were high on caffeine infused fat. My favorite strategy was letting the ice cream melt away from the sides just the littlest bit, then proceed to scrape around the edges – around and around and around – until I had formed a moat around a mountain in the center.

Coming in close second in the ice cream category were milkshakes. Back in the day, Dad used to drop an egg or two in for a creamy froth factor. Apparently my disregard for salmonella was genetic. We were a fearsome bunch when it came to our sweets. Dad was also a fan of malt powder, which tasted considerably similar to the milkshake version of one of my favorite candies – Chocolate Covered Malt Balls – and thus sending it through a straw and into my heart. When I felt lazy, I would throw some Breyer’s Mint Chocolate Chip Ice Cream into the bender with a scant amount of milk and whirl it around for a second. This was just enough to break up the chocolate into tiny little stick-in-your-teeth bits and melt the ice cream ever so nicely. It was like taking half of the work out of eating ice cream the conventional way (boring!). The milk was there merely for lubrication. Our family never ate Dreyer’s. Mom said it tasted cheap.

There was a moment when I appreciated a good Sno-Cone, but I just couldn’t come to terms with the overall lack of potent flavor. The syrup, a victim of the law of gravity and other scientific principles I would never understand, rarely distributed itself uniformly in my cone of ice. The treasured deliciousness sank straight to the bottom, occupying but a few bites of an otherwise tasteless treat. The Sno-Cone had potential, but it never delivered.

Big Sticks I found to be too similar in flavor to Gatorade; both of which I thought to taste like watery piss. But perhaps I’m just not keen on fruit punchy citrus things.

My best friend Holly taught me how to properly eat a Jolly Rancher in order to maximize its intricate flavor complexities. For this, we would need the Jolly Rancher sticks, not the small candies, and a glass of ice water. First, we unwrap our flavor of choice – my old standby being Green Apple or in the summertime, Watermelon – have a good lick or two, and then briefly dip the sticks in the ice water. Lick, dip, repeat. The ice water chilled the Jolly Rancher to perfection and somehow enhanced its artificial flavor.

Jolly Ranchers hold a special place in my blood stream. When my mom was pregnant with me, she lived on them. Regular consumption amounted to a Halloween-sized package per day. This brought concern from her OBGYN who could not figure out how her blood sugar levels soared to near diabetes proportions. My mom didn’t offer up that she was chowing down JR’s like they were prenatal vitamins. Thanks, Mom.

Being a doughboy kid, of course I had an affinity for dough. Bread dough, pizza dough, Play Dough (I also have a serious problem with my enjoyment of salt, both of which it had plenty of). Back when I used to eat anything Pillsbury, I was a big fan of their cinnamon bun offerings. I recollect only buying them for my dad’s place on the weekends and cooking them for breakfast. The satisfying, dough-bursting-at-the-seams pop when you twisted the tube in opposite directions, the way the unnaturally white frosting melted into the fake cinnamon dusted crevices, how it never stuck to the round pan I cooked it in. Those were magical mornings. Fat kid mornings.

At camp on summer we made “Doughboys” which were triangles of Pillsbury croissant dough wrapped around a stick, dipped in melted butter, and then rolled around in cinnamon sugar. The result was something like a roasted marshmallow, but much more complex in flavor. The butter burnt, the sugar caramelized, and the dough inside didn’t so much cook as it did nearly melt off the stick. Swift consumption was of the essence.

Ah, how I miss these days. Days filled with buttery cholesterol and potential heart disease, cellulite and high blood pressure. They were so carefree in their naiveté and wholehearted enjoyment. I long for a time like this. Perhaps when I give up on my vanity and accept a life of elastic waistbands and PTA meetings, I can relive my youth in all its chubby bunny glory.

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Adventures in Bad Taste: Episode 1

Yesterday, as I waited in the lobby of a PR firm with ten other quietly seated models, a girl walked in who insisted upon being the loudest mouth in the building.  She wore dangerously short cut off jeans, a tee shirt, and gray high-heeled boots.  Her legs were tanned in excess and her cellulite dimples stared at me indiscreetly.

In but a few minutes I learned that she had been in a car accident and that she was now driving a rental: a PT Cruiser that she openly stated was a “piece of shit” and then swiftly attempted to apologize to the room if anyone in there owned one.  I discovered that she had an interest in purchasing a new Audi A6 – white with cream interior.  Perhaps indicating how easily swayed she could be in life, by the end of my casting she had volunteered that she would instead get the A5 convertible because someone else in the room thought it would be a good idea.  Oh, and I mustn’t forget to relay that she was drinking a Kambucha tea when she got in her car crash and it flew “everywhere.”  The devil’s in the details.

By the time it was my turn to meet with the PR boy booking this job, I was jarred by the misguided showmanship that I had been subjected to before I walked in.  After commenting that I liked the color of his shirt (I did), I couldn’t help but delicately complain about Chatty Cathy out there who I could still hear still blah blah blahing through the closed wooden door.  Aside from perhaps being seen as a model-hater, I passed the casting with flying colors: each time he asked me how old I was I lied the same age over and over and over again.  Literally, four times.  My avoidance of stumbling into the territory of  “too old” won me a daily achievement award.  I came home and gave myself a star.

I left the building thankful that I wasn’t a moron and inspired by the show I had been treated to.  Rarely am I allowed free and audible access into this world of low frequency brain function.  It made me think about good taste and manners and how far I had come in my own life.  After all, it has taken me years to reach my version of personal perfection [uh hem, guffaw].  Perhaps this girl was just early on in her journey to classiness.

In order to better associate with such cretins – to really keep me grounded, to really keep me connected with the “normal folk”…you know, Main Street America – I thought it would be necessary to go through times in my life in which I demonstrated exceptionally bad taste.

Personal License Plate, Age 16

It is quite possible that the Catholic school dress code imposed on me in high school left me searching for other avenues of expression.  There is only so much you can say about yourself with oversized polo shirts and khaki cargo pants….or only so much you want to say, rather.

Logically, our cars became extreme displays of who we were and how much money our parents had.  Mine wasn’t the best car out of everyone’s, nor was it the worst.  A few improvements were thusly made to maintain a sense of ego: I purchased a thousand dollar stereo system that made my trunk rattle like I lived in the hood and not a San Fernando Valley suburb and I redecorated my center consol with some leopard print to give the car some sass.  But all of these improvements were internal.  How was I to express to the outside how cool the person was inside?

The perfect solution to this conundrum was a personalized license plate.  People would really get a sense of who I was as a person when they read that piece of tin affixed to my bumper.  For only $25 dollars annually, I would instantly recognizable driving through the parking lot and defined from the masses on the streets.  When my mom agreed to pay for it, I was ecstatic.

Before we took the trip to the AAA, I wrote down some of my top choices.  A few included:

PERFCT10

PRFECT10

IMCUUTE

OHSOPHAT

Unfortunately, all of these were taken.  I was scraping the bottom of the barrel.  I thought my choices had been original and creative but, alas, various saboteurs had beaten me to it (the first two probably were snatched up by the founders of the Porn magazine of that name).

I was forced to retool my choices.  I had to become more creative than I ever had in my entire short life.  The solution was to rework OHSOPHAT, replacing the “A” with a star.  In effect, it looked something like this: OHSOPH©T.  I was proud of myself and my mom was nice enough to play along.

When I got to school, however, my license plate was not as well received.  My friends giggled, patting me on the back condescendingly.  “Yeah…great job!” they’d say.  Brian Bardos creatively interpreted it as reading “Oh, Softy.”  Like ice cream or my butt?  Within two months I traded my bad decision in for a generic, alphanumeric plate mindlessly made by some drug smuggler in prison.

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“Boy Hitches Ride on UFO”

Today I walked into my coffee shop of choice to a scene I have experienced but a few times in my life: people crowded around the tube, silently watching as some disaster unfolds.art.balloon.landing.kusa

The first time I was a participant in GSA (Group Shock and Awe) was while on the Stair Master at my mom’s gym back in the days where I would work out for forty-five minutes and then reward myself with an Orange Julius Milkshake.  What was playing out before me, as my underdeveloped body began to lightly dampen in the way that children damnpen, was the Princess Di tragedy.  I stared up at the wall-mounted TV at a dark Parisian tunnel and an unrecognizable mess that used to be a car.

The second was an in school viewing of the OJ Simpson verdict.  I sat in the library, quiet and still, with my peers doing the same.  “Not guilty” came out of speakers and into our ears and I knew when I got home there would be a conversation waiting for me.  During a DIY home remodel, my mom had spent the entire process listening to the trial on a shitty radio, painting crown molding and listening about ill-fitting gloves and body bags.

Other moments like this I have experienced on my own.  I never had a TV in my bedroom before I moved to Tom’s house.  The prospect seemed quite luxurious and privileged, both of which were not in my standard of living lexicon in the years previous.  It was an older TV and it lived propped on a whicker table with thin wrought iron legs, placed under a window looking into the neighbor’s yard.  When I wasn’t chatting on the phone or doing homework on a gigantic desktop computer, I was glued to the TV watching MTV and Talk Soup.

I remember the day that JFK Jr.’s plane went missing; he and his gamine wife most likely buried somewhere in the ocean.  Before the accident I didn’t even know who these people were, being as I was too young to be familiar with Kennedy royalty and New York socialites.  But they were so beautiful and chic and I was sucked in immediately.  I sat in between my bed and a white wall, waiting for some indication that this couple had actually survived.  I sat so long that the cream carpet began to itch my skin and my muscles were stiff.

Today I watched as what looked like a giant foil pool floatie move across the sky.  My first reaction was that it might actually be a God damn UFO.  I’ve seen my fair share of these films and I know how it all unfolds.  I had a Will Smith-apocalyptic-doomsday moment and thought, “My dad is terrified by aliens.  He’s going to shit.”

Soon enough, I garner that this is not the end of life as I know it.  Instead, a gigantic balloon has absconded with someone’s six-year-old child.  What an adventure!  How very James and the Giant Peach of this boy!

The coffee shop waits in silence as the silver object zooms across a blue sky and eventually lands in a dusty field.  He has been in flight for over an hour and the CNN talking heads are unsure that the boy will still be in there.  I am still confused as to the construction of this balloon and whether he could have even survived at the altitudes he reached.

As the dust settles, a man runs at the crumpling object, kicking up dirt like it were piles of snow.  More men run forward, deflating the balloon to find the child.  We stand around waiting for something to appear, but it never does.  There is no happy end to this story, at least not yet.  But when the newscaster announces that the father was a retired weatherman and this family was on Wife Swap I couldn’t help but laugh just a little bit.  I mean, come on.

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She Dreamt of Stardom

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Throughout middle school, I was involved with the after school drama program.  This foray into entertainment was short-lived: once I arrived to high school I was too cool for the chubby theater dorks and abandoned my dreams of Broadway altogether.  In hindsight I wish I had allowed myself to dork out to the maximum, which would have allowed for a more accurate demonstration of who I actually was – a big, strange, sort-of-funny nerd.  But, c’est la high school.

My drama teacher was a large woman with crumpled paper skin and short brown hair.  She wore the same polyester shirts over polyester pants that my grandma wore.  I am quite sure her shoes were orthopedic.  Her half-moon glasses were forever perched at the end of her nose, alternating her gaze from a screenplay to her “talented” young actors and then down once more.

Auditions were held sitting cross-legged in a circle, something along the lines of theater Duck Duck Goose.  The process allowed for the upmost transparency: you could not hide how talented or untalented you were and if your voice wavered and cracked it did so in front of everyone.  Thus the goal was to not suck publicly and, if you could do it, blatantly out-act your fellow peers.

The first play I ever went out for was Little Women.  Oh, how I longed to be Jo, the spitfire writer torn by love and her personal feminist movement.  She was the star, that Jo.  If I had an agent at the time I would have fought tooth and nail for the role.  “A career launcher!” I’d insist, probing him to call the director and set up a meeting at the Chateau where I would woo them with my charms.

I remember looking on the chart posted on the drama room door after the audition process was through, eagerly anticipating my ticket into middle school fame.  I would blow the audience away!  Every parent, sibling, and teacher would be moved to tears by my portrayal of Jo.  Alas, it was not my time, not my destiny.  My current skill set and awkward temperament only won me the role of Meg.

“Meg?!” I thought to myself, “MEG”

I despised Meg.  She was a wet blanket!  A handwringing, pining wimp!  A shadowy, sad character!  How could I be Meg?  I knew my teacher was vision impaired, but I was not aware she was blind!  Not to mention Meg was most likely a Capricorn, being as sensible as she was.  So trepidatious, so utterly lacking of urgency.  Jo and I were fire signs for Christ’s sake!

But I took my lumps like a champ.  After all, one must develop a well-rounded repertoire of characters to really excel in the school play circuit.  I read and studied my lines.  I diligently tried on my frilly, dust-laden Victorian costumes during our fitting sessions (as the drama teacher served dual role as director and stylist, I can assume that there was only one fitting that probably took ten minutes).  And when opening night came around, I played Meg to the best of my ability.

The play took place in the school cafeteria.  Nasty, vicious popular girls were replaced by blue chairs set up in rows with Xeroxed copies of the cast list.  Our stage was elevated on platforms and we changed behind blacked out lattice dividers.  Beyond the audience my drama teacher stood the entire time, silently reading the play along with us to make sure we weren’t ruining all of her hard work.  No matter how prepared we were it still had the vibe of a dress rehearsal.  We were never left on our own to really crash in burn in front of a paying audience.

In a showbiz moment that will haunt me for the rest of my live long days, Jo and I are getting ready for a party, trying on gloves or doing something along those lines.  I say my first line while playing with the buttons on my hand then pause for what I believe to be dramatic effect, expressing the great trepidation of this sad little character.  To me, this was my moment to demonstrate a natural acting instinct.  It was not rehearsed or put upon.  Right then, Meg was waiting for the words she came up with next.  But my artistic reverie was broken when – from the back row, with her half-moon glasses catching the light from an office lamp and her screenplay in hand – my drama teacher yelled my next line out to me, thinking I had forgot.

I am sure this moment was remember during the audition the following year for a roaring 20s play, The Women.  I wanted to be the ballerina.  I booked the role of “backup dancer.”

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