Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Bitch Bitch Bitch: A One Night Show at the Cactus

Hi Everyone,

Well, it's been over a year since we retired The Dick Monologues. Recently Griff, who is still booking the Cactus, invited me to host a reading at that amazing club. I jumped at the chance and decided it's time to explore another word, this time Bitch. I've invited several people to join me and we'll be offering up our thoughts on the many definitions of the word. I did ask my son to do a piece called Son of a Bitch. But when he got an evil grin on his face, I decided maybe that was better as a concept than it would be as a reality. So, sorry, Henry won't be there. But here's a list of who will be and all the details for the show. I sure hope you can make it.

Bitch, Bitch, Bitch
Cactus Cafe
Wednesday October 6th
8:30 pm
FREE with very limited seating so get there early
Please tell your friends


Southpaw Jones
Diane Fleming
Genevieve Van Cleve
Kat Williams
Kristine Kovach
Rudy Ramirez
Robin Chotzinoff
Sarah Barnes
Sarah Bird
Spike Gillespie
David Moses Fruchter

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Maine: Some Pictures

Re-entry has not been particularly easy. Yes, yes, I try to keep things in perspective and I realize the folly of indulging in a pity party given my "struggles"-- Oh, poor me, I just got back from ten days in Maine and two weeks in Israel and getting back into my routine is such a drag!

Mostly I frolic in the joy and wonder of it all-- that I get to travel so much, and meet so many people, and do so many cool things. A little crankiness on the return end is a small price to pay. And it'll pass soon enough. I still love flying back into Austin and living in Austin and seeing all my Austin friends. I think the hard part is moving from vacation-head into work-head or, in my current state, moving into look-for-work head. I've gone from knitting and hiking and eating gourmet food all day long, from splashing in the Mediterranean and standing on cliffs overlooking the Atlantic, to sending out query letters hoping to find enough work to keep covering the mortgage. But the good news is, I've already gotten tons of assignments and I'm interviewing for a couple of different jobs. So, as ever, I'm sure I'll land on my feet.

Getting back to the topic: Maine. I wrote at length about part of my trip over at the Austinist.Also, if you want to read more about the knitting side of the trip, you can check out the blog I write for Knitting and Yoga Adventures. Today I'd like to share two brief anecdotes and a (relatively) small number of photos I took both on Monhegan Island (where I stayed for a week) and in Portland, Maine, where I spent one full day exploring by foot and ferry.

The first story is the tale of the Bee Sting. I am allergic to bee stings and the last time (now penultimate time) I got stung, probably eleven years ago, my arm swelled up like a balloon. This time around, I was riding in the van back from Port Clyde to Portland when something flew into the window and hit me. A few seconds later I felt a sharp pain-- a bee had not only gotten into the vehicle but managed to go down my shirt. (I know, I know, can you blame him?) Besides the fact that it hurt, the sting also got my attention because it scared the holy hell out of me as I wondered if I'd be dead in ten minutes because, no, I didn't have an Epipen with me. (The last time I asked a doctor for one he made some dismissive comment about me probably not needing one and I failed to push back harder and demand one.) On the upside, the van in which I was riding happened to have more than one medical professional on board and in no time I was cranked full of Benadryl and in the presence of six deft knitters ready to execute a knitting-needle tracheotomy should that prove necessary.

I called Warren asap and said, essentially, the following important things:
  • I might die in ten minutes.
  • If I die, please know that, no offense or anything, but aside from not having seen you, my son, the dogs, and my friends in Austin, the previous week had been just about the best in my life.
  • I need to go order lunch now, a crab roll.
Warren laughed that I could think of food at a time like that but you know, if I was going down, I was going down well-fed. I also texted my son before getting the crab roll, which was quite nice, and even nicer considering I lived to tell about it. The Benadryl rendered me utterly idiotic and for the first time since I was, like, six, I fell asleep in a moving vehicle. In the end, I was left with a nasty, itchy, hard welt and an even greater appreciation for life.

The second story-- warning, it'll choke you up-- goes like this. 5:30 a.m. in the Portland airport and the JetBlue counter has just opened. I go to get my boarding pass and the dude looks at my passport and says, in a nice Scottish brogue, "Gillespie-- a good Scottish name." I concur, and even tell him what it means (Son of the Bishop's Servant) then inquire if he knits, knitting being on par with brawling in Scotland. He says his sisters knit. And I say, "I just got back from a knitting retreat on Monhegan Island."

At this, the nice Scotsmen stops, looks at me, and then says, "My wife loved Monhegan Island. She was an artist." Though he doesn't emphasize it, the past tense in his sentences comes through loud and clear and I notice he's wearing his wedding band in widower's position, on his right ring finger. And the love for his wife was so incredibly palpable in those two sentences that I about lay down on the floor and cried in that airport. That exchange, like the bee sting, gave me another unbidden lesson about appreciating this fleeting life.

Okay, enough of the stories. Time to look at some pictures:

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

I Heart Monhegan Island

Knit. Eat. Sleep. Knit. Knit. Hike. Eat. Eat. Knit. Knit. Knit.
Monhegan Island. September 2010. I love this place.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Review: Vigil @ Hyde Park Theatre-- BRAVO!!

Today’s news is fantastic if not surprising. Ken Webster has done it again—he’s selected an outstanding show to put on at the Hyde Park Theatre and executed another flawless production. I have a hunch that at least one or two cynics out there might suspect I’m on Webster’s payroll, the way I consistently gush about his taste in plays, his directing and his astonishing acting. And while we do share a friendship and I have used the HPT for my own productions, let me fast dispense with any suspicion you doubting Thomases might harbor. The reason I continue to happily, eagerly agree to review the shows is that Webster’s vision is wonderful. His passion for deep dark comedies is one I share. And the show that just opened, Vigil, is so saturated with gallows humor that I can hardly figure out where to begin to heap on the praise.

I found myself scribbling down line after line, wanting to share the wealth of bon mots in my review. But now, here I sit, remembering my pledge to never even think about crossing over to the spoiler side of the street. And so, yet again, I purposefully bring you vague commentary. Yes, that’s right, once again it’s time for one of those Just Trust Me It’s Brilliant moments. Really, you should see Vigil, and you should see it tonight.

There are some things I can share. Let’s begin with the first thing that greets you when the house opens: Paul Davis’s incredible set design. Davis has delivered more than a few authentic settings for HPT and this holds true yet again. We’re in the bedroom of a laconic elderly woman who has, to put it mildly, let things go. Wallpaper peels, magazines are scattered, and there’s an old chair in the corner that, like the woman, has seen better days but remains comfortable and of use. Davis never misses a detail. Witness the woman’s bed, which is missing one roller, its forth corner propped up on stacked bits of wood. It’s an easy enough thing to miss, and I almost did. But when I spotted that little stack, my heart sang—I am such a fan of tiny flourishes that speak volumes.

And now, just a hint about Morris Panych’s script. Vigil features only two players—Kemp (played by Webster) and Grace (Lana Dieterich)-- and the latter speaks only, if I counted correctly, 59 words. This leaves the heavy verbal lifting to Webster’s Kemp, a character who, by comparison, makes run-of-the-mill curmudgeons seem like Pollyanna. There’s little Kemp doesn’t complain about but so hilarious is his misanthropic view of the world (and in particular anything having to do with Christmas) that you have to laugh. I actually snorted more than once thanks to Kemp’s running negative commentary and, of course, the spectacular energy with which Webster infuses the role.

As for Dietrich-as-Grace. If you happen to be seeking proof that a mostly silent performance can be just as powerful as one saturated with words, here’s your chance. The physicality Dietrich brings to the role, this despite the fact she spends at least 85% of the show in bed, surely deserves an award. Her face is so expressive, so readily conveys so much, that it lends the perfect counterbalance to Kemp’s ongoing rants.

Though the play is packed with brilliant one-liners, it escapes being a mere vehicle for Panych’s comic finesse. There’s real substance here, not just punch lines. Act 2, in particular, is extremely muscular, and as the show moves toward a surprising ending we discover the writer’s ability to explore compassion without ever falling into the hole of cloying sweetness or moralistic preaching.

All this and there’s more—a touch of Wallace and Gromit, a nod to Rube Goldberg, and some over the top biting commentary on the trouble with children. In the end, I found myself reminded of one of my favorite poems of all time, Keeping Things Whole by Mark Strand. In particular, these lines came to me:

Wherever I am

I am what is missing.

And you, my friend, will be missing something if you don’t get your ass to this show. Five hundred thumbs up. Way up.

Vigil runs at 8:00 PM on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays, September 9 - October 9. Every Thursday is Pay What You Can Night; Friday and Saturday tickets are $19 ($17 for students, seniors, and ACOT members). Hyde Park Theatre is located at 511 W. 43rd Street. For reservations call 479-PLAY (7529) or purchase tickets online.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Tiny Bubbles

I think at least five out of the six of you know that I met my soulmate in 2002. Most nights, even during the heat of summer, we sleep curled around one another. Recently, when some sorry ass broke into my house, my soulmate was here and, along with her sidekicks, she saved the day and drove the intruder off. My Bubbles-- how I love her. Officially named Princess Bubbles (by my son, who overruled my suggestion that we name her Jesus since she wandered into our lives on a Holy Saturday), this dog is the most splendid creature that has ever sniffed butt.

In addition to her role as companion and sentry, she's also a dead ringer for Paul Simon. But one thing not everyone knows is that she is both an artist and a self-masseuse. Above we have a work of her art, which I like to call Chocolate Nipple on Chartreuse Breast. This mixed media piece includes a polyester circle rug from IKEA, black and white floor tiles (circa 1946) and some brown stuff the artist created using her own inner resources. Below you can see a photo of her examining and admiring her creation. And you can also watch a very short video of a routine she has developed for her daily walk. It ensures that even if I'm too busy to rub or scratch her back, she's going to get what she needs regardless. Clever girl!

Friday, September 3, 2010

There's No Place Like Home

I got back a couple of days ago and am still living in a jet lag world. I had such a spectacular time on the trip-- thank you Warren for being born in such an interesting place. One of my absolute favorite parts about traveling so much is that it means I have regular opportunities to fly into Austin. This is one of my most beloved pastimes. Though I can never remember the exact date, my anniversary of moving here falls in the first week of September. So that means I am, as of this week, officially here for 19 years. Which also means that this is the longest I've lived in one place ever in my whole life, including the small town where I grew up. When I first got here, I didn't understand the fervor-bordering-on-jingoism that folks have for both Austin and Texas. Now I'm pretty sure I'm this town/state's head cheerleader. My heart starts beating faster every time I hear, "We're beginning our descent into Austin." Here are some more pictures:

This was the view out my window on the descent into Austin. Reminded me of a cartoonist's rendering of heaven, which I found fitting. Henry calls these popcorn clouds.

This is sunrise in Atlanta, seen after two hours in the Tel Aviv airport, thirteen hours in the sky, and an hour on the ground going through customs and passport control. A most welcome sight though my body was thoroughly confused by the whole time change thing. On the plane, I sat next to a rabbi who, as we began our descent into Atlanta, pulled a shofar out of his bag, stood in the aisle, and started blowing on it like crazy. No one seemed alarmed and several people applauded.

On our last day Warren's mom took us on a tour of the grounds of the Weizmann Institute, where she used to work and where Warren's Abba got his Ph.d. I'm pretty sure this building is where Wiffle Ball was invented.

Also on my last day, I went out for a little stroll around the neighborhood. I was sitting on a bench when this woman walked by, spotted my Vibram Five Fingers, and got very excited. She sat down, dug through her rolling bag, and pulled out a pair of purple Jellies-- you know those plastic shoes that predate Crocs and were incredibly popular in the 80's at the Jersey Shore. I didn't get her name and her English was very limited but we had a great time talking. If I understood her correctly, she's 86, from Czechoslovakia, speaks five languages, was an Israeli pioneer, lost her family at Auschwitz, mothered two sons (one, a pilot, died at 43), is a widow, and currently has a boyfriend who works at the Weizmann Institute and whom she doesn't sleep with. Oh I loved meeting this woman.

This is David, who has a little candy and smoke shop. He doesn't speak English but he sure speaks Body Language. When I first met him, he pointed to my tattoos and said something (what?) then, pretending to rip open his shirt, he inquired (in his own special way) if I happened to have a chest tattoo. The next time I saw him, he came around from behind the counter, grabbed me, pulled me close, and kept kissing my neck and wouldn't let go.

This is Warren's aunt and her friend Ida. Ida, who was born in Lithuania, was the first woman surgeon in Israel. We had a great talk about her career, how she had to deal with sexism, and the thousands of operations she performed. I asked her to tell me her most memorable story and she told about a 15 year old boy who'd been ripped open by a grenade. She saved his life and used pigskin to graft him back together. Years later, when he was going to be married, he insisted that she be at the wedding. Really moving story.

Warren and his Abba multi-task-- sharing a hug and deflating a flotation device we enjoyed in the little swimming pool at this awesome B&B we stayed in in Galilee.

Warren and I spent many days at the beach. I love the beach. And I love my man. Thanks for a mind blowing vacation, hamuda.

Don't worry-- these are my knees.

My cousin's wife has this AWESOME term she likes to use to describe a certain color of hair dye: Menopause Red. Isn't that excellent? We saw a TON of women sporting MR.

The sun sets on another gorgeous day in paradise.

Best I can tell it is a law in Israel that little kids must run naked at the beach.

Another sunset shot.
My last full day in Israel Warren and I ran away for one last day at the beach. We buried each other in the sand and the tactile thrill is indescribable. I could've stayed in that spot the rest of my life.
Warren emerges from the sand.

Abba and Ima share some baklava.